I have built a dynamic mental model of Seven Levels of Interaction which describes evolving patterns of experiential, emergent knowledge in the connections between various agents within increasingly complex nested networks, with increasing levels of knowledge thickness. For knowledge is not static, but a set of evolving structural configurations, artifacts of interactive experiences.
The theory of Connectivism asserts that individual learning is literally growing new neural configurations by being presented with experiences . Those neural configurations are activated in the future when presented with the same types of experiences. A person sees the pattern. (Read Christopher Alexander on pattern language for more on this.) This experience of pattern recognition (the etymology says it all: re-cognition, to know again) can take a number of forms, as follows.
- One can be looking at data and recognize a pattern and thus gain information – data in formation. Data only becomes information when the energy has been structured for the receiver for which it is intended. Information evolves because each look is a new look, with a new configuration of experience.
- Experiencing patterns within information grows knowledge.
- Over time, knowledge which integrates experiences using several of our multiple intelligences flourishes into understanding. This where people start to become engaged with one another.
- Understanding crystallizes into wisdom—stories, poetry, songs, sacred texts, metaphors, myths, symbols, and archetypes. Wisdom is both personal and collective, the legacy of the past that helps us navigate the present.
- Persons of wisdom may generate a vision, the growing of a new pattern for the future. “Vision” has been called by many names—imagination, ingenuity, insight—and is the precursor of change. Einstein said, “It is imagination that gives shape to the universe.”
- People who work together to implement a vision are embodying the noösphere—being one mind, accountable to one another. “The earth and I are of one mind.” (attributed to Nez Perce Chief Joseph)
At one end of the spectrum are thin interactions, mostly between individuals or teams. At the other end of the spectrum, networks and communities of networks engage in thick interactions, which combine elements from a broad repertoire of interaction types. When interacting on many levels simultaneously, a person can take a different role (of those described by Etienne Wenger) in each level—peripheral, inbound, insider, boundary, or outbound — and the roles are fluid.
The Seven Levels of Interaction continuum is an evolution of what was originally termed the Data Information Knowledge and Wisdom hierarchy (DIKW), which has been evolved and adapted by a number of writers since the 1920s. My Seven Levels of Interaction model takes a connectivist/relationalist approach, and looks at interactions in terms of a typology of agent connection (from individuals to communities of networks).