Outliners/agenders LO2812

Thu, 14 Sep 95 11:49:45 EST

responds to LO2787

An outline, as traditionally understood, imposes serial structure, which
is important for communication. Yet if you want to represent and
understand a system, serial structure is an unhelpful and premature
imposition. I hate "outlines", yet I use "outliner" software all day and
in as many meetings as possible. We should either generalize the meaning
of outline, to break its association with serial order, or use another
word to describe the software and what should be done with it. "Jumbler"
would emphasize movement and non-serial linkages.

I figure that a presentation that couldn't have been given in another
order, and that doesn't jump back on itself, is probably a story that
reduces systemic reality (through serial simplification) to create order
and certainty. This may be necessary for persuasive speech, but
understanding suffers. (I realize that this statement apparently
contradicts our prior dialogue on understanding through stories.)

I gave a presentation yesterday that turned out very well, partly because
my plans for making it serial and orderly were thwarted. I didn't have
time to make overhead slides, and conversation just before the
presentation induced me to insert contextual material. What I had to work
with was a marvelously huge white board. I wrote notes as I presented
segments, and interesting connections started bouncing around between the
segments. I was learning things as I talked. The academic systems
thinkers in the audience loved it, but I suspect the others were disturbed
by the untidiness and uncertainty. Perhaps that's not bad.

Richard S. Carson Assocs, Falls Church, VA