Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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Examples and scope

As part of the work on classification and integration of the material held in the UIA databases, research continues into radical new approaches to the organization of knowledge. For instance, the UIA has long been concerned with the complexity represented by the networks of international organizations generated though research into international organizations and civil society and detailed in the Yearbook of International Organizations. The Integrative Matrix of Human Preoccupations which classifies international organizations by subject is therefore an experimental classification system for the exploration of interdisciplinary relationships between organizations, problems, strategies, values and human development. Our complementary work on Alternative Representations of Information, particularly information visualization and sonorification and the use of VRML software to map relationships and networks within the databases, is another way of providing new ways of navigating complexity.

One section of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential includes an extensive bibliography of integrative knowledge, unitary understanding, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. For instance, the 1991 edition assembled descriptions of the range of concepts or conceptual approaches considered ‘integrative’ such as "global", "integrative", "networking" and "systematic". These are considered by some international bodies to be crucial for the organization of any effective strategic response to global problems, and such words have become ‘buzzwords’ in today’s international climate. 

Further research conducted under the umbrella of the Encyclopedia includes the Integrative Concepts and Symbols section that identifies classes of symbols from traditional and modern cultures, to order the large amount of material available on this topic. In addition, in order to address the possibility that the kind of integrative approach required may not be fully describable within the language of any single conceptual framework however sophisticated, research has also been conducted in the Patterns and Metaphor section of the Encyclopedia into the use of metaphor for exploring new ways of understanding complexity. The UIA is also exploring non-western ways of interrelating patterns of change, and details on Transformation Metaphors derived from the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) are available at an external site, as well as a proposal for an encyclopedia of conceptual insights from the world's cultures.

This work on transdisciplinarity also complements other research associated with the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. For instance, integrative knowledge is important for comprehending the nature of global problems detailed in the World Problems and Global Issues section; for understanding the implementation of remedial actions detailed in the Global Strategies and Solutions section; for providing frameworks to interrelate seemingly unrelated values and value perspectives described in the Human Values and Wisdom section; to inspire integrative characteristics required of innovative techniques suggested in the Transformative Approaches to Social Organization section; and by inspiring the parallel integration of the individual and society aspired to in Human Potential and Development section.