Psychosocial Geometry and Dynamics of Collective Memory

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 5 Feb 2024

Anthony Judge - TRANSCEND Media Service

Coherent Configuration of Knowledge Through Architectural Metaphors

Introduction

5 Feb 2024 – Despite being acclaimed as a “learning society by UNESCO and OECD, it can be argued that both society as a whole and individuals face a form of “learning challenge” (Knowledge Management in the Learning Society, OECD, 2000; Moosung Lee, The History of UNESCO’s Lifelong Learning Policy Discourses, 2008). This is exemplified by commentary on the emergence of current violent conflicts characterized by the phrase “we never learn” or the question as to why society fails to learn — as noted with respect to repeated cycles of violence.

There is a degree of anticipation of relevant learning in response to new forms of disaster — an assumption that finally it will be possible to learn from them. The track record in that regard cannot be described as optimisitic. Whether it be the drama of violence and suffering (as with the conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine, Yemen or Sudan) or the ineffectual gatherings in anticipation of disastrous climate change, there is little evidence of significant learning.

Since memory is so fundamental to learning, one approach to the matter is through collective memory (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory,  1980). This has taken the form of a critique of an overly optimistic report to the Club of Rome (No Limits to Learning, 1979). Curiously there is seemingly a well recognized approach to many disasters of the past through commemorative memorials and cenotaphs (“Lest We Forget“). It is less evident how these hold insights of relevance to the future and its anticipated disasters. Unfortunately the memorials could well be explored in terms of selective memory — as a distraction associated the slogan “Lest We Remember”.

Despite their intention, it is not clear how people are expected to learn from “memorials” as collective constructs (Being Spoken to Meaningfully by Constructs, 2023). In a period when Gaza is in process of being systematically bombarded, the point can be argued with respect to the renowned painting by Pablo Picasso (Guernica, 1937). What function could a “new Guernica” perform and how could its enhancement of collective memory be enabled (Reimagining Guernica to Engage the Antitheses of a Cancel Culture, 2022). Where are the memorials to those “on both sides” of any collective violence — and what form could they take (Towards Inclusive Multi-Massacre Memorials to Victims of Conflict, 2022).

There is no lack of reference to the cultivation of memory — the “art of memory” — and preoccupation with its challenge over centuries past (Frances Yates, The Art of Memory, 1966). Of potential relevance to further insight are the traditional collective memory techniques now associated with Stonehenge, Easter Island and ancient monuments the world over, as clarified by Lynne Kelly (The Memory Code, 2016).

A common feature to such techniques and the associated rituals is the construction and configuration of pillars. The role of pillars is strangely echoed in that of Aboriginal “message sticks“, now ironically evident in reference to USB memory sticks within which information is held and configured in binary form. Especially given the case for Enrolling Winnie-the-Pooh’s Companions in Climate Change Discourse (2019), not to be forgotten is the much-celebrated childrens game of poohsticks — for which the annual World Poohsticks Championships have been held since 1984.

Pillars are of course an obvious feature of physical architecture, whether it be that of temples or churches, or in the design of institutions of government and justice. It may be far less evident whether particular symbolic significance is associated with individual pilars in any such array. An intriguing point of departure is recognition of the extent to which those upholding value configurations make metaphorical use of “pillars” as architectural metaphors for a configuration of values, as discussed separately (Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008; John Onians, Architecture, Metaphor and the Mind, Architectural History, 35, 1992).

With the transition from principles to pillars, then understood as metaphors, the focus here is on what may be framed as metaphorical geometry (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality — in response to global governance challenges, 2009). It is variously discussed (Steven Baris, Geometric Abstraction and Visual Metaphor, Expanded Diagram Project, 5 February 2023; Tib Roibu, Cognition and the embodiment of geometry in George Lakoff’s metaphors, Geometry Matters, 11 July 2023; E. P. Ross, Geometry, Symbolism and Metaphors, Design Blog, 30 January 2019; Warren Shibles, The Metaphorical Method, The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 8, 1974, 2).

From that perspective there is a particular irony to a further geometrical transition from pillars to weapons of similar form, given the manner in which they are thrown against enemies as “messages” in their own right, especially as evident in the use of rockets and missiles (Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare, 2001). This can be explored in terms of the navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space. Reference to “missive” in that title suggests the further sense in which pillars and missiles have been transmogrified into the “projectiles” now exchanged (even violently) in communication space — with the purpose of radically transforming the perspective of others. Curiously the association has been recognized by the much-cited poet Robert Frost (A Missive Missile, 1936) as well as by Jacques Derrida (No Apocalypse, Not Now: full speed ahead, seven missiles, seven missives, Diacritics, 14, 1984, 2), further discussed by James Cahill (Derrida and the “fabulously textual” bomb, Ephemera, 13 July 2010). The association is otherwise recognized in the sense of getting (or being given) a “rocket”.

Understood otherwise, there is a case for urgent exploration of such geometry as mnemonic aids, as argued separately (Time for Provocative Mnemonic Aids to Systemic Connectivity? 2018;  Memorability, Mnemonics, Maths, Music and Governance, 2022; Systemic Coherence of the UN’s 17 SDGs as a Global Dream, 2021; Neglect of Higher Dimensional Solutions to Territorial Conflicts, 2024). This has been variously expressed as the need to “join the dots” or as enabling “joined-up thinking” — a contrast to silo thinking, a metaphor also reminiscent of the geometry of unconfigured pillars — and their “burial” underground. From that perspective, perhaps most extraordinary is the housing of a physical transmogrification of strategic pillars in missile silos (or nuclear silos) — in anticipation of “joining up” distant others.

This 4-part document first considers how strategic pillars merit configuration and interconnection as “ways of looking” (Part 1). It then explores how 24-fold and 72-fold sets of these might be coherently configured in 3D as polyhedra (Part 2). The limitations of these 3D configurations highlight the potential necessity for a 4D framework to encompass more subtle 81-fold sets (Part 3). The argument concludes with the suggestion that any quest for “unity” is more appropriately envisaged in 4D rather than in 3D or through conventional framing of territorial conflicts in 2D (Part 4).

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Feb 2024.

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