Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
University of Earth Alternative view of segmented documents via Kairos

28th March 2007 | Draft

Interrelating Metaphors

to enable a cycle of transformation between epistemological modes

- / -

Part A of Psychosocial Energy from Polarization within a Cyclic Pattern of Enantiodromia
(Annex 3 of Emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations)

Part A: Interrelating Metaphors -- to enable a cycle of transformation between epistemological modes
-- Implications of the cybernetics of cybernetics: complex adaptive systems?
-- Psychosocial energy through a metaphorical technology
-- Schematic Denkmodel (Table 1)
-- Epistemological domains
-- Global vs Local (in Table 1)
-- Positive vs Negative (in Table 1)
-- Relationships (within Table 1)
Part B: Psychosocial Work Cycle: Beyond the plane of Möbius
--Beyond the plane of Möbius: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications
-- Visualization: quadrant systems / Möbius strips / Klein bottles
-- "Sphering the Circle" (from 2D to 3D): a Klein-bottle relationship "belt drive"?
-- Enantiodromia: cycling through the "cognitive twist"
-- Psychosocial work cycle / heat engine
-- Psychosocial power and its generation
Conclusion: implication for sustainable development and governance


This is an exploration of the possibility of designing (or recognizing) new types of psychosocial energy system dependent on the skillful interweaving of "positive" and "negative" energy. This would reflect the pattern of development of energy systems exploited by the industrial revolution -- offering the possibility of "generating" psychosocial energy. The exploration is based on interrelating metaphorically the patterns associated with the Van der Graaf generator, the Möbius strip, the thermodynamic work cycle, the process of enantiodromia, and the dynamics implicit in the BaGua symbol. The design process here involves the juxtaposition or superposition of patterns variously indicated through metaphor -- thereby used as design elements to explicate the whole.

The exploration is part of a study of the distinction between the century-old Union of International Associations (UIA1), an implicit Union of Intelligible Associations (UIA2) and an emergent Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3) to which references are variously made..

Implications of the cybernetics of cybernetics: complex adaptive systems?

The focus of UIA1 has always been the documentation of the universe of international bodies and was so recognized by a UN ECOSOC resolution of 20 July 1950. By including the relationships between bodies and to countries, this can be understood as documenting the international system of organizations. It has been valued for this reason by scholars.

Knowledge organization is typically concerned with hierarchical relationships between entities. In the case of the entities unique to the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, and characteristic of UIA2 from its inception in 1972, a major innovation was the introduction of "functional" or systemic relationships (eg Problem A aggravates Problem B, etc). This opened the way to the analysis of "vicious" and "serendipitous" loops linking problems and/or remedial strategies in extensive networks [more].

The detailed discussion of the different cybermetics perspectives and their relevance (previously included here in earlier versions), has now been transferred into a separate document (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007). This considers, more generally, the different ways in which the mode or form of "description" of an organizational system is itself progressively brought into question from increasingly recursive or self-referential perspectives. The cognitive assumptions associated with the "perspective" metaphor may also be called into question with greater self-reflexivity, notably in the light of the arguments of enactivism. The implicit question throughout is how to distinguish and comprehend the forms of genuinely self-reflexive global initiatives appropriate to the challenges of the times -- and how to give organized form to such understanding.

According to Magoroh Maruyama: ' is possible to have both positive and negative mutual causal loops counterbalancing one another in any given situation". This understanding of the function of both positive and negative feedback loops is clearly of relevance to the hundreds of thousands of such loops documented by UIA2 -- available, as hyperlinks, to exploration (and visualization) online (cf Feedback Loop Analysis in the Encyclopedia Project, 2000)

The very large networks of looping functional relationships documented and visualized by UIA2, bring the user literally face-to-face with the cognitive limitations to significant knowledge management in relation to strategic challenges. Such representations, notably of value networks or of subtle human development concepts (and modes of awareness) from many disciplines, raise issues which highlight the relevance of second order cybernetics.

Might it be the case that all the "problems" faced by humanity are subunderstood design elements of an inherently sustainable "engine" -- whose operational integrity is of a higher degree of virtualization than currently considered credible? Being subunderstood, the design elements are mismanaged and therefore malfunction. This is notably a view highlighted by Douglas Flemons (Completing Distinctions, 1991)

Psychosocial energy through a metaphorical technology

A key process determining social dynamics is that associated with polarization -- especially the stereotyping of "positive" and "negative" (Being Positive and Avoiding Negativity: Management challenge of positive vs negative. 2005). This is despite the insights of cybernetics and arguments such as those of Maruyama (above). This process might also be seen as fundamental to social transformation -- with the old being stereotyped as "negative" and the new as "positive" in order to decouple the new from the old. Such thinking, however effective, could be considered dangerously simplistic and shortsighted -- as evidenced by the violence it engenders (cf Douglas Flemons, Completing Distinctions, 1991) .

Various authors refer to technology seen as metaphor (Robert Romanyshyn, Technology as Symptom and Dream, Routledge, 1989; David Weinberger, Technology as Metaphor, 2000; Jason Ohler, Seeing Technology Through Metaphor, 2005; Tamo Chattopadhay, Technology as a Metaphor: mechanics of power in the global development marketplace, 2005; Jason Balck, at al, The Metaphors of Emerging Technologies, 2006). There is also a case for seeing metaphor as a form of technology (cf Digital Humanities, Metaphor as Technology: critical thinking through understanding metaphor). The significance of the use of metaphor in this context is well stated by Maurice Yolles (Knowledge Cybernetics: a new metaphor for social collectives, 2005):

Having defined the metaphorical nature of knowledge cybernetics, there is a question of whether any of the metaphorical models provided have any practical value. Whether they do depends on how one sees the nature of metaphors. They are not simple comparitors, and for Brown (2003) they provide a very important way of creating a basis for new knowledge. We do not say that the models give here are true, indeed we cannot say this because of their constructivist nature. They are simply representations that will have to be evaluated and believed if there is evidence that they are practically useful to explain and perhaps to diagnose and intervene in situations that we see.

Briefly caricatured, the concern here is with the "metaphorical technology" of sustaining a transformative relationship by continuously converting "us and them" into "them is us" and back again. Rather than McLuhan's "the medium is the message", here it might be argued that "the method is the message". This is seen as a key to comprehending the sustaining energy of an initiative like UIA3. Beyond the explanatory function, the question here is whether such metaphor has an enabling function -- potentially as dramatic as the discoveries of the industrial revolution.

The necessary concern about appropriate rigour is the subject of an excellent study by Dedre Gentner and Michael Jeziorski (The shift from metaphor to analogy in Western science, 1993) who use as one case study the scientist Sadi Carnot (1796-1832) with respect to what became known as the Carnot cycle relating heat and work. This is further explored below -- as a metaphor that is potentially as rigorous as an analogy.

Table 3 (of Three-stage Emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations ***) also helps to clarify the potential role associated with each mode of understanding (as appropriately understood) of UIA1, UIA2 and UIA3 within a cyclically evolving system. Specifically this includes the recognition, from a UIA3 mindset, of the function of a UIA1 modality and its responsibility in that respect.

Schematic Denkmodel

The following model (Table 1) has a four-fold structure. This can be described as a minimal structure appropriate to the immediate purpose. "Minimal" because understanding is necessarily constrained by a cognitive need to organize in order to be able to "re-member". It might be understood as a minimum number to discuss a system composed of two distinct "positives" ("us's") and two distinct "negatives" ("them's"). However choice of this four-fold structure should not be understood to imply that other structures of greater complexity might not be of value. These issues have been discussed elsewhere (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, International Classification, 1978; Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980; Patterns of Conceptual Integration, 1984).

To facilitate the discussion (below), necessarily in the form of linear text, the following schematic (Table 1) is used to hold some of the elements in place. It notably distinguishes and interrelates:

Table 1: Three-stage transformation between "global" and "local"
. Stage 0/1 (UIA1) Stage 2 (UIA2) Stage 3/0 (UIA3)
Explication Three-stage transformation between "global" and "local"






Epistemological domains

The suggestion here is that the four domains correspond to distinct modes of thought or ways of knowing. As a pattern they may be compared (as approximations) to various epistemological models (see also Dimensions of Comprehension Diversity, 1986; Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993):

Global vs Local (in Table 1)

Of major significance to the current world situation is the polarization between an increasingly (and variously) glorified or vilified "global", and a fragmented (and variously) exploited or glorified "local" -- with which individuals are most connected. The preoccupation of UIA1 has traditionally been with entities active in a global system -- having members from local systems excluded from the coverage of UIA1. This focus has been privileged in the entities tracked by UIA2 -- despite the inclusion of "human potential" from its inception in 1972.

The challenge of relating global and local has been explored elsewhere (Configuring globally and contending locally; shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues, 1992) notably in the light of the spherical tensegrity structures of R Buckminster Fuller (Synergetics: explorations in the geometry of thinking. 1975-79, 2 vols).

Positive vs Negative (in Table 1)

Distinctions and difference: It could be said that the energy and motive power that drive social action and transformation are intimately related to a sense of difference. This may of course relate to the more material levels of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. More generally it may be due to valuing a principle and contrasting it with situations where it is not upheld. Efforts were made through UIA2 to document "constructive" and "destructive" human values -- relating the latter to world problems and the former to remedial strategies. Typically constructive values are labelled "positive" (or "good") whereas destructive values are labelled "negative" (or "bad"). Within UIA2, clarifying this challenge was the focus of the Human Values Project whereby specific values were linked to specific "problems" or "strategies". Curiously the subtle (virtual) nature of values suggests the merit of treating them like the "strange attractors" of dynamical systems (Human Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993).

Disagreement: Considerable difficulties arise when there is disagreement over what is "constructive" ("positive") and "destructive ("negative"). This leads to a situation in which those disagreeing with the view of "us" (necessarily "positive") must necessarily be labelled "negative" -- possibly to the point of demonisation (Being Positive and Avoiding Negativity: Management challenge of positive vs negative. 2005). This labelling is typically reciprocated. There is considerable energy tied up in the dynamics associated with such processes -- people may even "get a charge out of it". It is extremely evident during processes of social transformation in which innovators (labelling themselves "positive") stigmatise conservative resistance as "negative", whereas conservatives stigmatise the innovators as disruptively "negative". The perspective of second and third order cybernetics is clearly relevant.

Alternation: Such psychosocial processes are inherent in the democratic process of parties competing, using positive and negative campaign stereotypes, for the right to govern -- until the "negative" consequences of the "positive" later become apparent. As a healthy process, the possibility of such alternation may be seen as a key to development (Policy Alternation for Development, 1984). Alternation of the positive and negative charges in Table 1 is more appropriately represented by configuring the domains in 3D as a tetrahedron. This is the fundamental system in the analysis of R Buckminster Fuller (Synergetics: explorations in the geometry of thinking. 1975-79, 2 vols). As noted below, some tetrahedral visualizations for AQAL have been developed by Michael Ax (Four Quadrants). Alternation of this kind is characteristic of more stable molecular structures known in chemistry as resonance hybrids.

Managing difference: Most effort at managing difference is designed to eliminate it through the achievement of consensus (being "positive") -- often by any means and at whatever cost (to those stereotyped as negative) -- whatever lipservice is paid to "consultation" (Being Positive and Avoiding Negativity: Management challenge of positive vs negative. 2005). Democracy, as rule by the majority, classically highlights the lack of significance attached to minority viewpoints. This approach, as noted above, contrasts completely with that associated with the multitude of technical innovations arising since the industrial revolution. These depend for the power which they generate, or for the devices driven by that power, on the appropriate management of difference. Examples include:

Interplay: The interplay of positive and negative can be used to hold several common experiential insights:

The attribution of "positive" and "negative" is a matter of convention (cf Xavier Sallantin. L'épistemologie de l'arithmetique. Communication aux Seminaires internationaux d'epistemologie de l'Abbaye de Senanque, Sept. 1976). Typically those within each domain ("us") would perceive it as "positive" -- with other domains ("them") being perceived as "negative". A representation such as Table 1 may therefore be presented in an alternative format with the signs reversed. One example is the presentation of two complementary representations of the I Ching (Relationship between Hexagrams of the Chinese I Ching, 1983). Such a more complex understanding allows for the alternation between the two perspectives. This is the case in many relationships where each party may perceive itself to be positive and the other negative, so that understanding the system requires alternating between the two conventions.

Elsewhere (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005) the possibility of interrelating "positive" and "negative" in hybrid forms was explored in the light of the work of Edward Haskell (Generalization of the structure of Mendeleev's periodic table, 1972) and its development by Timothy Wilken (The Relationship Continuum, 2002). This was related to the Taoist perspective of the BaGua diagram (discussed further below).

Charge: To what extent is a "global" perspective "charged" by processes that could be modelled by devices such as the Van der Graaf generator? Certainly the spherical feature of its design is suggestive of such a pattern of understanding. What then of the implications of the more powerful developments by Nikola Tesla -- and the devices developed with his insights?

The significance of the charge associated with domains in Table 1 can be understood as gaining or losing at expense of others, or perhaps to be framed as:

Relationships (within Table 1)

Table 1 offers a particular pattern characterized by four-fold and eight-fold relationships. Other patterns of course merit investigation, as noted above and elsewhere (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, International Classification, 1978; Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980; Patterns of Conceptual Integration, 1984).

The eight relationships in Table 1 are here considered as four continuous feedback loops "driving" (or "driven by") the four epistemological domains. The circles could be visualized as cross-sections of cylinders over which each loop runs as a band or belt. This raises distinct issues:

Eight-fold relationships: It is appropriate to note that the thousands of bidirectional systemic relationships linking entities in databases developed by UIA2 for the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, were only given generic names (such as aggravates, aggravated by, alleviates, alleviated by, etc). These could have been more specifically described.

Conclusion: implication for sustainable development and governance

This argument has pointed to the possibility of designing (or recognizing) new types of psychosocial energy system dependent on the skillful interweaving of "positive" and "negative" energy. It would reflect the pattern of development of energy systems exploited by the industrial revolution -- offering the possibility of "generating" psychosocial energy.

For detailed conclusions, see complete version of Annex 3


See complete version of Annex 3

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