Updated: 7/7/06; 3:37:44 PM.
Connectivity: Spike Hall's RU Weblog
News, clips, comments on knowledge, knowledge-making, education, weblogging, philosophy, systems and ecology.

 Thursday, November 28, 2002

Summary: I'd like to tie together weblogging with my my own world view (individual ontology), relate my becoming to the developing ontology of some system of which I'm a part. This is a tall order... but I needed to signal this aspiration of mine in order to remind me that I'm headed there and to signal potential supporters, collaborators, and skeptics alike that I'm trying to get there.

I've been reviewing and reading my treasury of developmental psychology and systems thinkers. Also developing a deeper understanding of Dewey's approach to logic (thanks Lyn). I've put several useful references at the bottom of this entry.

Interestingly systems thinkers, developmental psychologists and Dewey concur (though using somewhat different vocabulary) that learning occurs because of disequilibrium. Piaget, for example, mentions assimilation and accommodation as constant tidal process which influence individual becoming. One process tends to map one's expectations onto the environment until the environment no longer does 'the right thing'...even if corrected (via what some call 'negative feedback'). This mapping onto the environment is called assimilation.

The disequilibrium phase.. when a series of corrections fail to get the environment to behave fail to do so .. is followed at some point by a form of capitulation... the learning system then opens up to the environment and tries out new sets of expectations and accompanying actions. These tryouts occur successively until the environmental response once again meets [a different, more sophisticated, generally] expectation. This trying out of successive expectation/action combinations is called accommodation.

However, you cant experience what appears to be the same situation in the same way after your expectation-action relationship has changed. (Whether your change took place next at a particular rock on a familiar creek or in your assigned chair at the kitchen table. It may look the same in a digital picture, but in terms of your worldview it's different.).One sees differently what to do, what to look for; and, on the whole (barring system degeneration, illness etc) the new way of thinking is more sophisticated and more comprehensive.

Successive assimilation / accommodations cycles take the individual towards ever more sophisticated more comprehensive ways of thinking. The price that is paid for this evolution is that there is no rest. The new code is only satisfying, effective, for a while. Then new variations in environmental responses, unanticipated, unplanned, once again throw the learner off and s/he must once again move from assimilation to accommodation and back again. Staying there for a while and then repeating the cycle again with a yet more sophisticated incarnation of situational code the product.

It's a constant , recurring, process, in the general sense, but its products vary. The new product becomes the basis for the new assimilative behavior only to be evolved once again at the next disiquilibrium. It's a recursive, self-reflexive process.

And that is what I trust even my least weblogging efforts will represent as I use them to share , document and direct my own efforts to apply this technology to my own efforts to understand.

If I were to use Matt Mower's live topics to pull those of my weblogs that related to any given topic (knowledge-making, for example) I would see, I hope, a progressive enhancement of sophistication and of comprehensiveness over time. An organized synthesis of my most recent entries on the topic would be my personal knowledge-making-related ontology. The process (ie inquiry ala Dewey just below) would be complete when the most recent compilation was 'a unified whole', self-consistent.

As Dewey (as quoted by Burke,1994, p22) said:

Inquiry is the controlled or directed transformation of an indeterminate situation into one that is so determinate in its constituent distinctions and relations as to convert the elements of the original situation into a unified whole,


Next level up would be to construct, by analogy and by application of some systems thinking, a parallel process for a group inquiry and group ontology.

Tom Burke, 1994,Dewey's New Logic: A Reply to Russell, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

J.H. Flavell,1968, The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget, Toronto: Van Nostrand.

(System, Structure, and Experience : Toward a Scientific Theory of Mind (Current Topics of Contemporary Thought, Vol 1), by Ervin Laszlo. Hardcover (June 1969))

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Spike Hall is an Emeritus Professor of Education and Special Education at Drake University. He teaches most of his classes online. He writes in Des Moines, Iowa.


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