WHY THE WORLD NEEDS ANTHROPOLOGISTS – Review Part 1

eJournal: uffmm.org, ISSN 2567-6458, 1.December  2020
Email: info@uffmm.org
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch
Email: gerd@doeben-henisch.de

ANTHROPOLOGY AND ENGINEERING

The starting point of view in this blog has been and still is the point of engineering, especially the perspective of man-machine interface [MMI], later as Man-Machine Interaction, then  accompanied by   human-computer interaction [HCI] or human-machine interaction [HMI]. While MMI often is discussed in isolation, not as part of engineering, this blog emphasizes a point of view where MMI is understood as an integrated part of systems engineering. The past years have shown, that this integration makes a great difference in the overall layout as well as in the details of the used methods. This integration widened the scope of MMI to the context of engineering in a way which teared down many artificial boundaries in dealing with the subject of MMI. The analysis part of MMI can take into account not only the intended users and a limited set of tasks required for the usage of a system but it can extend the scope to the different kinds of contexts of the intended users as well as the intended service/product as such: cultural patterns, sustainable perspectives, climate relevance, political implications, and more. This triggers the question, whether there are other established scientific disciplines which are sharing this scope with MMI. Traditionally experimental and cognitive psychology has always played an important role as part of the MMI analysis.  Different special disciplines like physiology or neuro-psychology, linguistics, phonetics etc. have played some role too. More recently culture and society have been brought more into the focus of MMI. What about sociology? What about anthropology? The following text discusses a possible role of anthropology in the light of the recent book Why The World Needs Anthropologists?

INTRODUCTION AND CONCLUSION

This review has the addendum ‘Part 1’ pointing to the fact, that this text does not deal with the whole book first, but only with some parts, the introduction and the conclusion.

An Introduction

The introduction of the book is asking, why does the world needs anthropologists?, and the main pattern of the introduction looks back to the old picture of anthropology, and then seeks to identify, what could/is the new paradigm which should be followed.

The roots of anthropology are located in the colonial activities of the British Empire as well as in the federal activities of the USA, which both had a strong bias to serve the political power more than to evolve a really free science. And an enduring gap between the more theoretical anthropology and an applied one is thematised although there existed always  a strong inter-dependency  between both.

To leave the close connection with primarily  governmental interests and to see the relation  between the theory and the different Applications  more positive than negative anthropology is understood  as challenged to rebrand its appearance in the public and in their own practice.

The most vital forces for such a rebranding seem to be rooted in more engagements in societal problems of public interests and thereby challenging the theory to widen their concept and methods.

Besides the classical methods of anthropology (cultural relativism, ethnography, comparison, and contextual understanding)  anthropology has to show that it can make sense beyond pure data, deciphering ambiguity, complexity, and ambivalence, helping with  diversity, investigating the interface between culture, technology, and environment.

What Is Left Out

After the introduction the main chapters of the book  are left out in this text  until later. The chapters in the book are giving examples to the questions, why the world needs anthropology, what have been the motivations for active anthropologists to become one, how they have applied anthropology, and which five tips they would give for practicing and theorizing.

Conclusion

In the conclusion of the book not the five questions are the guiding principle but ‘five axis that matter greatly’, and these five axis are circumscribed as (i) navigate the ethics of change; (ii) own-it in the sense, that an anthropologist should have a self-esteem for his/ her/ x  profession and can co-create it with others; (iii) expand the skill-set; (iv) collaborate, co-create and study-up; (v) recommend as being advisors and consultants.

The stronger commitment with actual societal problems leads anthropology at the crossroads of many processes which require new views, new methods. To gain new knowledge and to do a new practice is  not always accompanied by  known ethical schemata. Doing this induces  ethical questions which have not been known before in this way.  While a new practice is challenging the old knowledge and induces a pressure for change, new versions of knowing can  trigger new forms of practice as well. Theory and application are a dynamic pair where each part learns from the other.

The long-lasting preference of academic anthropology, thinking predominantly  in the mind-setting of   white-western-man, is  more and more resolved  by extending anthropology from academia to application, from man into the diversity of genders, from western culture into all the other cultures, from single persons to assemblies of diverse gatherings living an ongoing discourse with a growing publicity.

This widening of anthropological subjects and methods calls naturally for more interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, and of a constructive attitude  which looks ahead to  possible futures of processes.

Close to this are expressions like collaboration and co-creation with others. In the theory dimension this is reflected by multiperspectivity and a holistic view. In societal development processes — like urban planning — there are different driving forces acting working top-down or acting working bottom-up.

Recommending solutions based on anthropological thinking ending in a yes or no, can be of help and can be necessary because real world processes can not only wait of final answers (which are often not realistic), they need again and again decisions to proceed now.

REFLECTIONS FOLLOWING THE INTRODUCTION AND THE CONCLUSION

The just referred texts making a fresh impression of a discipline in a dynamic movement.

General Knowledge Architecture

For the point of view of MMI (Man-Machine Interface, later HMI Human-Machine Interaction, in my theory extended to DAAI Distributed Actor-Actor Interaction) embedded in systems engineering with an openness for the whole context of society and culture arises the question whether such a dynamic anthropology can be of help.

To clarify this question let us have a short look to the general architecture of knowledge.

Within the everyday world philosophy can be understood as the most general point of view of knowing  and thinking.  Traditionally logic and mathematics can be understood as part of philosophy although today this has been changed. But there are no real reasons for this departure: logic and mathematics are not empirical sciences and they are not engineering.

Empirical science can be understood as specialized extension of philosophical thinking with identifiable characteristics which allow to  differentiate to some extend different  disciplines.  Traditionally all the different disciplines of empirical science have a more theoretical part and a more applied part. But systematically they depend from each other. A theory is only an empirical one, if there exists a clear relationship to the everyday world, and certain aspects of the everyday world are only theoretical entities (data) if there exists a relationship to an explicit theory which gives a formal explanation.

Asking for a  systematic place for engineering it is often said, that it belongs to the applied dimension of empirical science.  But engineering has realized processes, buildings, machines long before there was a scientific framework for to do this, and engineering uses in its engineering processes lots of knowledge which is not part of science. On the other side, yes, engineering is using scientific knowledge as far as it is usable and it is also giving back many questions to science which are not yet solved sufficiently. Therefore it is sound to locate engineering besides science, but   being  part of philosophy dealing with the practical dimensions of life.

What About Anthropology?

While philosophy (with logic and mathematics) is ‘on top’ of empirical science and engineering, it is an interesting question where to place anthropology?

While empirical science as well as engineering are inheriting all what philosophy provides remains the question whether  anthropology is more an empirical science or more engineering or some kind of a hybrid system with roots in empirical science as well as in engineering?

Looking back into history it could arise the impression that anthropology is more a kind of an empirical science with strong roots in academia, but doing  fieldwork to feed the theories.

Looking to the new book it could support the image that anthropology should be more like engineering: identifying  open problems in society and trying to transform these problems — like engineers — into satisfying solutions, at least on the level of counseling.

Because in our societies the universities have traditionally a higher esteem then the engineers — although the engineers  are all  trained by highly demanding university courses — it could be a bias in the thinking of  anthropologist not to think of their discipline   as engineering.

If one looks to the real world than everything which  makes human societies livable is realized by engineers. Yes, without science many of the today solutions wouldn’t be possible, but no single scientific theory has ever enabled directly some practical stuff.  And without the engineers there would not exist any of the modern machines used for measurements and experiments for science. Thus both are intimately  interrelated: science inspires engineering and engineering inspires and enables science, but both are genuinely different and science and engineering play their own fundamental role.

Thus if I am reading the new book as engineer (attention: I am also a philosopher and I am trained in the Humanities too!) then I think there are more arguments to understand anthropology  as engineering than as a pure empirical science. In the light of my distributed actor-actor interaction paradigm, which is a ‘spinoff’ of engineering and societal thinking it seems very ‘naturally’ to think of anthropology as a kind of social engineering.

Let us discuss both perspectives a bit more, thereby not excluding the hybrid version.

1) Anthropology as Engineering

The basic idea of engineering is to enable a change process which is completely transparent in all respects: Why, Who, Where, When, How etc. The process starts with explicit preferences turning some known reality into a problem on account of some visions which have been imagined and which have become ranked higher than the given known reality. And then the engineers try to organized an appropriate change process which will lead from the given situation to a new situation until some date in the future where the then given situation — the envisioned goal state — has become real and the situation from the beginning, which has been ranked down, has disappeared, or is at least weakened in a way that one can say, yes, it has changed.

Usually engineers are known to enable change processes which enable the production of everyday things (tools, products, machines, houses, plants, ships, airplanes, …), but to the extend that the engineering is touching the everyday life deeper and deeper (e.g. the global digital revolution absorbing more and more from the real life processes by transforming them into digital realities forcing human persons to act digitally and not any more with their bodies in the everyday world) the sharp boundary between engineering products and the societal life of human persons is vanishing. In such a context engineering is becoming social engineering even if the majority of traditional engineers this doesn’t see yet in this way. As the traditional discipline MMI Man-Machine Interface and then  expanded to HMI Human-Machine Interaction and further morphed into DAAI Distributed Actor-Actor Interaction this  already manifests, that the realm of human persons, yes  the whole of society is already included in engineering.  The border between machines and human actors is already at least fuzzy and the mixing of technical devices and human actors (as well as all other biological actors) has already gained a degree which does not allow any longer a separation.

These ideas would argue for the option to see anthropology as social engineering: thematizing all the important visions which seem to be helpful or important for a good future of modern mankind, and to help to organize change processes, which will support approaching this better future. That these visions can fail, can be wrong is part of the ever lasting battle of the homo sapiens to gain the right knowledge.

2) Anthropology as  an Empirical Science

… to be continued …

3) Anthropology as a Hybrid Couple of Science and Engineering

… to be continued …

 

 

From Men to Philosophy, to Empirical Sciences, to Real Systems. A Conceptual Network

Integrating Engineering and the Human Factor (info@uffmm.org)
eJournal uffmm.org ISSN 2567-6458, Nov 8, 2020
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch
Email: gerd@doeben-henisch.de

CONTEXT

As described in the uffmm eJournal  the wider context of this software project is a generative theory of cultural anthropology [GCA] which is an extension of the engineering theory called Distributed Actor-Actor Interaction [DAAI]. In  the section Case Studies of the uffmm eJournal there is also a section about Python co-learning – mainly
dealing with python programming – and a section about a web-server with
Dragon. This document is part of the Case Studies section.

DAILY LIFE

In daily life we experience today a multitude of perspectives in all areas. While our bodies are embedded in real world scenarios our minds are filled up with perceptions, emotions, ideas, memories of all kinds. What links us to each other is language. Language gives us the power to overcome the isolation of our individual brains located in  individual bodies. And by this, our language, we can distribute and share the inner states of our brains, pictures of life as we see it. And it is this open web of expressions which spreads to the air, to the newspapers and books, to the data bases in which the different views of the world are manifested.

SORTING IDEAS SCIENTIFICALLY

While our bodies touching reality outside the bodies, our brains are organizing different kinds of order, finally expressed — only some part of it — in expressions of some language. While our daily talk is following mostly automatically some naive patterns of ordering does empirical science try to order the expressions more consciously following some self-defined rules called methods, called scientific procedures to enable transparency, repeatability, decidability of the hypothesized truth of is symbolic structures.

But because empirical science wants to be rational by being transparent, repeatable, measurable, there must exist an open discourse which is dealing with science as an object: what are the ingredients of science? Under which conditions can science work? What does it mean to ‘measure’ something? And other questions like these.

PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

That discipline which is responsible for such a discourse about science is not science itself but another instance of thinking and speaking which is called Philosophy of Science.  Philosophy of science deals with all aspects of science from the outside of science.

PHILOSOPHY

Philosophy of Science dealing with empirical sciences as an object has a special focus and  it can be reflected too from another point of view dealing with Philosophy of Science as an object. This relationship reflects a general structure of human thinking: every time we have some object of our thinking we are practicing a different point of view talking about the actual object. While everyday thinking leads us directly to Philosophy as our active point of view  an object like empirical science does allow an intermediate point of view called Philosophy of Science leading then to Philosophy again.

Philosophy is our last point of reflection. If we want to reflect the conditions of our philosophical thinking than our thinking along with the used language tries to turn back on itself  but this is difficult. The whole history of Philosophy shows this unending endeavor as a consciousness trying to explain itself by being inside itself. Famous examples of this kind of thinking are e.g. Descartes, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and Husserl.

These examples show there exists no real way out.

PHILOSOPHY ENHANCED BY EMPIRICAL SCIENCES ? !

At a first glance it seems contradictory that Philosophy and Empirical Sciences could work ‘hand in hand’. But history has shown us, that this is to a certain extend possible; perhaps it is a major break through for the philosophical understanding of the world, especially also of men themselves.

Modern empirical sciences like Biology and Evolutionary Biology in cooperation with many other empirical disciplines have shown us, that the actual biological systems — including homo sapiens — are products of a so-called evolutionary process. And supported by modern empirical disciplines like Ethology, Psychology, Physiology, and Brain Sciences we could gain some first knowledge how our body works, how our brain, how our observable behavior is connected to this body and its brain.

While  Philosopher like Kant or Hegel could  investigate their own thinking only from the inside of their consciousness, the modern empirical sciences can investigate the human thinking from the outside. But until now there is a gap: We have no elaborated theory about the relationship between the inside of the consciousness and the outside knowledge about body and brain.

Thus what we need is a hybrid  theory mapping the inside to the outside and revers.  There are some first approaches headed under labels like Neuro-Psychology or Neuro-Phenomenology, but these are not yet completely clarified in their methodology in their relationship to Philosophy.

If one can describe to some extend the Phenomena of the consciousness from the inside as well as the working of the brain translated to its behavioral properties, then one can start first mappings like those, which have been used in this blog to establish  the theory for the komega software.

SOCIOLOGY

Sociology is only one empirical discipline  between many others. Although the theory of this blog is using many disciplines simultaneously Sociology is of special interest because it is that kind of empirical disciplines which is explicitly dealing with human societies with subsystems called cities.

The komega software which we are developing is understood here as enabling a system of interactions as part of a city understood as a system. If we understand Sociology as an empirical science according to some standard view of empirical science then it is possible to describe a city as an input-output system whose dynamics can become influenced by this komega software if citizens are using this software as part of their behavior.

STANDARD VIEW OF EMPIRICAL SCIENCE

Without some kind of a Standard View of Empirical Science it is not possible to design a discipline — e.g. Sociology — as an empirical discipline. Although it seems that everybody thinks that we have  such a ‘Standard View of Empirical Science’, in the real world of today one must state that we do not have such a view. In the 80ties of the20th century it looked for some time as if  we have it, but if you start searching the papers, books and schools today You will perceive a very fuzzy field called Philosophy of Science and within the so-called empirical sciences you will not found any coherent documented view of a ‘Standard View of Empirical Science’.

Because it is difficult to see how a process can  look like which enables such a ‘Standard View of Empirical Science’ again, we will try to document the own assumptions for our theory as good as possible. Inevitably this will mostly  have the character of only a ‘fragment’, an ‘incomplete outline’. Perhaps there will again be a time where sciences is back to have a commonly accepted view how  science should look like to be called empirical science.