Integral Review

A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal For New Thought, Research, and Praxis

Posts Tagged ‘knowledge building.’

Using Developmental Theory: When Not to Play Telephone Games

Sara Nora Ross

Abstract: As a powerful way to help understand the behaviors of people and social groupings of all kinds, developmental stage theory attracts attention and use outside of purely academic environments. These uses take the form of written materials and many kinds of interventions. The level of accuracy of developmental theory information generated and used outside of academe demonstrates wide variety. This variety is reflected in materials and interventions. The information used in materials and interventions becomes increasingly distorted as it becomes further removed from original theoretical sources. This has major implications for the ethics and expertise issues that are inherent in applied developmental theory. A classification scheme of information-use behaviors, many of which contribute to distortion processes, is used to code actual cases of creating and disseminating distorted developmental theory information, invoking the metaphor of telephone games. Case evidence indicates that casual, illustrative figures in a 2006 book by Wilber were used by others for various serious and theoretical purposes, and resulted in major distortions of developmental theory. Wilber’s figures represent problematic issues and errors, including distortion of theory, if they are used—as they indeed were—for any purpose more serious than his original purpose. Stemming from those issues and errors, a highly distorted picture of cognitive development and a pseudo-version of Commons and Richards’ Model of Hierarchical Complexity theory emerged, telephone game-like, in the cases discussed. Errors were widely propagated on the internet. Because outside of academe, specialized expertise in developmental theory is difficult to acquire, the sub-field of applied developmental theory requires not only accurate information but also strong communication ethics to govern behaviors of information providers. Such providers need to protect themselves at the same time they protect and inform consumers of their information. This process of knowledge sharing and knowledge building can be shaped by adopting guidelines and a basic operating principle proposed here. Guidelines and principles, without institutionalization, are insufficient support. A new Institute of Applied Developmental Theory could provide the supports, standards, and effectiveness the sub-field of applied developmental theory needs if its power to address 21st century challenges, which sorely need it, is to be realized.

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Collaborative Knowledge Building and Integral Theory: On Perspectives, Uncertainty, and Mutual Regard

Tom Murray

Abstract: Uncertainty in knowing and communicating affect all aspects of modern life. Ubiquitous and inevitable uncertainty, including ambiguity and paradox, is particularly salient and important in knowledge building communities. Because knowledge building communities represent and evolve knowledge explicitly, the causes, effects, and approaches to this “epistemological indeterminacy” can be directly addressed in knowledge building practices. Integral theory’s approach (including “methodological pluralism”) involves accepting and integrating diverse perspectives in ways that transcend and include them. This approach accentuates the problems of epistemological indeterminacy and highlights the general need to deal creatively with it. This article begins with a cursory analysis of textual dialogs among integral theorists, showing that, while integral theory itself points to leading-edge ways of dealing with epistemological indeterminacy, the knowledge building practices of integral theorists, by and large, exhibit the same limitations as traditional intellectual discourses. Yet, due to its values and core methods, the integral theory community is in a unique position to develop novel and more adequate modes of inquiry and dialog. This text explores how epistemological indeterminacy impacts the activities and products of groups engaged in collaborative knowledge building. Approaching the issue from three perspectives–mutual understanding, mutual agreement, and mutual regard—I show the interdependence of those perspectives and ground them in relation to integral theory’s concerns. This article proposes three phases of developing constructive alternatives drawn from the knowledge building field: awareness of the phenomena, understanding the phenomena, and offering some tools (and some hope) for dealing with it. Though here I focus on the integral theory community (or communities), the conclusions of the article are meant to be applicable to any knowledge building community, and especially value-oriented groups who see themselves fundamentally as working together to benefit humanity.

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