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Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways

Distinguishes possible levels of interweaving threaded discussions for greater coherence.

Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways
Challenge of the semantic web
Levels of thematic organization (Linear)
Levels of thematic organization (Woven)
Noonautics: enabling 'vehicle movement' through cognitive entanglement
Magic carpets as psychoactive system diagrams
Cognitive globalization through wrap-around cages

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An abridged version of this article appeared as Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways: Noonautics and Wizdomes,
Futures, 44, 2012, pp. 81-90 (


Much is made of the ongoing explosion of communication intrinsic to sustaining a global society. Much less evident is whether this communication is in fact adequate to the challenges highlighted by Jared M. Diamond (Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed, 2005), Paul Ormerod (Why Most Things Fail: evolution, extinction and economics, 2005) or Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization, 2006). The argument of the latter with regard to the energy needs of (imperial) society might well be extended to include the movement of information in a (global) knowledge society.

Related concerns are indicated by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007) and Karen A. Cerulo (Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006) with respect to the uptake of that knowledge in relation to potential crises. Other authors have expressed concerns about the capacity to take account of such issues (Charles Handy, The Age of Unreason, 1990; John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1995). More problematic is the possibility that society's increasing incapacity to process information in response to governance needs signals a looming 'singularity', as might suggest the proposed adaptation of Homer-Dixon's argument (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009).

The concern here is to address the challenge of how information is organized -- together with knowledge and wisdom -- especially in a web environment and beyond the declared ambitions of the Semantic Web. The approach takes account of the metaphors used, notably the 'bullet points' of presentations and the 'threads' of discourse on the web. Thread as a metaphor is of significance beyond the web and this informs discussion about the use of thread on the web. It is notably of significance in literature and psychotherapy in the understanding of connective 'threads of meaning' and how they may be interwoven in a semantic structure.

In a period in which humanity is much challenged by a labyrinthine 'crisis of crises', it is also appropriate to recall the legendary guiding Thread of Ariadne -- whilst asking whether it is how multiple threads are now to be employed rather than a single thread (Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics, 2009). The continuing importance of myth, as stressed by many authors (Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth, 2005). Given the many myths associated with weaving, it is appropriate to recognize the extent to which skills in weaving together threads of meaning may continue to borrow from cultural traditions and collective memory. Gandhi is noteworthy for cultivating this myth in practice.

The basic question is how disparate 'threads' themselves are organized together -- beyond the use of 'menus', however deeply they are 'nested'. Using the 'thread' metaphor, the particular concern is with how colour-coded threads might be 'woven' together -- beyond their presentation in matrix form. Using the 'weaving' metaphor, the question is whether threads may be woven into designs -- as is done with cloth, tapestry and carpets. In considering design possibilities, the concern is then with weaves that allow for nonlinear elements to the design, notably as in lace and in contemporary weaves. Networks may be understood as examples of interwoven threads. Systems diagrams might be described as planar weaves.

The above exploration opens the possibility of considering non-planar weaves -- typically essential for certain forms of clothing -- and their potential cognitive significance as protection from the 'elements'. This is notably evident in the creation of containers through basket weaving. The 'basket' metaphor has, for example, been fundamental to some intergovernmental negotiations -- as with the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Accords, 1975) which revolved around four 'baskets' of issues. Basket weaves are also vital in trap construction.

The ultimate concern here is associated with the cognitive and mnemonic significance that may be attached to woven designs -- especially as is evident in the traditional designs of carpets in the Middle East. The question is how the design as a whole constitutes an enabling 'vehicle' and what kinds of 'transportation' are thereby enabled -- as with traditional allusions to a 'magic carpet'. What is the transformative 'magic' of such a carpet? This is explored in an extensive Annex on Magic Carpets as Psychoactive System Diagrams.

Beyond the carpet metaphor, what other kinds of cognitive container can be constructed by appropriately weaving threads -- as do members of various species in constructing cocoons or nests (as with silk worms, spiders, and birds)? These are of particular relevance in the light of contemporary use of cocooning, nest and web as metaphors of increasing significance to individual and collective lifestyles. What might spiders or birds be said to 'know' in engaging in such behavior? To what extent do humans tend to content themselves with thread organization of lower dimensionality in their discourse -- inappropriate to the challenges of the times? This might be especially ironic given that the 'World Wide Web' could be said to be based on a weaving metaphor.

Individuals engage in an ever increasing multiplicity of thematic threads of discourse and preoccupation. In a context of information overload, the question is whether these can be more meaningfully interwoven to carry higher orders of significance. Are there implicit patterns to be detected or elicited?

The context for this exploration is partially evident from various earlier endeavours (The Future of Comprehension: conceptual birdcages and functional basket-weaving, 1980; Functional Classification in an Integrative Matrix of Human Preoccupations, 1982; Spherical Configuration of Categories to Reflect Systemic Patterns of Environmental Checks and Balances, 1994; From Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere Global: configuration of hypertext pathways as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation, 1996; Towards a Web Framework for Synthesis in Dialogue: insight capture from the flow of conference interventions, 1996; Global Self-Organization: the systemic structural challenge of the exchange of meaning, 1997; Geometry of Thinking for Sustainable Global Governance, 2009). Other documents are mentioned below where they are specifically relevant.

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