Dennis B. Mulcare
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This book is NOT about hierarchy theory per se; rather, it mainly concerns the pragmatics or a style of use of an apparent variant thereof. Hence the title ought better to have been “Hierarchy Pragmatics.” The book’s subtitle, however, is quite apt, as their specialized pragmatics does stem from a vision and vocabulary whereby all three in concert enable a very plausible and appealing epistemology, experimental constructivism(?). Perhaps even more important, the authors distributively provide the elements that can realize an encompassing generic template to structure and elaborate any level of a hierarchy, regardless of the purpose or the application domain.
Although the content of this book seems quite straightforward and uncontroversial, it is not organized, articulated, or exemplified as well as it might have been. The book starts out rather slowly, with undue meandering, before thematic traction engages about one-third of the way through the book. It is most unhelpful that the concept of hierarchy itself is hardly treated at all, and then only obliquely. So the reader must already be generally conversant with hierarchy theory to situate, discriminate, and construe the many worthwhile ideas in this book. The authors’ own puzzling conceptions of hierarchy may best be conveyed in their own words:
1. “The interrelations between observations, perception, and learning is [sic] the substance of hierarchy theory” (p.13)
2. “Hierarchy theory is a theory of the role of the observer and the process of observation” (p.27)
3. “Hierarchy theory is a theory of the observer’s role in any formal study of complex systems.” (p.29)
Instead of stating that “Hierarchy theory is a theory of...” it would instead be accurate to hold that “Hierarchy theory can be used to characterize or support...”. Clearly hierarchy theory can be used for many other purposes than just representing/analyzing the “observer’s role,” or its advocated modus operandi. But even this characterization is not linked to an explicit hierarchy representation in the book. Does this characterization of the observer’s role involve a separate hierarchy? Seemingly not, as the customary model of the observer as part of the system exhibiting the phenomena to be measured would seem to entail a single model, or just one hierarchy. If so, would this not entail a hierarchy with two root nodes? The authors should have fully addressed and explicated this matter. In any case, it would be vital regarding the authors’ central stance on observability to include at least one technical figure on this topic. After all, the book is replete with fluffy illustrations. Curiously though, this book does demonstrate the appreciable power of a simple figure in elucidating a complex matter in one specific instance: page 185 has an excellent figure depicting the somewhat peripheral matter of wave/particle duality.
The advocated investigative approach centers on a series of three models: a mental mode as a criterial datum; an a priori conceptual model as a notional baseline; and a post hoc empirical model as an experimental construction. The mental model seems akin to a specialized Vickers’ appreciative system, and the latter two assume a hierarchical form. Roughly, the conceptual modeling begins with formulating questions, and then posits model levels, their respective classes of entities, and relationships among them. These elements and their arrangement are then consolidated in hierarchical form. Next, the linkages between entities are elaborated to support and enable the intended investigation, and most importantly to specify the measurement protocols. They receive considerable attention as essential to designing and observing the planned experimentation.
Rather cleverly, the authors invoke the metaphors of surfaces, channels, and filters to elucidate the major constructs of a hierarchy form. Each surface corresponds to the envelope that encapsulates an entity; each entity itself may in turn contain multiple surfaces associated with the linked entities on its immediately subordinate level (except for leaf nodes). The communication channels link pairs of entities, where the connections to each entity serve as signal flow windows into its interior. Then, the filters, which may multiplex information/energy/material, are characterized with respect to the individual signal processing quantities associated with each channel. Next, attention focuses on the inherent or stipulated signal processing parameters for the requisite observability needed to construct an empirical hierarchy. Each communication channel thus has a profile or schemata to describe a measurement protocol, and in turn, experimental instrumentation requirements.
See my appended comment as to how the foregoing elements might be combined into a generic template for recursive application in constructing any given hierarchy level. Of course, this prospect of imposing systematicity in forming and elaborating levels is latent but not explicitly considered within the book. This generic template is largely an implementation step to codify, generalize, and facilitate the advocated approach.
Since this book has ostensibly been written for the nonspecialist, it does contain some overly protracted descriptions and impromptu excursions. Despite the book’s sometimes erratic development, much of its content is nonetheless thoughtful, illuminating, and valuable. Accordingly, the book’s patient reading can provide some useful ideas on methodology and heuristics for focusing and composing hierarchical representations, and may even arouse some readers’ interests in pursuing constructivist ecology in greater depth. These outcomes certainly apply in my case, as I am looking for more depth, specificity, and exemplification regarding the subject research methodology.
Its shortcomings notwithstanding, this book quite favorably impressed me with its methodical approach and supporting rationale, but also with its entailed research initiatives as well. Accordingly, I now aspire to become better informed regarding the authors’ associated exploratory framework together with its full-scale application. As I noted at the outset, many of the ideas advanced in this book are indeed quite significant as well as intriguing.