Archive for the ‘measurement’ Category

Mission Statement

September 1, 2019

I aim to activate the subtle background effects of everyday language on habits of mind…

  • to promote universal access to tangible quality of life returns on investments of love and care in mutual understanding;
  • to be able to see ourselves in each other and in the world at large;
  • to follow through on Diotima’s lesson to Socrates on how beauty teaches us to understand meaning;
  • to live out a musical analogy celebrating individual creativity and improvisation in a context of instruments tuned to shared scales;
  • to artfully create media projecting collectively self-organized, emergent, socially contagious, and virally communicable innovations;
  • to incorporate the pragmatic idealism of the Parthenon’s democratic image of unique citizens united in common cause;
  • to extend applications of the model of natural selection’s massive experimentations from biological to social forms of life;
  • to embrace uncertainty and imperfection, relinquishing illusions of error-free precision in favor of continuous improvement;
  • to connect local representations in broad and multilevel relational ecosystems, abandoning isolated and decontextualized representations falsely obscuring understanding and alienating potential allies and creative partners;
  • to embody accessible and meaningful symbols of complex interdependence in everyday and widely used tools;
  • to advance civilization, following Whitehead, by facilitating wide distribution of a new class of tools’ technical operations; and doing so
  • by taking the scales of justice seriously as a symbol of equity and fairness, employing stochastic multilevel forms of it in mathematical and substantive models of human, social, and environmental relationships;
  • by means of poetic metaphors captivating imaginations by resonating with shared values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;
  • via models of inclusion and empowerment formatively guiding individual and organizational learning;
  • by conceiving and implementing multilevel knowledge infrastructures contextualizing individuality in collective expressions that are in turn contextualized by explanatory models;
  • by accepting mathematics and interpretation as existing together side by side along the entire continuum of quantitative and qualitative expressions;
  • by transforming hidden background assumptions as to learning, sustainability, and development into explicit objects of operations embodied in multilevel shared metrics;
  • by separating and balancing the executive, legislative, and judicial powers at every level of complexity;
  • by not trying to negate or remove subjectivity but by putting it on the table in relation to others’ subjectivities and to objectively reproducible expressions;
  • by recognizing technologies as embodiments of the id’s unconscious subjectivities instrumentally mediating measures of the ego’s objective data and the superego’s judicial theory;
  • by extending the semiotic triangle’s thing-word-concept assemblages from everyday language into science’s data-instrument-theory assemblages;
  • by extending natural science’s loosely coupled, convergent-divergent communities of experimentalists, metrologists, and theoreticians into the social sciences and psychology;
  • by proliferating the propagation of representations across media to coordinate and align ecosystem alliances within and between varied social forms of life (economic, legal, financial, governmental, technical, regulatory, scientific, operational, managerial, educational, clinical, etc.);
  • by addressing problems of human suffering, social discontent, and environmental degradation via all of the above.

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com.
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New work in progress

July 12, 2019

New work in progress

Commons and Goodheart (2008) point out that countries and societies functioning at a metasystematic level of hierarchical complexity, such as those countries in North America and Europe, have not conceptualized or implemented policies and practices allowing for the free expression of individual differences (also see Commons & Duong, 2019; Commons & Goodheart, 2007; Ross, 2008; Ross & Commons, 2008). The “one size fits all” ethos applies across a wide range of educational, healthcare, legal, managerial, market, governance, and social service institutions.

Though there are many local limited exceptions to this rule—as when customized formative and general summative assessments are integrated in education—they tend to be shaped by individual personalities and circumstances. A positive response to the question as to the possibility of a paradigmatic level society (Ross, 2008) then hinges in part on a capacity for contextualizing concrete individual differences within abstract shared languages conceptually determined by formal explanatory models that are themselves contextualized by institutional systems integrated across institutions. This capacity for multilevel contextualization is supplied by sociolinguistic ecosystems of metrologically traceable instruments calibrated to well-defined unit standards.

Following on Sen’s (1999, 2009) conceptions of deliberative justice and of development as freedom, and relevant critiques of those conceptions (Arun, 2018; Gasper, 2000; Navarro, 2000; Zheng & Stahl, 2011), sustainable policies and practices will liberate individual creativity and self expression by separating and balancing concrete executive, abstract legislative, and formal judicial functions at every level of hierarchical complexity, from the individual to the global, and not just at the levels of local, regional, and national government.

This simultaneous realization of a universal sense of participation and belonging in global humanity and a personal sense of unique individuality as a singular human is both necessary and sufficient to the challenges of sustainable prosperity. In accord with Bächtiger and Parkinson (2019), it is agreed that “deliberation must be understood as contingent, performative, and distributed;” “that deliberation needs to be disentangled from other communicative modes; that appropriate tools need to be deployed at the right level of analysis; and that scholars need to be clear about whether they are making additive judgements or summative ones.”

This paper complements and augments Bächtiger and Parkinson’s “new agenda and new empirical tools for deliberative empirical scholarship at the micro, meso, and macro levels” by bringing the mathematical and experimental proofs, research evidence, and explanatory models of measurement science to bear.

Arun, M. O. (2018). Beyond the conventional-A sociological criticism of Sen’s capability approach. Journal of Economy Culture and Society, (58), 229-245.

Bächtiger, A., & Parkinson, J. (2019). Mapping and measuring deliberation: Towards a new deliberative quality. Oxford University Press.

Commons, M. L., & Duong, T. Q. (2019). Understanding terrorism: A behavioral developmental approach. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, 8, 74-96.

Commons, M. L., & Goodheart, E. A. (2007). Consider stages of development in preventing terrorism: Does government building fail and terrorism result when developmental stages of governance are skipped? Journal of Adult Development, 14(3-4), 91-111.

Commons, M. L., & Goodheart, E. A. (2008). Cultural progress is the result of developmental level of support. World Futures, 64(5-7), 406-415.

Gasper, D. (2000). Development as freedom: Taking economics beyond commodities—the cautious boldness of Amartya Sen. Journal of International Development: The Journal of the Development Studies Association, 12(7), 989-1001.

Navarro, V. (2000). Development and quality of life: A critique of Amartya Sen’s development as freedom. International Journal of Health Services, 30(4), 661-674.

Ross, S. N. (2008). A future society functioning at the paradigmatic stage? World Futures, 64(5-7), 554-562.

Ross, S. N., & Commons, M. L. (2008). Applying hierarchical complexity to political development. World Futures, 64(5-7), 480-497.

Sen, Amartya (1999). Development as Freedom. New York: Knopf.

Sen, A. K. (2009). The idea of justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Zheng, Y., & Stahl, B. C. (2011). Technology, capabilities and critical perspectives: What can critical theory contribute to Sen’s capability approach? Ethics and Information Technology, 13(2), 69-80.

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com.

IMEKO Joint Symposium in St. Petersburg, Russia, 2-5 July 2019

June 26, 2019

The IMEKO Joint Symposium will be next week, 2-5 July, at the Original Sokos Hotel Olympia Garden, located at Batayskiy Pereulok, 3А, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Kudos to Kseniia Sapozhnikova, Giovanni Rossi, Eric Benoit, and the organizing committee for putting together such an impressive program, which is posted at: https://imeko19-spb.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Program-of-the-Symposium.pdf

Presentations on measurement across the sciences from metrology engineers and psychometricians from around the world will include: Andrich, Cavanagh, Fitkov-Norris, Huang, Mari, Melin, Nguyen, Oon, Powers, Salzberger, Wilson, and multiple other co-authors, including Adams, Cano, Maul, Pendrill, and more.

For background on this rapidly developing new conversation on measurement across the sciences, see the references listed at bottom below. The late Ludwig Finkelstein, editor of IMEKO’s Measurement journal from 1982 to 2000, was a primary instigator of work in this area. At the 2010 Joint Symposium he co-hosted in London, Finkelstein said: “It is increasingly recognised that the wide range and diverse applications of measurement are based on common logical and philosophical principles and share common problems” (Finkelstein, 2010, p. 2). The IMEKO Joint Symposium continues to advance in the direction foreseen by Finkelstein.

Topics to be addressed include a round table discussion on the topic “Terminology issues related to expanding boundaries of measurements” chaired by Mari and Chunovkina.

Paper titles include:

Andrich on “Exemplifying natural science measurement in the social sciences with Rasch measurement theory”

Benoit, et al. on “Musical instruments for the measurement of autism sensory disorders”

Budylina and Danilov on “Methods to ensure the reliability of measurements in the age of Industry 4.0”

Cavanagh, Asano-Cavanagh, and Fisher on “Natural semantic metalanguage as an approach to measuring meaning”

Crenna and Rossi on “Squat biomechanics in weightlifting: Foot attitude effects”

Fisher, Pendrill, Lips da Cruz, and Felin on “Why metrology? Fair dealing and efficient markets for the UN SDGs”

Fisher and Wilson on “The BEAR Assessment System Software as a platform for developing and applying UN SDG metrics”

Fitkov-Norris and Yeghiazarian on “Is context the hidden spanner in the works of educational measurement: Exploring the impact of context on mode of learning preferences”

Gavrilenkov, et al. on “Multicriteria approach to design of strain gauge force transducers”

Grednovskaya, et al. on “Measuring non-physical quantities in the procedures of philosophical practice”

Huang, Oon, and Fisher on “Coherence in measuring student evaluation of teaching: A new paradigm”

Katkov on “The status of and prospects for development of voltage quantum standards”

Kneller and Fayans on “Solving interdisciplinary tasks: The challenge and the ways to surmount it”

Kostromina and Gnedykh on “Problems and prospects of complex psychological phenomena measurement”

Lips da Cruz, Fisher, Pendrill, and Felin on “Accelerating the realization of the UN SDGs through metrological multi-stakeholder interoperability”

Lyubimtsev, et al. on “Measuring systems designed for working with living organisms as biosensors: Features of their metrological maintenance”

Mari, Chunovkina, and Ehrlich on “The complex concept of quantity in the past and (possibly) the future of the International Vocabulary of Metrology”

Mari, Maul, and Wilson on “Can there be one meaning of ‘measurement’ across the sciences?”

Melin, Pendrill, Cano, and the EMPIR NeuroMET 15HLT04 Consortium on “Towards patient-centred cognition metrics”

Morrison and Fisher on “Measuring for management in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics learning ecosystems”

Nguyen on “The feasibility of using an international common reading progression to measure reading across languages: A case study of the Vietnamese language”

Nguyen, Nguyen, and Adams on “Assessment of the generic problem-solving construct across different contexts”

Oon, Hoi-Ka, and Fisher on “Metrologically coherent assessment for learning: What, why, and how”

Pandurevic, et al. on “Methods for quantitative evaluation of force and technique in competitive sport climbing”

Pavese on “Musing on extreme quantity values in physics and the problem of removing infinity”

Powers and Fisher on “Advances in modelling visual symptoms and visual skills”

Salzberger, Cano, et al. on “Addressing traceability in social measurement: Establishing a common metric for dependence”

Sapozhnikova, et al. on “Music and growl of a lion: Anything in common? Measurement model optimized with the help of AI will answer”

Soratto, Nunes, and Cassol on “Legal metrological verification in health area in Brazil”

Wilson and Dulhunty on “Interpreting the relationship between item difficulty and DIF: Examples from educational testing”

Wilson, Mari, and Maul on “The status of the concept of reference object in measurement in the human sciences compared to the physical sciences”

Background References

Finkelstein, L. (1975). Representation by symbol systems as an extension of the concept of measurement. Kybernetes, 4(4), 215-223.Finkelstein, L. (2003, July). Widely, strongly and weakly defined measurement. Measurement, 34(1), 39-48(10).

Finkelstein, L. (2005). Problems of measurement in soft systems. Measurement, 38(4), 267-274.

Finkelstein, L. (2009). Widely-defined measurement–An analysis of challenges. Measurement: Concerning Foundational Concepts of Measurement Special Issue Section (L. Finkelstein, Ed.), 42(9), 1270-1277.

Finkelstein, L. (2010). Measurement and instrumentation science and technology-the educational challenges. Journal of Physics Conference Series, 238, doi:10.1088/1742-6596/238/1/012001.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009). Invariance and traceability for measures of human, social, and natural capital: Theory and application. Measurement: Concerning Foundational Concepts of Measurement Special Issue (L. Finkelstein, Ed.), 42(9), 1278-1287.

Mari, L. (2000). Beyond the representational viewpoint: A new formalization of measurement. Measurement, 27, 71-84.

Mari, L., Maul, A., Irribara, D. T., & Wilson, M. (2016, March). Quantities, quantification, and the necessary and sufficient conditions for measurement. Measurement, 100, 115-121. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0263224116307497

Mari, L., & Wilson, M. (2014, May). An introduction to the Rasch measurement approach for metrologists. Measurement, 51, 315-327. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0263224114000645

Pendrill, L. (2014, December). Man as a measurement instrument [Special Feature]. NCSLi Measure: The Journal of Measurement Science, 9(4), 22-33. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19315775.2014.11721702

Pendrill, L., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2015). Counting and quantification: Comparing psychometric and metrological perspectives on visual perceptions of number. Measurement, 71, 46-55. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.measurement.2015.04.010

Pendrill, L., & Petersson, N. (2016). Metrology of human-based and other qualitative measurements. Measurement Science and Technology, 27(9), 094003. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1088/0957-0233/27/9/094003

Wilson, M. R. (2013). Using the concept of a measurement system to characterize measurement models used in psychometrics. Measurement, 46, 3766-3774. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0263224113001061

Wilson, M., & Fisher, W. (2016). Preface: 2016 IMEKO TC1-TC7-TC13 Joint Symposium: Metrology across the Sciences: Wishful Thinking? Journal of Physics Conference Series, 772(1), 011001. Retrieved from http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/772/1/011001/pdf

Wilson, M., & Fisher, W. (2018). Preface of special issue, Metrology across the Sciences: Wishful Thinking? Measurement, 127, 577.

Wilson, M., & Fisher, W. (2019). Preface of special issue, Psychometric Metrology. Measurement, 145, 190.

 

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com.

Transformative love!

June 4, 2019

Transformative love! How about a pragmatically effective sense of loving transformation?

  • How about if we lovingly care for our social impact measurement technologies like we do our children (to adapt Bruno Latour’s suggestion)?
  • How about if we lovingly care enough to choose discourse over violence and we quit committing the violence of the premature conclusions we draw from insufficient social impact information (echoing Paul Ricoeur)?
  • How about if we do more to lovingly care for the unity and sameness of the objects of our sustainable impact conversations (taking up Hans-Georg Gadamer’s terms)?
  • How about if we lovingly care enough to prioritize feminist diffractions over masculine tests of strength (following Donna Haraway)?
  • What if we lovingly cared enough for social innovation to model it on the fecund relationships that conceive, gestate, midwife, and nurture new life to maturity (channeling Luce Irigaray)?
  • What if we lovingly care about keeping thinking connected with the ecosystem context of relationships enough to create a new social innovation information infrastructure (tapping the words of Susan Leigh Star)?

Here at the Social Innovation Summit, Valerie Kaur’s call to revolutionary love, leading with love, does a fantastic job of spelling out the power of the birthing and midwifery metaphor. When people like her make the connection, there’s no limit to where humanity will go.

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com.

Cartesian problems cannot be solved by Cartesian solutions, no matter where those solutions originate

April 13, 2019

Trying to persuade or educate individuals to change the way they think and act, by pointing to the facts or by making emotional or moral appeals, seems always and everywhere to be the default go-to solution for those interested in addressing social and environmental problems. I suppose that approach works to varying degrees for different issues, but behavior change never occurs on as massive a scale as when it is mediated by a technology that enables people to do something they value.

The meaning of McLuhan’s expression, “the medium is the message,” and the long history of the many ways in which technologies transform cultures, for better and for worse, all seem utterly lost and forgotten when it comes to efforts aimed at provoking culture change. The ongoing discourses of environmental and social justice inevitably always seem to come back to targeting individual decisions and behaviors as the only recourse for effecting change.

But history teaches us that, if we want to change our values, we have to figure out how to embed the new terms in virally communicable metaphors that enthrall imaginations and captivate people’s attention and interest. Cultures turn on shared meanings that make some behaviors more likely than others. Good metaphors (“love is a rose;” “God is love”) organize experience in ways that allow infinite creative variations on the theme while also lending just a bit of structure and predictability to how things play out. We need to root new metaphors embodying shared human values in information infrastructures that operationalize consensus standards as the common currencies in which those values circulate.

Though the ongoing culture wars seem to suggest wildly divergent values in play across communities, research in developmental psychology strongly indicates that these differences are not what they seem. No matter what their politics, people need to feel valued, to have stable identities, to be recognized as someone of worth, to have a place of dignity in a community, to be trusted, and to see that others enjoy all of these qualities as well. Experience shows that these conditions cannot be implemented by a simple decree or force of will. Broad general conditions have to be cultivated in ways that make the emergence of abundant social capital resources more likely.

A point of entry into thinking about how those conditions might be created is provided by a 2010 quote in the Miami Herald from Gus Speth, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (http://tinyurl.com/y7mqtzzn). Speth recounts his sense that scientific solutions to ecosystem and climate problems are insufficient because the actual causes of the problems are greed, selfishness, and apathy. So he appeals to religious leaders for help.

But Speth’s moral diagnosis is as misconceived and uninformed as his original scientific one. As has been the topic of multiple posts in this blog, many of today’s problems cannot be solved using the same kind of Cartesian dualist thinking that was used in creating those problems. Voluminous citations in those earlier posts tap a large literature in the philosophy, history, and social studies of science describing a diverse array of examples of nondualist ecosystem thinking and acting (for instance, see references below). These works show how technological media fuse, embody, distribute, and enact social, moral, aesthetic, economic, and scientific values in complex multilevel metasystems (systems of systems). Moral values of fairness, for instance, are embedded in the quantitative values of measurement technologies exported from laboratories into markets where they inform economic values in trade.

Our task is to learn from these examples so that we can develop and deploy new languages that resonate with new values in analogous ways across similarly diverse cultural domains. Beauty, meaning, and poetry have to be as important as logic, mathematics, and science. Readily available theory and evidence already show how all of these are playing their roles in the evolving cultural transformation.

And, fortunately for humanity as well as for the earth, the new nondualist noncartesian solutions will not and cannot be primarily an outcome of deliberate intentions and conscious willpower. On the contrary, these integrated problem-solution monads are living, organic, self-organizing embodiments of ideas that captivate imaginations and draw creative, entrepreneurial energies in productive directions.

Of course, this kind of thing has happened many times in the past, though it has not previously emerged as a result of the kind of cultivated orchestration occurring today. Williamson, North, Ostrom, Coase, and others describe the roles institutions have played in setting up the rules, roles, and responsibilities of efficient markets. Today, new institutions are arising in a context of reproducible scientific results supporting ownership of, investments in, and profits harvested from sustainable impacts measured and managed via virally communicable media spreading social contagions of love and care. This is coming about because we all seek and value meaning and beauty right along with the capacity to enjoy life, liberty, and prosperity. However differently we each define and experience meaning and beauty, caring for the unity and sameness of the objects of the conversations that we are enables us to balance harmonies and dissonances in endless variations performed by every imaginable kind of rhythmic and melodic musical ensemble.

So instead of expecting different results from repeated applications of the same dualistic thinking that got us into today’s problems, we need to think and act nondualistically. Instead of assuming that solutions do not themselves already presuppose and embody problems of a certain type, we need to think in terms of integrated problem-solution monads deployed throughout ecosystems like species in symbiotic relationships. This is precisely what’s happened historically with the oil-automobile-highway-plastics-engineering ecosystem, and with the germ-disease-pharmaceutical-public health-medicine ecosystem. In each case, financial, market, accounting, regulatory, legal, educational, and other institutions evolved in tandem with the emerging sociotechnical ecology.

Now we face urgent needs to think and act on previously unheard of scales and levels of complexity. We have to work together and coordinate efforts in social and psychological domains with no previous history of communications capable of functioning at the needed efficiencies.

But merely urging people to live differently will never result in the changes that must be brought about. No matter how compelling the facts, no matter how persuasive the emotional power, and no matter how inspirational the moral argument, individual people and small groups simply cannot create new shared standards of behavior out of thin air. We are all products of our times and our sociocultural environments. People cannot be expected to simply wake up one day and spontaneously transform their habits by an effort of will. Instead, the values of fairness, equity, inclusion, and justice we say we live by must be embedded within the very fabric of everyday life, the way hours, meters, liters, degrees, grams, and volts are now.

That is, measurements read off instruments calibrated in fair units of comparison—measurements mathematically equivalent to those made with the scales of justice, measurements expressed in the common metrics of a new international system of units, and measurements as adaptable to local individual improvisations as they are generally comparable and navigable—have to be built into every institution in just the same way existing units of measurement are. Education, health care, social services, human resource management, environmental solutions—all of these and more need to attend closely to ways in which the objects of conversation can be more systematically expressed in meaningful words. Ecosystem thinking demands that everyone and everything in a system of relationships must be consistently kept in proportionate contact, within ranges of reported uncertainty, instead of being disconnected off into separate incommensurable universes of discourse, as occurs in today’s institutions.

These are all monumentally huge challenges. But much of the hardest work has been underway for decades, with important results and resources spreading into widely used applications often taken for granted in the background of largely unexamined assumptions. These results are now well enough established, and the associated social and environmental problems are so serious, that more can and should be done to put them to use.

The need for new values is indeed urgent, but empty talk and doing more of the same is getting us nowhere, at best, and more often is worsening conditions. Conceptual determinations of reproducible mathematical values embodying people’s lived social and moral values in fungible economic values are not just theoretical possibilities or provisional experimental results. They are longstanding, widely available, and practical, as well as beautiful and meaningful. With attentive cultivation and nurturing, there are abundant reasons for believing in a safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous future for humanity and life on earth.

References

Akera, A. (2007). Constructing a representation for an ecology of knowledge. Social Studies of Science, 37(3), 413-441.

Barney, M., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2016, April). Adaptive measurement and assessment. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 3, 469-490.

Blok, A., Nakazora, M., & Winthereik, B. R. (2016). Infrastructuring environments. Science as Culture, 25(1), 1-22.

Bowker, G. C. (2016). How knowledge infrastructures learn. In P. Harvey, C. B. Jensen & A. Morita (Eds.), Infrastructures and social complexity: A companion (pp. 391-403). New York: Routledge.

Bowker, G., Timmermans, S., Clarke, A. E., & Balka, E. (Eds). (2015). Boundary objects and beyond: Working with Leigh Star. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Brain, R. (1998). Standards and semiotics. In T. Lenoir (Ed.), Inscribing science: Scientific texts and the materiality of communication (pp. 249-w84). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Cano, S. J., & Hobart, J. C. (2011). The problem with health measurement. Patient Preference and Adherence, 5, 279-290.

Cano, S., Klassen, A. F., & Pusic, A. L. (2009). The science behind quality-of-life measurement: A primer for plastic surgeons. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 123(3), 98e-106e.

Cano, S., Melin, J., Fisher, W. P., Jr., Stenner, A. J., Pendrill, L., & EMPIR NeuroMet 15HLT04 Consortium. (2018). Patient-centred cognition metrology. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1065, 072033.

Cano, S., Pendrill, L., Barbic, S., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2018). Patient-centred outcome metrology for healthcare decision-making. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1044, 012057.

Cano, S., Pendrill, L., Melin, J., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2019). Towards consensus measurement standards for patient-centered outcomes. Measurement, in press.

Dawson, T. L. (2002, Summer). A comparison of three developmental stage scoring systems. Journal of Applied Measurement, 3(2), 146-89.

Dawson, T. L. (2002, March). New tools, new insights: Kohlberg’s moral reasoning stages revisited. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 26(2), 154-66.

Dawson, T. L. (2004, April). Assessing intellectual development: Three approaches, one sequence. Journal of Adult Development, 11(2), 71-85.

Dawson, T. L., & Stein, Z. (2011). We are all learning here: Cycles of research and application in adult development. In C. Hoare (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of reciprocal adult development and learning, 2nd Ed. (pp. 447-460). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009, November). Invariance and traceability for measures of human, social, and natural capital: Theory and application. Measurement: Concerning Foundational Concepts of Measurement Special Issue Section, 42(9), 1278-1287.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009). NIST Critical national need idea White Paper: Metrological infrastructure for human, social, and natural capital (http://www.nist.gov/tip/wp/pswp/upload/202_metrological_infrastructure_for_human_social_natural.pdf). Washington, DC:. National Institute for Standards and Technology.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2010, November 22). The birds and the bees of living meaning. LivingCapitalMetrics blog. https://livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/the-birds-and-the-bees-of-living-meaning/.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2010). Measurement, reduced transaction costs, and the ethics of efficient markets for human, social, and natural capital, Bridge to Business Postdoctoral Certification, Freeman School of Business, Tulane University (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2340674).

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2011). Metaphor as measurement, and vice versa: Convergence and separation of figure and meaning in a Mawri proverb [Modified version of a paper presented to the African Studies Association, 1996]. Social Science Research Network. http://ssrn.com/abstract=1747967

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2012). Measure and manage: Intangible assets metric standards for sustainability. In J. Marques, S. Dhiman & S. Holt (Eds.), Business administration education: Changes in management and leadership strategies (pp. 43-63). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2012, June 1). What the world needs now: A bold plan for new standards [Third place, 2011 NIST/SES World Standards Day paper competition]. Standards Engineering, 64(3), 1 & 3-5 [http://ssrn.com/abstract=2083975].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2013). Imagining education tailored to assessment as, for, and of learning: Theory, standards, and quality improvement. Assessment and Learning, 2, 6-22.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2014). The central theoretical problem of the social sciences. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 28(2), 1464-1466. http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt282.pdf

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2017, September). Metrology, psychometrics, and new horizons for innovation. 18th International Congress of Metrology, Paris, 09007 [https://cfmetrologie.edpsciences.org/articles/metrology/pdf/2017/01/metrology_metr2017_09007.pdf].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2017). A practical approach to modeling complex adaptive flows in psychology and social science. Procedia Computer Science, 114, 165-174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procs.2017.09.027

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2019). How beauty teaches us to understand meaning, in revision.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2019). A nondualist social ethic: Fusing subject and object horizons in measurement. TMQ–Techniques, Methodologies, and Quality, in press.

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Cavanagh, R. (2016). Measurement as a medium for communication and social action, I & II. In Q. Zhang & H. H. Yang (Eds.), Pacific Rim Objective Measurement Symposium (PROMS) 2015 Conference Proceedings (pp. 153-182). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Oon, E. P.-T. (2019). Information coherence and complexity across contexts: Negotiating discontinuities in educational assessment infrastructures. Information Systems Research, in review.

Fisher, W. P., Jr., Oon, E. P.-T., & Benson, S. (2018). Applying Design Thinking to systemic problems in educational assessment information management. Journal of Physics Conference Series, 1044, 012012 [http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/1044/1/012012].

Fisher, W. P., Jr., Oon, E. P.-T., & Benson, S. (2019). Rethinking the role of educational assessment in classroom communities: How can design thinking address the problems of coherence and complexity? Measurement, in review.

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2011, January 1). Metrology for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences White Paper Series). http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/sbe_2020/submission_detail.cfm?upld_id=36

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2013). On the potential for improved measurement in the human and social sciences. In Q. Zhang & H. Yang (Eds.), Pacific Rim Objective Measurement Symposium 2012 Conference Proceedings (pp. 1-11). Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag.

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2016). Theory-based metrological traceability in education: A reading measurement network. Measurement, 92, 489-496.

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2018). Ecologizing vs modernizing in measurement and metrology. Journal of Physics Conference Series, 1044, 012025.

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2017, September 18). Towards an alignment of engineering and psychometric approaches to uncertainty in measurement: Consequences for the future. 18th International Congress of Metrology, 12004, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1051/metrology/201712004

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Jasanoff, S. (2015). Future imperfect: Science, technology, and the imaginations of modernity. In S. Jasanoff & S.-H. Kim (Eds.), Dreamscapes of modernity: Sociotechnical imaginaries and the fabrication of power (pp. 1-22). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jasanoff, S., & Martello, M. L. (Eds.) (2004). Earthly politics: Local and global in environmental governance. (Politics, Science, and the Environment). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Latour, B. (2009). On the modern cult of the factish gods (H. MacLean & C. Porter, Trans.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Latour, B. (2010). Tarde’s idea of quantification. In M. Candea (Ed.), The social after Gabriel Tarde: Debates and assessments (pp. 145-162). London: Routledge.

Latour, B. (2011). Love your monsters: Why we must care for our technologies as we do our children. Breakthrough Journal, 2, 21-28. http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-2/love-your-monsters

Latour, B. (2014, February 26). On some of the affects of capitalism. Lecture given at the Royal Academy, Copenhagen, Denmark. Retrieved from http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/136-AFFECTS-OF-K-COPENHAGUE.pdf.

Latour, B., & Callon, M. (2011). “Thou shall not calculate!” or how to symmetricalize gift and capital. Revista De Pensamiento e Investifation Social, 11(1), 171-192.

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Taking the Scales of Justice Seriously as a Model for Sustainable Political Economies

February 28, 2019

We all take standards of measurement for granted as background assumptions that we never have to think about. But as technical, mundane, and boring as these standards are, they define our systems of fair dealing and just relations. The image of blind justice holding a balance scale is a universal ideal being compromised in multiple ways by chaotic forces in today’s complicated world arena.

Even so, astoundingly little effort is being invested in systematically exploring how the scales of justice might be more meaningfully and resiliently embedded within our social, economic, educational, health care, and political institutions. This well may be because the idea that people’s abilities, behaviors, and knowledge could be precisely weighed on a scale, like fruit in a grocery store, seems outrageously immoral, opening the door to treating people like commodities to be bought and sold. And even if the political will for such measures could be found, the regulatory enforcement of legally binding contracts and accounting standards appears so implausibly complicated as to make the whole matter not worth any serious consideration at all.

On the face of it, a literal application of the scales of justice to human affairs echoes ideas discredited so thoroughly and for so long that bringing them up in the here and now seems utterly ridiculous, at least, and perhaps truly dangerous, with no possible result except the crushing reduction of human beings to cogs in a soulless machine.

But what if there is some basic way in which measurement is misunderstood when it is taken to mean people will be treated like mass produced commodities for sale? What if we could measure, legally own, invest in, and profit from our literacy, health, and trustworthiness, in the same way we do with property and material things? What if precision measurement was not a tool for oppressive manipulation but a means of obtaining, sharing, and communicating valuable information? What if local contextual situations can be allowed a latitude of variation that does not negatively compromise navigable continuity?

Circumstances are conspiring to take humanity in new directions. Complex new necessities are nurturing the conception and birth of new innovations. A wealth of diverse possibilities for adaptive experimentation proposed in the past–sometimes the distant past–are finding new life in today’s technological context. And science has changed a lot in the last 100 years. In fact, the public is largely unaware that the old paradigm of mechanical reduction has been completely demolished and replaced with a new paradigm of organic emergence and complex adaptive systems. Even Newtonian mechanics and the basic number theory of arithmetic have had to be reworked. It is also true that very few experts have thought through what the demise of the mechanical root metaphor, and the birth of an organic ecosystem metaphor, means philosophically, socially, historically, and culturally.

Bottom-up manifestations of repeating patterns that can be scaled, measured, quantified, and explained open up a wide array of new opportunities for learning from shared experiences. And, just as humanity has long understood about music, we know now how to contextualize group and individual assessment and survey response patterns in ways that let everyone be what they are, uniquely improvising playful creative performances expressed using high tech instruments tuned to shared standards. A huge amount of conceptual and practical work needs to be done, but there are multiple historical precedents suggesting that betting against human ingenuity would be a losing wager.

Two new projects I’m involved in concerning sustainability impact investing and a metrology center for categorical measures begin a new exploration of the consequences of this paradigm shift for our image of the scales of justice as representing a moral imperative. These projects ask whether more complex combinations of mathematics, experiment, technology, and theory can be overtly conceived and implemented in terms of participatory and democratic social and cognitive ecosystems. If so, we may then find our way to new standards of measurement, new languages, and new forms of social organization sufficient to redefining what we take for granted as satisfying our shared sense of fair dealing and just relations.

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Psychology and the social sciences: An atheoretical, scattered, and disconnected body of research

February 16, 2019

A new article in Nature Human Behaviour (NHB) points toward the need for better theory and more rigorous mathematical models in psychology and the social sciences (Muthukrishna & Henrich, 2019). The authors rightly say that the lack of an overarching cumulative theoretical framework makes it very difficult to see whether new results fit well with previous work, or if something surprising has come to light. Mathematical models are especially emphasized as being of value in specifying clear and precise expectations.

The point that the social sciences and psychology need better theories and models is painfully obvious. But there are in fact thousands of published studies and practical real world applications that not only provide, but indeed often surpass, the kinds of predictive theories and mathematical models called for in the NHB article. The article not only makes no mention of any of this work, its argument is framed entirely in a statistical context instead of the more appropriate context of measurement science.

The concept of reliability provides an excellent point of entry. Most behavioral scientists think of reliability statistically, as a coefficient with a positive numeric value usually between 0.00 and 1.00. The tangible sense of reliability as indicating exactly how predictable an outcome is does not usually figure in most researchers’ thinking. But that sense of the specific predictability of results has been the focus of attention in social and psychological measurement science for decades.

For instance, the measurement of time is reliable in the sense that the position of the sun relative to the earth can be precisely predicted from geographic location, the time of day, and the day of the year. The numbers and words assigned to noon time are closely associated with the Sun being at the high point in the sky (though there are political variations by season and location across time zones).

That kind of a reproducible association is rarely sought in psychology and the social sciences, but it is far from nonexistent. One can discern different degrees to which that kind of association is included in models of measured constructs. Though most behavioral research doesn’t mention the connection between linear amounts of a measured phenomenon and a reproducible numeric representation of it (level 0), quite a significant body of work focuses on that connection (level 1). The disappointing thing about that level 1 work is that the relentless obsession with statistical methods prevents most researchers from connecting a reproducible quantity with a single expression of it in a standard unit, and with an associated uncertainty term (level 2). That is, level 1 researchers conceive measurement in statistical terms, as a product of data analysis. Even when results across data sets are highly correlated and could be equated to a common metric, level 1 researchers do not leverage that source of potential value for simplified communication and accumulated comparability.

And then, for their part, level 2 researchers usually do not articulate theories about the measured constructs, by augmenting the mathematical data model with an explanatory model predicting variation (level 3). Level 2 researchers are empirically grounded in data, and can expand their network of measures only by gathering more data and analyzing it in ways that bring it into their standard unit’s frame of reference.

Level 3 researchers, however, have come to see what makes their measures tick. They understand the mechanisms that make their questions vary. They can write new questions to their theoretical specifications, test those questions by asking them of a relevant sample, and produce the predicted calibrations. For instance, reading comprehension is well established to be a function of the difference between a person’s reading ability and the complexity of the text they encounter (see articles by Stenner in the list below). We have built our entire educational system around this idea, as we deliberately introduce children first to the alphabet, then to the most common words, then to short sentences, and then to ever longer and more complicated text. But stating the construct model, testing it against data, calibrating a unit to which all tests and measures can be traced, and connecting together all the books, articles, tests, curricula, and students is a process that began (in English and Spanish) only in the 1980s. The process still is far from finished, and most reading research still does not use the common metric.

In this kind of theory-informed context, new items can be automatically generated on the fly at the point of measurement. Those items and inferences made from them are validated by the consistency of the responses and the associated expression of the expected probability of success, agreement, etc. The expense of constant data gathering and analysis can be cut to a very small fraction of what it is at levels 0-2.

Level 3 research methods are not widely known or used, but they are not new. They are gaining traction as their use by national metrology institutes globally grows. As high profile critiques of social and psychological research practices continue to emerge, perhaps more attention will be paid to this important body of work. A few key references are provided below, and virtually every post in this blog pertains to these issues.

References

Baghaei, P. (2008). The Rasch model as a construct validation tool. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 22(1), 1145-6 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt221a.htm].

Bergstrom, B. A., & Lunz, M. E. (1994). The equivalence of Rasch item calibrations and ability estimates across modes of administration. In M. Wilson (Ed.), Objective measurement: Theory into practice, Vol. 2 (pp. 122-128). Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex.

Cano, S., Pendrill, L., Barbic, S., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2018). Patient-centred outcome metrology for healthcare decision-making. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1044, 012057.

Dimitrov, D. M. (2010). Testing for factorial invariance in the context of construct validation. Measurement & Evaluation in Counseling & Development, 43(2), 121-149.

Embretson, S. E. (2010). Measuring psychological constructs: Advances in model-based approaches. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Fischer, G. H. (1973). The linear logistic test model as an instrument in educational research. Acta Psychologica, 37, 359-374.

Fischer, G. H. (1983). Logistic latent trait models with linear constraints. Psychometrika, 48(1), 3-26.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (1992). Reliability statistics. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 6(3), 238 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt63i.htm].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2008). The cash value of reliability. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 22(1), 1160-1163 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt221.pdf].

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2016). Theory-based metrological traceability in education: A reading measurement network. Measurement, 92, 489-496.

Green, S. B., Lissitz, R. W., & Mulaik, S. A. (1977). Limitations of coefficient alpha as an index of test unidimensionality. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 37(4), 827-833.

Hattie, J. (1985). Methodology review: Assessing unidimensionality of tests and items. Applied Psychological Measurement, 9(2), 139-64.

Hobart, J. C., Cano, S. J., Zajicek, J. P., & Thompson, A. J. (2007). Rating scales as outcome measures for clinical trials in neurology: Problems, solutions, and recommendations. Lancet Neurology, 6, 1094-1105.

Irvine, S. H., Dunn, P. L., & Anderson, J. D. (1990). Towards a theory of algorithm-determined cognitive test construction. British Journal of Psychology, 81, 173-195.

Kline, T. L., Schmidt, K. M., & Bowles, R. P. (2006). Using LinLog and FACETS to model item components in the LLTM. Journal of Applied Measurement, 7(1), 74-91.

Lunz, M. E., & Linacre, J. M. (2010). Reliability of performance examinations: Revisited. In M. Garner, G. Engelhard, Jr., W. P. Fisher, Jr. & M. Wilson (Eds.), Advances in Rasch Measurement, Vol. 1 (pp. 328-341). Maple Grove, MN: JAM Press.

Mari, L., & Wilson, M. (2014). An introduction to the Rasch measurement approach for metrologists. Measurement, 51, 315-327.

Markward, N. J., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2004). Calibrating the genome. Journal of Applied Measurement, 5(2), 129-141.

Maul, A., Mari, L., Torres Irribarra, D., & Wilson, M. (2018). The quality of measurement results in terms of the structural features of the measurement process. Measurement, 116, 611-620.

Muthukrishna, M., & Henrich, J. (2019). A problem in theory. Nature Human Behaviour, 1-9.

Obiekwe, J. C. (1999, August 1). Application and validation of the linear logistic test model for item difficulty prediction in the context of mathematics problems. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences & Engineering, 60(2-B), 0851.

Pendrill, L. (2014). Man as a measurement instrument [Special Feature]. NCSLi Measure: The Journal of Measurement Science, 9(4), 22-33.

Pendrill, L., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2015). Counting and quantification: Comparing psychometric and metrological perspectives on visual perceptions of number. Measurement, 71, 46-55.

Pendrill, L., & Petersson, N. (2016). Metrology of human-based and other qualitative measurements. Measurement Science and Technology, 27(9), 094003.

Sijtsma, K. (2009). Correcting fallacies in validity, reliability, and classification. International Journal of Testing, 8(3), 167-194.

Sijtsma, K. (2009). On the use, the misuse, and the very limited usefulness of Cronbach’s alpha. Psychometrika, 74(1), 107-120.

Stenner, A. J. (2001). The necessity of construct theory. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 15(1), 804-5 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt151q.htm].

Stenner, A. J., Fisher, W. P., Jr., Stone, M. H., & Burdick, D. S. (2013). Causal Rasch models. Frontiers in Psychology: Quantitative Psychology and Measurement, 4(536), 1-14.

Stenner, A. J., & Horabin, I. (1992). Three stages of construct definition. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 6(3), 229 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt63b.htm].

Stenner, A. J., Stone, M. H., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2018). The unreasonable effectiveness of theory based instrument calibration in the natural sciences: What can the social sciences learn? Journal of Physics Conference Series, 1044(012070).

Stone, M. H. (2003). Substantive scale construction. Journal of Applied Measurement, 4(3), 282-297.

Wilson, M. (2005). Constructing measures: An item response modeling approach. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wilson, M. R. (2013). Using the concept of a measurement system to characterize measurement models used in psychometrics. Measurement, 46, 3766-3774.

Wright, B. D., & Stone, M. H. (1979). Chapter 5: Constructing a variable. In Best test design: Rasch measurement (pp. 83-128). Chicago, Illinois: MESA Press.

Wright, B. D., & Stone, M. H. (1999). Measurement essentials. Wilmington, DE: Wide Range, Inc. [http://www.rasch.org/measess/me-all.pdf].

Wright, B. D., Stone, M., & Enos, M. (2000). The evolution of meaning in practice. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 14(1), 736 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt141g.htm].

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Making sustainability impacts universally identifiable, individually owned, efficiently exchanged, and profitable

February 2, 2019

Sustainability impacts plainly and obviously lack common product definitions, objective measures, efficient markets, and associated capacities for competing on improved quality. The absence of these landmarks in the domain of sustainability interests is a result of inattention and cultural biases far more than it is a result of the inherent characteristics or nature of sustainability itself. Given the economic importance of these kinds of capacities and the urgent need for new innovations supporting sustainable development, it is curious how even those most stridently advocating new ways of thinking seem to systematically ignore well-established opportunities for advancing their cause. The wealth of historical examples of rapidly emerging, transformative, disruptive, and highly profitable innovations would seem to motivate massive interest in how extend those successes in new directions.

Economists have long noted how common currencies reduce transaction costs, support property rights, and promote market efficiencies (for references and more information, see previous entries in this blog over the last ten years and more). Language itself is well known for functioning as an economical labor-saving device in the way that useful concepts representing things in the world as words need not be re-invented by everyone for themselves, but can simply be copied. In the same ways that common languages ease communication, and common currencies facilitate trade, so, too, do standards for common product definitions contribute to the creation of markets.

Metrologically traceable measurements make it possible for everyone everywhere to know how much of something in particular there is. This is important, first of all, because things have to be identifiable in shared ways if we are to be able to include them in our lives, socially. Anyone interested in obtaining or producing that kind of thing has to be able to know it and share information about it as something in particular. Common languages capable of communicating specifically what a thing is, and how much of it there is, support claims to ownership and to the fruits of investments in entrepreneurial innovations.

Technologies for precision measurement key to these communications are one of the primary products of science. Instruments measuring in SI units embody common currencies for the exchange of scientific capital. The calibration and distribution of such instruments in the domain of sustainability impact investing and innovation ought to be a top-level priority. How else will sustainable impacts be made universally identifiable, individually owned, efficiently exchanged, and profitable?

The electronics, computer, and telecommunications industries provide ample evidence of precision measurement’s role in reducing transaction costs, establishing common product definitions, and reaping huge profits. The music industry’s use of these technologies combines the science and economics of precision measurement with the artistic creativity of intensive improvisations constructed from instruments tuned to standardized scales that achieve wholly unique levels of individual innovation.

Much stands to be learned, and even more to be gained, in focusing sustainability development on ways in which we can harness the economic power of the profit motive by combining collective efforts with individual imaginations in the domains of human, social, and natural capital. Aligning financial, monetary wealth with the authentic wealth and genuine productivity of gains in human, community, and environmental value ought to be the defining mission of this generation. The time to act is now.

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So you say knowledge wants to be free?

January 26, 2019

If knowledge wants to be free, why do we work so hard keeping it trapped in scores and ratings whose meanings change depending on which questions were asked and who answered them?

Why don’t we liberate knowledge from its many prisons by embodying it in measurement systems that mean the same thing (within the range of uncertainty) no matter which questions on a topic are asked and no matter who answers them?

We routinely share knowledge quickly and easily when it’s about time, length, temperature, energy, mass, etc. Methods, theories, models, and tools developed over the last 90+ years show how we could be doing the same thing for literacy, health, functionality, environmental management, and every other major area of concern in the UN Sustainability Development Goals.

There’s a lot of talk among sustainability advocates about how urgent the need is for transformative efforts, investments, and technologies. It seems to me that sense of urgency will never be more than empty talk as long as we go on willfully ignoring the fact that we hold the keys to the chains that bind us.

 

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Remembering Elie Wiesel’s teaching

November 21, 2018

Paraphrasing the last paragraph from a recent USA Today story on a new book about Elie Wiesel (linked in below):

“Language does more than just provide a means of sharing ideas and memories. Language embodies the human desire for meaning, for the infinite, for surpassing limits, for community and the communication of transcendent experiences of beauty.”

But language cuts two ways. It provides a medium for transcending limits while it nonetheless has its own limits. Wiesel says language can be corrupted and contaminated by human cruelty. I think this allows human will more latitude and agency than it actually has. I think broad scale corruption and cruelty are artifacts or by-products of the limits of language.

Corruption and cruelty scale up when human experience encounters new challenges for which the available language is inadequate and new conceptual frameworks are slow to emerge. Dark fears and destructive hate go on a rampage when ignorance rules and understanding is scarce. Seeing these times in human history as products of individual will is a point of view that is itself situated within the overly narrow limits of a language that has long outlived its usefulness.

Our challenge is how to find our way to new languages better able to inspire confident cooperation and communication across our diverse differences. On the face of it, this may seem to be an insurmountable barrier demanding we look elsewhere for creative opportunities. I beg to differ.

Root metaphors captivate the imaginations of millions, as with the ‘Love is a rose’ metaphor of romance, the Christian ‘God is Love’ metaphor, or the ‘clockwork universe’ metaphor of Newtonian physics. But in today’s age of global humanity, a new poetics capable of making general sense of individual experience seems perpetually out of reach.

The complexity of the problem is truly staggering. In fact, the way we define the problem is the crux of the matter. As I’ve tried to explain before, the problem is the problem.

That is, today we face a meta-problem asking, what is the metaphor for metaphor? How do we transform implicit background assumptions about the limits of language into explicit objects of operations on language? How do we attain that complex level of understanding where we do not look upon corruption and cruelty simply as matters of individual human will but as the logical consequence of our failure to create institutions modeled on language’s complex combination of navigable continuity and local improvisation?

Can we go beyond the often impossibly out of reach but still inadequate compassion for those who commit atrocities, who are twisted into grotesque forms by hate? Can we actually come to understand the multilevel complexity, limits, and processes of language and metaphor well enough to intentionally cultivate new organic social and cognitive ecosystems? Can we see language as a collectively projected knowledge technology? Can we learn how to foster meaningful conceptual determinations embodied in words that stand for real things in the world? Can we apply language itself as a model for transforming our educational, health care, market, social service, and government institutions?

I say not only that yes, we can; I say yes, we have. This new level of complexity in approaching language has been taking shape for decades, and in some respects for centuries. It is emerging now on multiple fronts across a wide range of fields. This is the focus of my recent work on the multilevel complexity of sociocognitive ecosystems, and on the developmental, horizontal, and vertical coherence of integrated assessment and instruction. It’s a huge challenge, but having seen clearly that the biggest problem is how we define the problem, I am cautiously optimistic humanity will find a way.

Meyer, Zlati. 2018. New book shares Elie Wiesel’s powerful classroom lessons from the Holocaust. USA Today, 14 November.

Print version appeared in Life section, pp. 1D, 6D. Tuesday, 20 November, titled Elie Wiesel’s classroom lessons resonate.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2018/11/14/elie-wiesels-classroom-lessons-holocaust-book-witness-ariel-burger-book-review/1897795002/

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