16 June 2004 | Draft
Animating the Representation of Europe
Visualizing the coherence of international institutions using
dynamic animal-like structures
- / -
Proposal arising from discussion at a conference on "Redesigning Europe in the
Third Millennium: a New Sustainable Vision of Democracy" (Budapest, May 2004)
organized by Eurovisioning.org
to a Renaissance Europe
meeting on Synergies for the Well-being of Society (Brussels, June 2004) - "a
project to put Europe in motion again". Presented to a Renaissance
meeting on Synergies for the Well-being of Society (Brussels, June
2004) - "a project to put Europe in motion again".
Also published in modified form in Statistics, Visualizations
(Vol 5 of the Yearbook
of International Organizations
, K G Saur Verlag, 6th edition,
2006/2007, as section 10.4.1)
Challenge of "soullessness" -- beyond the "pillar-ization
Representation and its symbolic implications
Beyond impoverished metaphors
Proposal for dynamic representation of institutional budget lines
The following proposal derives from work at the Union
of International Associations (UIA) on the representation of complex clusters
of numerous entities -- whether international organizations, world problems,
strategies, human values, or others [access].
The networks of such entities are currently extracted from databases in response
to user queries and displayed over the web in "spring maps". The user
can manipulate: these maps: increasing or decreasing complexity, changing colours,
accessing a particular database profile, etc. These spring maps are based on
a Java application developed for the UIA by Gerald de Jong of BeautifulCode
(Netherlands). [see examples
In the case of international organizations, the focus of the UIA initiative
to date has been on representation of inter-organization links in such
spring maps. This visualization
work was funded within the framework of the EU Fifth Framework Info2000
programme. The problem in the case of the complex of institutions of the European
Union is to extend this to the representation of intra-organizational
links -- and to relate such links to the guiding principles and values that
it is expected will be defined by the European Constitution, for example.
The following proposal was inspired by another web-based spring map Java application,
called SodaConstructor, developed
independently by Ed Burton of SodaPlay
-- the project of a London-based company called Soda
Creative Ltd as part of their research and development process [history].
The proposal considers the possibility of importing organizational data into
a web application, as is done in the UIA case, and animating it as a model as
is done by SodaConstructor.
The idea for the above proposal arose during the course of participation at
a recent conference on "Redesigning Europe in the Third Millennium: a New Sustainable
Vision of Democracy" organized by Eurovisioning.org
(Budapest, May 2004). In response to a presentation on Using
Research in the Participative Orchestration of Europe, participants
approved the idea of exploring the use of visualization and sound.
Box 1: Value of Soda-type Animations
Soda combines an arts and research practice with a broad
range of commercial activities. A freehand animation package, Moovl,
has also been developed. SodaConstructor has received considerable attention
world wide and continues to attract many users. Its most interesting models,
notably by Kevino
(Kevin Okada), have been the subject of exhibitions. Soda has recently
launched a new sound version of SodaConstructor, entitled SodaConstructor
betasound. which uses the so-called jsyn plugin to enable Sodaconstuctor
to create high fidelity stereo sound in conjunction with animation movement.
A 3D version
of SodaConstructor is also under development (see examples
A desktop version, SodaConstructor
local (installed using Java Webstart), can export and import models
in XML format (example;
definition) to and from a local file system and, once installed, allows
the user to play with them without re-connecting to the internet. Users
have a choice as to whether they store their models (selected
online on the Sodaplay server or offline on their local computer. Sharing
a model online involves either sending it to the SodaZoo or posting it
in the SodaForum. Users need to be online to login into a SodaPlay account
to save it on the SodaPlay server. Some users develop their own independent
interfaces to facilitate construction of models (see SodaGenerator).
SodaConstructor is a freely accessible Java technology-based
online construction kit that gives players the ability to build interactive
creations using limbs and muscles. By altering physical properties like
gravity, friction, and speed, curiously anthropomorphic models can be
made to walk, climb, wriggle, jiggle, or collapse into a writhing heap
(see description of underlying
physics). A SodaZoo
has been built up, where a large and active worldwide community of sodaplayers
has placed a strange and diverse menagerie of SodaConstructor models.
Under funding from the UK National Endowment for Science and Technology
and the Arts (NESTA), SodaPlay
is currently developing SodaConstructor and related software into a flexible
toolkit to deliver creative learning and fun to schools in the UK [more].
Challenge of "soullessness" -- beyond the "pillar-ization of
The European Union, like the United Nations, is faced with an increasingly
dramatic problem of being perceived as irrelevant by the electorate -- however
meaningful are their mandates in principle. In this respect it is useful to
- European Parliamentary elections (June 2004): 155 million people
out of the EU's 350 eligible voters elected 732 MEPs in the European Elections,
giving a participation figure of 45.5 per cent for the EU as a whole. [more]
- Eurovision Song Contest (May 2004): Audience ratings for the 49th
Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) broadcast over the Eurovision network had an
average market share of 50% in the majority of the participating countries
-- more than a 50% increase on the average 32% annual market shares of EBU
Members. The EBU surpervisor indicated: "They show that the recent changes
to the concept of the contest can generate momentum and even stronger interest
for this live TV programme which has been with us for nearly 50 years." Over
5 million calls and SMS votes for the 10 minute voting windows at the end
of the Semi-Final and Final combined, were processed by the first ever pan-European
mass televoting platform. [more]
- European Football Cup (June 2004):
A fundamental issue is the perceived complexity of such institutions, which
makes them effectively incomprehensible to many -- and even to government delegates
to any parts of those institutions. The challenge is well-artculated by Timothy
Garton Ash (This
is Our High Noon, Guardian 24 June 2004):
The institutional arrangements codified in the [European] constitution are
but a means to create those means. Is there a thinking man or woman alive
in Europe who is not depressed by the prospect of spending yet more years
of bad-tempered debate on such mind-numbing details? There we shall be, the
so-called "opinion-formers", squabbling over contorted paragraphs and wrestling
with tabloid shibboleths. Meanwhile, as the huge abstention rates in the European
elections just showed, those whose opinions we are supposed to form have long
since switched to another channel, to watch the football... Who can blame
them? The constitution that emerged from the Brussels summit last weekend
is not an inspiring document. It entirely lacks the simplicity, clarity and
political poetry of great constitutions.
Conventionally the structures of such bodies are described with organization
charts, complemented by checklists and frameworks of their guiding principles
and values. The latter are frequently represented through architectural metaphors,
such as "pillars" supporting the structure as a whole. "Pillars"
are recognized as one of the main features that makes the European Union complex
and difficult to understand. Different decision-making rules apply to each of
the three pillars: matters such as commercial, social and environmental policy.
The draft constitution will make the differences between the pillars less noticeable
but will not merge them completely [more].
Examples of the use of "pillars" are given below.
Box 2: "Pillar-ization" -- use of "pillars"
in international institutional discourse
- All democracies have two essential pillars:
some rights and obligations that constitute the Citizens? Statute and
some authorities elected freely and democratically which are organised
on the basis of the principle of the division of powers.
- In Community parlance people often refer to the three
pillars of the EU Treaty [more].
The European Union was created through the Maastricht Treaty in 1992
(EU Treaty). This Treaty has since come to symbolise the political roof
resting on three pillars.
- The first pillar consists of the two remaining
European communities, the European Community and the European Atomic
Energy Community (Euratom).
- The Common Foreign and Security Policy forms the
second pillar, and
- Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters
- The EU is also described as consisting of four
- Economic and Currency Union
- Common Foreign and Safety Politics
- Justice and Interior Politics
- Common Defense Politics
- The Maastricht Treaty was based on four pillars:
- social policy,
- common defense policy
- The EU's enlargement policy that has evolved since
1989 is built on four pillars:
- clear political and economic criteria requiring
candidate EU accession countries to respect democratic principles
and to operate market economies;
- pre-accession aid programmes to help close the
wealth gap between the enlargement candidates;
- encouraging institutional changes in the accession
candidate countries so they can apply and enforce the full range
of EU laws;
- Treaty changes to ensure that, after enlargement,
the functioning of the EU's institutions is not handicapped by the
accession of a large number of new Member States.
- The EU Social Policy and EQUAL (EU strategy promoting
new practices in the fight against discrimination and inequality) operates
within 8 themes directly linked to the four pillars of the European
Employment Strategy (EES) (plus a ninth covers the specific needs of
- Adaptability, and
- Equal Opportunities
- EU Common Fisheries Policy has four pillars
- EU Common Agricultural Policy rests on four pillars:
- a single market with the free circulation of goods;
- uniform prices;
- a common preference for European products over
- financial solidarity between Member States as
regards expenses incurred in implementing the CAP.
- The European Commission consultation on youth has
had four pillars:
- young people,
- Member States,
- youth researchers and
- civil society (called for by Youth Forum)
- The European Court of Auditors (ECA) bases its analyses
on four pillars, including:
- an examination of supervisory systems and controls,
- an analysis of declarations by director generals,
- an assessment of the work of other auditors.
- Four pillars of the
European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) A Commitment by the European
Nations, Organizing for Crisis Management, Defense Resources, A Strong
European Defense Industry
- The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) which brought together
four pillars under UN leadership:
- Humanitarian Affairs under the responsibility
of the UNHCR,
- Civil Administration of the UN,
- Democratisation and Institution-building of the
- Economic Reconstruction, Recovery and Development
of the European Union (EU).
- The new partnership agreement between the European
Union and the ACP countries (Cotonou, 2000) is based on five pillars:
- ongoing political dialogue,
- involvement of civil society,
- poverty reduction,
- new trade framework,
- reform of financial cooperation
- The Geneva Association (Four Pillars Research Programme),
The Club of Rome (European Support Centre), and The Risk Institute (Double
Helix Research Programme) joint initiative is based on the concept of
- the compulsory, pay-as-you-go, state pension;
- the supplementary (often funded-based) occupational
- individual savings (personal pensions, life insurance...);
- a flexible extension of work-life, mainly on
a part-time basis, in order to supplement income from the 3 existing
- Six pillars of development
policies (Statement on Development Policy in 2001)
- Macro-economic support and access to social services
- Food security and rural development
- Trade and development
- Regional Integration
- Institution building
In June 1991, for example, those involved in the EEC Commission efforts to
articulate the new treaty details for European economic and political union
were clarifying alternatives using code words including "pillars", "hats", "temples",
"trees" and "ivy". The pillars were separate chapters of the treaty, the hat
was the prologue creating a European union embracing three pillars. The alternatives
were described in a "temple-versus-trees" debate in which the Commission argued
that the treaty should look more like a "tree trunk with branches" than a "shaky
temple supported by pillars". Others criticized a revision as "pillars covered
in ivy", namely with largely cosmetic changes (Independent, 17 June 1991).
The Helsinki Final Act (1975) was organized in terms of three "baskets"
- Basket I includes security, human rights and freedoms, the principle of
coexistence, the pledge that frontiers should be changed only by peaceful
means and that states should cooperate and refrain from intervention in the
internal affairs of other nations.
- Basket II deals with economic, technical, and scientific cooperation, problems
of trade and environment.
- Basket III deals with human contacts - emigration rights, cultural and educational
exchange, free movement of people and information.
|"It's the pictures, stupid!?"
"It is the photographs that gives one the vivid realization
of what actually took place...Words don't do it. The words that there
were abuses, that it was cruel, that it was inhumane, all of which is
true, that it was blatant, you read that and it's one thing. You see the
photographs, and you get a sense of it, and you cannot help but be outraged."
Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defence, 7 May 2004 [more]
What other challenges and possibilities go officially
unrecognized, and denied,
because they are only described in text ?
The point might also be made that concerns have been expressed at the soulless
nature of the European initiative (cf Joschka
Rocard, John Lonergan).
Deriving from anima, as the Latin term for soul, efforts to "animate"
the representation of Europe could well contribute to correcting this impression.
Representation and its symbolic implications
It is clear from the above that "pillars" are a much favoured, if
not dominant metaphor, governing strategic thinking within international institutions
such as the European Union.
Such representations, like organizations charts, are completely static.
They do not easily attract attention and offer very little appeal to the imagination.
They obscure the fact that the different parts of complex structures, like European
institutions, have the greatest of difficulty in acting in an integrated manner
on any issue with which they are differently concerned. To a significant degree,
they are mutually nontransparent.
The pillared pantheon metaphor clearly reflects an institutional heritage dating
back to the classical Greek Pantheon -- and its Roman imitations -- often designed
as temples. In even earlier pagan periods, the pillars took the form of trees
marking a sacred grove open to the elements. Pillars may therefore be considered
as the calcification, petrification or fossilization of values that may remain
implicit in a society struggling to rediscover a healthy relationship to the
In a democracy it is important to consider how such a pillared organization
of values may be perceived by others -- the imperfectly consulted population.
Such columned architectural edifices have been used in palace design since those
early times -- and also, like temples, by institutions symbolic of a connection
with higher values (courts of justice, religious institutions, etc).
The challenge of palaces, however, is that they are only accessible to, and
inhabited by, the few. The population tends to be "confronted" by
such columned structures -- which bear no relation to their own lived reality.
In many cases the palaces are even surrounded by pillared or grilled security
barriers so that the population is kept outside -- perhaps traditionally
as outcasts and now as those adhering to "alternative" values. It
is not surprising that the population then comes to associate its view of the
pantheon with prison-like structures -- if only aesthetically. In fact a pillared
perspective is strikingly similar aesthetically to the view from, or into, a
prison cell through a barred window (see Box 3)..
It might even be argued that a barred prison cell window offers a kind of
psychological "mirror" or "shadow" of the set of values
promoted and integrated in a pantheon fronted by columns. It can therefore
be argued that any such strategic conceptual structure, using such a pantheon-like
representation, is to some degree undermining its own efforts -- especially
when there is also an association of the columns with the values or principles
honoured in such structures, effectively making them the virtual "temples"
of contemporary society for values as modern-day secular "gods". Just
as in ancient Greece and Rome, society's values and principles are effectively
honoured and institutionalized in Europe through the variety of temples elaborated
as programmes and projects in response to distinct strategic priorities (social
security, defence, etc). As then, the "theological" interrelationship
between these structures is a challenge.
Curiously the modern use of pillars is 2-dimensional, viewed from outside,
whereas traditionally pillars also defined and bounded the nave of a 3-dimensional
temple with celebrants invited inside -- perhaps a pointer to new uses
of virtual reality techniques in clarifying any "road map" understood
to be outlined by pillars as markers on the way. Perhaps unfortunately, just
as traditional temples provided a setting for a podium from which celebrants
were inspired regarding "good" and "evil", modern value
structures evoke the need for the population to be exposed to lectures from
conference podia about the positive and negative values associated with the
Again modern representations struggle to give form to the "roof"
that pillared values are designed to support to protect those within from the
elements. The roof may effectively be defined by the pillars -- although in
practice the set of pillars may even be deliberately "roofless", like
the pagan temples of the distant past. This relates curiously the circle of
stars that is basic to the design of the European flag:
It is the symbol not only of the European Union but also of Europe's unity
and identity in a wider sense. The circle of gold stars represents solidarity
and harmony between the peoples of Europe. The number of stars has nothing
to do with the number of Member States. There are twelve stars because the
number twelve is traditionally the symbol of perfection, completeness and
unity. The flag therefore remains unchanged regardless of EU enlargements.
The disposition of the stars suggests that they should be understood as a set
of pillars presented in cross section defining a space analogous to those of
the oldest open temples. Even the pentagonal stars recall the design of temple
pillars. For example The New English Bible indicates that the entrance
to the Holy of Holies "the door posts and the pilasters were pentagonal" (1
Kings 6:21), following on the pillar design favoured by the ancient Egyptians
and the pentagonal representation favoured for the doorposts of Pythagoreans.
In the Temple of Jerusalem, the pentagon was not oriented horizontally towards
people, but turned upwards to heaven since the door it marked was intended for
Beyond impoverished metaphors
The interesting design question is whether the pillared pantheon is susceptible
to fruitful modification in ways that conserve some of its valued structural
features. Examples might include:
- Pillars to Legs: The static "pillars" could be understood
as "legs" or "feet" (as in the renowned biblical Song
of Solomon (5:15): "His
legs are pillars of marble" [more]).
This then suggests reflection on how the legs might move in a coordinated
manner in relationship to one another in order to move the whole. In this
sense an institution might also be perceived as "walking" or "running"
(rather than standing still) -- by coordinating the priorities successively
accorded to values or principles in relation to one another. Note that organizations,
projects and meetings are frequently said to be "run" or to "run
well" over successive reporting periods.
- Pillars to Spokes: The base of the pillars, like the top, are typically
joined together in any representation. The pillars might then be considered
as spokes -- provided the base rises at each end around the construction as
a whole to form the circumference of a wheel (see Box 4). The connected tops
of the pillars then create a "space" which may be understood as
the hub of the wheel. Indeed "hub" is used as an indication of a
core locus of decision-making. Clearly a wheel tends to have the capacity
to roll, carrying a load in some direction. A common expression with respect
to institutional initiatives is the expression "let's roll". From
some cultural perspectives -- in addition to the "rose windows"
of Christianity -- a wheel is a common device for the organization of fundamental
values (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc).
|Box 4: From Pillars to Wheel Spokes
- Caterpillar to Butterfly: The necessary institutional metamorphosis
for the 21st century has been explored by John Elkington (The Chrysalis
Economy, 2001) through this caterpillar-butterfly metaphor from the insect
chrysalis -- the stage in the life cycle of lepidopterons when, within a self-spun
cocoon, rapacious (and somewhat ugly) caterpillars undergo a sensational re-configuration
of both form and function, to emerge as delicate (and often beautiful) butterflies
(or moths if their particular genes so dictate). For Elkington, the transformation
is not achieved without radical shifts in the nature of the animal that involves
"self-digestion" before metamorphosis is possible. He uses insights
from this metaphor to illuminate many aspects of corporate transformation.
Box 5: Cater-pillar to Butterfly Transformation
-- a Renaissance
For Edgar Morin (Vers
l'abime, Le Monde, 1er janvier 2003): La métamorphose de la
chenille en papillon nous offre une métaphore intéressante : quand la chenille
est entrée dans le cocon, elle opère l'autodestruction de son organisme de
chenille, et ce processus est en même temps celui de formation de l'organisme
de papillon, lequel sera à la fois le même et autre que la chenille. Cela
est la métamorphose. La métamorphose du papillon est préorganisée. La métamorphose
des sociétés humaines en une société monde est aléatoire, incertaine, et elle
est soumise aux dangers mortels qui lui sont pourtant nécessaires. Aussi l'humanité
risque-t-elle de chavirer au moment d'accoucher de son avenir.
It is tempting to recognize the segmentation of the caterpillar as indicative
of the partial (simpler) coordination that often prevails between divisions
of a complex institution -- quite different from the degree of coordination
required by a butterfly. In this sense the pupal phase might be understood
as that in which the static pillar-based value organization is transformed
through a "renaissance" into the radial organization typical of
a rotating wheel.
By modelling existing "cumbersome" structures and exploring their possible
transformation, imaginative approaches (anchored in practical budget-line options),
could be explored to ensure that an institutional system is transformed from cumbersome
to elegant (from "Beast" to "Beauty"). It is such structures
which would be expected to "fly" (as with a butterfly) -- to employ
a common metaphor for a succesful project -- in contrast to one that does not
"get off the ground" (as when a project described as a "turkey"
is contrasted pejoratively with one described as an "eagle"). [Of
course, in anticipation of any such transformation, there is a need to "cater"
to a pillar-structure to enable it to reach the "caterpillar" stage
! In this sense the pillared structures of the EU (and UN) may correspond to the
static "egg" stage in the lifecycle -- from which the caterpillar emerges
-- then to become a pupa (chrysalis) before the adult butterfly then emerges].
The basis of this proposal is that there is a unique opportunity to render
such institutional structures more meaningful and appealing by using dynamic
representation techniques that have the recognized communication strengths of
animation. The success of SodaConstructor in attracting millions of users at
all levels of society is an indication of the creative potential of such tools.
The success of the UIA in holding thousands of organization elements in large
relational databases, and displaying them in interactive maps, is an indication
that operational significance can be given to such maps.
Proposal for dynamic representation of institutional
The elements of the proposal are as follows:
- Static "pillars": Political discussions in the EU focus
on a limited number of "pillars" (from three to six) of principles
that provide a pantheon-like base to hold up a common roof. The pillars may
be values, principles, chapters in a constitution, or institutional elements.
These features are primarily meaningful and interesting to those reconciled
to the legal language in which they are formulated. It is extremely difficult
to portray such conceptual structures in a non-tedious manner to an increasingly
young electorate in an increasing range of languages.
- Dynamic models -- from "pillars" to "feet":
Amongst the many examples in SodaConstructor's SodaZoo,
it is possible to find animal-like models that have been constructed with
four or more "feet" enabling them to move (see Box 7). Through such
animations the static "pillars" are transformed into "feet".
The feet move in a necessarily coordinated manner in relationship to one another
in order to move the whole. This is a very suggestive image for a Europe "on
the move" -- in contrast to one which is portrayed as static and with
an implicit rather than explicit dynamic.
- Movement -- using institutional "muscles" (instead of "pillars"
and "baskets"): Animal-like movement in any representation of
an institutional complex offers a good beginning to thinking about the modality
and direction of movement of the EU (or the UN) as a whole. Some 30 different
types of locomotion have been distinguished in animals, and it is not unusual
for an animal to change from one type to another (i.e. from walking to jumping
in a given period of locomotion) [see gait
analysis resources]. Movement challenges the imagination at every level
of society to raise good questions about what alternating adjustments
are required (in successive budgetary cycles) in a complex structure to enable
it to move -- in contrast to a situation in which the institution might be
understood as "frozen" (or, more pejoratively, as "catatonic"
or in a "vegetable state"). Such a frozen state leads to situations
in which the institutions can only move "catastrophically", namely
in a succession of spastic adjustments (also recognized institutionally as
"fire fighting"). Such adjustments are evident in the way priorities
are drastically modified at the end of each budgetary cycle -- or in response
Box 8: Technicalities of walking
|Walking is a result of combinations of contractions
and relaxations of groups of muscles in a specific order. These muscle
contractions and relaxations are repeated in a timely order that results
in a repetition of leg motions. As the legs move back and forth, the
subject moves forward or in the direction of the walking motion. Considering
the number of muscles and the complexity of the way in which individual
muscle groups are activated during walking, the development of such
a control system is a great achievement. A good understanding of the
phases of the gait cycle is required for such a technology to be successful.
The left and right legs have different gait cycles and both are important
during walking, especially when the control system is designed for a
The five phases of the gait cycle are: Early swing, which results in
the maximum flexion of the knee joint; Late swing, which is characterized
by the heel gently touching the floor; Weight acceptance, which occurs
when the other leg is about to be lifted up and the body weight is shifted
to the leg of interest; Mid-stance, characterized by a straight leg
with the foot flat on the floor; Terminal stance, in which the body
weight shifts to the other leg and the heel is taken off the floor.
Because walking combines the above gait phases to produce a smooth movement,
a good knowledge of when a particular phase begins and ends is necessary
for the calibration of the control system. The system can be calibrated
in such a way that it can skip a certain phase or combine a number of
phases as necessary to adjust to the walking pattern. [more]
Dynamic Optimization of Human Walking (Frank C. Anderson Marcus
G. Pandy, 2001): A three-dimensional, neuromusculoskeletal model of
the body was combined with dynamic optimization theory to simulate normal
walking on level ground. The body was modeled as a 23 degree-of-freedom
mechanical linkage, actuated by 54 muscles. The dynamic optimization
problem was to calculate the muscle excitation histories, muscle forces,
and limb motions subject to minimum metabolic energy expenditure per
unit distance traveled. Muscle metabolic energy was calculated by summing
five terms: the basal or resting heat, activation heat, maintenance
heat, shortening heat, and the mechanical work done by all the muscles
in the model. The gait cycle was assumed to be symmetric; that is, the
muscle excitations for the right and left legs and the initial and terminal
states in the model were assumed to be equal.
Most early static optimization studies included up to 30 muscles
per leg, whereas more recent models have used 42 or more muscles
per leg. [more]
- Budget line "muscle": Suppose now that the strings in
the string map of an institutional structure represent individual budget lines,
namely as the institutional "muscle" required to ensure the dynamism
of the institution and its capacity to move ("more funds, more muscle"!).
Major and minor budget lines would then be represented by major and minor
muscle/strings. The technique allows major budget lines (muscles) to be distinguished
from minor budget lines (muscles) -- down to whatever detail is needed to
ensure that movement is smooth (see Technicalities of walking in Box 8). The
challenge for any institution is to ensure that these muscles adjust in relation
to one another (stretching and relaxing) in a manner to move the whole forward
in a coordinated manner. Conceptually this problem of mutual adjustment of
"muscles" has been extensively studied in the development of progressively
more successful algorithms to articulate animal-like movement in computer-generated
life-forms (notably for movies and video games).
- Budget line database: Such detail could be readily pulled into a
display from a budget line data base directly developed from the programme
and budget of the institution. Conventional representations of organizational
networks by nodes and links and descriptors (notably as defined by XML DTD's)
could readily be adapted/extended to represent budget size and reporting frequency.
These elements could be loaded automatically to configure suitable animal-like
structures in SodaConstructor. Budgetary alternatives could be used as the
basis for alternative animated figures.
Box 9: Walking/gait abnormalities: lessons for
The pattern of how a person walks is called the gait. Many different
types of gait abnormalities are produced unconsciously. Most, but
not all, are due to some physical malfunction. Some gait abnormalities
are so characteristic that they have been given descriptive names:
- Propulsive gait (characterized by a stooped, rigid posture,
with the head and neck bent forward)
- Scissors gait (characterized by legs flexed slightly at
the hips and knees, giving the appearance of crouching, with the
knees and thighs hitting or crossing in a scissors-like movement)
- Spastic gait (characterized by a stiff, foot-dragging walk
caused by one-sided, long-term, muscle contraction)
- Steppage gait (characterized by foot drop where the foot
hangs with the toes pointing down, causing the toes to scrape the
ground while walking)
- Waddling gait (characterized by a distinctive duck-like
walk that may appear in childhood or later in life)
- Communication relevance: The great merit of the approach is that
complex, and often dreary, options could be portrayed as a whole in a manner
that is comprehensible as a whole. Such dynamic models offer a way of communicating
complex notions without losing their coherence. Such communication is as relevant
in policy or media briefings as it is in communicating with the electorate
and those of younger age -- the electorate of the future.
- Model features: At present SodaConstructor offers control features
governing the dynamic behaviour of models. These include gravity, friction,
and speed. A key question is how, meaningfully, to relate such dynamical constraints
to the constraints on institutional dynamics determined by policy decisions.
Tentatively, for example:
- gravity might be related to relative economic costs of activity
in the society: higher the costs, the lower the possibility that any budgetary
amount will be as cost/effective as desired; conversely excessive funding
may cause a project to go out of control (Explore this by modifying
the "gravity" parameter in model in Box 10 below).
- friction might be related to political support/opposition and
proportion of vested interests inhibiting activity
- speed, which takes the form of frequency in the models, might
be related to budgetary or reporting cycles: this could be especially
interesting if at the end of each cycle the size of particular budget
lines is changed in relationship to others (flexing and relaxing of muscles
essential to movement). This is especially significant since the different
projects might have shorter or longer budget cycles -- to be represented
in the model by contraction or relaxation of distinct muscles according
to different rhythms
Box 10: Institutional impact of a high "gravity"
environment: non-viability? collapse?
(click on "normal" structure -- then adjust parameter
- Institutional development and transformation: Possibilities of transformation
could be usefully explored by starting from the existing structure, drawn
as one form of animation from the database -- maybe with many feet (like a
caterpillar) -- to determine the successive transformations required to develop
a more elegant or robust structure. The approach could show the steps required
to get from a "caterpillar" to a "butterfly" -- preserving
whatever topological invariances are essential. [The caterpillar-butterfly
transformation, articulated by Edgar Morin in relation to complexity studies,
is a much appreciated metaphor in the EU policy world. But no one has endeavoured
to illustrate it visually or to tie budgetary and institutional detail into
the structure so that options can be intelligently considered.]
Identification of viable transformation pathways, from one form to another,
would call for development of applications using topological and other methods
to ensure appropriate invariance in order to preserve identity throughout
- Institutional ecosystems: Further possibilities lie in the recognition
that the many EU (or UN) institutions could be seen as constituting an ecosystem
of animal-like characters (as suggested by SodaConstructor's SodaZoo). These
could move around -- and interact -- to give an understanding of the organizational
ecosystem that determines social initiatives at this time. Constraints could
be explored on their interactivity -- as in artificial life simulations --
consistent with their viability and sustainable development.
- Institutional "meme pool": More intriguingly is the value
of a SodaZoo-type formula to allow participants, from the general public to
specialists, to formulate an extensive array of models experimentally. This
effectively builds up an institutional "meme pool" analogous to
the "gene pool" necessary for animal species development.
- Explanatory text: A further desirable feature would be to use standard
mouseover techniques to bring up explanatory text about a particular budget
line/muscle, etc. There is thus a direct link from string/muscle elements
of the animation to specifically named institutional units responsible for
their implementation. Pointers could be provided to documents on individual
budget lines (as is done with Decision
- Reframing the language challenge: Now that the official languages
used in the extended European Union have increased from 11 to 20, there is
a major challenge of communicating complex structural notions to an electorate
with a higher proportion of people more oriented to "Europe" as
understood through the dynamics of "Eurovision" or the European
football cup. Embodying options in the dynamics of comprehensible models is
a strategy for bypassing significant obstacles and costs associated with translation
- Sound: The sound feature, in its early stages of development by
SodaConstructor, suggests the possibility of going beyond the simple association
of "jingles" with moving models to the point of using sound and
music to carry meaning. The UIA has also experimented with sound possibilities
using the SSEYO Koan plug-in.
Such possibilities form the basis for a new range of "auditory display"
applications as defined in the ICAD/NSF Sonification
- Three-dimensions: More realistic models can be constructed in 3D
as the UIA has demonstrated using virtual reality (VRML) techniques during
the course of a multimedia
contract under Info2000. The new release of Soda's
3D facility suggests other possibilities.
- Conversion into conventional presentations: As with PERT and other
management charting tools, the animated representations could be converted
back into other conventional forms when these are preferred.
- Policy alternatives and polarization: A major feature of the debate
on the future of Europe (or of the UN) is associated with the tendency to
policy polarization (although "polar-ization" might also be usefully
explored in terms of "pillar-ization" in a "pillar-ized"
society). Different political coalitions favour different future models of
Europe. It is very difficult to articulate these alternatives so that others
can make meaningful judgements as to their relative merits. The dynamic models
offer a meaningful possibility that is an intermediary between the detail
of legalistic detail and the caricature of party electoral propaganda (in
posters and slogans, for example). Many who appreciate the elegance of movement
in sport and dance may be re-engaged by political proposals for organizations
that "move" elegantly -- and have "style" and "cool
moves". The participatory emphasis is an added attractor in marked contrast
with a elitist pillared portico.
- Institutional pathology: Of particular interest is the use of such
models to explore dysfunctionality as defined in terms of coordination problems
and muscular atrophy, dystrophy pathology, and neuromuscular disorders --
to the point of paraplegia. Such models might offer new insights into institutional
"health" -- "fit" and "lean" organizations in
contrast with "over-weight" and organizations threatened by "obesity".
- Simulation: Such models can be constructed:
- as representations of existing structures -- for communication purposes
-- in a public relations effort by official institutions,
- as imaginative representations of what future European institutions
might be -- as creative brainstorming exercises by students and interested
groups (NGOs, lobbying groups, etc). This could augment the scope of participatory
democracy by involving groups in a participative (open source) design
process that results in very specific suggestions succinctly presented.
The ludic initiative by SodaConstructor to enable a SodaRace
environment in which models can be be "raced" -- recalls the
early efforts in which simulations were tested by competitive confrontation.
Sodarace is an online olympics pitting human creativity against machine
learning in a competition to design models that race over 2D terrains.
- as primarily creative exercises by design and other groups focused
on interesting constructs -- not necessarily related to current political
realities, but raising valuable questions as to what kinds of institutions
might hypothetically function with that kind of structure (see examples,
research could embody work from artificial life studies, notably in relation
to virtual environments (see resources at The
Complexity and Artificial Life Research Concept for Self-Organizing Systems,
notably those involving "creatures")
- as design spaces for those seeking to articulate the organizational
structures and processes for alternative patterns of living and community
It is most doubtful whether "Europe" itself (or the "United
Nations") can be "re-animated" without re-animating the representation
of "Europe" -- for the benefit of those whose highest values are represented
Using a modelling kit as described, models could also be constructed as simulation
exercises by policy research institutes to explore the consequences of: (a)
different budget line policies, (b) alternated in different ways, and (c) over
a period of time. Such research could shift the focus from particular policies
at particular times to the challenge of how the balance of policy options needs
to be changed over time -- to keep the institution moving, to keep it balanced
in that process, and to prevent it collapsing. Seen in this light, the different
"pillars" could be shifted from the elephantine to the elegant, and
possibly nimble, as required by rapid response to turbulent and changing circumstances
(see, for example, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. When Giants Learn to Dance: Mastering
the Challenges of Strategy, Management, and Careers in the 1990s, 1990).
More interesting is the possibility that political alternatives may actually
represent different configurations of sets of institutional muscles -- corresponding
to different stages in the process of movement. Models could in this way be
used to hold dynamically seemingly incompatible alternatives (eg putting the
"right" political leg forward rather than the "left", or
vice versa). The policy alternatives may then prove to be a matter of timing
in a larger context essential to movement. Such alternation is of course, in
principle, a fundamental feature of the checks and balances of the democratic
process. Animation, as proposed, may then clarify when an institutional initiative
is likely to become unstable or collapse -- and what dynamic makes for stability.
The examples in Box 12 (below) all raise questions as to whether such unusual
structures might possibly model institutional initiatives of any value to society,
and if so under what conditions? Furthermore they raise questions of the significance
that particular structural features might have in practice. What would be required
for a European initiative to "fly" -- like a butterfly, for example?
What institutional significance might be attached to a rotating wheel in which
"feet" were linked to form its spokes? Etc?
Such explorations raise issues about the (failure of) "mobilization"
of the population in support of the European agenda. Why is there such a disconnection
between pillared values and what people sense as "mobile" and motivating?
Why does Europe seemingly fail to appeal to popular imagination -- except through
the Eurovision song contest, the UEFA football cup, or the "Jeux sans Frontières"?
Why is it that the imagination of humans is excited by (and associated with)
flying -- and perceives institutions as "plodding", if not "static"?
Does this indicate the possibility that a soulless Europe can best be avoided
by the organization of values and initiatives in ways somehow isomorphic with
sustainable flight? Is this a reason for variously favouring the dove as a symbol
of peace and the eagle as a symbol of nobility and strength -- despite the consumption
of the former by the latter?
Box 13: Dysfunctional Model of Institutional Metamorphosis?
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