Metaphors of Alternation
an exploration of their significance for development policy-making
- / -
Subseqently incorporated into Policy
Alternation for Development
(1984), pp. 175-202. Formed the basis of the section
in the Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential
[searchable PDF version
Each development policy may be considered as a particular "answer" to the social
problématique. No such answer appears to be free from weaknesses. A shift to
an alternative policy becomes progressively more necessary as the effects of
these weaknesses accumulate. Since each such policy is a "language" or mindset
whereby a world-view is organized, no adequate "logical" framework can exist
to facilitate comprehension of the nature of such a shift or the transition
between alternatives. Many familiar metaphors of alternation exist through which
the characteristics of such a shift may however be understood. In considering
them it is appropriate to reflect on those which have a developmental feature
and on the distinctions between alternation, oscillation, vacillation or variation.
Index to Alternation Metaphors
| Active/Passive roles * 27
Active/Passive roles * 18
Activities of person * 13
Activity shifts 8
Alluring movement 42
Alternators * 46
Animal life cycles 37
Appropriate gestures * 14
Attention focus * 26
Attention holding * 12
Attention holding * 33
Attention management * 12
Behaviour, good/bad * 38
Blending themes * 5
Brainwashing * 27
Cepheid variable stars * 44
Ceremonial patterns 14
Chairperson rotation * 7
Challenge/Reinforcement * 27
Climbing * 1
Contrast, significance 26
Contrasting topics * 6
Conversation shifts 6
Conversation, exchange * 9
Conversation, topics * 6
Crop rotation 47
Cycles, animal life * 37
Cycles, festival * 24
Cycles, mechanical * 46
Cycles, psycho-symbolic * 25
Cyclic migration 23
Cyclo-synchrotron * 46
Cylinder motion * 46
Daily activity round 13
Deviation management * 31
Dramatic theme shifts * 5
Dynamo * 46
Educational technique * 27
Encounters of people * 9
Eye scanning * 26
Fashion variation 19
Festival cycles * 24
Figure/ground shift * 26
Fitting gestures * 14
Food variation at meals * 41
Game participation * 15
Game scenarios * 29
Games, shell * 39
Good/Bad behaviour 38
Individual activities * 13
Individual mood shifts 11
Influence cycles * 25
| Initiative in games * 21
Initiative shifts * 16
Interaction of persons * 9
Intercourse, discussion * 9
Intercourse, sexual * 18
Interpersonal exchanges 9
Interrogation technique * 27
Life cycles, animal * 37
Literary theme shifts * 5
Management of projects * 36
Mechanical cycles 46
Media diets 12
Migration, cyclic * 23
Molecular resonance 43
Momentum maintenance * 1
Mood shifts * 11
Motor * 46
Movement in dance * 34
Movement, alluring * 42
Music, composition * 33
Musical variations 45
Office rotation * 7
Ownership scheduling * 20
Party design 10
Passing the buck * 16
Patterns of activity * 8
Pendulum movement * 46
Performance variation * 45
Performance/Practice * 4
Persuasion/Pressure * 27
Phasing projects * 36
Physical position shift 17
Position shifting * 17
Possession of advantage * 21
Pressure/Persuasion * 27
Programming in media * 12
Project phasing 36
Psycho-symbolic cycles 25
Pulsating stars 44
Pump * 46
Readership diets * 12
Reinforcement/Challenge * 27
Relationship sharing 22
Relationship shifts * 9
Religious festivals 24
Resonance, molecular * 43
Resource sharing 20
Respiratory cycle * 2
Responsibility shifts * 22
Rest/Exercise * 3
Rotating chairmanship 7
Salon dynamics * 10
Scanning * 26
Scenario possibilities * 29
Scheduling access * 20
Scheduling participants * 15
Scheduling programmes * 12
Seasonal migration * 23
Seasonal variation 28
Sexual intercourse 18
| Sharing relationships * 22
Sharing resources * 20
Shell games 39
Significance, contrast * 26
Spastic movement * 1
Spring oscillation * 46
Stars, variable * 44
Steering * 31
Stick-and-carrot shifts 27
Strategic configuration 29
Symbolic cycles * 25
Tacking in yachts 30
Taking turns 15
Taste variations * 41
Tension release * 17
Thematic interruption 5
Thematic variation * 45
Themes in music * 33
Time-budgeting * 13
Topics of conversation * 6
Traditional ceremonies * 14
Training technique * 27
Turns, scheduling * 15
Variation, activity * 8
Variation, activity * 13
Variation, behaviour * 38
Variation, contacts * 9
Variation, conversation * 6
Variation, crop * 47
Variation, dance * 34
Variation, dramatic * 5
Variation, education * 27
Variation, fashion * 19
Variation, food * 41
Variation, influence * 25
Variation, mood * 11
Variation, music * 45
Variation, ownership * 20
Variation, parties * 10
Variation, performance * .45
Variation, position * 17
Variation, programme * 12
Variation, relationship * 9
Variation, relationship * 22
Variation, seasonal * 28
Variation, sexual * 18
Variation, strategic * 29
Variation, taste * 41
Variation, thematic * 45
Variation, weather * 28
Vibration * 46
Walking * 40
Weather variation * 28
Weight transfer * 1
Wheel * 46
Wing movement * 32
Work * 3
Yacht tacking * 30
One foot is moved forward to a position at which it can bear the full weight
of the body. The other foot is then brought forward, past the first, to a new
position at which it can in turn bear the full weight of the body. The arms
are moved in such a way as to act as a counterbalance. As a result of these
movements the body can be moved forward at a constant pace. Although in places
of difficulty the attention may be focused on the movement of one of the feet,
normally attention is focused on the movement of the body as a whole.
As a metaphor One policy may be promoted and implemented to bring society
forward to a new position. Eventually however the momentum of this displacement
requires another distinct policy to be brought into play to prevent loss of
balance and to carry the society even further foward. During this latter phase
the first policy must necessarily conserve the achievements made although the
weight attached to this role is gradually phased out in anticipation of a reinterpretation
of this policy to take the society even further forward. Whilst attention is
clearly required on the formulation and implementation of each policy, particularly
at points of crisis, the progress of society is best guided in terms of the
movement as a whole to which both policies contribute but for which neither
is sufficient by itself. Special features: The smooth transfer of weight from
one foot to the other with each foot alternately bearing the weight and then
giving it up to the other. The counterbalancing movement of each arm in harmony
with the opposing leg. Progress is measured by the number of alternations made.
Contrast: The metaphor of 'walking on two legs' has been used in China
to describe a policy of technological dualism. The present attitude of policy
advocates may be likened to the attempt to move forward with one foot only -
whether it be the right or the left. This can only be J hieved by hopping -
provided balance can be maintained. Policies have to be relinquished in favour
of an alternative and then renewed to fulfil a new role. This is also true of
any 'alternative'. Further keys: More legs (4-legged, 6-legged, etc.
animals). Legless movement (serpentine). Learning to coordinate walking movements.
Drunken or spastic lack of coordination. Limping, paralysis and other obstacles
to free movement. Number of counteracting muscles required. Evolution of types
of movement. Monkey movement through trees by swinging from the branches by
the hands only.
Air is drawn into the lungs by movement of the diaphragm. This permits oxygen
to be transfered into the bloodstream and metabolic waste products to be transfered
back into the air ejected from the lungs during the following expiration portion
of the respiratory cycle.
As a metaphor A society is inspired by the circulation of news of collective
significance. This has a stimulating and revivifying effect. Such news is vital
to the social metabolism. After provoking debate and discussion, such news that
is not stored in the collective memory is considered 'stale' and is
rejected in favour of fresh news. Special features: The body must necessarily
draw in new air to replace stale air. It cannot remain locked in one portion
of the respiratory cycle for any length of time. The air drawn in is distributed
to some degree to all portions of the body. The transition from inspiration
to expiration is normally very smooth.
Contrast: There is a tendency to believe that society can function on
the basis of the inspiration to be drawn from some single favoured message and
that consideration of this message does not lead to the production of stale
waste products which need to be ejected. Where the need for fresh news is recognized,
the difficulty of producing fresh news of significance has resulted in the progressive
banalization of content. Further keys: Respiratory defects: irregular breathing,
shallow breathing, etc. Respiratory diseases. Respiratory consequences of air
quality: suffocation, hyperventilation. Forced breathing in times of intense
activity. Techniques and consequences of interrupting the respiratory cycle.
Artificial aids to respiration. Breathing exercises.
3. Exercise and rest
Periods of bodily exercise alternate with periods of rest. During the former
the muscles become tired and the energy resources of the body are depleted.
During the latter muscle tone is recovered and the energy resources are regenerated.
As a metaphor A society may exert itself for a period, whether a working
day, week or longer. A period of rest is then necessary. This may be
especially necessary following exceptional effort such as in a war.
Special features: During the work portion of the cycle the body exhibits
signs of the degree of need for rest. During the rest portion of the
cycle, restlessness gradually emerges as an indicator of the need for
Contrast: In society work may be variously considered as an unfortunate
necessity or as an unmitigated good, with rest as a wholly desirable condition
or as an unfortunate necessity. This is even extended to retirement as a desirable
endstate after an unfortunate number of working years. Such perceptions have
been further confused by the unemployment crisis and the possibility of extended
leisure. The transition between the two conditions is seldom smooth and often
perceived schizophrenically. Further keys: Overwork. Laziness. Attitude and
body control of experienced workers capable of working for extended periods
of time without need for rest\\- and the corresponding skills of those who can
rest for extended periods of time without any need to work. The work/rest and
rest/work transitions... 'A change is as good as a holiday.'
During the period of practice a particular skill is exercised often by focusing
on its component parts. Weaknesses are detected and given special attention.
Practice prepares for a subsequent period of performance during which the skill
is used in its entirety.
As a metaphor The activities of individual groups in a society may be
considered as forms of exercise relatively isolated from each other. Only under
rare crisis conditions is it necessary for these group activities to interlink
strongly in a coordinated protective or remedial action. Special features: During
practice the emphasis is on bringing weaknesses to light and on repetitive work
on such weaknesses often in isolation from their context. During performance,
weaknesses must necessarily be disguised and stress is placed on the coherence
of the activity as a whole.
Contrast: At the societal level practice is limited to military and
civil defence exercises, trial run presentation meetings in large corporations,
rehearsals for artistic performances, ceremonies and parades, as well for team
sport practice. The approach is not applied to activities directly concerned
with the development of society such as the organization of key meetings. Further
keys: Degree of informality possible in practice sessions. Degree of innovation
possible in performance.
5. Interruption of thematic development
In the development of a literary or dramatic theme, interruption of one theme
at a critical moment to allow the further development of some other theme is
a common device for increasing the significance of the whole.
As a metaphor In society the development of an issue may be interrupted
whilst attention is switched to other issues which temporarily acquire, or
are given, higher priority.
Special features: In this form of alternation there is a special
awareness of the dramatic moment at which attention can best be switched
to another theme to avoid a premature denouement and loss of interest.
Skill is used in blending the themes developed in parallel in this way
building up to the final denouement.
Contrast: It would seem that in societal development the technique is
mainly used to postpone any denouement and reduce interest thus preventing the
emergence of any new level of significance. Further keys: Nature of dramatic
moments. Skill in blending themes. Significance of the whole as distinct from
that of its constituent dramatic parts.
6. Shifting topics of conversation
In a casual conversation amongst a well-established group of friends, themes
are taken up for a period of time then abandoned for others, often to be taken
up once again on some later occasion.
As a metaphor In society an issue may become fashionable for a period of
time as the coin of exchange between opposing forces. It may then be
abandoned in favour of some other issue, only to be taken up again on some
Special features: The manner in which interest in the topic develops and
declines to the point at which people are 'tired of it' and seek an
alternative. How not discussing a topic for a period increases the
interest with which it is taken up on a later occasion.
Contrast: The reintroduction of issues for consideration by public opinion
is very much under the control of the media (themselves possibly an instrument
of government control). Further keys: How new topics get introduced and how
old topics get re-introduced or definitively rejected. How long a topic is discussed
or remains undiscussed. How the level of interest in the conversation is maintained
through shifting between contrasting topics.
7. Rotating chairmanship
As a solution to the political problem of control of the key position of
chairperson, this position may be rotated amongst several (or all) members
of the body in question. In this way each person holds the position for
some period of time, whether a session, a meeting or a year. (The
technique is also used for office location and running expenses of small
As a metaphor In society control of positions of power could be rotated
between the forces attempting to obtain a monopoly of that power.
Special features: Rules are formulated defining the period for which the
position may be held and the manner in which the transition to the next
holder is carried out. A well-defined sequence of holders is elaborated.
Contrast: Usually in society much of the inter-group dynamics is concerned
with the struggle for one group to hold the position of power. Where this is
totally unacceptable bicephalous arrangements are made (especially in countries
in which bilingualism is a major issue), although 'troika' systems
have also been proposed. These are all structure-oriented solutions, in contrast
to the process-oriented solution of rotation. Further keys: Variations in the
length of the period the position is held to allow participation of minority
8. Shifting patterns of activity
Individuals when free to choose the activities in which they wish to engage
will perform one activity until they 'get bored with it' and then
shift to some other 'more interesting' activity. The activities selected
may include talking, eating, watching TV, going for a walk, music, bird watching,
doing a crossword puzzle, playing a game, gardening, etc. At some stage they
will take up each of the earlier activities again.
As a metaphor Collective attention and public opinion may also be seen
as shifting its focus of attention between activities 'currently in the
Special features: The variety of possibilities that may be temporarily
selected out of the pool of activities is quite large. The ability of an
activity to sustain interest for any period of time varies. The nature of
the interest is very different as though each provided a different kind of
nourishment (or vitamin). It is not clear whether there is any order to
the shifts or how long before an activity may once again become of
Contrast: Public opinion is notoriously fickle concerning the subjects
which retain its interest for any period of time. Fresh items ('news')
are clearly essential even though they fall into familiar categories. The question
is what kinds of (better) nourishment can be provided with what sort of frequency.
Further keys: The process of becoming bored and the emergence of a 'hunger'
for some alternative form of 'nourishment'. The nature of the search
for 'kicks' and the importance of 'happenings'. The inter-activity
9. Interpersonal interaction
An individual will engage in conversation or some other form of contact with
a friend, colleague, acquaintance or stranger, possibly at a cocktail party
or for a coffee. After a time the interaction is terminated because
one or both have other interactions in which they believe they can more
profitably engage, whether out of interest, pleasure, or some form of
obligation. On parting they may fix a date for a further encounter
between them, although the overlap in their patterns of behaviour may be
such as to bring about such an encounter anyway.
As a metaphor Such patterns of interaction are also evident in the
relationships between groups and nations (through their representatives).
Special features: The different kinds or qualities of interaction and the
different periods for which they are activated. The manner in which
interactions are ordered and given priorities over a period of time.
Contrast: This process is extremely well developed at the individual
level and constitutes much of the dynamics of interpersonal interaction. Although
well developed in the commercial and diplomatic worlds, it is not clear that
it yet provides an equivalent amount of 'connective tissue'. Further
keys: The variety of calendar (diary) filling policies. How each interaction
fits into a pattern through which the individual is nourished.
10. Party design
A party, whether primarily for business, pleasure or other reasons, necessitates
a certain amount of design - even though in some cases it may be almost entirely
self-organizing. In the traditional 'salon' the hostess played a key
role in ensuring the presence of an appropriate mix of people and in catalyzing
interactions valuable to the dynamics of the party as a whole. A similar technique
is employed to enhance the 'chemistry' of certain discotheques. Interesting
dynamics call for a constantly switching focus of attention in order to 'keep
the ball rolling' in a manner which those present find stimulating and
As a metaphor The possibility can be envisaged of designing the
interactions between groups and societies using similar skills. This is
to some degree evident in the design of some conferences.
Special features: The manner in which temperament and other
characteristics need to be taken into account to prevent the dynamics
becoming sterile and unproductive. The need for a sufficient variety of
contrasting participants to avoid monotony.
Contrast: Although the principles are used for parties grouping representatives
of social groups, the skills have not been adapted to engender more interesting
dynamics between formal meetings or between societies as a whole. Further keys:
The elements of the art of the salon hostess. Indicators of unproductive interaction
pathways. Successful and unsuccessful 'recipes'.
11. Changing moods of an individual
Every individual enjoys or experiences shifts of mood which may be subtle or
dramatic (as in the case of depression, for example). Although very familiar,
such shifts may be difficult to control even though engaging in particular activities
may tend to induce particular moods. Individuals alternate between a relatively
limited number of moods which tend to become progressively more clearly characterized.
As a metaphor Public opinion may also be said to have moods which shift
more or less frequently and are responsive to certain triggers (cf the Roman
'circus' policy). Special features: The nuances of mood and the varieties
of subtle or catastrophic transformation between moods.
Contrast: The moods of a group or society tend to be less well characterized
than is the case for an individual. Further keys: The varieties of mood and
the varieties of transformation between them. Triggering moods. Maps of mood
12. Media diets
To attract an audience or readership and retain its continuing interest, radio,
television and periodicals (dailies, weeklies, etc.) have to supply a varied
'diet' of programmes, articles, or visual materials. The variety is
a compromise between responding to the interests of different segments of the
same audience and holding the interest of any one such segment. The materials
presented must therefore respond to the tendency for attention to wane and switch
to some alternative by trying to ensure that that alternative is provided in
some measure by the channel or publication in question. Programme directors
and editors must therefore juggle with different materials of variable length
to capture and retain a fickle attention.
As a metaphor In the government of any society the government must ensure
that it captures and retains support by treating subjects which attract the
attention of potential supporters for a sufficient length of time. Special features:
The well-developed skill required to select and balance materials. The explicit
nature of the shift to more satisfactory alternatives. The well-catalogued range
of a material. Further keys: Scheduling techniques. How materials attract and
hold attention. Development of the capacity to switch to an alternative and
to choose between alternatives. Clarification of what is attractive to an individual,
and when, in each category of material from the range available. Emergence of
new categories of material. Attention management.
13. Daily round of activities
In normal daily life individuals tend to alternate amongst a well-defined set
of activities. These include sleep, commuting, work, eating (well known in French
as the routine of 'boulot, metro, telelocke, dodo'). Each activity
has well-established limits. The set being effectively governed by a somewhat
flexible time-table, but with little scope for variations. The daily round is
studied statistically by time-budget analysis.
As a metaphor This daily round is fundamental to the organization of
society and determines the minimal shifts in attitude required to ensure
Special features: The relative rigidity of the pattern which may indeed
amount to little more than a circular sequence ('round').
Contrast: The rigidity of the daily round in industrialized societies may
be contrasted with that in some rural societies in which alternation
between the possible types of activity may occur at any time of the day
and many times a day. This flexibility is a goal sought by many
advocates of an 'alternative' society.
Further keys: Means of introducing flexibility into a time-table. Means of
enriching such a daily round with variants and other categories of activity.
Manner in which the different activities match with the fulfillment of basic
human needs. Comparison with a religiously-oriented daily round of monastic
life. The inter-activity hiatus.
14. Traditional and spontaneous ceremony
Ceremony consists of a structured pattern of activities of symbolic significance.
Individual activities may recur during the course of the ceremony. Repetition
tends to play an important function in reinforcing the significance of certain
As a metaphor Ceremonies may be deliberately designed to encode a
representation of a pattern of relationships between the powers governing
Special features: The activities in making up a ceremony tend to occur
(and possibly recur) in a linear sequence, although some activities may
occur in parallel. The ceremony is structured so that certain acts are
perceived as especially appropriate or 'fitting' particularly in
Contrast: In modern society the significance of ceremonies has been
severely eroded to the point of embarrassment, except when viewed as spectacles
or shows. Further keys: The manner in which the pattern of activities enhances
and defines the appropriateness of particular activities. How activities which
are 'fitting' are fitted together.
15. Taking turns
Taking things in turn and letting others have their turn involves an understanding
of alternation which is first developed in children's games. It is also basic
to some adult games, to the ordering of conference speakers, or of performers
at a show, and to 'waiting one's turn' for access to some service.
As a metaphor Different groups could each take it in turn to formulate
or implement policies, or benefit from access to limited services.
Special features: The natural understanding at least in children's games
is of the justice of it being a particular person's turn, of the injustice
of not letting others have their turn, and of the requirement that each
should take a turn at being the hero (or villain).
Contrast: In society the right of each social group to have its turn
is resisted and quarrelled about with what, in the context of children's games,
would be considered as much bullying. Further keys: What is carried, expressed
or contained by 'turning'? Behaviour in queues. Rules for establishing
whose turn it is. The characteristics of the 'natural justice' governing
the acceptability of taking turns.
16. Gaining/losing initiative
In many forms of interaction, including some games (e.g.\go), considerable
importance is attached to gaining the initiative in order to have a temporary
advantage in controlling the process. Considerable efforts are made to avoid
losing it, or to regain it again once it has been lost.
As a metaphor Each power group in society can be conceived as attempting
to gain the initiative or to resist losing it. Special features: The subtlety
of 'initiative' as the focus of concern, which is nevertheless understood
to be exchanged somewhat like a ball in a game.
Contrast: The concept is current in the relationships between power
groups but mainly with regard to their narrow self-interest rather than their
contribution to the interests of society as a whole. Further keys: 'leaving
the ball in someone else's court.' 'Buck passing'.
17. Changing physical position
An individual tends to hold one physical position for only a limited period
of time before shifting (an arm or leg, for example) to another. This is usually
done because of a certain build up of tension which can best be released by
relaxing into a new position. This process involves alternation between a limited
number of positions. A similar situation occurs when two people are intertwined
in an embrace during love-making. The couple will alternate amongst a set of
As a metaphor A society can be usefully conceived as needing to modify
its position from time to time in order to release tensions that build
up. The alternatives then constitute a limited set. A similar situation
obtains in the relationship between two societies.
Special features: The selection of the alternative position into which
the shift is made is determined by what it is necessary necessary to shift
in order to release tension. There is a tendency to seek the most relaxed
posture although once adopted an alternative is then progressively defined
as relatively more relaxed.
Contrast: There is no understanding of the set of positions that a society
can adopt. Shifts between positions tend to be of a spastic nature, involving
resistance and conflict. Further keys: Classification of the position in a set
and the permissable transformation pathways between them. How and where tension
builds up and how this defines the nature of the possible release.
18. Sexual intercourse
The basic movement of sexual intercourse is one of alternation through the
movement of the penis in the vagina. This movement is supported and enhanced
by that of whole sets of complementary movements in other parts of the anatomy
of the two partners. The nature of the basic movement can be further modified
by alternation amongst a set of positions (as defined in the Kama Sutra, for
example). The initiating role for such changes may also alternate between the
As a metaphor The variety of ways in which sexual roles can be abused
are a potentially valuable indicator of the kinds of abuse possible in the
intercourse between two social groups. The metaphor also suggests
distinctions between more and less fruitful ways in which one partner can
impregnate the other with its principles or receive the principles of the
Special features: The manner in which the physiological process can
engender mutual sympathy and even a blending in ecstatic union. The
constant exchange of signals enabling the parameters of the alternation
process to be varied.
Contrast: Although this metaphor is very frequently used to describe
relationships between social groups, it is only perceived in terms of dominance
and 'working one's will' on the other group, often as a form of rape.
There is rarely any sense of harmony and mutual contribution to a process in
which the initiative may be shared and each may be constrained to receive something
from the other. Further keys: Foreplay, frigidity, impotence. How and whether
the normal can be distinguished from the perverted.
19. Changing fashions
Fashion governs not only styles of clothing and accessories but also the appreciation
accorded to styles of art, music, recreation, tourism and even academic research.
Fashions change, and are encouraged to change, especially in the case of clothing.
Hems rise only to fall again on some later occasion. Certain theoretical approaches
lose favour only to be taken up again at a later time.
As a metaphor Amongst social groups certain issues or principles also
become fashionable for a period during which they are the basis for
intense activity, only to be abandoned in favour of more compelling
alternatives. Later they may return to favour once again.
Special features: The non-rational subtlety of the aesthetic choices
involved which appear to seek to heighten interest by exploring extremes
and contrasts. Ideally the 'new' should shock and reinforce attempts to
break with the 'old'.
Contrast: There is much greater ability to discuss fashions as temporary
fashions in domains such as clothing than is possible with respect to issues
in society where the uncritical attachment to particular issues is highly developed.
There is also an expectation that the new fashions should be strikingly different
from the old. Further keys: The nature of 'classical styles' less
subject to the vagaries of fashion. The role of fashion leaders and the ease
with which the 'fashion trade' is manipulated.
20. Resource sharing
In a number of specific situations formulae for sharing the same physical resources
at different periods of time have been developed. Possession of the resources
thus alternates between the different owners. This can be seen in procedures
for making a limited water supply available for irrigation in semi-arid rural
communities, where each channels the water to his field for a specified time.
(An interesting version of this is the sequence in which wild animals share
access to water holes.) A holiday apartment may be owned under a condominium
arrangement whereby each only has full use of the facility for a specified period
during each year. Where the number of school rooms is limited the facilities
may be used under a modular (shift) arrangement similar to the shift arrangement
in factories. This formula may be extended to two part-time people who contract
together to work non-overlapping periods to provide a full day's work thus sharing
As a metaphor There is clearly scope for groups and societies to share
resources over a period of time (rather than simultaneously as is
Special features: The clarity with which the necessary timing is
understood (or felt) by all parties.
Contrast: Vain attempts are made to divide up a pool of resources often
to the dissatisfaction of all concerned\\- frequently leading to conflict. No
effort is made to facilitate the sharing process by distributing larger portions
for periods of time rather than attempting to distribute all the resources permanently.
Further keys: Types of cycle, symmetric and asymmetric.
In certain situations possession of rights is determined by the rules and
conditions of some form of game. Ownership may then be said to alternate between
the participants in the game. At the detailed level this may be recognized by
possession of a ball (e.g. football, basketball), although the rules may require
that the ball alternate between the players (e.g. tennis, volleyball). At a
more general level success may be indicated by the game score or the position
of the team in a league table. In the absence of a ball, the struggle may be
for amount of speaking time (as at conferences) partially checked by rules requiring
that each be allowed to present his position. The struggle for power of political
parties may be seen in this light.
As a metaphor This suggests that the struggle for power between
different claimants could be rendered less naked by elaborating various
kinds of games which offered each the possibility of periods of control as
an outcome of performance against the other(s).
Special features: The well-defined nature of the rules, which may be
relatively complex, involving penalties and subtleties of scoring to
ensure fairplay, as determined by adequate involvement in the alternation
Contrast: The interaction between the great powers, for example, is
studied in the light of game theory by those involved. There is however little
attempt to render the rules of the game explicit. On the other hand, such powers
do take very seriously the need to perform well in any games that are offered
as substitutes (e.g. sport, chess) for the basic game they are playing. Further
keys: Emergence of game rules. Types of game. Game referees. Role of spectators.
22. Relationship sharing
In certain circumstances several people may find it impossible to share a relationship
simultaneously. They may then agree not to meet all together at the same time
but rather as smaller compatible groups at different times. This formula is
used in connection with child visiting rights of divorced parents. It is a basic
feature of the conjugal relationship in polygamous families (which in West African
societies, for example, allows the wives extended periods of freedom to engage
in independent economic activities). Some aspects of this formula are explored
in open marriages. In large families it determines who does what with whom and
when. Groups of families may alternate responsibility for all their children.
As a metaphor This concept could be developed as a means of forming
coalitions in which some of the partners do not wish 'to be at the same
Special features: Recognition that the co-presence of some people is
either not viable or not fruitful.
Contrast: This approach is used to a limited extent in triangular negotiations
via a mediator when two social groups are 'not speaking to each other'.
This condition has not however been integrated into a stable coalition in which
non-co-presence is an accepted feature. Further keys: Nature of the transition
between one relationship pattern and another. How the rules are established.
23. Cyclic migration
The seasonal cycle creates and withdraws opportunities at geographically separated
locations. Both animals and humans respond to these changes by moving physically
from one place to the other, only to return as the cycle continues. In the case
of animals, especially birds, this may involve movement in search of basic needs
such as water, food or warmth. In the case of humans, the pressure may be for
warmth, water or grazing for herd animals, as in the case of nomads. Within
the monetary economy it may be determined by the opportunities of seasonal employment,
harvesting, sea resorts, ski resorts. Another kind of migration may occur in
response to the social or cultural season (e.g. jet set migration).
As a metaphor Social groups could change their pattern of behaviour in
response to cyclic processes in society, especially economic cycles.
Special features: Sensitivity to cyclic phenomena, their dangers and
their opportunities. Displacement.
Contrast: Seasonal movement is used to a limited extent by inter-governmental
assemblies (e.g. ECOSOC meetings alternately in New York and Geneva; EEC meetings).
There is no inbuilt adaptation by social groups to economic or other cycles,
except possibly in the form of religious pilgrimages (e.g.\Mecca). Series of
infrequent periodic, international meetings in response to particular needs
may perhaps be considered in this light (e.g.\UNCTAD conferences). Further keys:
Concept of a recognizable cycle and the nature of a cyclic opportunity. Kinds
of 'displacement' or adaptation that are possible or useful.
24. Cycles of religious festivals
Many religions have festivals or other events organized within the framework
of the annual cycle or even of much longer periods. At each such event within
a cycle specific symbolic considerations are stressed, each qualitatively different
from the others although together they are perceived as constituting a coherent
response to existential needs. Some of these events may be tied to particular
individuals (e.g.\saints). It is recognized that people may feel greater attachment
to some of these events than to others.
As a metaphor The annual cycle, as well as other cycles, could provide a
basis for interrelating alternating events which each stress one of the
existential concerns of life on earth. The aim being to stress the
complete range of such concerns.
Special features: The cyclic organization of variety and the subtle
contrasts in forms of presentation whereby their qualitative distinctions
Contrast: This approach is used in an essentially tokenistic manner
in the form of various 'World Days' sponsored by the United Nations
and other bodies (e.g. for refugees, environment, etc.). These are not viewed
as integrated within a cycle and the agencies responsible for any one event
are seldom aware of others, and feel no need to be. The approach is also applied
in the series of 'International Years' (approved by the United Nations
and other bodies), but these do not as yet repeat within any cycle. Further
keys: Nature of the distinctions possible between events. Preservation of the
integrity of the cycle. Significance of the cycle as a whole.
25. Psycho-symbolic cycles
Importance is attached within certain cultures and traditions to the waxing
and waning of qualitative influences. These may be associated with gods, principles,
astrological factors, etc. or of combinations of these. In each case these are
understood to act within a multi-cyclic framework, which may include cycles
of very long periodicity (e.g. the 'Ages' in the Hindu tradition).
Within such cycles the waxing influence (of the reborn god) may be represented
as struggling to overcome the waning influence (of the exhausted outgoing god).
Celebration of these events may be integrated within religious cycles.
As a metaphor The collective attention required by particular
qualitative features of psycho-social life may be seen as waxing and
waning within a multi-cyclic framework ensuring that adequate (but not
excessive) attention is given to each such feature in order to achieve the
harmony of the whole. The relationship between the features may be
Special features: The richness of such cycles and the effort devoted to
rendering them comprehensible through a multiplicity of stories and
various interrelated coding systems (e.g. colour, number, sound, etc.).
Contrast: In some cultures such systems are a determining factor in
decision-making but often in a manner which stresse superficial features rather
than the qualitative richness that they symbolize. Further keys: The variety
of qualities distinguished and the manner in which they are grouped into cyclic
26. Contrast and significance
Phenomena acquire significance to the individual when they appear in a context
in which they are effectively highlighted by contrast. At the most basic level
of vision, the eye is constantly engaged in a very rapid scanning movement without
which objects would blend into the context in which they are located and become
'invisible'. Objects may be given (artistic) significance by taking
them from their natural context (where they would not be noticed) and placing
them in a carefully structured contrasting decor which focuses attention on
them. It is then the alternation between focus on the context and on the object
which enhances its significance. This principle is also used within paintings
and other works of arts, only then the painter has to build the context into
the painting or ensure that the painting contrasts with settings in which it
is likely to be displayed.
As a metaphor This suggests an alternative approach to comprehension of
the recognition of social problems and the function of inquality.
Special features: Rapidity of the alternation which effectively creates a
stable figure/ground configuration.
Contrast: In the recognition of social problems and injustices society
is still struggling with the distinction between what observers perceive as
significant (because it contrasts with their own background) and what those
involved perceive as significant in the light of their own background. Further
keys: 'Scanning' of processes and non-material objects (e.g.\concepts,
27. Stick and carrot processes
There are a number of situations in which people are persuaded to change their
attitudes by the alternate use of pressure and encouragement. Many forms of
education involve exercises under time, peer or instructor pressure alternating
with interesting exploration of new material (such as with audio-visuals). Here
there is also an alternation between active and passive roles. Stick and carrot
techniques have long been used to motivate the people in a work or military
force, as in team sport training. They are also used in executive training,
occasionally in a very severe form (e.g. some staff colleges and Japanese management
motivation courses). Such techniques have also been applied to brainwashing
and interrogation using the classic alternation between nice guy (cigarettes)
and nasty guy (violence) in a two man team.
As a metaphor This suggests the value for a society of alternating
between response to challenge and peaceful relaxation. It is the
alternation which promotes development.
Special features: Such techniques alternate between building up and
testing/questioning (or even destroying) self-confidence so that the
person is forced to look for a new position of equilibrium. It is the
displacement to a new position which can constitute positive change.
Contrast: This process is not consciously applied by large social groups
but it is possible that societies engage in it through the manner in which crises
are engendered. Note also the challenge and response theory of history. Further
keys: The educational problems of how much pressure and how much 'nourishment'
and for what periods. How to determine when the technique is being abused, especially
if the participants are there voluntarily.
28. Seasons and weather
The cycle of the seasons is a basic form of alternation, especially perceptible
in the non-tropical zones. Perception of the movement through the 'four'
seasons has become well-characterized and has fundamental implications for the
organization of activities such as agriculture and the cultural activities dependent
upon them. The seasonal contrasts are recognized by variations in the weather.
There is an instinctive understanding of how the parameters of weather (wet,
dry; hot, cold; wind, calm) give rise to an alternating pattern of distinctive
phenomena (storm, heat wave, etc.)
As a metaphor Both the seasons and alternating weather patterns suggest
ways of understanding the constantly shifting patterns of social dynamics.
Special features: The manner in which the transitions between distinct
seasons or types of weather can be described as continuous transformations
rather than perceptual discontinuities (as in other cases of
alternation). The subtle variations of weather are well recognized and
therefore an ideal substrate for encoding.
Contrast: The metaphor is extensively used to describe social phenomena
(e.g.\'stormy situation') but has not been developed into a systematic
descriptive language encoding the complexities of social dynamics. There is
unfortunately a well-developed tendency to consider 'rain' as 'bad'
weather and 'sun' as 'good' weather which takes little account
of the environmental significance of such phenomena. Further keys: Importance
of seasonal and weather variation. Duration of seasons and types of weather.
Flood, drought, hurricanes, etc.
29. Strategic configurations
Whether in sport, military or business confrontations with competing forces,
there is a tendency to elaborate alternative strategies which can be used if
they are liable to be more advantageous. The team may therefore undergo training
in response to a variety of possible scenarios, as with military manoevers,
war games and management games. In each case the aim is to develop the ability
of the group to switch to an alternative posture and work through that pattern
until it is out-manoevered by the opposition. Each such strategy may be explicitly
codified with the role of each person clearly defined. The principle of alternation
between postures is especially clear in certain forms of martial art.
As a metaphor This suggests that societies should be able to work
through a variety of alternative organizational patterns according to the
crisis they face.
Special features: The stress on the need to switch between organizational
modes rather than treating any particular one as desirable in its own
right. The explicit definition of each pattern and clarification of the
transitions between them. Recognition of the inherent limitation of any
particular pattern in a turbulent environment.
Contrast: This approach has been extensively explored with respect to
military strategies (although the number of alternatives in great power nuclear
confrontation is presumably several orders of magnitude lower than in conventional
warfare or team sport). A limited variant is applied for the alternative organization
of society in response to civil defence crises. Extension of the approach to
other crises has not been envisaged except through the use of various tactical
economic devices (e.g. 'belt tightening') which do not involve temporary
social reorganization. Multinational enterprises make some use of this approach.
Further keys: Range of organizational patterns required to contain the range
of (un)foreseeable crises. Whether any intermediary 'rest' posture
exists or whether all postures are a response to a prevailing condition.
In a wind-powered yacht where it is necessary to travel against the wind (namely
in the general direction from which the wind is coming) a tacking technique
must be employed. This involves first travelling some distance with the wind
on the right-hand side in a direction at a considerable angle (say 45\degrees)
to that of the direction desired. Then the direction of travel is switched so
that the wind is on the left-hand side again at an angle (say 45\degrees) to
that of the direction desired. The boat thus advances in the desired direction
by alternating repeatedly between two directions of travel which are 'off-course'
in a complementary manner. An analogous technique is used for routes up a mountain
which wind in relation to the direction desired, as is the case with skiing
down a steep hill.
As a metaphor This suggests that there may be circumstances in which
it is not possible to achieve social development using a single policy. It may
be necessary to alternate repeatedly between two (or more) policies which move
society in complementary undesirable directions. Special features: The explicit
manner in which the vehicle uses the energy acting in a direction opposed to
that in which the vehicle moves.
Contrast: This technique is not explicitly used although the conflicting
directions between which social groups stumble may be seen as indicating an
unconscious use of an analogous procedure. Further keys: How 'close to
the wind' it is possible to sail. Balance and the keel. Moving against
an entropic force.
In driving, or piloting, most vehicles over land or sea, the basic problem
is to steer the vehicle towards a particular destination whilst circumventing
any intervening obstructions. To maintain direction requires that the driver
turn the steering wheel in one direction to correct for deviations towards the
other. This tends to result in a deviation in the opposite direction for which
a corresponding correction must then be made. Steering therefore requires alternating
correction movements of the steering wheel. To circumvent an obstacle however
the driver has to ensure that the vehicle first deviates significantly in one
direction and is then brought back 'on course' by deviating in the
As a metaphor This reinforces the understanding that alternating
movement in opposing policy directions is necessary to ensure that society
develops in a controlled manner in the direction towards which it is
driven. Problems can only be circumvented by accepting deviations for a
period before correcting for them.
Special features: The alternating deviation correction movements tend to
be directed at right angles to the resultant direction of movement.
Contrast: The driving metaphor is used by leadership to a limited extent.
The difficulty is that (like nervous 'back-seat drivers') the passengers
in the vehicle on the right-hand side tend to shout 'turn left' to
avoid dangers on the right and disagree violently with those on the left-hand
side who shout 'turn right' to avoid dangers on the left (invisible
to those on the right). In the struggle for control of the vehicle, there is
little sensitivity to the need to check deviations by alternately moving left
and right, or to the need to circumvent obstacles by making extensive deviations
in one direction or the other. Further keys: Contrast between expert and novice
drivers. Reactions that need to be internalized in 'learning to drive'.
Drunken driving. Traffic and rules.
In the case of birds and insects, flying necessitates an alternating (up and
down) movement of a pair of wings (of which insects may have several) in order
to provide lift. In such cases, as with aircraft, guidance is provided by minor
alterations in the symmetry of the matched wings. In aircraft this involves
equal but opposing movements of the flaps which must be continually adjusted
to maintain trim or to control turning.
As a metaphor This suggests the value of opposing (political) 'wings' to
enable a society to 'take off'. Stability and guidance are provided by
continually alternating emphases on each wing (e.g. the correct adjustment
at one time may be 'up' on 'right' and 'down' on 'left', which will tend
to require the reverse immediately afterwards as a counteracting
adjustment). But manoeverability is only possible if emphases are
unbalanced for a time.
Special features: Explicit understanding of the controls required.
Understanding of the art of flying under a variety of conditions and with
different manoeverability requirements.
Contrast: Although the concept of a political 'wing' is explicitly
used the manner in which wings function as pairs to move society, and guide
its development, has not been explored. The counteracting controls are the subject
of acrimonious controversy. Further keys: Controlling imbalance to achieve manoeverability.
Wingless aircraft and propulsive guidance systems. Formation flying.
In many of the arts, but especially in music, the challenge is to hold the
perceiver's attention by moving it through a variety of complementary modes
such that the pattern of contrasts embodies a new level of significance. In
music the composer may for example choose to alternate between different pitches,
rhythms, degrees of loudness, or timbres (such as by use of different instruments).
Themes may be repeated, moved to an alternate key, contrasted or transformed
(retrograde, inversion, or retrograde of inversion). The challenge is to strike
a meaningful balance in the alternation between recognizable repetition and
introduction of novelty.
As a metaphor The ordering of society can be conceived as a problem of
interrelating (composing) the characteristic phenomena of social dynamics,
especially when the social groups are each perceived as developing musical
themes which partially respond to those of others.
Special features: The explicit clarification of the elements and
variations that are possible. The contrast between technical
possibilities and audience appeal. Explicit recognition of the importance
Contrast: Aside from occasional references to 'trumpet blowing'
and doing 'the same old number', this metaphor has not been systematically
explored. Further keys: Complex possibilities for the development of themes.
Multi-part harmony. Need for an interesting balance between harmony and discord.
Development of music and music appeal. Alternative tunings. Need for recognizable
rules contrasted with the innovator's need to invent new rules (which may not
then be recognizable). Lack of contact between those concerned with 'serious'
music and those concerned with 'popular' music. Improvisation. The
problem of the relationship between composer, interpreter, audience, and intermediaries
(studios, manufacturers, distributors).
Many dances are characterized by rhythmic movements of two separated partners
in response to one another, the movements of the one being complemented by those
of the other. In some dances all the dancers form into patterns with the two
sexes facing each other and then moving so that the patterns interweave. The
development of the dance may be such that each person of one sex dances successively
with each of the other. Or possibly at some stage each of the original couples
dances alone for a period, watched by the others who appreciate their relative
As a metaphor If the dancers are considered to represent issues or their
advocacy groups, matched into opposing pairs, an interestingly stylized
interaction between the issues (or their advocates) emerges. Each is
given space for its development within the pattern as a whole, possibly
ensuring that there is a relationship between each and all the others.
Special features: The explicit nature of the alternation between
complements and patterns. The place of each within the whole balanced by
a counteracting complement to focus and 'contain' its movements. Emphasis
on elaborating the variety of possible relationships amongst the dancers.
The possibility of switching at the end of each dance to a dance of a
different pattern such that the dancers alternate between a range of
possible patterns in which their possible relationships are articulated in
Contrast: The metaphor is occasionally used to describe the relationships
between social groups (e.g.\'pas de deux') but only in isolation.
The ongoing dance of issues and their advocates has not been explored. This
may be in part because some relationships are more realistically encoded by
'gutsy' tribal dances, folk dances, and rock, than by the somewhat
effete classical ballroom dances. The challenge is to ensure the interrelationship
of such patterns which may all be open to the dancers. Dance patterns may be
usefully contrasted with military parade formations. Further keys: Varieties
of dances and the patterns they encode. Transitions between dance forms. Development
The key to the art of juggling lies in alternating the movement of the hands
in order to keep a whole set of objects moving through the air in a recurring
pattern. Each hand must perform the role of catching and throwing in rapid succession
to maintain the pattern.
As a metaphor This suggests the need to alternate functions in rapid
succession to be able to handle a variety of issues simultaneously with
Special features: The distinction between mastery of the art and lack of
it. Degrees of mastery as measured by the number and variety of objects
maintained in the air.
Contrast: The art of government, leadership or management is frequently
defined in terms of 'juggling factors' suggesting that there is an
intuitive understanding of the alternating actions required to maintain the
integrity of the social order. The nature of the art has not been explored in
these terms, especially with regard to the number and variety of phenomena handled
in this way. Further keys: Teamwork to enable an even larger number of objects
to be maintained in the air at the same time. Problems of starting, stopping
and introducing new objects into an established pattern.
36. Project phasing
Techniques of management have become sufficiently explicit that widespread
recognition is accorded to the need to organize projects into such phases as:
conception, planning, organization, implementation, and evaluation. Management
teams (and others) alternate through such phases as well as through a succession
of projects organized in that way.
As a metaphor In addition to groups, societies can be seen as operating
in terms of such phases.
Special features: Recognition of the different skills (even personality
types) required at each stage. Recognition of the importance of ensuring
that the different phases mesh together effectively.
Contrast: Although project phasing is a reality where organizations
can be managed under appropriate supervision, such phasing is less meaningful
in the case of societies as a whole. Even as a metaphor it is much less meaningful
when the society is not under some monolithic pattern of control. Further keys:
Atlas of Managing Thinking by E. de Bono which identifies some 200\phases in
the management process.
37. Animal life cycles
The distinction between the phases in the life cycle of some animals is particularly
striking in the well-known case of insects such as butterflies (with their caterpillar
and pupal phases). An even more striking case is that of the cellular slime
molds in which the spores grow independently and then aggregate together into
a migrating amoebal form. This eventually transforms itself into a 'fruiting
body' from which the spores are released to continue the cycle.
As a metaphor There is the possibility that some extremely different
psycho-social forms can usefully be understood in the above light as
constituting stages of transformative cycles.
Special features: The radical nature of the transformation which may
involve a complete shift of medium (e.g. from water to air). The contrast
in mobility and aesthetic features between the different phases (in the
case of butterflies for example).
Contrast: It is possible that the radical nature of the transformation
prevents this metaphor from being used, despite the exposure of all schoolchildren
to such biological cycles in classes on nature. Further keys: Relative lengths
of each phase of such a cycle. Change in nature of vulnerability at each portion
of the cycle.
38. Good-Bad behaviour
Whether in controlling one's own behaviour, bringing up a child, commanding
a regiment, or managing an enterprise, skill is used in alternating between
requiring 'good' behaviour and allowing 'bad' behaviour.
In the case of a child, for example, to expect good behaiour all the time stultifies
formation of the child's character. It is recognized that 'bad' behaviour
is in many cases a healthy expression of a 'free spirit', to be permitted
within certain limits. A child always on good behaviour is recognized as lacking
some quality of individuality. A similar situation prevails in an army, especially
under combat conditions. A good commander knows 'when not to see things'.
As a metaphor It is to be expected that healthy groups and societies
should also alternate between good and bad behaviour. Special features: The
manner in which limits are defined and the struggle to maintain and redefine
them. The incompleteness of both extremes. Development takes place by alternation
between the limits.
Contrast: Whilst there may be some collective tolerance of bad behaviour
by groups and societies, this is not understood as a necessary complement to
their good behaviour. Societies are supposed to be good all the time. They are
not expected to indulge in foolish mistakes. Further keys: Weekly 'booze-ups'
and annual carnivals as safety valves to 'let off steam'. 'Sowing
wild oats' before 'settling down'.
39. Shell games
The classic game, much favoured by confidence tricksters at fairs, consists
of determining the location of a small object (a pea or a coin) which is moved
rapidly beneath one of three cups in such a way as to create the (false) impression
that it is obvious under which cup it is to be found. Also known in a card version
as 'Find the Lady'.
As a metaphor The key to understanding many shifting social situations
often creates the impression of being precisely located. Individuals and
groups may well take extensive personal, financial or career risks based
on their belief of where it is located. Yet the dynamics of the social
systems repeatedly shift that key into an unexpected location.
Special features: The unpredictability of the alternation as contrasted
with the impression of predictability of the location at any one time.
The difficulty in 'pinning down' the location.
Contrast: There is a widespread confidence amongst groups in their ability
to specify where the key to any shifting situation lies at any one time. There
is such confidence in this belief that groups may even express considerably
hostility towards those who fail to agree with their perception. Further keys:
The skill of the shell game artist and how it is developed. The role of his
accomplice in misleading the audience. Increasing the number of cups or the
number of objects to be found.
A special sequence of movements is required when climbing. This is especially
evident when climbing up between two smooth parallel walls (a 'chimney'
in mountaineering terms). The climber has to ensure that there is always sufficient
pressure against both walls to enable him to move upward in succession his hands,
feet or body.
As a metaphor The development of society may be seen as the upward
movement between any two constraining extremes (e.g.\idealism and
materialism) which offer no permanent foothold. Developmental movement
may be achieved by ensuring that there is sufficient pressure against both
extremes to guarantee a temporarily secure or stable position from which a
portion of society may be moved forward.
Special feature: The sequence of movements required for such a climb to
be successfully made, especially when the climber has to rest
periodically. The way in which different portions of the climber's
anatomy (hands, feet, body) change their function from applying pressure
to moving upward. The basic requirement that there always be sufficient
counteracting pressure against both walls.
Contrast: As with the walking metaphor, the prevailing attitude may
be likened to that of a climber attempting to get up a chimney by attempting
to cling to the one favoured wall and to avoid touching the other (perceived
as anathema). A skilled mountaineer can do this by inserting spikes in the favoured
wall. Much less skill is required to climb using pressure on both walls. Further
keys: A climber with more extremities. Climbing up a multi-dimensional chimney
with N\walls and N-1 directions in which to 'fall down'.
In all societies efforts are made to introduce variety into the food offered
at a meal, whether a feast or of the simplest kind. The diner is exposed to
contrasting tastes (and textures) between which he shifts in response to the
temptations to his palate. The different foods may only appear in one dish.
There may however be a succession of dishes each offering different contrasts
which he may sample alternately. In addition, whether in a feast or in the succession
of daily meals, the style of dish may vary (e.g.\breakfast as contrasted with
As a metaphor The quality of life offered in a society may be partially
indicated by the variety of experiences offered and the skill with which
they are blended to bring out the best in such experiences by contrast or
through ensuring their harmonious relationship to other experiences.
Special features: The art with which dishes are prepared and presented in
an appropriate sequence to enhance harmonies and contrasts.
Contrast: There is little official awareness of the need for experiential
variety or of the skill with which it can be beneficially prepared and presented.
Official recognition is accorded to 'work', 'leisure' and
'rest' with rather crude attempts to manipulate the organization of
leisure (as in officially sanctioned sport and similar 'cultural'
events). Even for student educational work, the curriculum is usually designed
with little awareness of the relationship between the subjects or the overall
effect of the combination of experiences. Further keys: Special diets and cultural
food preferences. One to three-star restaurant grading. Religious constraints
and minimal variety meals. Food snobbery.
42. Alluring movement
Both man and animals in general are fascinated by simple multi-phase bouncing
movements (and sounds). These may take the form of: a jiggling toy or rattle
in the case of infants; a flashing movement of a fish lure (on a line) or the
kind of movements that can be used to attract the attention of a cat or dog;
an alluring set of movements in animal courtship ritual, partially reflected
(for a man) in fascination with the bouncing movements of a woman's breasts
or legs, whether casual or deliberately organized (as in music shows, night
clubs or tribal dances). In their most relaxed moments, seated at an open-air
cafe, in front of a television, watching waves at the beach or the wind in the
trees, people find their attention lured by patterns of movement.
As a metaphor In social life also people are fascinated by certain patterns
of behaviour that contain a shift between alternatives but are nevertheless
to some extent unpredictable, although sufficiently cyclic (and therefore predictable)
to be considered non-threatening. Much popular entertainment is based on this
property as well as on the 'blow-by-blow' presentation of any good
piece of gossip or humour. This fascination may be partially exploited by the
continual introduction of new issues into the news and into the political arena.
Special features: The almost subliminal quality of the shift between alternatives
which makes the movement eternally 'ungraspable' and therefore of
continually regenerated fascination.
Contrast: Great effort is made to present society and the environment
through essentially static and alienating categories when it is precisely the
shimmering patterns of movement that bind our attention into experienced reality.
Further keys: Brownian movement of particles. Rapid eye movement by which objects
43. Molecular resonance
Some chemical molecules cannot be satisfactorily described by a single configuration
of bonded atoms. The theory of resonance is concerned with the representation
of such molecules by a dynamic combination of several structures, rather than
by any one of them alone. The molecule is then conceived as 'resonating'
among the several conceivable/describable structures and is said to be a 'resonance
hybrid' of them. The classic example is the benzene molecule with 6\carbon
atoms linked together in a ring. This is one of the basic features of many larger
molecules essential to life. Its cyclic form only became credible when it was
shown that the structure oscillated between two (and later five) extreme cyclic
As a metaphor This concept could be used in
designing/describing/operating organizations, especially fragile
coalitions. It could also be used to interrelate alternative definitions
(or theories, paradigms, policies, etc) where none of them is completely
satisfactory taken in static isolation. The 'undefinable' significance
then emerges through the alternation process.
Special features: The precisely defined nature of the structural extremes
in contrast with the lack of precision concerning the ordering of this
oscillation between them.
Contrast: The concept of resonance is not at present used as a metaphor
except occasionally in referring to the relationship between two people (or
groups?) who are 'in resonance'. Further keys: Typology of molecular
resonant structures. Probabilistic nature of chemical resonance. Implication
for complementary paradigms of any kind (e.g.\wave versus particle explanation).
44. Pulsational variable stars
A significant number of stars are intrinsically variable; that is, their total
energy output fluctuates over time. Of these the pulsational variables are stars
in which light and colour vary as a result of pulsations in the star. Their
periods may vary from a few days to nearly a year. Such variability is a characteristic
of any star whose evolution carries it to a certain size and luminosity.
As a metaphor It can be useful to interpret the energy output of any
social group in terms of such variability. Many groups, particularly those with
activities limited to large periodic conferences, are distinctly variable if
only as evidenced by funds flow, paper output and media coverage. Special features:
The detailed investigations of pulsation theory have established important qualitative
and quantitative relationships between the cyclic phenomena. In the case of
periodic variables such as the Cepheids, the period of variation tends to be
proportional to their luminosity so that they are of great importance in the
measurement of interstellar and intergalactic distances.
Contrast: This metaphor is used in its non-periodic form in connection
with the (nova-like) explosion into visibility of some new media 'star'.
It is not used in its periodic form. Further keys: Other types of variable star.
45. Musical variations
Variation is a basic technique in music. A piece of music is changed melodically,
harmonically or contrapuntally in such a way as to bring out the different melodies
or 'voices' that can be woven around each other in a piece. Variation
appears in the music of most cultures and is in fact one of the few universal
characteristics of music.
As a metaphor An issue in society is explored in a variety of ways by
those for whom it is significant. The presentation of the issue is
changed by each of them, whether acting in support of it or against it,
such that together these 'voices' elaborate all the possibilities of it at
Special features: The considerable understanding of variational
possibilities whether by scholars in theoretical terms or by practitioners
or audiences with 'an ear for music'. The many varieties of variation
that have been explored throughout the history of music.
Contrast: This metaphor does not appear to have been extensively used
except through the phrase 'variations on a theme' where 'theme'
is a term common to music and to conference programmes. Further keys: Melodic
variation (instrumental, figural, Baroque). Harmonic and tonal variation with
the introduction of tonal goal orientation, the hierarchical arrangement of
keys, the movement to the "dominant" and back to the "home" tonic. Ensemble
variation. Performance variation by which an organist can transform a liturgical
chant into a polyphonic composition - hymn or verse alternating with choir or
organ alone. Baroque ornamentation and embellishment. Non-Western musical variation,
especially the Indian raga or the Indonesian gamelan in both of which the multi-level
variation is conceptually more complex than in Western music. In the gamelan
the variations are simultaneous contributions of different members of the orchestra
resulting in a highly complex static concept of variation.
46. Mechanical cycles
Many mechanical and electro-mechanical devices have some cyclic feature basic
to the performance of their function. Examples range from the simple pendulum,
via the spring or the wheel, to the pump, the motion of cylinders on a crankshaft,
motors and dynamos in general, alternators, and even the cyclo-synchrotron.
In such cycles distinct phases with different functions can usually be distinguished.
As a metaphor: Certain highly organized psycho-social processes could
be perceived in terms of such electro-mechanical metaphors in order to highlight
the different phases of any cycle. Special features: The precision with
which different portions of any cycle are both distinguished and linked together
by designed transition.
Contrast: Although such metaphors are used, for example, 'pumping'
money into an operation, the 'dynamo' in an enterprise, or the 'wheel'
around which other things turn, the phases in the cycle are poorly distinguished.
The significance of the movement of electro-mechanical energy is not recognized.
Further keys: Different current modes (AC or DC). Typology of electro-mechanical
cyclic complexity. Associated patterns of stress and strain, torque and vibration.
47. Crop rotation
In order to maintain the fertility of a field, it has traditionally been
the practice to alternate between different crops in some (more or less) regular
sequence. It differs from the haphazard change of crops from time to time.
Rotations may be of any length, being dependent on soil, climate, and crop.
They are commonly 3 to 7 years in duration, but usually with 4 crops (some
of which may be grown twice in succession). The different crop rotations on
each of the fields of the set making up the farm as a whole, constitute a
'crop rotation system' when integrated optimally.
As a metaphor: It is possible to perceive the alternation in parties
in power in a multi-party system as a form of crop rotation. Special features:
The manner in which each crop is deliberately chosen to correct for the weaknesses
of the previous crop (e.g. control of pests, soil degradation, soil fertility,
etc.) and benefit from its enhancement of the soil. Understanding of the merits
of particular crops under particular conditions.
Contrast: The chaotic switch between policies of the 'right'
and the 'left' without any understanding of the merits of each,
the need periodically to compensate for the negative consequences ('pests')
of the other and to replenish the particular resources which each policy so
characteristically depletes. Further keys: Balancing the rotation cycle.
Fallow period, short-term advantages of the use of fertilizers (with dangerous
long-term implications). Use of each crop to inhibit the pests encouraged
by the previous crop.