Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Living

Sorry about this, but I realized that it would be more natural to turn the subject to Living instead of Viable Fragments. Even worse, I'm note sure why fragments can or should be viable, they are fragments, not Wholes. Wholes, a famous word in some scientific circles, totally unkown to many other disciplines.

Wholes is a well known concept for those that are familiar with the theory of Autopoiesis that was developed in the late '60's and early seventies by Humberto Maturana en Francesco Varela.

In a sense their work built on earlier work in both Cognition (see the famous article what the frogs eye tells the frogs brain) and Cybernetics (in particular that the observer is IN the system).

Maturana and Varela wrote a book on Autopoiesis that is often accused of hypnotyzing readers. The reason is that the sentences in the book are written in a sort of circular language that I cannot repeat here, but actually this way of writing was natural to them as their main argument is that living systems are closed systems with a self-referential organization.

Difficult stuff for a blog, but essentially this means that all processes in the living system (chemically, physically, language) are organized without having loose ends, they all connect, stimulate, inhibit each other ... they form a Whole.

Even the repair processes (for example when one breaks a leg) do not disrupt the closedness of the systems' organization and therefore the body is able to repair the damage. If such a thing happens (the closedness of the organization is broken), the living systems dies.

Next time I'll go a bit into the Autopoietic stuff. This time it is a promise.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Fragmented

As promised the subject today is fragmented. Fragment, what a word. In the physical world it simply means a piece / a part, often of something that was bigger before. Drop a vase and most of the time you are suddenly the owner of a whole lot of fragments.

In the real world fragments are everywhere. News clips, movies-leaders, rumours, hyperlinks, stories are all examples of non-physical stuff that can be called a fragment, a piece of reality so to say.

In the digital world interesting things are happening around fragmentism too. Picking up on the title Everything is Miscellaneous of David Weinbergers book , Dave Snowden pointed at the shift from hierarchical taxonomies to the free form tagging of social computing and concluded that Everyting is Fragmented. He wrote on KM world:

I wanted to build on that by pointing to the shift during the life span of knowledge management from the "chunked" material of case studies and best-practice documents to the unstructured, fragmented and finely granular material that pervades the blogosphere.

To me one of the most interesting aspects of living is the aspect of perspective. Every human being (or even animal) you meet has its own perspective on reality. Where one sees danger, others see the next thrill. And everyone who has even been part of "a project" know there are at least the number of project plans than project members, often there are more ....

That is for me where the resemblance between the physical and the information world ends. In the physical world the vase falls into fragments, loosing the vase in the process of breaking. In the information world one person tells a story to a group of 10 and suddenly one has 11 stories, the original and 10 new ones, all coloured with the perspective of the observer. The same happes to written material. One example:

There is this story about a famous Dutch writer who was talking one evening to an audience in a library about his latest book. After telling for an hour, the audience was granted the opportunity to ask questions. A woman raised her hand and said ... Sir, on page 72, can you explain why the main character thinks she will die? The writer said to her ... Madam, that is in the book you read, not in the book that I wrote.

For me, that is the basic mechanism that increases the fragmentedness of the infospace. So the real question is .... what have you read? A fragment, my fragment, has now become yours and changed probably in the process. Is that a viable way of living, does it create new value? I don't know, but I'll explore further next time. Maybe the title should be viable fragments. Not sure yet!

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Start

For a long time I have had the feeling that I should attempt to share more with more people on a subject I have been interested in for a long, long time: viability.

Viability is - for me - first of all a word that starts an acronym of the '60's, the VSM or Viable Systems Model. The word itself however conveys so much hope that even outside the VSM community viability is a concept worth studying.

When is something viable and what is the definition of viability. According to www.thefreedictionary.com, viable means:

1. Capable of living, developing, or germinating under favorable conditions.
2. Capable of living outside the uterus. Used of a fetus or newborn.
3. Capable of success or continuing effectiveness; practicable: a viable plan; a viable national economy.

So - at least - viability is connected to the living and that is exactly why this word is part of the title of this blog.

Next time I will go into the reasons why the word fragmented also is a part of the title.