Monday 1 August 2011

Attachment and Anticipation

Had a great trip to Nottingham to chat to @sciencematters today about Positioning Theory, Rom Harré, educational technology and teaching and learning in general. On the way down, I got much deeper into Leydesdorff's work on the 'Triple Helix' relationship between University, Government and Industry. Leydesdorff identifies a clear role for 'anticipatory systems' in the architecture of the 'knowledge-based economy', and he has been experimenting with mechanisms of anticipation (basically where the 'clock speed' of an observer is faster than the 'clock speed' of observations, so that projections of future events can be produced and evaluated in anticipation of them happening.)

One topic of conversation with @sciencematters was the nature of Harré's 'storylines' in his positioning triangle (see below). The question that emerged for me was "is a storyline an anticipatory system?". I think this could well be the case, but how might it be modelled?

Here I have some further thoughts on the model of anticipation that I think Leydesdorff has in mind, because it doesn't really engage with the problem of memory and the way that memory engages with the 'internal conversation'. If we just talk in terms of 'storage' then we're down a road of mentalism/cognitivism, which I think is simply incorrect.

My thoughts on this are that Bowlby's 'relationship control system' model might help out, and that memory might be characterised as a process of maintaining sets of attachments. Indeed, if the links between the nodes of Harré's triangle were to be labelled, then I would say that between 'storylines' and 'positions', there are attachments; between 'storylines' and 'speech acts' there are judgements, and between 'speech acts' and 'positions' there are 'communications'. This maps onto Luhmann's distinctions between psychic and social systems quite nicely too, which helps because Luhmann maps out the specifics of the selection processes of making an utterance and interpreting a communication (which provides a nice hook back to Leydesdorff!)

I was originally planning an extension to my NetLogo model by adding 'objects of attachment' which 'shadowed' the agents. I might still do this, but there's a question (as with all agent-based modelling) as to how it might be interpreted. On the one hand, these objects of attachment (shadow agents) might be used to model the interations with the real world, and project future likely interactions. That would tie nicely in with the idea of positioning as 'steering'. But I'm not sure it's really like that.

What I suspect happens is that our continual interaction with the objects to which we are attached actually serves as a regulating mechanism the product of whose operation is the generation of rational narratives and the process of deliberation as to the next communications to utter. That explains to me why diseases like Alzheimers appear to cause 'memory loss', when in fact what it does is to break the regulatory mechanisms so that attachments cannot be maintained.

But the generation of anticipatory narratives from attachments is much harder to model.. I'll have to play with that one!

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