Structual Communication – An Introduction by Anthony Blake
This method was developed
by John Bennett in the late 60’s and applied to secondary education and, eventually,
to management training. In later years, it was simplified and modified to create
a method of group discussion that is, today, used in management circles. Arie
de Geus mentions it in his influential book ‘The Living Company’ though its genesis
is not recorded there.
In this introduction,
we make use of ideas that are to be found in the separate articles on Mental Energies
has evolved into logovisual technology* and has turned out to have wide-ranging
application far beyond the relatively narrow concern of the early days with teaching
in schools. It has even evolved beyond the restricted management applications
that were developed over the last twenty years. This is very much ‘work in progress’
and we can only indicate possible lines of future development.
Logovisual is a proprietary name owned by CMC, the Centre for Management Creativity,
UK. The information concerning logovisual technology should not be used without
“The data in
any given system may be recognised by everyone as the being the same. What differs
is assessment – ‘the art of handling the same bundle of data as before but placing
them in a new system of relations with one another, thus giving them a different
framework’ (to use the words of Butterfield). Nature herself builds up structures
in this way. Aristotle points out that ‘matter . . . can never exist without quality
and without form’. P. Weiss observes: ‘Take a gene out of an organism and it has
no more meaning than a particular set of cards has outside . . . a game of poker
or bridge. Both information value and function are context dependent.” Emilios
Structural communication began in research into
learning that involved understanding rather than knowing. It is the kind of learning
that includes the ability to interpret new situations in terms of principles,
or to design solutions to complex problems. It is the kind of learning drawn into
play when people enter into mastery of a subject. It is the synthesis of theory
and practice, being able to see the wood for the trees and making complex judgements.
Bennett’s own terminology of ‘mental energies’, this kind of learning involves
‘consciousness’ as opposed to the more basic reactional awareness that he called
the ‘sensitivity’. Consciousness is able to ‘see the whole’ and not get lost in
the parts. It is able to entertain alternative views of the same situation and
consider them together. There are four ‘mental energies’, including the ‘automatic’
that operates below the threshold of our awareness and the ‘creative’ that operates
above this threshold. The model provides a useful descriptive framework.
in parts, while consciousness deals in wholes. Creativity brings something new,
while automatism repeats the old.
Further to this concern Bennett and his
co-workers made experiments in levels of consciousness involved in reading. It
was found that we engage with a given text at various levels of mental energy,
fluctuating from moment to moment. This meant that there were (according to Bennett’s
model) four distinct kinds of reading:
level – reading without any awareness of what is read – the words are there but
they are not ‘meaning’ anything
2. sensitive level – reading that registers
the meaning of the words in terms of the network of associations the reader has
– the reader can verify he is reading correctly
3. conscious level – the reader
is able to separate his own set of meanings from that of the author and able to
compare them – this is the level of understanding at which he can ‘meet the author
4. creative level – the reader transforms what he reads into
a deeper meaning than either he or the author had before
we were able to sustain reading at the conscious level, structural communication
would be superfluous. Gurdjieff pointed out to his pupil Ouspensky that he ‘could
not read’ – even the books he had written himself. This meant that he was unable
to read consciously. Needless to say, it is often the case that what is being
read is not even at the sensitive level!
position was that consciousness could be evoked by appropriate challenge. This
meant that some task was created that could not be met by an automatic response,
nor even a sensitive one (that is, a ‘reaction’). The studies found that even
well-educated people could not refrain from reacting to what they read, which
tended to obscure the insight available from the text. Like and dislike were tyrants.
Hence there appeared a need for some artifice by which readers could be challenged
in such a way that their usual reactions were suspended, making them capable of
learning at a conscious level.
kind of learning was taken to be represented in the small group tutorial. In the
tutorial, the students do not simply learn to recite information and practice
techniques – the very way they think is challenged. As the tutor and student converse,
the tutor does not simply ask questions and tell the students whether they are
right or wrong; he involves them in a dialogue that broadens their grasp of the
subject. Whatever the students come out with, they are challenged to go further.
Bennett’s aim was to simulate the conditions of the
small group tutorial in a way that could be programmed in advance and administered
at a distance without the actual presence of the tutor.
His first breakthrough was in
seeing that there needed to be a common language to interface between tutor-at-a-distance
and student. In the small group tutorial, the students have to acquire a working
language in order to enter into dialogue with the tutor. They must know what is
meant by technical terms – such as ‘entropy’ in physics – and also by references
to events – such as ‘Henry VIII’s formation of a new church organisation’ in Tudor
history. They must have ‘read up’ about such things. For any given topic there
will be a ‘universe of discourse’ that tutor and student must share, even though
the tutor’s knowledge will be far more extensive.
with this insight was the realisation that such a working language could be constituted
out of a set of discrete elements, each of which represented a key piece of information
relevant to the universe of discourse. For any given topic, about twenty or so
such items were found sufficient to give an adequate working language. A useful
way of thinking about these items is as ‘molecules of meaning’ – ‘molecules’ because
they could be fitted together to make larger wholes supporting interpretations,
designs, etc. Because the working language was to be composed of a set of MMs
(molecules of meaning), they needed to be of much the same type, or on the same
level of abstraction. To illustrate the point: the method came to be used in the
analysis of case studies in management education, when the working language was
composed of facts pertaining to the case.
terms, any text can be reduced to a set of MMs that contain nearly all the information
it contains. If we know what the MMs mean, then we know the text and what it is
about. This is the first level of learning (at the ‘sensitive’ level).
The second breakthrough was to realise
that we could ask questions capable of being ‘answered’ or responded to in terms
of a selection of a sub-set of MMs from the total. A crude but useful analogy
is with a court of law in which the same evidence is used by both sides of the
dispute to argue different points of view. Prosecution and defence will select
evidence to make their case in different ways. What is minimised or dismissed
by one side can be emphasised and made significant by the other. Thus, the same
MMs (supposedly ‘facts’) are given different values according to point of view.
In the simplest form of structural communication,
the author-tutor would create questions such that he could programme the system
to detect understanding and misunderstanding by means of tests of inclusion and
exclusion. He gave meaning to sub-sets of the MMs in terms of relevance to questions.
Say he wanted his students to express the essence of the second law of thermodynamics.
If they failed to mention entropy then they were sure to be missing something
important out. On the other hand, if they included something like specific heat
they were also missing the point, because it is basically irrelevant. So, for
any question created by the author-tutor, he could divide the MMs into two or
three sub-sets. One set would consist of those factors that should be included.
A second would consist of those that should be excluded. There could be a third
set of MMs that were indifferent either way.
this can be made as complex as one likes. There will be some MMs that are more
important than others, or absolutely essential. Others could be relevant but of
lesser importance. Similarly, there could be MMs that would demonstrate serious
misunderstanding and others that would only indicate a small confusion. More than
that, there could be MMs that had to be considered together as a whole. For example,
the second law of thermodynamics does not only indicate an increase of entropy
in any change but also requires the understanding that this applies only in a
closed system. The one without the other is inadequate. So, we could also seek
to test for total inclusion of the essential items and allow for only partial
inclusion of secondary ones.
The testing of inclusion
and exclusion was conducted by a series of diagnostic tests. According to the
result of the test on the student’s response, so the author-tutor prepares a corresponding
comment. This need not simply tell him whether he was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It could
give him or her further food for thought and a chance to try again. The student
is left ‘suspended’ giving him or her opportunity to make another step.
this way, the student would be taken through a series of ‘moves’, learning by
about 1967 to 1970, the method was applied to teaching chemistry, physics, mathematics,
history, leadership, case studies, etc. first in schools and then in management
training. The educational application followed a set pattern:
– stating the purpose of the work
PRESENTATION – giving descriptive information
on the topic
ARRAY – A set of twenty or so MMs drawn from the presentation
arranged without any obvious order
INVESTIGATION – usually four questions
calling for interpretations that could be expressed by a subset of the array
DIAGNOSTICS – the logical tests of inclusion and exclusion
COMMENTS – the
further statements relevant to the outcomes of the tests
OVERVIEW – a statement
returning to the intention and articulating the basic principles of the topic
This seven-fold scheme proved an excellent
vehicle for the method. It allowed the student to explore the inner structure
of the topic and come to see how the MMs related to each other in deeper and more
subtle meanings than those that appear on the surface. The ‘flat’ surface of the
array acquired depth. In a qualified sense, the student gained his or her understanding
by doing something with the information with which they were provided.
disorder or randomness of the MMs in the array left it up to the student to discover
the ‘hidden order’ that lay behind it. The step of understanding involved may
be likened to how an ‘autostereogram’ first appears as a random set of dots and
then reveals an image in three dimensions.
of the author-tutor was considerable. Take the creation of the questions. These
had to be designed, as far as possible, such that every MM was involved in at
least one of them as an ‘essential’. This could be extended so that every MM played
a different role in every question: strong inclusion, weak inclusion, strong exclusion
and weak exclusion.
THE NEXT STEP
essential nature of the method hinged on having a ‘flat’ interface – the array
– in which every MM appears on the same level as any other. The interactive process
was designed to enable the student to share in the ‘depth’ of meaning behind this
It became obvious that the process of constructing
a piece of structural communication was far more demanding and rewarding than
just interacting with it. This is because the construction required creative energy,
postulated as above consciousness. The author-tutor had to act on the creative
level, so that the participating student could act on a conscious level. The conscious
level, in its turn, could serve to organise the knowledge acquired at the sensitive
If a first level learning takes place in sensitivity,
then a second level learning takes place in consciousness and a third level in
Research began into how it might be possible
for students to engage in the construction process and be ‘creative’. This meant
that they had to be involved in creating the array of MMs and also in the generation
of questions as well as their interpretations. This work was led by Tony Hodgson,
a student of John Bennett.
move in this direction was made possible by means of the device of magnetic hexagons
that could be written on and affixed to a metal-backed white board. One such technology
is called MagNotes. Such hexagons could be placed and removed, written on and
erased. A group meeting in discussion could work together to build their own common
language. According to circumstance, they could be as precise or vague in their
terminology as they cared to be.
In relation to their
array of MMs, the group could raise questions, such as: ‘What are the factors
that have a bearing on our mission?’ or ‘What represents the obstacles to change?’
and so on. In response to such questions, the group could select and ‘cluster’
the hexagons. Hexagon shapes were used because they fit together well in clusters.
If different people had different views, then they could discuss the issues involved
by reference to their common language. This meant that they could be more objective
in their exchanges. In a verbal conversation, even supported by flip-charts, there
can be no common language, so confusion is likely. By having the exchange based
on moving the hexagons about into different clusters, they could more easily see
how each other was thinking. It also involved the participants in a physical activity
of movement and manipulation that facilitated learning by engaging more of the
By this means, the essentials of structural
communication were made available to the participant for him to work at as he
or she pleased. The main application was to groups, because in this way a variety
of interpretations was made available to all. The creation of the working language
required consensus but the investigation brought differences to the surface.
to say, the working of this method very much depended – and depends – on the quality
of facilitation brought to bear. It is more than useful to have present someone
who is versatile in the techniques. Here we have a paradox: the same system that
enables people to find out for themselves enables someone of understanding to
better educate them. The method is a powerful tool in providing an interface between
people identified with partial views and someone who is not. Below, we refer to
Chris Argyris’ statement of four kinds of mentality, which needs to be mentioned
here because it supports the point we have made. In this scheme, the fourth mentality
– ‘structural’ – is capable of navigating between a variety of subjective views
because it is operating in more dimensions than they are individually.
has, therefore, become a tool for consultants that is becoming more and more used.
The master of facilitation can be said to work in ‘unitive energy’, which has
been called by Patrick de Mare koinonia or impersonal fellowship (also see later).
This fellowship is more than a feeling since it engages the capacity to see the
‘sameness’ in diverse views.
is mental concentration and this can be greatly facilitated by the technique applied
by a single person to examine his or her own thoughts. We are used to relying
on the ‘screen of the mind’ – the sensitive energy according to Bennett – to display
to ourselves what we are thinking, assisted perhaps by writing things down. Structural
communication provides a complex mode of display that enables us to see more of
our thinking at any one time than is possible by either – internal or external
– of these means. We could also say that structural communication goes some way
towards displaying the holistic or right-brained view of things.
are single-user forms of magnetic hexagons by which we can write down what we
know and then examine the meaning of combinations and connections of what we know.
Being able to do this in a two-dimensional way is a great advance.
engagement of structural communication with information technology began in the
early days. Working in collaboration with the then GEEC company, an electro-mechanical
device called the Systemaster was invented. This was in an era before the pocket
calculator and well before the wide-spread use of PCs. The Systemaster machine
could be ‘programmed’ to search for inclusions and exclusions in the student’s
response. This response was made by keying in the numbers (1 to 20) attached to
the MMs. This enabled the information handled by the machine to be very simple,
involving only these numbers and not the content of the MMs themselves. Needless
to say, the device was cumbersome and far from user-friendly and never came into
the year 2000, structural communication was adapted by Jason Joslyn (in collaboration
with Anthony Blake) for use on the Web through the technologue developed by him.
By this time, the technique of using magnetic hexagons had acquired its own software
(one version is called Visual Concept). This was partly driven by the wish to
have a permanent record of the structures evolved during discussions. It was also
needed for people wishing to follow up an investigation with each other at a distance.
full application of the original system is eminently suited for highly structured
subject matter in which a variety of modes of understanding have come to be accepted.
It is less suited to a free exchange of views. The kind of ‘random’ exchange that
manifests over the Internet does not encourage the reflective and co-operative
work of establishing a common language. It is not impossible, only very difficult.
Work is in progress to realise this potential.
organisation of knowledge has become a burning issue. Structural communication
affords a way of communicating in depth that lends itself to this work
structural communication links with systematics (see the separate article under
that name). In systematics, we strive to make clear which system we are working
in. A system is defined by means of the number of terms of which it is composed.
One person may be concerned with relationships – and hence the triad – while another
may be concerned with order – and hence the tetrad, and so on. If they do not
know what each other is about, they can mis-communicate. However, if they are
working with a common set of MMs it is readily apparent whether they are working
in triads, tetrads or whatever because they are selecting three MMs or four MMs
Borreden – also a one time student of John Bennett – has produced a pioneering
piece of work by using a software based on the technique of using magnetic hexagons
to analyse the structures of meaning in a book on ‘mentoring’. Her conclusions
make use of triads and it is clearly visible what her intentions and modes of
thought are. This has led us to suppose that we might consider writing books in
a form of structural communication right from the start. Such a ‘book’ could then
become available on the web in suitable form. It would fulfil the now largely
lost promise of hypertext.
All such techniques are
artificial means made necessary by the fact that we are incapable of sustaining
reading on the conscious level. It is significant that most people find the suggestion
that they cannot read offensive. Because of this, they will tend to refuse to
adopt the disciplines offered and reject them as unnecessary and confining. Such
reactions are typical of the sensitive level. New methods are only adopted by
people who have seen that they are needed.
The various ventures that have stemmed
from the early days of structural communication have now converged into the realisation
of a diverse genus or method called logovisual technology.
idea of logovisual technology has emerged out of a collaboration between Anthony
Blake and John Varney, Director of the Centre for Management Creativity (CMC)
We have come to realise that there is a whole genus of methods and inventions,
inclusive of such CMC products as MagNotes, and ranging beyond them. We think
the recognition of this genus of methodology is important and will serve to accelerate
and spread the use of such methods. Most significantly, it might enable practitioners
in different fields to see what they have in common and managers to understand
that there is a shift in our working language and culture taking place.
term ‘logovisual’ refers to ‘meanings made visible’. Logovisual technology is
anything that puts meanings on display so that they can be handled. The technology
can be based on very simple means – such as the ubiquitous post-its – but it can
extend into use of computer software. Such technologies are now being introduced
as part of such methods as TRIZ, mind-mapping, problem-based learning, Metaplan,
scenario planning, structural communication, and so on and involve artefacts such
as post-its, MagNotes and Visual Concept software.
essential features of logovisual technology are easy to define:
Thoughts are turned into tangible objects
2. These objects can be displayed
and manipulated on surfaces
3. They can be combined, grouped, clustered, ordered
or otherwise arranged to reveal or express patterns
call ‘thoughts turned into objects’ molecules of meaning or MMs for short. The
pronunciation of MM – as ’emem’ – turns out to be the reverse of meme, which is
the technical term for a unit of meaning as in meme theory. Turning a problem,
a situation, a topic, an issue, or whatever into a set of MMs is the first crucial
step. The set of ‘molecules’ can then be selected from to build into more complex
Imagine a board full of MagNotes – magnetic
backed hexagons written on. This is like a ‘knowledge soup’ and can be drawn upon
to make new kinds of knowledge. If a group has assembled the MMs, then it also
constitutes their common language. Though they might continue to talk and associate
ideas together, this is accompanied by and represented in the common language
by moving, assembling and structuring MMs – making the thinking visible. The term
‘knowledge soup’ suggests the metaphor of amino acids that can be assembled into
specific purpose proteins. It is highly significant that some recent trends in
computing science are towards physical biological processes and away from software
programming in the old sense.
Having the MMs on display,
so that they can be seen and handled, makes it easier to look for patterns. MMs
fit together as ‘opposite trends’, ‘relationships, ‘machines’, ‘cycles’, ‘structures’
and so on. Combinations of MMs can be used to capture new insights, diagnoses,
Logovisual technology optimally involves
‘multiboarding’ – the use of three or more distinct display surfaces. These fulfil
the following roles:
1. Stores and displays the knowledge
soup: the common language, the pieces of the game play, the molecules of meaning.
Brings selections from the knowledge soup into conjunction as systems of meaning,
or more complex wholes, as the investigation, working process or game unfolds.
3. Displays and records the synthesis of systems,
providing links with supporting documentation and illustration.
2 can provide a ‘game arena’ allowing for the unfolding of a space of contention,
with contrasting views. Board 3 then represents a higher space of synthesis, in
which contention is resolved in co-operation.
metaphor of a ‘game’ is used because the MMs are just like pieces in a board game.
In a single-boarded version of logovisual technology, the MM pieces can be arranged
around the periphery of a white board and ‘brought into play’ by different people
making different selections and combinations to make their point in the centre
region. The interesting thing is that we can move from the more usual competitive
mode to a co-operative one.
is here to stay and will become more and more widely accepted as it enters into
everyday working practice. It need not be tied to any one specific method because
it is a tool or medium for people to use as they need just as pen and paper might
be. However, it promises a step in mutual understanding, because the very ‘shape’
and construction of our ideas can begin to be made visible to each other.
idea of logovisual technology is reflecting back into computer-based applications,
where we are looking for ways of applying technologue to allow for the colouring
of MMs to simulate the physical operations experienced by handling the more tangible
pieces such as MagNotes.
is more than curious that the number of MMs we came to use – about twenty – is
identical with the optimum number – according to Patrick de Mare – for a median
group. The size of such a group is determined by the requirement that everyone
can see all the others and be able to say something within the span of an hour
or so. In the same way, the array of MMs is such that a ‘reader’ going through
the structural communication process can at least ‘feel’ the mutual relevance
of every one of them with every one of the others.
in the dialogue process of the median group, the mutualities of the MMs break
up into smaller sub-sets, dealt with one after another. Still it is just possible
to attain a sense of the whole. This is because we allow consciousness to come
into play. There has to be an alert relaxation and atmosphere of trust.
An application of logovisual technology,
in the form of hexagonal post-it notes, is being tried out in Burma. People get
together to discuss issues based on arrays of MMs that can utilise any available
surface – even curtains! In this application, we are seeing something of the same
nature as the public display systems adopted, for example, in China, where available
boards in parks or other public spaces can be used by the polis to post ideas
The idea of the ‘public space’
or ‘forum’ is well known but it gains considerably by having a suitable technology
that allows people to display MMs and arrange them in patterns. The simple means
of having tangible MMs that can be moved around makes a great difference.
communication may be nothing new, only a creative revival of something that was
widely prevalent amongst the learned centuries ago. In our present age, education
has sunk to such low levels that it is rare to find any example of structural
communication in it. In management circles, also in the 60’s, Chris Argyris produced
an important paper in the Harvard Business Review outlining his conception of
four modes of thought:
1. Black and white mentality.
There is only true and false, right and wrong.
2. Gradated mentality. There
are greys of more or less true, more or less right.
3. Relative mentality.
My view is mine and yours is yours and stem from our subjectivity.
mentality. We can navigate from view point to view point through understanding.
this scheme, mentalities 1 and 2 refer to the automatic and sensitive levels,
while mentalities 3 and 4 refer to the conscious and creative levels. Needless
to say, it is only the fourth kind of mentality that feels at home with structural
communication! This raises the question of how it is possible to bring at least
some of its wealth to people who seem to lack this fourth kind?
when we do not have clearly discrete units in the ‘language’ the same principles
apply. Think, for example, of a good painting. Though this cannot be crudely divided
into different parts, nevertheless there is a sense in which we feel every feature
of it as relevant to every other. Thus the good painting forms a whole. The same
applies to a good piece of music, or to a poem.
is no reason to reject structure in art, though this has been obscured in the
present commercial climate of the art world. If we go back to ancient and sacred
texts, recent studies have shown that they are highly structured, usually composed
of twelve to twenty ‘verses’ or parts, strongly cross-connected with each other.
Simon Weightman, another student of John Bennett, is currently showing that such
a structure exists in the great poem of Rumi called the Mathnawi. The superficial
audience will only register the text in a linear order. A more sophisticated one
– ‘in the know’ – will also register the inner connectivities – that is, in depth.
Thinking in Process
one is used to a logovisual medium, it can become a natural part of any discussion
or investigation. In this mode, all that is entailed in the construction and execution
of the original structural communication method is brought into play. What emerges
is a complementary mode of thinking in which the discrete – MMs – is combined
with the continuous – the flow of talking. In scientific circles, it is common
to have both equations and free discourse combined together. The equations are
like MMs – and it is apparent that such MMs are selected, brought into play, combined
and altered as the conversation evolves. It can be all-important to be able to
register the various stages in the conversation as insights are brought to expression
and given form.
The dual-level nature of scientific
conversation gives it its power. The conversation is anchored on definitive elements
of meaning that are understood by all involved and give it a common base. It is
now being understood that this dual-level structure is the key to creative collaboration.
Naturally enough, this ‘thinking in process’ – even
though it can be conducted on table napkins! – is best served by having a number
of boards that allow for different spaces of work. Whole rooms can be designed
to allow for complex conversations, including having available PCs for the expedient
recording of significant stages in the discussion.
without PCs (and appropriate software) the very nature of the display of MMs facilitates
memory of significant ideas. It is being found that the bare memory of a significant
combination can serve to remind the participants of what they were thinking in
making it. This is much more effective than trying to remember what was said in
the course of the conversation. We can therefore claim that logovisual technology
is making a new contribution to the recording of ideas. It is useful to note that
this facility resonates with the practice, centuries ago, of the art of memory.
A Simple Example
To illustrate the basic method,
we will take some single words, all of the same kind, as our MMs and see what
they can mean in combination. These MMs are possible answers to the question:
What are the basic actions that make us what we are? This gives us our monad to
use a term from systematics, the world of our discourse.
question by which we generate the MMs can be called the ‘zeroth question’!
questions draw out sub-sets to represent the ‘hidden’ organisation and meaning
of the MMs.
can now examine these in sub-sets to bring out the implicit structures of meaning
that are enfolded in them – to use David Bohm’s terminology – by means of a set
of further questions.
1. What reflects ‘awareness
in action’? The essential factors form a triad:
This applies when we are simply activating our own
bodies. Another triadic interpretation:
when we are concerned with interacting with
the world around us. We can see at once that the two interpretations correspond
to each other (they are arranged to show this) and that seeing and visualising
are linked, as are knowing and sensing.
2. What are
the key factors in participating in dialogue? There is a basic three-term system
as in dialogue requires the combination of both caring for others and the power
of expressing oneself.
3. How can I ‘suspend time’?
Since this refers to something that is sustained, it is likely to be a tetrad,
is an exercise in which I bring my attention into my breathing and sustain it.
This can lead to the experience of time stopping. The breath is not stopped, but
any sense of change is.
4. How can I build up an
inner energy for my being? Again, this could be a four-term system, such as:
If I bring myself into a stillness and blend
different energies in the containment of this stillness, then they make a new
substance that ‘feeds my being’ or my inner life.
illustration is worked out in a simplistic way, and we do not provide any ‘corrective’
diagnostics for less than optimal responses (or selections of sub-sets). Neither
do the groupings we exhibit overlap very much. In a more developed version, the
meaning of these sixteen words would be expounded upon and the ground prepared
for considering such questions. However, what we have shown should be enough to
give you some idea of how structural communication works. It should be easily
seen how this method gives depth to a communication. Even when the reader may
not be at all sure about what the author intends, the structure is rich enough
to evoke corresponding experiences in him or her and lead them into an active
contemplation of them.
B. Complexity in the
In our simple example, the MMs or elements
of the array were just single words. They can be far more complex. Here are four
of the MMs that were used in a structural communication text on Thermal Physics,
to illustrate the point:
the number of antinodes
in the range of
ionized often emits its
The array contained statements, definitions
and equations. However, in this universe of discourse, all could be taken as on
the same level. With such richly informative MMs, it was possible to discuss,
for example, how the photoelectric effect could be explained in terms of quantum
mechanics. The student could have the direct experience of adding ideas together
to make a greater whole. This was the kind of thing foremost in Leibniz’s ‘Universal
Calculus’ (see brief mention in article on Systematics).
more complex MMs could be used. For example, in reviewing ‘The Foundations of
Wittgenstein’s Philosophy’ by Ernst Konrad Specht, we used an array composed of
twenty statements from Wittgenstein’s own writings (in the journal Systematics
Vol. 7, No. 2). We give some of them here (together with their numbers – see the
comment above on the Systemaster machine) to illustrate what we mean.
Is it even an advantage 6.
The ostensive definition
19. . . . if things were
to replace an indistinct
explains the use – the
quite different from
by a distinct one? meaning
– of the word
what they actually are
Isn’t the indistinct one
when the overall role of
. . . this would make
often exactly what
words in the language our
games lose their point.
The reader was
invited to do such things as find the subset [of statements from the array] which
illustrates Wittgenstein’s criticism of the atomic view. He or she could then
compare his assessment with Specht’s through a series of diagnostics and also
receive further commentary from another view than Specht’s.
more complex the MMs, the more subtle the interpretation of their combinations.
This example shows how structural communication is very much the same as reading
at a conscious level.
C. Example based on this
We can reflect on the ideas and experiences
expressed in this very article by means of a structural communication approach.
We will keep the MMs fairly simple. Of course, the selection of the MMs for the
array is somewhat arbitrary since we have no specific target audience. The rows
and columns of the array do not signify any order of connection between the MMs.
As we said at the beginning, their arrangement is deliberately random.
linear order of the text is followed by the ‘zero’ order of the array, and the
process of structural communication then reveals the integrative order of the
meaning of the text. We will not provide actual diagnostic test but some sets
of inclusion and exclusion from which they would be made.
Intention of communication
Subsets of the array
|4. Meaning in
Suspension of reaction
|8. Computer simulation
|9. Group discussion
Consciousness evoked through challenge
Points of view
or molecular nature of MMs
Reading with understanding
[True] dialogue process
|18. Levels of
mental operation [energies]
Physical movement of the MMs
Equi-value of all MMsin the array
How can structural communication accommodate a variety of points of view?
technical points: 2 + 7 + 20 these form a group of ideas that underpin the technique
Ancillary points: 6 + 14 refer to the example of different people using different
Relevant points: 5, 9, 16 these are MMs that refer to the kind
of process involved
Misunderstanding: 1, 8, 12, or 19 show the point of the
question has not been grasped
Irrelevant points: 3, 4, 10, 12 etc.
What is the rationale for structural communication?
points: 4 + 5 + 10 + 15 + 18 it is to enable people to read with understanding
through a challenge that evokes consciousness and in the suspension of reaction
Misunderstanding: 8, 12, 19
original venture of structural communication gave way to the invention of more
open-ended techniques and has, in recent years, metamorphosed into logovisual
technology. This is more of a medium of thinking rather than any set method. Anyone
who recognises the need to work at mutual understanding and co-operation can now
appreciate the value of this new medium.
in the paradigm of structural communication has come about. Instead of taking
the ideal case of the tutor and the small group, we are more into picturing it
as a creative game. The physical aspect of logovisual technology has come to the
fore. There is even work being done on making the computer interface more physical,
so that the concrete movements made by people using MagNotes can be simulated
in using a PC.
The medium is also being explored
as an aid to more effective conversation through email. Email exchange is bedevilled
by excess of words and the problem of keeping track of diverse and divergent lines
of thought. The indications are that once people have experienced the facility
offered them by the discipline of MMs and display in patterns, they can rapidly
become adroit in this new medium and use it as a matter of course in conducting
‘conscious conversations’. Research is being done into how to facilitate this
in the email domain.
The new units of meaning made
by combining MMs are called ‘toponomes’. The word ‘toponomics’ means the ‘rules
of arrangement’. A toponome is a combination of MMs that shows a pattern of meaning.
The concept draws heavily on our sister discipline of systematics. Once acquired
as a practice that has become natural and easy, the use of toponomes becomes a
familiar part of language. It is a part that encourages a perception of wholeness
and resonates with what has been considered as ‘sacred geometry’.
The original structural communication research
was documented in the journal Systematics Vol. 4 no. 4 and Vol. 5 no. 3 in 1967.
From this work, a series of structural communication textbooks were published
on topics including organic chemistry, Tudor history and Thermal Physics. These
‘study units’ were extensively tested in schools. Samples of some of them are
to be found on www.structuralcommunication.org. Management
case studies put into structural communication form by Tony Hodgson were published
in the Harvard Business Review.
hexagons and boards may be obtained from CMC – go to
www.logovisual.com – also
an equivalent software called ‘Visual Concept’. CMC is a management consultancy
and network developed by John Varney, yet another student of John Bennett.