Access, Imagine, Measure (AIM)
We have persistent problems that have resisted solutions. If we want to solve these problems, we need to really see the problem in all of its complexity — we need to see it where it lives. Only then can we restore the connections we had edited out. We edit out connections because our theories suggest that we need to pay attention to some connections and we can safely ignore others. It could well be that some of the connections we ignore are the ones we need if we are going to solve the problem.
When we show a problem rather than tell about it we can see it in context: we can access parts that we might have edited out.
Once we can see the problem with all of its connections in place rather than the caricature version we have been thinking about, we can imagine new ways to see what connections might influence the connections that are bothering us.
We can then develop measures to test the new visions we have imagined.
NEITHER “FACT” NOR “FICTION/OPINION/BELIEF” — GO FOR FRICTION
Dividing what is said about the world into either “fact” or “fiction/opinion/belief” is not helpful. Even those of us who are not “relativists” generally think that a fact is a statement about the world that we take to be true because the evidence we have accrued, based on the theories we hold, affirm that statement. We know we don’t know everything, though. We do not believe we are god-like. We know that the evidence we have might not be all there is to be had.
We are, however, comfortable with the theories and the evidence we have because when we relied on them in the past, they helped us coordinate our actions among the entities we generally worry about coordinating with (people, animals … ). For example, I don’t assume I can throw a ball so that it will stop mid-air. If I throw it to another person I assume that it will either hit the ground or the person will catch it. People behave in ways that show they too have internalized the set of theories most of us rely on.
Nevertheless there are problems that have persisted and plagued us for centuries. Those problems seem resistant to reliable resolution given the theories we are working with. It could be that we have simply not looked hard enough at the truths that can be deduced from the theories we hold. If that is so, then looking at sets of statements we call “facts” is the way to go. Given that we have been doing that for a very long time indeed to try to resolve our most persistent problems, it is time for a different approach.
Social Science “Friction” is devoted to turning a spotlight on the places where our theories fail to help us coordinate: where despite our best efforts, problems persist. Our theories might be failing in those venues possibly because we have not noticed entities in the world that requires us to develop ways to coordinate with them. Bacteria, for example, at one time were in that category.
Bacteria are now among the entities we known we must reckon with, but there is still a great deal about coordinating with them that our theories have not addressed. It might be that we can find out what we need to know by looking farther afield to find the evidence we need to alter or disprove them. Even if the theories cannot be disproved, they might need to be altered to help us coordinate with other entities in the world, known or unknown. That could be done by revisiting the full complexity of the phenomena surrounding the problems we have. We might have edited out connections that matter critically for the understanding we need to coordinate. Science Friction should help us do that.
How this works
We will have bi-weekly blogs through this site each dealing with an aspect of a persistent problem. Send us your thoughts, fiction, poetry, art — anything that can help expose connections that will allow us to access the full picture surrounding the problem discussed. Send us lists and links to works you think can help as well. We will publish a selection of original works and select works from those you mention to create a reading list in a thread devoted to that particular problem. and we will solicit ways to crop the connections to form a new “imagining.” We will then ask to develop measures to test the viability of the new way of looking at things and we will publish the results of studies in the research thread associated with the problem.
Please send your thoughts and works to the address below any time the spirit moves you to do that. Put the problem thread name (in the blog) in the subject line. Thanks!
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