Combining Clues to Movement and Attitude Control
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'Attitude control' is understood here as the characteristics required to ensure that any 'vehicle' moves in an appropriately coordinated manner -- whatever the degree of subtlety of the space through which that movement takes place. Such attitude control is therefore a prerequisite, as indicated earlier, for any controlled shift to subtler paradigmatic spaces -- as indicated in a later section. In Christian terms such 'attitude control' is therefore a prelude to 'being raised to a state of grace' -- however that is understood. However, although the 'vices, or the 'fetters' and 'hindrances' of Buddhism, may be considered as symptomatic of poor 'attitude control', they may also suggest grips and constraints temporarily necessary to any movement -- as with the hardware used by climbers to ensure their secure attachment to a dangerous surface over which they are moving.
The challenge is to combine the clues from the disparate sources. In doing so the following points can usefully be borne in mind:
The table above has the merit of indicating specific elements in the process of movement and their possible failure. However, as even the walking process illustrates (see above), knowledge of such specifics does not a walker make. The dynamics of movement, and how to move, are distorted by any attempt at understanding through the essentially static organization of steps and prescriptions.
An interesting approach to the nature of the integration performed by any practitioner of movement, especially challenging sports involving a high order of kinetic intelligence, is offered by the work of Arthur Young in The Geometry of Meaning. His insights derived from his engagement in the development of the Bell helicopter. His learnings developed from reflection on how such a vehicle could be navigated in three dimensions in a controlled manner. This could be seen as the basis for a useful articulation of the challenge for any body to navigate in a complex space.
Young presented the generalization of his insights as an explication of the learning-action cycle, expressed in 12 phases. He associated each of these with one of 12 dimensionless constants fundamental to dynamics of piloting a vehicle (see Table 2). In his case the vehicle was a helicopter but in the more general case it could well also be applied to the human 'vehicle' in the Buddhist sense. In marked contrast with the classic static presentations of virtues and vices in any culture, his approach introduces the dimension of time that is central to movement in different ways. His approach emphasizes the way in which movement is coordinated -- and how attributes such as 'momentum' are used in complex manouevers by practitioners. From such a perspective, an attribute like 'inertia' may be of considerable positive significance -- in contrast with its negative characterization as the vice or fetter of 'sloth'.
Table 2: Characteristics of phases in 12-phase learning / action cycles. Tentative adaptation and development from Arthur Young's Geometry of Meaning (1978). See commentary on learning cycles in Cycles of dissonance and resonance. See also adaptation to Typology of 12 complementary strategies essential to sustainable development and to Typology of 12 complementary dialogue modes essential to sustainable dialogue. This table was originally published with the rows and columns transposed.
As briefly expressed above, there is a lack of operational specificity to the various static "guidelines". But as those participating in many sports would probably argue, it takes experience to learn what subtle experiential meaning is associated with attitudes appropriate to any "code words" about improved performance. Much may be achieved with inappropriate attitudes, but they do not raise the level of performance beyond a certain degree -- ultimately the person is judged as lacking something subtly associated with "style" and 'élan'. Basically the performance is not sustainable. In this respect the relationship, in Buddhist meditation practice, between the "hindrances" and "fetters" encountered, and the articulation of necessary values, is somewhat more explicit.
Table 3: Indication of key insights from Table 2
The above table uses a clumsy array of approximate terms to identify a possible set of complementary ways for the 'driver' of an existential 'all-terrain vehicle' to 'handle' the relationship with the environment. Each mode suggests a different way of using energy to act coherently, although all are necessary according to the nature of the challenge. The presentation is distorted because it underemphasizes the ways in which the challenge from the environment may invite a gentler and more seductive response than is suggested by the metaphor of driving an all-terrain vehicle -- a metaphoric trap with which the world is now all too familiar.
Another way of considering the navigational art is by exploring it as a game, as is the case with a number of board games from religious traditions (cf Leela, see Johari, 1993) of which "snakes and ladders" is a caricature. A Transformation Game (see http://www.transformationgame.com/game.html) is extensively used by adherents of the Findhorn New Age community. The web has provided a new environment for those inspired in various ways by Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game (http://idt.net/~davehuge/Hesse.html).
The virtues and vices can also be imagined as presented as an array such as with hopscotch or as a mandala, or a Scottish sword dance. The art is then to shift appropriately around the array in response to particular challenges. As with a horoscope, or a Myers-Briggs psychological profile, the dancer starts from a particular "poise" in the pattern of potential moves -- or maybe remains frozen into one! To move, the dancer must activate and deactivate specific attitudinal controls associated with a succession of virtues -- compensating for destabilizing tendencies associated with any emergent "temptations".
The classical thirty-sex strategems of China continue to be explored by Eastern businessmen (see strategems). The many Buddhist mandalas have sectors associated with the virtues (vices) -- a version designed by Escher might show how one follows another in a paradoxical, perpetual, cyclical cascade of meaning (echoed by the breathing cycle, especially as a meditation practice). Management strategists have endeavoured to derive related insights from the game of go).
The vices might also be considered like the seven elementary catastrophes of Rene Thom's theory (1972) [more]. A vice might then be a form of behavioural discontinuity or disarray -- in which the elegance of well-coordinated control is somehow lost. Denis Postle (1980) and R.D. Hinshelwood (1988) have demonstrated how catastrophe theory may be used by an individual to map their own behaviour and the critical areas on that map at which stress and breakdown are possible.
In his Structural Stability and Morphogenesis: an outline of a general theory of models (1975), Thom models the seat of the morphogenetic process into domains of different attractors, separated by shock waves. Shock wave surfaces are singularities called "catastrophes". A catastrophe is a state beyond which the system is detroyed in an irreversible manner. In the 4-dimensional space-time world of which we are aware, there are 7 types of elementary catastrophes. Elementary catastrophes include: "fold", destruction of an attractor which is captured by a lesser potential; "cusp", bifurcation of an attractor into two attractors; etc. From these singularities, more and more complex catastrophes unfold, until the final catastrophe.
The seven elementary catastrophes identified by Thom are related, in Table 4, to his set of constructive and deconstructive archetypal morphologies -- tentatively numbering 16. But of which he said: Je crois qu'à ma liste de seize morphologies archétypes, il faudrait ajouter des verbes à caractère statique, tels que 'contenir', 'entourer' exprimant le fait qu'une entité ' borde' une autre et en interdit la diffusion au-dehors; et peut-être aussi les verbes 'négatifs' comme 'percer' et 'trouer'. (ES p36). However, he provides an interesting diagram (1975, Fig 5.24) 'on which each of the sixteen marked points corresponds to a topological type'.
Table 4: Juxtaposition of elementary catastrophes and archetypal
Thom's work has encouraged inquiries into dynamic logic and semiotics [more; more; more]. In By The Time You See Me, I'll Be Long Gone Karen Wendy Gilbert illustrates her existential argument using catastrophe theory:
These elementary catastrophes are of great interest because, although some are difficult to visualize, they are navigational realities for those engaged in some sports -- especially extreme sports, where they are a principal source of thrill. It would be helpful to gain insight into how understanding of them is acquired and communicated -- presumably metaphorically. All forms of surfing encounter such catastrophes. Presumably, they might also be usefully detected in relation to surfing on the web -- and in alternative realities.
Leonard Talmy (1988) made use of Thom's catastrophes in developing his own concept of force dynamics [more] which Johannes Petersen (Center for Human-Machine Interaction, Risø, Denmark) used subsequently to model manoeuvering situations as control situations (see Table 5). He focused on large container carriers with the particular aim of representing the crew's understanding of a manoeuvering situation at a specific point in time - so-called situation models. Situation models play a vital role in decision-making process integrating the basic decision-making activities: state identification, goal formation and action planing [more]. This is reminiscent of Arthur Young's preoccupations with control of a helicopter (see Table 2).
Petersen summarizes the fundamental argument made by Leonard Talmy as follows:
Table 5. Force Dynamic Patterns Representing Different Manoeuvering Situations (adapted from Petersen)
It is interesting that this example focuses on a 'container'. The 'container metaphor' has been the subject of extensive discussion since the work of Lakoff and Johnson [more; more]. Implicit in the theme of navigating alternative realities is the nature of the container or vessel inhabited by the navigator -- irrespective of whether the space is itself considered as a container. Elsewhere in this paper, reference is made to the notion of a 'vehicle' of awareness in Buddhism (explored further in a subsequent paper).
With respect to the 'manoeuvering situations' of the example, the container metaphor is notably used by Jaap Hage in Reasoning with Rules (Kluwer, 1997) in relation to artifical intelligence and the law -- and is associated with a balance-of-forces metaphor for (judicial) reasoning. Many would recognize the extent to which legal reasoning engenders (surrealistic) 'alternative' realities -- but any alternative reality might be considered as conceptually sustained by such a balance. Reasons are then seen as pushing against each other, cancelling as well as reinforcing, and the result of reasoning may hide the complexity of the reasons that figured in the result. 'Just as the combination of the forces determines in which direction the body will actually be moved (accelerated), the combination of the adduced reasons determines whether a rational audience will accept the conclusion or its negation, or refrain from judgement'. (p. 252) [review]. In a similar vein, Rudolph J. Peritz (Exploring the Limits of Formalism: AI and legal pedagogy, 1991) argues for the use of catastrophe theory as sharing normative ground with work already done in philosophy, sociology of knowledge, and law (Derrida; Foucault; Peritz):
The nature of manoeuvering situations is notably explored by the military (Alan D Zimm, 1999) and features in many game-like simulations. It is a theme of an annual Computer Generated Forces - Behavior Representation Conference. It would be useful to know whether combat manoeuvering possibilities [more; more; more; more] had been analyzed in terms of the elementary catastrophes -- especially in the light of the statement on one web site on air combat manoeuvering (ACM) that:
The metaphoric terminology of combat manoeuvers [more] and aerobatics -- and the schematics -- are reminiscent of Thom's. Aerobatic manoeuvers also include: Loop, Aileron Roll, Barrel Roll, Stalled Turn/Hammerhead, Cuban 8, Pirouette, Pitchback, Sliceback, Cloverleaf [more; more]. Novel combat manoeuvers are being discovered through genetics-based learning processes and combat simulations [more]. The focus on 'energy' in air combat is reminiscent of that in Eastern approaches to martial arts [more].
Thom offers many examples in biology, sociology and semantics for which his elementary catastrophes provide generic structure for morphogenesis. It is worth asking whether any single form from everyday experience holds all the structures he identifies. It is then tempting to point to the possibility that human biodynamics is such a form -- and possibly necessarily so. In Table 4, for example, to what extent do his 'substantives' describe features of the human form that have characacteristic 'dynamics' associated with them -- especially in relation to 'morphogenesis', namely reproductive behaviour? The terms in Table 4 that Thom struggles to offer (originally in French) to articulate complex mathematical functions, could well be replaced by synonyms that exemplify this suggestion. The 'archetypal morphologies' might well then be understood in terms of reproductive behaviours -- from courtship to consummation -- as exhibited by corresponding formal attributes and dispositions. It is interesting however that the complete set can only be held by two complementary bodies in dynamic relationship -- a theme characteristic of tantric philosophy (see below).
Just as Thom is concerned generically with morphogenesis, this 'reproductive' case may simply be an instance of other forms of behaviour that involve some form of 'courtship' (capture or entrapment) that provides a context for more complex interactions. It is in this sense that catastrophe has been applied to dialogue and conflict situations (cf Postle, 1980). It could equally be applied to the stages and processes of interaction between enterprises leading to mergers -- hence the sexual metaphors frequently used in this connection, and the excitement experienced by entrepreneurs. This would also help to explain the nature of the relationship between those engaged in surfing (and more extreme) sports and the 'reality' with which they engage. The reason it is often described as 'better than sex' is because it is effectively 'sex' in the generic sense -- where the sexual process is exemplified by the pattern of 'catastrophes'. There is a common pattern to the attractors in each instance -- which may be related to the pattern of 'virtues' and 'vices'.
But, as noted by Octavio Paz: 'Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two.' The challenge of this piece of wisdom is to give experiential meaning to 'dialectic'. The possibility of subtler understandings of this relationship leads into the experience of 'ascent' of any 'vehicle' -- whether a spacecraft or a vehicle for human identity (see also Entering Alternative Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching aerospace vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness).
With the emergence of the web, considerable attention has been given to the challenge of navigation of knowledge space, whether as a design challenge to tool providers or as an experiential challenge for the users of those tools (cf Envisaging the Art of Navigating Conceptual Complexity, 1995). Such navigation can be understood as offering alternative conceptual realities independent of the use of the interface multi-media enhancements associated with more publicized virtual reality environments.
Virtual reality hype is becoming a large part of everyday life. It is relevant to this paper when the engagement of the navigator in the virtual reality environment is much greater. Although the extent to which this effectively constitutes an alternative reality -- or how 'alternative' is that reality in terms of its conceptual dimensions, orientation and navigational challenges -- tends not to be a focus of attention. The actual components of virtual reality systems can be usefully explored and critiqued in terms of human factors, taking into account the hardware and software of visual, aural, and haptic input and feedback [more]. M.K.D. Coomans and H.J.P. Timmermans have produced Towards a Taxonomy of Virtual Reality User Interfaces (1997) which points to some conceptual issues without exploring them. Sherry Turkle (Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, 1995) considers the experiential dimensions -- notably with respect to multi-user interactive gaming environments (MUDs) [more] -- but with little reference to the knowledge space implications [review; review; review]. But clearly, whether systematically analyzed or not, the experience of such environments by role-players is developing a range of skills relevant to alternative reality navigation -- just as the previous generation of 'shoot-em-up' games provided vital training for use of modern military hardware.
Some of the issues have been summarized in an extensive study by Glenna A. Satalich (Navigation and Wayfinding in Virtual Reality: Finding Proper Tools and Cues to Enhance Navigation Awareness) which she introduces as follows:
For Shamus Smith et al. (Drowning in Immersion, 1997), it is commonly believed, but not proven, that virtual reality attains its power by captivating the user's attention to induce a sense of 'immersion' and 'presence'. This is what sets virtual reality apart from other interface metaphors. They argue that both these terms have been loosely used within the virtual reality literature. They set aside the technological issues of immersion and look at some of the basics of immersion itself as a means of understanding what may or may not be required in a proposed virtual reality (VR) system. But they do not discuss navigational issues.
Of related interest is the manner in which aesthetics is an integral feature of web navigation. Bernadette Flynn (Towards an Aesthetics of Navigation: spatial organisation in the cosmology of the adventure game) explores the aesthetics of player space as a distinctive element of the gameplay experience. An understanding of aesthetic spatial issues as an element of player interactivity and engagement is seen as important for understanding the cultural practice of adventure gameplay.
this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.