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29 September 2018 | Uncompleted work in progress

Communication Constraints and Possibilities in a Global Context

Towards a pattern language to defer global collapse of communication

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Annex of Collapse and Renaissance of Civilization: dilemma of communication and engagement understood otherwise


Much is currently made of an impending collapse, whether the focus is on that of the economic system (as some kind of replica of 1929 or 2008), of the ecosystem (notably as a consequence of climate change), or of overpopulation and other post-peak implications (notably the exhaustion of non-renewable energy resources), as can be variously recognized (Checklist of Peak Experiences Challenging Humanity, 2008). Dystopian fiction has extensively explored the process. Possibilities envisagd include extinction of the human race (**)

The process of collapse has been studied by Jared Diamond (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, 2005). Through a study of the decline of the Roman Empire, the focus has been placed on energy by Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, 2006). Civilizational collapse is potentially implied by the many current warnings of imminent collapse of the global financial system -- most recently that of Gordon Brown (Gordon Brown in dire warning about the next financial crisis, BBC News, 13 September 2009). He argues that the breakdown in international co-operation means nations would be unable to act in a concerted way to tackle the many future threats:

This is a leaderless world and I think when the next crisis comes, and there will be a future crisis, we'll find that we neither have the fiscal or monetary room for manoeuvre or the willingness to take that action. But perhaps most worrying of all, we will not have the international co-operation necessary to get us out of a worldwide crisis.

Rather than the conventioal understanding of "energy", the focus here is on "information" as it might be understood by physics as being more fundamental than "energy". *** not overopulation, nor envirmental degradtion in any tangible sense -- rather information analogues of these -- a Pacific waste gyre

The irony of this focus is that, if anything, considerable pride is cultivated in the emergence of a knowledge-based civilization -- variously enhanced and supported by the development of information and communication systems. These are shortly to be further enhanced by widespread deployment artificial intelligence systems. However the argument here is that there are non-technical aspects of the implied communication facilities which are widely neglected, although readily evident. It is the ever increasing influence of these which is seen as undermining the uncritical promotion of techno-optimism.

*** Global civilization, now proudly acclaimed as knowledge-based, is characterized by specialization of every kind. At the same time much is made of the purported "equality" of human beings, as solemnly enshrined in various declarations and religious principles. The conversion between one system of belief and another, whether religious or ideological, confirms the perception of inequality in practice. It is of course the case that an extraordinary "inequality" is acknowleged with respect to income and control of resources -- whether or not this is deplored. As currently framed there is little likelihood that these understandings will be modified to any degree (Cultivating the Myth of Human Equality: ignoring complicity in the contradictions thereby engendered, 2016).

Such factors are evident in loss of confidence in communication systems, exemplified by the increasing levels of insecurity created by invasive surveillance and misleading information (possibly framed as fake news, but as readily recognized in the questionable claims of advertising, and the promotion of competing ideologies). This dimensions is notably deplored in terms of loss of trust in conventional authorities, whether political, religious, or scientific. *** loss of coherence/confidence (papers)

This loss of confidence is accompanied by an ever greater focus on the shortest-term -- to the exclusion of long-term considerations within which the trends towards collpase are more readily recognized. It could be described as a systematic blinkering seen as necessary to handle information overload ***-- "sunglasses" (rose-tinted), face-covering

As a total loss of civilizational "oomph", the collapase might then be compared to the much-studied gravitational collapse of stars. Other analogues of interest are the understandings of brain death (as might apply to any notion of the global brain) or cessation of the heart beat (as might apply to the economic heart).

The collapse can be explored more specifically in terms of individual and collective attention and the many competing efforts to attract and exploit that resource. However it may be argued that increasingly attention will be withdrawn from the processes which depend on it and on the confidence with which it may be associated.

Evident collective communication challenges **************

Pattern language of communication ****

as with the Public Sphere Project (Douglas Schuler, Liberating Voices! A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution, 2008; A Pattern Language for Living Communication: a global participatory project, 2002; A Pattern Language for Living Communication). The latter might be supported by some form of Wiki to facilitate shifts between overview and detail. The sense however is that no one structure might be universally appropriate and that any organization might evolve over time in response to preferences -- to whatever degree it can be encompassed appropriately. This could imply reconfiguration of categories over time as a result of experience, learnings, feedback.

A variety of initiatives have been undertaken to articulate pattern languages relating to communication. The concern here is with the nature of a more fundamental "language", which is a readily recognized feature of daily communication experience. An early effort in this respect distinguished 114 disruptive patterns (Wrecking an International Project Notes: notes from a saboteur's vade mecum, 1972). A second effort used the original articulation of Christopher Alexander as a template (5-fold Pattern Language, 1984). A third experiment used the 64 patterns of the I Ching as a template for distinguishing patterns of dialogue (Transformation Metaphors, 1997). As with subsequent exploitation of that template to structure the language, the latter moved beyond the pattern of experiences explored in what follows.

Given the argument above, there is an obvious degree of irony to any effort to articulate commnication constraints in detail, given that any effort to do so is subject to those same constraints.

Clarification of assumptions
Content-related constraints and possibilities
Medium-related constraints and possibilities
Mode-related constraints and possibilities
Engagement-related constraints and possibilities
Expected outcome constraints and possibilities
External constraints and opportunities
Time constraints and possibilities
Recul / Meta / Perspective (Projections?)

Content-related constraints (and possibilities)

These notably apply to text (including poetry and drama), slide shows (and photo presentations), music, video (including movies):

Comprehension constraints
Logical constraints Fallacies / Contradictions and paradoxes / Fake news and "post-truth" / Deception and misdirection: bluff
Stylistic constraints Presentation (too perfect, too many imperfections, leave errors for the picky -- gods jealous) / Style (for whom, acceptability vs alienating) / Indirection / Mode (soft / hard, hot / cool) / Style (list / anecdote / map / effect / teaching story / teaching / inspirational)
Motivation constraints Motivation (oomph / energy) / Purpose / Why bother (step back / let it be / self-correcting) / Change agenda / Pleasure / Info (curiosity) / Boredom relief / Loneliness / Complex of objectives (fun / profit / political agenda, etc / profiling / marketing / security) / Need (as a legacy to communicate my/our: insight, plan, discovery, revelation, belief, method, technology, product, panacea)
Comprehension-related constraints

Complexity / Simplicity (entangled, detached, avoid connection, transcend / transform / reframe, disparate/disconnected (organic, soil, water, air) vs structured (inorganic, crystal), sets of depth?

misunderstanding / disinformation / vulnerability of an argument / logic fallacies / number constraints (categories, sets distinguished) / coherence / pattern, grokking / memorability / forgettability / shock / undistinguishable / comprehensibility / convergence (negentropy) / divergence (entropy) / losing track / rambling / mssing the point / simple/complex (Gettysburg test) / complexity (too simple, too complex)

Scope-related constraints
  • say what? (what we can, what prople want to hear, what people should hear)
  • seriousness (too serious, heavy, challenging, techy; too light-weight, superficial, happy-clappy)
  • sense (relevance/connectivity) / nonsense (irrelevance/disassociated ???) indifference
  • specialization / Scope / Mandate (too general / broad, too specialized / narrow, gerrymandering/boundary-shifting)
  • relevance (themes, bookshops / librararies -- space / appeal / confrmation bias, aesthetics, quirkness, humour, irrelevance, boundary / gerrymandering)
  • dispersed / disparate fields, seeds species (religion, science, art, dance, etc): how do they fit in? / resistant to interlacting / transacting / no roads, no pathways (or secret) / secret crude ancient
  • filtering of communication (spam policy, censorship, grooming, identity theft, phishing, bubble)
  • unexplored (unasked questions, unread books, unvisited places, uncontacted people, unsaid)

Mode and Medium-related constraints (and possibilities)

medium is the message

Medium constraints
Medium-related constraints
  • medium preferences (tweet, body language / gesture, flowers, tokens, talk / photos (Facebook, Instagram), humour, strip cartoons, satire, art, dance, music, porn)
  • writing, photos, videos, crafts, plans, declarations, credos, web link, audio, video, symbol, table, illustrations, colour, animations, 3D, emoticons, special effects (flashing, blip / wireframe / filled)
Mode-related constraints
  • ? is this sufficiently distinct ???
  • include scope items???
  • hats, shoes, intelligences, polyocular
  • indifference to particular modes
  • metaphors (quest, information diseases, pathways, bridges, digestion blockages, aridity, etc gardening, pottery, kntting, sewing -- all same metaphors to live by / die by
  • geometry metaphors (making a point, pursuing a line, claiming / occupying a space), dominance / hegemony
  • knoship (knowship design for navigation of cognitive space, associations / groups as bus, ship or train)
  • joining a train (for a journey, pay to get on/off -- free? havinga seat / place)
  • forms of presentation --- insights carried by text, visuals, etc

Engagement-related constraints (and possibilities)

Engagement-related constraints
Openness-related constraints
  • receptivity
  • checking email
  • frequency (see time)
  • open vs closed (*** Jones, truth pattern arguments)
Closure-related constraints
  • ignore info, email
  • gatekeeping (see time)
Dissemination constraints
  • cc or bc -- to cc or not to bcc
  • reply all
  • buy lists
  • social media
  • own list
  • paid list (Facebook, etc)
  • research gate, etc
  • web
  • mass / widest
  • selective / influential
  • fake IDs
  • cc or bc ???
Strategic constraints of discourse
  • engagement vs indifference mixed agendas / talking past each other deviousness offence / defence missiles paper memetic warfare Machioavelli sales prosyletizing -- the truth / the message change subject / off-step / humour express curiosity / indifference / flirting / marketing / teasing / puffery / modesty pretence / frustration agree / disagree -- sincerely/overtly or not gerrymandering strategy (lengthy vs brief, mode, ignore) agreement vs disagreement (echo (imitate) vs challenge) persuasion vs conviction (gullibility)
Destination constraints of intercourse
  • For whom / With whom / "notes" to self effect/impact when, where family neighbours strangers cafe/pub/ club peers game job environment animal / pet nature / intercourse past / future spirits invisible friends
Response pattern / attitude
  • explicit / implicit implicit / indirect (abuse, ignore, spam folder, report to authority) rebuttal -- value polarities respond in extenso (verbose, ramble) -- treaties, proofs succinct, tweet, curt, insult aphorism patience / impatience / behavioural tolerance claim non-comprehension pretend comprehension question / answer -- another mode (dis)encouragement mockery sarcasm cynicism praise / condemn ambiguity sanction posotove / negative challenge
Interlocutor-related constraints
  • communicant appreciation / evaluation assessment of other, credibility, worthiness establish worthiness, status, credibility evaluation of other as a prelude to any response seconds to make an impression confidence (see other) reputation (likes, etc) accreditation age politics religion culture relative wealth -- acess via paywall / how many citation analysis / impact factor / connectivity language (see other) assumption of audience knowledge (assumes too much knowledge by audience, fails to recognize audience knowledge) how much to assume / background knowledge / informative obligation explaining a joke up to speed / on program? need to explain? (background, setting)

Expected outcome constraints (and possibilities)

communication with bureaucracies and officialdom

Expected outcome constraints
  • dreamables occupy the attention of people -- I communicate therefore I exist enjoin fiat realities hope compassion / caring / indifference inspiration / insight recommend instruct incite eliciting agreement achieving buy-in / getting to "yes" making a sale proving the other wrong off-footing the other embarrassing the other eliciting respect empowering the other compete for attention / followers
  • involving / entangling others (blocking involvement, engagement, fiat / declaration of what is, light relief / respite / fallow, say nothing / leave), contentment threhold, expectations, recognition / exposure / renown / advancement
  • forms of acknowledgement (silence, applause, handing waving, grunting)
  • monetary reward prizes "likes" worthiness credibility influence personal learning archival notes clarify thinking endorsements indifference publish or perish gatekeeper selectivity
  • recognition / appreciation (recognized by too few, too popular, likes)
  • feedback (solicitation, indifferent, token invitation for marketing purposes)
  • overloading others turn off eliciting disapproval unsolicted / spam archive incite inspire con / trick exploitation aiding
  • elicit (non-reply, delayed reply, token response, put-off)

External constraints (and possibilities)

External constraints
Language constraints
  • translation / interpretation / conversions languages modes simplicity > complexity complexity > simplicity monolingual, bilingual
Commercial constraints
  • copyright licensing profitability
Social constraints
  • quest for attention reputation
Political constraints
  • too tendentious too accepting taking a stance / position censorship reporting to authority
Credibility constraints
  • editorial constraints post-truth / validity "no space" "no time" complexity -- under the radar / paraspace questions / ignorance -- Johari cluster ??? gamma? style / story / meander / process / phatic in a (w)hole asserting what "is" confusion locked in buy in belief
  • confidence (trust / confidence vested interest / investment professions marketing advertising space exploration /spurious arguments GS4 security)

Novelty / interest constraints

  • creativity?
  • too old too new --- patents inadequately formed plagiarism
Crafting constraints
  • crafting for reviewers for editors for publishers for discussion group for conference presentation for marketing self-promotion income generation controversy / mainstream paywall / copyright / classified / accessibilty / secret
  • media (too media responsive -- dependence on context), unadapted to media representation
  • funding (too responsive to funders -- dependence on funding, failure to, funder mandate)
  • impact / Impression (too dependent, too indifferent, indicator)
  • reliance on endorsement (too framed by authority, inadequately endorsed by authority)
  • obligation (visiting card, promise to contact, give name, mode of address, protocol, precedence)
Security constraints
  • how to know / paranoia / what did not get thru, censorship
Creativity constraints
  • blockage muse fallow period
Info processing constraints
  • reading / scanning / skimming / sampling Economist: multi-author / publish-perish readability/viewability constraints and opportunities reading capacity / style title abstract images/graphics style headings refs introd faults faults/grammar conclusion something citable to prove one has read it -- MBA
Technical constraints
  • expand / collapse exclude / include (see other) language (see other) cpmpression techniques mapping

Time constraints and opportunities

Time constraints
  • pace: slow / fast (logorhea) length equ long time promise once-only vs repeated delay response inadequacy of busyness models -- time-related transactions "no time" Time Wars the time accorded to recognizing relevance is now far less than that which engenders disruptive surprise alternative priorities expand to fill the time available urgency / things take time impatience -- engagement with time how much time has one got awaiting vs sending waiting (by the phone), for a letter planned obsolescence -- rapid fade / non-stick / reality of the moment Tomb 33 erosion / forgetting remembering / forgetting / repeating memorializing Santayana duration (one day wonder, week, month, decade, century)

Encoding modes


sense / commodification / hot vs cool (McLuhan)

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