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Re: [xmca] Systems Theory: an informal stroll.


So good of you to spend some time on my personal journey.  I may be "bloodied but unbowed" by my adventures in the real world, but equipped with an education at my home state university, a few books I've read, and so on, I have have become convinced, empowered by my use of tools derived from my reading of Bateson, that I can come to terms, but not necessarily on my own terms, and not without process and negotiations or adjustments,  with anything.  

Re: The personal anecdotal approach:
1) To quote a phrase from my youth: the personal is political.  I was talking to my son long distance about his grandmother and what she had done for him.  He said "She says, never mind, I am fine."  So I told him, "she has been trained never to complain or make any kind of a fuss her entire life. Think what you must do or better, let's think...".  The young person that I was was insensitive to others, calmly impervious, you could say I was oblivious to what was going on around me.  If I became aware of a problem that I could not do anything about, I pitched it into my unconscious somewhere, there to fester,  Much of that me is gone forever, yet it is not too late to learn from Ebenezar Scrooge.

Analogue information.
2) Analogs:  My life is a system, a process system, an analog to larger systems.  Hey, no peace in the state without peace in the city, no peace in the city without peace in the home, no peace in the home without peace in the family, and no peace in the family without peace in the heart.  A first cut on applied analogic thinking.  We could start with the nail in the horse shoe, because of the shoe, the horse was lost, because of the horse the man was lost, because of soldier the battle was lost ... I am not looking all of these quotes up, and I can jump to Blakes: to see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.  The whole microcosm/macrocosm thing, which has been known and reported for eons is encrypted Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, who solved murders by mulling over her ordinary daily life experiences.

A basic dialectic:
3) There are two major types of system: convergent process and divergent process.  Those who design a convergent system or "closed system" are hoping to control all the variables.  Elaborate protocol is required to minimize or eliminate impurities.  Doctors wash wash and then wash, yet after all that, put on sterile gloves, mask, hair cover, shoe covers.  Yet the human element in an closed system makes it, however marginally, an open system.  Working with divergent process is also working with diversity, and that is enough for now.

For the first point that I want to address:

I am wondering if your personal aprroach or method of  making sense may be a
> more "general" approach than is often recognized.  Also I wonder how this
> approach fits into the cybernetic system of university settings.

I have to ask what does "general" mean?  Or how do you read it, or how is "general"  generally understood?
So, I will give four examples:
a) wave pattern near the heart of a storm.  It is chaos.  But as the waves move out, the shorter range patterns peak soon, then the longer, and finally a storm deep in the North Pacific sends its biggest waves to a far flung Hawaiian shore on a fine day in winter, where Waimea only breaks at 20 feet up to 30 or 50 -- and that not often.

b) gravel.  How do you make gravel or fine sand.  A system of filters.  You put unsorted crushed rock or sand through grids or nets, first you aim for rocks, then chunks, then coarse gravel, the finer, then sand.  Any number of gradations possible.

c) Democracy.  Of course, rich families send their kids to highly selective daycare or kindergarten, then first grade and so on, but even ordinarily well to do families send their kids to the universal public education which takes everyone whatsoever whosoever as they are and gives them primary education.  Then the sorting filtering begins.  In Germany at around 11 kids get set on their paths toward college prep or commercial/trade.   In Japan, the great divide happens at around 15 for most.  The obligation to attend public school ends with the end of middle school.  Some young people choose not to continue.  Everyone can go to some high school or other.  The scientific mind or the humanist mind is identified in there, but problems appear, because the logical personality type can make decisions much quicker than a tolerant, cooperative relaxed person who isn't in such a hurry to grow up.  That type of person peaks in their thirties, if they haven't been badgered into submission by intolerant persons who are sure they are right about everything. And the story goes on.

d) When I was being a teaching assistant at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville, the federally funded university welcomed everyone whatsoever.  They might have to take a fews test to establish their level, do some remedial work, meanwhile some students may have done AP work, but basically, we get everyone in an English Composition class. Those are usually taught by TAs.  Lectures are by Professors.  After the 2 years to think what they want to major in, they start to focus.  But some people have come prepared with ideas such a psychology or sociology -- core and major prerequisites, or Law or Medicine, so they put together a Prelaw or Premed undergraduate course (or choose to follow the prescribed curriculum).  So some aim and some do things more haphazardly.  Then we get to upper-classmen.  Majors thin out, some begin to develop relationships with their professors, and the process leads to some considering grad school, some thinking that they will go to work, but perhaps also thinking that they may come back later for more education.

The situation has gotten terrifically messier with the advent of so many Chinese, Mongolian, India students in recent years, so many Eastern European students in the Engineering Faculty, and where have the Malaysian students gone and what are Myanmar and Vietnamese students like, and what do we do with the PH.D. wife of this Nepalese grantee.  She has to work and take care of her children while the system supports her spouse's academic ambitions (and employment). Paradox happens when two descriptive systems have unreconcilable frames.  But that's all in Heisenberg, really.
Is it waves or is it particles?  But we deal with cultural incommensurate things all the time while the search for creativity is hampered by the desire to control it.

> Last thought, you mention systems theory having two aproaches, cybernetics &
> map making. How do you see the relations between cybernetics and map making.

Cybernetics means control, choosing, categorizing, making catgories, indexing, directing, sorting, establishing standards, protocol.
Mapping is description:  it could be multiple descriptions of relation or the world.    But the map is impartial and merely a description.  

Then you look at it, think it over, then decide if we go here, if we try that, let's see what happens if we ...
But in the description provided by a high powered microscope at X4 you see completely different shapes from X32.
The view from the different levels shows different stuff.
Mappings are incredibly valuable tools.  Sometimes incredible accuracy is illuminating; sometimes it is a complete waste of time.  It is a kind of free information that can be used by people in various ways, some of them inimical to each other.
That is just a first cut, of course, and I am sure it hasn't answered any questions.
But thank you for asking them.  It has given me an opportunity to review some of this stuff.

On 平成23/01/13, at 23:20, Larry Purss wrote:

> Hi Valerie
> You wrote,
> "But working with problems of classification in literature with  led me to
> allegory, hermeneutics, interpretation.   Being a comparatist, well I
> compared systems, worlds, disciplines."
> This approach or method of making sense seems to nurture and develop very
> fertile fruit. You also mention that people find speaking to you difficult
> because you function at many different levels concurrently.
> When I read your personal description of an approach to making sense I
> recognized a style or method that I often participate in.  I wonder if this
> is an abductive , starting with describing the content with labels and NEXT
> reaching for multiple maps in which to locate the labels [remembering that
> the map is not the territory]
> I am wondering if your personal aprroach or method of  making sense may be a
> more "general" approach than is often recognized.  Also I wonder how this
> approach fits into the cybernetic system of university settings.
> Last thought, you mention systems theory having two aproaches, cybernetics &
> map making. How do you see the relations between cybernetics and map making.
> Valerie, I try to make sense of working at multiple levels by considering
> 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person positions on the SAME content.  When
> working on multiple levels I take an approach that the 2nd person point of
> view can MEDIATE and link the 1st person experiential perspectives [as
> activity because transformed by 2nd person communication] and 3rd person
> received perspectives.  I wonder if 2nd person perspectives [when with
> another you CANNOT not communicate] are the foundational position  linking
> 1st person and 3rd person perspectives.
> Thank you for sharing your personal journey
> Larry
> On Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 12:17 AM, Valerie Anne Wilkinson <
> vwilk@inf.shizuoka.ac.jp> wrote:
>> Continuing (this time quite briefly) the topic opened by Phillip below:
>> You ask how I have been using those multiple-connections but many people
>> find speaking with me difficult, because I function many levels
>> concurrently.  I've even been accused of being mushy, incomprehensible etc.
>> So I think a very short personal history and my current job description
>> might provide an index for a Batesonian take on organization.
>> When I was teaching Latin as a TA in Hawaii from 1976 to 1980, we had a 45
>> minute class every day, according to the class plan, but on Friday I brought
>> in the coffee urn and doughnuts.  We occasionally had church potlucks which
>> were fantastic.  Classics was connected to The Department of Foreign
>> Languages.  For Christmas the multi-cultured staff produced a fantastic
>> array of gorgeous foods for the departmental Christmas Party.  It left an
>> impression.  I came to Japan in 1980.  Recursive learning, changes in
>> context, changes in my personal capacity, levels of professional engagement,
>> how to become a member and so on, that was all happening but I was not
>> classifying it.  But in 1982 I started teaching at a Junior College and
>> became aware of Gregory Bateson and started reading his work intently.
>> That is enough for a thumbnail of my academic bent: I teach activity
>> learning, experiential learning, and real time learning, hands on learning,
>> community language learning.
>> In my Communications class I would ask them to join me in organizing a
>> party for Christmas or a barbecue for the Summer semester.  The event was
>> the "material" from which I could make test questions in English.  The
>> students would have to describe something that they had done personally and
>> explicitly as the answer to a question such as "What was your job at the
>> party?  What were your duties?"  I did not set out to do what I am doing
>> now.  How does a Classics person go to director of a large project?  With no
>> experience or training?  Well, Japan is different from America, and
>> everybody knows you have to 1) do your job 2) make use of opportunities.  To
>> know what you are looking for or aiming for takes a higher level of
>> cognitive self-awareness.  I like to say, it's like Swamp Castle (Monty
>> Python).  I got here by a series of mistakes, failures, and
>> misunderstandings.  I build this year's glorious triumph on the rubble of
>> last year's failure.
>> Through Bateson I was learning about Bertrand Russell.  I got onto
>> Heisenberg.  I started reading Bertalannfy, Norbert Weiner, Ludwig
>> Wittgenstein, Korzybski, Goffman, wait wait wait.  I wasn't going to give a
>> reading list now.  But working with problems of classification in literature
>> with  led me to allegory, hermeneutics, interpretation.   Being a
>> comparatist, well I compared systems, worlds, disciplines.  I wrote an
>> article for a school journal called "Systems Theory: A New Syllabus for Oral
>> English".  I suggested Logic, Notional/Functional and then Systems Theory as
>> possible routes.  I was "teaching" (facilitating a large group learning)
>> Bridge.  I used as my code word Blake's “I must create my own System or be
>> enslaved by another man's."  If you look further at the Blake quote it goes
>> on: "My business is not to reason and compare; my business is to create”  So
>> that is what I was doing.
>> Unfortunately (or fortuitously) everything started changing more quickly
>> than ever.  1980? Microchip?  Personal computers!  1994 or so, pocket
>> pagers.  Every student had a pager with a digital time face, on every desk.
>> Within a few years, it was cell phones, text mail.  Japan's economic bubble
>> burst.  The baby boom peaked and the university population suddenly began to
>> drop.  Faculties were changing.  Year long courses gave way to "semester"
>> courses.  Because of the economic problems, students who would not have gone
>> to college at all entered to wait out the slump.  Meanwhile, Japan was
>> modelling its university system on Europe, then England, then US (I just ran
>> through 150 years of evolution in one sentence).
>> I was a victim of the Peter Principle.  You get promoted to the level of
>> your incompetence.  I was good at teaching communication, developing good
>> classes and developing independent research, only to be promoted to the next
>> higher level, where I was supposed to Head Committees.  In Japanese.  Sigh.
>> Moreover, my "event planning/ project management" "Party" was not
>> understood by anybody, I never could teach them Bridge, we had to go to
>> Hearts, which is different - but has its points, and after ten years, the
>> students rebelled and took over my event!  I am still titular head and the
>> management is still connected to my class, but it is student managed and an
>> important student event.  Whenever I go to US I talk to people about my
>> problems.  I read Argyris, Weick, Lave and Wenger, Peter Senge.
>> To frame the discussion, a sytems schema is really useful.  Begin with What
>> is the system -- a name, then definition.  Then go to what is it made of -
>> parts, connections, relations.  Then sub-units or even subsystems.  Think of
>> the human body as The System and then you can see that there are lots of
>> subsystems.  But then you put that system in a context or system of systems.
>> You can also go on to contextual analysis from immediate context, to
>> proximate context to global context.
>> General Systems Theory and set theory, for example,  (the name is not the
>> thing named, the map is not the territory)  helped me map out an approach to
>> allegory using the Medieval "Four Senses of Scripture".  Literal is the
>> words, sentences, the meanings of words.  The allegorical level (not
>> allegory - there is a lot of paradox in this whole thing anyway) where there
>> is figurative language, similes, metaphors, allusions, modal language --
>> like irony or satire, praise or simple reporting. Then there is tropological
>> or sensus moralis, which could be said to be talking about "what should this
>> man do" but with the reader response criticism and Merleau Ponty's
>> phenomenolgy, I think we can say that it is what a particular individual
>> brings to his reading, the absolute personal is also a valid reading, but
>> not the only one.  Final, there is the anagogical which amounts to a
>> universal, a pure abstract.  With these four levels of working with a
>> "text", be it a children's story, a sculpture, a prehistoric archeological
>> find, an ancient manuscript, a dream, a film, the debriefing for an event,
>> we can begin with the details of what happened, then what does this material
>> begin to show with discussion, what is called to mind from other works or
>> experiences. The description, WHAT IS IT is the SYSYEM, and with that as the
>> center, we can see what systems it is part of, and how works in various
>> contexts.  I would teach such a framework to facilitate learning about
>> literature, film appreciation, and organizational communication.
>> As it turns out, there are so many differences between the Summer Party and
>> the Christmas Party, such changes in curriculums, the core requirements, the
>> major requirements and the electives, and the student self-image evolution
>> from year to year, the population etc., I neither know what is going to
>> happen next year or have enough time to evaluate what happened this year.
>> If I am not here, the students do as they like, but not in a direction.
>> The 2nd year students aren't so interested in posterity but focus on THIS
>> YEAR.  The 3rd year students are, but everyone goes to their specialty
>> teacher as a 3rd year student, so the network is fragile.  Getting a
>> volunteer, variously skilled older staff of students to coach and mentor the
>> 2nd year managers, is my job.  I want to "ride this horse the way it is
>> going."  Which means I am stuck here, gladly planted here, to see how this
>> works out, and maybe write something about it someday.
>> Last note:  General Systems Theory can loosely be devided into Control
>> (cybernetics) or Description (mapping/iteration).
>> The Myers-Briggs personality index (derived from C.J. Jungs work) helps
>> rationalize relationship in a class, school, office.  It is an amazing
>> discovery to know that we are different, think differently, have different
>> experiences and training, and encode our memories differently.  This is the
>> mapping system that I think might help us deal with some of the problems we
>> are facing now with cultural historical activity theory, the need for
>> evaluation, the need to promote and encourage creativity, cooperation, and
>> collaboration.  First we work out which terms and their alternatives and
>> meanings a plot them on a map, which we change every time we work with it.
>> We can ask how to put in feed-back loops, noise, encoding decoding, define
>> input and output, how to work with a closed system or open system, etc.  Not
>> aiming for clarifying what divides us but generating techniques of
>> pathmaking towards utilizing and valuing what brings us together.
>> Vandy
>> On 平成23/01/13, at 12:41, White, Phillip wrote:
>>> Valerie, your posting - a great bouquet of multiple blooms - reminded me
>> again about Gregory's proposal of a double-bind, which was his explanatory
>> theory for the cause of schizophrenia - remarkable since he usually eschewed
>> cause and effect reasoning - but thus far the idea of a double-bind has
>> gained great cultural currency - and, like you, i was greatly intrigued to
>> find it in Engstrom's dissertation - an ingenious re-reading of Bateson's
>> text, i've always thought.
>>> what i'm ruminating on now as far as cultural historical activity theory
>> is coinciding with my rereading of  "mind and nature: a necessary unity" -
>> where Bateson notes that we folks tend to think that patterns that connect
>> are fixed affairs; he also states that over time theories need to be
>> discarded. while they may have once worked, they no longer work.
>>> a friend of mine was once a shadow scholar - it was how she made a living
>> as she progressed through her doctoral program.
>>> anyway, it makes great sense to me that you found Engstrom through
>> Bateson - there are multiple connections there between the two -
>>> and now i'm wondering how you have been using those multiple connections
>> ...............................although, yes you've given two fine examples
>> here - i'm just hoping for some more bouquets.
>>> phillip
>>> Phillip White, PhD
>>> University of Colorado Denver
>>> School of Education
>>> phillip.white@ucdenver.edu
>>> ________________________________________
>>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
>> Behalf Of valerie A. Wilkinson [vwilk@inf.shizuoka.ac.jp]
>>> Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 5:25 PM
>>> To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
>>> Subject: RE: [xmca] FW: The Shadow Scholar - He writes your students'
>> papers.
>>> Hello Excmers,
>>> Subtitle: "Yep son, We have met the enemy and he is us." ("Pogo" Walt
>>> Kelley)
>>> This note is a continuation of Phillip White's contribution to this
>> thread!
>>> (See below) Thread did I say?  It is a thick corded braid, but let's
>> carry
>>> on. I realize that many of you know each other, many of you have been
>>> writing for years, teaching etc. and then some of us lurk and read and
>>> occasionally attempt to participate.  I am one of those, if you wish to
>> bear
>>> with me for a few moments.
>>> Phillip mentioned Gregory Bateson and Lave and Wenger. Is that enough to
>>> locate this work in an intellectual context, without having to drop names
>> or
>>> put in a lengthy bibliography?  Well, I hope so, because after my
>> undergrad
>>> in Classics, my graduate work in various other literatures I ran into
>>> Bateson via Co-evolution Quarterly and the Whole Earth Catalogue. Then
>> Steps
>>> to an Ecology of Mind.
>>> Overleaping the problems of plagiarism and teaching, and the other ones
>> of
>>> learning communities and intellectual communities, easily moving to the
>>> terminology conceptual stuff going on when specialties are bumping up
>>> against each other and interdisciplinary studies and transdisciplinary
>> work,
>>> I say way too glibly we always had categorizing problems in Classics
>> because
>>> we were doing 2 languages at first, plus plays, poetry, philosophy,
>> rhetoric
>>> (I could go anywhere but I had to go somewhere) Grad school and teaching
>>> assistantship (that's when I really started to learn Latin and also about
>>> "cribbing").  Daily assignments in Greek (reading Aristotle) and Old
>> English
>>> (Beowulf). Overleaping all that and moving on to Life as an Ordinary
>>> language teacher in Japan, I have two common experiences that have a
>> bearing
>>> on this discussion.  A) I proof read a fellow scholar's paper and B) I
>> proof
>>> read my son's English composition.
>>> I feel like The Shadow Scholar.
>>> A, hoping to be published in an International Journal, may have done
>>> original research but has a general and a specific context that I am not
>>> trained in, Japanese language I do not know and scientific terminology
>>> specific to the area and also the target journal. We do Shadow Scholar
>> like
>>> things.  We merge our vocabulary and style with the researcher's
>>> translation. I say we, because a friend and I have debated the level
>>> required of editing. Grammar, spelling, flow, layout, OK.  But should we
>>> attempt to erase any sign of the awkwardness of going from one language
>> to
>>> another? As time goes on, the professors ask me less and less often
>> because
>>> they have funding for professional translators but their students do not.
>>> The students are learning to "fake" the style so that they can give a
>>> conference paper or have their work published -- and they don't have the
>>> money.  So, these are people at the same institution of learning, but
>> they
>>> are not my students.  What product we put into the mix may go into the
>>> Turnitin mill or something.
>>> B is my son who grew up in Japan and is now aiming for University in the
>>> States.  His composition has to be original and readable.  I cannot write
>> it
>>> for him but the process should develop his awareness of all kinds of
>> things.
>>> He can't give me his paper ten minutes before class for a quick fix and
>> get
>>> anything out of his education.  I mean, there is the quick check level,
>> of
>>> course.  Spelling, mostly, and cosmetic grammar, but pulling the ideas
>> out
>>> of himself to create a composition.  Well, he has to do that and I can't
>> do
>>> it for him.
>>> Since school, I have been interested in reception theory, Stanley Fish,
>>> women's critical studies, and it comes down to LEVELS, set theory,
>> paradox.
>>> For me (a truly "ordinary" person figuring out how to live on the planet
>>> with mega-stuff going on personally (100% divorce rate in the family),
>>> politically (hey, I voted for Nixon because I didn't know better and got
>>> sucked into the machine), economically (oil embargo?) and
>> counter-culture,
>>> leading to 30 years of being an ex-pat (has everyone already stopped
>>> reading?)
>>> Gregory Bateson, and his intellectual lineage, plus my own work with
>> levels
>>> of allegorical interpretation -- the making of allegory and allegorical
>>> exegesis -- led me to communication and the study of everything. As a
>>> Communication foreign professor working inevitably with inter and trans
>>> disciplinarity (which is very mushy) well, I can tell in 2 or 3 minutes
>> if
>>> the student I am interviewing can "hear" English, in one hand written
>>> self-intro, find out how he organizes his mind, training, self-discipline
>> --
>>> tons of stuff appears. Like Borges Garden of Forking Paths, there are
>> many
>>> twists and turns.  I do not get to pick my students or the number of
>>> students, arrange the room, the number of times in a week or the length
>> of
>>> the class period.  Also, I do not generally get to meet excellent people
>> of
>>> refinement and integrity who have no interest in English at all and do
>> the
>>> absolute minimum.  What happens when a generalist meets a specialist? In
>> a
>>> non-cooperative game some things happen, but in a cooperative game (think
>>> Kropotkin's _Mutual Aid_), well, other things happen that are completely
>>> different, and we can't all have a resident anthropologist of Bateson's
>>> caliber (anyway, he called himself a biologist) on the staff and it turns
>>> out that some of these long term staff ladies know more about everything
>>> than anyone in the faculty and they have good memories -- but they do not
>>> have the academic training - which would have taken them out of the very
>>> position where they do the most good -- and if you read Buckminster
>> Fuller's
>>> Operating Manual for _Spaceship Earth_, it turns out that specialists are
>> of
>>> intellectual property, power, authorization and everything.  Look for the
>>> power behind the throne or the shadow scholar.  Not Shakespeare but the
>>> alien/meta-aristocrat genius who used him as a cover... An experiment of
>>> uncompromised integrity in a closed system is one thing, but how about a
>>> study in a multi-cultured open-system of systems?
>>> We had gotten on to the mush which the quantum physics stuff was making
>> of
>>> everything cognitive (and making a mess of that topic) but actually, how
>> we
>>> process information when operating in Beta or Alpha or Theta brainwave
>>> levels changes the terms and images by which we process, and the mode of
>>> processing.  Meanwhile Interdisciplinary Studies lead to Environmental
>>> Studies which leads to Shell or Mobile or Exxon funded university
>> programs
>>> and Blue Sky acts.
>>> I am not a Vygotskian yet, but an Engestrom afficianado, whom I found
>> when
>>> working with Bateson's Double Bind. But I am certainly a widely educated
>>> scholar/teacher of a certain level and cognitive training, and follow the
>>> discussions here with consummate interest.
>>> Valerie__________________________________________
>>> _____
>>> xmca mailing list
>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>> Valerie A. Wilkinson, Ph.D.
>> Professor of Communication
>> Faculty of Information, Shizuoka University
>> 3-5-1 Johoku, Hamamatsu, Japan 432-8011
>> http://www.inf.shizuoka.ac.jp/~vwilk/
>> vwilk@inf.shizuoka.ac.jp
>> phone 81 (53) 478-1529
>> __________________________________________
>> _____
>> xmca mailing list
>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

Valerie A. Wilkinson, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication
Faculty of Information, Shizuoka University
3-5-1 Johoku, Hamamatsu, Japan 432-8011
phone 81 (53) 478-1529

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