Back to Vlad's Homepage

Using Social Fuzziology when Collecting and Making Sense of Social Information

Vladimir Dimitrov

University of Western Sydney
Richmond 2753, Australia
E-mail: v.dimitrov@uws.edu.au


1. Introduction

2. Nature of Social Information

3. Misuse of Fuzziness in Social Information

4. Acquisition and Making Sense of Social Information

5. Conclusion

References
 
 

1. Introduction

Social Fuzziology [1] studies the fuzziness inherent in human understanding and dealing with social reality.

About everything we do not know for sure in nature, society and life, we usually think, speak or write in a fuzzy way, that is, by using words and expressions, which convey uncertainty, ambiguity and doubt. The truth contained in a fuzzy statement can neither be proved nor disproved, as fuzziness contains both 'truth' and 'non-truth' at the same time.

Fuzziness does not relate to our thinking and speaking and writing only - it permeates our feelings and emotions, our spiritual beliefs and endeavours. We can simultaneously feel happy and sad, attracted and repulsed, strong and weak, determined and hesitant, godly and worldly. This kind of fuzziness does not need words - it 'voices' through innumerable facial expressions, movements of eyes and body, nerve signals and gestures, body position and muscle tone, voice timbre and volume.

Fuzziness can be expressed in our actions - when we act without being sure about what we really do and aim for, or act with information about the goal but ignorant of how to approach it. This is usually the case when we act in a complex or sensitive-to-changes situation. Social reality is full of such situations.

Fuzziness is not something that exists "over there", as a quality of an external object; it is in our understanding of both natural and social environment in which we live and constantly create and re-create through our thoughts, feelings and actions. But it is also in the way the environment reflects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual experience and thus constantly creates and re-creates us. So the sources of fuzziness in our understanding of social reality are in our own self-referential nature - we are simultaneously creators and products of this reality.

The fuzziness of our understanding of social reality reflects the fuzziness of our understanding of our own nature. Every time when we succeed in revealing some enigma of our own nature, of our 'inward' individual life, we simultaneously reveal a secret of social reality in which we live, a secret of our 'outward' social life.

While exploring the fuzziness, Social Fuzziology does not intend to eliminate it - this is an impossible task. Social Fuzziology studies fuzziness in order to reveal how to live with it so that instead of being seen as a hindrance on the way to our outward realization, it acts as a catalyser, stimulator and reinforcer of the creative urge for this realization.

At the focus of this particular study is application of social fuzziology to the process of acquisition and making sense of social information.
 

Go to the top of the page
 
 

2. Nature of Social Information

Social information mirrors simultaneously what we know and what we do not know about our lives in society and nature. What we do not know energizes our strive for knowing - the deeper the process of knowing goes into the enigmas and paradoxes of the individual and social lives, the more intensive the spring of fuzziness in this process. The famous message of Socratis: " the only thing we know for sure, is how little we know" relates to the reproduction of fuzziness in the human knowledge.

Both our ignorance about the unknown and the uncertainty about the known that ever moves, reshapes and changes keep the engine of fuzziness operate in the space of social interactions and stimulate the emergence of different kinds of social information out of these interactions.

The acquisition and making sense of social information crucially differs from the analogical processes in science and engineering. In the latter we collect information in order to reduce the fuzziness imbedded in our knowledge of nature (reflected in various branches of the natural science) or human-made environment (reflected in the engineering science and technology). The approach of reducing fuzziness does not work with social information because society is not separated from us. We are the society - it consists of us, and we also constantly create, destroy and accumulate an infinite amount of social information by sharing our experiences, our thoughts and views, feelings and emotions, beliefs and dreams. At the same time, society crucially affects us in the process of exchange of social information encapsulated in its numerous multimedia incarnations. What we hear, watch, read and write influence our experience, the ways we think, feel, believe, dream, aspire, and thus create or destroy our personalities.

If some aspect of social life appears fuzzy to an individual, say X, the acquisition of more information, specially designed to clarify this aspect (from the point of view of the provider of this information, say Y) can easily worsen its understanding by X. Everything depends of the views, attitudes and intentions of Y. What if Y 's intention is to manipulate people interested to know more about a specific social issue, so that to make them behave in a way that is desirable (or beneficial) to Y?

For example, X may desperately want to know more about the cases revealing life-threatening effects registered when applying approaches of genetic engineering, but instead s/he is bombarded by information full of fuzzy charisma about how good these approaches might be in 'producing' humans with desirable characteristics in future. Behind the charisma, a generous 'non-fuzzy' funding of 'perspective' (that is, providing competitive advantages to the funding bodies) genetic engineering projects continues with an accelerated tempo.

The sociologists use to say that for every well-defined direction of some problem related to a specific social issue, there is an opposite and equally well-defined direction. One can find many examples of presenting and interpreting one and the same piece of social information in totally opposite ways. The politicians are masters of such kind of performances.

Go to the top of the page
 
 

3. Misuse of Fuzziness in Social Information

Misuse or abuse of the fuzziness imbedded in human understanding of social reality makes social information susceptible to manipulations. In society manipulations aim at clearing the path for the exercise of power of an oligarchy (or a leader). It is common for social groups holding power (be it economical, political, religion- or science-oriented, etc.) to have a quite clear agenda, but to utilise imbedded fuzziness in a manipulative way as a means of keeping this agenda secret from the largest part of society.

Most of the charismatic speeches and promises of the leaders in the business and politics are designed to evoke a high degree of fuzziness of people's understanding and hence to hide motives and actions entirely opposite to what the manipulative speeches and promises indicate.

A good example was the recent referendum in Australia - whether Australia to be independent republic or to remain monarchy under the British crown. The political manipulations of the Prime Minister and his supporters (mostly with a significant economic power) succeeded to implant such a high degree of fuzziness in people's understanding of the potential results of the referendum that the majority of people were unclear what they were voting for. Even those who sincerely wanted to see Australia as a republic, voted 'no' to the republican alternative, because the phenomenal brainwash made them think that by voting 'no' they were actually supporting a future(?) realization of a better model of republic.

In the present era of economic globalization, social information is in captivity of an ever-strengthening dictator of people's behaviour - The Global Free Market. This dictator is entirely anti-human - it prefers dealing with robot-like individual programmed to consume and work under conditions of a monstrous exploitation. Bourdieu [2] calls the Global Free Market infernal machine producing "not only the poverty of an increasingly large segment of the most economically advanced societies, the extraordinary growth in income differences, the progressive disappearance of autonomous universes of cultural production, such as film, publishing, etc. through the intrusive imposition of commercial values, but also and above all two major trends. First is the destruction of all the collective institutions capable of counteracting the effects of the infernal machine, primarily those of the state, repository of all of the universal values associated with the idea of the public realm. Second is the imposition everywhere, in the upper spheres of the economy and the state as at the heart of corporations, of that sort of moral Darwinism that, with the cult of the winner, schooled in higher mathematics and bungee jumping, institutes the struggle of all against all and cynicism as the norm of all action and behaviour."

Under conditions of struggle of all against all, when everyone is clinging to their job and organisation in an atmosphere of insecurity, suffering, and stress, the artificially generated fuzziness serves entirely 'those who count', that is, those with the greatest influence in the global economy. A continuous brainwash keeps consumption-oriented desires of people at the highest possible level and make them believe that they are 'absolutely free' to choose whatever they want when entering the Market [3]. It is up to them to work as hard and stressful as possible in order to enjoy the fruits of the highest possible democracy - the Democracy of the Markets! Voting for politicians is almost senseless - they cannot change anything at all; they are nothing but obedient marionettes whose strings are pulled by unimaginably reach economic actors.

The mass media intensively 'cares' for the process of injecting fuzziness into the human brains to go with an ever-accelerating tempo. Here is what one former chief of staff of the "New York Times," called by his peers "the dean of his profession", used to say to his colleagues: "I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the Journalist is to destroy truth; To lie outright; To pervert; To vilify; To fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it ... We are the tools and vassals for rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and or lives are all the property of other men.  We are intellectual prostitutes" (this quotation is from a material distributed through Internet at http://www.teamlaw.org/).

The higher the degree of fuzziness of people's understanding of the totalitarian nature of the free market society, the easier the suppression of their possible resistance to The Global Capitalist Establishment.

Go to the top of the page
 
 

4. Acquisition and Making Sense of Social Information

While collecting and making sense of social information, it is necessary to discriminate between two types of fuzziness - delusive fuzziness that is deliberately generated to delude people and manipulate their understanding, and fuzziness inherent in human knowing (or knowledge-related fuzziness) that inevitably permeates what humanity considers as known at any stage of its development.

Social Fuzziology helps us to do this discrimination by eliciting the following important moments:

4.1 Social information is created by people.

When discriminating between the delusive and knowledge-related fuzziness, one needs to explore the motivation of those who create or distribute social information. What could be the motives for presenting this information?

For example, the leader of the One Nation Party in Australia, P. Hanson said in the Australian parliament: "Immigration and multiculturalism are issues that, for too long, ordinary Australians have been kept out of any debate by the major parties. I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians..." [4]

The motive behind this information is quite clear: search for support by those in Australia who cling to racist views and do not share the ideas of building a multicultural society. The knowledge of this motive helps to navigate through the fuzziness generated in the election platforms of this party full of words like 'caring for' and 'thinking seriously about the future of' the people of Australia.

4.2 Society functions through control and interventions.

Therefore, social information reflects (either explicit or implicit) intentions for exercising power. When discriminating between the delusive and the knowledge-related fuzziness, one needs to investigate where the power comes from, towards whom it is directed and what could be the goal it pursues?

For example, while warmly welcoming everybody to come to the Olympic games, Australia does not issue visas to people younger than 40 years from the former communist countries in the Balkan Peninsula, like Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, etc. in fear of possible illegal immigration. Of course, this 'non-fuzzy' decision of rejecting the issue of visas is put into a wonderfully served charismatic fuzziness that the Olympic games provide a rare opportunity for the young people from all the planet to come and meet in one of the most beautiful city in the world, that everybody is welcomed to apply for a visit in Australia, that every application will be professionally considered and every individual case will be mindfully decided upon and answered in a due time, etc. The travel agencies, semi-officially informed about this official decision from the Australian embassy in Belgrade, are less charismatic when talking to the young people wishing to visit Olympic Australia: "You are welcome to apply but your visa will be rejected, and once rejected, it will be hard to expect a positive answer on your next application to visit Australia".

What kind of forces is behind this decision, so incompatible with the spirit of the Olympic games? Forces grounded in a racist way of thinking, supported by the Howard's government in Australia. What pursues the fuzziness fabricated around the issue of visas? Keeping high the international image of Australia as a hospitable organizer of the Olympic games. The image is an important thing when doing global economy, so in the name of keeping the image high, the use of the delusive fuzziness is justified. Towards whom the delusive fuzziness is directed? Towards the young people, extremely vulnerable and fragile both economically and socially, who have managed to save money for their trip (with a hard and stressful labour in their low-paid countries). Now they will know that they are treated as a 'low category' people by the Australian authorities - people who are not allowed to sit in the new Olympic stadium in Sydney.

4.3 In society majority tends to exercise power over minorities.

Majority persecutes those who do not obey its rules. The decisions of majority characterise with inertia; it always takes time before the largest part of people changes their opinions and decisions. An individual (and minorities) can spontaneously reflect or adapt to changes or undergo essential transformations. Does this mean that in our time of accelerated changes, majority always creates social decisions, which are wrong, while minorities have the right answers? The following paradox manifests the fuzziness of social decision-creation:

The majority, though never right, is not always wrong (most often, its decisions favour the status quo, that is, do not decide anything), and therefore the minority, though never wrong, is not always right.

The above paradox reveals the lack of a final arbiter in judging whether the acquired social information is right or wrong - most probably the judgement remains fuzzy: neither right nor wrong, no matter who is the creator of the social information - the 'strong' majority or the 'weak' minority.

4.4 Does it exist any standard by which to decide what is 'wrong' and what is 'right' when dealing with social information?

There is no such a standard. And as far as even this categorical statement cannot be accept dogmatically in social reality - a reality, which is sensitive to perturbations and changes, 'right' and 'wrong' never stop agitating and attracting attention of social researchers. Therefore, the analysis of what is 'wrong' and what is 'right' continues to make sense when discriminating between the two types of fuzziness - the delusive fuzziness qualified as 'wrong', and the knowledge-related fuzziness qualified as 'right', in any specific case of acquisition and making sense of the social information.

4.5 Two generalizations relate to people's ways of living in society.

Living in the stream of actions means developing routines, customs and habits to cope with the burden of the social control, pressure and stress - a burden, which for many people on the planet becomes unbearable. The competitive struggle for survival in today's typically Orwellian type of social order, ruled entirely by the power of money, absorbs the physical, mental and emotional energy of people and make them incapable for penetrating into the roots of The System. And without exploring the roots, we are never able to recognize the delusive fuzziness of the social information, with which The System bombards us, simultaneously creating illusion that our voices matter (by providing well-conducted situations where we are 'generously' allowed to decide upon something on the very surface of the social establishment). In the free market based global capitalist economy, the only voices which matters are the voices of few unimaginably reach corporations and individuals and their innumerous servile vassals and marionettes - politicians and the media, police and the mafia, militaries and the legal system.

Being inside the stream of actions, that is, inside the social establishment, we cannot understand it. The System is too complex and interwoven, too turbulent and powerful, that every attempt to stop just for a second or to do something different from what It pushes us to do, is destined to fail - the whirlpools in the stream easily can smash us. There are so many examples of people smashed by The System because of their decisions not to follow the stream. One must get out of the stream, in order to grasp its flow, one must transcend its whirling dynamics in order to see how they act. Then The System immediately loses its potency and all its delusive fuzziness becomes transparent, translucent, incapable to brainwash and insinuate lies. The way of transcending the stream of actions needs an effort - an extra effort to stay awake, to refer to ourselves and not to what others preach, to reflect ourselves and not others' images and doctrines, to be responsible of ourselves and not dependent on the will of others, to be aware of our infinite potential to create, to connect with our spiritual essence and to grow.

Go to the top of the page
 
 

5. Conclusion

The application of social fuzziology for studying the fuzziness of human understanding and dealing with social reality reveals that the process of acquisition and making sense of social information is sensitive to two major types of fuzziness: knowledge-related fuzziness inherent in what people consider as known and delusive fuzziness intensively used in society for manipulation and brainwash conducted by the most powerful actors of today's global economy. Social fuzziology elicits ways for discriminating between the two types of fuzziness through understanding the forces which shape our actions and experience and thus strengthening our capacity to persist in pursuing our inner drive towards self-realization and growth.
 

Acknowledgement

The author is grateful to Kalevi Kopra for introducing him the work of P. Bourdieu and other authors exploring the social danger of the neoliberalism

Go to the top of the page
 
 

References

1. Dimitrov, V. 2000 Introduction to Social Fuzziology,Knowledge and Information Systems (to appear)

2. Bourdieu, P. 1998 The essence of neoliberalism, Le Monde Diplomatique, 12

3. Dimitrov, V. 2000 Complexity, Chaos and Creativity: A Journey beyond Systems Thinking, Internet publication

4. Hanson, P. 1996 (Member for Oxley), First Speech Australian House of Representatives 10 September. Appropriation Bill No. 1 in Hansards (Canberra).
 

Go to the top of the page

Go to Vlad's Home page