Sense Making


Today I had a sense making breakthrough. I was discussing the film Disconnect, which I sometimes teach. I really don’t like the film, but it is so rich that I feel compelled to return to it.

I drew a network diagram of the film:

We have 3 or 4 storylines that connect with each other via one or two other people. The people within the network are not aware of the connections.

We also have devices that are connecting us with people and creating the conflicts within the storylines.

The crux of the issue, as I viewed it today, was that no one within the network was able to “see” let alone understand the connections they had. These were all obscured (occulted). Our world has always been interconnected – a systems world. But because of technology and organization our the systems are much larger and can have a much larger impact (because of the scale an the force of the vectors in the system). Before we may not have understood the network, or maybe we did, but regardless the impact was not as severe.

Today the impact is severe. There are all sorts of phenomena that seem to make no sense or that we cannot agree upon because the systems are obscured from climate change to fake news.

What is sense making? It’s not necessarily I dont know how to make sense of my life, or I dont know how to solve this problem or diagnose this problem, its about how do I create the conceptual scaffolding to understand these networks.

Technology and organization has created these expanded networks but we don’t have the tools (conceptual or otherwise) to make these connections and their vector magnitudes (the strength of the connection) visible.

To me there is an analogy between the Aristotle’s discovery of rhetoric and the discovery of something new to understand systems.

Imagine, ancient Athens, the agora. People are standing around arguing. Some people are winning arguments, some people are winning followers. Why? Why is one argument better than another? or more convincing than another? Along comes Aristotle he starts to diagram out the ways to make an argument, stylistic concerns and logical concerns (syllogisms/conditionals). Then you can MAKE SENSE of why a certain argument is more convincing or perhaps correct. Before it was obscured like our network, then it became transparent.

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