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The One, The Many and The Fractal

Seems everybody's talking about emergence, bottom up behaviour. Which is fine (though personally "bottom up" still reminds me of a something you say in the pub).

There's also quite a lot of chatter about Personal Knowledge Management vs Collective Knowlege Management. Which is fine again.

What I find less fine is that these two types of KM gets treated in a believers and heathens manner, by both "sides".

So I'd like to suggest, m'lud, that, if we are going to talk about bottom-up emergence etc, and swallow the complexity system pill, then we swallow the whole pill.

Which includes swallowing that little point that complex systems tend to be fractal. That is, patterns repeat in the system, however much you zoom in or out with your microscope. Next time you have a chainsaw to hand, cut off a branch from a tree. It will be similar (though not exactly the same as) the tree as a whole.

So if we are talking about bottom-up behaviour, then whatever the iterative behaviour that helps individuals learn, jostle their perspectives and make sense of the world isn't much different from how groups learn, or organisations or countries.


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Hi Piers,

This is an important observation. We do tend to treat pairs as dichotomy, either this or that.

Hence two questions to me would be relevant:

How do we become aware of how small scale patterns and large scale ones are connected and respond to/influence eachother?

How do these connections manifest themselves?

Hi Ton

Like the questions! And as ever, don't have any firm answers (!) Part of the issue it seems is what exacly we are talking about when we talk about the small pieces. Do we mean people, or perspectives or information or documents etc?

That aside, I don;t have the reference here, but Boland and Tenkasi did some interesting research on types of communication. If you extend their analysis a bit, the types of communication you get in an organisation are:
1) Internal (i.e. marshalling one's own perspectives)
2) External (i.e persuasion, negotiation)
3) Dialogue (i.e. in the Bohrs sense, listening to understand with no persuasion implicit)

Picturing the connections seems to be very much an exercise in dialogue, and perhaps that's a first step to the awareness you highlight?

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