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18th October 2003 | Uncompleted

Framings and Reframings of Approaches to Reality


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This is an exploration of the way in which people develop, buy into, or become trapped by frames. Frames may also be deliberately used to trap people. They may be partially understood as categories -- except that this term is too easily identified with labels, classificatory pigeon holes, or certain academic disciplines. There is however an existential dimension to framing and to how people use frames to order their reality and engage with it.

There is a classic example of the interpretation of what is seen through a window (from a train) as "man striking women". This may be a matter of any of the following: theatre rehearsal, murder, gestural illustration of a story, domestic violence (wife-beating), evoked rage, therapy, self-defence, a play of shadows, or sado-masochistic partnership, etc. Each such interpretation could be considered a frame with some probability of truth.

More interesting than the variety of such frames is the possibility that they may have some inherent organization -- each acquiring dominance under certain conditions. Explicate orderings emerging from an implicate order to which one has only access through such facets -- usefully represented by a rose window or mandala configuration that can only be intuited as the frame of all frames. How does one "reframe" -- moving between the frames to which one has access?

Complex articulations of integrated sets of frames merit reflection in this light. Good examples are the 8-fold organization of the Chinese I Ching (the Book of Changes) into 64 frames, and the 9-fold organization of the Tao Te Ching into 81 frames. The organization of knowledge into sets of categories is another example, particularly when it is inspired by such integrated sets as the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (see .........).

Another approach to frames is through what are termed "models". For example, the conceptual models used so frequently by management gurus and consultants are efforts to provide an integrated set of categories through which the approach to different strategic and operational concerns can be framed. There is an irony to the fact that the same term "model" is applied to the exemplars of beauty in the fashion industry. The metaphoric implications are notably worth exploring given that one of the original futurists, and articulator of models, Herman Kahn was based at the Hudson Institute in Croton-on-Hudson (a little-known town named after the base of Pythagoras) -- as was the World Modelling Association, whose preoccupation was the world of fashion models. To what extent then can conceptual models be usefully understood as versions of reality variously "dressed up" for particular purposes? Are the most popular conceptual "models" to be understood as having a status corresponding to the various sets of clothing for a Barbie doll -- to be dressed and undressed in the process of conceptual play? Does this suggest that frames are somewhat akin to garments through which reality is "dressed up" to avoid improper exposure to its naked truth? This points to the kinds of simplification associated with designing models, the variety of models that are produced for different purposes and to gain competitive advantage, the value attached to the elegance and harmony of design.

The clothing metaphor also points to the significance of the process through which garments are selected from a wardrobe and put on -- or removed. Conceptual frames may be similarly "donned" and "doffed". But, as with garments, it is useful to recall that many do not have wardrobes and may have few, or no, clothes. They may be obliged to wear the same conceptual garments all the time -- or at least the same "uniform" style of garment (as with monks, soldiers, or business men). Or they may be held within the garments as with straitjackets.

Whether with respect to dolls (if only in childhood play) or to celebrities, many succeed in living their lives as projections onto them as exemplars -- for example onto celebrities such as media stars, royalty, etc. Framing thus provides a way for people to project or "upload" themselves (their "point of view" or "perspective") onto a wider stage. It is curious, and highly relevant to the current problematic times on the planet, that little is known of the process by which people might "upload" themselves to identify with framings of planetary challenges and the appropriate responses. Global conceptual models do not encourage the form of identification associated with global celebrities.

Metaphoric Entrapment in Time avoiding the trap of Project Logic. 2000 (

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