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Edward Berge has been studying all things integral since 1998. He graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English Literature from Arizona State University and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. By profession he has been a massage therapist and is a retired professional liability insurance underwriter. By avocation he is dancer, researcher, writer, and art and literary lover and critic. He is an active participant in the Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum and blogs at Progressive Participatory Enaction.

Do our models get in the way?

Edward Berge

Figure illustrating the fields that contributed to the birth of cognitive science, including linguistics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, philosophy, anthropology, and psychology (Wikipedia).
We all seem to be so attached to our own discoveries that we build an edifice and seek out and find supporting evidence to justify it.

We've seen quite a few descriptions of an emerging paradigm known as the collaborative commons (CC). But a problem arises when we take another step by extrapolating from that data and then try to prescribe what we need to do in order to create it. I.e., we form a model of what the CC should be, and top down we try to implement it. Whereas the technology that enables it to grow organically has no apparent need of this top down imposition. To the contrary, it seems more of a capitalistic holdover instead of the middle out way the CC is naturally evolving.

Bonnita Roy (2019) has noted that "In a world as diverse in people and rich in meanings as ours, big change might come from small acts by everyone operating everywhere in the contexts that already present themselves in their ordinary lives." It is quite the contrast from the enlightened heroes figuring it all out from their complex ivory towers which supposedly and hopefully 'trickles down' to the rest of us. Political and social revolution arises from the external socioeconomic system, the mode of production. Development is accomplished not by having a 'higher' model to which one must conform, but by the actual practice of operating within the emerging socioeconomic system.

Jennifer Gidley (2007) noted a similar phenomenon in that there is a difference between research that identifies postformal operations from examples of those who enact those operations. And that much of the research identifying it has itself "been framed and presented from a formal, mental-rational mode." Plus those enacting post formal operations don't "necessarily conceptualize it as such." So are those that identify postfomality via formal methodology really just a formal interpretation of what it might be? Especially since those enacting it disagree with some of the very premises of those identifying them?

The online discussions I engage on meta-models is representative of this difference. It seems the abstract modeling is what is operating to create the phenomenon in a top-down manner. Not only that, what appears to be happening in most all cases is that not only does each individual have their own thoughts and opinions on the topic, which is to be expected in diverse groups, we all end up justifying our own take over others. We all seem to be so attached to our own discoveries that we build an edifice and seek out and find supporting evidence to justify it. When confronted with different perspectives or evidence, our first inclination is to see how it fits into our own model or worldview, how we can twist and manipulate it to support our biases. What is there in common that holds us together if we are so closed to taking in new information from other perspectives, allowing them to sit in their own right, their own space, instead of trying to fit them into our own predispositions?

I'm reminded of what Said Dawlabani (2016) said, that the distributed network of the collaborative commons follows no ideologies. That it is open source, highly networked and depends on the wisdom of the crowd. I'm guessing that equally applies to our models about the CC, as we tend to idealize and attach to them. Is our ownership of our ideas more indicative of capitalism? It also seems that those who are enacting this new paradigm are doing so without need of any explicit theory or model. So is arguing about the correct theory even a necessary part of its enactment, as if like capitalism it too needs a top down elite to implement it? Are our models just getting in the way and actually counter-productive to its natural evolution?

Models are useful as long as they don't get divorced from the concrete realities they represent. It's only when a model gets divorced from that reality, lost in its abstractions as if they were from on high, that it becomes a problem. Second generation cognitive science helps us to understand that about how our own brains and minds work. It's ok to make models based on what we know, but we have to be open to change them when what we know changes, and/or the environment we're modeling changes. It's especially insidious when we make assumptions about the reality we're modeling based on (particularly mathematical) a priori axioms taken as given (by God, Plato or Aristotle).

The basis of second-generation cognitive science is a large body of empirical research that evidences a strong dependence of human reasoning on the particulars of human embodiment.

I'm also reminded of the 7 agreed upon principles of cooperatives. While the principles are consistent across cooperatives, there are differences in how those principles are enacted given different locations and contexts. There really is no "one size fits all" model across all domains. From the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) Guidance Notes to the Cooperative Principles:

"The Co-operative Principles and these Guidance Notes on their application are not a doctrine to be observed, nor are they a straightjacket on the entrepreneurial innovation of co-operatives seeking to meet their members' economic, social, cultural, and environmental needs. Innovation to meet the needs of co-operative members has always been the mother and father of co-operative enterprise and will remain so. These Guidance Notes are exactly that: guidance for co-operatives operating in different legislative jurisdictions with differing regulatory requirements, serving many different communities and cultures. The Co-operative Principles are universal, but these Guidance Notes are not intended to be prescriptive. They seek to explore and encapsulate how the underlying principles of a co-operative enterprise are to be applied in vastly different conditions to those that existed when co-operatives were first established. They are guidelines that should be interpreted by co-operatives."

Seems good advice for the CC or any model, meta or otherwise.


Dawlabani, S. (2016). "If capitalism is dead, then what?", Integral Leadership Review. Integral European Conference #IEC2016.

Gidley, J. (2007). "The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views" Integral Review 5.

"ICA guideline notes on the cooperative principles'", 3 Jan. 2017,

Roy, B. (2019). "Complex potential states: Thinking in terms of complex potential states instead of complex adaptive systems may be helpful in our times",, Jun. 27.

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