Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
Laetus in Praesens

15th May 2007 | Draft

Three-stage Emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations

Reclaiming the heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour

-- / --

Annex 1 of Emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations: engendered by a Union of Intelligible Associations from a Union of International Associations

Introduction (reproduced from main paper)
Evolution of knowledge management
Nature of an emergent Union of Imaginable Associations? Associations | Imaginative | Union
Historical origins: Stage 0?
Three-stage emergence? (Table 1) (Annex 1)

Progressive dematerialization and virtualization of vehicle identity (Table 2)
Associated disintegrative processes (Table 3)
Reclaiming the heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour (Table 4)
Comprehending the transformative challenge of "stages" and their relationship
Metaphors of stage separation and emergence
Distinguishing stages in the light of potential (mis)understanding (Table 5)
Conclusion (Table 6)

Detailed description of stages (exemplifying challenges in other organizations) (Annex 2)

   Stage 1: Union of International Associations (UIA1): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   Stage 2: Union of Intelligible Associations (UIA2): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   Stage 3: Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   Comprehension of stage separation (decoupling / detachment) in transformation processes

Psychosocial energy from polarization within a cyclic pattern of enantiodromia (Annex 3)

Implications of the cybernetics of cybernetics
Psychosocial energy through a metaphorical technology
Schematic Denkmodel (Table 1)
Epistemological domains
Global vs Local (in Table 1) | Positive vs Negative (in Table 1) | Relationships (within Table 1)
Beyond the plane of Möbius: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications
Visualization: quadrant systems / Möbius strips / Klein bottles
"Sphering the Circle" (from 2D to 3D): a Klein-bottle relationship "belt drive"?
Enantiodromia: cycling through the "cognitive twist"
Psychosocial work cycle / heat engine
Psychosocial power and its generation

Emergent higher-order symbol as a cognitive/existential "keystone"
Indicative examples of 2nd and 3rd order environments

Introduction (reproduced from main paper)

This "story" explores the underlying inspiration of the century-old Union of International Associations (UIA) in its currently challenged effort to continue to function as a clearinghouse for information on the diversity of bodies responding to social challenges of every conceivable variety -- including major institutional systems such as the United Nations and regional bodies such as the European Commission.

The process of creation of the Union of International Associations from 1907 can be understood as an audaciously imaginative act -- at the origins of international society as it is now known and prior to any form of international legal framework through which the existence of any such body could be recognized. Although it may subsequently be said to have acted -- despite the severe disruption of two world wars -- in the name of international bodies present at its creation, it cannot be said to have been representative of them in any conventional democratic sense. This is especially the case following its reconstition in 1951 as an institute based on individual membership. To a significant degree it has remained an act of the collective imagination of those directly involved who have sustained a highly productive pattern of self-funded activity over past decades. This has also, to a certain degree, sustained the illusion of the existence of a "Union of International Associations" as originally intended -- an illusion that has contributed to the success of the initiative.

Efforts to reform and transform the UIA ("UIA1") are here framed as having effectively engendered a distinct "transitional" vehicle, usefully named as the Union of Intelligible Associations ("UIA2"). This has emphasized a strategic knowledge management function beyond the conventional information gathering and classifying preoccupations of UIA1. The fundamental challenge to UIA2, as presented here, usefully models similar inadequacies in many institutions variously seeking to enhance collective intelligence in response to information overload in the face of social and strategic complexity.

Confronted by its own inadequacies, UIA2 is however understood here as having itself created a context for the emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations ("UIA3"). This could be understood as more relevant to the integrative possibilities and culture of the times -- and to the strategic flexibility and forms of cognitive engagement for which they call. These three different "stages" are first described before subsequently exploring the necessarily unusual, counter-intuitive challenges to how they may be fruitfully understood as interrelated -- if UIA3 is to be of any significance.

A vital thread implicit in this story lies in the various understandings of the "existence" of collective "international" bodies, the ownership of their (intellectual) "property" in an increasingly open information society, and the claims that may "legitimately" be made on both by those who actively sustain them over decades. Such considerations are especially relevant in the transition over a century through the colonial era to one in which post-colonialist, participative values are upheld. The emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations is therefore presented (in this Annex) as a progressive reclaiming of a heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour.

Fundamentally, however, this exploration is not so much about a "UIA" but rather about how comprehension is organized integratively in response to collective challenges in the world -- and what can be learnt to that end from the challenges and evolution of a "UIA". In this sense the emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations offers a template for a radical reconfiguration of how these opportunities may be dynamically encountered -- whether for the individual or for any collective initiative.

The intent here is not to explore any 3-fold ontology (or theology) of organizational "body", "soul" and "spirit" -- as distinguished in some management literature. Rather the focus here is on the nature of distinct vehicles for collective intent -- and of how a vehicle of one form may effectively be necessary in order to engender another of subtler form and of greater integrity and efficacy, better adapted to the challenges of the 21st century. Nor is the intent thereby to frame a potentially discriminatory scale of excellence through privileging a particular form. As is shown (in Annex 3), distinct stages may well be more fruitfully understood as interrelated as a cycle through which psychosocial engergy is generated -- such that the seemingly subtlest necessarily engages in the process of engendering the most concrete. Each stage may then be understood as a transitional vehicle through which insight and action are expressed in response to challenges and opportunity.

The exploration raises the question whether the stages of evolution of "UIA" over a century reflect the evolution of collective emphasis in the shift:

In this context, it is therefore appropriate to celebrate the centennial of the imaginative act, through which the Union of International Associatioins was created, by another imaginative initiative appropriate to the 21st century and consistent with the original inspiration -- namely the instigation of a Union of Imaginable Associations.

Three-stage emergence?

The table below endeavours to portray the relationship between the various stages. It presents each subsequent phase as being conceived and effectively initiated during the course of the previous stage that thus provides a supportive framework within which it was configured. Typically there is a degree of rupture on the actual emergence of the new stage. It is in this sense that an initial Stage 0 (UIA0) is presented in the table, since until 1948 UIA1 was effectively embedded within the Mundaneum, possibly to be understood metaphorically as a "womb". The files of UIA1 were literally then extracted from the archives of the Mundaneum (to the latter's considerable dismay) in what might, in that metaphor, be termed a caesarean birth. As discussed below, it is a matter of reflection as to whether the emergent Stage 3 form, painfully "birthed" from Stage 2, will represent the mature form of a "UIA" that will in its turn "plant an egg", be the "womb" for such an "egg", or be an "egg" itself.

In Table 1, the darkness of the cell colour is an indication of the degree of programme emphasis in terms of allocation of resources. The lightest grey is an indication of a sustained interest requiring relative little allocation of resources (notably in the case of online databases that may only be occasionally updated).

Table 1: Emergent stages in relation to programme emphases over time
. Stages "Stage 0" Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3/0
Year 1907> 1920> 1948> 1970>
1995> 2005>
Inception / ("Deception") Stage 1 . (Stage 0) Stage 2 (Stage 1) Stage 3 (Stage 2)
UIA1 Organizations             ?
Meetings             ?
Bibliography             ?
Biography             ?
Logotypes             ?
UIA2 Problems / Issues             ?
Strategies             ?
Human dev. / Values             ?
Integrative concepts             ?
Metaphors / Patterns             ?
Questions             ?
UIA1 Classification             ?
Statistics / Research             ?
Journal             ?
Facilitation             ?
UIA2 Systems development             ?
Visualization / Mapping             ?
UIA1 Representation             ?
IGO relations             ?
Coordination / Normative             ?
Legal             ?

Elaborating the time points in the table (further discussed in Annex 2: Detailed description of stages (exemplifying challenges in other organizations):

Stage 0: Essentially under the leadership and guidance of Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine Stage 1 [chronology]: Stage 2: Stage3:

Progressive dematerialization and virtualization of vehicle identity

Table 2: Stages in "dematerialization" of preoccupations according to refinement of
understandings of "UIA" functions (in response to learnings from misplaced concreteness)
. "Stage 0" Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3/0
"Associations" civil society representative civil society bodies (+intergovernmental organizations) active virtual and conceptual entities focusing and enabling collective action (coherent? harmless?) meaningful, relevant, empowering associations
international worldwide international (across geopolitical boundaries) cross-disciplinary (intelligible) relationships (across conceptual boundaries) cross-boundary (potential, suggestive, implicative, inspiring)
"Union" universal
classification of organizations (+related meetings, bibliography, etc) integrated relational data sets relevant to collective action (organizations, problems, strategies, etc) emergent order, patterns of coherence
globality globally extensive, hierarchically organized globally extensive, hierarchically organized globally comprehensive, relational networks globally comprehensible, experientially integrative significant associations (meaning intensive)
symbol of globality . image of Earth (from the Moon) spherical configuration of links in virtual reality (tensegrity, synergetics) Mandelbrot, mandala,
psycho-centric***??? torus?
system normalization, coordination diversity of natural and social ecosystems; general systems complexity sciences emergent systems; coherent implications
knowledge organization universal classification (UDC) narrow knowledge, closed system; classification (UDC) > functional classification matrix broader knowledge, open system, logical extension; hierarchical and (relevant) functional hyperlinks counterintuitive, lateral thinking; evocative, attractive, elegant, "seductive", entraining
"space" geopolitical information knowledge inspiration
time recordable past (memorable "has been") recordable past (memorable "has been") recordable present (online updating) emergent future ("might be")
urgency isolated longer-term concerns isolated longer-term concerns partially-related urgent preoccupations (isolated crises) highly interrelated urgent concerns ("crisis of crises")
focus documents information (documents) patterns; knowledge; know-how imagination, inspiration, innovation
paper-based documentation; museum electronic from paper-based documentation >> refererence books web; electronically
hyperlinked entities
pattern resonance (morphogenetic fields)?
legal, operational
logical, functional
legal, operational
potential, imaginative, complementary
unilateral bilateral/reciprocal loops in systems (networks) mobius?
cognitive engagement attribution of/to predetermined
descriptively (classification as a substitute for knowing) intelligibly (knowing as a substitute for imagining possibilities) engaging imaginatively (implication entrainment)
expression concrete action fields of practice preoccupations values
communication / dialogue face-to-face through formal representation electronic communication; learning environments meaningful, integrative implication
representativity, authority authoritative legitimate informed advocates (lobbys) expertise, excellence succinct; aphorism
viability (sustaining
subsidy marketed
information product
competitive project funding self-funding; LETS?

presentation and

of civil society
of action-enabling patterns
pattern embodiment
("Be the Change")
. token minority issue
global engagement

The above table indicates how each stage is characterized by a progressive dematerialization (or virtualization) of the distinct "vehicle" for the identity that it engenders and "incubates" for the following stage:

The process of virtualization may usefully be understood as a process of disidentification -- well-understood metaphorically in the psychological disidentification of a child from its parents. As a consequence, and as conventionally understood, there is no active interface between Stage 1 and 2, or between Stage 2 and 3, other than that internalized within the individuals operating according to both logics.

Associated disintegrative processes

The dematerialization described above -- with the progressive emergence of a subtler identity -- is necessarily paralleled by the progressive distintegration of structures and processes supportive of the more concrete attributes of earlier forms of identity that were effectivel,y superceded.

Membership indifference: Although token membership is a relatively benign characteristic of many international associations, its consequences become problematic in times of crisis, especially financial crises calling for strategic decision-making -- most evident for UIA1 from 2004. The lack of financial obligation on membership of UIA1 compounded their indifference to any statutory obligations in election and verification of the work of administrators. It has indeed been the case that UIA1 neither did anything for its members nor sought effectively to benefit from their membership.

Faced with a severe challenge of institutional survival, it is clear that such a membership could not be expected to respond in a timely manner, with appropriate competence, to the strategic challenges and technical opportunities of an emeging information society. Eminence is not an automatic guarantee of competence, notably to ensure the viability of an enterprise. This might be considered the dilemma of democracy in micrcosm -- especially one characterized by an aging population, as much caring as in need of care. What may be valuable as prudence, may prove fatal (as a "dead hand") when risks need to be taken to survive.

Effective abdication of administrators: Faced with a range of short- and long-term strategic and management challenges, those elected to positions of statutory responsibility tended themselves to adopt strategies of denial and decision-making avoidance. For many in key statutory positions, a principle measure of their self-esteem is how little information they require to make an informed decision with full confidence. The long-term, contractually-supported publishing programmes of UIA were presented as obviating the need for detailed comprehension of the viability of a multi-facetted, self-funded institution. The apparent need for minimally awareness thereby gave unusual significance to any process of being "briefed".

The laissez-faire attitude was associated with a minimal paper trail relating to the initiative or activity of elected administrators, notably recent Secretarys-General or Presidents. Any risks were mitigated by the manner in which statutory meetings could be used for a process of "self-laundering" through which responsibility for past inadequacies was formally absolved -- or attributed to administrations of the past. This pattern is of course a widespread characteristic of governance.

Although purporting to subscribe to ethical values, no effort was made to formulate them -- in contrast to the practice in international bodies sensitive to this dimension. This absence of standards undermined arguments for accountability -- currently a widespread concern in relation to bodies like the UIA. Whilst severely challenged ethically, any implications were avoided by the limited accountability required by passive Council and "Active" membership.

A significant gap was therefore cultivated betweeen the statutory responsibilities of elected retirees from well-funded institutional environments (whether intergovernmental, academic or corporate) who effectively abdicated responsibility for the viability of the intiative in favour of Secretariat staff in order to avoid accountability. Staff were employed at non-commercial salaries and encouraged to subscribe to an altruistic ethos to mitigate demands for more appropriate working conditions. This pattern is evident in widespread dependency by governmentand corporate systems on the initiatives of civil society in compensating for their inadequacies.

Operational constraints: It could be considered extraordinary that an initiative like the UIA, specialized in the processing of information on the universe of international organizations, was itself severely constrained in its ability to articulate useful knowledge about its own challenging condition and opportunities. This took several distinct forms:

Unfortunately a characteristic shared by members of the UIA Bureau elected in 2005 was their direct association with the failure of past initiatives of other bodies in which they had individually played significant roles. This involvement has variously resulted in their cessation of activity (or its continuing token operation as a "shell" emptied of significance), loss of investment, bankruptcy, or even legal proceeds by those affected. Concern about the management and strategic implications of such commonalities had not been voiced in the statutory meetings of the UIA.

Consultancy errors: Although UIA1 made occasional use of consultants for technical matters, and as an outsourcing device for financial reasons, their use regarding its strategic and managerial dilemmas was typically avoided -- rationalized in part by the financial implications. In consequence, on those occasions when such expertise was sought, reliance was based on those with direct or indirect association with the organization. This resulted in processes which undermined the effectiveness of the expertise due to inability (of all parties) to distinguish clearly between advice and intervention offered: as friends of the organization (or of some associated with it), as consultants in a pro bono mode, or as elected administrators (or members) with formal responsibilities. Those involved in this way also tended to shift between these modes in a manner that could be readily labelled as unprofessional, especially in the absence of any critical perspective on such dynamics.

Those active in this way in the period 2004-2007:

The learning for an organization in the position of UIA1 is the need to be wary of the mandate of consultants:

Collapse of polar tensions: The rapid post-partum decline of UIA2, can usefully be described in terms of a collapse in the polar tensions (and strategic ambiguities) which enabled it to engender UIA3. In the resorption of UIA2 into UIA1, it traded the complex challenge of the strategic dilemmas of the emerging information society for a simplistic strategy of earlier decades. This shift may be interpreted simply as a transition to a distinct culture previously latent in a more complex organization. The collapsed polar tensions include the following:

Table 3: Indicating collapse of polar tensions and dilemmas
(NB: The transition from Culture A to Culture B may also be seen as the resolution of a legitmate clash of cultures)
Culture A > Culture B
positive opportunities / negative constraints > positive opportunities (denial of the negative)
male / female staffing and perspectives > female-only perspectives (marginalization of male perspectives)
French / English administrative challenge > English-only (as the preferred alternative for Flemish staff)
international / national balance > Belgium-only (through lack of provision for non-EU staff)
multicultural / single culture > single culture
no meetings / minimum meetings (for administrative purposes) > frequent meetings (despite work pressure)
management documentation / minimum documentation > minimum documentation (avoiding preparatory or recorded articulation of issues)
ethical / unethical > unethical
open (transparent) / closed (nontransparent) > closed
professional / unprofessional > unprofessional
statutory / non-statutory > non-statutory
information (marketing) /
information (potential)
> information (marketing)
information management /
knowledge management
> information management
Bureau (Council) management /
Secretariat management
> Secretariat management
long-term (historical and future) /
short-term (doable and centenary)
> short-term -- ahistorical
issue concern / neutrality > neutrality
informed (critical) perspective /
documentary perspective
> uninformed documentary perspective
voluntary / paid > paid
research / information (business) > information (business)
value-based strategy /
business marketing strategy
> business marketing strategy
attributing strategic value to information /
attributing commercial value
> attributing commercial value
enabling people to do what needed to be done /
empowering people to decide what needed to be done
> empowering people to decide what needed to be done
pride in organization strategic position and operational viability /
pride in individual power positions within organization irrespective of viability
> pride in individual power positions within organization irrespective of viability
paper / electronic documents > wall documents (flip charts)

Symptoms of "organizational sickness": Studies of organizational development have shown that dysfunctionality ("sick organizations") tends to evoke illness in those people working in such a context. Beyond absenteeism, the patterns of ill-health amongst those associated with UIA1 therefore merit careful consideration as indicators of dangerous organizational dysfunctionality. In the period from 2003, severe, even life-threatening, conditions were evident in all those performing roles of Assistant Secretary-General, or with major operational responsibility. This was also the case with the President. Although possibly coincidental, it could be argued that these were the people in some way obliged to internalize personally the conflicted decision-making dilemmas of UIA1. No significance was attached to this phenomenon.

Reclaiming the heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour

A separate exploration (Reclaiming the Heritage of Misappropriated Collective Endeavour: the case of the Union of Intelligible Associations, 2007) focuses on the various understandings of the "existence" of collective "national" and "international" bodies, the ownership of their (intellectual) "property" in an increasingly open information society, and the claims that may "legitimately" be made on both by those who actively sustain or develop such property over decades. Such considerations are especially relevant in the transition over a century through the colonial era to one in which post-colonialist, participative values are promoted and upheld.

Conflicting claims to territory and property: real or virtual
"Existence" of collective entities
Value context
Deprecated arguments
Exploitation of contractual relationships
Reclaiming a heritage

The emergence of a Union of Intelligible Associations, or subsequently a Union of Imaginable Associations, may therefore be understood as a progressive reclaiming of a heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour.

Comprehending the transformative challenge of "stages" and their relationship

The start of the 21st century inherits an immense variety of organizational "bodies" -- "bodies corporate" -- understood to be established de jure or de facto. Many more continue to be created worldwide. However it is also witness to the emergence of a multitude of "networks" and virtual entities within cyberspace -- often "associations" of the most informal and ephemeral kind (listservs, newsgroups, blogs). These are however well-recognized as a challenge to policy-making by conventional bodies. Some bodies corporate also establish a "presence" in cyberspace, and more recently in virtual worlds (cf Second Life: Your World. Your Imagination).

This period also sees a degree of challenge to the rationale, credibility and mandate of bodies corporate -- especially when many of their functions are increasingly performed more effectively and rapidly through virtual organizations and loose networks. What values do incorporated bodies really represent in contrast to virtual entities? For what aspirations are they a more appropriate vehicle? Concerns may be expressed for the demise of such a body -- possibly even articulated in terms of the loss of its "soul" -- when valued activities are reduced (or "gutted") and distorted to other ends, if only those of survival. Commentary on such tendencies also makes reference to the fundamental importance of team "spirit", whether as valued by its members or through efforts by "animators" to imbue groups with such spirit to enhance their effectiveness, morale, creativity or productivity.

The intent here is not to explore any 3-fold ontology (or theology) of organizational "body", "soul" and "spirit" -- as distinguished in some management literature. Rather the focus is on the nature of distinct vehicles for collective intent -- and of how a vehicle of one form may effectively be necessary in order to engender another of subtler form and greater integrity and efficacy. Nor is the intent thereby to frame a potentially discriminatory scale of excellence through privileging a particular form. As will be shown, distinct stages may well be more fruitfully understood as interrelated in a cycle, such that the seemingly subtlest necessarily engages in the process of engendering the most concrete. Each stage may then be understood as a transitional vehicle through which insight and action are expressed in response to challenges and opportunity.

Dimensions: There are however challenges to understanding such relationships, as indicated by the following "dimensions":

Metaphors of stage separation and emergence

The challenges to comprehension implied by the rich pattern of distinctions (above) highlight the need to use metaphor to explore ways of comprehending the relationship between UIA1, UIA2 and UIA3. Metaphor is frequently used in the management literature to explore the nature of organizational transition (Sonja Sackmannand, The Role of Metaphors in Organization Transformation, Human Relations, 1989; Haridimos Tsoukas, The Missing Link: a transformational view of metaphors in organizational science, Academy of Management Review, 1991). This has been the theme of many studies under the notional auspices of UIA1 (Documents relating to Metaphor for Governance). Although a more extensive range of metaphors might be usefully considered, the principal metaphors used are:

Each such metaphor of course introduces particular distortions. Any such metaphors should be considered complementary, notably to the extent that they overemphasize male or female bias. The predesigned explicit staging characteristic of the rocket metaphor seemingly obscures the structural emergence characteristic of development from an egg within a womb. Understanding of such "nesting" over generations is partially exemplified by so-called Russian dolls (Matryoschka). Given the ambitious scope implied by the Mundaneum, in more symbolic and archetypal terms some consideration might also be given to archetypal symbols such as: Anima Mundi -- with documents understood as Prima Materia assembled in an effort to understand what animates the world.

Rocket metaphor: The comparison of the sequence to that of a 3-stage rocket -- with UIA1 as the first stage through which the launch of UIA3 is finally enabled, is consonant with a separate exploration of an astrophysical metaphor as the basis for the organization of knowledge space and the challenges of comunication across it (cf Towards an Astrophysics of the Knowledge Universe: from astronautics to noonautics?, 2006). This notably makes reference to a later work of Paul Otlet (Monde: Essai d'universalisme, 1935) as well as to the challenge of "escape" so effectively explored by Erik Davis (TechGnosis: myth, magic and mysticism in the age of information. 1998/2004) and reviewed as an Annex of that study (TechGnosis -- Gnostic Escape in a Knowledge Universe: embodied in a regrounding and re-Earthing process, 2007).

Reference is also made there to the initiative of Joseph Campbell (The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: metaphor as myth and as religion, 1986) in a series of symposia with that theme touching on the implications of the Space Age for an appropriate new mythology. This is consistent with the pioneering insights of the Renaissance scholar Marsilio Ficino (Composing the Present Moment: celebrating the insights of Marsilio Ficino interpreted by Thomas Moore, 2001).

Within the astronautics metaphor, the performance of a "UIA" 3-stage rocket (accepting the dematerialization of each successive stage), might be described in the following terms:


Metaphors of problematic stage separation: Given the role of distinct stages, whatever the metaphor, particular attention can be given to the use of metaphor in describing problems in stage separation:

new mindsets, paradigm -- umbilical ***

Metaphors of post-separation outcome: Also of interest is the use of metaphor in understanding what happens to an earlier stage after successful separation (post partum):

The superceded vehicle may not simply disappear but may continue to perform tasks relevant to mindsets only perceived by some to be outmoded. Its function may be reframed, possibly in commemoration of what it enabled in ensuring the viability of the subsequent stage.

As indicated earlier, a story of larger scope would consider the relationship of UIA1, as reconstituted after 1948, to the form initiated in 1907 (UIA0 ), acquiring the same name in 1910, and how that emerged, or became distinct, from the Mundaneum. ***

Evocative questions: It is a mistake to stretch metaphors beyond their usefulness, but some evocative questions may be fruitfully considered. The challenge to comprehension raises at least five distinct issues:

As vehicles of human initiative and understanding,
and as focal symbols of collective pride and expertise,
which international bodies can be fruitfully compared:

-- to RMS Titanic (in ignoring vulnerabilities)?
-- to RMS Queen Mary (now permanently docked as an entertainment facility)?
-- to the space shuttle Challenger (having ignored engineering feedback)?

How should ambitions to captain or crew such vehicles then be understood
-- especially for what becomes their final journey?

Distinguishing stages in the light of potential (mis)understanding

Misunderstandings are inherent in the succession of identities of "UIA", whether experienced by those external to their decision -making or those within them. The associated ambiguity may be exploited to various ends, excarbating the misunderstanding.

Understanding of UIA1 is potentially confused by: a sense of comprehensiveness with implications of hierarchical closure of knowledge classification and legally institutionalized membership; reinforced by UN recognition of UIA1 as a legal entity, cooptation of elite membership, implications of "unionisation" (subsuming initiatives of other bodies), and assumptions of special expertise. Any such outmoded "imperial" roles may be dysfunctionally attractive to those seeking to benefit from their association with it, whether organizationally or personally. Mistaken assumptions may be made about the capacity to target international associations with marketing messages and campaign appeals. There may be a degree of deliberate exploitation of this ambiguity to sustain credibility, attract resources and ensure operational viability.

Understanding of UIA2 is potentially confused by: failure to comprehend its status as a strategic intiative rather than as a legal entity; a focus on the strategic potential of its information for the promotion of political agendas (eg UN system, advocacy bodies), commercial agendas (eg meetings industry), security agendas (social network analysis for the detection of threat). This may encourage an emphasis on mapping complex static patterns of relationship and their visualization -- in a period desperate for simple responses to complex problems, meaningful participative engagement, enhanced by multimedia, and responsive to preferences for a variety of ways of knowing. This confusion may inhibit recognition of the degree of successful adaptation of UIA2 to the technical and conceptual developments of the complexities and openness of the emerging knowledge society.

Potential confusion in understanding the role of UIA3: the seeming irresponsibility of emphasis on aesthetic integration, radical individualism supported by the subjective dynamics of a virtual multimedia environment with its problematic relationship to concreteness and long-term initiatives (in the "real world"). Confusion is exacerbated by problematic relationship to ungrounded dysfunctional subjective obsession with arbitrary integrative comprehension (groupthink, "everything connected to everything"), as well as the problematic distinction from the dysfunctionality of faith-based initiatives (see below).

Interrelating possibilities for (mis)understanding : Such potential for confusion may be explained and clarified in the following Table 5 -- adapted and developed from Arthur Young's Geometry of Meaning (1978). Note that other adaptations (and commentaries) of potential relevance to this exploration include a Typology of 12 complementary strategies essential to sustainable development (1998), Characteristics of phases in 12-phase learning / action cycles (1998), Typology of 12 complementary dialogue modes essential to sustainable dialogue, Characteristics of phases in 12-phase learning / action cycles (1998), Further Constraints on Conceptual Container Design (Part 5 of Development through Alternation, 1983), Varieties of experience of past-present-future complexes (2001), Functional Complementarity of Higher Order Questions psycho-social sustainability modelled by coordinated movement (2004). Some of these formed part of the commentaries to Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.

Table 5 (below) could be understood as a presentation of two modes of institutional learning (including learning within institutions):

The symbols used in the table may be ignored. They derive from the efforts of Arthur Young (as inventor of the Bell helicopter) to relate the challenge of controlling a vehicle (operating in three dimensional space) to the complexity of the 12 different physical factors (measure formulae used in physics to describe the motion of a body) that needed to be taken into account. He endeavoured to extend these insights to apply to learning and action in psychosocial situations -- as being of equivalent complexity at least. It is assumed here that they are of relevance to understanding the challenges of navigating in knowledge space as discussed elsewhere (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002).

Table 5: Two modes of institutional learning
(adaptation of an analysis of action-learning cycles by Arthur Young)
. UIA1
Acts Abstract Schematic

M0L = C / A***
States Motivated Considered

ML = F . / I
Relationships Application Follow-through Commitment
ML2 = M / U
T0 L. Observation; act of considering; position determination; reactive learning based on immediate registration of phenomena; assessment of distance; "sizing up" ML. Recognition of moment(ousness), relevance (as related to leverage), significance (as in "matters of great moment"); weight of facts; bringing matters into focus ML2 Faith in current paradigm or perception of reality; unexamined or habitual commitment to a process projection or understanding, irrespective of inconsistent disturbing factors Timeless awareness 
Unconscious registration of information
T-1 L./T Adaptive change; reaction; passive adaptation or change of position in response to changing circumstances ML./T Recognition of the momentum (of an issue) resulting from a change, namely the consequential transformation of awareness or perspective ML2/T Decision or impulse to act or initiate a process determining the future Conscious adaptive response 
Homeostatic equilibrium 
Unconscious adaptation
T-2 L/T2 Spontaneous initiation of transformative action; commitment to a new course of action ML/T2 Forcefulness engendered, experienced or embodied as a result of transformative action; constructive (or disruptive) action potential; enhanced sense of being ML2/T2 Achievement of a desired result by application of understanding (and adjustment of implicit beliefs) in response to external factors; working action on reality 
Comparison with norms or memory of previous experience 
Auto-catalytic response 
T-3 L/T3 Control of transformative action ML/T3 Establishment of disciplined pattern of response; consolidated or harmonious control of action potential; holding forces in check ML2/T3 Power of acquired knowledge; know-how; integrated or embodied experience; capacity (including that of not acting); non-action Comparison with previous comparisons 
Awareness of self-awareness 
Transendental discontinuity
Uncoordinated action 
Victim of discontinuity
Intentional shift of 
- perspective 
- position 
- reference 
Range of conscious attention span 
"Distance" from object of focus
(see MLT0) Projection of an intended shift of perspective into reality . Time-binding
Unintended shift of: 
- perspective 
- position 
- reference 
Displacement of focus
Unconscious impression of significance Subject to an unintended shift of perspective Space-binding Learning via...

The above table is helpful with respect to the:

Whereas the potential of UIA2 is naturally associated with the exponential development of cyberspace (including Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web), such developments need to be contrasted with another striking evolution that is more closely indicative of the potential of UIA3 -- and the difficulty of understanding it. This is the strategic coherence of the faith-based initiatives as has been only too evident in the case of the leadership of the Coalition of the Willing in justifying intervention in Iraq with unprecedented resources -- and the faith-based response of suicide bombers in totally undermining that strategy -- both in thrall to religious dogma. The "incomprehensible" nature of this "Stage 3" strategy is evident in the contrast now recognized between "faith-based" and "reality-based" decision-making at the highest level -- as noted in a much-cited article by Ron Suskind (Without a Doubt, The New York Times, In The Magazine, 17 October 2004) regarding an exchange with an aide in the decision-making circle of President Bush:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

With respect to the above table, this faith-based reality might be understood as a potentially problematic mindset associated with the "T0" level of UIA3. The same might be said of certain forms of "positive thinking", especially as extolled in faith-based contexts (Being Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005). A distinct form of "Stage 3", more characteristic of the emergent UIA3 discussed here, is that associated with the enactivism typical of the T-2, or T-3 levels. The enactivist approach to "laying down the path" may be usefully contrasted with a common practice of "lying about the path" one is walking -- whether to oneself or to others. (Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006).

Detailed description of stages (exemplifying challenges in other organizations)

Annex 2 : Detailed description of stages (exemplifying challenges in other organizations)
   -- Stage 1: Union of International Associations (UIA1): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   -- Stage 2: Union of Intelligible Associations (UIA2): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   -- Stage 3: Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   Comprehension of stage separation (decoupling / detachment) in transformation processes


Although the stage separation dynamics, and their comprehension, are explored in greater detail in Annex 2, the insights from the analysis of the three-stage separation are perhaps best summarized below in Table 6. This is a prelude to the discussion of an integrative model in Annex 3: Psychosocial Energy from Polarization -- within a Cyclic Pattern of Enantiodromia where the focus is on relating the stages in a cycle.

Table 6: Long-term Global Dynamic of Individual-Collective Action-Comprehension
(illustrated by the 100 years of UIA methods and illusions)
. . Stage 0/1 Stage 2 Stage 3/0

(intended outcome)


"UIA" Empowering action through collection and organization of information on hierarchies of representative civil society bodies in all fields of activity as being authoritiative, especially those assemblying them in response to coordinated intergovernmental bodies strategies Enabling collective action (and communication) through re-presenting information on complex networks and patterns of relevant entities (indicative of dynamic systems) using multimedia techniques to enhance integrative comprehension.
Enabling imaginative associations to embody coherence. Personal immediacy
Own coherence
2nd order cybernetics
legitmation of colonial exploitation

globe***, spin, value reversal
counter-intuitive, lateral
knowledge orverlaod

(Second Life).
gated, forting-up
Embodied contradictions/
Creativity ambiguity
"UIA" Faced with proliferation of civil society bodies, UIA0/1 implied to be a prime focus sought by IGOs (seeking a single voice and single channel), meetings industry (seeking a single interface for marketing), academe (seeking comprehensive statistics), or civil society advocacy groups (seeking assistance and mailing addresses). Meaning in priciple does not readily translate into meaning in practice.



Emergence of complex models, global plans, hybrid initiatives (WEF, WSF, etc), virtual organization

Unresolved response to stereotyping, groupthink and unshared comprehension (alternative ways of knowing and recognizing meaning)

cultural variety
scale and urgency


unsayable, effective outcome)


"UIA" Information overload and underuse. Democractic deficit. Apathy. Inadequacy of coordination. Meaning dependency.
Knowledge overload and underuse
Recognition of inadequacy of "alternatives". Erosion of credibility of authority. Undeliverability of programmatic promises, including reform. Inadequate response to surprises. Gameplaying. Endemic corruption. Cynicism, fatalism. "Renegotiation" of human rights. Non-convergence on solutions.
Grounding, embodying, embodiment of collective...
inspiration overload and underuse;


faith-based, conspiracy theory, spam, groupthink

Some general conclusions are of course proposed in the main paper Emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations: engendered by a Union of Intelligible Associations from a Union of International Association

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