Ecological Thinking: Cognitive Panarchy

InfraNodus is a tool that promotes ecological thinking, considering any narrative as an ecosystem consisting of interrelated parts in a constant interaction with its environment. It encourages reasoning in terms of dynamic relations rather than fixed solid entities, taking into account the context around any idea and exploring how it could be developed further.

This approach helps you keep your ideas agile and your mind open, maintaining the optimal combination of coherency and disruption in your thinking, writing, and reading.

Ecology of the Mind and Panarchy

Gregory Bateson coined a beautiful term: "ecology of the mind". What is a mind that is ecological? It has the ability to have an overview, but it can also zoom into any idea. It embraces diversity, but it can also obsess over one thing when needed. It can discover the obvious, but it can also reveal the things that are hidden and ponder the gaps that have not yet been bridged. Focused and, yet, adaptive. Rational and poetic.

InfraNodus is a tool that is developed to help you think this way. It is made to promote ecological dynamics and diversity on the cognitive level. InfraNodus visualizes and analyzes ideas as a network, revealing the relations and patterns within them, so you can understand the dynamic complexity of how knowledge evolves and explore the nuances of meaning.

InfraNodus variability thinking

This approach can be visualized using the diagram shown above, which is an adaptation of the concept of Panarchy used in ecology. It conceives of a thinking process as a succession of different types of intents and scales, each suitable for a specific context, set of resources, environment, and task. If we embrace this approach, we will never get stuck and crisis will seem like an opportunity. Periods of growth are followed by periods of saturation and optimization, which help us restructure our thinking and come up with new ideas again.

When we think ecologically, we embrace multiple scales and intentions. When we conceive of a new idea, we need to focus (intent) on something very specific and singular (small scale) [Stage 1]. Gradually, we start connecting ideas (intent towards connecting) and increasing the scale (thinking in terms of topics rather than singular ideas) [Stage 2].

At a certain point, we reach saturation, because we do not have any more resources (attention, time, data). This is the moment when we may be thinking that we are stuck, but it's also an opportunity to optimize our thinking. We can shed off the old ideas, change scale again, zoom in, and reconnect some cognitive patterns, find the gaps in thinking and come up with new insights [Stage 3].

As a result, there will be space for the new ideas and we can zoom out again and see how the insights that we came up with relate to our general discourse. Alternatively, we may also disperse our old patterns and disrupt the connections to come up with something new [Stage 4].

Finally, we focus on a new idea and start growing it again [Stages 1-2].

More Information

To learn more about this approach, please, read about Cognitive Variability and see how you can benefit it in your research in the Research Framework article, which proposes a concrete workflow you can use in InfraNodus to embrace this heuristic.

The basic workflow outline is available on our support portal and directly in InfraNodus' interface


Try It Yourself

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