Learning Change

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Knowing in Practice: Enacting a Collective Capability in Distributed Organizing

In this paper, I outline a perspective on knowing in practice which highlights the essential role of human action in knowing how to get things done in complex organizational work. The perspective suggests that knowing is not a static embedded capability or stable disposition of actors, but rather an ongoing social accomplishment, constituted and reconstituted as actors engage the world in practice. In interpreting the findings of an empirical study conducted in a geographically dispersed high-tech organization, I suggest that the competence to do global product development is both collective and distributed, grounded in the everyday practices of organizational members. I conclude by discussing some of the research implications of a perspective on organizational knowing in practice.

I have argued that paying attention to organizational knowing might complement our understanding of organizational effectiveness by highlighting the essential role of situated action in constituting knowing in practice. In particular, we might learn some useful insights about capabilities if we also focus on what people do, and how they do it, rather than focusing primarily on infrastructure, objects, skills, or dispositions. Understanding organizational knowing in practice may get us closer to an understanding of organizational life as “continually contingently reproduced by knowledgeable human agents—that’s what gives it fixity and that’s what also produces change”.

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Written by learningchange

July 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

The Power of the Past: Cognitive Sociology of Ethnic Conflict

The aim of this article is to demonstrate the ways in which the past matters for ethnic conflict in the present. More specifically, by presenting a socio-cognitive approach to the problem, this article sets out to specify macro-micro bridging mechanisms that explain why a history of prior conflict is likely to increase the likelihood that new conflicts will erupt. People’s inclination toward simplified and/or invalid (but often useful) inductive reasoning in the form of  analogism, and their innate disposition for ordering events in teleological narratives—to which causality is typically attributed—will be of particular interest for this article. The article will also emphasize the ways in which collective memory sites become activated in such belief  formation processes. For instance, the memory biases inherent in analogical reasoning often lead people to overestimate the likelihood of future conflict, which may lead them to mobilize in order to defend themselves, and/or to take preemptive action in ways that foment conflict.

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Written by learningchange

July 24, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Metacognition and Self-Regulation in James, Piaget, and Vygotsky

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This article investigates the intertwined constructs of metacognition and self-regulation as they emerge in the works and theories of James, Piaget, and Vygotsky. To coordinate this exploration, we use an interpretive framework based on the relation of subject and object. In this framework, James’s perspective on metacognition and self-regulation is aligned with the Self, Piaget’s with the other and object, and Vygotsky’s with the medium or agency of language. We explore how metacognition and self-regulation function within the realm of human behavior and development as described in the works of each of these theorists. Key questions or issues that emerge for current research are outlined, and the limitations and benefits of each theorist’s perspective vis-à-vis metacognition and self-regulation are discussed.

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Written by learningchange

July 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Emergence in Stigmergic and Complex Adaptive Systems

Complex systems have been studied by researchers from every discipline: biology, chemistry, physics, sociology, mathematics and economics and more. Depending upon the discipline, complex systems theory has accrued many flavors. We are after a formal representation, a model that can predict the outcome of a complex adaptive system (CAS). In this article, we look at the nature of complexity, then provide a perspective based on discrete event systems (DEVS) theory. We pin down many of the shared features between CAS and artificial systems. We begin with an overview of network science showing how adaptive behavior in these scale-free networks can lead to emergence through stigmergy in CAS. We also address how both self-organization and emergence interplay in a CAS. We then build a case for the view that stigmergic systems are a special case of CAS. We then discuss DEVS levels of systems specifications and present the dynamic structure extensions of DEVS formalism that lends itself to a study of CAS and in turn, stigmergy. Finally, we address the shortcomings and the limitation of current DEVS extensions and propose the required augmentation to model stigmergy and CAS.

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Written by learningchange

July 23, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Social Complexity and the Micro–Macro Link

The article proceeds as follows. First, I attempt to outline the problem that is at stake: the aim is to expose the theoretical parameters that must be taken into account in order to provide a workable solution to the micro–macro problem. I maintain that the starting point has been clearly stated by Durkheim. How to account for social regularities? How is it possible to offer high-level knowledge that is not trivially available in generalizations couched in individuals’ terms? Second, in this article I attempt to provide a taxonomy of the proposals that have been offered to account for the micro–macro link. Third, I attempt to weaken an interesting argument currently advanced to support the inevitability of micro-foundations. Finally, I very briefly explore the possibility of naturalizing the debate.

The article leads to the following conclusions. First, the traditional opposition between methodological individualism and methodological holism is not precise enough to distinguish between different forms of the micro–macro link. Second, the argument in favour of reducing hysteresis cannot be taken as an inevitable desideratum for successful explanations because it does not take into account the informational loss of detailed explanations. Finally, we have suggested a possible naturalization of the debate. The challenge for the social sciences in the future is, precisely, to ascertain the different possible types of micro–macro relations in concrete cases, transforming a problem that has traditionally been understood in philosophical terms into the object of scientific enquiry.

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Written by learningchange

July 23, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Social complexity

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The Social Complexity of Organizational Learning: The Dynamics of Learning and Organizing

This article examines the social complexity of Organizational Learning. We built on and seek to extend recent conceptualizations of Organizational Learning that emphasize the emergent and fluid nature of learning in organizations, by drawing on some of the principles of Complexity Science. We selectively introduce two sets of principles of complexity that provide further richness to our understanding of Organizational Learning as a social complex process. The two sets of principles are ‘schemas–diversity’ and ‘interaction–interdependence’. We discuss the main characteristics of these principles of Complexity Science and show they can help us understand aspects of the social complexity of Organizational Learning. Our analysis shows that one of the main contributions of the Complexity Science perspective to understanding Organizational Learning is that it reveals more clearly the tensions that underpin learning in social contexts. We provide a re-conceptualization of tensions as revealing elasticity and not only conflict. We argue that Organizational Learning as a source of tensions keeps the organization in tension, which allows us to better capture the dynamics of learning and organizing. We conclude by outlining some issues that future OL research would address if OL is conceptualized as a dynamic complex process.

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Written by learningchange

July 23, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Complexity and Social Movements – Process and Emergence in Planetary Action Systems

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Our argument suggests that the familiar categories and concepts that have prevailed in social movement studies are no longer adequate to the global and networked character of these forces, derived as they are from rational choice theories and political exchange models. Instead, we suggest that the AGM is best understood as an expression of social and global complexity and we draw upon a neo-materialist/complexity reading of Deleuze and Guattari to make this case. The intention of this article is to unweave the strands of subjectivity, antagonism and reflexivity that animate the movement(s) arguing that ‘another world’ or, more characteristically, ‘other worlds’ are possible.  We argue that this network of individuals, groups, projects and events constitutes an ‘alter-globalization movement’ (AGM), the emergence of which has led to global institutions of finance and governance (World Trade Organization [WTO], International Monetary Fund [IMF], G8, etc.) being reframed as controversial and contested entities. As such it comprises forces constitutive of what the New York Times has called ‘the second superpower’, a ‘new power in the streets’ that is challenging both the economic orthodoxies neo-liberalism and the ‘inverted’ totalitarianism underpinned by permanent war.

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Read also: Complexity and Social Movements: Multitudes at the Edge of Chaos

Written by learningchange

July 23, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Cognitive Sociology and the Study of Human Cognition: A critical point

I base my paper on review of leading texts from the field of cognitive sociology with the attempt to compare the implicit notion of cognition with the conceptions elaborated in the field of cognitive science and allied disciplines (e.g. cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology, cognitive science of religion, cognitive archeology etc.). I will refer mainly to Cerulo, DiMaggio, Vaughan, Wakefield and Zerubavel. The exemplar issues will be presented in the course of four steps. First, I problematize the notion of cognition limited merely to habituated behavioral forms related to specific local situations as presented in a study by Vaughan. Second, I discuss the excessive focus on local structures of meaning that are conceived as one of the goals of sociology of mind presented by Zerubavel. I point out the problematic position of sociology of mind, since it draws a substantial focus on intersubjectivity defined in contrast to cognitive individualism and universalism. I present this methodological stance in relation to interpretative program of social sciences. Consequently, I show that this type of cognitive theorizing casts vital doubts on results emerging from the field itself as well as on cross-disciplinary relevancy of that investigation. Viable forms of collaboration between cultural theorizing based on interpretative and descriptive methods and cognitive science will be explained throughout the paper as well as in its final conclusion.

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Written by learningchange

July 22, 2014 at 6:39 pm

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