The Struggle of Narratives-Attempting to Visualize It
Project Description

Background
However else we characterize the current world situation, we must acknowledge that we are involved in a struggle of worldviews (or as some have called it, a "struggle of narratives"). It may not be a Huntington's "clash of civilizations" but it is most certainly a struggle of ideas. Among the topics we considered in this project are:

Our Project
Our project has been developing new ways of graphically analyzing and portraying aspects of this struggle of narratives and its consequences. The linked pages are some of the results of this project.

Table of Contents
1. Globalization.
This is an introductory icon that suggests that globalization is not a smooth process, but rather more like a can of worms or Medusa's head. (PDF)
2. Clash of Narratives and Worldviews. This diagram shows the class of traditional cultures with modernization and globalization. (PDF)
3. Western-Islamic Worldview conflicts. This diagram is a more detailed view of the Clash of Narratives between (a) Western Constitutional/Democratic/Capitalistic Ideology, (b) Traditional Islamic Beliefs, and (c) Militant Islamic Beliefs. (PDF)
4. Struggle of Narratives. This is a sketch for a new diagram that separates the different "levels" of the struggle into (a) Narratives and worldviews (b) Key players and their messages (c) World media, and (d) Battlefield on the ground. (PDF)
5. The New Fog of War - A Battle of Messages. This diagram details some of the messages that have arisen in the current Islamic militant vs. Western nations struggle. (PDF)
6. The creation of modern jihad ideology . This is a new type of knowledge map that portrays the structure of ideologies through a network of "therefores." The map is applied to explain the development of the modern idea of jihad in Islam by Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979), Pakistani journalist, politician, writer and Sayyid A. Qutb (1906-1966), Egyptian militant leader, writer. (PDF)
7. Dynamics of the War of Narratives. (PDF)
8. Models for Conflict and Terrorism - Psychological / Sociological. This is an overview diagram that identifies (a) Social-psychological models, (b) Psychological models, (c) Multi-generational trauma transmission models, (d) Organizational models, (e) Religious belief models, (f) Ideological models, (g) Political repression models, (h) Political-economic models, (I) Rapid disruptive social change models, (j) (Evolutionary psychology models, (k) Group identity models, and l) Historical evidence models. (PDF)
9. Dilemma of constitutional democracies defending against disguised attacks from non-state sources. This "dilemma diagram" spells out a major dilemma of Western democracies as they face terrorists. (PDF)
10. Dilemma of lethal and non-lethal force. This "dilemma diagram" spells out another significant problem facing Western democratic leaders. (PDF)
11. Needed-New Maps for a New War of Narratives. This is a short (two page) essay on the rationale for the visualization and diagrams we have done in the Struggle of Narratives project. (PDF)

Wicked problems
Our view is complex public policy issues constitute what Horst Rittel has called "wicked problems." We sometimes call them ill-structured problems and more informally "social messes."

Wicked problems are situations that have these properties:

Click here for more on social messes ­ A talk on Knowledge Mapping for Complex, Social Messes given to a Packard Foundation conference. (PDF)

 

Visual language-information design aspects
A major assumption of our project is that visual analysis can provide new avenues of thought, indeed, new ways of thinking about complex issues. At the same time we also focus on improving our ability to communicate difficult and complicated subject matters.

A major portion of our projects are focused on creating new templates to enable humans to learn complex subject matter or adapting previously developed templates to new subject matters. These information graphics enable people to think "bigger thoughts." At the same time, our projects are focused on solving real world problems, in this case attempting to understand more deeply how we are to think about the struggle of narratives that has become a major context for international relations and security of many nations.

Visual analysis-information design templates
Some of the more unusual templates we created for or used in this project include:

- Worldview maps. (This is an experimental map, the first of its kind, to our knowledge, that attempts to make a network of statements connect by "therefore" and arrows linking them. Its purpose is to try to illuminate the structure of an ideology or worldview.)

- Argumentation maps. (We have done extensive work on this type of analysis.) The grammar of these maps are well worked out. The advantage of argumentation maps is that they present the structure of complex arguments showing the claims and rebuttals linked so that the reader can easily compare them.

- Dilemma diagrams. Dilemmas are (1) choices between equally unsatisfactory options (2) arguments presenting two or more equally logical alternatives, both of which are equally unsatisfactory. Dilemma diagrams are a distinctive generic format for presenting all dilemmas. Their advantage is that the components of the dilemma are worked out explicitly and displayed in easily analyzable form.

- Cross-boundary causality maps. (Synonym: "Mess maps") Many wicked problems are situated in a tangled mass of causal factors that cross the boundaries of different institutions and social arenas, public and private. These types of maps have proved useful in aiding task forces in early stages of their forming common mental models of the ill-structured situations they face.

Project history
This project began after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

Collaborating Project-Discriminate Force
This project cooperated closely with the Discriminate Force project of the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University. Some of the individual visual Communication Units (CUs) were made specifically for presentations in that project. (Click here to see the diagrams we prepared for the Discriminate Force Project.) (For more information on the Discriminate Force project, see Levite, Ariel and Elizabeth Sherwood Randall. The Case for Discriminate Force. Survival. Vol. 44, No. 4, Winter 2002-03.)

Project support
Unsupported research.

Status
Drafts. V.1

Possiblities and plans
The visual analysis of this topic consists of prototype maps and diagrams. Further analysis of worldviews could be worked on and scenarios and argumentation maps could be extended to new topics and updated on a continuing basis. Our project will work on these extensions as time permits.

Acknowledgements. For significant portions of this project we worked closely with Dr. Eli Levite, who was one of the leaders of the Discriminate Force Project at CISAC. His contribution to our project is gratefully acknowledged.

Copyright 2002 R. E. Horn. All rights reserved. Last modified 11/20/02

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