Monday, May 28, 2012

How Intellect is Revolutionized

Sometimes existing theories and comprehension change drastically. Some call this phenomenon a paradigm shift. Thomas Kuhn, a philosopher of science studied revolutionary change(s) in science, and clarified what happens when a paradigm shift occurs. Last Tuesday we had our discussion concerning this paradigm shift, based on The Structure of Scientific Revolution by Thomas Kuhn, and Imagine Worlds by Freeman Dyson.

An important notion in The Structure of Scientific Revolution is that a paradigm shift is born from not necessarily the accumulating new facts that have never been tested before, but from the reconstruction of existing concepts. For instance Niklas Luhmann identifies does not change the word: communication in his Social Systems Theory although his definition of it is much more emphasized and detailed than the usual definition. Luhmann did not create something nonexistent, but changed existent intellectual circumstances.

Like so, a paradigm shift is the reconstruction or the reexamination of the current intellect. That is why a scientific revolution did not only occur in the Copernican Revolution in the 16th and the 17th century, but has been occurring continuously as long as science was existent. We tend think that what is written in science textbooks are unarguable, but in reality, scientific research had, and currently has, many inconsistencies. These inconsistencies leave possibilities of what can become paradigm shifts.

So our question was: is paradigm shift a progression, or an evolution? We define progression as an improvement, where positive feedback occurs. On the other hand, evolution has more of a “conversion” nuance, where the change may not always be for the greater good. It is definite that many paradigm shifts occur, but we have yet to know if they are either improvements, or just mere conversion, or change. What do you think?

The next notion we focused on was as Kuhn suggests, and as history suggests, paradigm shifts, or scientific revolutions are triggered not usually by experienced “experts” in each field, but surprisingly by new comers that have little recognition. This is because the new comers approach existing intellect, which have become traditional to experts, from their philosophies of science. Because new comers do not use traditional approaches, they are more capable of finding holes in common theory, causing paradigm shifts, compared to the bug-fixing-like frontier research experts do.
Finally, we discussed on how to drive our research in SFC as new comers in each field. As all students taking this course are undergraduates, we have very limited time in order to produce new insights in science, design, etc. For new comers like us, while we cannot revolutionize preexisting intellect, we can change the tools to give new insights. For example, when using the microscope, we see new, different insights and data not because we changed the subject we see, but because we changed how we saw it. This is the significance to letting us, undergraduates become researchers, innovate the intellectual frontier.


For the second part of the class, we studied Deb Roy in his famous presentation: The birth of a word, in order to see ways to how to see preexisting data from a completely new perspective, and innovate the intellectual frontier. Roy saw the usual family life in a house, and how the baby learned and acquired words by taking the world’s longest home-video ever, and tracking every word and every movement of every person. Although we may not have the ability or the resources to do something as creative as Deb Roy, this presentation gave us great implication for our research.

We also viewed some more videos students have filmed and edited. Keep in mind that most of them experienced editing and filming videos for the first time. We hope this experience gives us insights on new ways to view preexisting subjects.


Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolution, University of Chicago Press, 1962

Freeman Dyson, Imagined Worlds, Harvard University Press, 1997

What are Metaphors, and How do We use them?

When trying to understand something indefinite, we frequently use metaphors. For instance, life can be understood as a journey, or a debate as a fight. This method to understand subjects through metaphors are said to be key in cognition. Furthermore, using metaphors plays a critical role in the constructive way of understanding. 

On May 15th, we discussed the rhetoric of the use of metaphors, based off of Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, and What I Talk about When I Talk about Running: a Memoir by Haruki Murakami.

First things first, what is a metaphor? Like I said in the above, it is a method to describe something indefinite, such as life can be understood as a journey, or a debate can be understood as a fight. However, the use of metaphors is actually much deeper than just describing things with another word.

When applying a metaphor, we think of analogies – pairing together two words that seem similar depending on the characteristics. Yet like the word: “journey” is only similar, and not exact to the word: “life,” no two subjects are exactly the same, and when using an analogy to pair them together, there will always be affirmative analogies and negative analogies. 

And this phenomenon happens more often than we think. The word “discover” describes the state of something being new coming forth- in just one word. That is why the word comes from the word: “cover,” meaning that something is hidden, uncovered, and its prefix: “dis,” meaning the negative of something. Thus, in a sense, the word “discover” is only a metaphor of the actual action. That is why the significance of using a metaphor is similar to translating; to perceive and understand the true essences of words, which is impossible when just looking up the dictionary.

So how well can Japanese people use metaphors? The Japanese language consists of two different kinds of characters: Hiragana, and Kanji. While Hiragana is a character relatively native to Japan, Kanji is imported from China. The role of the Kanji was to substitute several characters of Hiragana into one character of Kanji, making sentences shorter, and many times easier to read. However this substitution of Hiragana with Kanji might have limited some expressions, for instance: two words with different meanings but with the same Hiragana might have been substituted with the same Kanji. 

On the other hand, Japanese is a very symbolic language. Kabuki, a classical Japanese dance-drama, heavily emphasizes the meaning and essences of each word in lyrics and script. Like so in Haiku and Tanka(Japanese poems), where people attempted to describe their indescribable feelings within few words and rhythms, the powers of words and their metaphorical uses have been heavily emphasized in the Japanese language. We could still see this today, for instance students applying for universities stay away from the word “slip” (symbolizing not receiving acceptance). In addition, depending on where they are written, people purposely write words usually written in Kanji to Hiragana, or vice-versa. 

Like so, many of our activities are metaphorical in nature. The many things that we do, what we see, what we hear, what we feel, are dictated by how we understand them, as words. This means that the conceptual systems in people’s minds are created by metaphors, and that new metaphors have the ability to give new insights to the present conceptual system.

And this creation of a bridge between subjective metaphors and objective existing conceptual systems that brings new paradigms. For example, Learning Patterns is a collection of metaphors, because each pattern takes a subjective way of learning into an objective “successful learning.” And it is through these metaphors that we may perceive something that an existing subject from a new perspective. That is why the use of metaphors is significant in our research, and in the constructive way of understanding.

For the second part of the class, students finally presented the vidoes they have filmed, and edited. It seems everyone zoomed in, flipped pictures, added music, changed angles, into their own constructive way of understanding. One student in particular saw a common Japanese snack into something a little different, and much more interesting. 

Here’s the video:

Next, we will discuss how paradigm shifts happen, and look deeper into how they relate to the constructive way of understanding.

George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, The University of Chicago Press, 1980

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running: A Memoir, Vintage Books, 2009

Abduction: The Third Type of Logical Thinking

When we think “logically,” many of us use induction and deduction. Whether the conclusion comes from the general principle or specific examples, we usually depend on principles, or what we observe. But there is another approach, where a constructive hypothesis is applied, called abduction.

On May 8th, we discussed the significances and how we apply abduction, based off of Yuji Yonemori’s Abduction: Kasetu to Hakken no Ronnri [The Logic of Hypothesis and Discovery].

Here are examples by Charles Sanders Pierce:

  1. All beans from this bag are white.(principle)
  2. These beans are from this bag.(case)
  3. These beans are white.(result)

  1. These beans are (randomly selected) from this bag.(case)
  2. These beans are white.(result)
  3. All the beans from this bag are white.(principle)

  1. All the beans from this bag are white.(principle)
  2. These beans are (oddly) white. (result)
  3. These beans are from this bag. (case)

As you can see, the case of the abduction is based off of a constructive hypothesis; it assumes the odd relationship between the beans and the bag.

The constructive way of understanding is similar. The constructive way of understanding is finding what the hidden rules (principle) behind an odd phenomenon (result) are by various methods (case.) It approaches the “oddness” of a phenomenon that is yet to be discovered, from a different paradigm. 

For example, during the process of creating pattern language, the writer must often abductively hypothesize what the solution(s) is in a given context and problems, because there is no definite principle or case that can be applied.

As so during the KJ method, one must abductively perceive the true attributes of 2 different experiences, in order to form groups. For example, while creating the Collaboration Patterns, “Respond to emails quickly” and “Exchanging emails is important” should not be grouped because they concern emails. When abduction is applied, “Respond to emails quickly” should rather be grouped with “feedbacks should be given constantly and immediately,” because they both concern the significance of responding and not so much about a communication software. 

We believe research in Keio University SFC requires thinking abductively. The essence of researching SFC is how to perceive what has been observed already from another perspective. As noted in the complex systems theory, in our complex society, it is critical not to focus on only one perspective; one must see the relationships between seemingly different fields. And to do so, one must not limit oneself to induction or deduction (because it has already been done) but apply abduction effectively.

For the second part of the class, we continued with the week before, and each student started creating their own videos. Each student brought in videos, pictures, music, and started creating their own, original video.

Contrary to the week before, where every student had the same videos to edit from, we could already see the diversity of creations, and their constructive way of understanding. Next, we will show the final products of some of the students, made from pure constructive understanding.


Yuji Yonemori, Abduction: Kasetu to Hakken no Ronnri [The Logic of Hypothesis and Discovery], Keisoshobo Pubshiling Co., 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why Hirschman in Social Systems Theory?

After Prof. Iba lectured on structural coupling in Social Systems by Nilkas Luhmann, he shifted the topic to “Voice and Exit.” Its concept was proposed by Albert O. Hirschman, an influential economist, in Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in 1970.

Voice and Exit are two options to change a complained situation. Hirschman explains, “Management then finds out about its failings via two alternative route.”

Prof. Iba continued teaching the detailed concepts with familiar examples.
Exit is an option to leave without saying anything; therefore, people need to think about reasons why the person left. For instance, a member in the lab left without say any reason or complain, it means that he or she takes exit option.

Hirschman uses another example to encourage us to understand it.
“Some customers stop buying the firm’s products or some members: this is the exit option. As a result, revenues drop, membership declines, and management is impelled to search for ways means to correct whatever faults have led to exit.”

On the other hand, Voice is the other option to express their dissatisfaction directly. Prof. Iba used the example that a member in the lab says his or her concerns or motivation, and leaves. In this case, he or she chooses voice option.

Compared to Exit, Voice likely leads direct and immediate solutions. Moreover, he emphasized that voice has more clear intentions or objectives to change the situation.
In the meantime, he also expressed that we need to understand both of voice and exit in the interdisciplinary fields even thought most cases are dominant over one of them.

As usual, students had an opportunity to deepen their understands on contents through dialogues with other students. In the class, they discussed what the concepts of Voice and Exit are with their familiar topics.

Prof. Iba kept introducing another idea, Loyalty, with quotes from Hirschman.
“As a rule, then, loyalty holds exit at bay and activates voice.”
“As a rule of loyalty, these potentially most influential customers and members will stay longer than they would ordinarily, reasoned expectation that improvement or reform can be achieved “from within.” ”

Students’ faces looked puzzled because they have no idea how those ideas are related to Social Systems Theory.

At the end, Hirschman emphasized that those “actions” leads to change organizations and the society. However, Prof. Iba believes that “communication” is the key to change society, therefore, he brought the point that we redefine Hirschman’s theory as “communication” theory. For instance, we can ask ourselves how it is possible to cause the chain of Voice communication, even though Voice communication is hardly generated consecutively.

- Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Harvard University Press, 1970

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The KJ Method: A Puzzle without Borders (Collaboration Patterns Project #4)

Restarting on an unfinished jigsaw puzzle is never an easy thing to do. You have pieces connected here and there,  but the whole picture is not yet visible. Many singles and pairs are spread across the table, and you can't quite remember where you were when you left off. 

Members of the Iba lab returned from their spring break Monday afternoon to find the post-it notes spread across the table just the way they left it a week ago. Looking at the groups and pairs that had already formed, they could remember bits and pieces of things they talked about last week, but they noticed that it would take another while before they could catch up. By the end of last week's session, everyone had a visual map in their minds of where each note was, and knew where to search for when looking for a specific note. All of that had gone away.

The first hour passed by without much progression. Maybe it being the Monday after break had a role in it; members sat around the table for a short break, already looking somewhat tired. The original plan to finish the KJ method by the end of the day seemed somewhat hopeless.

To break out of the laziness and get things going, one of the juniors suggested that they each talk about the best part of their sprig breaks. The talks itself were nothing more than stories about family trips or dates with their boyfriends, but the laughs and awes warmed up the atmosphere. They also decided that frequent breaks weren't helpful but distracted their concentration.

Pulling themselves back together, they started on round two of the day's session. With their minds more clear, the post-it notes were paired one by one. The important thing to keep in mind is that the notes must be talked about in terms of pairs. Mini islands of clustered notes with similar attributes were starting to appear, which tempted them to connect individual notes to a group of notes. But this would defeat the purpose of the KJ method since the whole point here is to seek for individual connections between two notes to mine out hidden attributes. 

It was somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces must be inspected one by one and become connected to another piece. In the process, it is the connection between two pieces that is inspected, and not between a single piece and a group of pieces. But the process is not as simple as a jigsaw puzzle since there are no corner or edge pieces that make up the border,  which is usually a good place to start connecting the pieces. We do not know how large the completed puzzle would be. Also, the picture of the whole when completed is unknown. We do not know where the process is taking us, which is much the point of this process.

Ungrouping, regrouping, and grouping of groups occurred as notes went here and there on the table. Deep talks were made for each note, and the members started to regain their memories from last week. They also realized the importance of all members being present at the table. Last week when one of the members were absent, there were many notes by the person that could not be grouped since the group couldn't remember what the note exactly meant. Now that the person was back, the real meanings of the notes could be talked about. 

The night had grown late and the bigger picture started to appear on the table. As pairs were made, more islands of notes started to become visible. The group took a moment to lightly pencil in lines around the islands that had formed. They also agreed to move solo notes that were not paired yet out of the way so they could be inspected more closely. 

Now in a state of flow, the single notes too began to be paired up. Notes that were decided by the group as having no matching pair were determined to have a message of its own and was circled by pencil as a loner. With a final home stretch, the last note was placed next to its pair. As if the last piece of a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle had been fitted into its place, the group burst into cheers. 

According to the original plan they were now to consider which islands had similar elements and pair them up, but the lab decided to call it a day. Next week they would cut out the islands from the large paper, and go through an KJ method in terms of the groups. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Autopoiesis and Structure in Social Systems Theory

“The following considerations assume that there are systems.”
Niklas Luhmann emphasizes it in Social Systems

As usual, the class started with a dialogue for discussing and reviewing the previous class and assignments.

Prof Takashi Iba repeated that the social itself is not able to be taken apart into any element, because the system is made up with communication.

Communication consists of three parts, system, operation and element.
This is key to understand the today’s central themes, “Autopoiesis and Structure”

Prof. Iba introduces three different formations of an autopoietic system:
1. Element as Momentary Event
2. Boundary Reproduction of the System
3. Element Constitution based on the System

First of all, elements are momentary events having no duration, and they disappear as soon as they are realized. Therefore, the system must produce the elements consecutively in order to keep the system exist.

Secondly, boundary of the system is determined by the operations, and the inside of the boundary is called “system.” Thus, each autopoietic system is operationally closed.

Thirdly, elements are constituted based on the ongoing system, and a system consists of momentary events. As a result, autopoietic systems are defined in a circular fashion.

Prof. Iba brought the second point, which was there are systems, but they can be narrowed down to: there are self-referential systems.

“What is the difference between autopoiesis and self-referential?”
That was the critical question the students came up with.

Prof. Iba explained with N. Luhmann quotes from Social Systems.”
Additionally, he mentioned that autopoiesis is more related to time passage, so it is more dynamic than self-reference. On the other hand, self-reference continues in systems beside time or duration.

At the end of class, students had a pair discussion about what autopoietic systems are. They seemed to struggle to answer it since autopoiesis is too abstract.

Later, we are going to have an opportunity to understand the social systems more deeply with concrete examples related to our lives and recent society.

N. Luhmann, Social Systems, Stanford University Press, 1996

Friday, May 4, 2012

Generative Processes by Writers

Most may imagine computer simulation when considering the word: “simulation.” Of course, computer simulation is an effective method in order to perceive complex systems by constructive understanding. But we believe that simulation is not limited to heavy coding with object-oriented programming. It seems like writers like Haruki Murakami, Hayao Miyazaki, and Michael Ende are also familiar with the “Constructive Way of Understanding.”

This week we read the following 4 books:

Souzousei Toha Nanika [The Essences of Creativity], by Jiro Kawakita

I Wake Up Every Morning to Dream, by Haruki Murakami

Starting Point: 1979-1996, by Hayao Miyazaki


The first part of the discussion was about Souzousei Toha Nanika [The Essences of Creativity] by Jiro Kawakita, followed by a discussion about the other 3 combined.

Souzousei Toha Nanika [The Essences of Creativity]

Although a system is dynamic and complex, its “preservation” is important. A system does not only dynamically create, but also may even “creatively destroys” itself, without losing its essence. The system may technically be “destroyed,” but it is preserved by maintaining its true essence. For instance, ideas in a person’s mind are continuously dynamic, changing from one idea to another. However, each idea is affected by the previous idea, or ideas, preserving the ideas’ essence.

How are you Motivated?
Although it is clear that personal ambition drives motivation, we are also motivated by the situation. Creation is rather difficult with ambition alone; social necessity is also significant. However, the social necessity is not necessarily requested; it is sometimes discovered by the creator himself as a gap in society.

Society vs Creativity
Society is created by its people, yet each person is created by the society simultaneously. Like so, while a creation is created by the creator, the creator is also created by the creation as well. Thus creation is also the process of being created. However, creation never starts with a definite plan; it rather starts in the midst of complexity. In such environment, the creator must repeatedly give significance to the creation, often times even changing the essence. 


I Wake Up Every Morning to Dream, Starting Point, MICHAEL ENDE’S LAST CONVERSATION

How Creators create, and are created
According to writers such as Haruki Murakami, Hayao Miyazaki, and Michael Ende, all of them seem to agree that the characters, the plot, the scene, and all other aspects of their stories are constructive as well. And even some students taking this class have also experienced this constructive way of understanding. Students who use programing languages understand each language while creating with it simultaneously, and writers create their story as they write. 


For example, Hayao Miyazaki had a character cry in one scene of My Neighbor Totoro, which was not planned initially. As Hayao constructed the scene, he discovered that the character would want to cry when given the situation. It is this deep, repetitive constructiveness which brings substantial quality into creativity. Some(including students in this class) may feel that the writers may be egotistic in doing so, ignoring subjects outside of the constructive process(such as the reader). However, part of the essence of a creation is how the creator attracts what is outside of the constructive process, which sometimes requires peculiar originality.

For the second part of the class, we started our second session of experiencing simulation: video filming and editing. Through filming and editing videos, we hoped to understand simulation other than computer simulation through a constructive way, in this case creating a story like the 3 writers mentioned above.

For this class, we edited few short videos of miscellaneous scenes of the class, in order to first understand how cameras and video editing software work. For the next class, students will be using what we have learned and edit their own videos.

This week there will be no class(due to holidays), so be sure to tune in next week to see videos created through the constructive way of understanding!


Jiro Kawakita, Souzousei Toha Nanika [The Essences of Creativity], SHODENSHA Publishing Co., Ltd., 2010

Haruki Murakami, I Wake Up Every Morning to Dream, Bungeishunju Ltd., 2010

Hayao Miyazaki, translated by Beth Cary and Frederik L. Schodt, Starting Point:1979-1996, VIZ Media, 2009

Toshio Tamura, MICAEL ENDE’S LAST CONVERSATION, Iwanami Shoten, 2000

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The KJ Method: Wish for no "~ish"es (Collaboration Patterns Project #3)

It's always been hard not to judge someone by their looks. It's what's in the inside, they always say. The students at the Iba lab Tuesday were facing a similar kind of conflict against post-its. 

After two weeks of brainstorming, the Collaboration Patterns Project was now heading into a new phase. Students came in on a damp spring afternoon to find the rainbow they generated the in the past two weeks taped together onto the huge desk. Looking at the post-it notes with their ideas on it, the members instantly were brought back a week in time to when they were sticking the notes onto the paper.

No chairs this time. The members positioned themselves around the table randomly for a place to start searching for connections between the notes with the KJ method. Members move here and there around the table to look through the notes. When they think they've found a connection, they would ask for opinions from the group. The appeal would then be agreed or rejected after a careful conversation. 

During the KJ method, sticky notes that are thought to have similar attributes are grouped together and placed close to one another. What must be kept in mind, is that the similarities must not be something superficial. 

A note about responding to emails quickly should not be grouped with a note that states the importance of exchanging email addresses so everyone can be reached when needed, just because they both are talking about email-ish topics. It is better paired with a note saying that feedbacks should be given constantly and immediately, since the point here is about giving response and not so much about the email.

Environment-ish, confidence-ish.. These "~ish" topics are the enemy here. We are tempted to group the notes by these broad topics, but this should be avoided as much as possible. The whole point of this process is to mine out the core aspects that are important for effective collaboration; these shallow connections are meaningless. Core traits and functions must be observed and talked through,before a single connection between two notes can be made. 

Soon members found it easier if they recalled on the conversations made during the brainstorm when the note was written, to understand what each note really meant. Even if two notes have the exact same words written on it, it may mean two completely different things depending on the person who wrote the note. The two people who wrote the notes can also reexplain and give specific examples to help the group decide if the notes can be paired.

Watching notes going here and there, the process seemed to have slow progress. Hours had passed before first of the clusters started to appear. 

The day's session lasted for over five hours. The lab wrapped up the day by penciling lines around the clusters that formed during the day. There were a couple of relatively large clusters, a few more pairs and triplets, but the rest were yet to be grouped. 

Incompleteness and unclear feelings persisted in the members' minds after the day's work. They would continue with the KJ method next week, hopefully to finish it.

Making the Improbable Probable

“The immanent improbabilities of the communication process and way in which they are overcome and transformed into probabilities regulate the construction of social systems.”
That was the central concept of this class.

Last Monday, students who conquered piles of readings were gathered in the classroom of Social Systems Theory in order to study media and code for communication. 

To begin with, Prof. Iba introduced three kinds of improbability on communication using Nikolas Luhmann’s quotes in Social Systems Theory. At first, there is the improbability of understanding. Niklas Luhmann says that
 “At the zero point of evolution, it is first of all, improbable that ego understands what alter means-given that their bodies and minds are separate and individual.”

Also, there is another improbability, reaching. Even though we are surrounded by a variety of communication tools and convenient social media, we still struggle with issues that the message actually reaches to a person who we want to tell.

The third one is the improbability of success.
 “Even if a communication is understood by the person it reaches, that does not guarantee that it is also accepted or followed.”

However, we have ways to overcome those improbabilities, which is “media”. According to Luhmann, media is ways of transforming what is improbable into what is probable. Prof. Iba indicated three kinds of media;
1. Language
2. Media of dissemination
3. Symbolically generalized communication media

After students listened to the explanations by the professor, they had dialogues discussing three kinds and improbabilities and media in order to whether they understood them successfully or not by using familiar topics.

■ N. Luhmann, Social Systems, Stanford University Press, 1996