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2 May 2022 | Draft

Thirty-six Dramatic Situations faced by Global Governance?

Interrelating the array of narratives, plots, agendas, stories and conspiracy theories

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Dramatic situations from a global perspective
Dramatic situations in narrative and stories -- plus or minus thirty-six?
Types of dramatic plot with global implications?
Collective insight from traditional folk tales and fairy tales
Narrative visualization as a discipline
Story archetypes and character archetypes
Navigating the chaos associated with the dramatic situations of global governance
Collective analogues to 36 dramatic interpersonal situations
Memorable systemic organization of dramatic situations and folk wisdom?
Toroidal framing of narrative as container for a cycle of dramatic situations
Interrelating global cycles of dramatic situations
Interrelating ways of looking at dramatic situations
Polyhedral clues to the dynamics of relating disparate ways of looking
Memorability, pattern conviction and cognitive "goodness of fit"?


There is a need to respond to the mish-mash of narratives, agendas, leakages, plots, stories and complicity theories to which many are exposed through the media on a daily basis. How is sense to be made of the variety of disparate perspectives, many of which deprecate and actively condemn the perspectives offered by others?

In a period readily defined in terms of warfare, even as a new Cold War, reference is made to the regrettable level of "propaganda" deployed by any opposing party. By contrast, reference is made to persuasive "narrative", as appropriately crafted to clarify any preferred strategy. The propaganda traditionally associated with warfare can now be understood as replaced by carefully curated "narrative" in what is increasingly recognized as information warfare, if not cognitive warfare. Those who have the power to lie, are now unable to prove what they claim to be truthful.

The situation is further confused by the extent to which dramatic film portrayals are increasingly difficult to distinguish from the reality by which they may have been inspired. This has become especially clear through documentation of the degree to which the military-entertainment complex has funded many movies, video games and music videos (Stephen Stockwell and Adam Muir, The Military-Entertainment Complex: a new facet of information warfare, Fibreculture Journal, 1, 2003; David Sirota, How Your Taxpayer Dollars Subsidize Pro-War Movies and Block Anti-War Movies Connections between the Pentagon and the entertainment industry, HuffPost, 16 March 2011).

However it is only more recently that any indication of specific movies developed with that intention (Jonas E. Alexis, CIA and Pentagon behind "over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV tiitles.", Veterans Today, 15 July 2017; Here Are 410 Movies Made Under the Direct Influence and Supervision of the Pentagon, ZeroHedge, 7 August 2018).

The extent of worldwide exposure to such dramatic depictions, and the psychosocial implications of cultivation of appreciation of such media violence, can indeed be deplored. Potentially more pertinent is the lack of capacity to produce alternative forms of entertainment. More intriguing, as it relates to the argument here is that possibility that the exposure to the dramatic situation depicted is a form of education through which a degree of familiarity with dramatic situations is developed.

Arguably many are developing insight -- if unconsciously -- into the pattern of situations depicted or expressed in narrative form. This suggests that a sense of coherence may well be latent and emergent. The question is whether conscious recognition of those patterns could be triggered by any means -- raising the possibility of implications for forms of governance highly dependent on the cultivation of narratives.

This exploration is inspired by the much-cited early study identifying the array of dramatic situations and plots by Georges Polti (The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, 1916). This has more recently been revised, with examples from film, by Mike Figgis (The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, 2017).

Of relevance to this argument is the manner in which strategic commentary now makes reference to "dramatic situations" -- increasingly beyond the scope of the systemic analyses favoured by think tanks and academia. Are there insights to be derived of relevance to global governance from the pattern of "dramatic situations" and the manner in which it is framed and reframed by narrative?

An early inspiration for this exploration has been an interpretation of the role of Mikhail Gorbachev in enabling the transformation of the USSR, as argued separately  (Gorbachev: Dramaturge ?! Participative Democracy vs. Participative Drama: Lessons on social transformation for international organizations from Gorbachev, 1991). Missing at the present time is an epic, operatic perspective on the dynamics of the global system -- as a contrast to the devious narratives carefully cultivated from different perspectives.

In a period readily described as surreal, in which allegory is increasingly valued as a means of framing situations coherently, will the pattern of folk tales and fairy tales acquire an unsuspected function as a source of systemic insight (Surreal nature of current global governance as experienced, 2016; David W. Duffy, Governance in a Surreal World: the dark art of chairing a board in surreal and virtual times, Corporate Governance Institute, 23 September 2020).

Indicative of such a possibility is the comparison made byPradeep Kumar Gautam between insights from past millennia in the Arthshastra, understood as the art of strategic management, and the Panchatantra, an extensive collection of familiar folk tales (Kautilya's Arthashastra and the Panchatrantra: a comparative evaluation, World Affairs: the journal of international issues, 18, 2014, 2).

Dramatic situations from a global perspective

With respect to global governance, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has repeatedly remarked on the "dramatic situations" with which the world is variously faced (Ten years on, Syrian crisis ‘remains a living nightmare’, UN News, March 2021; UN chief laments lack of global solidarity in COVID-19 fight, Euronews, 20 July 2020; Guterres: US, UN partnership 'key' to address world's ills,World Bulletin, 2016)

A focus is given to "dramatic situations" in a EU report (Bordering, Political Landscapes and Social Arenas: Potentials and Challenges of Evolving Border Concepts in a post-Cold War World, Cordis: EU Research Results, #19361013, January 2017):

Executive Summary: Dramatic situations at and around Europe’s borders have become part of everyday life and they trouble us for many reasons. Not only does the steady stream of people seeking safety from violence and a better future remind us daily of the conflict-ridden reality of the world, we are also forced to confront Europe’s own contradictions and failures. The promises of a borderless Europe, a political community built on solidarity and a pan-European liberal open society appear to be succumbing to fear, xenophobia, opportunism and, in some cases, sheer ignorance.  

Emphasis has been given to the term within the UN Commission on Human Rights (56th session 4 April 2000):

The Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, in remarks typical of the debate, said the countries of the South were burdened by external debt, leaving them in dramatic situations of permanent dependence and subordination within the international economic system. 

The term is used from a strategic perspective by Gabriel Gabor and Doina Muresan:

The controversial status of post-conflict reconstruction operations is a tempting invitation for international relations theorists to propose concepts and theories that explain, justify and even interpret very dramatic situations according to the interests the actors involved in the reconstruction want to promote. Hence the diversity of approaches and divergent finalities they propose. (Reflections concerning post-conflict reconstruction ,Strategic Impact, 48, 2013)

Early recognition of the relevance of the term features in the commentary of David Dyzenhaus: Dramatic situations do arise from time to time, in the form of existential challenges to the order—the situations that we term a state of emergency—and in such situations law recedes. In a discussion of Hobbes on the International Rule of Law (Ethics and International Affairs, 28, 2014, 1), Dyzenhaus argues:

Perhaps the most influential passage on the rule of law in international law comes from chapter 13 of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan. In the course of describing the miserable condition of mankind in the state of nature, Hobbes remarks to readers who might be skeptical that such a state ever existed that they need only look to international relations—the relations between independent states—to observe one:

But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a condition of warre one against another; yet in all times, Kings, and Persons of Soveraigne authority, because of their Independency, are in continuall jealousies, and in the state and posture of Gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their Forts, Garrisons, and Guns upon the Frontiers of their Kingdomes; and continuall Spyes upon their neighbours; which is a posture of War.

Dramatic situation is used with respect to economic policy (Patricia Commun, Comparative Cultural Economics Offers Insights into the Current Crisis of Capitalism: path dependencies and anti-capitalism at work, Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs, 12, 2009, Spring):

The problem is that the two largest Western economies (i.e., The United States and Germany) experienced opposite dramatic situations in the past and therefore developed opposite phobias: one taking strong measures to avoid deflation, the other trying to curb state deficit in order to avoid the risk of inflation at any price.

A dramatic perspective is recognized in non-Western regions in a discussion of the Final Battle for the Arab World:

The dispute between Saudi Arabia/United Arab Emirates and Qatar has added major new developments and regional dynamics to existing dramatic situations across the Middle East—especially in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Palestine. Diving deep into any of these situations inevitably leads one to some of the others, confirming again and again the interconnections between the many actors and issues that have generated so much violence and uncertainty in the Arab region. So it might be useful to step back from examining any one conflict and instead simply try to identify larger historical and political patterns that help us understand the players and the issues at stake. (Changing Criminal Policies, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, June 2017)

Far less evident is the meaning to be associated with "dramatic" in the situations faced in the processes of governance. The point may be particularly emphasized by comparison of the cases of Madeleine Albright and Julain Assange, each esteemed as heroes by particular constituencies, although highly deprecated from other perspectives, as noted by Lawrence Davidson (Who Is the Hero? Albright vs. AssangeConsortium News,  28 April 2022). As especially well understood from a dramatic perspective and in folk tales, such contrasting framing is a bias characteristic of the "eyes of beholder" (Proportionate Response in the Eye of the Beholder: educational fables for faith-based global governance, 2006; Facing History and Ourselves, The Eye of the Beholder).

Dramatic situations in narrative and stories -- plus or minus thirty-six?

Thirty-six dramatic situations: Georges Polti became fascinated by an anecdote about Schiller and Goethe seeking  to define the dramatic (“tragic”) situations supposedly discovered by Carlo Gozzi. Polti found exactly thirty-six dramatic situations, many of which have several sub-sections and possible permutations. (The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, 1916).

In 2017, screenwriter Mike Figgis produced a reworked version of Polti’s list of situations (The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, 2017). Although identically titled, it combines several of the original dramatic situations and added two new ones to arrive at that number. Figgis also replaces Polti’s dated examples with new ones drawn from films, offering a more expansive and poetic interpretation of the situations.  Recognition is also now given to the questionably related set of Wycliff Aber Hill (Rebecca Onion, The 37 Basic Plots, According to a Screenwriter of the Silent-Film Era, Slate, 27 October 2015). This appeared in his Manual for Screenwriters: ten million photoplay plots (1919), following Polti's earlier classification. .

There are many references to the set of 36, with different amounts of commentary and interpretation (to which links may be provided), including the following:

Given their exemplification in film, especially noteworthy is the presentation of a film by separate authors, each indicating how it related to one of the dramatic situations (36 Dramatic Situations, Film School Rejects, 2010).

An example of the presentation of the dramatic situations at the personal level is presented below. This raises the question as to the potential analogues at the collective level of relevance to global governance -- who the manner in which those identified below tend to be used as metaphor in the framing of collective situations..

Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations (Changing Minds) with links to details in each case
  1. Supplication
  2. Deliverance
  3. Vengeance of a crime
  4. Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
  5. Pursuit
  6. Disaster
  7. Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune
  8. Revolt
  9. Daring enterprise
  10. Abduction
  11. Enigma
  12. Obtaining
  1. Enmity of kinsmen
  2. Rivalry of kinsmen
  3. Murderous adultery
  4. Madness
  5. Fatal imprudence
  6. Involuntary crimes of love
  7. Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized
  8. Self-sacrificing for an ideal
  9. Self-sacrifice for kindred
  10. All sacrificed for a passion
  11. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
  12. Rivalry of superior and inferior
  1. Adultery
  2. Crimes of love
  3. Discovery of the dishonor of a loved one
  4. Obstacles to love
  5. An enemy loved
  6. Ambition
  7. Conflict with a god
  8. Mistaken jealousy
  9. Erroneous judgment
  10. Remorse
  11. Recovery of a lost one
  12. Loss of loved ones

Types of dramatic plot with global implications?

Of particular value from a global perspective is the manner in which dramatic situations are entangled with conflict -- and thereby inherently interesting, if only in terms of media coverage and newsworthiness (Lyman A. Baker, Dramatic Situation: Conflict, Critical Concepts, 2000).

As described by Wikipedia,

In a literary work, film, or other narrative, the plot is the sequence of events where each affects the next one through the principle of cause-and-effect. The causal events of a plot can be thought of as a series of events linked by the connector "and so". Plots can vary from the simple—such as in a traditional ballad—to forming complex interwoven structures, with each part sometimes referred to as a subplot or imbroglio. Plot is similar in meaning to the term storyline. In the narrative sense, the term highlights important points which have consequences within the story, according to American science fiction writer Ansen Dibell. The term plot can also serve as a verb, referring to either the writer's crafting of a plot (devising and ordering story events), or else to a character's planning of future actions in the story.

There is a degree of overlap between "dramatic situation", "plot" -- and the particular focus of types of folk tale (discussed below). This dates from the  work, first published in Russian in 1928, of Vladimir Propp (Morphology of the Folk Tale, 1968). Propp analyzed the plots used in traditional folk-tales and identified 31 distinct functional components (Jay Massiet, Propp’s Morphology of the Folk-Tale, 3 February 2013).

The distinction as plots by Loren J. Miller (The 36 Plots, 1997) is an example of a presentation which is reflective of the 36 dramatic situations.  

By contrast, a relatively influential set of seven is distinguished by Christopher Booker (The Seven Basic Plots: why we tell stories, 2004). One commentary is provided by Glen C. Strathy (Understanding The Seven Basic Plots  How to Write a Book Now; The Seven...Actually Nine Basic Plots According to Christopher Booker, How to Write a Book Now). This notes an implied extension to nine types, as separately discussed (Glen C. Strathy, Nine Basic Plots According to Christopher Booker).

Various authors have commented on the possibility of a comprehensive classification of plot types (Mark Nichol, Types of Plots, Daily Writing Tips). Thus one blog discusses the The Quest for Universal Plot Types (Daily Writing Tips):

Six Basic Story Shapes Inspired by Vonnegut’s ideas, researchers at the the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Laboratory and others used various tools, including one they call the Hedonometer. Based on what Vonnegut called “emotional arc,” this online tool compares each part of a story by tracking what kind of words dominate it: either words such as “awful punishment poor blame afraid cried hate” or else “happy father garden faith home great laugh.” Graphing the “shapes” of 1,327 books from Project Gutenberg, they found six basic plots.

In that context a checklist is offered of Basic Plot Types (69 of them) in a context indicative of the possibility of 1,462 Basic Plot Types (Daily Writing Tips).

Another set of 20 elements is distinguished by Ronald B. Tobias (20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them, 2012). This describes 20 common story plots and gives much detail on how to construct complete stories around them, as summarized separately (Tobias' 20 Plots, Changing Minds). That number framed a related focus (Jamie Righetti,, et al. The 20 Best Plot Twists of the 21st Century, Ranked, IndieWire, 3 November 2017)

Collective insight from traditional folk tales and fairy tales

As noted above an early stimulus for the clarification of "dramatic situations" has been a focus on folk tales -- and their extension to fairy tales. Vladimir Propp (Morphology of the Folk Tale, 1968). Propp analyzed the plots used in traditional folk-tales and identified 31 distinct functional components (Jay Massiet Propp’s Morphology of the Folk-Tale 3 February 2013).

Such tales continue to  offer allegories descriptive in rhetoric regarding the dynamics of the current global situation -- perhaps exemplified by the compilation of V. S. M. de Guinzbourg (Wit and Wisdom of the United Nations: proverbs and apothegms on diplomacy, Paroemiological Society, 1961). Possibilities include:Entangled Tales of Memetic Disaster: mutual implication of the Emperor and the Little Boy, (2009)

The existence of the extensive Aarne-Thompson-Uther folk tale classification system (abridged as AT or ATU) is usefully and extensively described with examples by Tormod Kinnes (AT Types of Folktales and The Gold Scales; see also a full classification with code, with links to stories within each class). The classification covers 2,500 traditional folk tales, drawing parallels between stories with similar roots across cultures. Their index is divided into 7 broad categories:

  • Animal Tales
  • Tales of Magic
  • Religious Tales
  • Realistic Tales
  • Tales of the Stupid Ogre/Giant/Devil
  • Anecdotes and Jokes
  • Formula Tales

This suggests a complement to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in the identification and comprehension of "memetic disorders", as discussed separately (Memetic and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 2008). Used together, these might prove indicative of the potential for "intelligence failure". The relationship to the set of dramatic situations does not seem to have been extensively explored.

Here are the 31 elements of stories that Propp identified, plus their symbol, interpretations and discussion. Note that some of these functions generally occur in pairs, such as departure and return. They may also be repeated. Few stories contain all elements, but where they do contain elements, they will very largely occur in the sequence given here.

31 Narratemes of Vladimir Propp
as presented in Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale (Changing Minds)
1st Sphere: Introduction 2nd Sphere: The Body of the story 3rd Sphere: The Donor Sequence 4th Sphere: The Hero’s return
  1. Absentation: Someone goes missing
  2. Interdiction: Hero is warned
  3. Violation of interdiction
  4. Reconnaissance: Villain seeks something
  5. Delivery: The villain gains information
  6. Trickery: Villain attempts to deceive victim
  7. Complicity: Unwitting helping of the enemy
  1. Villainy and lack: The need is identified
  2. Mediation: Hero discovers the lack
  3. Counteraction: Hero chooses positive action
  4. Departure: Hero leave on mission
  1. Testing: Hero is challenged to prove heroic qualities
  2. Reaction: Hero responds to test
  3. Acquisition: Hero gains magical item
  4. Guidance: Hero reaches destination
  5. Struggle: Hero and villain do battle
  6. Branding: Hero is branded
  7. Victory: Villain is defeated
  8. Resolution: Initial misfortune or lack is resolved
  1. Return: Hero sets out for home
  2. Pursuit: Hero is chased
  3. Rescue: pursuit ends
  4. Arrival: Hero arrives unrecognized
  5. Claim: False hero makes unfounded claims
  6. Task: Difficult task proposed to the hero
  7. Solution: Task is resolved
  8. Recognition: Hero is recognised
  9. Exposure: False hero is exposed
  10. Transfiguration: Hero is given a new appearance
  11. Punishment: Villain is punished
  12. Wedding: Hero marries and ascends the throne

A more extensive commentary on each of the stages is given with respect to their functions in the Wikipedia entry on Propp. This is supplemented by a checklist of 7 abstract character functions into which all the characters in tales could be resolved.  

Of considerable relevance, as cited above, is a degree of recognition of the relevance of folk tales to strategic management of resources Pradeep Kumar Gautam ( Kautilya's Arthashastra and the Panchatrantra: a comparative evaluation, World Affairs: the journal of international issues, 18, 2014, 2). The Arthashastra  is an Ancient Indian Sanskrit treatise on statecraftpolitical scienceeconomic policy and military strategy (Mala Chandrashekhar, Arthashastra of Chanakya (Kautilya) : Ancient India’s Treatise on the ‘Science of Wealth’ and ‘State Administration’ The Cultural Heritage of India, 26 May 2021; Kadambari Rana, Art and science of resource management, The Hindu, 7 March 2021).

The Panchatantra is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose, arranged within a frame story. The surviving work is dated to about 200 BCE, but the fables are likely much more ancient. It is likely a Hindu text, and based on older oral traditions with "animal fables that are as old as we are able to imagine". It is "certainly the most frequently translated literary product of India", and these stories are among the most widely known in the world. It goes by many names in many cultures. There is a version of Panchatantra in nearly every major language of India, and in addition there are 200 versions of the text in more than 50 languages around the world. One version reached Europe in the 11th century.

Story archetypes and character archetypes

As described by Fija Callaghan 

Story archetypes are recognizable patterns in a story’s plot and structure that are repeatedly found in stories across time, cultures, and beliefs. Many religious stories and creation myths fall into these archetypes; so do our most beloved works of literature. Story archetypes work because they reflect real human experience: the things we strive for, the things we dream of, and the things we fear (What Are Story Archetypes? The Ultimate Guide with 50+ Examples Scribophile)

The author distinguishes between Is two major kinds of archetypes: story archetypes and character archetypes:

From that perspective, Callaghan indicates as "the ultimate list of story archetypes":

As these imply, it is well recognized that there are (unfortunately) many approaches to such clusterings of plots, as mentioned by Cecil Adams (What are the seven basic literary plots? The Straight Dope, 24 November 2000) and by David Edgar (How Plays Work, 2009). A 12- volume compilation was produced (Frank Northen Magill, et al., Masterplots: 1,801 plot stories and critical evaluations of the world's finest literature, 1976/1996). The challenge of any taxonomical approach has been argued separately (Taxonomies of dramatic situations, 2009).

Variously appreciated sets include (see convenient listing):

As Jon Adams indicates these might be considered as variously aspiring to be an artistic version of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. However, in the light of the history of the evolution of that table, the various proposals might be understood as particular "takes" or understandings of a complex underlying pattern of periodicity that continues to be a focus of exploration in the relevant sciences (J. W. van Spronsen, The Periodic System of Chemical Elements; a history of the first hundred years, 1969; Eric R. Scerri, The Periodic Table: its story and its significance, 2006). The potential of such a pattern is explored separately (Periodic Pattern of Human Knowing: implication of the Periodic Table as metaphor of elementary order, 2009).

The question is whether these enable a richer understanding of the relation between "us" and "them" -- if an attempt was made to describe the dynamics of such relationships as a form of narrative, rather than being locked into a binary box (Us and Them: Relating to Challenging Others: patterns in the shadow dance between "good" and "evil", 2009). No classic western, or other good-guy/bad-guy movie, would get away with the simplifications of discourse through which the political conflicts of the current period are articulated. Represented as such, they are indeed inherently boring. There is only so much the media can do to sustain interest (and ratings) with framing the good guys as purely angelic and the bad guys as unredeemably demonic. According to the distinction of Aristotle, this can only then be seen as either tragedy or comedy -- if not a tragi-comedy.

Navigating the chaos associated with the dramatic situations of global governance

Global chaos has given rise to to chaos theory. This is an interdisciplinary scientific theory and branch of mathematics focused on underlying patterns and deterministic laws highly sensitive to initial conditions in dynamical systems that were thought to have completely random states of disorder and irregularities. It is deemed especially appropriate to engaging with complex systems. Of some relevance is the related discipline of catastrophe theory, with the insight it offers into catastrophes -- "dramatic situations" par excellence.

For Jian-Qiao Sun and Albert C. J. Luo:

In the theory of nonlinear dissipative systems, one often studies bifurcation phenomena as a single control parameter is varied. The most dramatic situations are so-called crises, namely the collision of a chaotic attractor with an unstable periodic orbit following the notation of Grebogi et al. (1983, 1986), in which a chaotic attractor undergoes a sudden discontinuous change. Of special interest are the mechanisms that induce crises. Two different kinds of crises are distinguished. A chaotic attractor can suddenly disappear due to a boundary crisis or change in size due to an interior crisis (Global Analysis of Nonlinear Dynamics, Springer, 2012, p. 76)

Unfortunately, given the crisis of crises with which governance is increasingly faced, it is quite unclear whether these disciplines are proving adequate to the challenges now confronted -- whether recognized or denied (a systemic factor in its own right). In this light it is appropriate to explore the extent to which strategic thinking is able to draw on collective insights formulated otherwise -- and valued over millennia. The question is partially highlighted by the intuitive approach purportedly characteristic of generals in conflict situations (Tony d'Andrea, Strategic Thinking Under Chaotic Conditions: the "General’s Glance" beyond analysis and intuition (18 August 2019).

A degree of consideration is indeed given to the application of chaos theory in the social sciences and in "real life" (Ashley Crossman, Chaos Theory. ThoughtCo, 27 August 2020), The possibility of designing more appropriate organizations is envisaged  (Paul Millerd, Integrating Chaos: Building Resilient Organizations with Chaos Theory, Boundless; Understanding and Leading Change, a chaos theory perspective, Organizational Change, 3 April  2010). Implications for politics are considered (Robert Tracinski, Political Chaos Theory, The Bulwark, 18 July 2019). Its potential relevance to management has been articulated (Jason Gordon, Chaos Theory of Management Explained, The Business Professor, 8 April 2022)

However it is difficult to trace successful applications to governance and especially to global governance (Joshua Chambers, Chaos theory: how are governments adapting to tackle "wicked problems"? Civil Service Reform, 19 May 2015; Paul Taylor, How chaos theory is changing management tech, BCS, 5 August 2021).

Do intergovernmental institutions like the United Nations acclaim the benefits of chaos theory in responding to dramatic situations? Do the following have any current impact on international relations?

The interrelation between chaos and "dramatic situations" has been explored to a degree by Tom Steppared as noted by John Fleming ("It’s wanting to know that makes us matter": epistemological and dramatic issues in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Miranda, 8, 2013). In his plays Stoppard likes to employ "dramatic situations" where "bizarre elements [are] empirically proven to have much more natural explanations" . Rather than "the championing of epistemological pessimism"

For Ronald Schrantz Complexity at Work, Brunswick Review, 16, 2018):

The principle of complex systems with interconnected elements working together to solve problems is the standard approach for emergency units, including first responders, medical intensive care and industrial incident units as well as corporate crisis management teams. These groups are empowered to self-manage in unpredictable situations within a range of predefined skills and roles. The potential of such complex organization becomes very visible when addressing dramatic situations, saving lives and controlling damage.

Such language, whilst technically to be admired, helps to make the point that chaos theory takes little account of the psychological issues of communicating with a wider public expected to blindly accept the strategic appreciation of experts -- who may themselves have limited understanding of the efficacy of what they are recommending. There is a fundamental disconnect to be addressed -- one effectively denied by chaos theorists.

Collective analogues to 36 dramatic interpersonal situations

It is of course the case that Polti's set of dramatic situations is presented and cited as a means of clarifying the pattern of interpersonal dynamics which feature so prominently in narrative, drama and in the media. As a pattern, the situations may well be used to exemplify collective dynamics, although this is not the emphasis in their description. The question is then how the collective implications might be rendered more explicit. Allegory and metaphor are notable in drawing on interpersonal dynamics to frame collective relationships.

One approach, following from chaos theory and complexity theory -- given their intimate relation to systems thinking -- is the unusual articulation offered by the organization theorist, Russell Ackoff, a pioneer in the field of operations research, systems thinking and management science (Ackoff's Fables: Irreverent Reflections on Business and Bureaucracy, 1991). The management sciences now recognizes the value of business fables as being a motivational fable, parable or other fictional story that shares a lesson or lessons that are intended to be applied in the business world with the aim to improve the organizational culture. (Niki Giankaris, Fables in the Boardrooom: seven tales of strategic success, Drexel University, 23 September 2013; Nicki Hayes, 7 Leadership Fables Every Leader and Manager Should Read, Professional Academy), Presentations of fables by Stanislaw Lem offer links to Wikipedia (The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age, Penguin, 2014)

Curiously however there seems to be no systematic approach by systems theorists to the pattern of fables and the lessons they offer for dramatic situations -- especially those of a collective nature. The focus is anecdotal and interpersonal in emphasis, notably in the quest for memorability. As noted by Nicolas Szilas, dramatic situations and the related notion of deep narrative structures have been overlooked in the domain of computational models of narrative (Modeling and representing dramatic situations as paradoxical structures, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities,  32, 2017, 2).

The set of 36 dramatic situations invites reinterpretation in the light of its strategic significance for collectives -- whether nation states, regions (North-South; East-West) or other groups. In the following table the elaboration of Polti's distinction in the Wikipedia entry is used to trigger consideration of a collective equivalent in systemic terms.

Implication of the 36 dramatic situations for global relationships?
  Interpersonal significance Collective significance (exploratory exercise)
  • Supplication: a persecutor; a suppliant; a power in authority, whose decision is doubtful.
Appeals by countries or groups made to the international community for aid or assistance
  • Deliverance: the unfortunate has caused a conflict, and the threatener is to carry out justice, but the rescuer saves the unfortunate
Remedial action and relief provided to countries or groups, irrespective of the degree to which they are considered responsible for their situation
  • Crime pursued by vengeance: the criminal commits a crime that will not see justice, so the avenger seeks justice by punishing the criminal
Strategic initiatives of states, framed as righteous, despite being outside the framework of international law (Vietnam War, Invasion of Iraq, Invasion of Ukraine)
  • Vengeance taken for kin upon kin
  • Pursuit: the fugitive flees punishment for a misunderstood conflict
Misunderstood pursuit following involvement of Interpol
  • Disaster: the vanquished power falls from their place after being defeated by the victorious enemy or being informed of such a defeat by the messenger
  • Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune: the unfortunate suffers from misfortune and/or at the hands of the master
Unfortunate consequences of hegemonic strategies
  • Revolt: the tyrant, a cruel power, is plotted against by the conspirator
Characteristic reaction to authoritarianism, collective oppression and hegemony
  • Daring enterprise: the bold leader takes the object from the adversary by overpowering the adversary
Successful revolt by freedom fighters?
  • Abduction: the abductor takes the abducted from the guardian
Forms of extradition
  • Enigma: the interrogator poses a problem to the seeker and gives a seeker better ability to reach the seeker's goals
Strategic dilemmas?
  • Obtaining: an arbitrator decides who gets the object desired by opposing parties
Successful competition for aid and relief funding
  • Enmity of kinsmen
Implicit hostility between allies
  • Rivalry of kinsmen
Rivalry between allies
  • Murderous adultery
Collective conspiracy to attack an erstwhile ally
  • Madness
Condition attributed to global leaders. their action and the support they elicit
  • Fatal imprudence
Imprudent strategy in the light of the Precautionary Principle
  • Involuntary crimes of love
Mistaken forms of collective assistance and remedial action
  • Slaying of an unrecognized kinsman
Unrecognized undermining of an ally
  • Self-sacrificing for an ideal
Strategic pursuit of principles irrespective of collective cost to the population
  • Self-sacrifice for kindred
Collective sacrifice in support of an ally
  • All sacrificed for a passion
Collective sacrifice in pursuit of belief or ideology
  • Necessity of sacrificing beloved
Strategic situations exemplified by the trolley problem
  • Rivalry of superior and inferior
Assymetric conflict between nation states
  • Adultery
Breaches of international agreement, possibly engaged in secret
  • Crimes of love
Breaches of international norms in support of an alliance
  • Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
Exemplified by the scandal between states following Wikileaks disclosures
  • Obstacles to love
Obstacles to strategic alliance, exemplified by aspirations to EU or NATO membership
  • An enemy loved
Exemplified by ambiguity in attraction of states and groups to the USA
  • Ambition
Aspiration of states to "Being Great Again"
  • Conflict with a god
Strategic conflict with religious principles
  • Mistaken jealousy
Mistaken appreciation of the consumer society by those with higher quality of life
  • Erroneous judgment
Exemplified by invasion of Iraq and assumptions regarding success in Afghanistan
  • Remorse
Collective sentiment with regard to massacres, as with the Holocaust
  • Recovery of a lost one
Strategic efforts to recover alienated former allies
  • Loss of loved ones
Alienation of allies

Narrative visualization as a discipline

There are many approaches to narrative and its visualization as most usefully reviewed by Cameron Edmond and Tomasz Bednarz (Three Trajectories for Narrative Visualisation, Visual Informatics, 5, 2021, 2). They recognize that narrative and visualization often remain independent elements within visualizations. As the authors argue:

Narrative Visualisation (NarVis) is the pairing of data visualisation with narrative techniques. Due to its interdisciplinary applications and scholarship, NarVis presentations often feature vastly different interpretations of “narrative” and “visualisation”, which is echoed in NarVis authoring tools. To map the morphology of how the narratives of NarVis manifest, we identify three different trajectories for the field.

Having clarified the issues relating to the confusing variety of understandings of "narrative", the authors conclude:

Through our analysis, we conclude that the NarVis discipline has begun a journey down three different paths. In the case of leading narratives, the traditional narrative remains intact... including characterisation and metaphor. However, where the leading narrative offers potential for NarVis authors is in its ability to turn abstract objects into characters. This approach to narrative embraces visualisation and allows the weaving of tales about concepts and movements not otherwise possible. In addition, the leading narrative may also allow the author themselves to take on a sort of character, becoming the narrator of their own journey through the data.

By contrast, integrated narratives take a far more transformative stance towards the narrative, mapping traditional narrative techniques to data visualisation methods. In doing so, the integrated narrative creates a new vocabulary of narrative, while retaining all the benefits that come with the narrative form. In the integrated narrativethe subjects become more abstract, with the data itself taking on a sort of characterisation.

Finally, the supporting narrative offers a different interpretation of narrative completely. The supporting narrative does not concern itself with following narrative convention or adopting any of its techniques. Instead, the narrative simply becomes one of the many tools for the data visualiser to use, placed alongside highlighting, graphs and more. The supporting narrative is often designed not to weave a good tale, but instead simply to express data in an understandable and accessible manner.

It is appropriate to note that the many valuable references made by the authors include the work of Vladimir Propp (Morphology of the Folktale, 1968) but not that of the more widely cited Georges Polti (The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, 1916). This suggests that the understanding of narrative and its visualization somehow excludes the dramatic focus valued in the classification of Polti -- even though aspects are taken into account to some degree. More puzzling is the manner in which the challenges of memorability are seemingly ignored by the developing discipline.

By contrast a distinctive approach is developed with respect to discourse analysis and its visualization, however this may be understood as the relationsip between narratives (Cóstin-Gabriel Chiru, A Tool for Discourse Analysis and Visualization and Stefan Trausan-Matu, International Journal of Virtual Communities and Social Networking (IJVCSN), 5, 2013, 2).

A useful analogue through which to frame such questions of narrative and discourse is the widespread appreciation of football. There is of course a narrative about football and it engenders a vast amount of discourse. The teams (and their supporters) could be said to cultivate their respective narratives with which they strongly identify. The encounters between teams could be understood as a form of discourse -- and the focus of extensive visualization.

Another perspective is offered by the analysis of games and players, and especially of so-cslled passing patterns, which may or may not feature in the visualization. An increasing amount of technology is applied to tracking ball movement in order to improve team performance. To what extent is such analysis valued by those who engage in the narrative and the discourse? Does the perspective acquire legitimacy through any discipline of narratology engendering a metanarrative or a metadiscourse perspective?

Such issues acquire another dimension through the extensive exploration of the capacity of computers to create poetry and more recently humour (Corinne Purtill, Artificial Intelligence Can Now Craft Original Jokes-  and that’s no laughing matter, Time, 4 January 2022; It's No Joke: AI Beats Humans At Making You Laugh, Forbes, 30 Apr 2020l; Tony Veale, When will humorous AIs press our buttons with their jokes? Aeon, 25 April 2022).

Given the increasingly widespread appreciation of the relevance of artificial intelligence to governance, it is most curious to note the potential relevance of an unusual modelling initiative (Alex Woodie ‘Deep-Speare’ Emulates the Bard with AIDatanami, 1 August 2018; Jey Han Lau, Trevor Cohn, Timothy Baldwin, Julian Brooke, and Adam Hammond. Deep-speare: A joint neural model of poetic language, meter and rhymeProceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Long Papers), 2018). The approach has been summarized by the authors as This AI Poet Mastered Rhythm, Rhyme, and Natural Language to write like Shakespeare (IEEE Spectrum, 30 April 2020). It suggests a means of transforming alienating articulations of global strategy into attractive memorable form characterized by higher orders of coherence, as discussed separately (Potential for Coherence through Engaging Strategic Poetry, 2021).

Memorable systemic organization of dramatic situations and folk wisdom?

Mnemonic devices: The current tendency is to engage with any new crisis as it emerges as a "dramatic situation" -- potentially to be acclaimed as unexpected and inexplicable --  namely as a Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007).

The question here is rather whether any such situation can be recognized as embedded in a reasonably familiar pattern providing a valuable context grounded comprehensibly in collective memory. In conventional terms this is only framed as emergency preparedeness. However there is a case for framing a dramatic situation as characteristic of a dramatic development, then to be understood quite otherwise and especially from an aesthetic perspective. Use of "tragedy" on such occasions is indicative of recognition of the relevance of appreciation of an aesthetic dimension -- "tragedy" being merely one stage in a dramatic process..

However, rather than "tragedy" alone, the question is whether it is possible to "re-cognize" and name a set of 36 situations (for example) potentially relevant to strategic engagement with a crisis -- enabled by popular understanding.

The possibility can be framed in terms of the necessary articulation of mnemonic aids to trigger appreciation of dramatic patterns -- in contrast with abstract systemic perspectives -- as argued separately (Time for Provocative Mnemonic Aids to Systemic Connectivity? Possibilities of reconciling the "headless hearts" to the "heartless heads", 2018).

What mnemonic devices enable a complex of 36 dramatic situations to be presented succinctly and rendered memorable? Of relevance in this respect is the quantitative challenge to overloaded memory, as clarified separately (Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization, 2014). The set of 36 dramatic situations is well beyond what is readily memorable.

Edge mapping on polyhedra: The following exercises illustrate the use of polyhedral forms to hold the 36 dramatic situations distinctively. The attribution of situations to the forms if however arbitrary in anticipation of the possibility that the forms facilitate systemic insights into a more appropriate positioning.

Stella Octangula: One approach is to transform the list of 36 disparate dramatic situations, so extensively referenced as a list, onto the 36 edges of a singular form as shown below (using what is otherwise known as the stellated octahedron). The value of the polyhedron shown derives in part from the manner in which it constitutes a version of the Star of David in 3D, as discussed separately (Richer pattern of significance through complexification of the Star of David? 2017). The relative positioning of the dramatic situations is arbitrary (and merely indicative) in this exercise -- in anticipation of careful consideration of any memorable positioning in the light of dramatic and systemic factors.

Animations indicative of allocation of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 edges of Stella Octangula
(36 edges; 24 faces; 14 vertices)
Solid faced Faces transparent With great circles
Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 edges of Stella Octangula Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 edges of Stella Octangula Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 edges of Stella Octangula
Animations above (and below) prepared with the aid of Stella Polyhedron Navigator

The transformation of the images above into their geometrically dual form below is one indication of how representation of a dramatic complex might be totally transformed -- with vertices becoming faces, and faces becoming vertices -- whilst the number of edges remains constant.

Animations indicative of allocation of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 edges of dual of Stella Octangula
(36 edges; 14 faces; 24 vertices)
Solid faced Faces transparent With great circles
Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 edges of dual of Stella Octangula Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 edges of dual of Stella Octangula Mapping of 36 dramatic situations oonto 36 edges of dual of Stella Octangula

Archimedean polyhedra: Two of the 13 Archimedean polyhedra have 36 edges and can be used in a similar manner to the above.

Indicative animations of mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto edges of Archimedean polyhedra
Truncated cube
36 edges; 14 faces; 24 vertices
Truncated cube (dual)
36 edges; 24 faces; 14 vertices
Truncated octahedron
36 edges; 14 faces; 24 vertices

Truncated octahedron (dual)
36 edges; 24 faces; 14 vertices

Mapping of 36 dramatic situations on edges of truncated cube Mapping of 36 dramatic situations on edges of dual of truncated cube Mapping of 36 dramatic situations on edges of truncated octahedron Mapping of 36 dramatic siutations on edges of dual of truncated octahedron

Vertex mapping on Leonardo Octahedron: One alternative approach is to map the 36 dramatic situations onto the 36 vertices of a memorable polyhedron like the Leonardo Octahedron, as variously depicted below, and discussed separately (George W. Hart, Leonardo da Vinci's Polyhedra, Virtual Polyhedra, 1999).

Animations indicative of allocation of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 vertices of Leonardo Octahedron
(96 edges; 48 faces; 36 vertices)
Solid faced Faces transparent Transparent with great circles
Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 vertices  of Leonardo Octahedron Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 vertices  of Leonardo Octahedron Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 vertices  of Leonardo Octahedron

Curiously, and potentially of mnemonic value in contrasting the edge-mapping with the vertex-mapping, the dual of the Stella Octangula offers a similar appearance to the dual of the Leonardo Octahedron as shown below. In the latter case however, the transformation to the dual then associates the 36-fold vertex mapping with the 36 faces of the dual in a manner which does not allow them to be indicated on the complex internal geometry of the dual.

Animations indicative of allocation of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 faces of dual of Leonardo Octahedron
(96 edges; 36 faces; 48 vertices)
Solid faced Faces transparent With a selected face-type transparent
Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 faces of dual of Leonardo Octahedron Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 faces of dual of Leonardo Octahedron Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 faces of dual of Leonardo Octahedron

Face-mapping on 3-Frequency Tetrahedral Geodesic Sphere: Using one of the very few polyhedra with a set of 36 visible faces, the dramatic situations can be mapped onto it as shown below left. The faces can be unfolded into a network as shown in the central image in which the 3 face-types are distinctively coloured. The animation on the right offers an interesting perspective on how the set of dramatic situations might be "unfolded" and "folded" together.

Animations indicative of allocation of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 faces of 3-Frequency Tetrahedral Geodesic Sphere
(54 edges; 36 faces; 20 vertices)
Solid faced Unfolded network of faces Folding and Unfolding
Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 faces of 3-Frequency Tetrahedral Geodesic Sphere Mapping of 36 dramatic situations onto 36 faces of unfolded 3-Frequency Tetrahedral Geodesic Sphere Animation of folding/unfolding of 36 dramatic situations mapped onto 36 faces of 3-Frequency Tetrahedral Geodesic Sphere

Configuring patterns of "wisdom" consistent with this approach: Other sets of insights have evoked the possibilities of such an approach, with relevant images and animations in 3D.

One classic set is composed of 48 fundamental koans of Zen Buddhism, known as the The Gateless Gate. A koan can be usefully recognized as a form of dramatic situation, at least in cognitive terms. Appropriate to the associated paradoxes and dilemmas, the set is also recognized as a barrier (Robert Aitken, The Gateless Barrier, 1991). (Configuring a Set of Zen Koan as a Wisdom Container: formatting the Gateless Gate for Twitter, 2012).

Another traditional set of particular interest, because of its degree of articulation, is the pattern of 64 conditions of change known as the I Ching -- each condition being indicative of a strategic dilemma whether understood personally or collectively (Framing Cognitive Space for Higher Order Coherence: toroidal interweaving from I Ching to supercomputers and back? 2019).

Toroidal framing of narrative as container for a cycle of dramatic situations

Potentially of considerable relevance to the quest for greater insight into the pattern of dramatic situations from a global perspective is the preference of many for the experience of narrative as a contrast to any systemic perspective. The latter is then readily held to detract from the story and its interest as a source of excitement and surprise for the listener/spectator. As a story the narrative is a journey of discovery to an important degree. The story teller, as with those crafting a narrative, may also resist any initiative which undermines their particularly valued role in relation to the audience.

For the audience, the potential surprises in the development of the story evoke a valued sense of anticipation -- even if it is told many times. For the story-teller the art lies in part in ensuring the elements of the story remain (provisionally) "under the radar" or "over the horizon". This may be understood in relation to a daily news cycle, the narrative has to be sustained by a daily drip of snippets -- as is only too evident in the case of propaganda relating to the operation in Ukraine.

Further clarification is required as to how the success of major aesthetic achievements "work" when defined as a cycle or a ring -- as with opera cycles.

Circumferential tori: Of notable interest to the argument are the animations above indicating the association of particular edges or vertices with great circles circumscribing the polyhedron or its dual. Each such cycle, as a journey, can be understood as a torus -- a circular tunnel -- through which experience is moved as the story develops. A torus also reinforces the sense in which the narrative is a form of container of experience for the duration of the story. There is the further sense that at any particular time in the journey, the attractive dynamics of the story function as a form of vortex for attention -- dynamically resisting dissociation from the narrative by which attention is held.

To the extent that people and groups structure their lives through stories, there is a case for exploring "toroidal living", as discussed separately (Imagining Toroidal Life as a Sustainable Alternative: from globalization to toroidization or back to flatland? 2019).

One exploration of relevance to that perspective is that offered by the screenshots of the animations below. The narrative as a toroidal container (in blue below) can be represented as experienced at any particular moment by a second torus (in red) circulating within it. This torus functions as an attention vortex -- deriving information from the container and pulling it into the centre. The relative rotations of the blue and red tori are effectively interlocked (although this is relatively difficult to see, even in the wireframe versions).

Cycle of narrative experience represented by a red vortex
Partially transparent rendering of containing narrative Wireframe rendering of containing narrative
Partially transparent rendering of containing narrative Wireframe rendering of containing narrative

The narrative can be understood as having phases, stages, or dramatic situations, indicated on the left below from a polar perspective as 10 separations (rather than a larger set). An alternative design metaphor can be used for the experiential perspective -- an approximation to a cardioid form in 3D, as discussed separately (Cognitive heart dynamics framed by two tori in 3D, 2016; Fearful attraction of a hole, 2016; Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability, 2005). In the second image from the left the separations are shown as transparent disks within a wire frame rendering of the torus.

Reverting to the vortex form above, the succession of experiences of dramatic situations (cognitive crises) can be represented using the classic Zen 10 ox-herding images -- given the absence of any recognized depictions of the set of dramatic situationsUse of those images was the focus of a previous toroidal presentation (Zen of Facticity: Bull, Ox or Otherwise? Herding facts and their alternatives in a post-truth-era, 2017; Phases in the "Re-cognition" of "Bull" according to Zen? Experimental attribution of significance to traditional distinctions, 2017). The adapation is represented in the animations on the right.

Use of alternative design metaphors for cyclic experience of dramatic situations
Polar view of story stages Toroidal container of story stages Zen Ox-herding stages Toroidal container of story stages
Polar view of story stages Toroidal container of stages Zen Ox-herding stages Toroidal container of story stages

More speculative animations regarding the relationship between the narrative and the experience of it are presented below. Those on the left have the toroidal pattern within the cardiod pattern. Those on the right have the two tori interlocked -- the narrative and the experience of it (Cognitive osmosis through topological eversion and interlocking tori -- framing outside-inside otherwise, 2017).

Alternative design metaphors indicative of more complex engagement of the perceiver with the narrative
Cardioid as container for a toroidal narrative Interlocking tori: narrative and perceiver
Cardioid as container for a toroidal narrative Cardioid as container for a toroidal narrative Dynamics of interlocking tori Dynamic virtual reality model of intertwined tori

As triggers for imagination and discussion, regarding the experience of dramaticc sitations in a narrative, the animations lend themselves to various modifications and improvements, notably with respect to orientation, rate of rotation, direction of rotation, relative transparency, and colour. Some of the variationd are necessarily less satisfactory on web pages. As 3D images, most are best experienced and manipulated in virtual reality.

Interrelating global cycles of dramatic situations

Global systemic forces? The polyhedra indicated above are variously a potential source of insight into ways of thinking about the forces engendering dramatic situations as illustrated by the animations below. The alternatives invite discussion as to whether it is the edges the drama is engendered by the edges (as "red lines"?), , by the faces (as "tectonic plates"?), or by the vertices (as critical points or "tipping points"?).

Alternative perspetives on forces potentially engendering dramatic sistuations
Stella octangula (un)folding
36 edges; 24 faces; 14 vertices

3-Frequency tetrahedral geodesic sphere
(alternating between 2 conditions)
24 edges; 36 faces;  20 vertices

Leonardo octahedron (un)folding
96 edges; 48 faces; 36 vertices
Stella octangula (un)folding 3-Frequency tetrahedral geodesic sphere  alternating between 2 conditions Leonardo octahedron (un)folding

12-sided "table" in 3D: One exercise to that end could be formulated in terms of Increasing the dimensionality of the archetypal Round Table? (2018). That possibility was explored in terms of envisaging a 12-sided (dodecagonal) table in 3D. Given the dramatic implications of the traditional 12-sided Round Table, consideration can be given to a dodecagonal table and its projection into 3D -- and what this might then imply for enhanced modes of discourse.

The following animations of unusual polyhedra, derived by further truncation from the truncated cube, were discovered in relation to the communication implications of great circles in connection with different polyhedra (Framing Cyclic Revolutionary Emergence of Opposing Symbols of Identity, 2017). However, in order to reproduce that configuration so as to explore the great circle process, it proved necessary to construct in 3D a cubic arrangement of dodecagonal faces (right-hand image below).

Animations of variants of truncated cube with dodecagonal faces Framework of dodecagonal faces
Animations of variants of truncated cube with dodecagonal faces Animations of variants of truncated cube with dodecagonal faces 3D Framework of dodecagonal faces
Reproduced with permission from The Truncated Cube, with Two Variations Featuring Regular Dodecagons (RobertLovesPi's blog, 2016) Constructed by use of Stella Polyhedron Navigator and X3D-Edit

Given the importance conventionally accorded to a 12-fold patterns of dialogue, most notably in round tables of the wise and in juries, the question explored by the great circle process was the potentially implied pattern of interactions. Three sets of 12 great circles were therefore applied to the dodecagonal framework. This was done as a possible prelude to introducing a 12-fold helical pattern as discussed in relation to the Triple Helix model of innovation and suggestions for a Quadruple and Quintuple variants (Embedding the triple helix in a spherical octahedron, Embedding the quadruple helix in a spherical cube, Embedding the quintuple helix in a spherical dodecahedron and a Pentagramma Mirificum, 2017).

The more complex variants necessarily address strategic issues of greater complexity (Elias Carayannis and David F. J. Campbell, Triple Helix, Quadruple Helix and Quintuple Helix and How Do Knowledge, Innovation and the Environment Relate To Each Other? International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development, 1, 2012).

As indicated below, the 36 great circles create a complex interweaving pattern in their own right, possibly precluding addition of helical patterns (or implying them in some way). As to any emergent symbol, this might be better understood as taking a 3D form (rather than 2D, as in the cases above). Given that any of the Kepler-Poinsot star polyhedra could be considered too complex, a better symbol might be the 8-vertex compound of two tetrahedra (otherwise known as Stella Octangula), and discussed separately with respect to the Merkabah as a 3D variant of the Star of David (Framing Global Transformation through the Polyhedral Merkabah: neglected implicit cognitive cycles in viable complex systems, 2017).

Successive addition of 36 great circles to dodecagonal-faced cubic framework (above-right)
Application of 1st set of 12 great circles Application of 2nd set of 12 great circles Application of 3rd set of 12 great circles
36 great circles to dodecagonal-faced cubic framework 36 great circles to dodecagonal-faced cubic framework 36 great circles to dodecagonal-faced cubic framework
36 great circles to dodecagonal-faced cubic framework 36 great circles to dodecagonal-faced cubic framework 36 great circles to dodecagonal-faced cubic framework
Patterns dynamically combining red / green / blue circles are shown in the animation. Interactive 3D versions: x3d; wrl/vrml. Video: mp4 (7mb)

Use of a dodecagonal-faced truncated cube pattern is especially interesting for mapping purposes in that 72 edges are subtended by the 36 great circles. However 8 of these edges are associated with two great circles, offering 64 edges for distinctive mapping. A further 24 edges are excluded from this encirclement. The pattern of 72 edges recalls the traditional symbols articulated as the contrasting qualities of the angelic order on the one hand, and the demonic order on the other, as discussed separately (Engaging with Hyperreality through Demonique and Angelique? Mnemonic clues to global governance from mathematical theology and hyperbolic tessellation, 2016; Variety of System Failures Engendered by Negligent Distinctions: mnemonic clues to 72 modes of viable system failure from a demonic pattern language, 2016).

Structurally consistent with the 3D structure of the dodecagonal configuration (based on the truncated cube) is that of the drilled truncated cube (discussed above), unique in its pattern of 64 edges (Proof of concept: use of drilled truncated cube as a mapping framework for 64 elements, 2015). As discussed there, this offers a 3D mapping surface for the 64 distinctions made by the I Ching encoding or the genetic codon combinations.

Interrelating ways of looking at dramatic situations

Ways of looking? The stated purpose of this exercise is to clarify the mish-mash of ways in which dramatic situations may be perceived. In terms of goverrnanc, this was previously explored in  Interrelating Multiple Ways of Looking at a Crisis (2021). From an aesthetic perspective, that was itself partially inspired by the much-cited poem of Wallace Stevens (Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, 1917). As might be expected, that framing has been variously applied to drama tic forms

The exercise above noted, amongst others:

Related insights? In terms of "ways of looking" how then are these to be interrelated to offer a sense of coherence from the perspective of global governance? What are the proponents of such different sets "seeing" -- and "ignoring"? The polyhedral mapping approach could be understood as exemplifying a particular way of seeing -- potentially alienating to those who appreciate drama as a form of embodiment that is not entrapped in an analytic mindset.

As indicated, the polyhedral approach offers a way of mapping different patterns of distinctions. The question is then whether it offers a means of interrelating them. How does one navigate from a 7-fold pattern to a 36-fold pattern, or to a 20-fold pattern, for example? A related approach offers some guidance in that respect, namely the study of seven "axes of bias" by the philosopher W. T. Jones (The Romantic Syndrome: toward a new method in cultural anthropology and the history of ideas, 1961) -- presented in comparison with other studies of ways of looking (Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993).

Selective attention? From a polyhedral perspective, what is being "seen" by the proponents of each case: the "edges" of a drama, the "vertices", the "axes", or the "faces" -- or the "great circles"? Does a crisis for governance have all of these, with some necessity to interrelate the perspectives they variously offer, as separately explored (Engaging with Globality -- through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes, 2009)?

Also of relevance is whether the particular focus on drama precludes due consideration of one or other aspect of the drama, exemplified by the focus of the examples above: "plots", "situations". "story lines", "narratives". How for example do the "seven basic plots: relate to insight into recognition of the "seven elementary catastrophes" articulated from a topological perspective by René Thom  -- who also had an interest in its relevance to dance (Structural Stability and Morphogenesis, 1972).

A similar question could be asked of the 20-fold pattern of most efficacious basic plots -- as it might be understood within a more general context (Requisite 20-fold Articulation of Operative Insights? Checklist of web resources on 20 strategies, rules, methods and insights, 2018; Memetic Analogue to the 20 Amino Acids as vital to Psychosocial Life? 2015).

Stratagems? With respect to the pattern of 36 dramatic situations, and especially from a governance perspective in this period, how might this relate to the Chinese insight into 36 stratagems, s a unique collection of ancient Chinese proverbs that describe some of the most cunning and subtle war tactics, presented metaphorically as "luring the tiger":

Traditional symbolic articulations? The set of strategems could be understood as an instance of a traditional articulation of a 36-fold pattern. In addition to that Chinese example, others are noted by Wikipedia:

Less evident are the qualitative insights associated with the other traditional articulations. One approach to a particular tradition, with an extensive reference to spacific films, is that of Mikel J Koven (An Ethnography of Seeing: a proposed methodology for the ethnographic study of popular cinema, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1999). This makes no reference to sets of plots or "dramatic sistuations" however.

Characteristics of excellence? The following examples result from web searches as a preliminary exercise in clarifying the possibility of underlying qualitative commonalities distinguished by some constituencies in a 36-fold set:

Current implications? Arguably it is somewhat curious that the articulations of western modernity have focused on the dramatic distinctions so widely explored in the media. Mathematics has identified a so-called 36 officer problem, to which no solution has been found. 36 is the number of possible outcomes (not summed) in the roll of two distinct dice (Francis J. McHugh, U.S. Navy Fundamentals of War Gaming, Skyhorse Publishing, 2013)

To the extent that drama and stratagems lend themselves to analysis in terms of game theory (especially given its relevance to global strategy), it could be assumed that the transactional analysis of Eric Berne (Games People Play: the sychology of human relationshipsy, 1964) would highlight a distinctive set of games. This does not appear to be the case. Alternatively, from a game perspective (and the existence of comprehensive lists of games), it might be expected that metagame analysis would recognize a distinctive set. Preliminary explorations to that end are presented separately (Playing the Great Game with Intelligence: authority versus the people, 2013; Towards a Periodic Table of Games: avoiding decision-making paralysis, 2006; Varieties of Games -- and their role as memetic containers, 2004).

Missing is an appropriate confrontation between the "36 dramatic situations" and the other instances cited, most notably the "36 stratagems" -- given their respective relevance to global governance.

Polyhedral clues to the dynamics of relating disparate ways of looking

The commentaries on the contrasting ways of looking at dramatic situations and plots is seemingly unchallenged by their relationship, if any. The tendency is to imply that any set of ways is a matter of convenience and that their disparate nature does not call for attention. This seems less than appropriate in the case of their potential relevance to the crises of global governance. Whereas drama can cultivate the continuing repetition of any plot, and the learnings that may be repeatedly enjoyed or inferred, this is less than justified in the case of global governance faced with the adage of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

This suggests that there is a peculiar challenge to the manner in which drama is "re-membered". As indicated above, this suggests that global governance is faced with a question of how memory is organized, especially collective memory. How are larger sets of disparate insights held in memory, how may such retention fail, and what are the consequences for governance? Curiously the question is also relevant to computer memory, as separately discussed (Framing Cognitive Space for Higher Order Coherence: toroidal interweaving from I Ching to supercomputers and back? 2019).

The polyhedra used above for mapping sets of dramatic situations merit juxtaposition to highlight their geometric relationships.These suggest geometrical transformations between them which may well have cognitive implications for transitions between ways of seeing, most obviously between a 7-fold pattern, to a 20-fold pattern, or to a 36-fold pattern, for example. This possibility can be highlighted by the juxtaposition of the properties of the polyhedra.

Polyhedra referenced above as mapping devices for 36 dramatic situations
  F E V
Stella octangula 24 36 14
Stella octangula (dual) 14 36 24
Truncated cube 14 36 24
Truncated cube (dual) 24 36 14
Leonardo octahedron 48 96 36
Leonardo octahedron (dual) 36 96 48
3-frequency tetrahedral geodesic sphere 36 54 20
3-frequency tetrahedral geodesic sphere (dual) 20 54 36

Especially evident is the role of 14 as an organizing principle, separately discussed with respect to the coherence offered by Shakepeare's sonnets (Pattern of 14-foldness as an Implicit Organizing Principle for Governance? 2021; Variety of Rhyming Patterns in Standard 14-line Sonnets, 2021). Whilst there is no 14-fold articulation of dramatic situations, emphasis is given to seven basic plots. Understood as "axes of bias" in ways of looking, the 14 extremes noted in Jones' exploration offer a comprehensible bridge from 7 to 14. The question is then what cognitive bridge is potentially available from 14 to more complex articulations, notably 20 and 36.

Significant is this respect are the transformations enabled through the cuboctahedron as an intermediary form, termed by Buckinster Fuller the vector equilibirum. This can be transformed into an icosahedron, octahedron, and tetrahedron by folding along the diagonals of its square sides. A more systematic approach to the transformation between polyhedra is offered through the Conway polyhedron notation, as discussed separately (Cognitive implications of operational modification of polyhedra -- "global tiling", 2021). Such insights suggest the possibility of a systematic understanding of transformation of dramatic situations.

Transformations of the cuboctahedron
as an intermediary mapping device for dramatic sisutations
  F E V
cuboctahedron 14 24 12
icosahedron 20 30 12
octahedron 8 12 6
tetrahedron 4 6 4

The forms above indicate -- via the 14-fold -- the possible mapping relationships between:

The argument can be developed further -- beyond the flexible organization offered by the cuboctahedron -- given insights into the special role of opposition both in drama and in strategic confrontation. Drama is especially characterized by opposition, to the point that many articulations emphasize the extent to which distinctive situations are dramatically paired. Of particular interest is the relation between the cuboctahedron and the polyhedral forms through which oppositional logic and geometry is now studied:

Polyhedral mapping of opposition in dramatic situations
in the light of oppositional logic/geometry
  F E V
cuboctahedron 14 24 12
cuboctahedron dual (rhombic dodecahedron) 12 24 14

It is the dual of the cuboctahedron which is favoured in depiction of the patterns of logical opposition. Of some relevance is the theoretical reduction from the 16-fold mapping of the Boolean logical connectives (of relevance to  oppositional logic) to 14 in order to enable representation in 3D -- discussed separately as Questionable confusion in configuring strategic frameworks: "fudging" self-reflexivity? (Global Coherence by Interrelating Disparate Strategic Patterns Dynamically: topological interweaving of 4-fold, 8-fold, 12-fold, 16-fold and 20-fold in 3D, 2019). Similar confision is evident in the choice of 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the UN, where 16 would have enabled greater memorability (Higher dimensional coherence of SDGs implied by a set of 17 4-dimensional polyhedra? 2021).

As noted above, an intriguing question is what is readily seen or ignored in configuring dramatic situations or stratagems. Is there a problematic potential for axial-bias, for edge-bias, or for facial-bias, as highlighted by any preferred polyhedral mapping? Is there a bias in distinguishing a smaller or larger number of elements? Such questions effectively give focus as to whether it is "plots", "storylines", "archetypes", "elements" or "situations" which are preferentially perceived. The tables above notably highlight a 12-fold pattern characteristic of the distinction of The 12 Dramatic Elements (Drama Teacher, 20 February  2008). They also indicate a relationship with 30 Powerful Elements of Drama (Drama Teacher, 4 March 2022). The 12-fold pattern is especially characteristic of strategic preferences:

The dramatic situations faced by global governance suggest that it is indeed Time for Provocative Mnemonic Aids to Systemic Connectivity (2018). The latter notes the manner in which the 13 Archidemean polyhedra are configured together in a closest packing pattern, suggesting a relation to the 13 ways of looking explored by Wallace Hildick (Thirteen Types of Narrative: a practical guide on how to tell a story, 1968).

Memorability, pattern conviction and cognitive "goodness of fit"?

"Goodness of fit"? The exercise above frames the question as to whether any particular pattern of numbers is especially meaningful in relation to the significance with which it is variously associated. The focus here is the qualitative characteristics which have been associated with a 36-fold pattern, most obviously that of dramatic associations, especially from a Western perspective.. Somewhat surprisingly, that same pattern features in a fundamental manner in the traditions of other cultures.

Such considerations can be dismissed as coincidental and the consequence of arbitrary selection of factors -- as possibly suggested by the other patterns by which plots and narratives have been ordered. The assumption here is that the variety of instances through which a 36-fold pattern is favoured merits consideration as an indicator of a pattern that is experienced as ordering satisfactorily an array of elusive qualities. The pattern seemingly evokes a degree of conviction in relation to those qualities.

The conviction could be assumed to arise from some sense of a cognitive "goodness of fit" (Yori Gidron, Goodness of Fit Hypothesis. Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine, 2013). This term refers to the effectiveness of matching (fitting) a coping strategy to a situation’s level of controllability, in relation to adaptation to stress. Whilst "goodness of fit" is primarily cited in relation to modelling of statistical data, the term is also used in a psychological context. More generally it could be understood as the sense of an explanation that "works", whatever that may be held to mean.

Another term for "goodness of fit" may be appropriateness, and the challenges it poses for comprehension (Comprehension of Appropriateness, 1986). It is appropriate to ask whether there is any concern for the "goodness of fit" of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals to the challenges of global governance -- most notably with respect to their memorability as a set and its uptake in practice (Systemic Coherence of the UN's 17 SDGs as a Global Dream, 2021).

Memorability? Another response to the argument for the arbitrary ordering of patterns (in the instances cited) is that it may prove to be the case that the memorability of patterns, especially more complex patterns, is enhanced and facilitated by the number of factors defining the N-foldness of the pattern. In the case of 36, as composite factors these are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 36; as prime factors this reduces to 2x2x3x3 (or 2x 32).

These arguments are separately developed (Memorability, Mnemonics, Maths, Music and Governance: memory enhancement ensuring strategic credibility, 2022).


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