What is a topic?

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  • #230

    How do we have great discussions and how do we bring our new behaviour and values into ‘’old paradigm’’ structures
    What are topic tags and why do we need them?

    #243

    skreutzer
    Participant

    I think you know what tags are (as opposed to categories and taxonomies), right? So if we can’t keep discipline to stay on topic in the posts under a topic, tags on the topic level aren’t particularly helpful. I would doubt that they have any effect on search engine optimization (external crawlers like Google bot), but if a writer here comes up with a few fitting tags, why not use them anyway? It’s just that we probably won’t be able to use them to structure/organize all the topics later, tags would be more helpful on the post level I guess.

    Would you say that this forum or the entire site is following the old paradigm or an expression of it?

    #249

    I was the one that noted this question in the last GCC Friday Experiment Conversation of September 8th. It is on my mind since 1984. Then I worked for a year at the now vanished Fokker Airplane factory. I was hired to bring clarity and structure into the internal documentation of the R&D facility for Advanced Composites. (Plastic planes seemed a far fetched dream for most engineers, back then.) So I dreamt a lot about structure, categorisation, standardisation, taxonomies and keywords.
    All my ideas still apply, but have also shown their limitations. They are only valid from one single vantage point. Any rigid system requires the acceptance of many preconditions in order to function and be of use. Writing this piece for instance requires me to accept the alphabet, the qwerty keyboard and the english language. All are alien to me and demand a slice of my limited attention. So I recognise the comment by our friend Kreutzer.

    From a more integral perspective we have learnt that any predefined structure is a limitation to the one that might naturally emerge. Yet emergence is easier when embedded in a proper structure. I now reason from the assumption that any structure (this WordPress environment offered by Josh) is as good as any. And immeasurably better than no structure or connection point. The factual experiment is in just doing this and adapt and learn by doing it.

    Now what makes a topic a topic?

    The short answer is; I don’t know yet. But my felt sense is that I am closer to understanding it then before. Thanks to my learnings and experiences in the integral community of which GCC is one expression. So let me think out load here for a bit. Hoping to feed your thinking and our dialog.

    I lately use NEEDS as my most stable starting point in understanding human behavior. This thanks to my friend Sven van Echelpoel who proved to be far more consistent than me in applying the insights from Marshal Rosenberg on this. The simple starting point is this unrefuted assumption: All our behaviour stems from needs. And Abram Maslov discovered their hierarchy. His contemporary colleague Clare Graves discovered the psychological healthy behaviours or coping strategies humans develop to meet those needs. So they are in a hierarchical order as well. A simple experiential proof, you can do yourself anytime: Even the most pressing situations can be interrupted by bio breaks.
    It is that natural hierarchy that defines our lives, our interests and hence also define the distinctions between what we call ‘topics’.

    So in my mind ‘topics’ are situations or instances that require attention. Due to their very nature of being they draw my attention because they initiate a tension. (Attention and tension are related methinks) The same thing can go by totally unnoticed by others. A topic is anything that is interesting to me, of interest. Interest means it holds or represents a potential value. Negative value if it is considered a risk or threat, positive value if it promises any gain.

    So following this line of thought from a human standpoint topics have a natural order. And I personally see the GCC as a group focused on ‘Restoring viability to a disordered world’. Here I deliberately quote ‘Levels of Existence as Seen by Dr. Clare W. Graves‘.
    This is the defining need that brings us together and hence defines our interests and the priorities of the topics we treat and discuss.
    The interesting (!) aspect of the integral approach is that it does not exclude or deny any prior need, interest or topic, but embraces them as an essential part of the wholeness. And as the records of our conversations show this way all unmet tensions surface and require attention. I need to heal my own fractured psychology as part of my ambition to restore the viability of the society around me.

    Summarising my thoughts so far, I would say that our striving to find appropriate forms of collaboration to cope with the current global challenges is one of our main topics. Following that logic everything else follows from that and might be ordered according to the hierarchies I mentioned earlier. And we can attribute our attention following the same prioritisation. As a group or individually. No need to agree or wait for permission before following your own interest. That is only one beauty of this emergent paradigm.

    NB I notice that ‘Finding appropriate forms of collaboration to cope with the current global challenges’ can be seen as the HOW in answer to the WHY of GCC. The more action oriented among us gravitate to the WHAT we can do.

    With this I am complete for this moment. Thank you for your kind attention and any comment is highly appreciated.

    #251

    skreutzer
    Participant

    Hi Harry,

    that’s quite interesting, I wasn’t aware of your history with the question of structure, only learned about the visual representation as a tool/approach to understand something (a topic maybe?), that’s probably to cover in your Deep Dive session(s).

    I think all of us can easily agree that any structure is better than no structure, and flexible structure(s) is better than just a single, fixed one (would love to explore contrary views on this, otherwise I would assume this as the working hypothesis). There are obviously costs associated with the application of structures on what otherwise is unstructured, context-less, meaningless chaos, but that’s also the only way we know how to gain benefits from what we have or are looking at.

    I didn’t think about topics as a structuring tool/mechanism (in terms of a particularly useful structuring tool, which is the whole point of introducing such structure at all, except for natural structures that exist as a matter of fact, but might not be too useful to us as we don’t understand the nature and structure of many things), where categories, taxonomies and keywords/tags are useful structuring tools in my mind, instead, I regarded topics as broad, overarching, general “brackets” that include loosely what might be relevant for a question or problem and exclude everything that doesn’t seem to be related. As the topic tends to be broad and not very specific/formal, aspects and related fields can easily be added or removed from a topic, which makes it a not very useful structuring tool, because the topic is a single structure with a flexible, versatile meaning/interpretation. One day, other, unrelated knowledge/facts/aspects/topics can turn out to be closely related to the topic, and the next day it is found that it was wrong to see a connection between both, that they are in fact unrelated, but just seemed to be related, so those things get removed again. Thus, the topic is more of a snapshot tool for declaring what the human knowledge workers think at the given time of what’s related/included in a topic, to make the distinction to what is unrelated/excluded. It’s much more difficult to deny a piece the annotation/connection to a certain category, taxonomy or keyword/tag, to no small part because they’re used on small pieces/portions where topics cover large collections of pieces, categories, taxonomies, keywords/tags, even if the latter are in conflict with each other, they can still be included into the same generalized topic as different perspectives for looking at what’s relevant with-under the topic. Sure, we know that in reality, everything is deeply intertwingled and a problem of immense complexity, so the topic as a structuring tool doesn’t reflect reality, so it is indeed just a tool, so topics face resistance/opposition by people who think that separating disciplines, stereotypes, etc. are a bad thing precisely because they’re tools that don’t reflect reality, but it’s not that they can suggest a more useful alternative (cybernetics exist, but also don’t improve the usefulness that much), but demand that the limited usefulness a topic has needs to be furtherly destructed, maybe because it’s a bad thing and misleading and dangerous to think or look at things on a broad, generalized scope, that it is an illusion that you can.

    Now I don’t know if you think about topics in a similar way as you wrote your description of them with a quite different focus, but that’s where we need to re-read and discuss where our perspectives are coming from and going to. I mean, it shouldn’t be too difficult to connect my view on topics to what humans care about or have needs for, but I might have to investigate it a little more with some time to think about it. It’s also a different question if we want to improve topics or improve on topics or improve our or the structuring tools, as well as the question if our current tools/technology (properly or improperly understood and/or applied) are suitable (useful) enough for the increasingly complex problems at hand.

    Just to note, before I forget: from computers we’ve learned that an answer to the latter question could be the network/”graph”, Ted Nelsons crusade against hierarchical structures, which topics are despite being flexible, because they’re “on the top” and other things “included/grouped below/within them”.

    #252

    Andrew MacDonald
    Participant

    I like seeing that the integral perspective is being brought forward here by you, Harry. Thinking about structure and things emerging that have no structure . . . that’s like the theory of consciousness that I think Allan Coombs brought forward: it’s like a bird that flies and then alights on a branch. It has two different modes, like a particle that is also a wave. When the thing is in full flight it’s not a topic but just emergent. Then when it rests it’s seen to be a topic, a bird with such and such colors.

    Maybe topics emerge naturally when the bird settles on the branch, only to take wing again.

    #253

    skreutzer
    Participant

    Birds are structures and a topic, flying requires structures and is a topic, branch is a structure, particles are a structure and waves as well. A single or particular bird in full flight probably doesn’t justify to be a whole topic in itself, or who cares about that? As soon as somebody cares about it, it surely can be made a topic.

    I’m not sure if we can reasonably describe something that has no structure, or if things without structure can or do exist, but I’m curious how we could approach such a notion.

    I don’t know anything about Allan Coombs, but consciousness might be something that’s not a structure, and we could discuss if consciousness requires host structure(s), but here we’re back again at the problem that we can’t properly talk about it because the lack of structure makes it hard to prove it’s existence. Not that things that potentially exist or don’t exist can’t exist if we don’t find their structure, but in absence of finding their structure, one can easily claim that they do exist as well as don’t exist, which may or may not have influence over their real existence [1], but what’s certain is the fact that we can’t easily talk about it for that particular reason.

    Does this make sense?

    [1] To avoid confusion on that particular statement: one can bring things into existence by simply claiming that they exist, or by introducing structure to something that was unstructured before (so it exists in or by or because of the structure), and we can debate if they really exist, but they’re not less or more existent than we are. If they have a consciousness is a different question, but even that can’t be easily dismissed for the things we otherwise would be most sure that they don’t exist and aren’t real. A prime example could be a fictional character in a book or movie, is he/she more or less real/existent than, let’s say, “Shakespeare”, or you and me?

    #254

    skreutzer
    Participant

    Allan Coombs talks about consciousness and we do too, so it’s certainly a topic, but does consciousness itself have a structure, can we even know that it exists? Surely it exists, because we made it a topic, so it exists because we assigned/identified a structure of what consciousness is or might be and what it isn’t and probably might not be, so it has at least one structure (ours, as a topic or several topics, at least), so we’re back at wondering if things without structure can exist (again, not in terms of if they actually, really exist or actually/really because of us, or only virtually or any of that, but existence as something we can learn and talk about in opposition to things that may or may not exist, but about which we can’t talk or gain any knowledge because of the lack of observable structure, including our own made-up structures to talk/think about things that didn’t exist for us before, so we can say that we don’t know about the existence of anything without structure, except unstructuredness itself potentially, if it actually or virtually exists, but that might be the only unstructured thing we can ever talk/learn about).

    #262

    skreutzer
    Participant

    This topic seems to be hidden/invisible in the Forum overview. Activity -> General Discussions doesn’t lead to the Forum overview, so without a link to go there (to my awareness), it’s unlikely that people will find topics in other forums than “General Discussions”, so no engagement and structuring to expect there.

    #263

    Anonymous

    New topic: Ingredients for the recipe, Lets bake a cake! and Skreutzer I am not sure what you want to know about consciousness, I am going to watch a rerun of this movie to collect some thoughts in my consciousness. I try to simplify when necessary even to the extent of, “it’s just a collection of memories”, after all it is by it’s very presence giving you all there is to know about it. What you do with the knowledge is governed by what matters to the consciousness observing and offering direction to show the choices available to the player. I think Lewis Carroll, in the world-famous children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility at word play, logic and fantasy. How far you can stretch your imagination to encompass others idea’s on the subject enables the futurist to get closer to the reality which as we all know is stranger than fiction.

    #264

    skreutzer
    Participant

    Hi Alex,

    Andrew mentioned Allan Combs’ consciousness theory, and in response to Harry, I tried to ask the question from systems theory if something can exist that’s not a system/structure, if consciousness is too a system/structure and therefore would be not outside of systems thinking, as if systems thinking would be limited to only a few topics or insufficient as a tool to look at everything, including consciousness. There are other universal things like graphs or networks (which are as well systems/structures, it’s probably different names for the same thing/tool/perspective/interpretation), how would one explain that consciousness is not a graph/network? Same with “topic”?

    #322

    I am glad that you are using integral theory for your thinking. When I first met Ken Wilber’s books and also Don Beck about 20 years ago, or more, I felt I was sort of alone in the world to see things, now, that way which made immediately more sense to me. In time I met more and more people – and I deliberately went to the places where they meet. Thank God we now have internet and video conversations!

    Although I am not “on topic” in this threat: I don’t really care what a “topic” is, as long as we/ I have one which is interesting enough to talk about.

    #323

    skreutzer
    Participant

    Hi Heidi,

    where do you recognize the integralism, is it in the consciousness or topic part or both? I wasn’t aware of integral theory, but recently looked it up because you mentioned it several times in the recordings of the conversation, so I don’t know a lot about it, but very broadly speaking (at the risk of hijacking this thread), is it the notion that everything is connected/related somehow, is that in a single, specific way not yet really discovered/understood, or all sorts of different metrics and do you think and/or does the theory allow two things to exist that are completely unrelated and don’t affect each other in any way at all? Do those questions make sense?

    I thought some more about topics and would describe them now as a tool for broad grouping of things with somewhat vague boundaries, so some things can be added/included and also removed/excluded again if it turns out that they’re not really connected to the subject of the topic, but did just appear to be. I also put the text on my blog in order to develop it some more, a collection of “tools” for/by the practitioners of system theory, such as computer programmers. Another tool would be “time”, I think I wrote an initial piece on it but can’t find it any more. Just had an encounter how “time” works on a computer, it really doesn’t exist 😉

    #324

    Hi (what is your name?)

    Integralism (if you can speak of “ism” which I don not like much) is in the way you see the world and act accordingly. Integral Theory is a meta-theory which has a look with a birds eye on what is existing in the world and destills a map from that.

    The basics are, in a nutshell:
    1. reality is arising in 4 different perspectives at the same time, the internal of an individual, the interior of a group, the exterior (like a scintific look on something from outside, the “facts” and the exterior from the colective perspective (like systems theory)

    2. Humans and societies grow through well defined stages through personal or historic evolution. These stages define how we think and feel about life, the world, etc and what values we have.

    3. Spirituality isn’t enough to become “enlightened. We also need the personal growth part and the elaboration and integration of our shadows, individually and collectively.

    When you have understood well these principles – which really takes some time, at least it took ME quite some time), then you begin to understand why the world is as it is. You also begin to appreciate the specific gifts which all people at their stage can give to the world – instead of dismissing everything which doesn’t fit into your way of thinking and believing. Not an easy task, but absolutely necessary to create peace in the world, because, unfortunately, not everybody thinks, feels and believes as we ourselves do. And that, always, has caused trouble and wars.

    I hope I could give you an impression of the huge value of the integral roadmap.
    Heidi

    #325

    skreutzer
    Participant

    Hi Heidi,

    I’m Stephan Kreutzer, account name is usually skreutzer according to Unix/Linux user name convention to avoid name collisions as I was able to register skreutzer.de in the global domain name address book 10 years ago. I also assumed that you want to be called Heidi, because why else give this additional (nick)name?

    I didn’t refrain from calling it an “ism” because I know that quite some people are opposed to it, wonder if they don’t like “dogmas” or “ideology”, but quite frankly, they can’t bind their shoes without it, and binding them or thinking that they need to be bound is an “ism” as well as leaving the shoelaces waggling around. I guess integral theory is NOT the same as all the other, earlier theories, and if it includes the other ones, then the other ones aren’t already integral, and as I know other theories (some group theory got applied in this explaination attempt), they are different from each other, that’s why there’s some othering on my side, they have their own names for a reason.

    1. I never had a formal introduction to systems theory, I only read about cybernetics once and work daily with human-made computer systems, so I thought that the 4 different levels/perspectives would be systems as well and include more sub-systems, and having the 4 of them is a system too as they certainly interact with each other, so maybe I’m more an integralist than a system thinker, especially as I don’t care much about modelling feedback loops for they seem to be a little bit too primitive/simplistic to reflect the complexity at hand. To frame it even more, identifying “systems” could be just another tool like identifying “topics” or identifying “time” is, tools that help us to navigate/deal with complexity.

    2. Do these stages define themselves or are they pre-defined? Are the stages directed? Just curious.

    3. Agree. Profane, ugly, un-enlightened, un-spiritual things have their place too even if we don’t like them/it, needs to be acknowledged and properly encountered I guess, it’s a different quality of enlightenment/spirituality to meet it adequately/appropriately, not just being enlightened in isolation, an end in itself, a state/feeling to finally rest in. I mean, who knows, why couldn’t it turn out to be deeply shattering/unresting? But maybe you wanted to make a different point, I can only share my limited glimpse 😉

    Listening to the GCC conversations made me realize that the problems are truly systemic, leading to less hope instead of more, as far as I’m concerned. At least I now have to look more into integral theory, and discovered your blog now and the other sites and even the webcasts, to catch up eventually. I don’t know to what extend, but I can work with WordPress in some ways and maybe online audio/video one day, just to approach/consume the masses of created material a little bit more conveniently. We’ll see 🙂

    #326

    Hi Stephan – This sounds so much nicer than “skreutzer” (German name!)

    Thanks for your reply. For what you write it really seems that you are living more on an integral level. There are many integralists in the world who don’t know it. I believe, knowing the integral roadmap allows them to see even more clearly their own place in the world.
    I would encourage you to look more into integral theory, but reading Wilber’s books might be too time consuming. There are people who might give you a quicker overview, like Jeff Salzman and his DAILY EVOLVER, where he tries to see the world’s events in an integral lens. It doesn’t mean that he is “right”, I sometimes don’t agree. We all have different psychological and cultural backgrounds which colour our interpretations. But that is totally ok.

    Yes, Integral Theory is not just a theory, like all others, It aims to connect all the existing theories and find the common denominator and extracts “the best” of them, or better shedding light on what is useful and what better not to get on with. As I said, it is a Meta-Theory, not a theory itself, not an opinion on anything, but a synthesis. And that makes it so fascinating, because you begin to see connections which you didn’t notice before. And it re-introduces areas of life which had been kicked out of the picture for one reason or other and led to an incomplete picture – when used as roadmap will lead without doubt to an incomplete result, or worse.

    I met Wilber more than 20 years ago through “Grace and Grit”, a book about the life with his wife who died of cancer. Very little theory there, but it gave me the kick to want to know more. With “Up from Eden” I got totally hooked because I found so many explanations for questions I was wondering about. In the meantime Wilber has developed his presentations of his theory and included more useful tools to get a better understanding, like the introduction of levels of development with colors (instead of strange names), lines of development, multiple intelligences, Typology, Spirituality, Shadow work etc., all things which are needed to see the bigger picture and to grow up as human beings and societies – unfortunately widely ignored.

    If you like we can talk about all that in Zoom. Let me know what timezone you are in and when you would be available for a 1:1 (I am in Italy)

    Heidi

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