The Improvement of Communication within the World System
Research uses, applications and possibilities of a computer-based information centre on national and international organizations and related entities
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Orignally published as UIA Study Papers INF/2, September 1969
The need for a general data base as an aid to the investigation of organization within the world system has reached the stage at which the existing comprehensive and specialized directories and single purpose surveys are no longer adequate. The equipment currently available and the technological developments promised for the next five to ten years suggest that the possibilities of a sophisticated storage and retrieval system on organizations throughout the world and their interactions should be investigated.
This note identifies some of the uses and possibilities of such a data bank in terms of the probable interests of research workers in the fields of political, social, information and management science and associated disciplines. The applications stressed are those which appear to be important to the control of change within the world system.
An important reason for establishing such a data bank is the tendency to consider the recognized complexity of the world system to be too great to permit any form of unified treatment. Such a view would be encouraged if it proved impossible to represent in a sophisticated model all the entities in the world system and their many types of interaction. Computer display techniques and processing ability are the only means of rapidly conveying a conceptual understanding of the many interactions within the system as a whole. Normal instruction methods, in the case of such complexity, cross so many discipline boundaries that they lend themselves to over-emphasize of one particular feature of the system at the expense of others and an integrated picture of the whole.
Research workers in this field are faced with a situation in which the equipment they need is available and will become increasingly accessible and cheap to use, whereas the relevant data and the techniques required have not been brought together. The practical applications arising from the use of sophisticated research techniques in the study of the world system have therefore received little attention. A note of urgency is introduced into this situation in three ways:
The data bank would be built up in stages in computer memory, both in coverage (international organizations through to national organizations and important local organizations) and detail (minimum name and address data through to extensive coding of each entity) . Initial objectives would be the codification of international organizations (3,000), their national corporate members (30,000) and other important national organizations (20,000 - 70,000). The subcommittees and other bodies with a certain degree of independence within a complex parent organization would also be included. Priority would be given to governmental and non-governmental, non-profit organizations. Other entities important to an understanding of the operation of the world system are meetings, treaties, working programmes (which may be independent of any particular organization), information systems (abstracts, bibliographies), major journals, etc. These would be included in stages depending on user demand and the availability of funds.
The development of the data bank would therefore be flexible. The codification of entities would be arranged so that a greater amount of descriptive coding could be linked to the more significant entities. The difference between types of organization or entity would not be stressed, since whatever definitions are used, different types blend into one another. Accepted distinctions would be possible but would not distort the file structure.
An important feature of the data bank would be the possibility of analyzing parts of the system represented by the bank information as topological networks (1) . Such networks are completely specified by the types of entity and their interconnections. Examples of such networks which are currently analyzed with the aid of computers are electrical circuits, programme flow charts and logic diagrams. The nodes of such a network would in this case be organizations of any kind (commission, meetings, programmes, information systems, etc). The interconnections or links would be divided into input and output interactions (funds, information, membership, etc.). The file would be structured so that a form of input/output analysis could be undertaken in terms of a variety of variables. This type of analysis would permit, for example, determination of weak points in the network, communication gaps and blockages, overlap and duplication and lack of coordination.
An additional possibility, currently employed as an aid to the analysis of such networks, is the display of a part of the network on a television-type screen. This gives a much clearer visual impression of the network and permits direct interaction via the screen with the computer.
In order to provide a source of finance and to ensure that the data bank is also of immediate practical value, it would be used by organizations for distribution of questionnaires, publication publicity materiel, meeting invitations, etc. This should help to ensure that the data bank is constantly updated and may provide a link through which development research techniques can be rapidly implemented.
The following factors guided decisions on the design of the file:
1. The file structure should nit stress unnecessarily the difference between types of organization (or links between organizations) since, whatever definitions are used, different 'types blend into one another on some dimensions whilst being distinct on others. Similarities between types may be greater than differences. Accepted and conventional distinctions should be possible but should not distort the file structure. This is the only possible means of making the file useful to a wide variety of researchers and decision-makers interested in the functions performed by overlapping classes of organization. (see Fig. 1, 1a, 1b)
2. A sequential file of data on organizations is completely insufficient in terms of present and expected future demands for information. The file must therefore provide means of showing the links between organizations. This form of cross-referencing within the file is the first step towards representing a variety of 'flows' between organizations. (see Fig. 2)
3. A network file structure can therefore be conceived as made up of nodes and links. The nodes can be organizational entities of any kind, programmes independent of any particular organization, treaties, meetings, etc. The links, whether input or output, are the channels along which the node receives (or transmits) information, funds, non-financial aid, recommendations, etc. Such links may also represent the membership relationship of 'members' of the node. Links in this general sense can also represent consultative, collaborative, informal and other relationships as necessary.
4. The network file structure should facilitate use of an adaptation of the network and input/output analysis techniques employed in operational research and analysis of electrical networks. Since these techniques have not yet been adapted to this use, the consequences for the file design are simply to separate, to the extent possible, coding relating to node characteristics (static) from those relating to link performance (frequency, volume, type). Provision should be made for the inclusion of coding which would reflect the maximum number of dimensions along which communication and collaboration can break down.
The objective of this type of approach is to maximize the possibility of constructing models which would be partly quantitative and predictive as suggested by Karl Deutsch (Nerves of Government, pp. 126-7):
5. Associated with the long-term requirement of systematic network analysis is the simpler requirement that the file structure should facilitate detection of weaknesses (as defined by the user) in coordination or communication between organizations concerned with the same or related problem areas, in order that such bodies could be notified of each others activities.
6. Aside from the problem of distinctions between organizations based on conventional definitions of formal organization types, similar problems arise in attempting to distinguish between permanent bodies and temporary bodies, and between independent and dependent or internal bodies (within an organizational structure).
A temporary structure such as an independent meeting or a programme may be considered to have an important integrative effect starting from the time it is proposed (and perhaps are called for) to the time the report or recommendations are finally available as a stimulus to further effort. The complete cycle may in some cases be up to 10 years or more. This exceeds the life of many formally constituted 'permanent bodies'. In addition, the borderline between a meeting and an organization, particularly if the meeting forms part of a series and has an informal continuing committee, can only be arbitrarily established .
In the case of independent and dependent bodies, it was again decided that, whatever the degree of autonomy, the file structure should permit, if necessary, treatment of the entity in question as a node in the network. This avoids the unsatisfactory procedure of pre-establishing the sub-system boundaries and thus predetermining what is system-external and what is system-internal. The location of sub-system boundaries may itself be an important research objective. In addition, this draws attention to the fact that although communication and coordination between an outside organization and some subsidiary body may be eminently satisfactory, there is no guarantee that the relationship between the central body and the subsidiary body is satisfactory. A sub-sub-system of sub-system A may be affected by a sub-system B without sub-system A as a whole being significantly affected. This has many important consequences.
7. A consequence of the decision not to restrict attention to particular types of organization, is that arbitrary definitions of 'international', 'national' , 'regional', 'local', or 'governmental', 'non-governmental', 'commercial' , etc. are avoided. This permits a researcher to establish his own definitions of such sub-systems with a maximum amount of flexibility.
This is in line with the conclusions of Andrew M. Scott (The Functioning of the International Political System) that the nation-states are no longer the only significant actors on the international political scene. The file design should facilitate the systems approach suggested, by him which would 'help overcome the sharp separation between domestic affairs and international politics, because it operates equally well at either level and can move between the two.'
8. Most information systems are designed as means of speeding up the processing, storage and retrieval of documents. Because of the high volumes involved such systems are very costly and where they are less costly, this is only achieved by a considerable degree of specialization in order to reduce the volume. To avoid this dilemma end yet optimize information on the world system as a whole, it was decided to concentrate on the producers of information rather than the information produced in document form.
The information producing and processing points in the world system are organizations of one kind or another. These represent the points at which decisions and control activity regarding the production of information occurs. A focus on such points therefore maximizes the possibility of obtaining a clear, overall picture of the world system. Such a picture is an essential basis for management type decisions concerning the allocation of resources.
A management information system requires information on bodies controlling, evaluating, formulating, and implementing programmes, and coordinating memberships (in the broadest sense), relationships and information networks linking them to problem areas.
It is therefore focused on the coordination achieved and necessary for current and planned or proposed activities. A documentation information system concentrates on the information produced when it eventually appears in published form.
The first is focused on the initiating points for present and future activity whilst the second is focused on the published record, if any, of past activity. The fact that one organization can coordinate the production of many documents in the context of one programme, is an indication of the volume of information in each case, the scale of the problem in each case, and the cost of each type of system. Most important though, is that it illustrates the relatively much higher value of information on the current programmes of organizations.
Intermediate between these extremes, is information on sources of information produced in document form (e.g. bibliographies of bibliographies, directories of periodicals, etc.) which can be incorporated in a management information system, since it represents the key to information collecting points and systems in a particular problem area. Such information is of relatively much higher value if it is produced regularly within a series rather than as a one-off publication.
The file structure is therefore deliberately not orientated toward the solution of the documentation problem and the associated "information explosion". Such solutions imply the retrievability within a 'reasonable' period of time of an optimum number of past relevant documents on a subject. A management information system implies the immediate availability of information on all currently active bodies, programmes and information networks within the world system. It can, to some extent, predict future document production.
The emphasis on the management approach is based on the view that even if a document information system can provide an optimum selection of relevant material on a problem, this does not facilitate the solution to many important subsequent problems. Specifically:
A major requirement for a management information is that it be highly structured, eliminate non-significant data in order to highlight problem areas and areas requiring decisions. It should also relate a problem area to associated problem areas across discipline and jurisdictional boundaries. It should indicate the location of resources and the channels through which they could advantageously be moved. An attempt should therefore be made in designing the file structure to facilitate the development of techniques of this kind.
9. Another approach to the analysis of the world system is through the use of political and social indicators based on statistical analysis of the relationship between key variables in a manner analogous to that used for economic indicators. Major difficulties associated with this approach are cost, comparability of data collected in different countries and ensuring regular updating .
This approach provides indications of conditions of clearly defined classes either by national, regional or local averages. It does not tie these conditions directly to the organizational structures within society by which they can be modified and tends to gloss over the structure of sub-systems and communication within kind between them. Thus although primary problems can be detected, the detection of secondary problems is not facilitated e.g. the structural weaknesses which obstruct the effective recognition of, or implementation of solutions to primary problems (nor does it facilitate the detection of structural strengths by which solutions can be speeded up) .
The greater the emphasis placed on structural elements within the world system and dynamic relationships between them, the greater should be the practical value of the file when set up. The incorporation of general political and social indicators was therefore envisaged but only as a part of the node or link description coding.
10. The file design should not be an attempt at model building but should rather provide the elements from which a wide variety of partial or general models could be built. It should be left to the researcher to define the classes into which he wishes to group entities for model building purposes.
The advantage of this approach is that an attempt is made to include as many different types of entity as can be detected. The researcher is therefore forced to explicitly exclude certain types of entity when building partial models, rather than merely neglect certain types of entity because their significance has not been brought to his attention.
11. Additional factors governing the design arise because of the practical problems of implementing and maintaining the system. These are:
12. Finally, the file organization had to be kept reasonably simple to facilitate input and updating.
The most important factor implicit in many of the points above is the generality of the required file design. Because of its generality, the system should be of value to a wide variety of cross-category queries and permits the construction of models of the world system as a whole. The difficulty inherent in optimizing a general design (aside from that of locating financial support) is illustrated by a quote from Bertram M. Gross (The State of the Nation, p. 138) on the preparation of general social indicators:
The file will permit the inclusion of the following types of organizational entity. It is however highly probable that the different groups will be given different levels of priority, approximately that of the order here. Individual entities from low priority groups could of course be included at any time if necessary. The groups are based on conventional categories, but the file organization will of course permit much more flexibility in selecting categories.
The concept of entity is sufficiently general to permit inclusion of other types of entity if necessary. Possibilities are considered in the next section.
The purpose of considering other possible entities is to arrive at greater facility in identifying and describing parts of the world system.
Sub-Systems and Classes of Entities
Sub-systems may conventionally be identified by name (e.g. international NGOs, the American banking system, etc.). Descriptive coding can be supplied, as can keyword coding. The actual entities which make up (i.e. are "members") of the sub-system can be clearly defined, individually or as classes and thus cut down access time. Such cards would be a useful means of avoiding analysis. A library of sub-system cards could be built up as a result of each analysis of the file as a whole. Each sub-system would be defined according to the special definitions used by the investigator. The result might be that of a series of overlapping classes which had together employed definitions which effectively excluded some specific entities registered within the file. This in itself would be useful.
In some cases the sub-systems would in fact represent a non-existent umbrella organization.
Depending upon how the systems were defined, it could be useful to include 'black box' system cards known to be important parts of the system with known inputs and outputs, but about which it was impossible to provide any description with certainty.
Religions, Armies, Tribes and Clans
The manner in which the system is conceived does not preclude treatment of these as entities. Their hierarchical structure and cross-links to other entities could easily be indicated.
Movements of Opinion and Informal Organizations
Since a structure can be identified for informal organizations and, using classes of entities, movements of opinion, there is no reason why these important features of the world system should not be included, if this was considered necessary.
Information and Communication Systems or Networks
Information networks may be independent of any particular organization and may therefore be considered to be important integrating factors in their own right. They possess a well-defined structure and may therefore be included if necessary.
Where a decision is taken as the result of the deliberations and activities of a wide range of organizations not necessarily formally linked, it would be an advantage to treat the decision as a type of entity in its own right. The organizations which participate in the decision-making process may then be treated as 'members' of this entity.
As a detail of an organizational structure, cards of this type could be used to indicate the inputs and outputs to decision centres.
At some stage, it would be an advantage to store propositions concerning the functioning of the world system and its sub-systems. They could be filed at any stage of verification, so that apparently contradictory propositions could exist together. Each would have its status changed as it moved towards acceptance or rejection.
The value of including propositions once the file is used for simulation and decision-making is to offer the user a choice of relationships governing a field in which he is interested, plus all the necessary qualifications. A proposition verified for a limited set of cases could be drawn to the users attention as a possible guide for a decision in his unexplored area.
It would be useful to express propositions concerning flows or restriction on flows between entities or classes of entities as simple mathematical functions. In fact it is probably only propositions which can be so expressed which could be usefully included.
Inclusion of data from a variety of sources will clearly lead to a situation where two or more sources of different standpoint will disagree. This disagreement is itself a feature of the system and important to an understanding of its operation.
Provided a critic card follows the same format as the card of data criticized, either may be chosen, or the two compared to establish the degree of dissonance. An example would be a comparison between stated objectives and some evaluation of the 'real' objectives, or of what is really being achieved.
Consideration has been given to means of coding problem areas, as distinct from subject or field of interest areas. An organization can be concerned with a field of interest selected from some sort of representation of the totality of possible fields of interest and ordered into classes and sub-classes. It would be useful to develop a structure of problems with which entities can be concerned. In effect this is an ordered collection of ways in which any entity and in particular, (by extension) the world system, can malfunction .
This problem thesaurus could be used as a qualifier on field of interest coding to indicate in what way the field is of interest or is a matter of concern, thus clarifying the objectives, and activities of the organization. Alternatively, problem areas could be treated as entities with a 'membership" corresponding to those bodies concerned with them.
In the first case a valuable predictive tool would be created. For if analysis shows that a number of organizations are concerned with a limited number of problems within a particular problem area, it will bring out those aspects with which no organization is concerned and concerning which data should be obtained, even if only as a check. In this way a systematic picture could be built up of what might go wrong in the future, or might be wrong, but be undetectable because nobody employs the conceptual categories necessary to detect the problem, possibly because it is interdisciplinary.
Presumably such a problem hierarchy would at its mare abstract end include the vague concepts included in organization objectives, about which it is possible to enthuse e.g. cooperation, well-being, etc. At its more detailed level, it would include statistics of the problem as measured. It is the intermediate levels which would prove of value as a guide to decision-making.
The disadvantage of this approach is that no generally accepted and highly developed problem thesaurus exists. Insufficient is known about system malfunction in the most general sense. Even 'problem' does not seem to be very well defined in the system sense. (see Fig. 2b)
The second approach is simpler but more closely related to the field of interest coding. The problem area could be treated as an entity with a membership. Related problem areas could be linked using the inter-entity link cards. Because this is an associative type of coding, no predictive feature is available, but it does increase the ability to evaluate the degree of coordinated response to a problem area .
If fields of interest were coded as entities, then problem area coding would blend into field of interest coding. A field of interest could then be considered as a problem area in a broader sense.
'The link between an organization (say) and a problem area is then that the organization is set up because the problem there is considered critical. Organizations could then be considered as society's response to a problem area. An organization may express concern (general interest) about certain symptoms, but consider that an indirect approach was necessary. The problem area attached may therefore not be identical with the symptoms of concern.
An advantage is that an attempt is made to distinguish between ways in which an organization is concerned about a subject area and how that subject area is defined as a problem and how it is proposed to attack that problem. This sort of qualification on field of interest coding would avoid superficial analysis identifying duplication when the two bodies were concerned about the same area in different ways. It would also highlight those cases where an organization is apparently the authority in a certain field of interest but in fact is only responsible for certain aspects of that field of interests.
This sort of problem area approach would help to take the emphasis off documentation about a field of interest and place it on the way in which that field of interest constitutes a problem and what needs to be done about it.
Interaction between workers and the data bank over a period of time should ensure that increasingly precise techniques of coding and processing the entities and their interactions are developed and incorporated wherever possible. The fact that the entities described are real and not artificially generated should lead to research techniques and models or conclusions which would prove of immediate practical value.
Research workers could use the data for:
Use of the data bank for contact purposes, particularly if it is constantly updated with future meeting and proposed programme data, would in itself be of great value to research workers attempting to establish and maintain contacts with all bodies operating in their particular field of interest. One application envisaged is the use of the data bank to assist in the distribution of meeting results .
It is not possible to present the various research uses of the proposed data bank in clear categories by discipline. The many factors to be taken into account in the analysis of the world system interact across individual discipline boundaries. In addition, the research interest may be in the development of an analytical technique, in the practical application of a technique, in the creation, manipulation and analysis of models, in the summarization of data to give an adequate picture, or in the adaptation of theoretical techniques to the restrictions and communicative powers of a display unit.
The following problem areas may combine any of the above needs for research, depending on the state of development of the theoretical techniques, the adaptation to the equipment available and the restriction imposed by the context in which the new techniques could be of practical value.
Correlations between Organization Characteristics and Interaction Variables
This has been the main area of quantitative research. The data bank should considerably facilitate the conduct of preliminary and general inquiries by providing most of the useful basic quantitative information on organizations. This should prove of great assistance in narrowing down the area of research and clarifying the problem and the number of questions that need to be asked of organizations. It is important to recognize the disadvantages of over-questioning under-staffed organizations. The data bank would also facilitate the mechanical process of preparing the necessary questionnaire envelope labels. Under present circumstances the address location problem which this facility would overcome, is in itself a very important hindrance to research. The key question here is the minimum and optimum number of characteristics that must be coded on each type of organization (important and less important) now and in the foreseeable future, bearing in mind the possibility of flexible extension of the coding on each organization. Feedback on this point would be of great assistance and is probably essential to the adequate design of the system.
It is intended to avoid, as far as possible, freezing any descriptions of organizations according to currently favoured definitions. Provision would be made to permit analysis in terms of such definitions if necessary. Coding should, however, permit analysis to determine to what extent a particular combination of characteristics chosen at the time of research is a valid or adequate definition of a class of organization or interactions in any subject or geographical area. This is particularly important in order to facilitate adequate analysis of types of organizations which fall in the gray areas between the boundaries of accepted definitions. Clearly this lends itself to the use of the factor analysis technique.
Experiments with adequate definitions of organizations should lead to the development of a form of input/output analysis of organizational systems. This could be based on the flow of information but techniques could be developed, with the aid of the data bank, to extend this to measurable characteristics representing less easily quantifiable flows such as policy implementation, finance, membership support, etc. Such techniques could be used in conjunction with factorial analysis which should reduce the delays in arriving at adequate models. In order to achieve this satisfactorily in the face of the practical problem of limited, inadequate or excessive amounts of information on organizations, statistical techniques would need to be developed to supply probable values in the case of limited information and to summarize excessive amounts of information where this cannot be stored permanently.
The investigation and development of such techniques, assisted by the data bank, could hopefully lead to a useful method of specifying typical response curves for different types of organizations considered as nodes in a topological network. Such a technique would provide guidance in the management problem of optimizing organizational structure and interaction and of portraying the system in a more meaningful and dynamic manner.
An important coding possibility would permit the analysis of the world system in terms of the flow of information along channels represented by information systems and other forms of contact between organizations. The results of such analyses should bring out the position, characteristics and weaknesses of information channels, storage, retrieval and processing points. An understanding of the world information system and ways of improving it could prove very useful in isolating factors contributing to the creation or maintenance of conflict.
An adequate analysis of information flows would provide an essential basis for recommendations for the creation of new bibliographical, documentary, library and journal information services. Such an analysis would permit the development of a technique of contour mapping of the probable number of information search operations (or the probable delay) necessary for a person in a certain subject and/or geographical area, to contact another person (or tap an information flow) in another area.
System Analysis (see Fig. 2)
The above techniques should provide an adequate basis for a useful dynamic analysis of the world system. The interactions are so complex that it is highly probable that a complete picture could not be portrayed in any meaningful static form. Techniques would have to be developed to select out, summarize statistically, and display parts of the system in order to provide adequate conceptual models to facilitate understanding. The advantage of the data bank would be that it provides a base from which many such techniques and models may be derived and examined. The advantage of the proposed system, however, is that it provides a common base by which partial models are in effect linked, in contrast to current procedure where, for example, a political model would not necessarily be based on the same entities as a sociological model, and the two models would not interact. The system is therefore a form of guarantee that all aspects of the world system are potentially accessible, even if a researcher of necessity chooses to work with one aspect at a time. This integrated multi-aspect possibility is an essential requirement for any management problem analysis.
The data base would prove extremely valuable to the simulation of the operation of sub-systems of the world system. Such a simulation could focus on political, sociological, information and financial or other aspects. In the case of political science, for example, little empirical work has been done on which theories could be based. The lack of an adequate comprehensive data base has also inhibited attempts to derive theories inductively. It is through simulation that possible relationships among any or all variables put into the simulation may be examined. Simulation can therefore be used as a theory building and a theory comparing device and can aid in accelerating the development of fundamental knowledge in international politics (2) . Clearly these points can also be made in favour of simulation of other aspects of the world system. The fact that such simulations are based on up-to-date data about the real world -- data in a system which is also used for non-research purposes -- and not artificially generated, considerably increases the speed with which research conclusions can be made use of as guides to practical decision-making in both governmental and non-governmental spheres. A particular advantage when interactive display units are used, is the possibility of rapidly introducing response or probability curves as a hand-drawn 'light curve' to change the characteristics of a simulation. This avoids the need for lengthy numerical specification of curves .
Interactive Graphic Displays
A research worker involved in theory building, technique improvement, analysis of the world system or sub-systems, development of methods of practical application, or investigating parts of the world system as a guide for decision-making purposes, could be equipped with an interactive graphic device linked to the proposed data bank.
These devices usually involve a cathode ray tube, a light-pen or equivalent device for drawing and manipulating graphical data displayed, an associated keyboard, and possibly an array of push buttons and toggle switches for designation of certain user-defined computer subroutines and macro instructions. Such routines can be used to increase or decrease the amount of detail in the display modify the dimensions or coordinate system of the graph, etc. Data can be fed onto the display (and thus into the computer) using the light-pen, the alphanumeric and function keyboards.
In order to treat very large structural entities graphically (e.g. a complex organizational network) , the display surface can be set up to represent a window on, or projection of one aspect of, one part of the structure. For a particular application it may be necessary to work with a number of such detailed sections by 'moving' the display window to view different portions of the entity as a whole. A capability can also be provided to 'zoom' in on a small portion of the structure, if it is three-dimensional, in order to get a better picture of the relationship or lack of relationship between the parts. Dynamic capabilities can be added to the above. Analysis of various types of weakness can be provided and signaled to attract the attention of the research worker or decision maker. At any time, he can request further information in textual or graphical form on parts of the structure.
In order to understand the value of interactive computer graphics, a few basic principles of communications should be considered . Languages convey thoughts . The most primitive language conveys a small portion of the total thought in a language unit. The spectrum from binary computer language through textual description to graphics may be considered as a hierarchy of languages. A picture, curve or chart is a unit of graphic language. The cliché 'one picture is worth a thousand words' describes the power of a unit of graphic language to express thoughts. Raw analytical data must be plotted or structured to draw attention to significant details and bring out its full meaning. Until this is done, it is difficult for the individual human information processing system to construct efficient data structure models of the content of a mass of data. It is only by using such structures that complex data becomes easy to manipulate and remember. A measure of the degree to which some form of communication approaches the ideal is the degree to which it is understandable weeks or months after it is written, not statement by statement, but in the structure of meaning...that it reveals or conceals. Graphical communication is inherently structural and therefore ideal where complex structures and interactions must be analyzed by research workers and subsequently displayed for the benefit of decision-making.
Real-time computer graphics makes it possible for the research worker to describe his problem in terms of charts, graphs, schematics, pictorial views, etc, and have his analytical results portrayed in a similar form. All of this is accomplished within a time which makes it possible to maintain 'thinking momentum', which permits questions to be quickly rephrased in the light of each analytical response. For the decision-maker, particularly in committee, the system allows him to access quickly detailed evidence only for those points of the displayed summary which are questioned. (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
The fundamental importance of interactive graphics is the ability to facilitate understanding. Progress in understanding is made through the development of mental models or notations that permit a simple representation of a mass of complexities not previously understood. The greater the complexity however, the more difficult it is to use mental models. For example, in a discussion of mental models of electrical circuits one author writes: 'Unfortunately, my abstract model tends to face out when I get a circuit that is a little hit too complex. I can't remember what is happening in one place long enough to see what is going to happen somewhere else. My model evaporates. If I could somehow represent that abstract model in the computer to see a circuit in animation, my abstraction wouldn't evaporate. I could take the vague notion that 'fades out at the edges' and solidify it. I could analyze bigger circuits. In all fields there are such abstractions. We havn't yet made any use of the computer's capability to "form up" these abstractions. The scientist of today is limited by his pencil and paper and mind. He can draw abstractions, or he can think about them. If he draws them, they will be static, and if he just visualizes them, they won't have very good mathematical properties and will fade out. With a computer, we could give him a great deal more. We could give him drawings that move, drawings in three or four dimensions which he can rotate, and drawings with great mathematical accuracy. We could let him represent all kinds of very complex and very abstract notions, and we could let him work with them in a way that he has never been able to do before. I think that really big gains in the substantive scientific areas are going to come when somebody invents new abstraction's which can only be represented in computer graphical form' (4), (emphasis added). It is this sort of facility which the political, social, information and management scientists and educationists require in their studies of the world system and. its sub-systems. It appears highly probable that only abstractions of the above order will prove an adequate basis for an understanding and representation of the world system for purposes of sophisticated decision-making .
The need for comprehensive research on means of facilitating the decision-making process within the world system is illustrated by the following quote: 'We know much of what the future will bring in terms of problems. We know they will be big, complex, and serious....These problems represent the givers. We know they will be there -- and we know they will overwhelm us if we do not find the means of coping with them. What we lack, thus far, is conviction that there is a means of getting hold of them. They seem so staggering in their size and complexity -- so far beyond the capability of any single institutional segment of the community, public or private....And they are so interrelated that to proceed to try to solve any one of them in isolation from the others is often to create more problems than are solved by the effort. The dilemma thus presented has so far frustrated most efforts to come to grips with these problems. This condition of paralysis need not obtain. None of the...challenges lies beyond our already existing capacity for coping with them. The tools are already at hand and included in those tools are not only the technological capabilities but experience in systems management and systems analysis as well as proven patterns of joint public and private effort.' (emphasis added) (14).
The techniques used to handle development programmes are, even in the systems oriented U.S.A., 'still operating on the old project by project basis. Problems are subdivided into manageable units, but rarely are those units coordinated into a comprehensive pattern. It is rarer still for one program to be related to another, particularly in a case where agency jurisdictional lines do not overlap... There is no lack of criticism of this haphazard approach to major national problems. Nevertheless, when the gains made in coping with our environmental problems are stacked up against the exciting breakthroughs that have been made in our aerospace efforts, it is clear that we are improving the quality of human existence here on earth at too slow a rate....In my judgment, we are on the threshold of an entirely new approach to the solution of these public problems...What I am talking about, of course, is systems management....Computers...are merely tools of the systems manager; they increase his capacity to make good decisions by improving the quality and quantity of his information. The amount and quality of available information are critical to the success of public programs. Far too often, however, decisions are made with inadequate data, usually because not all of the necessary factors were taken into consideration. As one local government official described the public management process, 'We manage by reaction rather than design'. Use of the array of tools available to the systems manager can immeasurably improve the quality of public decision-making, and hence the quality of public programs.' (emphasis added) (15). It is this approach which is required to solve the decision-making problems within the world system. A first step, however, must be a comprehensive and dynamic collection of information on all the organizational entities involved in the initiation and control of change. Research will then be required to adapt or develop the appropriate techniques for portraying and predicting the interactions between these entities.
As the world system organizational structure and range of inter-organization interaction increases in complexity, new means must be sought to facilitate (a) the task of the planner and decision-maker whether in inter-governmental, governmental, international or national non-governmental organizations, or in meetings of any type; (b) the interaction between decision-making research and decision-makers. It is not possible to expect decision-makers under time pressure to be able to locate and absorb all the serially presented textual and tabular material relevant to each problem and the techniques required to solve it. New techniques must be sought to summarize, structure and automatically highlight problem areas and their relation to the various types of resources available for a solution, in a manner which is oriented to the requirements of the decision-maker or the type of meeting in which decisions are made. This is particularly important where a range of new and perhaps complex techniques of analysis has been developed but can only be used by the decision-maker under clearly defined conditions, with appropriate qualifications, to be of value. The interactive graphic display is an important new aid to the controlled analysis of these decision-making problems. 'It is superfluous to point out, for example, that an incidence matrix, while completely describing a graph, is a poor substitute when it comes to being an aid to human intuition and understanding. A similar reflection applies to tables of values that describe functional relationships; a graph is immediately clear, while numbers are not.'(7)
An important additional value of graphical displays and particularly interactive graphical displays is the guidance it gives to any meeting discussion. The minimum amount of information on a complex structure is successively displayed for general comprehension and to focus on the major problem areas as they are to be discussed. Specific detailed queries by participants can, however, be met and answered within the general context without endangering the meeting momentum as a result of the confusion easily created by reference to topics or perspectives whose detailed relationship to the topics under discussion has not yet been adequately prepared. Under norma1 circumstances, the meeting momentum and sense of direction may be modified by such statements in the absence of adequate information, drawing the attention of the meeting away from the critical areas and perhaps apparently justifying the postponement of a decision.
Interactive graphics, may therefore be used as a means of structuring and interrelating problem areas and highlighting those on which surveys must be carried out. It is an ideal tool for vividly and automatically highlighting (and if necessary supplying a textual description) communication gaps or inadequacies, lack of coordination and duplication within a complex organizational structure. It has the advantage pf being able to draw attention, on exactly the same basis, to such weaknesses between interacting divisions of organizations within the world system which have no direct formal structural links.
A central data bank, or one operating through regional centres, can maintain an integrated picture of the world system updated from a wide variety of sources. Any modifications, dissolution of old entities, creation or proposal of new entities and interactions can be ordered in relation to the other entities affected. This has the valuable consequence that duplication of corrective action is not made by one decision-maker during the time delay (sometimes measured in years) before he registers (if he does) the actions of another decision-maker concerned with the same problem. Each decision-maker has a dynamic information picture of the environment with which he is concerned. This picture is not distorted by the administrative restrictions imposed on his interactions with, and recognition of other entities.
In engineering terms: 'The primary problem encountered when designing a large complex system is to control the utilization of three-dimensional space during the layout process. In a large system the work of numerous specialists must be closely coordinated in order to ensure that no two objects are placed in the same space, and that the interaction of layout and system characteristics does not unnecessarily degrade the performance of systems. Ideally, everyone would work on one large drawing....However, one large drawing -- actually -- is obviously impractical. Using interactive computer graphics, however, it is possible for everyone to work on a 'single drawing"; through linkage of the graphics with analytical programs, the correlation between layout of a system and the system performance characteristics is automatic.' (5)
International Treaty Research
A major problem in dealing with the multitude of bilateral and multilateral treaties is to discover which subjects are covered by which treaties and which are not covered by any treaties. This problem extends to the national level and is aggravated by the fact that international treaties are usually only in effect for a limited period. The proposed data bank, by processing a treaty as an organizational entity (without an administering secretariat) could, in conjunction with a visual display unit, quickly give a dynamic visual impression of what fields were not covered now (or would not be in the near future), in what fields several treaties had to be considered. By relating treaties to organizations and programmes concerned with the same subject, their norm
The problem of management guidance necessary to control change within the world system, highlighted by the quote at the beginning of this note, will require increasing interaction between the functions of: research, decision-making, problem evaluation, programme implementation, and public information. At present, these functions are, in many problem areas, the responsibility of organizations or departments which only interact indirectly via a long series of unorganized and only partially understood (from a systems viewpoint) processes and delay mechanisms.
The proposed data bank could provide an information base as a nucleus for the development of a structure which would increase the speed of interaction between the above functions within the world system. National and international data transmission networks and information systems are now being planned and in some cases implemented. Where the above functions can each benefit from use of the same data base, problems registered in one functional area can quickly lead to response from the other area, e.g. a decision-making or problem evaluation problem will stimulate research and lead to the rapid use of research conclusions and techniques. It is already possible to envisage the state at which the decision-maker may be able to benefit from research techniques weeks, instead of years, after they are developed, because of interaction via the functional area, through the type of information bank proposed. Similarly, a particular decision-making problem may become more clearly defined as a stimulus to the researcher.
The ultimate measure of value of any innovation must be the financial and indirect returns on the investment. The future cost per console hour for time-shared computer graphics was anticipated in 1968 to be $ 12-15 in the 'near future' and $ 1-2 in five to ten years. Such systems may be operated over telephone or data transmission lines so that the interactive computer graphics terminal must eventually become a piece of office equipment (rather than part of a computer installation) . Complete graphics systems could, in 1968, be purchased at costs between $ 15~-000 and $ 50,000. Tangible benefits derived from the use of graphic systems include: reduction in the number of man-hours required to test a single solution to a problem; reduced use of computer time due to the users ability to 'zero-in' on the correct answer; direct savings of man-hours required to translate problem descriptions into computer input; savings as a result of computer reduction of raw data output to graphical form. (5, 9)
The intangible benefits are primarily in the area of problem solving. Graphics has spurred some users on to attempt the solution of future problems that today have no solution because the problems have not yet been fully perceived (6) or adequately defined for computer analysis. Research of this type is essential to provide a constant stream of new concepts and techniques by means of which change may be controlled. As an example of a means of controlling change which is now feasible (it is currently used to facilitate stock exchange transactions, (16)), consider the operation of the type of development information system towards which we will shortly be forced to move but for which research techniques are at present inadequate.
Groups, organizations, foundations or individuals will register via a computer, perhaps anonymously, their interest in participating in programmes in a particular field. Anybody willing to formulate, initiate, coordinate or finance such a programme, could at any time test the number, and perhaps type, of bodies which have registered such an interest. Proposals could then be circulated via a computer addressing system without the need to reveal the identity of recipients. The initiator would then receive replies from those interested in his proposals, permitting him to prepare a preliminary meeting to launch the project.
Any programme coordinator for general programmes could automatically monitor the current and proposed (non-restricted) projects in any specialized area and thus ensure that the specialized project coordinators received all appropriate information on the general or related specialized programmes with which they could align their activities or from which they could obtain support.
Visual display units would provide immediate access to a general picture of the pattern of change and would automatically signal areas of imbalance (including unchecked control) detected by standard and new experimental techniques.
Such a system could operate through an international network of computers
serving remote terminals. It would ensure continuous dynamic interaction between
change agents and signal all areas in which participation or support was required.
The instantaneous display of areas of Imbalance would facilitate rapid organized
response. A dynamic system of this kind would require a very flexible and organic,
perhaps even continuous, reconceptualization of the world system and the relationship
between the, entities in its many sub-systems.
In the early stages, such an information system could operate by postal contact
with the central computer and gradually switch over to remote terminal, real
time processing as this became economically justifiable. Regional computer systems
could also be set up to handle local projects.
A sophisticated dynamic Information system of this type could be quickly developed
from the specialized Information systems which are currently under investigation,
provided that the eventual objective is clearly defined in the near future.
This section describes how a research worker or decision-maker could interact
with a visual display unit linked to the type of data bank proposed and aided
by some of the techniques outlined above.
a) Flowchart presentation of world system
The research worker could group organizations with certain characteristics into classes which interact in certain specified ways. By grouping organi zations, an average of their characteristics and the characteristics of their interactions with organizations in other classes can be, conveniently re presented. Many flowcharts of the whole world system, or a part, can be obtained In this way. A flowchart can be complexified to just one type of interaction (e.g. membership, information, policy) or may include several. The flowchart may be made complex by using many classes and interactions or simply by using only a limited number. The research worker can modify his definition of the classes or study the effects of Increasing flows In some arc-as or creating flows in new areas. This technique is a valuable com plement to simulation of world system operations.
b) Network presentation of world system
The research worker could portray the interaction between single organizations or parts of organizations in a network form. Since each type of Interaction creates a different type of network, many networks can be superimposed or only one need be displayed. The research worker could also create his own set of networks directly with a light-pen on the screen.
The network could also be structured in terms of some two or three dimensional coordinate system so that the significant organizations in terms of one definition are grouped in one area (e.g. policy formulating at top, policy implementing at bottom, or most coordinative near origin) . The lines between the points representing organization interactions could be made longer, shorter, thicker, thinner or dashed according to interaction criteria defined to be of interest. This technique can be combined with a 'flashing' technique to draw attention to special links or nodes as a result of computer analysis of the network. These possibilities would considerably speed up evaluation and improvement of new methods of world system structure analysis such as Johan Galtung's suggestions for a "calculus of integration" (17).
The network, could also be structured in terms of issues on the basis of certain assumptions. Cross-issue links could then be evaluated. Different types of organizations (as defined by the research worker) could be represented by different symbols on the display screen. Short life organizations, or bodies with a long activity cycle (e.g. large five- yearly congresses) 1 could be made to flash with a characteristics periodicity thus giving some idea of the lack of continuinity of flow in some parts of the network.
c) Response curves and textual display (see Fig. 3M)
Using simulation techniques, stresses could be introduced into the network. The interaction characteristics of parts of the network would amplify or dampen such changes. This could best be followed by requesting response curves for critical parts of the network -- or the flowchart, if that form of grouped presentation is used.
The response curves could be placed on a specially defined part of the display area. Such an area could also be used for the display or request of textual descriptions or analytical results pertaining to different parts of the network indicated by the researcher using the light-pen.
Response curves might be used to show the probability of Information disseminated by node A reaching node F according to certain assumptions made, by the researcher about the factors governing such flows. Similar curves might be displayed for the collection by node A of information from nodes B to F. Other curves might be used to show the probability of the alignment of programmes of low-level organization with the recommendations formulated by high-level organizations. Conversely curves could be displayed on the basis of certain assumptions to show the probability of the response by high-level organizations to resolutions passed on by low-level organizations. There are many other possibilities of this type.
The research worker also has the possibility of attempting an optimization of the organizational network. By modifying organizational characteristics (as they would Probably be modified as the result of new funds or higher level policy recommendations, etc.), he can iterate toward the optimum organizational structure in a particular area. Such analyses could only be of value if adequate allowance was made for the valid resistance of some organizations to recommendations based on such calculations. A representation of informal structures would be required.
Recommendations arising from the use of such techniques could be used as a guide, by decision-makers. The educational value of a display system of the type proposed could be used to support and explain any decisions based on such techniques. These techniques would be particularly useful as a guide to any decisions regarding the creation of new organizations, meeting series or programmes. They would help to indicate, for the type of organization proposed, the likely performance to be expected.
A visual display unit has considerable advantages as a technique for the communication of new concepts. As the world system Increases in complexity new techniques must be sought to simplify education concerning it and the many roles and interactions open to the individual, the citizen and his organizations. The problems posed by the time currently required to communicate an adequate working knowledge of the world system and the difficulty of building up an integrated picture of its complexity, suggest that a visual display unit may have many possibilities.
An important technique In building understanding is the ability of a display unit, linked to the type of data bank proposed, to portray the world system organizational network from an origin chosen anywhere within the network. Thus an organization, known and understood by a particular user, may be used as visual origin and all other organizations displayed in terms of their relationship to it. Organizations "distant" in communication terms can be reduced In visual Importance, whereas "nearby" organizations of relatively little absolute importance can be made to appear of great significance (approximating the recognition normally accorded to it by the user) . This technique has considerable psychological value. The student has a known base or organizational environment from which to start his exploration of the organizational network. He Is able, to understand how his known organizations are "nested" within an organizational environment. He can work from this base by requesting a restructuring of the network in terms of other organizational viewpoints as he builds up knowledge of, and a "feel' for, those originally conceptually distant from his starting point. Text can be displayed concerning the new organization, interaction or perspective before any new 'jump' is made. In this way he can progress toward the more general levels of the world system or into other areas of detail.
Clearly, since a 3600 view of the network cannot be supplied, the student must specify the direction in which he wishes to observe the network. He can then rotate his effective "field of vision" around his pre-specified viewpoint In order to locate the next organizational viewpoint about which he wishes to learn or in terms of which he wishes to restructure the network. The significance of this possibility is that it would enable a person to understand the organization/ information environment of groups with which he has not previously been in contact.
A valuable feature of an interactive system is the possibility given to a
student of simulating the result on the world system of "wiping out" a single
organization or a class of organizations believed to be of little value. Students
can experiment with the system by "moving around" within it, modifying it to
fit preconceptions or rigid definitions and observe their operational results,
or observing the system as a whole In various projections. At any stage, textual
material could be requested by the student. Such a technique could be adapted
to use in the learning process by school or university students, adult education
classes or the briefing of diplomats, delegates or specialists who are to be
exposed to other viewpoints or conceptions of the organizational environment.
Clearly lowcost, video, non- interactive versions of an educational sequence
could be prepared and reproduced for wider distribution.
The proposed data bank could be organized in a number of ways. If the research processing requirements are minimized (and possibly handled via a preliminary restructuring operation), then conventional file structures can be used. if it Is considered useful to avoid a restructuring operation and to facilitate complex research, then the organization of the file raises problems of timing and memory space.
If the proposed data bank can only be implemented with a minimum of financial backing from sources uninterested in the sophisticated research possibilities, it would be an advantage to use programmes and file descriptions which can be subsequently increased in sophistication. In this way, the minimum data on coded entities could be included initially and more detailed descriptions added subsequently over a number of stages. Sophisticated processing would thus be possible in some areas before others depending on the priorities established for data collection (whether detail or coverage) .
This possibility require s that the f inal f orm of the f ile and the specif ic research requirements should be known at an early stage to minimize the possibility of structuring the file in a non-optimum manner at any particular stage.
The more sophisticated processing possibilities Implied by some sections of this note, whilst currently feasible in isolation or on small files, may pose considerable problems of memory requirements and processing delays when used together on large files. Detailed study and a clear definition of requirements may, however, indicate means of avoiding these difficulties.
Another approach appears to be possible, however, which would facilitate rather than create obstacles to the Integrative emphasis which it Is intended that the system should stress. This approach arises from recent work by Gordon Hyde, Scientific Director of Datatrac Ltd (U.K.) on new conceptions of information retrieval systems. He considers that:
He points out that only recently (Royal Society Discussion, 18 October 1968) has a specific information processing machine been seriously considered. His work has been on the theoretical basis for such a computer which has to be mathematically unlike numerical processing machines. He considers that:
It is precisely this attitude which may prove essential to an adequate understanding of the complexity of the world system. The key to this approach is the conclusion that "non-Abelian (non -commutative and partially non-associative) coding procedures" are required. This work has been extended to "the possibility of a universal binary meta language, which has hitherto been regarded somewhat as the philosophers stone of computer science." He considers that
This is precisely what the processing possibilities mentioned earlier would require. He continues:
Gordon Hyde has specif ic proposal s f or the creation of the requisite new hardware and is discussing the early adaptation of existing hardware by the incorporation of existing encapsulated logic circuits. With a "not unduly costly" (11) modification of this type, he describes the processing capability as follows.
Visual display units with graphic capabilities are highly suited to this type of system.
This note has stressed the advantages to research workers to be derived from
the creation of the proposed computer- based information centre. Most of the
techniques have already been applied in the physical sciences and engineering.
The problem remains to adapt them to the less easily quantifiable variables
encountered in the political, social, management and information sciences which
are essential to an adequate analysis of the world system.
The formulation of recommendations can best be based upon those produced as a result of the broadest and most recent published approach to the communication problem, namely the SATCOM report. The Committee on Scientific and Technical Communications (SATCOM) of the National Academy of Sciences / National Academy of Engineering (U.S..A.) had as its three major objectives (Feb. 1966):
It recommended (June 1969) the establishment of a permanent Joint Commission on Scientific and Technical Communication responsible to N.A.S./IN.A.E.:
On the above basis and bearing in mind the arguments developed in this report for a comprehensive approach, specific recommendations are:
1. The creation of a study group. to define, the scope of the whole communication problem in the light of the requirements of a approach.
2. The creation, on the basis of the, conclusions of the work of this study group, of a commission with a mandate similar to that of SATCOM (except that the explicit restrictions to the field of U.S.A. science and technology and the implicit restrictions to a narrowly defined systems approach should be removed). A major objective of this commission should be to determine the structure of a body to perform, at the international level and for all subject areas, functions similar to those recommended by SATCOM for the Joint Commission,
3. The establishment of a permanent international body structured, in the light of the SATCOM philosophy, to reflect the communication concerns of governmental organizations, private non-profit and for-profit organizations, the various academic communities and the many practitioners and information users not otherwise represented.
4. As an aid to, and in parallel with, the activity of each of these bodies in turn, the establishment of an international comnuter-based information centre on international and national organizations and related entities using a network file structure. A specific task of this centre should be to facilitate systematic analysis of information flow within the world system to increase the precision and justify and clarify the recommendations of the above bodies. A major concern should be- to ensure that such a system is used by both academic research groups and practitioners of all types needing contact information or assistance. Such a centre could advantageously be based on the current data activities of the Union of International Associations, Brussels.
The various study commissions and the permanent body should ensure the continuing investigation of the need for and manner by which the file structure, size, coverage and conception of the computer-based centre should be developed, in order to work towards the more sophisticated data processing opportunities and benefits outlined in this report, as well as the many others likely to result from integrated research into comprehensive man-machine systems.
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Relevant computer programs
ICES structural analysis/structural
design information system (analysis of 2 or 3-D framed structures or parts of
structures. IBM file no. 360D-16.2.015
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