It is a bit like the joke from Weick on the three base ball referees discussing how the call a ball, in or out. The first one says: “ I calls them as I sees them”. The second one says: “ I calls them as they are”. The third one says: “They ain’t nothing until I call them”. We call the balls.
The question by Judith was: how do we deal with this problem of “Information Bias”; our apparent need of more and more information on available choices, our desire to rule out risks, to know. In answering this question, I concluded that we cannot solve this problem on the level of the content of information. We can only resolve it in the process of relating to each other, aptly called “relationships”. In facilitating decision making we have to deal with relations first and content second.
Information bias can not be overcome, as it seems to be inherent in the way I, you, we, this world work, the way we deal with data. I’ve called it a metaparadox, for lack of a better word, as it appears to be a paradox about a. paradox. (For readers of Smith and Berg’s “Paradoxes of Group Life”: it is in the interplay of the part-part and whole-whole paradoxes. You may have noticed the use of the word “dealing”)
Meaning – in my opinion, after a lot of reading and studying – is an emergent attribute (Dutch: “eigenschap”) of interacting. Meaning is a process and not a thing or an entity. You might call it a by-product. “Au fond” it is unintentional. Any meaning also always refers to the reader/writer. And I mean that literally: meaning is “written” or “read” into reality, real objects and processes BY ITSELF. Meaning both refers to itself and to something else, but not at the same time. This is the fundamental, first paradox. Meaning as an emergent attribute of interacting, like when two stones are being rubbed together – by a landslide, ice, water, or wind. There will be marks on both of them, depending on their shape, the length of the interaction, their hardness, the conditions. This we can call data or information. It contains meaning, it is there to be discovered, read.
The noticing, the reading of information is also a kind of interacting. When the marks on the stones are “read”, there are again interacting process. Our brains do not contain the rubbed stones, nor have we stored pictures on a kind of hard drive. We, with our brains, do not compare, we interpret. We’ve learned, with our eyes and brains, to read the marks.
The reading itself is an interacting with the stones and with “our selves”. This is the second paradox, the metaparadox which both refers to the first and to itself. So these processes also generate meaning. We read meaning into a situation and have the meaning of meaning. We use our brain for a lot of the work here. Our brain contains meta-information. Our brain doesn’t contain information (on stones, on marks, on signs), but informs about the informing processes. We have access only to the last or highest of the informing processes: a kind of conscious awareness of what we call the meaning. (This is by the way the reason we use the very word “ informing”: information is continuously being formed).
The intentionality of information comes from reading it, our processing. We are intentional being, we need to have intentions, so we “read” reality and find intentions. These are not in the data, perhaps even not in the information, but in the informing. So information and meaning are made. They are “facts”. The very information we use – in fact, we are our information – is biased. As we are biased to survive. To this we can add the uncertainty of the processes of becoming meaning, because I, you, we have no access to the processes which generated the meaning and I have no access to your meaning or information and vice versa. We have to trust ourselves in this and – this is Murphy’s law – when we can be wrong, there will be a time when we will be wrong.
My suggestion to deal with this as facilitators is to . . . facilitate. It is not in the content, the meaning, the security of the information, it is in the process, the relationships. What people really want (# really, really want #) is to know whether they can trust the other, if they can depend on one another. They need to know if, when they are vulnerable, open of have made a mistake, a miscalculation, they will not be taken advantage of, or punished. And at the same time are reluctant to ask this, because this makes you vulnerable. Basically, they don’t need the bias to go away, they want to know how to handle, live or deal with it. So we, as facilitators, have to be congruent in our behaviour. We have to be open, patient, remain confused when needed. We have to be able to accept bias as a given, not check our conclusions, but check our assumptions. After all, we’re only common people. We resolve the issues.
PM: “information” is an example of reification: making a thing out of a process, like reification. We do this a lot, as in “communication”. It seemed handy at the time, but it hides the fact that these are processes and no entities. There is no See Reïficeren on pages 30, 100, 242