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Articles Reviewed in Summary
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Organizational Cognition and Interpretation
"Organizational Cognition and Interpretation." Lant, T.K., In Baum (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Organizations, Blackwell, 2002.

Posted by burkekm001 at 8:40 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007 8:41 PM EDT
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Updating Organizational Epistemology
"Updating Organizational Epistemology." Azevedo, J., In Baum (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Organizations, Blackwell, 2002.

Posted by burkekm001 at 8:38 PM EDT
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Meaning and the Moral Sciences, Lecture VI
"Lecture VI." Putnam, H., Meaning and the Moral Sciences, Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.

Posted by burkekm001 at 8:34 PM EDT
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Sunday, 25 March 2007
Analyzing the Roles of Problem Solving

“Analyzing the Roles of Problem Solving and Learning in Organizational-Learning Oriented Classifier System,” Takadama, K., Nakasuka, S., and Terano, T., (1998) In PRICAI’98: Topics in Artificial Intelligence, New York: Springer.

Conference Paper

Takadama, Nakasuka, and Terano (1998) develop an integrated construct and architechture for organizational problem solving defined as a learning oriented classifier system (pp. 71-82). From which, experiments were done to test the effectiveness of their model. Four “mechanisms” for an integrated model of organizational problem solving and learning are utilized, including reinforcement learning, evolutionary computation, distributed artificial intelligence, and multi-agent environments. Where research generally studies these models independent of one another, integrating the mechanisms is described as classifier system composed of rule generation, exchange, and then the utilization of organizational knowledge. Following, the model provides for a five-part evaluation mechanism within the architecture of the organizational learning oriented classifier system. Within this architecture, the authors maintain agents adapt to dynamic environments through the four mechanisms, where they “obtain [only] their partial environmental states, but they cannot obtain the total environmental states,” in such a way that the “distributed recognition indicates that agents must determine their own behaviors according to their partial states” (Takadama, Nakasuka, and Terano, 1998, p. 72). After defining the learning architecture, the methodology and results of problem-based design experiments are detailed to assess the level of organizational learning.

In 15 experiments, the behaviors of problem solving are measured as “all agents continue to solve the same PCB [printed circuit board] re-design problem dozens of times, and aim to acquire their own function as a sequence of behavior which find appropriate placement” (Takadama, Nakasuka, and Terano, 1998, p. 78). The results suggested that reinforcement learning minimizes problem-solving time but increased the steps, rule generation enabled problem solving, rule exchange reduced the steps in problem solving, and, with the integration of the model, organizational knowledge reduced the steps in problem solving. Takadama, Nakasuka, and Terano (1998) then discuss the findings, maintaining that through rule exchange in problem solving by generating organizational knowledge and from the division of work in multi-agent environments, the four mechanisms “respectively work as an individual single-/double-loop learning and an organizational single-/double-loop learning in organization and management sciences” (pp. 78-82). The authors thus argue the validity of their integrated construct for organizational artificial intelligence experiments to support the learning architecture for problem solving, and then define directions for further research.


This paper for the 5th Pacific Rim International Conference on Artificial Intelligence is not exactly a favorite article per se, but it is an important article in my research on artificial intelligence. There are basically two significant aspects of the article:  first the underlying assumptions from behavioral psychology, and then the incorporation of those behavioral assumptions with artificial intelligence and organizational learning. The underlying assumptions that relate the perspective to behavioral psychology are clearly evidenced with learning defined as reinforced behaviors. This is to say, as defined by the authors, computational artificial intelligence is not a cognitive process (though of course, there are cognitive perspectives in artificial intelligence, which could be defined as “constructivist” theories). As the article is poorly written, to summarize one might think of the experiment as giving a group of individuals a rubiks cube to solve. There is a one best way to solve the cube, and the authors maintain that their model of organizational learning support an explanation of how through group problem solving the cube can be best solved. As noted, experimenters do not see the process of problem solving as a cognitive process of learning. Instead, solving the cube is a process of reinforcing behaviors through organizational knowledge and rule exchange (i.e., programmed group learning - Skinnerian rats solving a circut board maze).

The difference between the two as means to the end is complicated and gets real chin scratching, but is important in my opinion. The behavioral perspective exemplifies my many reservations over trends in learning theory with technological change and online environmentss. And, I have found articles like it that more specifically apply such concepts to learning online and engineering curriculum.  The integrated model defined in the article does provide an interesting frame of reference on deductive processes in organizational learning by developing the problem solving construct as a sort of computational social construction of organizational knowledge, which addresses relevant points for discussion with the behaviorist and constructivist dichotomy. One point misunderstood is that both theories do recognize deductive knowledge exists independent of the mind’s experience; however, in addition to their differentiated views on the role of cognition and learning behavior, the theories have very different understandings concerning the a priority of that knowledge.  In terms of Kantian philosophy, the difference relates to Kant's antimony and whether the object conforms to the mind or the mind to the object.  In answering these questions, contemporary constructivists and the evolution of Kantian philosophy does not fail to recognize the architecture of the mind; the most frequent criticism of behavioral is that it fails to account for the way in which the mind actively learns.  The same again, the authors define learning as noncognitive reinforcing and controlling behaviors to achieve desired outcomes.  The paper situates these themes in a context for organizational psychology, complicating the discussion with the contemporary topics artificial intelligence and computational theory.

Anyway, seminal theorists in organizational learning would very likely share my reservations over the behavioral perspective and the integration of artificial intelligence with theories of organizational learning. Literatures could be cited warning of such developments. The authors should certainly be critiqued for a very surface level discussion and application of learning theories. Historical research would also support the potential consequences of technocratic behariorism. When it boils down to it in my opinion, debates over computational views of the mind and artificial intelligence are in some ways simply a philosophical exercise. Really, I prefer not think of learning theories and psychology in terms of computation and artificial intelligence as they reflect the industrial age metaphors of the mind that are subject to misinterpretation. However, they are simply metaphors, and it is the underlying assumptions that are important to understand where theories diverge between perspectives that are commonly defined as behavioral and cognitive psychologies. While the dichotomy is commonly misunderstood, integrating them requires in depth knowledge of the theories for an effective synthesis and application; including from a political frame in understanding underlying assumptions and the differences from theory into practice. Many of these issues have been on my mind lately, so I decided to share some of my views on the paper.

Posted by burkekm001 at 11:24 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007 9:06 PM EDT
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Sunday, 14 January 2007
Toward a Constructivist Framework

“Toward a constructivist framework for guiding change and innovation in higher education.” Journal of Higher Education, Lueddeke, G.R., (1999), Vol. 70 Issue 3, pp. 235-260.

The Article

Higher education faces many challenges both domestic and international. Lueddeke (1999) notes the challenges that institutions will face within the next decade, where there “appear to be few useful models to help guide the process,” to discuss what the author suggests is a constructivist framework for guiding change and innovation in higher education (pp. 239). The author defines from multiple perspectives academic culture and decision-making and some current models for higher educational organizational theory.  Among these models are the four different kinds of institutional cultures from Birnbaum’s How Colleges Work, four frames of organization from Bolman and Deal’s Reframing Organizations, and the four cultures of university organization from Bergquists’ The Four Cultures of the Academy. The author discusses related literature for each of the constructs for analyzing postsecondary organization and administration. The three major theoretical frames utilized in the literatures define and develop their models for understanding institutions accordingly:

BirnbaumBolman and DealBergquist
Collegial Institution
Bureaucratic Institution
Political Institution
Anarchical Institution
Structural Frame
Human Resource
Political Frame
Symbolic Frame
Collegial Culture
Managerial Culture
Developmental Culture
Negotiating Culture

After discussion of the literature, Luedekke (1999) defines the purpose of the article to provide a rationale for different types of change strategies, building upon the analytical models – or lack thereof – for theory development in organization and administration. Where institutions in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have promoted need for more efficient processes of change, the author defines the difference between adaptive and generative processes of change. Discussing the challenge to improving teaching and instruction, the article then provides perspective into identifying and selecting criterion for models of change. Making use of the literatures discussed, the author emphasizes the need to incorporate specific dimensions for effective and efficient change, including (1) the praxis of theory and practice, (2) collegial collaboration, (3) the capacity to adapt to contextual circumstances, (4) reflexivity, (5) credibility, (6) ability to adjust to the unknown, and (7) a framework for evaluation (Luedekke, 1999, p. 244-246).  Following detail on the influences that characterize the discussed factors for facilitating change as correlated to a “constructivist” school of organizational change, Lueddeke (1999) defines in discussion an Adaptive-Generative Development Model (A-GDM). The author maintains the model is an integrated model, whereby focusing on the dual nature of adaptation, the model for analysis provides the means to increase “the institution’s or individual’s capacity to create solutions to increasingly complex problems” (pp. 239-240, 247). A-GDM thus emphasizes and is itself defined by (1) needs based analysis, (2) research and development, (3) strategy formation and development, (4) research support, (5) implementation and dissemination, and finally (6) evaluation.

Offering reflective questions to guide the selection and implementation of an efficient model for change and innovation through A-GDM, the author discusses the use of the model in practice by providing examples of the reframing of organization and management with institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom. According to the author, research undertaken at a university in Australia provides valuable results and a foundation for continued research, though it is “too early to tell whether the policy will have a long-term impact on the overall quality of teaching” (Lueddeke, 1999, pp. 256). The author concludes by suggesting that higher education faces a climate of uncertainty and reiterates preparation for change. While there is some skepticism over the theoretical models as discussed, there remains a real gap between theory and practice.  The conclusive point of the article is that there is the need to bridge the gap in order to provide a means by which to guide policy and decision-making in the governance and organization of institutions of higher education.


The article is one that really piqued my interests in studying the area of higher education while working on my degree in political science. I recognized the need to develop theory to improve upon industrial age and classical assumptions of science in political theory were also true of other areas of study, including – and perhaps even more so – with the organization and management of higher education. An approach to change for higher education cannot risk basis on trends and in-vogue popular management. There is not necessarily so much the need to view the ideas and theory of the past as obsolete as there is a need to develop them for a contemporary context and allow them to evolve. The author provides a valuable article for developing research in the area of higher educational organization and administration. It is a good theoretical framework upon which to build applied research.

Many of the ideas provided by the author are agreeable, particularly the need for theory development and the lack of a guide by which higher education can efficiently adapt. My articles on theory development might seem repetitive.  Nonetheless, the necessity of such theory to manage complex systems in a rapidly changing world cannot be underestimated where we continue to fail to attain the wisdom of the old cliché and actually “learn from history.”  The article accomplishes a lot. Further work would benefit from perspectives in organizational psychology. It would help to define what the author means by a “constructivist” organizational theory (as organizational theory does not entirely think in terms of the constructivist/behaviorist dichotomy - though it's a good idea and sounds good to me as I've tried to do the same). How another school of thought might approach change would develop awareness of the interdependence between frames, including how external forces might contribute to the potential need for, and determine the selection of models. So much more could be said about this article, its promise and the valuable directions it provides. But, I do not anticipate beginning my dissertation on a website at the present moment.

Posted by burkekm001 at 5:59 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007 8:58 PM EST
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Sunday, 7 January 2007
Uncovering the Levels of Culture

Schein, E. “Uncovering the Levels of Culture.” Chapter Two, Organizational Culture and Leadership (1992), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Book Chapter

In chapter three of Organizational Culture and Leadership, Schein (1992) analyzes organizational culture at three levels, including (1) the surface level of organizational artifacts as they provide insights into (2) a second level of espoused organizational values and ultimately (3) the basic assumptions from which an organization operates. The chapter defines organizational artifacts as physical artifacts such as the architecture, the general items and objects that “lead to an identification of major images and root metaphors that reflect the deepest level of the culture” (as cited in Schein, 1992, p. 18). Artifacts include everything belonging to the physical environment from technology to stories about the organization, the same as with the artifacts that one might encounter in experiencing an unfamiliar culture.  From which, as with the author's example of Egyptian and Mayan arhaeology, the artifacts are not readily deciphered and interpreted by themselves. Where Schein (1992) suggests that it is in fact “especially dangerous to try to infer the deeper assumptions from the artifacts alone,” the author maintains understanding the espoused values of an organization is necessary (p. 17-18). Accordingly, the chapter expands knowledge for interpreting the espoused values of an organization alongside its artifacts to understand the assumptions and organizational principles underlying the culture of the organization itself.


Though I am short on summarizing it, this book chapter by Schein (1992) genuinely interested me. The idea of a sort of an organizational anthropology was very introspective.  However, while Schein is respectable in my mind as an influential organizational psychologist, it does not seem to me that the author develops the three-level analytical construct very well. I remember coming across other authors that directly discuss a concept of organizational anthropology, but I cannot recall them at this point – maybe I am mistaken.  The chapter was my initial introspection into the idea. And, the idea is significant where some suggest the need to develop and understand organizational histories. 

Posted by burkekm001 at 8:15 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007 12:15 PM EST
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Friday, 5 January 2007
International Conflict Resolution

Kelman, H.C. “The Role of the Scholar-Practitioner in International Conflict Resolution.” International Studies Perspectives (2000), No. 1, pp. 273-288.  Available online.

The Article

The area of conflict resolution and peace studies in international relations originates following the world wars among a small group of scholars. The area became an emergent area of study throughout the 1970s and particularly following the Cold War, though it fails to gain much momentum and have much influence. The article provides a glimpse of the area of international conflict resolution in the post-Cold War era by detailing the work of a scholar practitioner facing the challenge of finding “ways of preventing and resolving conflicts and building new relationships conducive to stable peace and mutually enhancing cooperation” (Kelman 2000, p. 273). The author details an approach to resolving protracted conflicts through what has become known as interactive problem solving and track two diplomacy, introducing the work undertaken in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict with note on the work done in other areas of the world through Harvard’s Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution (PICAR) at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Kelman (2000) details the processes involved in track two diplomatic problem solving workshops as a microcosm for interactive conflict resolution, specifically influenced by the work of John Burton, where participants include individuals “politically involved and often politically influential . . . parliamentarians, leaders and activists of political parties or political movements, journalists, editors, directors of think tanks, or politically involved academicians” (pp. 274-275). The author summarizes the “ground rules” for interactive problem solving, including the importance of privacy and confidentiality, the need for an environment where third parties and constituencies do not intervene, analytical discussion, and the need for workshop coordinators that assume a facilitative role, etc. The article also provides detail on the goals and objectives with the agenda for workshops and brief insights into some of the recent efforts undertaken in Palestinian and Israeli relations. The claim is that the workshops produce a learning environment for those that influence diplomatic outcomes, wherefrom change can be achieved without the loss of political credibility for leaders directly within the sphere of influence of their communities.

The article then offers qualitative analysis of how the micro processes of track two diplomacy serve to develop understandings of the macro processes of the conflict and diplomatic relations. The fundamental goal of the workshops is thus to promote change “through face-to-face interaction in small groups – as a vehicle for change in larger social systems; in national policy, and in the conflict system at large” (Kelman 2000, p. 279). Kelman (2000) maintains that the workshops aim to generate change with diplomatic relations in four fundamental ways, including through input into the larger processes of problem solving, to serve as a metaphor for understanding the social-psychological processes, to shape ideas and meet the goals of a shared agenda, and to create a supportive political environment for negotiations. The author then addresses the need for unofficial track two diplomacy to accomplish what official diplomacy and track one cannot achieve alone as well as the relationship between scholarship and practice in diplomatic problem solving. The article concludes with discussion of the role of the university system in providing for an academic setting to advance research and the need to institutionalize methods.


This was my first introduction to the work of Herbert Kelman as well as my introduction to the area of conflict resolution. While the article initially provided inspiration and optimism, the research seemed to me to do little to legitimize the methods. However, Kelman’s work is more extensive than I had known when first introduced to the area. The author provides yet another way of understanding how relations between states and diplomacy can be improved to meet agreeable outcomes through peaceful means of conflict resolution. While Kelman’s work provided a valuable window into understanding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it also set a framework for my study of the conflict in Northern Ireland where similar methods were utilized to produce the 1998 Belfast Agreement (just as track two diplomacy has been credited for influencing the success of the 1993 Olso Accord). While equivalent methods for conflict resolution within actual communities directly involved in the conflict have been undertaken in Palestine and Israel, the case of Northern Ireland provides for a more extensive example of how methods can be institutionalized and bridged with the community. Much work still needs to be done to legitimize the methods. Successes have proven to be beneficial to the area, but the failure to harmonize macro and micro processes might prove to be detrimental to its acceptance as a necessary and critical area of study for solving conflicts and international relations in general.  The need to pursue such solutions in a post-Cold War environment deserves a lot of attention. 

Posted by burkekm001 at 9:49 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 6 January 2007 10:53 PM EST
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Monday, 25 December 2006
Kashmir and Tibet: Comparing Conflicts, States, and Solutions

“Kashmir and Tibet: Comparing Conflicts, States, and Solutions.” McGranahan, C., India Review (2003), Vol. 2, Issue 3.

The Article

The conflict over the area of Kashmir is a significant case for those interested in understanding issues related to protracted conflicts and transnational relations. McGranahan (2003) offers a poignant analysis of the case with an interdisciplinary approach to answering questions over collective rights and sovereign national identities through a “merger of political scholarship on conflict, human rights, and state sovereignty with that on the anthropology of the state” (p. 145). The anthropological approach to expanding knowledge of the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir involves analysis of the way in which diplomatic relations are complicated through regional relationships, with specific focus on the regional history of conflict and relations between Tibet and China. The author begins with the “history of the present” state of affairs regarding the conflict, including the complications that surfaced with the U.S. War on Terror and recent globalizing trends. Following, the article orients the conflict analysis with perspective on the anthropology of the state. The author states purpose for conceptualizing an anthropological analysis in order to “bring together the local and the national, the ethnographic and the political, and the vernacular with the formal in terms of understanding and analyzing the Kashmir and Tibet conflicts as internal and international challenges to the state” (McGranahan 2003, p. 153).

After defining the framework of analysis, McGranahan (2003) then provides a historical anthropology of the region’s development into sovereign state structures. The author maintains that in Kashmir, “issues of sovereignty exist at a plurality of levels – local claims, historical and religiously based claims, and the state-level claims of India and Pakistan” (McGranahan 2003, p. 155). With the claim that the border conflict in Kashmir cannot be understood in isolation from the conflict over Tibet a major premise of the article, the analysis provides a detailed history of the tensions and conflicts between China and Tibet. The histories together “provide an empirical and analytical base for comparing the situations in Tibet and Kashmir and for thinking about aspects of the modern state system that cut across ideological difference” (McGranahan 2003, p. 160). The article gives perspective on the subjectivity of the concept of state sovereignty in regional relations and the need to understand the conflicts in terms of cultural rights and national identity. With additional history to support and substantiate the argument for collective cultural sovereign rights, at difference to the legitimizing forces through “discursive power” of conventional political disciplines and theories of relations, the author discusses right to referendum and self-determination with analysis of equivalent border conflicts.

Understanding the challenges with these conflicts at a time of increased global activity where political climates face challenges with terrorism, McGranahan (2003) emphasizes building upon the ethnographic, historic, and political details outlined for non-violent conflict resolution. In providing directions to achieve these ends, the author examines possible solutions including (1) maintaining the status quo; (2) providing more state autonomy in the case of both Kashmir and Tibet; (3)accession to a different state in the case of Kashmir; and (4) independence the same for Tibet (McGranahan 2003, p. 169-171). The article then details necessary directions for nonviolent conflict resolution, concluding on the need for developed historical and anthropological, interdisciplinary approaches to develop understandings and expand knowledge of the concept of sovereignty in the cases of both Kashmir and Tibet as correlated. Conclusions then detail the potential and need for such insights in contemporary politics to achieve a peaceful conflict resolution informed by history.


The article is another that I believe presents encouraging critical perspectives for theory development in international relations. The presentation of the case study is well written and organized with clearly stated and easy to follow, well-developed and articulate theoretical arguments. The article first caught my attention while researching methods of conflict resolution used in both the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the conflict in Northern Ireland. Later, the article inspired me to write a paper on the history of Tibet (which honestly is not at all worth comparing, particularly as Tibetan history is the author’s primary area of study). The case study provides relevant insights into the emergent area of conflict resolution, which itself would be of benefit to the regional relations as discussed with the cases of Kashmir and Tibet. While this is a promising aspect of the work, the article offers convincing case for interdisciplinary and anthropological approaches for the analysis of relations between sovereign states where developed cultural awareness is rudimental.

McGranahan (2003) develops a strong critique of traditional concepts of sovereignty in political science as well as hegemonic, bureaucratic power relations, "the hegemonic sanctity of state borders and comunal belonging so prevalent in the modern state" (p. 146). At the same time, the article conveys a recognition of the importance of state sovereignty and the realities of international relations in a way that, for example the previously discussed article by Olssen (2004) might be said to undermine. As an anthropologist, the author proves to have respectable knowledge and awareness of international and regional relations while providing the theory development that seems to me exceptionally relevant, promising and necessary for relations in today’s world. The correlation between Kashmir and Tibet is probably a little weak, but defended quite well. As McGranahan is a scholar of Tibetan history, it also seems to me that the author is aware of biases in the writing of the article. In the end, the article does make a developed enough argument to support the claim that relations between states cannot be understood in isolation, that the conflicts are often interdependent and regional knots need be untied to solve problems.

Much like Olssen, McGranahan's perspective also closely mirrors my own research and beliefs. They do provide insight into one another (particularly for the context of globalization, economics and conflict). McGranahan’s (2003) anthropological study of regional relations is a valuable interdisciplinary bridge for research as undertaken by Olssen and work done by practitioners in peace studies and conflict resolution. For example, the work of Herbert Kelman in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; of which, vice versa, offers directions for the conflicts discussed in the article. Such a bridge between the researches could lead to valuable theory and practice for development in an era of neoliberal economics. McGranahan has been producing some work lately, it is hard to keep up. The author’s research is always nicely organized with clearly stated facts to support well-defined arguments.

Posted by burkekm001 at 9:02 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 29 December 2006 7:51 AM EST
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Saturday, 23 December 2006
Why Reading Is Not a Natural Process

“Why Reading is not a Natural Process.” Lyon, G.R., Educational Leadership (1998), Vol. 55, No. 6.? Available online.? ?

The Article

Much federally funded research has been done in the area of literacy and reading throughout the years. In discussing what is important in learning how to read, Lyon (1998) details the research undertaken by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), maintaining “learning to read is critical to a child’s overall well being.” With brief summary of the research done at the institute, the author details their approach to investigating how children learn to read language, what skills and environments impede development, and what instructional practices are most beneficial to which students. The article?expands upon the importance of phonemic awareness for developing automaticity in reading and reading comprehension, believing that reading is not entirely a natural process of simply learning to “decode and read printed English.”

Lyon (1998) defines and contrasts awareness of phonemes to phonics instruction. Phoneme awareness is more than the sounds that the individual written letters on the page make, but knowing how each individual note of the sounded letters compose the whole word. The author emphasizes that the awareness of how sounds are combined to make up words is important to reading skills, where the conundrum is that “what is good for the listener is not so good for the beginning reader.” In pointing out the fact that learning to read is not at all like learning to speak, the research suggests translating awareness of the actual sounds and phonemes in spoken language as they are written into the text itself becomes an essential part of fluency, automaticity of skills and understanding. Lyon (1998) then continues with further discussion of research done, asserting that conventional methods fail to develop reading skills from phoneme awareness and maintaining that the failure to connect the auditory sounds of language with reading skills in instruction is why many children have difficulties with phonics,?and thus learning to read, developing vocabularies, et cetera. The article concludes with discussion of the fact that much research has been done to support this claim. Where research fails to inform practice, there is a need to bridge the gap and move beyond traditional assumptions about how children learn to read.


An avid reader with a background in teaching language to?both children and adults, this short article resonated with me when reading it for the first time. Really, I have not always been much of a reader throughout my life.? Perhaps I had fancied myself as a well read, but had never been a dedicated reader until college. One can read a book, but not read a book and you do not know that you have never really read a book until you have really read a book (here, I am reminded of Joseph Epstein's "The Personal Essay: A Form of Discovery," where the author?speaks of?being too young and inexperienced to write a?first personal essay at the age of thirty-one).??In reflection, I believe my reading skills were probably below par before?truly getting into reading. It did take a lot of discipline for me to become the reader I am today. Having taught language, I agree with the article on literacy very much. The difference between spoken and written language for beginning readers and the need to recognize how each is critical to the development of the other seems very true to me.

The same is true for adults, where reading develops one’s verbal skills and vice versa.? There is?equally much to be said about the interdependence between reading and writing. The article has?also been introspective in other ways, such as in thinking about how language developed in early civilizations. For example, South American Incan tribes never developed a written language, but their spoken language is said to be of the most musical oral traditions. It also makes me think of the potential consequences of technology, such as written virtual technologies and the imbalance of verbal realities where people talk to one another in real person. Overall, just an agreeable article that I enjoyed reading.

Posted by burkekm001 at 9:55 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007 12:15 PM EDT
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Thursday, 14 December 2006
Systemic Dynamic Social Theory

“Systemic Dynamic Social Theory.” Hull, D.L., Sociological Quarterly (1970), Vol. 11, Issue 3, pp. 351-363.  

The Article 

In the literature on systems theory, the work of Ludvig von Bertalanffy’s and his General Systems Theory (GST) is generally held as foundational to the area of study for generalists. Hull (1970) introduces the article with a discussion of the high esteem for Bertalanffy's work, believing that work in systems theory today has lost sight of the original thought and arguing that the deviation of “general systems theory in contrast to General Systems Theory” is a dangerous development. The author thus provides critique of the work of sociologist Hugo Engelmann and the theorist's dynamic social theory to iterate his argument. In doing so, the author pinpoints the problems with the misinterpretation of Bertalanffy’s work from the evolution of the classical assumptions of science, any theory “concerned in large measure with the problems surrounding the verification and falsification of hypotheses embedded in a highly articulated theory” (Hull 1970, p. 352). Hull (1970) details the influence of the changing assumptions science from Newtonian to modern science in Engelmann’s work, particularly the challenges to the structure of classical logic (p. 353). The author then critiques Engleman’s reconstruction of logic and the belief that a calculus could be devised to formulate a social theory and dynamics analogous to particle physics, which the sociologist entitled “Systemic Dynamic Social Theory.”

The article provides a summary analysis of the dynamic social theory as it breaks social interactions down into elementary particles of organization. Engelmann believes a behavioral science from biological and physical systems could be effectively explain behavior through “(1) an analysis of the behavioral units into biological processes within which they emerge, or (2) derivation of various theorems from the postulates and the identification of these theorems with common-sense phenomena” (p. 357). This general thesis of the sociologists' work is the target of the article’s critique, as “Engelmann is not interested in such psychological matters but only in the logical schematizations of science” (Hull 1970, p. 353). Hull (1970) breaks down the logic of Engelmann’s thesis for “Systemic Dynamic Social Theory” and its identification with general systems theory. In conclusion, the article then asserts that the systemic dynamic social theory and the intersections with the behavioral sciences are superficial. Moreover, the author maintains that if a genuine systemic dynamic social theory were possible for application to general systems science that such a literal interpretation of the theory would be detrimental to general systems theory itself.


The article brings up very valid points about the misinterpretation of general systems theory (rather, General Systems Theory). Such misinterpretations have a history in the behavioral sciences and are a major focus of Debora Hammond’s book The Science of Synthesis: Exploring the Social Implications of General Systems Theory.  In fact, it seems to me that the author's major argument is better understood through Hammond's historical research on the origins of systems theory and how Bertalanffy's work became puzzled by behaviorism following the world wars.  The approach by Hull (1970) to make a technical argument against the logic of the theory accomplishes as little as the logic itself.  While not familiar with the work of Engelmann, Hilary Putnam's work in logic and quantum logic could actually justify Engelmann's work, at least the idea of the justification of a logical system with "empirical identification from physics" (Hull 1970, p. 360). The question remains if such a system of pure mathematics could provide method to effectively explain behavior and social dynamics. These complicated questions involve lengthy explanation with so many uncertainties over whether methods in the physical sciences could be applied to the social sciences, it seems to me that the author is correct in his critique.  However, I believe critique need focus not on the science, but the misinterpetation and misuse of science.

Really, Engelmann reminds me of the main character in A Beautiful Mind chasing around pigeons in the park trying to determine an algorithm to explain their behavior. The concerns of the article are with the possibility for such an explanation of human behavior and the misuse of that science. Rather, the misinformed belief that such a behavioral social theory is possible with any attempt to justify the knowledge of authority, which today – at the present state of science – is really quite far from reality.  My own belief is that when and if it becomes an actuality, it will affirm pluralism and Bertalanffy's definition of the historical, cultural and biological relativity of knowledge.  Today, we are left to accept a pragmatism to positivism – in fact, as defined by Putnam himself – which, in the case of the article is found in Hammond’s research and by uncovering Bertalanffy's original systems theory.  For those curious in doing so, evidently without much of a life, like myself, take interest in Bertalanffy's "An outline of General Systems Theory," which appropriately appears in the same issue of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science as Karl Popper's "Indeterminism in Quantum Physics and in Classical Physics," Vol. 1, No. 2, August 1950. 

What interested me in the article is that it suggests both the promise of Bertalanffy’s thought (though it has had little impact and influence), the consequences and potential dangers of misinterpretating science, particularly as it relates to systems theory and Hammond’s work. There is also a subtle art to the article in the analysis of social dynamics. The romanticism to the idea of a unified science through the physical sciences has enchanted humanity since the dawn of time. The article offers a glimpse of such an idea in correlation with social theory and systems science like no other discussion of the topic I've read, which intrigued me.  However, there is no possibility of it justifying a singular, authoritative view of the world and no possibility for such a social theory. The problem at present is the belief that it could, not the quest in search for this Holy Grail of science.

Posted by burkekm001 at 10:06 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 23 December 2006 11:12 AM EST
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