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3.2 Patterning disagreement

1. Tuning the pattern

The ordered collection of statements presented in Section KP (see document) raises a number of interesting questions. It is necessarily imperfect, and is even more so as a first draft. Its current status can best be compared to an untuned musical instrument. Only when it is tuned, to the extent possible, will it be possible to determine whether it can be realistically applied as a guide to operations.

Prior to, or during, the tuning process itself, it will be necessary to sharpen up the sets to a greater extent. This is due to the weakness of some of them in terms of the constraint requirements for:

  • maximal disagreement between set elements, perhaps requiring a greater degree of controversy, risk, uncertainty, or paradox;
  • operational orientation, since some of them are more descriptive rather than transformative (the emphasis is on nouns or adjectives, and not on verbs).
In this sense it is necessary to "charge up" each set and render it inherently more dynamic. The generated sets can be confronted with new source material to assist in this process. (For example the 16-point definition of dialectics by Lenin, quoted earlier).

The "tuning" process may be envisaged as follows. The different sets need to be compared to highlight the pattern of relationships between them. For example, the sets with common numerical factors (eg 2, 4, 8, etc) have commonalities which can be highlighted. This will help to clarify the contents of each set and to increase the degree of order prevailing between them.

2. Awkwardness and artificiality of statements

The tuning process is necessary to overcome the problem of the awkwardness of the individual statements. Such awkwardness, is to be expected in a first draft, given the manner in which the sets were generated. There is a basic dilemma in formulating such statements in order to avoid an impression of jargon. But the problem is really that a "general, neutral" set of statements is inconsistent with the underlying philosophy of this approach. No particular wording is adequate.

Efforts to produce an exhaustive "definition" merely result in an exhausting amount of text. The study of the significance of some of the sets has in fact been a life work for some people, resulting in many volumes of commentary (as is the case with Carl Jung and 4-set). The very quantity of information quickly becomes counter-productive in terms of operational criteria.

3. Generation of other schemes

One way around this problem of awkwardness and length is to use the "artificial" statement scheme as generated in Section KP as a basis for generating other schemes, corresponding to the difficulties initially encountered:

    (a) Schemes may be produced scaled up or down in level of abstraction (Vertical scaling)

    (b) Schemes may be produced oriented in terms of: stages, qualities, problems, conditions, etc (Horizontal scaling)

    (c) Schemes may be produced using different languages: poetic, formalistic, religious, sociological, etc. (Model scaling)

By combining these different possibilities sets of "more readable" statements can be produced which will presumably be closer in terminology to particular source material sets. Sets may thus be generated according to application.

4. Inadequate vocabulary

The problem of the lack of sufficiently general words needs to be seen in the light of the previous point and the use of synonyms. In effect by shifting the emphasis according to any of the above scales, there is a shift through the set of synonyms used to generate the set. The tuning process and the generation of sets could be better studied using an on-line synonym data base, which could also permit alternation between noun, adjective and verb. It is possible that the problem of lack of general words would disappear in sets having an even higher number of elements where the emergent concerns would become much more specific.

5. Internal structure

At this preliminary stage, it is preferable to assess the value of the approach on the basis of the internal structure and consistency of the scheme. Specific references from each generated element to source material have been omitted because of the quantity of such material and the complexity of the decision process leading to a particular choice of words.

In some cases, for example, 20 source sets were compared to produce the generated set. It will be noticed that the attribute of the higher number sets are aspects of those associated with their lower number factors and "condensed" into those associated with their prime number factors. In effect each set "tells the same resource management story", but in the lower number sets the story is highly compacted. In the higher number sets, the attributes associated with elements are simplified, and more easily comprehensible, at the cost of making the relationship pattern more complex. In the lower number sets, these qualities are absorbed into more complex set elements, at the cost of comprehensibility, although the relationship pattern is simpler.

6. Emergence of new information

It will be noticed that sets which are multiples of 2 do not result in new information. The 2-operator merely dichotomizes each element in a set, elaborating on a common point. However a set with 2 as a factor establishes an unresolved polarity which can only be handled in an operational setting by introducing a new perspective (the set elements + 1) from which the polarity can be viewed and balanced. In this sense such polarized sets can effectively "give birth to" a new perspective as pointed out in one of the source documents: "A vibrating string of any reference length can be halved to sound the octave higher or doubled to sound the octave lower... The number 2 is "female" in the sense that it creates the matrix, the octave, in which all other tones are born. By itself, however, it can only create "cycles of barrenness", in Socrates metaphor, for multiplication and division by 2 can never introduce new tones..." (C A Hooker, 1978, p.19-20)

7. Development through polar tensions

As structured the scheme supports the view that a monolithic structure of any kind inhibits development. The tension of a polarity is necessary to engender any development. It is useful to distinguish growth or elaboration (in which no new pattern is introduced, by a 2-factor, for example) from new development (in which a new pattern is introduced as a resulting of balancing a polarity). This suggests that any of the classic polarities are very healthy, if they can give birth to a new pattern: capitalism/communism, governmental / nongovernmental, rationalism / empiricism, etc. It suggests that a monolithic "world government" would be a total inhibitor of development. In Section KD it is suggested that oscillation or resonance between two or more polar positions may be essential to significant integration or qualitative transformation. The extreme example of brainwashing (stick and carrot) techniques is given there as an example of oscillatory operations which have there constructive equivalent.

8. Definability of disagreement

"Disagreement" as it has been discussed here, and allowed to emerge in the generated sets, has not been clearly defined. This is because the definition is implicit in the 2-level set. At that level the subtleties of any distinction between opposition and complementarity, for example, do not emerge. "Disagreement" therefore also covers its synonyms, namely: disaccord, dissent, unconformity, controversy, disunion, discrepancy, difference, opposition, dissonance, irrelation, inequality, incompatibility, irreconcilability, etc (Roget's Thesaurus).

There is a progressive "dilution" of the degree of disagreement between elements in a set as the number of elements increases. In effect the basic maximal disagreement of the 2-level is spread amongst more elements in the sets containing progressively greater numbers of elements. This suggests that using sets with a higher number of elements as operators makes it progressively easier to contain the disagreement, but only if the relationship between those elements is not eroded or lost. Each set is a container for a different kind of disagreement. Each can also be used to highlight what can go wrong when working with operators at that level, namely the characteristic errors for that level of operation.

9. Definitional "holes"

This hierarchy of sets of "paradoxes", as it was termed, can be usefully, related to the work of R H Atkin on Q-analysis (Combinational Connectivities in Social Systems, 1977) discussed in Section KD. It would seem that the set elements generated at any given level are in effect focal points (for the elements) whose relationship define a Q-hole or Q-object in Atkin's terms. As is pointed out there, the major achievement of Q-analysis probably lies in its ability to give precision to discussion about psycho-social phenomena which are, by definition, sensed beyond the boundary of (collective) comprehension. These are represented by "holes" in a physical structure and are indistinguishable observationally from solid objects in the physical case.

In the psycho-social case, such holes are necessarily less substantial without losing their reality. "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 word "Q-object" describes the experience of that hole by traffic which moves in S(N)." (p.75)

As an "object" this phenomenon is an obstacle to communication and comprehension and obliges those confronted with it to go "around" it in order to sense the higher dimensionality by which it is characterized. As a "hole" this phenomenon engenders is or, engendered by, a pattern of communication. It appears to function both as "source" and "sink". It is suggested that in some way that 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.

10. Frustration of change

The special value of this Q-hole perspective is that it can clarify why action/discussion in the presence of such a hole 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 many issues go unresolved and why the institutional process of solving problems becomes of greater importance than the actual elimination of the problem. This approach also draws attention to the probable presence of holes/objects of even higher dimensionality than those whose presence can be sensed relatively easily. Such phenomena, it may be supposed, are of great significance to long-term development.

11. Configurations of "holes"

In Section KD the importance of configurations of holes is raised. Clearly the hierarchy of sets generated in Section KP constitutes such a configuration. How can such holes exist in relation to one another? What is necessary to permit transitions from one configuration to another? The question is how configurations of holes can be identified and/or designed. It is the configuration of the holes which provides the minimum structure to stabilize and give form to the co-presence of the differing concepts of development. Such configurations, in order to fulfil their function, must presumably exist within two boundary conditions:

  • the connectivity between elements bounding holes must not be so great as to erode or destroy the identity of the holes so connected;
  • the connectivity between elements bounding holes must be great enough so that the integrity of the configuration as a whole is maintained.
12. Designing better "holes"

A further question is then the manner whereby better holes are to be identified or reached within such configurations. Now from one point of view it is necessary to avoid introducing an elements 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 inter-relationships between the elements making up the holes can be identified.

13. Internalizing disagreement

By deliberately internalizing disagreement, the scheme moves beyond the stage of being a "cook book for potted wisdom" or a set of "bloodless categories". Each set can be tuned to constitute a set of challenging operations - challenging because of the difficulty of maintaining them in equilibrium. The question is how effectively the sets can be tuned to take the scheme beyond the status of being simply an interesting exercise.

The scheme is valuable because of the way it interrelates incompatibilities at different levels. It is significant also because of the way each set is embedded in a context of interdependent sets.

Given its relation to the source material of diverse cultural origin and specialization, the scheme is also valuable to the extent that interfaces can be provided to such specialized sets. It offers a way of interrelating and engaging groups working through apparently different concept schemes.

The awkwardness of the statements at present draws attention to the basic problem of how to condense qualitative complexes. The solution in traditional cultures of projecting them onto gods or demons (about whom stories could be told to bring out those qualities) was a good way of transforming the problem (as argued in Section MZ).

14. Central issue of comprehension

As designed the scheme is not "ideal" in the sense that is now so easily condemned. No set element is imposed, since as a hierarchy of paradoxes the problem of comprehension is central. A distinction may even be usefully made between:

  • Freedom to choose between a plurality of competing concept schemes each with overdefined concepts, namely the conventional approach. Here the individual, once the choice of scheme has been made, has no further freedom, because the concepts within the scheme must be accepted as they are defined.
  • Freedom to choose how to understand within a single concept scheme composed of underdefined concepts whose significance may be partially associated to those of other schemes seen as non-competing. Here the individual is constantly challenged with the freedom to understand particular concepts in some more significant manner in the light of the concept set within which it is embedded.
15. Challenge of set design

The generation of these sets has been approached as a design problem in which constraints are necessary and must be creatively selected. It is possible that the constraints could be refined as part of the tuning process.