Triadic Relations • Discussion 2

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time for building castles in the stratosphere,
A time to mind the anti-gravs that keep us here.

Re: Systems ScienceRob Young
Cf: Conceptual Barriers to Creating Integrative Universities

The aspiration to a form of knowledge ‘wisdom’ resonated with me, and, not withstanding the ‘university’ context (connotative?) the article was couched in, every time I read the word ‘university’, I mentally substituted it with ‘systems movement’ and the resonance was there.

Dear Rob,

Thanks for your comments and questions.  They took me back to the decade before the turn of the millennium when there was a general trend of thought to embrace chaos and complexity, seeking the order and simplicity on the other side.  (Oliver Wendell Holmes, but it appears in doubt whether Sr. or Jr.)

One thing I’ve learned in the mean time is just how poorly grounded and maintained are many of the abstract concepts and theories we need for grappling with the complexities of communication, computation, experimental information, and scientific inquiry.  So I’ve been doing what I can to reinforce the concrete bases and stabilize the working platforms of what otherwise tend to become empty à priori haunts.

I’ll have to be getting back to that.  For now I’ll just link to a few readings your remarks brought to mind.  The “Conceptual Barriers” paper from 2001 is the journal upgrade of a conference presentation from 1999, “Organizations of Learning or Learning Organizations : The Challenge of Creating Integrative Universities for the Next Century”.

Your reflex of jumping from universities to systems in general is very much on the mark.  Our work was motivated in large part by the movement toward Learning Organizations, that is, organizations able to apply organizational research to their own organizational development.  To put a fine point on it, all we are saying is, “Shouldn’t a University, as an Organization of Learning, also be a Learning Organization?”

Well, I had a lot more to relate at this point, but our dishwasher just went on the fritz, so I’ll leave it for now with a few links to Susan’s earlier work along these lines and try to get back to it later …

  • Scott, David K., and Awbrey, Susan M. (1993), “Transforming Scholarship”, Change : The Magazine of Higher Learning, 25(4), 38–43. Online (1) (2).
  • Papers by Susan Awbrey and David Scott • University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


  • Awbrey, S.M., and Awbrey, J.L. (2001), “Conceptual Barriers to Creating Integrative Universities”, Organization : The Interdisciplinary Journal of Organization, Theory, and Society 8(2), Sage Publications, London, UK, pp. 269–284. Abstract. Online.

cc: CyberneticsOntolog ForumPeirce ListStructural ModelingSystems Science

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