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UCD-STAFFORDBEER  April 2010

UCD-STAFFORDBEER April 2010

Subject:

information vs information flow -Saturday thought for the day

From:

Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 17 Apr 2010 10:26:54 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (100 lines)

The VSM offers the insight that the way in which  social organisation  
flourishes, is not through beating or diminishing other organisations,  
but through contributing a holistically healthful ecology in which all  
organisation flourishes through co-existence in diversity of each in a  
virtuous cycle of interaction.

Management models such as soft system methodology and participative  
planning offer insight into the way in which human understanding is a  
function of the exchange of insights and views of different parties  
and perspectives, none of which may be ascribed the prerogative of  
correct (this is what Russell Ackoff and Peter Checkland have called  
the 'messy world'). Meaning emerges through the reflective and ongoing  
exchange in conversation of different views and understandings - in  
the shifting of the patterns and shapes which emerge, fade, re-emerge  
for the observer in the course of such processes of interaction.

There is currently a clash in our politics, economy, science and  
philosophy between a tradition in which there is some sort of a  
'right' or 'wrong' solution (in which those going for the 'wrong one'  
are the enemy); and the paradigm indicated above, in which there is no  
once-and-for-all right or wrong solution, but where there is a right  
or wrong process or flow. In the latter, the key quality is an ongoing  
interaction (including agreeing to disagree), rather than arriving  at  
a solution (agreement)

This bears on some of the tangled discussions on this forum over the  
last months, when, I suggest, some misunderstandings have been because  
of the certainty about a 'right' standpoint, or the 'wrong' solution.  
And this is relevant for the whole global climate issue as much as  
anything else, and is perhaps clarified with reference to what has  
sometimes been called 'glocal' (global/local).


Glocal:

The problematical issue with the phenomenological flow indicated above  
(for instance in the work of Peter Checkland, but absent from that of  
Stafford - sometimes addressed in interactions between myself and Luc  
(for example), is that it can easily end up being endless - it can  
fudge issues to do with individual responsibility, and with the  
precise event or situation which requires indication and distinction  
rather than reflection and further reflection.  In the present  
discourse, this concerns 'glocal' - with a 'highest level' closure  
(strictly speaking, with organisational closure at a level which lays  
down the constituent properties of the local (all locals) as well as  
energising a totality as constituted through the interactions of all  
the 'locals'.

Without such organisational closure, information is seized for its  
'rightness' or not. With such organisational closure, the critical  
thing (as in a syntegration) becomes one of the reverberation across  
diverse parties and interests of recurrent themes and meanings. This  
is what I meant in a recent interaction with Steve, about the  
distinction between information and information flow. When a domain of  
glocal is established, so is a domain of meaningful interaction, and a  
proliferation of exchange (of whatever kind - discourse, culture,  
goods). The proliferation of different exchanges is symptomatic of  
democratic processes. Tyrrany is symptomised by the attempt to funnel  
the benefits of exchange for certain interests alone, and happens  
through a massive decrease of variety in the number of the exchanges  
(for instance - the number of exchanges in the planning and building  
of a nuclear plant is tiny compared to an attempt from several  
communities to collaborate in the generation of a mixed social economy  
for energy production). The lessening of the scale and correlative  
increasing the number of exchanges is a natural by-product of glocal.  
(We need to note that this is not without its enemies - a natural  
dynamic is the attempt to exploit glocal in the interests of  
increasing the scale and decreasing the number of exchanges, whether  
by political or economic interests).

However, whereas the former entails increasing flow; the latter relies  
upon a reification of information itself, and, indeed, a massive  
monetisation of information (as in 'knowledge is power'). As has been  
pointed out in much recent research ion the Web, there are emerging  
clear battle lines between demands for increased transparency, and a  
return to the 'good old days' of secrecy. The interesting thing about  
the Web, is that there would appear to be an inherent predisposition  
towards increase in flow, rather than decrease. In language of the  
biology of cognition, the Web has an inherent 'emotion' (defined by  
Maturana as a 'predisposition for behaviour') towards the  
effectiveness of decrease in scale and flow of information

The VSM is fascinating, because it suggests a model (note A model, not  
THE model) for the flow of information according to a glocal metric,  
and towards a de-reification of information as knowledge. this is  
clearly counter to much of the thrust of recent work in continental  
philosophy concerning power and power/knowledge.

Roger

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