Third Phase Science and - The George Washington University

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Submitted 1/28/12
9000 words
A Confluence of Third Phase Science
And Dialogic Design Science
Kenneth C Bausch
Institute for 21st Century Agoras
8213 Hwy 85 #901
Riverdale, GA 30274
[email protected]
corresponding author
Thomas R Flanagan
Institute for 21st Century Agoras
117 Highland Avenue
Barrington, RI 02606-4749
401 245-0204
[email protected]
A Confluence of Third Phase Science
And Dialogic Design Science
Gerard de Zeeuw introduced the term ‘Third Phase Science’ in 1997. A deliberative method which is
called Dialogic Design Science (DDS; see illustrates an
effective way of implementing third phase science as a means of understanding and adapting complex
social situations. This paper explains De Zeeuw’s concept in non-specialist language and expands on the
historical context of third phase science as a means of addressing contemporary needs. It shows how
DDS completes Third Phase Science as an axiomatic science and makes third phase science into a
valuable design methodology.
1.0.0 PART ONE: Third Phase Science
1.1.0 An Objective World
We have a natural need to see the world around us in terms of “what it is.” In the Western world view,
we have come to see things in that world as well-defined objects that are separate from us. In
Indigenous and Eastern cultures, the separation is more subtle. These cultures see human beings as
being enmeshed in a universal web of life. The cultural separation between the Western “us” and the
“not-us” is inherent also in the very nature of language. When we say “That umbrella is red,” we are also
saying, “That umbrella is not black.” There are many shades of red, of course, and our language doesn’t
resolve this issue; however, because we learn through a process of making distinctions, and because our
language plays such a large role in how we learn together, our languages are tuned to shape recognition
of distinctions. Expectations become embedded in language, and we then become caught up in those
expectations through our use of our language.
There are pivotal points in Western history where ways of thinking have significantly shaped or
reshaped cultural expressions. Plato solidified the Western concept of an objective world. He posited a
‘world of Forms’ that contained the blueprints for everything in the world. For him, a thing was a dog if
it had the ‘form’ or ‘essence’ of a dog. Aristotle placed the essence of ‘dog-ness’ into the physical
nature of a dog. For him also, a thing was a dog if it had the essence of a dog. Subsequent Greek, Arab,
and Scholastic (medieval) philosophy expanded on this notion through reductive reflection of all things
tangible and intangible.
By the time of Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the primordial all-encompassing mesh of
Scriptural/Aristotelian myth was frayed and no longer up to the tasks of explaining the physical realities
unearthed in the Age of Discovery and Enlightenment. A new perspective was needed. Descartes
supplied it. In his Discourse on Method, he laid stress upon objects that could be observed and disputed
the presumed infallibility of myths.
1.2.0 Stories, Myths, and Classical Science
In early times and at the grassroots level in all modern communities, people made sense of their worlds
through the stories they shared. The West has Aesop's Fables. An example of the oral tradition in the
Americas is illustrated by the Oneida Indian story, Who Speaks for Wolf.
Who Speaks for Wolf is a Native American story, told by a grandfather to his grandson, teaching
him about Wolf. This book tells of how the people forget Wolf, and push him off his land. The
people become selfish and want the land for themselves. Later, white man come and repeats
the same offense. They too don't think about the natives, and push and kill them off the land.
The white men now show the same arrogance shown earlier by the natives. The important
lesson of the story is to respect not only Wolf and other people, but also nature as a whole.
[Amazon book review by Seal]
Over time and in different cultures, mythic stories tend to become more complex and some myths give
structure to powerful and enduring civic institutions. Roman Law and Canon Law (11th century), for
example, provided narratives for organizing civil and religious society. The individual held a defined
place that was a part of and also apart from a larger narrative. As it happens, Descartes was born into
an age of discovery that would pull humanity further away from its position in mythic experience.
1.2.1 The Cartesian worldview and the invention of the ‘object device’
Contemplating his individual situation and declaring “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am),
Descartes created an enduring rigid mental separation between an objective world “out there” and the
subjective world “in here.” He envisioned a detached observer viewing an objective world. This
viewpoint and the contemporaneous work of Galileo initiated the surge of classical science, which was
accelerated by the work of Isaac Newton later in the 17th century.
Earlier science had interpreted the world with stories and elaborate myths. The new science broke the
stories down and focused on the ‘objects’ that were talked about in those myths. Breaking the myths
down in this way vastly increased our ability to comprehend new and strange information. With this
new science we could take in and categorize information without the need to spin numerous new
myths. At the same time, we unraveled the fabric. Man was no longer held in place within his myths.
It should be noted that the ideas ‘detached observer’ and ‘object’ are imaginative constructs that really
do not adequately describe either the existing observers or the objects of observation. We are, in fact,
bodies enmeshed within a system of other bodies observing a world of which we are a part. We have
simplified for the purposes of making some types of distinctions – as Niels Bohr has said “Truth and
clarity are complementary.” The philosophical tool of reductionism gives us a measure of clarity while
costing us a measure of truth. The objects that we observe are viewed necessarily from a partial
perspective and our statements about those observations are shaped by what we expect to see.
Philosophers and poets of the 17th century, such as Baruch Spinoza and William Blake, were not pleased
with this feature of reductive of science. Spinoza railed against Descartes’ assertion that our bodies are
incapable of knowing. He argued (c.1670) that no one has ever
laid down limits to the power of the body; that is, no one has as yet been taught by experience
what the body can accomplish solely by the laws of nature. … Thus, when men say that this or
that physical action has its origin in the mind, which latter has dominion over the body, they are
using words without meaning, or are confessing in specious phraseology that they are ignorant
of the cause of said action (in Frederick Pollock 1880, appendix D).
Blake thought that science stripped the world of its richness and left us in a bare geometrical universe.
He voiced his poetic displeasure with the rapier verse:
May God us keep
from simple vision
And Newton’s sleep.
Calculated trajectories of cannon balls prevailed, and humanism was held at bay through the compelling
logic of first phase science. Art and science were culturally coerced into separate systems of thought,
observing each other yet prevented from powerfully influencing each other. The Industrial Revolution
over later centuries presented itself as a validation of first phase science in the form of discovered rules
for harnessing the powers of nature. For three centuries, technology followed on this model to create
advances in areas such as energy, chemistry, and electronics.
‘First phase’ science stripped anthropomorphic urges from objects and applied the human eye to look
upon all objects from the distinct sphere of human perspective. First phase science fostered confidence
in objective observations as a means of refining and even dislodging myth while still contributing to a
sense of preserved social order.
1.2.2 The rise of new academic fields
Then in what is called the ‘Second Industrial Revolution’ (1880-2020), industry started to direct what
science studied. It sought to harness and systematize the essence of science itself – its creative power.
After the Second World War, industry required information and guidance in increasingly complex areas.
It turned to Operational Research – a fusion of engineering and business management - to discover rules
for improved leadership, marketing, and production. Science responded by giving birth to new
academic fields.
Beyond the similarities between these movements in the beginning and middle of the 20th century,
there was an importance difference. In the ‘Second Industrial Revolution’ industry had taken command
over what was to be studied, replacing science as a decision maker concerning what to deliver and what
to study. However, it had not changed the nature of science, which thus could maintain its
characteristic disinterest in the users of its results. After the Second World War this attitude was
Users started to acquire an interest in how science studied, not only in what it studied. It was
noticed, for example, that the act of observation could influence what was observed, and that
the methods of research could determine what was found. This appeared difficult to accept,
both to users and scientists – even though in some areas, like physics, scientists had been facing
the same difficulty for decades (DeZeeuw, 1997).
1.3.0 The Rise of ‘Second Phase’ Science
In the postwar era, management scientists began to notice that answers to their research surveys were
often swayed by the wordings of their questions. Furthermore, they noticed that people tended to
answer questions in terms that made them look better to their questioner; the answers were more
strongly swayed when it was known that the researcher was the author of the question. In a related
field of research, anthropologists who were trying to understand the culture of a community observed
that they were changing the culture by their mere presence as observers within the culture. In this and
many other situations, the “act of observation” was detected as an input by the system under study, and
the system under study “reacted” to the observation confounding the observation that was the object
of the study. In even basic physical science, scientists studying particle physics had been forced into the
conclusion that they were unable to simultaneously determine the exact location and momentum of
subatomic particles (this inability was formalized in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle). Objects could
not be fully known using First Phase Science traditions. First phase science was in crisis.
To minimize the effects of self-fulfilling prophesies, placebo effects, and other observer/observed
effects, the social and biological sciences devised the double-blind procedure in which neither the
subjects nor the researchers know which group is receiving the treatment. This rigorous procedure
comes close to satisfying the demands of ‘first phase’ science because it put a veil between the observer
and the observed. Unfortunately, the approach limits the ability to understand an object by “touching”
or “manipulating” it. Research on sentient objects must include evaluating the way that the objects
respond to an input, including the source of the input. The presence of sentient objects – both
organisms and systems – turned out to be far more pervasive than researchers initially expected.
The introduction of new demands into the domain of science--along with continued requirements for
experimental objectivity--strained traditional science to the breaking point. Science could no longer
assume simplistic definitions for whole classes of ‘object’. The research object of ‘responsibility’ [an
essential feature of function in social systems] might once have been defined by the example of George
Washington admitting “I chopped down the cherry tree.” The new demands required that objects such
as ‘responsibility’ needed to be put into a frame of reference in order to be understood. Such frames
either are implicitly embedded in the traditional myths of a culture or become explicitly crafted based
upon large set of scientific observations. A scientific consensus needed to be agreed upon to specify a
specific frame for understanding a specific type of observation.
The results of experiments were recognized to depend on the questions asked, and interpretations of
those results depend upon the predisposition of the researcher to apply a specific framework for their
studies. Results of experiments using distinct frameworks could rarely be repeated over time and space.
“It is not quite clear yet how science can respond to the change” (DeZeeuw, 1997).
‘Second phase’ science objects are themselves constructed; and they also are generally useful in guiding
plans for constructing the future. Objects such as the ‘elderly’ carry powerful implications for policy and
action. The object of ‘elderly’ is constructed to identify persons needing care, perhaps, or persons
outside the workforce. The object ‘elderly’ informs others to respect elders and not to impede their care
or treatment. Such objects differ greatly from ‘first phase’ objects because they are not tightly
(intrinsically?) defined in the way a stone is defined; instead, they are a spread of preconditions or
effective uses identified by a mathematical average or a range of probability. Academic psychology and
sociology rely heavily upon second phase science and supplement it with stories and narratives that
make their findings understandable to non-researchers. We appear to assimilate abstract knowledge
most readily when it is presented in a palatable context, and yet concurrently our language tends to
simplify–or oversimplify–the abstract complexity even as we discover it.
Second phase science imitates first phase science in trying to reduce the cost of transferring
understandings (‘objects’) from one situation to another. First phase science selects statements that
concern the ‘out there’ (Descartes’ res extensa). Second phase science deals with situations involving
the internal likes, thoughts, and decisions of people. Its statements concern the ‘in there’ (res cogitans),
and such statements sometimes end in overload with a resulting failure to transfer effectively to new
situations or new audiences. In both of these phases the goal and effort is to reduce ‘objects’ to some
basic essence of reality that can be applied across domains.
Another way of making the comparison is to consider second phase science as a means of transferring a
context along with a target object. Unlike the situation in ‘first phase’ science, however, this larger
context is more arbitrary and dependent upon the goals of researchers. It is largely a narrative that
mixes some well-founded ‘objects’ and theorizes connections with other less well-defined ideas. The
resulting collage has the flavor a mythical narrative.
1.3.1 Collective learning
The focus of this paper is ‘observation.’ The type of observation used by traditional science is a concept
based upon the detachment between observer and object, and the fixed unbiased perspective of the
observer posited by Descartes. This concept defines a frame for freezing an observation from its
mythological embodiment and defining it in an otherwise undefined context. In actual practice,
scientists needed to create frameworks (contexts for making an observation). This led to a potentially
biased choice of one framework from among a plurality of alternative frameworks. Each framework
constitutes a “theory”–or story for how things work--and the contest for scientific truth moves to a
sometimes incommensurate contest among competing theories.
Although science often is associated with a search for explanation and for theory, it seems best
characterized as a form of collective learning that concentrates on observation as its main
vehicle. It stresses frames of reference that separate observations from their context to provide
a possibility for comparison. It was this kind of emphasis which made science so important in the
development of Western Europe (DeZeeuw, 1997).
Science is, of course, only one form of collective learning. Other forms of collective learning do not rely
upon direct observations of ‘things’. In oral and symbolic traditions, stories, myths, and symbols
maintain individual and collective identities in a cultural gestalt. Individuals placed themselves into
their tribe’s stories by acting within the accepted mores of their society. Leaders, councils, and citizens
at large became guardians of the cultural myths and maintained order and continuity by enforcing these
A major weakness of these traditions is their vulnerability to control by strong individuals or institutional
authorities. To reduce the risk of being overtaken by a demagogue–whether in scientific societies or in
broader civic societies--cultures adopted a form of collective learning which is called the optical
tradition. In traditional societies observations can be transferred in the manner of myths and texts. In
the optical tradition, however, observations do not need to be transferred through the application of
prior myths. Optical observations “can be checked, in principle, at any time by any observer. They are
extremely hard to own” (DeZeeuw, 1997). Individuals therefore can criticize mythic observations on the
basis of direct individual observation. They can now challenge the collective understanding and narrow
the contexts for which prior understanding applies.
While it might be comparatively easy to define boundaries beyond which myths seem to no longer
apply, it is difficult to establish social agreements for determining the essence of what a ‘thing’ is. This
difficulty boils down to the need to distinguish between ‘things’ and ‘levels of sameness.’
Nowadays the distinction is facilitated through a stepwise procedure. Starting with some
observations, one compares them using a number of ‘hypothesized things’, and eventually
chooses that ‘thing’ that allows for the selection or construction of observations that are ‘better’
than the ones one started from. This kind of ‘thing’ usually is called a(n) (scientific) ‘object’
(DeZeeuw, 1997).
A definition of a ‘thing’ is ‘better’ if it minimizes ‘unintended effects’, ‘mistakes’, or ‘mishaps’ in action
more than other proposed definitions. Finding such ‘objects’ usually involves repeated observations.
The search tends to close when a distinction between a ‘thing’ and a ‘level of sameness’ are perceived to
be satisfactory–for present predictive purposes.
To put this into a contemporary perspective, consider “the economy” as an object of research. Different
frameworks can be applied to understand the economy. Predictions drawn from some frameworks can
have near-term impacts on indicators through which the object is investigated. For example, if the shortterm publicly traded shares of corporate ownership are taken as indicators of economic health, then
news about a possible collapse of an international currency can shape the immediate exchange of
shares of ownership of corporations, and a decreased price for immediately traded shares can be
interpreted as a signal a worsening of the object that is being defined as ’the economy’.
The underlying value of the corporation, however, need not have changed in any way. Should an
understanding of the economy be based on short term trades? Investment bankers would cling to the
bias for applying this framework for understanding the economy. It is a fair question to ask how much
of our collective learning and cultural understanding of the economy is based on oral tradition and how
much is based upon science.
1.3.2 Variations on the notion of ‘object’
Science ran into difficulty when it “tried to apply science’s device (the ‘object’) to what had been left out
in the first phase–when it tried to deal with the ‘in there’ instead of the ‘out there’. “’Second phase’
science aims to resolve the ‘overload’ that derives from using the Cartesian form to study the ‘in there’
as if it is the ‘out there’” (DeZeeuw, 1997). The domain of second phase science is goal oriented. It aims
to identify qualifications that lead to some desired behavior. Second-phase ‘objects’ for the goal of
graduating with a high grade point average, for example, might be getting enough sleep, regular study
habits, and taking good notes.
As we have already noted, Greek thought posited pure essences for all things. Western science
accepted this inherited assumption in its application to physical objects and natural forces. First phase
science therefore dealt mainly with natural, non-constructed objects. It searched for the essence of
these objects by ignoring aspects that deviated from the proposed essence of the object being studied.
For the most part, Western science ignored individual purpose or strategic intentions as part of the
essence of things. Things were as they were and became what they were ordained to become. In the
prior era however, Aristotelian science defined things such as gravity, as a quality of things which
“desired” to fall down – when given an appropriate opportunity.
Usually it is stated that (first phase) science aims for the acquisition of knowledge, that is for the
acquisition of statements that allow for prediction. Such formulations are consequences of the
notion that science aims for the improvement of observation–one interpretation of which is that
science aims to overcome the ‘human-ladenness’ of observation, to reduce the mistakes in
action that it may generate …
Science has been very successful on these terms. We no longer have any difficulty, for example,
in recognizing lights in the sky as stars, the earth as a massive ball, the arteries in our body as a
circuit, or in ‘seeing’ heat through a thermometer – even though these feats at some time took
laborious arguments, or were not possible at all. One may say that science has made such forms
of recognition less expensive, more ‘free’: one recognizes them without having to do much work
(DeZeeuw, 1997).
Second phase science has difficulty in defining its ‘objects’. Someone has to devise a definition that
distinguishes one ‘object’ from other ‘objects’. If one prepares explicit definitions for these objects in
order to improve observations, one will find that necessary participants may disagree and refuse to
participate in the discussion. Efforts to prevent their defection [i.e., their dismissal of an interpretation
that seeks to be recognized as a shared view] may be at high cost and may involve negotiation, teaching,
priming, or even scrapping a study if compliance is not achieved.
This resistance to prescribed and often arbitrary ‘objects’ is especially critical in efforts to influence
social behavior. When people feel coerced by physical force, law, or propaganda, they tend to rebel.
This resistance may easily be provoked when one’s activities may be defined in different terms
(‘objects’), such as: ‘sin’, ‘crime’, ‘error’, ‘cultural expectation’, and ‘heresy’.
The limitations of second phase objects are very painful when dealing with efforts for social
‘improvement’, for instance, in the realm of business practices. Improvement might be defined as
corporate profits, respect for property, privileges of wealth and position, or alternatively as
sustainability, social justice, equal opportunity, human rights, safe working conditions, fair wages, etc. A
similar divergence can be observed regarding the ‘responsibility’ object. Generalized top-down ‘objects’
may have been satisfactory as proposed by canon law in the 11th century. They are simply not up to the
task one thousand years later.
1.4.0 Third phase science
‘Third phase’ science resists the impulse to reduce contextualized ‘objects’ to a single essence. Instead,
it accepts the legitimacy of observations from many perspectives and so places the ‘object’ in a rich
contextual understanding. From this multidimensional understanding, the ‘object’ is accepted by a
diverse group trying to understand the ‘object.’ The expansive definitions of third-phase ‘objects’ secure
support for a multidimensional understanding of an ‘object’. It reduces objections to this understanding
because it includes those alternative understandings. It should be noted that this multidimensional
understanding limits its generalization to the particular situations similar to those in which it is
Third phase science assumes that our many individual subjective, bodily experiences generate valid
viewpoints on what we are collectively observing. Therefore, it does not accept the Cartesian
assumption of a generic, detached observer of material things (first phase science). And it does not try
to reduce contextual observations to some single, universally-acceptable mathematic or probabilistic
essence (second phase science). Instead, it welcomes diversities of viewpoint and seeks to increase
them in order to get a more complete conception.
This approach encourages the use of a plurality of high quality observations to construct ‘objects’ that
increase the quality of actions directed toward a desired goal. Third phase objects differ in content from
objects in first and second phase science. They are collections of diffuse observations that offer a
comprehensive portrayal of the topic at hand. Its ‘objects’ are collaboratively constructed to deal with a
problematic situation. They need to be used to achieve their desired goal. These objects are created for
a purpose. Constructing objects that are not accepted ultimately as being useful defeats the very
purpose of constructing those objects
The focus of observers is thus drawn to agreeing upon the way to control the process of multiperspective construction of objects. In doing so, one facilitates the development of self-constructed
‘objects’ which will be useful. People who self-construct their objects are naturally committed to the
practical use of those objects. This makes defection from the understanding of those objects still
possible but increasingly unlikely.
The aim of ‘third phase science’ can be summarized as making it possible to develop ‘selfconstructed objects’ such that ‘defections are not avoided or prevented, but are used to reduce
the cost of maintaining these objects. In other words, research will aim to support the selfconstruction of self-constructed objects – and conversely, make it more easy to defect from
them (to avoid being trapped in one’s own object) (DeZeeuw, 1997).
In ‘third phase’ science, participants offer their observations on the topic at hand. They are fully and
respectfully involved. Their autonomy is respected. Their observations are observer-dependent and
their expressions are protected from efforts to improve them.
The method of ‘third phase’ science may thus be characterized as supporting the purpose of
becoming a ‘good’ participant. A good participant should be able to help other participants
develop as well as access what contributes to their actions. Making this possible may be
compared to the original notion of rhetoric: to provide the tools that allow citizens to participate
as citizens (Scholten, 1990). Such tools constitute a language (differing from the languages used
in first and second phase science): a form of transfer that structures both the use and the being
used (DeZeeuw, 1997).
One may ask whether ‘third phase ‘science is still a science–in the sense with which science is popularly
understood. “It does not aim to reduce differences between how people see ‘things’. But rather to
increase difference in the collective [venue] in which people construct their exchanges” (DeZeeuw, 1997).
It assigns the construction of objects to those who need them to improve their situation In so doing, it
reduces the ‘overload’ of ‘second phase’ science because it allows defections [where strong objections
to the understanding may exist] while effectively limiting them [by avoiding the construction of
understandings that exclude other understandings]. In its use of collectively self-constructed objects, it
makes improved observation internal to the process of collective learning.
Where statistical science seeks to make an observation understood in terms of its centrality and the
patterns of variance around that center, third phase science seeks to make the ‘meaning of an object’
understood in terms of its assimilation into a multitude of frameworks for understanding the observed
world. Theories which seek to reduce variability in predicting a central value for an object in phase one
science find their parallel in frameworks which seek to accept understandings for an object in third
phase science.
One can look at third phase science as a technology for reducing errors in contextualizing an object
under study, rather than in reducing the error in objectifying the object under study. In this way, third
phase science is meta-objective, and holds as its central focus the validity of context centered around an
object rather than the agreement on singular essence of an object.
1.5.0 Conclusion
There is no absolute separation between observer and object. In first phase science, however, the
connections are often so slight that assumptions of separation are often justified and produce valuable
results. First phase science applies especially to physics, chemistry, and biology. In second phase
science, the recognition of an object depends upon the perspective of the observer. The second phase
perspective is required in areas of quantum physics and medicine, but especially in the psychological
and social sciences. In second phase science, ‘objects’ are defined as clusters of qualities defined in
terms of standard deviations from a statistical median.
Social scientists face an important problem when researching ongoing systems with second phase
The problem stems from the fact that in organizations, at the higher and lower levels, openness,
concern for feelings, self awareness, interpersonal experimentation, and trust tend to be
suppressed …[In a major study] It was found that the participants were unable to predict their
interpersonal behavior accurately. Ninety-two percent predicted that the most frequently
observed categories would be owning up, concern, trust, individuality, experimentation, helping
others, and openness to feelings. The actual scores (in a sample of 10,150 units) showed that
their prediction was accurate only in the case of owning up to ideas…Trust, experimentation,
individuality, helping others, and expression of positive and negative emotions–all the behaviors
which they predicted would be frequent–were rarely observed. Conformity, which they
predicted would be low in frequency, was the second most frequently observed category.
The most important fear expressed by researchers when considering subject influence is the
fear of contamination of research. This is a legitimate fear (Argyris 1968).
1.5.1 Lenses of Observation
A community of science is any group of observers that uses a consistent lens (or theory) to make
observations of increasingly reliable quality. The community works to polish and extend the lens with
respect to its utility in observing the objects under study.
First, second, and third phase science are expressed in terms of lenses in the following graphics:
Figure 1: First Phase, Immaterial Observer
Observer-independent observations use the individual observer’s lens or theory for understanding the
world. In first phase science, this lens is polished and its focus is sharpened so that many scientists can
see the object more precisely. First phase science assumes an immaterial observer and material world
that can be understood in terms of essences.
These assumptions are to a large extent non-problematic for routine physical, chemical, and biological
science. They cause consternation, however, in deeper research where it is often found that “the
opposite of a profound truth is an equally profound truth” (Bohr). In subatomic physics, for example,
while looking at the same phenomenon, one observes a particle if one looks at it in one way, but a wave
if one looks at it in a different way.
Figure 2: Second Phase, Immersed Observer
Observer-dependent observation also uses a single observer and that observer’s lens, but recognizes
that the observer and the object are embedded in the same overall reality. Second phase science
continues to view reality through a single lens and strives for a single abstract definition of its objects,
but with a realization that its descriptions are constructed. Often the manner of this construction can be
indicated by the graphic below:
Figure 3: Second Phase, Multiple Observers
This graphic indicates a plurality of distinct observers using their individual lenses to understand an
object. Efforts to sharpen the focus of any lens and create a consensus definition can lead to conflict
over the quality of lens in use as well as to disagreements in the nature of the object under study.
As indicated earlier, these disagreements can often be successfully glossed over by a relatively
homogeneous group of scientists, sharing a research agenda, and using probabilistic methods to
describe social and cultural situations. The disagreements can be enormous, however, when
heterogeneous researchers with diverse agendas attempt to describe cultural realities. Difficulties can
be insurmountable if experts attempt to prescribe solutions for social and cultural problems.
Figure 4: Third Phase, Multiple Perspectives, Contextualized Object
This graphic portrays a different way of constructing an object, by way of observer-interdependent
observation’. As several observers share their perspectives, they build a shared context (represented by
the inner circle) that constitutes the ‘object’ of their deliberations. This is the method of third phase
science. It honors the views from every lens and uses them to construct a compound lens (or meta-lens)
which is shared by the group as they examine the object that is at the center of their inquiry. Through
this meta-lens a group gains a community understanding of the situation they are in and collectively
decides what they want to do about it.
Third phase science seeks and respects frameworks for making observations from multiple and distinct
observers in order to more fully understand the inclusive context of an object. The language that
determines the ‘object’ of discussion is established through the interaction of the involved observers.
Science in this phase deals especially with desired behavioral and social change, such as selfimprovement or organizational change. Third phase science does not seek to give a researcher more
control over human variables; it thereby does not manipulate and antagonize its users and participants.
“It allows one to meet the demands of people that act as interactive users. It allows them to learn
collectively, and to systematically develop the resources needed to improve their own development. It
makes it possible to increase difference between individuals, and to use these differences as a resource
(DeZeeuw, 1997).
1.6.0 Discussion
What in the literature is called ‘objective’ or ‘experimental’ often proves not to be ‘objective’ or
‘experimental’ at all. It often is claimed that the original device of science has been used–
without proper consideration of either ‘organization’ or ‘adaptation’, or of their combination.
This seems to subvert science as a (relatively complex) voting procedure (DeZeeuw, 1997).
We are all victims of the frameworks that we use as lenses to look upon the world. Only when we
engage each other in dialogue might we discover reasons to look more deeply at our choice of governing
framework. What we discover with third phase science is not primarily about the nature of objects but
rather about the nature of our observing the objects. We have a reflective tool for refining our choice of
and our use of observational lenses. Regardless of where we sit around a complex problem, the
framework that we will first seize to examine that problem will be the framework which we are biased
to seize. Whether with the benefit of virtue or the burden of vice, our choice is not really a matter of
deliberative choice. Whether we are trained in physical science, social science, philosophy or art, we
will have preferred frameworks. This means that even as we seek to be objective, our very first glance
upon a problem object will betray our subjectivity. This is DeZeeuw’s insight.
The social burden of collectively examining a problem situation is not a task that can be safely delegated
to a review of literature on a subject. The trajectories that are established through the path of
publication place humanity on courses which in Western history have been selected using First Phase or
Second Phase science alone. The Third Phase science that DeZeeuw calls for is a costly practice. The cost
alone could convince many to shun it. DeZeeuw recognizes this cost and presents a compelling
philosophical argument for the necessity of refining the practice of third phase science. The hope, of
course, is that as this science will come into its own eminence, costs will fall and improved
understandings will open up a new era of socioscientific wisdom.
Dialogic Design Science facilitates the arrival of self-constructed objects. It prescribes how we can selfconstruct objects that derive from many alternative points of view. The science is based upon a goal of
inclusively developing a descriptive language that fits what is needed in particular situations. It
prescribes the steps that are necessary to develop those objects. This process includes the users and
relies on their ‘languages’ and ‘reports’, rather than on abstract ‘laws’ and ‘facts’.
As one ponders the recent evolution or belated reemergence of third phase science in Western
metaphysics, one might capture a moment of humility by realizing that “in the Indigenous tradition, the
reason a [tribal] meeting was being held was because no one knew what to do about a problem… The
‘it’ under discussion was in the center of a circle, and every discussant was sitting around the periphery
of the circle looking at the ‘it’, quite literally, from a different point of view” (Harris et al, 2011). The
Western philosophical tradition has just recently rediscovered a powerful form of social understanding
which emerged across eons of experimentation and is preserved in tribal practices within indigenous
social systems.
2.0.0 PART TWO: Dialogic Design Science
Part 2 of this paper describes a set of axioms, definitions, and laws that lie behind both Third Phase and
Dialogic Design science. It briefly describes the Structured Dialogic Design methodology in which groups
construct their meta lens. It also presents the iterative circular progression of the science.
2.1.0 The Originators of Dialogic Design Science
Dialogic Design Science (DDS) grew up in the world of system science and mainly through the efforts of a
nuclear physicist, Alexander Christakis and an electrical engineer, John Warfield. When Christakis was
fresh out of Yale with his PhD, he was enlisted by Constantine Doxiadis, a renowned architect and city
planner, to provide rigor for Ekistics, his effort to create a science of human habitations. For several
years in the late 1960s, Doxiadis invited famous thinkers, including people like Arnold Toynbee,
Buckminster Fuller, and Margaret Mead, to discuss the pressing world issues while cruising the Greek
isles on his yacht. At the conclusion of the cruise they convened on the island of Delos and wrote their
reflections (Time Magazine, 8/08/69).
Christakis was onboard for the cruises. He was duly impressed by these great thinkers, and also got to
know them personally. His overall impression, however, was one of confusion. These brilliant minds who
discussed productively with thinkers in their fields of study, had great difficulty discussing with people
outside their fields. Architects struggled to talk with historians; the same with sociologists and
philosophers. Because of these experiences and his city planning work, Christakis decided that the
science he was schooled in was not up to the task of designing thriving human habitations.
In 1969, Christakis joined Hasan Ozbekhan and Aurelio Peccei who had adopted a systems approach
(Churchman, 1979) for influencing the stream of world events. The result of this collaboration was a
report to the Club of Rome, entitled The Predicament of Mankind: Quest for Structured Responses to
Growing Worldwide Complexities and Uncertainties (1970). This visionary document was rejected by the
Club of Rome in favor of a proposal from Jay Forrester of MIT that employed the newly forming science
of System Dynamics. The report of the MIT team was published as The Limits to Growth (Meadows,
Randers, and Meadows, 1972). At that time Ozbekhan and Christakis quit the Club of Rome.
Subsequently, Christakis moved to the Battelle Memorial Institute where he began working with John
After two years of college, John Warfield’s education was interrupted by World War Two and followed
up by five quarters in electrical engineering, which led to his PhD in electrical engineering at Purdue
University in 1952. He worked solely on innovative electrical engineering faculties until 1965 when he
took a research position in social science at the Battelle Institute in Columbus Ohio. At this time,
Warfield began his lifelong quest:
To develop a systems science; a science that extended all the way from its foundations through
a sufficient number of applications to provide empirical evidence that the science was properly
constructed and was very functional; a science that could withstand the most aggressive
challenge (Warfield, 2006, pg. 262).
He started to develop this science at the Battelle Institute. Using his extensive mathematical
background he began developing axioms and necessary tools for the science. An early crowning
achievement was his creation of Interpretative Structural Modeling (ISM), which maps the transitive
relations that exist among answers to a triggering question. ISM dealing with 30 or more such answers
requires interactive software (which was first created in 1973). It was about at this time that Aleco
Christakis observed ISM at work. He saw it as a mathematics and science that could be employed in
complex social situations.
Warfield and Christakis joined forces at Battelle in the early 1970s and continued working together first
at the University of Virginia and then at George Mason University. They shared a common commitment
to create a science that would enable Third Phase Science. Their approaches, however, were different.
Warfield was an engineer who chased down and tested every possible weakness in his grand Science of
Generic Design. Christakis, the theoretical physicist and doer, was looking for an elegant simplicity that
could serve as the basis for practical design of social systems. Their approaches were complementary
and productive. This relationship is reflected in the complementary organization of the Design of
Science (DoS) model in which theory and practice interact in an iterative cycle. This cycle is shown
below, figure 5, in the enhanced version by Flanagan and Christakis (in preparation).
Warfield fulfilled his lifelong quest with the publication of the monumental, if underappreciated, A
Science of Generic Design: Managing Complexity through Systems Design (1990, 1994). The systems
design portion of the theory went by the moniker of Interactive Management (IM) which was
thoroughly explained in A Handbook of Interactive Management (Warfield and Cardenas, 1994).
Christakis branched out in 1989 to form his own consulting firm and continued to refine IM. In 2006, he
re-christened IM as Structured Dialogic Design (SDD). Over the years Christakis and his associates have
been refining the theory of Dialogic Design Science (DDS) as well as the methodology of SDD. This
combination of theory and methodology comprise the iterative cycle of Dialogic Design Science (DDS).
This cycle closely follows Warfield’s Domain of Science model, which has been expanded recently to
focus attention on the role that community plays in shaping the advance of a science (Flanagan and
Christakis, in preparation). When science, itself, becomes an object of reflective study by its
practitioners (and others who are influenced by the practice), a feedback from the “arena” where the
science is applied provides observations on the effectiveness of the science. The reflective observations
then can suggest areas where specific enhancements might be made to improve the theory of the
2.2.0 The Science of DDS
In this section, we deal with the science of Dialogic Design Science whose main components are its
Axioms, its Definitions, and its Laws. The next section deals with its methodology, which is Structured
Dialogic Design (SDD). Together these components express the science of DDS. A later section deals
briefly with the roles, environment, and practices utilized in SDD applications.
The Enhanced
Domain of Science
The Science
rp u
The Community
Figure Five: Domain of Science Model
2.2.1 The Seven Axioms of Dialogic Design Science
Recently Christakis was asked by a reporter: “How can we persuade this planet, Aleco, that truth needs
the consensus of all?” His answer was, “This is the triggering question that I have been struggling with
all my life. The only way I can see this happening is by journalists like you legitimizing third phase
science, starting with the axioms of the science of dialogue” (Kakoulaki, 2012). The axioms of Dialogic
Design Science (DDS) apply also to all of Third Phase Science as it applies to the design of social systems.
There are seven axioms
The Complexity Axiom: Designing systems is a multi-dimensional challenge. It demands that
observational variety be respected when engaging observers/stakeholders in dialogue, while
making sure that their cognitive limitations are not violated in our effort to strive for
comprehensiveness (John Warfield).
The Engagement Axiom: Designing social systems, such as health care, education, cities,
communities, without the authentic engagement of the stakeholders is unethical, and results in
inferior plans that are not implementable (Hasan Ozbekhan).
The Investment Axiom: Stakeholders engaged in designing their own social systems must make
personal investments of trust, committed faith, or sincere hope, in order to be effective in
discovering shared understanding and collaborative solutions (Tom Flanagan).
The Logic Axiom: Appreciation of distinctions and complementarities among inductive,
deductive and retroductive logics is essential for a futures-creative understanding of the human
being. Retroductive logic makes provision for leaps of imagination as part of value- and
emotion-laden inquiries by a variety of stakeholders (Norma Romm).
The Epistemological Axiom: A comprehensive science of the human being should inquire about
human life in its totality of thinking, wanting, telling, and feeling, like the indigenous people and
the ancient Athenians were capable of doing. It should not be dominated by the traditional
Western epistemology that reduced science to only intellectual dimensions (LaDonna Harris).
The Boundary-Spanning Axiom: A science of dialogue empowers stakeholders to act beyond
borders in designing symbiotic social systems that enable people from all walks of life to bond
across possible cultural, religious, racial, and disciplinary barriers and boundaries, as part of an
enrichment of their repertoires for seeing, feeling and acting (loanna Tsivacou and Norma
The Reconciliation of Power Axiom: Social Systems designing aims to reconcile individual and
institutional power relations that are persistent and embedded in every group of stakeholders
and their concerns, by honoring the Requisite Variety of distinctions and perspectives as
manifested in the Arena (Peter Jones).
These axioms are based on 35 years of experience in IM/SDD practice, and were developed from the
thoughts of many thinkers in systems science, especially that of Warfield as expressed in his science of
generic design. Some of them specify foundations for third phase science indicated by DeZeeuw and
others are added that have been developed in the practice of dialogic design. It should be noted that
these axioms are postulated as being basic to dialogic design and third phase science. They are called
axioms in DDS because they are the foundation of an axiomatic geometry. In this regard they are similar
to the four axioms of Euclidean geometry (e.g. parallel lines never pass through the same point). Axioms
in geometries are accepted because they successfully organize knowledge that works in life. Like all
scientific laws, axioms meet the tests of practice.
2.2.2 Seven Key Definitions
The following seven terminological definitions are inferred from and are complementary with the seven
Axioms of the Dialogic Design Science. These definitions establish the foundational language of the
science and hence are not negotiable:
Dialogue: The engagement of observers/stakeholders in discovering meaning, understanding,
wisdom, and action for designing their social systems through structured inquiry in a colaboratory of democracy.
Conscious Evolution: The engagement of observers/stakeholders in a co-laboratory of
democracy for the purpose of creating their ideal futures.
Future: The state of a social system that is significantly different from an extrapolation of past
and present trends.
Triggering question: A prompt framed by a Design Management team, in collaboration with the
sponsor of a co-laboratory of democracy, for the purpose of enabling observers/stakeholders to
construct high quality observations within the relevant context of a social system designing
Elemental Observation: The succinct and content-specific observation by an
observer/stakeholder in response to a triggering question during a co-laboratory of democracy.
Third Phase Science: All research actions that aim to support observers/stakeholders in
constructing high quality observations that make possible the design and implementation of
action plans for the conscious evolution of a social system.
Problem statement: The articulation by an observer/stakeholder of the dissonance between
his/her belief of "what ought to be" and her observation of "what is." These verbal statements
of the people from different walks of life are value-based.
These definitions are part of the overall dialogic design geometry. They concern the process of design
and need to be honored to maintain the integrity of the geometry.
2.2.3 Seven Laws
Application of IM/SDD has uncovered 7 laws. Some of these laws were propounded by famous systemic
thinkers outside the realm of Structured Dialogue. Some of them were uncovered in the applications of
Dialogic Design Science. Practitioners of Structured Dialogue are careful to abide with these 7 Laws.
The Law of Requisite Variety demands that an appreciation of the diversity of perspectives and
stakeholders is essential in managing complex situations. The Law of Requisite Variety is
attributed to William Ross Ashby.
The Law of Requisite Parsimony states that structured dialogue is needed to avoid the cognitive
overload of stakeholder/designers. The Law of Requisite Parsimony is attributed to George
Miller and John Warfield.
The Law of Requisite Saliency states that the relative saliency of observations can only be
understood through comparisons within an organized set of observations. The Law of Requisite
Saliency is attributed to Kenneth Boulding.
The Law of Requisite Meaning states that meaning and wisdom are produced in a dialogue only
when observers search for relationships of similarity, priority, influence, etc, within a set of
observations. The Law of Requisite Meaning is attributed to Charles Sanders Peirce.
The Law of Requisite Autonomy and Authenticity in distinction-making demands that during the
dialogue it is necessary to protect the autonomy and authenticity of each observer in drawing
distinctions. The Law of Requisite Autonomy and Authenticity is attributed to Ioanna Tsivacou.
The Law of Requisite Evolution of Observations states that learning occurs in a dialogue as the
observers search for influence relationships among members of a set of observations. The Law
of Requisite Evolution of Observations is attributed to Kevin Dye
The Law of Requisite Action predicts that any action that plans to reform complex social systems
designed without the authentic and true engagement of those whose futures will be influenced
by the change are bound to fail. The Law of Requisite Action is attributed to Yiannis Laouris.
The Axioms, Definitions, and Laws of DDS form the theoretical Foundation of the Science. The
methodology of DDS meets all of these foundational requirements in an efficient and pleasant manner.
This methodology is called Structured Dialogic Design (SDD). It is well described in several books and
many articles (Christakis and Bausch 2006; Flanagan and Christakis 2010; Flanagan and Bausch 2011).
2.3.0 Brief description of SDD
Two key processes in Structured Dialogic Design (SDD) are: The Nominal Group Technique (NGT;
Delbecq, Van de Ven, and Gustafson; 1975) and Interpretive Structural Modeling (ISM; Warfield, 1970s).
These processes are carefully couched in a number of auxiliary processes and protections in the practice
of SDD.
The Nominal Group Technique – This process bears superficial resemblance to brainstorming, but is
vastly superior for systemic design purposes. In NGT, responses to a carefully crafted triggering
question are written down. Each response is limited to one key idea. Other ideas are expressed in
separate responses. In addition, participants present their responses to the group in a round-robin
manner. The advantages of NGT used in this way are:
Participants are given time for thoughtful consideration and participants who are slower or not
anxious to be heard are not disadvantaged..
They retain their autonomy and their control over how their responses are stated.
They can clarify single ideas without defending them against competing ideas. Any competing
ideas may be offered as separate responses.
They can clarify single ideas without defending them against competing ideas. Any competing
ideas may be offered as separate responses.
They can cluster their clarified ideas with relative ease.
They can vote for the clarified ideas that they deem most important.
Interpretative Structural Modeling – This process takes us beyond individual preferences of importance
to collective decisions regarding the influences that individual ideas have on each other. ISM creates an
influence map in a problematic situation that allows participants to focus on the root causes of the
problem, and to avoid fruitless efforts focused on concerns that may be important, but lack the
influence to generate meaningful change. It has been shown that ‘important’ causes are rarely the
‘influential’ causes of the problem. This phenomenon has been termed, “the erroneous priorities
effect” (Dye and Conaway, 1999 ).
ISM accomplishes this task by assessing the influences that single ideas have on each other; for example,
it asks “If we make progress on addressing cause A, will that significantly help us to address cause B?”
This potentially overwhelming task is made easier through the use of special software that keeps track
of the individual decisions and plots the transitive logic among them. The software creates a map of the
influences and even portrays them in the form of an ‘influence tree’.
In the whole process of Structured Dialogic Design participants draw on resources beyond mere
cognitive wisdom. They assess their feelings, unconscious hunches, intuitions, and sense of solidarity to
create prescriptions for their future behavior. In doing this, they transcend the descriptive boundaries of
first and second phase science.
2.4.0 The Domain of Science Model
Figure Five presents the context in which dialogic design science functions. The innermost semicircle
represents the science that we have been discussing. The next circle out completes the cycle by first,
specifying SDD roles, environment, and procedures; second, conducting the actual application, and
third, reporting experienced strengths and weaknesses back into the Corpus of the science. The Corpus
and Arena arcs represent the theory and practice of the science. The outermost arc recognizes that the
experiences of SDD participants can and do influence the shape of the science.
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