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Potential of Feynman Diagrams for Challenging Psychosocial Relationships?

Comprehending the neglect of an unexplored possibility (Part #1)

Questionable appreciation of quantum electrodynamics
Characterisation of Feynman diagrams
Credibility of psychosocial analogues of Feynman diagrams
Urgent need for subtle representation of positive-negative relationships through a pattern language
Relevance to much-valued psychosocial processes
Exploratory psychosocial reframing of Feynman diagrams
Unacknowledged preferences for partial clarity and partial transparency

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The complexity and subtlety of the arguments and models offered by fundamental physics are widely recognized as one means of comprehending reality, . To most they are essentially incomprehensible, if not irrelevant to the experience of daily life. It is of course the case that another form of complexity is evident in psychosocial systems, whether at the macro-level of global modelling or at the micro-level of interpersonal relationships.

As the current crisis has demonstrated, it is far from clear that macro-level systemic models have been adequate to the challenge of global governance (Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics the Gaussian Copula, the Kaya Identity, and what else? 2009). More poignant is the challenging nature of interpersonal relationships, as endlessly explored in personal experience and dramatisations -- currently highlighted by the preoccupation with "same-sex marriage", and without consideration of other possibilities (Marrying an Other whatever the Form: reframing and extending the understanding of marriage, 2013; Transcending Simplistic Binary Contractual Relationships What is hindering their exploration? 2012).

In these circumstances it is striking to note the role played by Feynman diagrams in providing a common language through which the mathematical complexity of fundamental physics can be succinctly implied -- in such a way as to facilitate discourse, whilst avoiding any immediate need for decoding and interpreting the significance of the underlying equations. The diagrams were promoted in their final form by the renowned physicist Richard Feynman and have proven to be a remarkable medium of discourse over many decades, as noted by David Kaiser (Drawing Theories Apart: the dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in postwar physics, 2005).

Essentially the diagrams offer a way of engaging with complexity without being rendered impotent by doing so. Given their archetypal simplicity as diagrams, and the fundamental nature of what they are able to "hold", the question to be asked is whether some form of "Feynman diagram" would be of considerable value to discourse regarding challenging psychosocial relationships. More provocatively, the question might be framed as to whether Feynman diagrams could themselves be understood even more generally such as to encompass the cognitive dynamics of psychosocial relationships. This possibility would be consistent with the cognitive psychology of George Lakoff and Rafael Nuñez (Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being, 2001), as further elaborated by Chris Fields (Metaphorical Motion in Mathematical Reasoning: further evidence for pre-motor implementation of structure mapping in abstract domains, Cognitive Processing, 2013).

Potentially of even greater relevance to this argument is the manner in which this possibility has been neglected. This is explained in part by challenges made to any equivalence between comprehension of "unnatural" psychosocial systems and of "natural systems", highlighted by debate regarding the Sokal Affair -- the hoax perpetrated by the physicist Alan Sokal to mock and deprecate the explorations of postmodern social sciences. As previously suggested with respect to mathematical metaphors, the current vulnerability of a global civilization (so dependent on collective confidence), indicates a degree of urgency to further exploration (Risk-enhancing Cognitive Implications of the Basic Mathematical Operations: ADD, MULTIPLY, DIVIDE and SUBTRACT, 2013; Mathematical Theology -- Future Science of Confidence in Belief: self-reflexive global reframing to enable faith-based governance, 2011).

This exploration is largely inspired by a confluence of threads in the work of Johan Galtung (Chemical Structure and Social Structure: an essay on structuralism, 1977; Peace Mathematics, 2012), together with his direction of the sub-project on Forms of Presentation (FoP) of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the United Nations University (1979) -- and the challenges these might imply (Forms of Presentation and the Future of Comprehension, 1984).

The following argument primarily takes the form of a survey of relevant web resources which may be of inspiration to others -- whatever may prove to be the meaning of "inspiration" and enlightenment within such complementary diagrams. A key point made is that through psychosocial interaction in daily life, and its representation by the media, people are necessarily already very familiar with the degree of complexity that a "Feynman diagram" presents in schematic form. The question is whether, as a pattern language, it suggests a wider range of fruitful possibilities -- notably in collective processes -- and how any such pattern can be cognitively embodied.

Is it feasible to imagine a cognitive interface with complexity of a very high order and how it might be possible to engage with it fruitfully in practice? Feynman diagrams are indicative of such a process with respect to the microcosm of fundamental particles of which humans are composed -- understood quantitatively in the light of complex numbers and quantum electrodynamics (QED). The elegant visual rendering of the Mandelbrot fractal offers a related experience, as do renderings of the "exceptionally simple" Lie Groups of symmetry theory.

As a pattern language, is the emergence and use of Feynman diagrams then helpful in indicating the possibility of a qualitative analogue to that interface? Does it constitute a key to enabling comprehension and development of "qualum psychosocial dynamics" (QPD) in terms of complex qualities, whatever they might be understood to mean? The complementarity of the conventional and unconventional modes might be represented by the following.

(via credible simplification)


  qualitatively coherent


  selective experimental


The above scheme distinguishes the contrasting columns of "science" versus "belief" -- as challenged by complexity in the quest for comprehension and confidence. Typically proponents identifying with either column find the other either fundamentally absurd or misguided. Each has problematic consequences, especially from the perspective of the other. It is intriguing to note that one achieves a sense of "coherence" from quantitative correctness derived experimentally, whilst the other achieves a sense of "correctness" from qualitative coherence derived experientially.

The columns are potentially complementary, but this would call for challenging exploration of their respective cognitive methodologies, as argued separately (Mathematical Theology: Future Science of Confidence in Belief, 2011). The following argument explores one thread in this potential complementarity in terms of the "science" column.

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