Sense-Framing Sessions: The Never-Ending Story of Learning

Part 3: Deep Thinking

In the series of Sense-Framing, I discuss the irregular transformation of knowledge in our culture. With the growth of data and wide access to education came the gradual realization that there are no 'right ways' or 'complete pictures' to capture complexity. This change put certainty and universal truths in question. Instead of converging human existence to one sole purpose, we are now taking the freedom to experiment and interpret the content of life. To me, Sense-Framing is a journey of self-discovery that is still unfolding. Given its layout, I learned a new way of revising existent frames and worldviews.  

  1. First, I explored the surface of "discovery," with a historical map and an inner compass (frame Columbus). 

  2. Then, I observed how the two artifacts (map and compass) could lead to deep discoveries in the human (frame Humboldt).

  3. Lastly, I will settle the historical clashes on discovery and open a new space for Sense-Framing to show its potential in learning (frame i). 

The clash between frames leads to friction (e.g., war, revolutions, competition, disagreements) for as long as there is still an ongoing transition (e.g., revised borders, ideologies, new norms). Also, reducing frames to the content inside causes a great deal of misunderstanding. That is why Columbus and Humboldt are messengers, but the frame of discovery is not strictly about them. Instead, it's a snapshot of time and ideas.

The question is, how do we learn to tell the difference between content and frame? If we can map the friction between ideas and events, we will see the frames underneath. Only then can we begin to make real changes.

Thomas Kuhn captures the friction between Columbus' and Humboldt's frames, using different content: 

"Normal science does not aim at novelty but at clearing up the status quo.It tends to discover what it expects to discover. (Columbus)

Discovery comes not when something goes right but when something is awry, a novelty that runs counter to what was expected."(Humboldt) Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Kuhn engaged in a debate that stirs the waters of the scientific world. He recognized the need for creativity and diversity as fundamental to discovery and development within science. But this shift meant there is a value to the aspect of life that science can't interpret and measure with existing methods. 

Irrational, unseen, and chaotic phenomena are valid sources of knowledge that fuel the rational, seen, and orderly. In other words, we begin with chaos, not with "order," and we don't question things when we accept them as part of Reason. Instead, it's the feelings we can't express and the choices we find difficult to make that require our attention. 

Because of our improved living conditions, we had time to ponder over our purpose and place in the world. But there is no objective reality in our conversations, no matter how abstract, general and impersonal it sounds. The meaning of life looks more like the inside of a hypermarket that can't be reduced to a single product, use, or display – more like the "meaning of lives." That is why we can talk about the same thing and mean different things. 

Humans fill in the gap between language and meaning with imagination and prior experiences. As a result, different people have different experiences and interpretations of the same concepts. In that sense, language and meaning are just two other frames that can clash. When there's a slight overlap, there's a conversation. When there's a discrepancy, we either face confusion or disagreements. However, having an overlap is not enough. We need to be on the same wavelength to make the two frames work together. How? By having conversations to re-actualize language (words, emotions, and behaviors) and shared meaning. That's how learning from others works. Having this realization helps us grow, but it's not a pain-free journey. 

Sense-Framing reminds us not only to revise the content of our knowledge but also to check on the links tying our stories together: Where do our beliefs reside? What matters to us? What guides us?

The frame "i" represents my attempt to connect Humboldt's "everything is interrelated" view with a "transdisciplinary culture." This has become for me a journey of self-discovery and learning:

#1. We are not our experience

/Learning to detach ourselves from the story/

"The decision to reject one paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another, and the judgment leading to that decision involves the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other ...To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself." Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Frames do not exist separately from other frames. They can be created, shared, and re-created. With them, we affect the world, ourselves, and our peers. Anytime we try to change, we need to integrate or replace the old thinking with something that bridges the two worldviews.

If the frame holds that one story for too long, it becomes the norm and often an irrefutable truth that obstructs insights. For example, most people would agree that taking someone's life (with or without motive) is an act of irreversible damage. Also, two and two equals four.  

I'm not arguing that these statements are wrong, but I believe that at some point, we lived without formalizing them. Now, they are part of the human frame. Whatever discoveries we make, we hope they will not tear apart these 'truths' that have stayed with us for such a long time. The consequence is that we can't see a world without them, and we can't see ourselves from them either. 

/Thinking outside Sensemaking/

Sensemaking gained authority in our thinking through the creation of hierarchies. This led to stable systems, but it limited spontaneity and self-expression. Instead of sharing its power, Sensemaking only employs the other 'senses' in a limited way. Thus, like any centralized system, it becomes outdated. 

  • It creates a strong association with our identity and experiences but does not tolerate confusion, chaos, or emptiness (Sensegiving).

  • It treats what it can't understand as disposable and reinforces what is within a range of knowledgeable comfort (Sensebreaking).

  • It sets the tone of what is relevant and important in society but ignores and criticizes what doesn't match its criteria (Sensesharing).

"We still don't like the things we don't like –we just cease to be at war with them. And once the war is over, change can begin."― Susan DavidEmotional Agility

To build less biased and more open systems, we need to include the other senses as equally strong pillars. Therefore, instead of following a hierarchical split of power, I design a new and distributed model with Sense-Framing: 

  • Sensebreaking receives enough ground to revise and deconstruct biases or what we take for granted. We can detach ourselves from what we know and entertain the possibility that we don't know. It teaches our judgment to be humble and listen. But if Sensebreaking were to lead, we'd probably live in a world full of skeptics, ironists, cynics, and even nihilists. Exercise with caution.

  • Sensegiving is the inner drive to give meaning, create notions, and expand the range of concepts and their relationship. It comes with the realization that we are the cause of our knowledge. With Sensegiving, we don't seek meaning; we only recognize it in what unfolds. Too much of this might turn into colorful madness, poetic wandering, or a high-spiritual state. Enjoy, but don't get lost.

  • Sensesharing finds the right channels to express and connect with the collective. It helps us tap into the stories circulating in communities and connect them with social realities where individual experiences are validated. Sensesharing links parts to the whole without dissolving their unique abilities. In its extreme version, there's a loss of individuality and complete surrender to the collective. Don't forget to be yourself.

Sense-Framing helps us decentralize how we form judgments and detach ourselves from the story. There might be a lot of confusion and unknown, but these experiences complement our sense of fulfillment. As Kuhn argues, we cannot reject all paradigms, but I believe we can try to place fewer judgments. Often, more than two viewpoints exist, which means that we don't always have to be pro or against something. 

The objective of Sense-Framing is primarily to create more room between us and our frames. To breathe, listen, rethink. In time, we realize that we can only have experiences, but we are not our experiences. If that's the case, then what are we? Do you ask yourself this question?

#2. "Divide Et Impera" Is An Outdated Strategy  

/Not separating thoughts from emotions/

The human frame has developed unevenly due to our attitude towards feelings and emotions. In most languages, reason and emotion are described as separate experiences. Not allowing the discussion of emotions to mature left anger, fear, and loss in a state of suppression. 

"For two thousand years, people believed something about emotions,

despite abundant counterevidence all around us. The human brain, you see, is wired to mistake its perceptions for reality. Today, powerful tools have yielded a more evidence-based explanation that's almost impossible to ignore. . . yet some people still manage." ― Lisa Barret-Feldman, How Emotions Are Made

While Kant talked about 'pure reason' and rational thinking as the pinnacle of the human spirit, Darwin, Hume, Freud had talked about feelings and emotions as instincts, passions, or impulses. They all understood the importance of processing emotions and acknowledging their influence on our behaviors. Yet, they also took this division for granted. Perhaps it is easier to address them, but do all circumstances require such division?

The Sense-framing model gives emotions and thoughts an equal ground in the conversation. None of the senses separate the emotional charge from the content. 

/Finding new insights/

The Collision Points in the frame (or Insights) are moments of such convergence that help us clarify patterns and build new connections: 

  • Internal Cohesion – reveals hidden structures that motivate our need to belong in the culture.

  • Culture/Context – the degree of independence from validation circles that allows more freedom to shift perspectives.

Insights are entirely dependent on the present interaction by sensing the connection between us and the frames. The content is a temporary medium that helps people tell the story so other minds can receive that knowledge.  

There are so many things outside the scope of scientific discovery, leaving frames incomplete or partially developed.

The definition of life itself does not explain why we are the way we are, and it might hinder the search for it in other places because it does not match our criteria. What is the next age of discovery? Will the next age of exploration have two frames fighting for attention and resources: the galaxies in outer space and the "galaxies inside ourselves"? 

And yet, we are so far behind schedule…

Humboldt saw the consequences of preserving underdeveloped frames: 

"humankind's eventual expansion into space when humans would spread their lethal mix of vice, greed, violence, and ignorance across other planets." Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature

…and given the garbage floating in space, the Cold War ambitions and current hype for Mars, he was quite on the spot. 

"The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed."― William Gibson

Our frames need to evolve with us so that we can pass them on to the next generations. But, if we pay attention, we'll notice that experience and language have developed a more intimate relationship that goes beyond cause-effect. It's a loop spread across various narratives and multi-sensory experiences. It's a Gordian Knot so entangled that humanity is often tempted to cut it rather than deal with it. 

#3. Design Thinking 3.0

With the exponential growth of knowledge, complexity, and uncertainty, there's an ongoing shift towards design thinking, systems thinking, and complexity science. We are constantly searching for creative methods to deal with our challenges, both locally and globally. Relying on outdated models and linear processes is no longer an option. We need to explore alternatives. 

How can we apply the Sense-Framing model to stretch our creative thinking? Is there room for improvement? Yes! We are not reinventing the wheel but merely playing our part and contributing to the space of ideation and experimentation. 

Firstly, we learn to observe and appreciate the limits of our abilities:

  • We will never know everything, but we can know enough. 

  • Living consciously is a humbling experience. 

In other words, we need to learn to value Tacit Knowledge and the hidden structures that bind us together. Creativity helps us tap into a space of new conversations where our discoveries begin to form. By appreciating the limits of our power, the imperfection of things, the incompleteness of thought, and still going for it, we become experienced learners. 

Secondly, we must acknowledge that we can't handle complexity alone. We need collaborators to reach breakthroughs and take action. 

Deep Collaboration is the core of Sense-Framing that enables these shifts from one sense to another in real-time. With creative thinking and collaborative design, we begin to shape the conventional purposefully. We choose the Context we want to make changes to, but we don't lose sight of interconnectedness. Ultimately, it is about overcoming our limitations and navigating complexity together to learn to become better and hopefully wiser humans. 

References:

Barrett, Lisa Feldman (2017). How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. Mariner Books.

Susan, David. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Avery.

S, Kuhn, Thomas (2012). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition. University of Chicago Press.

Wulf, Andrea (2016). The invention of nature. London: John Murray.