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Of railroad tracks and polyphonic thinking

[ by Charles Cameron — more on the graphical mapping of heresy, radicalization, decision points, multiple ideas and complex issues, and some illustrations from railroad land ]

Here’s a railway track illustration of, say, the difference between true Islam (the straight track) and bida (the introduction of new ideas into the religion, deviation, heresy).

This graphic could equally represent the radicalization process, with the “point switching” occurring when the decision is made to switch from sympathizing to active participation, or from participation in the virtual dimension (say by posting on the forums) to the preparation and execution of acts of violence.

Locating the “switching points” would then be a significant part of a successful de-radicalization program, and I’d suggest that the concept of jihad as a matter of obligation (fard ‘ayn) would be one such.


What follows is essentially a quick-and-dirty pattern language of train tracks, switching points, marshaling yards, etc — I’ve even included one water-slide — to stir creative insights about linear thinking, multiple voices, multiple lines of thought, elegance and the polyphony of ideas

I’m posting this because any strategic and / or creative thinking that includes the perspectives and voices of multiple stakeholders will require polyphony, as will any approach to the complex dynamics in play in wicked problems…

And much else besides.


First, we have linear thinking — and a dilemma:

Then, there’s complication — not the same as complexity, and not nearly so hard to figure out —

— and a wicked problem, where the issues are indeed complex, and the problem itself may shift unexpectedly if, for instance, there’s another bombing run just as you are fixing things up after the last one…

And finally, by way of inspiration, there is always the possibility of elegance —

— and (here’s where I switch to the water-slide) — there’s always the possibility of playfulness…


Finding ways to think graphically, elegantly and a bit playfully about wicked problems is what I’m after here…



Friend JM Berger aka @intelwire sent me a link to this image:

and commented, “I think it’s more like this, no single point of departure, no single destination, loopbacks, dead ends” — nice one, JM!

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