Re: Chaos in Anthro.

Brad M Biglow (bmb@PINE.CSE.NAU.EDU)
Wed, 13 Apr 1994 18:55:11 -0700

} > Now, following from my own work in educational research, it appears
} that there
} > must be other applications of chaos theory to our work as anthropologists.
} > Development appears to be one area. In fact, the whole arena of Applied and
} > Practicing Anthropology where the desired outcome is often known, though the
} > steps taken methodologically to reach that goal vary from situation to
} > situation and researcher to researcher sheds some light on this theory. The
} > starting point is always the same-->"some problem we wish to solve." The
} > results, as we all know, almost NEVER fit the "ideal" we are striving for,
} > hence, different outcomes. THe system itself, however, still expresses
} > "order." It follows a logical progression toward its conclusion, no matter
} > how "disordered" that pattern may seem to the researcher at the time of
} > his/her research.
} I don't know that ins and outs of Chaos Theory, but doesn't the fact
} that Development Anthropology has a specific goal in mind for a given
} project take it further away from actual chaos? The decisions that would
} be made on the way would hopefully be attempts to keep the project on
} track towards its goal. Although the outcome is not always what is
} desired, it should, theoretically, be closer to the goal than if chaos
} or nature had taken its course, right? In other words, it wouldn't
} simply be evolution through natural selection, because the changes would
} be directed to the desired outcome.

That is a good point to keep in mind..that Development Anthro. has
a goal, yes. I hate to think I might have been a little "postmodern" in
my rationalization of how Chaos could apply to development. I was looking
at it hypothetically and theoretically from the stance that YES, there "is"
that goal, yet many times we stumble and follow repeated paths to direct
us toward that goal. Most on this list are seeing Chaos only in its
"mathematical" sense. It is not limited to the realm of logic and mathema-
tics. You can use a more reasoned theoretical approach to apply it to
other domains. I think one way we may differ is where you assumed that
I was thinking "nature" would cause the course of action in development
instead of the anthropologist's methodology. I wasn't going THAT Chaotic
on you. I was implying chaos in hte sense of "several different courses
of action" the researcher may take. Chaos is not "disorder." It is an
"order" that APPEARS to be disordered unless we look at it from a different
angle. Take "breakdowns" (to quote Agar), for instance. WHen they occur,
we must change our schema to match our strips. Our outcome is not always
what we had originally intended, yet it is still "orderly." We just have
to restructure the way we look at our data.

Does that even make any sense???

} On a second line of thought...Would the outcome of your simulation be
} somewhat like the different discussion threads that come over ANTHRO-L?
} In that case, the conversations would get further and further away from
} answering the original question (but hopefully your simulation would not
} break down into the flame wars that seem to occur here towards the end of
} a discussion!). Any thoughts?

The outcome of my simulation involves considerable interaction
feedback. I will attempt to draw you a model:

| Computer | /\
| ^ | |
| | | |
| Directions | |
| ^ | |
\/ | \/ |
Result<--Evaluation<----Instructor <---- Interaction
/\ | | /\
| \/ | |
| Directions | |
| | | |
| \/ | |
| Students \/ |

PLEASE excuse its "crudeness." "vi" isn't the best for editing in.

Ok. Now, applying Chaos to this model, you should be able to see that
the instructor is at the center. It is up to hir to give the initial
set of instructions to both the computer (setting up the task to be
solved) and the students (telling them what they are supposed to aim
for given an initial set of directions. They are given a goal, but
no specific route to get there). THEY affect how the computer responds
and it in turn directs their actions. If you know anything about MU*
simulations, you probably know how "open ended" their systems are.
Because the process is collaborative, creative problem-solving, the outcome
of their experience is determined by what steps they choose to solve the
problem. Yes indeed the steps are "chosen," yet those steps can change at
any point in time. The systems approach is essentially broken down
repeatedly until a conscensus is reached and the problem is solved. There
are any number of paths that can be taken to solve the problem and reach
the goal. The goal, however, is reached to varying degrees depending on
the path taken. They are all valid conclusions reached (or so I hope!),
but each is different. The initial directions are left open-ended enough
so that multiple solutions ARE possible.

Now I've probably REALLY lost you! ...comeback.

Brad M. Biglow
Dept. of Anthropology
Northern Arizona University

futures, educational technology and multicultural curriculum development,
systems theorist, and all-around cyber-jockey. go figure...

} Stephanie Wilson
}-- End of excerpt from Stephanie Wilson