Thomas Fischer’s Paper Proposal

The Role of Listening and Non-Listening in the Formation of Organizational Hierarchies

In his book Tractatus Paradoxico-Philosophicus Uribe presents an oscillator (in section I.17), which alternates between two states (say ON and OFF) at a frequency that is easily observable (say in the form of a blinking light) for human observers (say 1Hz). The oscillator has an output and an input. The output channel sends a very short trigger signal at the moment the oscillator changes from its ON state to its OFF state. When the oscillator receives such a triggering signal on its input channel, it immediately resets its timer to the beginning of its ON cycle. If two such oscillators are connected to each other (the input channel of each to the output channel of the other), the two oscillators will, from the viewpoint of a human observer, soon display a stable alternating oscillation at which one oscillator is ON and the other is OFF for one second, then one oscillator is OFF and the other is ON for one second and so on (the blinking light will appear to jump back and forth). Similar oscillators with four input channels and four output channels can be used to achieve such oscillations in two-dimensional arrays and similar oscillators with six input channels and six output channels can be used to achieve such oscillations in three-dimensional arrays. Larger arrays require progressively more “negotiation” time until the overall back-and-forth oscillation between any two neighboring oscillators is synchronized. In the process of synchronization all oscillators of the described design are playing identical roles and have equal impact on the overall synchronization progress. This process of synchronization can be regarded as a radically simplified metaphor for human organization amongst individuals of identical power, i.e. no hierarchy amongst the individuals before, during and after synchronization. In my proposed paper I would like to explore this metaphor further and investigate how the broadcasting or not broadcasting of the trigger signal and how the listening or non-listening for trigger signals from neighboring oscillators affect the formation of causal (power) relationships and hierarchical structures amongst oscillators. I expect this exploration to be interesting when viewed as a metaphor for the role of human speaking and non-speaking as well as human listening and non-listening in the formation of hierarchies in organizations of humans. I will implement related software and/or hardware experiments to discuss in my paper and, as far as practically possible, also to show at the conference.

“Listening” may be regarded as a homonym, referring to listening as in paying careful, open-minded attention to something new or to paying obedient attention to instruction. These two understandings are directly opposed to another since listening according to one or the two understandings precisely precludes listening according to the perceived other understanding.

3 Responses to Thomas Fischer’s Paper Proposal

  1. Larry Richards says:

    I’m not sure where this is going, Tom, but I like the point I think you are making: there are many ways of listening, some of which are contradictory–you can’t do both at the same time. Perhaps your idea of an oscillator could be useful here: alternate back and forth between (or among) ways of listening. Perhaps this is itself a way of listening, just based on a logic not as familiar as our everyday logic, one that challenges mainstream notions of temporality. The choice of way of listening transfers the power of spoken words from the speaker to the listener, for which there must be implications for the formation of hierarchies in organizations.

  2. Ranulph Glanville says:

    I like your generalisation of listening, which is certainly the way I thought of listening when it was chosen as the conference theme.

    I guess your point is that whether you are listening or not-listening can be modelled and may more important than the message. A sort of reworking of the medium is the message?

  3. Thomas Fischer says:

    Thank you both for your comments. I am aware that the current version of my paper proposal is not addressing Listening exactly as expected. I merely regard it as a starting point. I like Larry’s comments and will keep thinking about them. Ranulph: I do not claim that I am modelling listening (the subjective experience). I am modelling populations of pixels which interrelate in analogy to either of the two modes of listening I describe above, allowing an observer of these populations to notice quite distinct overall patterns.

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