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Needs Communication: viable need patterns and their identification


Needs Communication
Structured need field
Outline of a metamodel (4)
Number-coded need sets
Relationship to existing need sets
Need representation: antiquated, premature and unexpressed needs
Need representation: lists and matrices (20)
Need representation: patterns of contiguity
Representation of N-term need sets
ANNEX 1: Example of an elaboration of a number-based sequence of systems
ANNEX 2: Summary of symmetrical 2- and 3-dimensional forms

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Paper presented to a Workshop on Needs (Berlin, May 1978) organized by the International Institute for Environment and Society and The GPID project. Reprinted from: Katrin Lederer (Ed) in cooperation with Johan Galtung and David Antal: Human Needs; a contribution to the current debate. Konigstein, Verlag Anton Hain, 1980. Reproduced as Annex 6 of Forms of Presentation and the Future of Comprehension. Brussels, UIA, 1984, pp. 207-232


This paper deliberately attempts to take a somewhat different approach to the much-debated question of human needs and to the related debate on human values. It is less concerned with which specific needs should be selected as a basic set and more with the constraints on the formulation of a viable set. In particular, it is concerned with the lack of consensus on a need set even within self-selected groups and the time spent on establishing distinctions that are not necessarily comprehensible to a wider circle.

There is a weakness in the debate process. The nature of the debate of needs that we have (and its associated confusion) implies a learning process on our part-if consensus is achieved. But whatever the conclusions arrived at, they have to be presented to others, thus presumably imposing an equivalent learning process on others. And the amount of time required to clarify such an issue within an 'informed' group is a measure of the confusion that will continue to surround the subject prior to any learning process-since each generation comes to it afresh, and deliberate attempts will continue to be made to exploit the confusion.

The emphasis here is therefore not on need definition but on the framework within which a need set is defined. This leaves the definition process open, rather than aiming for closure and thus stifling alternative reconceptualizations. Hopefully by focusing on the framework more can be understood about relationships both between needs and between the highly diverse perceptions of needs. This should provide a support for the debate, as well as a degree of order, without attempting to settle detailed problems that may not in fact need to be settled.

Many of the points made somewhat briefly in this paper have been examined at much greater length in a more general paper that does not make specific reference to needs or values. (1]

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