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of comprehenisibility: a fourfold minimal container?
7. Complexification of integration
of comprehension and compehension of development
The previous sections clarify the conceptual challenge by which individuals and societies are faced in endeavouring to "ride the tiger" and encompass the development process in which they are immersed. But the very fact that this seems to call for juggling conceptually with seven or more factors simultaneously suggests the need to examine what kind of situation results if this does not prove possible, and what kind of psychosocial structures then emerge. As reviewed in an earlier paper (58), most people have difficulty in juggling with more than three factors, and there is a considerable preference for dealing with one, or at the most two.
The nature of the communication (and organizational) patterns which emerge as the result of conceptual discontinuity and non-comrnunication has been clarified by Q-analysis. This is the theory and application of mathematical relations between finite sets. Ron Atkin has applied this to the analysis of communication patterns within complex organizations (72, 73, 74).
The perceptual significance of this approach is well-illustrated by visual sensitivity to colours resulting from the three primary hues (red, green and blue). These may be represented on a simple piece of geometry as shown in Figure 3. Here the vertices (O-simplexes) represent the primary hues, the sides are twofold combinations (l-sirnplexes), and the combination of the three hues makes the central white (2-sirnplex). The 2-simplex, together with all its faces, forms a simplicial complex KY(X) where X is the vertex set (red, green, blue) and Y is the set of seven perceived colours.
|Triangle model of levels of insight
Reproduced from Atkin (73, p.108)
Now to be able to see all the colours, a person's vision needs to have the ability to function in the triangle as 2-dimensional "traffic" on that geometry, moving from location to location adjusting to the complexity of the geometrical structure which carries the visual traffic. If however the person's vision is limited to 1-dimensional traffic, then white could not be perceived because the visual traffic of seeing is then restricted to the edges and vertices. Similarly, if the person's colour vision is only O-dimensional, then it is restricted to the vertices. It can only see one vertex colour at a time and never a combination (as represented by an edge). If vision was 3-dimensional, it would allow traffic throughout the geometry, but would perceive other colours as well, calling for a fourth vertex in order to contain the full range of combinations.
If the geometry represents concepts or psychosocial functions (or even policy issues faced by an organization) instead of colours, then it would be expected that some people, in relation to that set, would have O0-dimensional comprehension (i.e. sensitive to primary issues only and others would have I-dimensional comprehension (i.e. sensitive to 2-fold issue combinations only). The latter would be unable to maintain attention to three concepts simultaneously in order to perceive the threefold combination (the central "white" issue). The threefold issue is then a 2-hole in the pattern of communication connectivity amongst those involved. For 2-dimensional traffic, the issue complex is coherent, comprehensible and well integrated. For the I-dimensional traffic, it feels less secure as a whole, since the latter may only be experienced sequentially through a succession of experiences ("around the edges") from which the shape of the whole is deduced. For O-dimensional traffic, the integrated concept does not exist, since experience is disconnected.
"Generally speaking it seems to be confirmed that action (of whatever kind) in the community can be seen as traffic in the abstract geometry and that this traffic must naturally avoid the holes (because it is impossible for any such action to exist in a hole). The holes therefore appear strangely as objects in the structure, as far as the traffic is concerned. The difference is a logical one in that the word "q-hole" describes a static feature of the geometry S(N), whilst the world "q-object" describes the experience of that hole by traffic which moves in S(N)" (72, p. 75).
As an "object" this phenomenon is an obstacle to communication and comprehension and obliges those confronted with it to go "around" in order to sense the higher dimensionality by which it is characterized. Communications "bounces off" such objects. As a "hole" this phenomenon engenders, or is engendered by, a pattern of communication. It appears to function both as "source" and "sink". Atkin suggests that, in some way which is not yet fully understood, such object/holes act as sources of energy for the possible traffic around them. From the initial research it would appear that such objects/holes are characteristic of communication patterns in most complex organizations. It seems highly probable that they can also be detected in any partially ordered pattern of communication. As such societal problems", "human needs", and "human values" merit examination in this light.
Very concretely, Atkin has investigated situations in which the "vertices" (which could themselves be n-simplexes in a multidimensional geometry) are individuals or offices linked together through various committees. (They could also be governments or disciplines.) There will then be a lot of o-traffic and 1-traffic within and between offices due to the details of their intra- and inter-office (bilateral) operations. This traffic will circulate around the holes/objects which they constitute. Any n-level traffic can only be encompassed, or be brought to rest, by an (n+l)-level body (e.g. an executive or a committee). If the latter does not exist, such traffic will continue to circulate around the q-objects in the structure and, according to Atkin, may be defined as noise.
An "empire builder" (or any elite), for example, in such an organizational system will carefully create many q-holes underneath him (at the n-level), so that subordinate bodies answerable only to his appointees, are trapped in the flow of noise between them (72, pp. 1 29). Atkin notes that even though the geometry may not have been rendered explicit, such structures generate the feeling throughout a community of some "power behind the scenes" acting to outwit the formal structure. The special value of Q-analysis is that it can clarify why action/discussion in connection with (development) issues tends to be "circular" in the long-term, however energetic it may appear in the short-term. As such it shows how social change is blocked by the way in which conceptual traffic patterns itself around the sensed core issue which is never confronted as such because the connectivity pattern is inadequate to the dimensionality of the issue. This would explain why so manty issues go unresolved and why the process of "solving" problems becomes institutionally of greater importance than the actual "elimination" of the problem.
Q-analysis gives precision to the recognition that traffic of different degrees of content connectivity finds (or creates) its appropriate level in any psychosocial structure. Communicable insights are level-bound, especially where they are of high connectivity. In other words, at the level within which we can communicate, concepts cannot necessarily be anchored unambiguously into terms and definitions which "travel well". Precision introduces distortion which is only acceptable locally within any communicating society - although "locally" must be interpreted in the non-geographical sense in which all nuclear physicists are near neighbours, for example.
The relation between two personal or institutional structures, conceived as multidimensional back cloth, carries whatever traffic that constitutes the communication between them. If this back cloth changes by becoming dimensionally smaller, then its geometry loses vertices and the consequent connectivity properties. This is first indicated by the failure of higher dimensional traffic which the geometry can no longer carry. Such 4-traffic, for example, must then mover through the structure to some new haven of 4-dimensionality or it must change its nature and become genuine 3-traffic. This process of reducing communication expectations in order to continue to live within the new warped geometry is the classical problem of compromising. The feeling of "having to compromise" is a painful one. It is the feeling of stress induced by the warping of the communication geometry, namely the direct experience of a structurally induced force, in this case a 4-force (72, pp. 146-7). This approach clearly provides a very precise approach to understanding more subtle forms of structural violence. He has applied it to an analysis of unemployment (72, p. 148).
Such considerations suggest the power of Q-analysis in clarifying approaches to human and social development in general. Reducing the dimensionality of the geometry on which a person (or group) is able to live is an impoverishment associated with repressive forces. Expanding the dimensionality induces positive, attractive forces through which a sense of development and enrichment is experienced (72, p. 163). Q-analysis seems to be a valuable new language through which precision can be given to intuitive experiences and then communication, particularly since it provides an explicit measure of obstruction to change.
In the case of social development, it is probable that most continuing societal problems should be seen as holes/objects, especially given the well-established record of unfruitful action in response to them - however vigorous and dedicated. Typical examples are: peace/disarmament, development, human rights, environment, etc. Q-analysis could then provide understanding of why any action tends to be drawn into a vortex of futulity, however much it satisfies short-term political needs for visible "positive" action. The participants in the action find themselves "circulating" around a central concern of which they are unable to obtain an overview due to the geometries of the overlapping conceptual and organizational structures through which they work (or which they somehow engender).
The term "futility" used above is however only appropriate if the sole considerations were the elimination of such problems. In fact the existence of such problems is extremely important to the organization of society, to social development, and to the direct or indirect employment of many people. 3ust as the "defence" business is vital to the economy of many countries, so is the "social problem" business vital to many sectors of society. Eliminating social problems would be a disaster for many people, especially problem-oriented intellectuals, or the employees of problem-solving agencies.
In the case of human development, Atkin shows how the individual can be defined in terms of a multidimensional geometry requiring a minimum of four levels (72, p. 111). By relating this geometry to that of society, itself structured into micro-to-macro levels reminiscent of the preoccupations of Chadwick F. Alger (75), Atkin introduces an 8-level scheme (72, p. 162), within which the degree of integration or eccentricity of communication can be clarified in terms of developmental or anti-developmental forces.
Concerning such levels, the question arises as to whether their hierarchical order is fixed. Preoccupations associated with Schumacher's "small is beautiful", for example, may well modify the order. The ordering may be a question of orientation in which the "top" and "bottom" elements selected depend on the preferred concept and direction of development (e.g. "top-down", "bottom-up"). This would be more consistent with the concept of order as an (existential) choice as discussed above in connection with the various fourfold "languages".
In such a multidimensional geometry it is clar that, whether in the case of an individual, a group or society as a whole, it is not possible to eliminate "under development" as associated with low dimensionality. Such a geometry will necessarily continue to have traffic of very low-level connectivity co-present with that of increasingly higher level connectivity. The simplest illustration arises from the continual birth of infants who will, when resources permit, continue to be educated through to the level of connectivity to which they can respond. But there will always be communication at both low and high-connectivity levels, especially about socio-political issues. The question is then how such learning communication between these different levels of connectivity can weave itself together within a social structure.
It is the status of the holes/objects in relation to development which could provide an interesting point of departure for further investigation. As noted above, it is not a question of attempting vainly to eliminate such holes, especially when some of them may arise from alternative concepts of "development". Rather it is a question of how configurations of holes can be identified and/or designed. It is such configurations of holes which provide the minimum structure (and communication dynamics) to stabilize and give form to the co-presence of the differing "answers" to the challenge of development.
In effect such holes exist at a lower connectivity-level than the "macro-hole" of higher connectivity constituted by the world problematique at this time. This macro-crisis hole "absorbs" the development initiatives of society by engendering the immense volume of action/communication traffic around the hole so defined. This draws attention to the developmental implications the probable presence of holes of yet higher dimensionality than can be readily sensed or made the subject of acceptable public (consensual) communication.
How then are "better" holes to be engendered within such configurations? Now from one point of view it is necessary to avoid introducing an element of evaluation, because from each hole the perception of other holes will be distorted so that no communicable assessment can be usefully formulated. On the other hand, it may prove to be the case that, at the level of the configuration as a whole, more than one such configuration can be identified/designed in order to interrelate the perspectives associated with the set of holes. And at this level, without privileging any particular hole, more adequate interrelationships between the elements making up the holes can be identified.
Expressed differently, introducing evaluative judgements into the relationships between the holes within a particular configuration can only contribute to the dynamics between such holes in terms of perceived advantage/disadvantage. Excessive emphasis on this runs the risk of tearing the configuration apart. The identities associated with the holes can be respected in each of the configurations in a series constituting progressively more adequate or richer formulations of the relationships between "developments". If the communication problem necessarily segments comprehension of "development", there is consequently a multiplicity of concepts of development operative in society. Individuals and groups may "progress" from one to another, possibly with a general tendency towards those of higher connectivity. But other individuals and groups will emerge and find the concepts of lower connectivity more meaningful before moving on, if they do, to those of higher connectivity. (In this sense the "ontogenesis" of an individual tends to repeat the "phylogenesis" of his/her society.) Society in this sense is the arena within which individuals and groups refine their concept of development.
It appears from Fuller's work that cycles interlock with greatest facility (i.e. minimum energy condition) in such a way as to form configurations of modes in relatively simple geometrical patterns (e.g. spherical tetrahedron, octahedron, etc) according to the number of cycles. The modes correspond to answer domains effectively stabilized into sets by standing wave interference effects. The portions of cycles linking such modes are then the transformation pathways between them which favour information transfer and learning. The pattern as a whole can also be considered as a transformation of the two-dimensional matrix representation of answer domains (discussed earlier) into a "wrap-around" three-dimensional "container". The observer, in terms of the "third perspective", is effectively given a location at the spherical centre in contrast to his undefined status in relation to the matrix. The significance of this transformation has been discussed in earlier papers (24, 43, 45).
Fortunately as portrayed this representation is essentially sterile. Even though it encompasses incompatibles it does so within a framework which is a typical example of left-hemisphere thinking. Only by re-introducing right-hemisphere thinking is it possible to open the way to anything of transformative significance. In effect the rational objectivity of a presentation must be challenged (and, in Attali's terms, "seduced") by irrational discontinuity and subjectivity. Strangely it would seem that the scholastic preoccupation with avoiding "non sequiturs" is precisely what renders academic conclusions non-transformative, at least in any revolutionary sense. They do not internalize discontinuity but effectively project it onto their non-relationship with other answer domains.
The challenge of internalizing non-sequiturs is one of the exciting aspects of the frontiers of fundamental physics (7, 32, 33). Many observers have remarked the relationship to Eastern concepts of consciousness, especially Zen (47, 48, 49). Others note that the challenge of the times calls for a change of consciousness, but are unable to design any framework to focus the approach to this. As a response to this dilemma, an earlier paper (27) experimented with presenting the steps of an argument in terms of left- and right-hemisphere modes alternately. This procedure was based on the assumption that a transformative argument cannot be wholly based on one mode or the other, but each must provide clues (negative and positive feedback) for the next step of the other (as implied above by the "walking" metaphor).
Bateson has argued strongly for a somewhat related approach:
"...it is necessary to expand on the relationship between form and process, treating the notion of form as an analogue of what I have been calling tautology and process as the analogue of the aggregate of phenomena to be explained. As form is to process, so tautology is to description....What is important...is to note that my procedures of inquiry were punctuated by an alternation between classification and the description of process....I shall argue that this paradigm...recurs again and again wherever mental process...predominates in the organization of phenomena.
In other words, when we take the notion of logical typing out of the field of abstract logic and start to map real biological events onto the hierarchies of this paradigm, we shall immediately encounter the fact that in the world of mental and biological systems, the hierarchy is not only a list of classes, classes of classes, and classes of classes of classes, but has also become a zigzag ladder of dialectic between form and process" (29, p. 190, 193, 194)
The earlier paper (12) alternated between presentations of right-hemisphere (RH) arguments considered academically acceptable to Jungian psychologists and left-hemisphere (LH) arguments concerning structure. The RH material forms part of the symbolic heritage of many cultures (50). The concern of Jungians is to clarify its contemporary significance and thus counteract the "cerebral imperialism" and "dominance" (51, p. 255) of the LH over the RH and the projections onto society to which that gives rise. They see this dominance pattern as the subjective origin of the present social crisis. The therapeutic objective is the achievement of a greater integration between the LH and the RH through a transcendent "union of opposites", namely a transcendent function (or the "meta-answer" seen in a new light):
"One tendency seems to be the regulating principle of the other; both are bound together in a compensatory relationship...aesthetic formulation needs understanding of the meaning, and understanding needs aesthetic formulation. The two supplement each other to form the transcendent function" (51, p. 272)
In the LH approach, the structural problems of containing and transforming attention were explored using as a metaphor the current research on the containment of plasma (whose fluidity corresponds closely to that of attention) in fusion research. This requires a special configuration, yet to be discovered, before energy can be generated at a sustainable yield. It would seem that the patterns of thought and structure required for this fusion breakthrough offer insight for a corresponding breakthrough in human and social development (and are a technological prefiguration of it, in Attali's terms (52)).
Whilst the approach outlined is worth exploring, once again it is necessary to challenge the essential inadequacy of the previous step. It is not sufficient at this time to elaborate "descriptions" and "theories". Whatever their RH component, they are essentially LH in nature, confronting the observer in a manner which deactivates and neutralizes him. If there is to be effective "seduction", something more stimulating and participative is required.
The basic weakness of the above approach is that it fails to clarify or internalize the obvious differences in peoples ability to comprehend and derive significance from a meta-answer. In this sense a meta-answer is not definable and subject to enclosure, but is elusive in that it is understood and defined to different degrees by different people. To the extent that there is no foreseeable limit on future increases and refinements in understanding, the definition is in fact open-ended in terms of time.
In such a social condition of "structured fluidity", observers can no longer usefully assume that they are standing on solid ground around which events flow (for their intellectual delectation). Such an assumption merely temporarily defines the observer (or an aspect of his personality) as a rigid element in society, within which he is not currently undergoing a process of developmental transformation. In this sense observers are, momentarily, non-participants in the process of human and social development. Furthermore observation is only one step in the learning process, to the extent that it is useful to consider that observers, as observers, are effectively non-learners.
It would seem that in a fluid environment, structured by degrees and kinds of comprehension, that a vital step forward is to switch from interpreting actions in terms of their significance for development to their significance as learning. It is strange that "development" is conventionally a process applied to, or undergone by "others" - never by the "developers", despite their well-documented limitations. It is acknowledged that good teachers succeed partly because their attitude is one of learning with, and from, the student - to the point that "facilitator" is more appropriate than "teacher". The advocated change can then be represented by:
From: developers + developees = developing society To: facilitator-learners + learners = learning society
For this change of interpretation to be other than cosmetic, the concept of "learning" must:
(a) extend far beyond conventional forms of book learning and training; (b) be promoted as an activity of all social institutions; (c) extend beyond individual learning (in a learning society) to group and societal learning; (d) be accepted as intrinsic to all activities of all social institutions (not just "educational" programmes, but living as learning).
The first two points are well elaborated in the report of the UNESCO International Commission on the Development of Education (57), concerned with the emergence of a "learning society", but from which the last two points are totally absent, since they do not refer to "development of individual education" (a well-defined answer domain) but "development as societal learning" (which generates its own answers) in a more inclusive sense. The importance of the third point has been discussed in an earlier paper (58) in relation to the erosion of collective memory. Rector Soedjatmoko of the UN University has emphasized this point (prior to taking that position) in relation to the "learning capacity of a nation":
"The capacity of a nation - not just of its government, but of society as a whole - to adjust to rapidly changing techno-economic, socio-cultural and political changes, on a scale which makes it possible to speak of social transformation, very much depends on its collective capacity to generate, to ingest, to reach out for, and to utilize a vast amount of new and relevant information. This capacity for creative and innovative response to changing conditions and new challenges I would like to call the learning capacity of a nation. This capacity is obviously not limited to the cognitive level, but includes the attitudinal, institutional and organisational levels of society as well.
It therefore resides not only in a nation's formal educational system, not only in the government bureaucracy, in parliament and the political parties, but also in the business community, in the media, the professional organisations, the trade unions, the cooperatives and the various kinds of voluntary associations within the society at large. It also includes the political public with its various political constituencies, consumer groups, and all other kinds of permanent and ad hoc pressure groups." (59, p. 82-83).
A recent Club of Rome report extends this notion to "humanity":
"Our continued survival is testimony that humanity indeed learns... So we have to reconsider what is meant by the statement "humanity learns". Does the statement no imply - indeed demand - that learning occur at the right time and on a scale sufficiently large not only to avoid disasters but also to conclude a century, so much traumatized by successive follies, with a gain in peace, dignity, and happiness?" (60, p. 118)
The report concludes however that:
"The conventional, often unarticulated, conception of how societies learn...(is reduced to one of)...adjusting to and consuming the discoveries and knowledge produced in centers of expertise. The unavoidable consequence of this view of societal learning is elitism, technocracy, and paternalism. What is omitted is the fact meaning and values - decisive for learning - are products of society at large, not of specialized centers...(that)...tend to reproduce themselves according to their own internal logic. This autonomous and self-reproducing development accounts in large part for the fact that so much of societal learning is maintenance learning." (60, p.80-81)
The basic distinction made in the report between the necessities of maintenance (adaptive) learning and innovative (shock) learning can be related to the alternation process discussed above "Innovative societal learning seeks to restore active learning to those in society conventionally confined to a passive role of assimilation" (5, p. 8). But whilst much research has been done on individual learning processes, hardly any is done on organizational or group or societal learning (60, p. 137).
The key question then becomes: what is the individual or collective learning component of any activity? A major weakness of conventional concepts of development is that, outside the economic answer domain, there is no positive coherent image of what is being achieved by human and social development processes. In a learning society, however, it is "learning" which is being accumulated, where this can best be partially defined in terms of accumulation of recognized patterns. Discovery of the manner in which newly comprehended patterns interlock and constrain each other most economically, in terms of a meta-pattern, is the organizing constraint upon the accumulation process.
Given the current passive, academically inferior status of "learning" (as part of the professor-student, trainer-trainee dominance mind-set), it should be apparent that a complementary active (learning through doing), conflictual (learning through opposing) dimension is inherent in what is advocated here. Learning is effectively being "defined" by the accumulation process in the zigzag ladder of dialectical alternation between perceptions of form and process (4), which Bateson considers "basic to the way in which the world of adaptive action is put together." (29, p. 201)
"I shall further suggest that the very nature of perception follows this paradigm; that learning is to be modeled on the same sort of zigzag paradigm; that in the social world, the relation between love and marriage or education and status necessarily follow a similar paradigm; that in evolution, the relation between somatic and phylogenetic change and the relation between the random and the selected have this zigzag form. I shall suggest that similar relations obtain at a more abstract level between speciation and variation, between continuity and discontinuity and between number and quantity." (29, p. 195)
Learning of this kind can only ever be partially contained within an organization or a paradigm, because of its essentially dichotomous nature. As Bateson says:
"This view makes the process of learning...necessarily discontinuous....A world of sense, organization, and communication is not conceivable without discontinuity, without threshold. If sense organs can receive news only of difference, and if neurons either fire or do not fire, then threshold becomes necessarily a feature of how the living and mental world is put together." (29, p. 202)
Learning is an ordered dynamic response to discontinuity and conflict between institutions and answer domains - a conflict which it engenders and by which it is engendered, for learning to continue. But learning is not an unconstrained process without limits (#6), except in a purely gross sense. Due to the progressive interlocking of accumulated patterns into nested meta-patterns, as a solution to human processing capacity limitations (43), there is a form of directed, convergence onto a progressively clarified ultimate meta-pattern, towards which learning tends asymptotically, in that final (en)closure is never achieved (except possibly as an essentially transient, private, transcendental experience). Bateson describes this ultimate pattern as:
"The pattern which connects (all living creatures) is a meta-pattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that meta-pattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns which connect."(29, p. 11)
Final enclosure evanesces in the paradoxical world of self-reference explored in a left-hemisphere mode by D Hofstadter (15). Jantsch points out however that in life the issue is not control but dynamic connectedness. For him "Learning may generally be described as the co-evolution of systems which accumulate experience." (21, p. 196). He cites Christine von Weizaecker:
"...co-evolving systems...play between adaptation and non-adaptation. Total adaptation and total non-adaptation are both lethal. In ecology, a niche fits the species sufficiently, without defining it; the species, in turn, fit the niche sufficiently, without defining it. What else is fitting, but not defining each other, than an emancipated relation." (76)
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