Archiv der Kategorie: Meaning design

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The natural limits

How unimaginable seems to be a city that is gigantic and divided into a lower and an upper town. The border separates the two like the Berlin Wall the East- from the West-part of the city. There is no exchange of any kind. Since centuries the Upper dwellers and the Lower dwellers have forgotten the existence of each other. Above the sun never sets – below it never rises. As a result, people have adapted to their environment and speak in the meantime their own language, which sounds the same but transports different meaning. One day an explosion ruptures a huge crater, which connects the city from above with the one below. Both of them shut the crater off and recognize that they have direct neighbors, who even seem to speak their language. The boundary evaporates.

The first meetings are pleasant, since the languages are very similar and use even the same words. But then it becomes apparent that the two areas have developed in very different directions. The following examples show the differences.

  • Visual perception
    The city above has equipped over the centuries all areas that are not approached by sunlight with artificial light around the clock. That way they eventually forgot the darkness. It is similar to the city below. Over time the light has disappeared from the under town. After all, they forgot the light.
    At the crater the Upper and the Lower dwellers get together. And they both say, „I can’t see.“ An astonishing consensus, since both come from completely different surroundings. It takes a while for somebody to understand that they both mean something different. The Upper dwellers can’t see because they do not penetrate the darkness. And the Lower dwellers see nothing because they are blinded by the light.
  • Auditory perception
    The hearing habits have also developed differently in the two neighborhoods. The dark corridors of the city below swallow up any sound waves after only a few yards. As a result, the hearing of the Lower dwellers has been readjusted to the low frequencies, whose long waves can still be heard far away. On the surface, the Upper dwellers enjoy the timbres created by the high frequencies.
    After the crater formation, they meet in the crater and don’t believe what they hear. And they both say, „I hear something unusual.“ The low tones irritate the Upper dwellers and the high sounds feel strange to the Lower dwellers.
  • Kinesthetic perception
    Above and below ground, heat receptors have adapted to the respective habitats. The permanent sunshine and the artificial light tan the Upper dwellers and provide an even climate. In contrast, the Lower dwellers are quite pale and used to the wet freshness of the underground.
    However, in the crater they are exposed to a new environment to which their thermal sensation reacts strongly and both say „I feel uncomfortable“. The unfamiliar coolness causes stress to the Upper dwellers and the unfamiliar heat to the Lower dwellers.
  • Olfactory perception
    Both districts have got used to their atmosphere over a long period of time. In the city above there is always a high level of humidity, which transports smelling particularly well. In the absence of light, they have become accustomed to following their nose, which is able to distinguish their environment and recognize the fellow human beings by their scent. In the upper town the air is dry and transports few smells. Since they can rely on their eyes, they don’t pay much attention to scents.
    In the crater, the two atmospheres meet and Upper and Lower dwellers say „It smells strange.“
  • Gustatory perception
    Both districts have adapted their food to their environment. The Upper dwellers love spicy food that is eaten raw. The Lower dwellers prefer boiled food, which less irritates the taste buds, but bland with a moist, wide vapidness.
    During the meetings in the crater, the delicacies of the kitchens are exchanged. And both say, „That’s inedible.“

Long story short. Radical constructivism postulates that there is no objective reality, but that everyone constructs his or her own personal image of the reality from his or her sensory stimuli and experiences. In the example above, we have performed a simple mental game that shows how our environment determines our way of expressing ourselves. Obviously, the Upper and Lower dwellers have lived far apart. They adapted ideally to their respective environment. Interestingly, however, their language has remained unchanged over the centuries. They may have forgotten some words that do not fit into their reality, but central utterances have survived. But they always mean something completely different. Our senses provide visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory stimuli, which we mix with our experiences to eventually express ourselves – in our example with the same words for different meanings.

Bottom line: Since Descartes, we have been trying to explore the world objectively. Today, we know that our perception is not in a position to provide a joined reality. Science has long recognized this. However, we are still trying to objectify everything. The above example is intended to show in the simplest possible way, how different the world can be perceived, depending on one’s own view and experience. We can use these insights in our daily communication by being aware of the following.

First: It is the listener, not the speaker, who supplies meaning to an utterance. (Heinz von Foerster).

Second: You cannot not communicate (Paul Watzlawick).

In everyday life this means that one should again and again be aware of the natural limits and to make an effort to understand the counterpart.

Let Loose Borders

In times of the classic chain of command, many links wanted more openness. The stronger the participants are concatenated, the longer and more inflexible the companies are moving. With the introduction of computers, the interaction was accelerated by virtuality. However, at the same time, each component was refined more and more and the number of connections increased. As structuring progressed, there was a call for more openness – more flexibility, more contact opportunities and more cooperation internally and externally. Today, digital transformation enables companies, groups and individuals to network globally. In turn, this openness scares many people nowadays – there are no clear boundaries, no opportunities for identification and no framework for action. Stiff does not work and open does not work. What can be done? Let Loose Borders.

Let’s take a look at how stiff openness can be imagined. Let’s work along the words „Let Loose Borders“.

  • Borders
    This word defines a system with certain characteristics that makes some feel committed and excludes different ones. The cohesion is determined by common goals, rules, and beliefs.
    What makes the difference in this case is the permeability of the borders – closeness by insurmountable dividing lines; permeable openness in both directions.
  • Loose
    If you bundle a lot of individual parts lightly, you get a charge that is processed in one swing. This could also be a number of incidents that fluffily rain (un)advantageously down on somebody. Or the starting shot without rigid standards.
    What makes the difference in any cases is the action that is executed decisively – doing something and facing the consequences.
  • Let
    The willingness to get involved in something or to allow oneself to get involved has a great influence on the impression of the close- or open-mindedness of a system. Stress arises when cohesion gets tensed and aggressively defends its boundaries. And also, when the cohesion dissolves through unlimited influx of the unfamiliar.
    What makes the difference is the growth – the healthy balance between content-related stiffness and dissolution.
  • Borderless
    The avoidance of borders goes hand in hand with the loss of identity. The feeling of belonging results from common values and rituals. Without the definition of boundaries, individuals cannot find their place or exchange ideas.
    The difference is the form of demarcation – dogmatic borders create violence; unconditional openness leads to unfulfilled self-confidence, and eventually also to violence.
  • Let Borders
    Simply opening boundaries is awkward, as the members of a group are not necessarily happy about the lack of boundaries (see above). Ignoring the delimitation, we are driven by our genes to defend our territory.
    The difference makes tolerance – walls do not have to be immediately torn down, but only need appropriate passages and rules to exchange ideas.
  • Let go
    One should not stick to what limits thoughts and action or insist on the traditional. A new way of thinking is only possible if one at least allows the familiar to pause. This creates openness and the necessary meeting points to improve and expand due to new ideas.
    The difference arises with the continuous expansion of the system – systems that do not open will collapse; systems that use openness for their own development grow sustainably.

Bottom line: Whether you now let go the boundaries or leave them borderless is up to the reader. The mixing of the words has hopefully made clear that it is about the gray zone between boundlessness and the iron curtain. Systems have no chance to survive, if they encapsulate or fractalize themselves borderless. Let Loose Borders – the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder.

P.S.: Whoever recognizes the limit of today’s drawing has understood.