Intent: Distinguishing Uses of the Encyclopedia
- Empirical level (as a conventional directory)
- Logical context level
- Functional context level
- Classification level
- Alternative perspective level
- Complementarity level
- Mapping level
- Self-constraining configuration level
- Transformational level
- Metaphoric level
This Encyclopedia is concerned with the management of information
on key concepts and challenges of international significance. This information
must necessarily take the form of words whose usage is confused by the conflicting
patterns of associations that they evoke in practice for particular groups
of users, whether official or otherwise. At its most concrete level, as a
reference tool, the Encyclopedia clarifies the many descriptions
of both world problems and understandings of human development. But the challenges
to policy-making in turbulent times lie beyond this concrete level. They
are more concerned with how the complex relationships between questionable
definitions can form the basis for coherent, sustainable initiatives in a
society characterized by intractable differences.
In this sense, the challenge of the Encyclopedia is to give form
to a comprehensible "union of international associations". Here the "associations" reflect
the variety of patterns of connotations through which any seemingly unambiguous
concerns can be reframed, even to the extent of institutionalizing them. "International" emphasizes
the systemic globality through which vigorously defended functional territories
are linked. And "union" highlights the challenge of discovering new ways
of interrelating incompatible perspectives that are more respectful of complexity
than those of the past.
The task is complicated by the need to fulfil immediate practical needs
for information without disguising the complexity within which that information
is to be found. This challenge may best be seen in terms of a series of levels
at which the information in this Encyclopedia is organized.
At each level:
1. Empirical level
- What are the entities
- What are the relationships
(as a conventional directory)
(a) Reference tool: Usually unrelated pieces of information are
assembled into a framework organized for conventional reference book access.
Descriptions of world problems or understandings of human development are
provided on the basis of documents from international organizations and periodicals.
Where appropriate an often emotional "claim" or "counter-claim" is included
to give some sense of the passions and controversy aroused by such perceptions.
(b) Significance: The editorial focus at this level is to sharpen
descriptive texts in the manner of a legal brief justifying a particular
position. There is necessarily a word-oriented bias in identifying and naming
the entry for indexing purposes. Alternative names and common euphemisms
may be also be used to facilitate access. The intention is to define the
problem in relation to the terms used by ordinary people rather than be tempted
by some sophisticated conceptual framework. The coverage is deliberately
broad to capture the wide range of issues to which people of different persuasions
(c) Challenge: At this level the concern is adequacy of coverage
and the logistical difficulties that this implies. The word-orientation calls
for a balance between rationalizing grammatical variants in names and enriching
possibilities for keyword access.
2. Logical context level
(a) Reference tool: The previous level provided users with direct
access to a multitude of isolated entries via indexes. Here the concern is
to cluster the entries, identifying broader problems and narrower problems,
for example. In this way entries are positioned in relation to each other.
Users can shift from the generic to the specific, manoeuvring through hierarchies
as in more highly structured reference books. These cross-references are
given within each entry.
(b) Significance: This level raises the question as to whether
a group of problems, for example, can itself be considered as a problem,
or a class of values as a value. The easy use of words by which problems
are identified and named in the literature casts doubt on the substantiality
of what is named in this way. Can problems really be broken down into smaller
problems or clustered into larger problems? Are some of these seemingly distinct
problems merely facets rather than parts, especially when their identity
is so dependent on a carefully turned phrase? Efforts to organize problems
into neat hierarchies are easily challenged, as is the case with the taxonomic
organization of animal and plant species.
(c) Challenge: A principal concern is whether to merge several
sparsely documented problems together and whether to split a problem complex
into more specific components.
3. Functional context level
(a) Reference tool: The previous level gives users a sense of part/whole
relationships. Here the concern is to give some sense of how different entries
affect each other through a pattern of cause and effect relationships of
different kinds. Such relationships also introduce a time dimension in that
one thing tends to occur before another. The information at this level therefore
clarifies the network of systemic relationships. These cross-references are
given within each entry. There is therefore a hypertext aspect to the organization
of the data that is evident in its use as an interactive database.
(b) Significance: The question of what is being related, raised
at the previous level, is further reinforced here. How well bounded is the
described conceptual entity that it should be held to have functional relationships
with others? How clear is the relationship? Are such pointers better understood
as having a probabilistic rather than a definitive character, namely is there
some probability that this problem will aggravate that one? How are functional
relationships at a class level to be distinguished from those at a more specific
level? These all effectively query the systemic boundaries imposed by the
user on the data.
(c) Challenge: New ways need to be found to explore functional
relationships. A first attempt, described in Section
TZ (Volume 2), concerns the analysis of relationships for vicious loops.
Such loops linking problems enable the level of analysis to be shifted in
an operationally meaningful way.
4. Classification level
(a) Reference tool: It is readily assumed that problems and values
can be unambiguously classified in some useful way. This Encyclopedia deliberately
challenges that assumption and avoids conventional approaches to classification
as being inadequate to the degree of complexity implied by the information.
Users are instead offered an unusually rich set of cross-references between
entries as noted above. An experimental classification
system in Volume 3 of the complementary Yearbook
of International Organizations also clusters problem names with international
organization names by subject.
(b) Significance: The opportunities for more appropriate responses
to configuring sets of problems, values and the like, are the concern of
the following levels.
(c) Challenge: As one experimental basis for more complex forms
of classification, value polarities (clustering
value synonyms and antonyms) are ordered as a matrix of value functions.
Such a matrix is seen as a first step in providing a bridge between human
values (namely "positive" values), problems (namely "negative" values), strategies,
and human development.
5. Alternative perspective level
(a) Reference tool: The previous levels tend to disguise from the
user the conceptual challenge associated with many of the entries. There
are often alternative perspectives from which the validity of the description
can be partially or completely denied as being an exercise in misconception
or even disinformation. The use of "counter-claims" therefore offers a means
of highlighting the nature of the bias associated with the entry.
(b) Significance: Such opposing perspectives are important to an
understanding of the ideological dynamics of any system of problems as they
are perceived in society. Any denial of systemic significance aids understanding
of how a system of entities can be simplified and even impoverished. It helps
to explain why coherent strategic responses are undermined through competing
perspectives. Such counter-claims suggest ways in which problems can be reframed.
(c) Challenge: The previous level focused attention on a single
matrix as a basis for ordering the pattern of functions common to values,
problems, strategies and human development. Here there is a concern to explore
other matrix patterns, whether more or less complex.
6. Complementarity level
(a) Reference tool: The previous levels treat each type of conceptual
entity (problems, values, human development concepts, strategies) in isolation.
Here their complementarity is stressed. In fact problems can only be detected
in the light of values, and are indeed effectively named only by including
negative values in their descriptors. Organization strategies only acquire
significance if they are responding to problems. Users are therefore provided
with a means of accessing problems through a values index (see Section
V) and through a strategies index (see Volume 3). Human
development concepts can also be accessed through a values index (in
Section V). Such tools have not previously been available.
(b) Significance: Concern shifts here from a single type of entity
to entities in couples (problems-values, values-human development, strategies-problems,
and the like). Conceptually each member of a couple affects, colours and
redefines the other. A strategy is constrained by the definition of a problem,
but a problem is also effectively defined by the strategy through which an
organization approaches it. Problems are both a consequence of human development
and a challenge to it. The merit of the Encyclopedia lies in juxtapositioning
such seemingly incommensurable conceptual entities. It stresses the need
for integrating orientations towards values, towards human development, towards
problems and towards solution strategies, for example.
(c) Challenge: Here the concern is with the ability to recognize
complementarity, notably that vital to system viability. What values are
important in relation to what problems? How does human development increase
sensitivity to what values whilst provoking the emergence of certain problems
through its excesses?
7. Mapping level
(a) Reference tool: The previous levels endeavour to capture complexity
for the user by broad coverage, sensitivity to detail and tracing networks
of relationships of a number of kinds. At each level conceptual and systemic
boundaries are brought into question in new and more fundamental ways. Here
the concern is with providing the user with means to configure such seemingly
disparate information in a more integrated manner. The ordinary tools of
indexes and cross-references are inadequate to this challenge. As described
in Section TZ (Volume
2), the user needs visual maps of some kind to highlight integrating features
whilst respecting both systemic coherence and the conceptual discontinuities
between complementary concerns. At this level the preoccupation in this edition
is therefore with mapping experiments.
(b) Significance: At this level the question raised is that of
how to grasp higher orders of complexity, notably in relation to policy issues.
New tools are required to navigate successfully through networks of associations
by identifying pathways of significance. Some form of conceptual scaffolding
is required to hold together disparate elements until integrating understanding
(c) Challenge: Such tools suggest the need for a clearer understanding
of conceptual pathways, especially those that "circumnavigate" the problematique
as a whole, traversing many functional domains. More concretely this relates
to the concern of overlaying problem maps with those of the set of government
agencies in any country to highlight the challenges of governance in a new
8. Self-constraining configuration level
(a) Reference tool: The previous levels assume that the patterns
of information which users need to comprehend can be satisfactorily displayed
on a flat surface, whether as lines of text, as a matrix or as a map of a
network. This assumption precludes investigation of the possibility that
the integrative dimensions of such information may only be understandable
when mapped onto a spherically curved surface -- as has been so made so obvious
in the case of maps of the planet. At this level the preoccupation in this
edition is therefore with mapping experiments.
(b) Significance: In endeavouring to constrain the network of problems,
much is made of the need for an appropriate set of institutional checks and
balances whether within the international community or within any country.
However efforts at elaborating such a framework tend to be marked by tokenism,
fragmentation, lack of coordination, and ineffectual implementation or erosion
of commitment. It is therefore worth exploring the possibility that these
are in part due to lack of any sense of "functional roundness" in favour
of a commitment to "flat" structural and strategic plans.
(c) Challenge: Here the concern, discussed in Section
TZ (Volume 2), is to discover ways to give stability to non-planar
arrays such that they are effectively self-constraining at a "global" level.
How can intractable differences be used to bring about new structures and
ensure their stability? This property of globality is important not only
to the information relating to the planet, and to any holistic sense of
quality of life, but also to the integrative understanding that is called
for at this level. The understanding possible at this level may well be
metastable, easily fragmenting into patterns of associations if no other
constraint is provided.
9. Transformational level
(a) Reference tool: The previous levels are all essentially descriptive,
even though the descriptions must take into account progressively more fundamental
challenges to any one definition as a basis for global consensus. At this
level the user needs guidance in moving between alternative mappings or clusterings
of entities and relationships. Alternative mappings may be based on different
degrees of complexity or on different types of structure. Such guidance is
basic to any understanding of transformation between alternative perspectives.
At this level the preoccupation in this edition is therefore with mapping
(b) Significance: Dialogue between groups with fundamentally different
ideological or strategic perspectives needs to be facilitated by information
tools which offer pathways between such frameworks and between different
levels of complexity. Higher degrees of complexity may need to be held in
abeyance until confidence is acquired with frameworks of lower complexity
that may be quite sufficient for immediate needs. Users need to be able "zoom" in
and out of displays according to the level of complexity required. They also
need to be able to "flip" between alternative frameworks, especially as the
basis for dialogue between groups preferring one or other framework.
(c) Challenge: Some of the challenges of want amounts to continuous
structural transformation, allowing for both complexification and simplification,
are outlined in Section
TZ (Volume 2).
10. Metaphoric level
(a) Reference tool: Information overload is a characteristic of
the times. Potential users increasingly suffer from "explanation fatigue".
New conceptual tools are required to configure very large quantities of information
into patterns that are both memorable and meaningful. In this edition stress
is placed on the potential of metaphor in this respect.
(b) Significance: Metaphor is vital to the communication of new
policy, new vision and to dialogue during the processes of governance. It
is a major unexplored resource to bypass the rigidities of many conceptual
processes which inhibit the emergence of new and more integrative structures
based on more subtle patterns of organization. Metaphor is often the only
means to deal comprehensibly with complexity.
(c) Challenge: It is not that the use of metaphor needs to be introduced
to the processes of policy-making and institutional design, rather it is
that such processes tend already to be trapped in metaphors that are in some
measure inappropriate to the challenges faced by society. There is a need
to be able to move flexibly between policy-relevant metaphors and to cultivate
new metaphors as required. See commentary.
In conventional approaches difficulties arise because of the confusion between
words and their semantic connotations. Words have to be used to communicate
but are never sufficient to carry the complexes of meanings to which they
point. Efforts to produce sets of 5 to 10 words to carry understandings of
basic values essential to world governance, sustainable development and peace
on the planet are therefore doomed as exercises in tokenism, political symbolism
or academic sympathetic magic.
It is useful to recognize levels at which value, problems and human development
can be fruitfully discussed:
- word level (constructive and destructive)
- semantic level (polarities)
- semantic clusters in matrices (tables)
- spherical mapping (Rio)
- alternative spherical mappings (Rio and others)
- complementary spherical mappings in a set; gears
- ordered set of complementary mappings.
A bridge has to be built between:
- the word level through which problems and values are identified in all
their rich variety and multiplicity
- the semantic clusters which reduce that variety, grouping synonyms and
related notions, and transcending the paradoxes of the positive features
of negative values and the negative features of positive values
- the functionally integrated sets of these semantic clusters which correspond
to operational responses to the complexity of dealing with the world through
sustainable strategies (ministries)
- the representations of these sets that facilitate comprehension of the
complexity that they subsume as conceptual scaffolds
It is by focusing on lists as adequate conceptual scaffolds, and by assuming
that the words in them successfully carry universally the meanings which some
may be able to associate with them, that confusion arises.