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Comprehension and Organization

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Comprehension and Organization
6.2 Discontinuity: Comprehension and internatization
6.3 Pattern accumulation in a learning society

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Part 6 of Development through Alternation. Augmented version of a paper originally prepared for Integrative Working Group B of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the Human and Social Development Programme of the United Nations University (UNU). This document was originally distributed as a separate monograph in 1983. The paper provides a structure linking reviews of alternation as it emerges in studies from a wide range of sources. The paper is in 9 separate parts [searchable PDF version]

0. Introduction / Abstract

1. Monopolarization
1.1. Questionable answers
1.2. Forms of truth
1.3. Accumulative answers
1.4. Developing a new "meta-answer"
1.5. Decodification of analyses of capital accumulation
1.6. "New International Conceptual Order"
1.7. Accumulation and development
1.8. Development of accumulation
1.9. Domains of significance

2. Antagonistic dualities: polarization and paradox
2.1. Oppositional logic
2.2. Polarity
2.3. Paradoxes and antinomies

3. A third perspective
3.1. Beyond method
3.2. Constraints on a meta-answer
3.3. Meta-answer patterning
3.4. Containing discontinuity through aesthetics
3.5. Observer entrapment and micro-macro complementarity
3.6. Order through fluctuation: dissipative structures
3.7. Opening and closing: alternation for discontinuous learning
3.8. Third-perspective "containers": patterns of alternation
3.9. Revolutionary cycles of alternation
3.10. Trialectics: a logic of the whole

4. Threshold of comprehenisibility: a fourfold minimal container?
4.1. Omnitriangulation: interlocking cycles
4.2. Number and time
4.3. Logos and lemma for interparadigmatic dialogue
4.4. Epistemological mindscapes
4.5. Complementary languages
4.6. Nonlinear cybernetics
4.7. Modes of managing

5. Further constraints on conceptual container design
5.1. Cyclic self-organization requirements
5.2. Encompassing system dynamics
5.3. Encompassing varieties of form

6. Comprehension and learning
6.1. Non-comprehension "holes"
6.2. Discontinuity: comprehension and internalization
6.3. Pattern accumulation in a learning society

7. Complexification of integration
7.1. General systems and holonomy
7.2. Cognitive systematization
7.3. Wholeness and the implicate order
7.4. Health and space-time
7.5. Dissonant harmony and holistic resonance

8. Development of comprehension and compehension of development
8.1. Interwoven alternatives: organizational tensegrity and resonance hybrids
8.2. Non-comprehension as a structuring characteristic of a learning society
8.3. Learning cycles
8.4. Patterns of alternation: a musical key from a political philosopher
8.5. Patterns of alternation: an agricultural key from crop rotation
8.6. The entropic crisis and the learning response
8.7. Alternation between energetic expansion and mentalistic reduction
8.8. Uncertainty: the source of meaning
8.9. Morphic resonance
8.10. Toward an enantiomorphic policy
8.11. Game comprehension and identity transformation
8.12. Ecodynamics and societal evolution
8.13. Language of probabilistic vision of the world

9. Implications
9.1. Implications for agreement and consensus
9.2. Implications for action formulation
9.3. Implications for values and norms
9.4. Implications for organizations
9.5. Implications for unemployment
9.6. Implications for the developmental responsibility of answer domains
9.7. Implications for forms of presentation
9.8. Implications for information processing
9.9. Implications for the human self-image

10. Conclusions

Notes
References


6.1 Non-comprehension "holes"

The previous sections clarify the conceptual challenge by which individuals and societies are faced in endeavouring to "ride the tiger" and encompass the development process in which they are immersed. But the very fact that this seems to call for juggling conceptually with seven or more factors simultaneously suggests the need to examine what kind of situation results if this does not prove possible, and what kind of psychosocial structures then emerge. As reviewed in an earlier paper (58), most people have difficulty in juggling with more than three factors, and there is a considerable preference for dealing with one, or at the most two.

The nature of the communication (and organizational) patterns which emerge as the result of conceptual discontinuity and non-comrnunication has been clarified by Q-analysis. This is the theory and application of mathematical relations between finite sets. Ron Atkin has applied this to the analysis of communication patterns within complex organizations (72, 73, 74).

The perceptual significance of this approach is well-illustrated by visual sensitivity to colours resulting from the three primary hues (red, green and blue). These may be represented on a simple piece of geometry as shown in Figure 3. Here the vertices (O-simplexes) represent the primary hues, the sides are twofold combinations (l-sirnplexes), and the combination of the three hues makes the central white (2-sirnplex). The 2-simplex, together with all its faces, forms a simplicial complex KY(X) where X is the vertex set (red, green, blue) and Y is the set of seven perceived colours.

Reproduced from Atkin (73, p.108)
Comprehension colour triangle (Atkin)

Now to be able to see all the colours, a person's vision needs to have the ability to function in the triangle as 2-dimensional "traffic" on that geometry, moving from location to location adjusting to the complexity of the geometrical structure which carries the visual traffic. If however the person's vision is limited to 1-dimensional traffic, then white could not be perceived because the visual traffic of seeing is then restricted to the edges and vertices. Similarly, if the person's colour vision is only O-dimensional, then it is restricted to the vertices. It can only see one vertex colour at a time and never a combination (as represented by an edge). If vision was 3-dimensional, it would allow traffic throughout the geometry, but would perceive other colours as well, calling for a fourth vertex in order to contain the full range of combinations.

If the geometry represents concepts or psychosocial functions (or even policy issues faced by an organization) instead of colours, then it would be expected that some people, in relation to that set, would have O0-dimensional comprehension (i.e. sensitive to primary issues only and others would have I-dimensional comprehension (i.e. sensitive to 2-fold issue combinations only). The latter would be unable to maintain attention to three concepts simultaneously in order to perceive the threefold combination (the central "white" issue). The threefold issue is then a 2-hole in the pattern of communication connectivity amongst those involved. For 2-dimensional traffic, the issue complex is coherent, comprehensible and well integrated. For the I-dimensional traffic, it feels less secure as a whole, since the latter may only be experienced sequentially through a succession of experiences ("around the edges") from which the shape of the whole is deduced. For O-dimensional traffic, the integrated concept does not exist, since experience is disconnected.

"Generally speaking it seems to be confirmed that action (of whatever kind) in the community can be seen as traffic in the abstract geometry and that this traffic must naturally avoid the holes (because it is impossible for any such action to exist in a hole). The holes therefore appear strangely as objects in the structure, as far as the traffic is concerned. The difference is a logical one in that the word "q-hole" describes a static feature of the geometry S(N), whilst the world "q-object" describes the experience of that hole by traffic which moves in S(N)" (72, p. 75).

As an "object" this phenomenon is an obstacle to communication and comprehension and obliges those confronted with it to go "around" in order to sense the higher dimensionality by which it is characterized. Communications "bounces off" such objects. As a "hole" this phenomenon engenders, or is engendered by, a pattern of communication. It appears to function both as "source" and "sink". Atkin suggests that, in some way which is not yet fully understood, such object/holes act as sources of energy for the possible traffic around them. From the initial research it would appear that such objects/holes are characteristic of communication patterns in most complex organizations. It seems highly probable that they can also be detected in any partially ordered pattern of communication. As such societal problems", "human needs", and "human values" merit examination in this light.

Very concretely, Atkin has investigated situations in which the "vertices" (which could themselves be n-simplexes in a multidimensional geometry) are individuals or offices linked together through various committees. (They could also be governments or disciplines.) There will then be a lot of o-traffic and 1-traffic within and between offices due to the details of their intra- and inter-office (bilateral) operations. This traffic will circulate around the holes/objects which they constitute. Any n-level traffic can only be encompassed, or be brought to rest, by an (n+l)-level body (e.g. an executive or a committee). If the latter does not exist, such traffic will continue to circulate around the q-objects in the structure and, according to Atkin, may be defined as noise.

An "empire builder" (or any elite), for example, in such an organizational system will carefully create many q-holes underneath him (at the n-level), so that subordinate bodies answerable only to his appointees, are trapped in the flow of noise between them (72, pp. 1 29). Atkin notes that even though the geometry may not have been rendered explicit, such structures generate the feeling throughout a community of some "power behind the scenes" acting to outwit the formal structure. The special value of Q-analysis is that it can clarify why action/discussion in connection with (development) issues tends to be "circular" in the long-term, however energetic it may appear in the short-term. As such it shows how social change is blocked by the way in which conceptual traffic patterns itself around the sensed core issue which is never confronted as such because the connectivity pattern is inadequate to the dimensionality of the issue. This would explain why so manty issues go unresolved and why the process of "solving" problems becomes institutionally of greater importance than the actual "elimination" of the problem.

Q-analysis gives precision to the recognition that traffic of different degrees of content connectivity finds (or creates) its appropriate level in any psychosocial structure. Communicable insights are level-bound, especially where they are of high connectivity. In other words, at the level within which we can communicate, concepts cannot necessarily be anchored unambiguously into terms and definitions which "travel well". Precision introduces distortion which is only acceptable locally within any communicating society - although "locally" must be interpreted in the non-geographical sense in which all nuclear physicists are near neighbours, for example.

The relation between two personal or institutional structures, conceived as multidimensional back cloth, carries whatever traffic that constitutes the communication between them. If this back cloth changes by becoming dimensionally smaller, then its geometry loses vertices and the consequent connectivity properties. This is first indicated by the failure of higher dimensional traffic which the geometry can no longer carry. Such 4-traffic, for example, must then mover through the structure to some new haven of 4-dimensionality or it must change its nature and become genuine 3-traffic. This process of reducing communication expectations in order to continue to live within the new warped geometry is the classical problem of compromising. The feeling of "having to compromise" is a painful one. It is the feeling of stress induced by the warping of the communication geometry, namely the direct experience of a structurally induced force, in this case a 4-force (72, pp. 146-7). This approach clearly provides a very precise approach to understanding more subtle forms of structural violence. He has applied it to an analysis of unemployment (72, p. 148).

Such considerations suggest the power of Q-analysis in clarifying approaches to human and social development in general. Reducing the dimensionality of the geometry on which a person (or group) is able to live is an impoverishment associated with repressive forces. Expanding the dimensionality induces positive, attractive forces through which a sense of development and enrichment is experienced (72, p. 163). Q-analysis seems to be a valuable new language through which precision can be given to intuitive experiences and then communication, particularly since it provides an explicit measure of obstruction to change.

In the case of social development, it is probable that most continuing societal problems should be seen as holes/objects, especially given the well-established record of unfruitful action in response to them - however vigorous and dedicated. Typical examples are: peace/disarmament, development, human rights, environment, etc. Q-analysis could then provide understanding of why any action tends to be drawn into a vortex of futulity, however much it satisfies short-term political needs for visible "positive" action. The participants in the action find themselves "circulating" around a central concern of which they are unable to obtain an overview due to the geometries of the overlapping conceptual and organizational structures through which they work (or which they somehow engender).

The term "futility" used above is however only appropriate if the sole considerations were the elimination of such problems. In fact the existence of such problems is extremely important to the organization of society, to social development, and to the direct or indirect employment of many people. 3ust as the "defence" business is vital to the economy of many countries, so is the "social problem" business vital to many sectors of society. Eliminating social problems would be a disaster for many people, especially problem-oriented intellectuals, or the employees of problem-solving agencies.

In the case of human development, Atkin shows how the individual can be defined in terms of a multidimensional geometry requiring a minimum of four levels (72, p. 111). By relating this geometry to that of society, itself structured into micro-to-macro levels reminiscent of the preoccupations of Chadwick F. Alger (75), Atkin introduces an 8-level scheme (72, p. 162), within which the degree of integration or eccentricity of communication can be clarified in terms of developmental or anti-developmental forces.

Concerning such levels, the question arises as to whether their hierarchical order is fixed. Preoccupations associated with Schumacher's "small is beautiful", for example, may well modify the order. The ordering may be a question of orientation in which the "top" and "bottom" elements selected depend on the preferred concept and direction of development (e.g. "top-down", "bottom-up"). This would be more consistent with the concept of order as an (existential) choice as discussed above in connection with the various fourfold "languages".

In such a multidimensional geometry it is clar that, whether in the case of an individual, a group or society as a whole, it is not possible to eliminate "under development" as associated with low dimensionality. Such a geometry will necessarily continue to have traffic of very low-level connectivity co-present with that of increasingly higher level connectivity. The simplest illustration arises from the continual birth of infants who will, when resources permit, continue to be educated through to the level of connectivity to which they can respond. But there will always be communication at both low and high-connectivity levels, especially about socio-political issues. The question is then how such learning communication between these different levels of connectivity can weave itself together within a social structure.

It is the status of the holes/objects in relation to development which could provide an interesting point of departure for further investigation. As noted above, it is not a question of attempting vainly to eliminate such holes, especially when some of them may arise from alternative concepts of "development". Rather it is a question of how configurations of holes can be identified and/or designed. It is such configurations of holes which provide the minimum structure (and communication dynamics) to stabilize and give form to the co-presence of the differing "answers" to the challenge of development.

In effect such holes exist at a lower connectivity-level than the "macro-hole" of higher connectivity constituted by the world problematique at this time. This macro-crisis hole "absorbs" the development initiatives of society by engendering the immense volume of action/communication traffic around the hole so defined. This draws attention to the developmental implications the probable presence of holes of yet higher dimensionality than can be readily sensed or made the subject of acceptable public (consensual) communication.

How then are "better" holes to be engendered within such configurations? Now from one point of view it is necessary to avoid introducing an element of evaluation, because from each hole the perception of other holes will be distorted so that no communicable assessment can be usefully formulated. On the other hand, it may prove to be the case that, at the level of the configuration as a whole, more than one such configuration can be identified/designed in order to interrelate the perspectives associated with the set of holes. And at this level, without privileging any particular hole, more adequate interrelationships between the elements making up the holes can be identified.

Expressed differently, introducing evaluative judgements into the relationships between the holes within a particular configuration can only contribute to the dynamics between such holes in terms of perceived advantage/disadvantage. Excessive emphasis on this runs the risk of tearing the configuration apart. The identities associated with the holes can be respected in each of the configurations in a series constituting progressively more adequate or richer formulations of the relationships between "developments". If the communication problem necessarily segments comprehension of "development", there is consequently a multiplicity of concepts of development operative in society. Individuals and groups may "progress" from one to another, possibly with a general tendency towards those of higher connectivity. But other individuals and groups will emerge and find the concepts of lower connectivity more meaningful before moving on, if they do, to those of higher connectivity. (In this sense the "ontogenesis" of an individual tends to repeat the "phylogenesis" of his/her society.) Society in this sense is the arena within which individuals and groups refine their concept of development.


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