Re: Complexity, languaging and design LO1000

david swenson (
Mon, 1 May 95 10:47:24 CST

Replying to LO862 --

John (and others),

Sorry I'm replying a bit late to your posting--I've been enmired in
complexity and chaos! I like your distinction between complexity in the
mental representation AND the external event. I have another example that
might be of interest:

The "Salitsky dot" or computer generated stereogram (e.g., Magic Eye book)
presents a colorful mozaic of colored dots that hold a hidden image. The
picture appears to be random dots or sometimes vague but unrecognizable
patterns can be seen. The key is to relax the eyes while moving the image
forward and backward until the correct distance for stereoscopic closure
occurs. THEN a 3-d image emerges, often a negative one (e.g., is defined
by the space around it rather than the presence of something). I think
this is a wonderful example of how we deal with complexity/chaos.

More specifically, I think we are participating in a "cosmic soup" of
undifferentiated "stuff" which does not take form for us until perceived
(~ Schrodinger), and the act of perceiving it engages us in a relationship
with it that thereby also changes what is observed. The perception is also
not a "thing" but is defined by the relationships around it--a negative
image (or reverse gestalt).

As with the point you made (I hope I haven't gone too far afield), the
closer our internal map making ability comes to being able to shift and
reframe in relation to the outside "stuff", the closer we are to being
able to handle the complexity.

In some of my classes, I use "mutilated pictures" which are portions of
sillouette pictures. Skilled students fill in the gaps in the pictures and
see the wholes. The interesting part is that several of them see something
quite different from the original object that was fragmented, and even
concur on it. Point is: there is not necessarily an isomorphic
correspondence between our perception/conception of complexity and the
"actual" event being viewed.

Thanks for stimulating my thoughts on this!


On Fri, 21 Apr 1995 07:08:26 -0400 (ED, JOHN N. WARFIELD wrote:

>In reply to L0838, I would like to share my definition of complexity.

[...snipped by host...]
>"Complexity is a COMPONENT of the aggregate mental response that arises
>(in a given interval of time) in the human mind(s) to sensory- and
>memory-based stimuli. This response stems from purposeful inquiry into a
>SYSTEM being observed by the human presence (singular or plural). In
>particular, it is that COMPONENT which recognizes, however dimly, that the
>mind of the observer is not able to construct (using ordinary methods) a
>comprehensive model (adequate for effecting desired change) of that with
>which it has engaged.
[...snipped by host...]

David X. Swenson Ph.D. (
Associate Professor of Management
College of St. Scholastica
Duluth, MN 55811