Transcendent Integrity via Dynamic Configuration of Sub-Understandings?
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 18 May 2015
Interactive Orbital Animations of World Views Using Data-Driven Documents (D3.Js)
There is a universal tendency to rely on static representations and depictions of patterns of interrelated concepts. These can take the form of organization charts, systems diagrams, network maps, semantic maps, concept maps, or traditional mandalas and yantras. Such representation is also a characteristic of argument maps to hold the patterns of agreement and disagreement. This static emphasis remains a widespread preference, despite the increasing availability of techniques of animation for dynamic representation. It can be argued that this emphasis reinforces static understanding of the global problematique and the possibilities of remedial action through a global resolutique (Dynamic Transformation of Static Reporting of Global Processes, 2013).
Despite a degree of complementarity of the elements in any such depiction, there is an additional consideration to which little attention is given. There is every possibility that the nature of the elusive integration so widely sought may constitute a cognitive challenge to comprehension. However it may be indicated — perhaps using qualifiers like “meta” or “transcendent” — its elusive nature may be specifically obscured by forms of closure resulting from conventional labelling in static depictions. Such transcendent integration may not take the form of a category in any conventional sense.
It is for this reason that there is a case for exploring dynamic configurations in which integration is implied rather than misleadingly explicit. This can be usefully done using display metaphors based on the solar system or atomic model in which the explicit is understood to move in some kind of orbit around the implicit. The solar model is helpful in that planets take familiarly definable “concrete” form — potentially accessible (even “habitable”) — whereas the sun is of a different nature and essentially inaccessible, despite the subtle influence it exerts.
Such a depiction has the further advantage in that it holds the sense in which the perspective from any one planet may usefully be understood as incompatible with that from another. This can be indicative of the challenging relationship between distinct “models” or “world views” — each offering a contrasting perspective, with little indication within each as to relevance of the perspective from any other. This recalls the operation of two human eyes and the stereoscopic perspective which they together enable. This suggests the possibility of a form of stereoscopy requiring more than two eyes in order to achieve coherent depth perception of a higher order, however this might be comprehended, as argued by Magoroh Maruyama (Peripheral Vision: polyocular vision or subunderstanding? Organization Studies, 2004). The concern is then whether “sub-understandings” are what gives rise to disagreement and conflict in many domains — and how best to render them comprehendible in their own right.
The possibility can be tentatively explored experimentally using orbital layout displays. It is somewhat ironic to note that that capacity to enable imaginative exploration of a system of multiple “overly-definitive” models has recently been considerably enhanced via the web. The irony lies in the fact that representation capacity (and its rate of development) now far exceeds consideration of the semantic implications of world views (or models) in orbits around more elusive understanding. Controversially, this is typically assumed to be unquestionably defined by those world views (or within them). At best it might be said, with respect to world views now, the transition has yet to be achieved from analogues to the epicycles of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy to current heliocentric understanding — with all that implies.
That original animation offers as alternatives a “solar system” and an “atomic orbital” variant. With very minor modifications, other content can be experimentally associated of more general significance. Such experiments are notably suggested in the light of the classic paper by George A. Miller (The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: some limits on our capacity for processing information, Psychological Review, 1956), as discussed separately (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the role of number, 1978; Patterns of Conceptual Integration, 1984). These emphasize the point that most sets of categories of memorable significance are clustered within the constraints which allow them to be suggestively mapped onto a solar system template.
In what follows this approach has been adapted to a variety of domains in which comprehension of some form of transcendent integration may be appropriate via exposure to an interactive orbital dynamic. The domains tentatively explored as an illustration include: world religions, philosophies, natural sciences, cultural modalities, cognitive modalities, ruling elites, global governance, environmental conditions, conditions of change.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 May 2015.
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