13th April 2013 | Draft
Dynamic Transformation of Static Reporting of Global Processes
Suggestions for process-oriented titles of global issue reports
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Eliciting a Universe of Meaning -- within a global information society of fragmenting knowledge and relationships (2013)
The main paper discusses the manner in which meaning is widely associated with "states". This is evident in political efforts to create unions of states, exemplified by the United States, the League of Arab States, or the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as by the many proposals at the regional level (United States of Europe, United States of Africa, United States of Latin America, United States of Latin Africa. The United Nations is so considered at the global level, as with various proposals for world government. The "uniting" of states is framed as the most meaningfully desirable path forward.
This language is evident in reports such as those on the State of the Union (or the State of the Nation), the state of the environment, or as generated by the UN Specialized Agencies (or their national equivalents) with respect to their sectors of preoccupation: health, children, education, employment, food security, fisheries, safety, democracy, population, security (threat), environment, judiciary, media, cities, business. The approach may be extended to the State of the World or to the State of the Planet. Government policy may be a special preoccupation of a "department of state" or of a "state department". A "state" focus is used to frame issues of financial status, economic status, legal status, or civil status. The frame is used as much with respect to individuals as to communities: health status, educational status, social status, marital status, and the like. A "state of comfort" is commonly a preoccupation.
The frame is intimately related to that of statutes and constitutions -- with the latter echoed at the individual level as in "healthy constitution". Curiously consciousness is also framed in terms of "states", as in the recognition of a variety of human mental states, states of consciousness, and even a state of madness. This extends to recognition of emotional states, including a "state of terror", a "state of fear", a "state of agony", and to their contrary: "state of happiness", "state of grace", and the "blessed state of the righteous" (according to Christianity). A "state of holy matrimony" may be recommended.
Given the increasingly disastrous "state of the world", and that foreseen for the future, it is appropriate to ask whether another language might enable meaning to be carried otherwise -- and potentially more imaginatively and fruitfully. There is clearly a fundamental problem with respect to the relationship between states of any kind -- one which obscures consideration of the dynamics which may be vital to the essence of meaning. This is only too evident in the case of Israel-Palestine, India-Pakistan, North Korea-South Korea, and the like -- as with the "two-state solutions" proposed in the first case.
Seemingly, it may be argued, the "cracks" between the "states" cannot be effectively addressed through the language of "state". For the individual this is exemplified by bipolar disorder. It is especially curious that reference should be made to a "state of war" or a "state of conflict", when both are especially characterized by a destructive dynamic. Surely a contradiction in terms?
To the extent that happiness is a recognized "state", of relevance is the much-cited preoccupation with Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness in the United States Declaration of Independence. How is a state to be meaningfully pursued?
Curiously the focus on states is intimately related to a preoccupation with economic growth and economic development -- as the pursuit of collective net worth -- even when challenged as needing to have a "human face". There is an expectation that "states" should grow and develop eternally in some way -- avoiding or eliminating problematic "states" -- and thereby embodying a quality of sustainability.
A further implication is that somehow, by associating the states together in some special ("magical") way as yet to be discovered, a state of sustainable viability will be definitively established -- despite challenges which become increasingly obvious (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011; Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? Towards engaging appropriately with time, 2011). The illusion that the component states will then "work" together, when so assembled, recalls the "clockwork" illusion of biologists relating to the creation of life from its well-known chemical components.
Transforming titles of official reports on global processes
The argument can be presented otherwise (and more concretely) through offering a contrast between current "state reporting", as noted above, and a dynamic reframing of such reporting as explored in the table below. Most of the reports cited (in the left-hand column) are the product of international initiatives, whether global or regional -- many of them are produced regularly. The tentative transformations of the titles of existing reports are strikingly suggestive of new ways of seeing the issues in question -- possibly only present in the reports by implication (if at all).
As noted above with respect to a contradiction in terms, the use of "state" in framing a report on complex processes is misleading in the extreme. Curiously many sectors are the focus of reports on the current "state of knowledge" -- with little consideration of the implications of any dynamic or process. vital to eliciting such knowledge. This implies a delusion that a still photograph provides adequate comprehension of dynamic -- where many could better elicit meaning via a video.
It is of course the case that such reports endeavour to indicate trends in the indicators on which they focus, through the use of graphs which may only imply a dynamic. The question is whether graphs are adequate to eliciting the kind of meaningful engagement required for appropriate remedial action. Arguably such reporting does not enable people to "get into the music" and engage with its rhythm, as is the case with the entrainment to dance by music -- despite the initiative to produce a Graphical Report on the State of the World. Many of the issues imply dynamics which are dangerously ignored in conventional reporting -- notably the social cycles highlighted by Pitirim Sorokin (Social and Cultural Dynamics: a study of change in major systems of art, truth, ethics, law and social relationships, 1957).
With respect to enhancing insight into the dynamic, a striking innovation in "turning statistics into knowledge" -- with the slogan "unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world" -- has been offered by the Gapminder initiative, within the context of the OECD Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies. A provocative case might however be made for re-imaging "statistics" -- as exemplifying state language - with something akin to "dynastics".
In a description of "decision support technology" (Static Reporting Vs. Decision Support Technology), distinctions are usefully made as follows:
The difference between static reporting and reporting using decision support technology is important to understand. They are two distinct ways of providing information to end-users who make management decisions. Static reports gave rise to decision support technology and the move has had an important impact on how organizations manage--moving them from reactive management to proactive management. For years and to this day, public and private industries have relied on static reports for analyzing organizational data in order to direct management decisions....
Static reports have and continue to work to inform management, but relying on static reports for management decisions is problematic. The time it takes to generate a report in one department to reach a decision based on the report in another is typically long... For the private sector, this "delay to decisions" is costly. It's inefficient and it's management after-the-fact... To solve the problems associated with static reporting, new technologies and tools, primarily computer based, were developed to bring organizational data closer to the people that needed it, when they needed it and in ways that facilitated analysis. In the early 1970s these technologies and tools were coined with the name decision support.
The originality of The Limits to Growth report in 1972 derived from a analysis of connectivity through a systems dynamics model named World3 (Jay W. Forrester, World Dynamics, 1971). It is appropriate to ask whether the "static" emphasis of the above reports obscures, possibly deliberately, recognition of vital systemic processes. Those of a cognitive nature are noteworthy for their absence, especially the challenge of engaging with them (World Dynamics and Psychodynamics: a step towards making abstract "world system" dynamic limitations meaningful to the individual, 1971; Checklist of Peak Experiences Challenging Humanity, 2008; Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009).
It can be readily argued that this collection of "states" offers no indication of how they are interrelated systemically between the domains so thematically bounded. This systemic connectivity has been the primary preoccupation of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential now accessible online.