Last year, I wrote a blog on "mass data assignments." For readers that lack a prototype or application to handle data using mass data assignments, the topic probably seems a bit evasive. In this blog, I will be reinforcing and developing some of my ideas using an analogy. Imagine a house occupied by a family of three bears: a papa, mama, and of course baby bear. While the bears are out one afternoon grocery shopping, a little girl with light hair decides to break into the house. So this is a case of break-and-entry. She eats the family's foods - sleeps on their beds - essentially becomes a squatter. It will become apparent in a moment that I don't have a strong recollection of the fairytale. I understand that little girl has a psychological profile that might be summed up in the following: based on her interaction with the environment, conditions are either too much (Er-TM), too little (Er-TL), or just right (Oh-JR). I will populate these major headings loosely based on the fairytale.
Er-TM (Too Much)
Bed too hard
Oatmeal too cold
Bathroom stepstool too high
Slippers smell awful
Baking soda toothpaste tastes too old
Streetcar rattling in the background
Er-TL (Too Little)
Bed too soft
Oatmeal too hot
No bathroom stepstool
Slippers smell like raisin tarts
Whitening toothpaste too minty
Lots of cars honking in the background
Oh-JR (Just Right)
Bed is comfy
Oatmeal is fabulous
Bathroom stepstool just right
Slippers smell clean
Magpies singing in the background
In the fairytale, the narrative separates these conditions spatially, temporally, and also interactively. For example, the beds are in different locations. The girl sleeps on the beds at different times. She also interacts with the three beds in separate instances. The time sequence reoccurs whereas positioning or placement seems to happen only once. The thematic interaction is sequential and repetitive. It is easy to confuse the interactive sequence with the facts subsumed underneath. Thus, "magpies singing in the background" doesn't at all seem related to "just right"; consequently, this might seem like an associative error. However, the "magpies singing" represents an incidental fact coincident with something else being just right. For example, "stock market declining 0.5 percent" might likewise be paced under the same heading assuming this actually occurred coincidentally.
Contextual Control Versus Ontological Lens
Decades ago, mathematical assignments were fairly straightforward. For example, "X = 3" is quite a simple statement that can be incorporated into algebraic problem-solving. A multifaceted assignment such as "Oh-JR = [contents of all data-logging equipment]" creates tremendous problem-solving complexity. Since the infinite is impractical, reality must be constrained in some manner. From my perspective, there are essentially two major forces at play: 1) the construction of the context ("Er-TM" "Er-TL" and "Oh-JR") intended to support management (the behaviour - not necessarily the people); and 2) the ontological lens to invoke facts, events, and antecedents from ambient phenomena. The latter is sometimes generically referred to as "data." The former might be expressed as "metrics" - or, rather confusingly, "data." I mentioned that there are different ways to conceptualize or construct the context. Likewise, the data that takes shape underneath the elements of the context depends on the ontological basis.
I mentioned in an earlier blog applying an ontological instrument - a special type of questionnaire to use on legal documents pertaining to human rights tribunal cases - to determine the extent to which facts conform to the ACTOR Protocol: Attraction, Conduct, Tenacity, Organization, and Role. The application of this tool leads to the formation of data. (It is not just any data but specifically "conformance data.") Different types of ontological lenses give rise to different data. The relevance of events relating to the little girl's squatting or illegal entry depends on the construction of both context and ontology.
The subsuming process made possible using algorithms is not at all like simple mathematical assignments. All of the events that occur in a subway system can be assigned to "jade elephant" which can likewise be assigned along with other data to "blue label." There is no cohesive logic internal or intrinsic to the facts. The infinite is not just in the elements of data assigned but also in the tendrils that connect the heaps. To make sense of the infinite, it is necessary to control the context and the lens. However, constructing the context is entirely different from asserting ontology. Many lenses can be used to invoke phenomena so the resulting events can be contextually subsumed. Moreover, ontological assertions can be applied to different contextual constructs.
Consider for example a topographical map functioning as the contextual control. Some summer students from a nearby university can be sent out to investigate different zones on the map. They could study or take inventory of microbial organisms, flora, thermal dynamics, soil composition, butterfly species, and earthworms. One method of storing data would be to attach the geographic location to the inventories. Alternatively, inventory details could be attached to or subsumed under geography. How about taking an inventory of people that tend to be found at former crime scenes? The crime scenes become the contextual control. In terms of the inventory, it is necessary to determine what aspect of the people should give rise to data: their affiliations, ethnography, income levels, addresses, schools, maybe even their employers and clients. The ontological data is separate from the instrumental context.
Maybe going rather off topic near the conclusion, I wanted to mention that I recently took up Tai Chi - a type of martial art although for many people more of a relaxation therapy. Not a day passes without me going through my Tai Chi routine. What the body can do manifests itself in our existence in what we hope to do with the body. The tasks shape the motions. The reality of the body is therefore an extension of the work imposed on it. Neither movement nor pace is free - except, as one comes to realize, in Tai Chi. So too does instrumentality tend to shape the context in which events in production occur. What happens in a factory occurs in relation to design. Events are not random. Now, although we are defined by instrumental need, our abilities and responses to those needs differ. For some people, Tai Chi might be about the lymphatic system and endocrinology; for others it could be about motor control; for me, taking a more traditional perspective, it is about development of the Qi. In any event, there are different types of events in the discourse, including the important question of what the practitioner hopes of gain - from body, mind, and spirit - maybe not just from Tai Chi but existence more generally. The instrumental demands of production are disassociated from the lived experience. The controlling contexts and ontological assertions spin like the yin and yang. We endeavour to live in that peaceful place in the middle.