Bruno and I are most grateful to Elke Fein and IFIS for this opportunity to share details of our book “Metathinking” in IFIS' Online Colloquium n° 38. We were hoping that we would get a warm reception and interest from the Integral community and we were not disappointed. It was wonderful for us to have such a numerous and receptive audience.
Meta-studies are integrative endeavours. But when does the search for integration and integral become a colonising endeavour? Where are the boundaries that distinguish a holistic integration from and a totalising meta-narrative?
I expect that, in the wake of the Luxembourg Symposium called "Research Across Boundaries: Advances in [meta]theory Building", there will be the beginnings of a new climate around the whole notion of developing integral and integrative big pictures.
There have been a number of papers presented recently dealing with the topic of climate change and metatheorising. Papers by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens and Michael Zimmerman and the recent 2009 special issue of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice come from the AQAL informed streams and there are others from more general metatheoreitcal perspectives (see for example literature quoted in the call for papers by Wittneben, B, Okereke, C, Banerjee, B & Levy, D (2009)). This is a natural topic for meta-level studies to deal with.
Let's take the student-teacher relationship for example
One of the starting points for an integral and integrative approach to meta-studies is the recognition that many different lenses exist for studying a topic. Those lenses can be applied at every level in the sense making holarchy - in understanding and intervening at the empirical level, in understanding and intervening at the middle-range level and at understanding and intervening on the meta-level.
A metatheory is a theory about other theories. Those other theories and their constituent elements are the "data" on which metatheorising is based. So, in building metatheory we need to draw a boundary around the kinds of data (other theories) we are interested in exploring. This boundary defines the domain of the metatheory. It doesn't matter how big or small that domain is, as long as we draw it and clearly describe it. Without any boundary around the range of relevance of the metatheory it cannot be tested and it cannot be validly argued that it accurately represents its data.
One assumption for developing an integral metastudies approach to big picture research is that there are multiple lenses that have been used to develop those overarching schemas. All of these lenses need to be included in a comprehensive view of complex social realities. One of the most enduring of these lenses is the altitude lens. This lens looks at temporal complexity through the discourse of stage-based development.
Boundary crossing is one of the essential characteristic of performing meta-level research - boundary crossing within disciplines, between disciplines and across disciplines and of, course, within, between and across other non-disciplinary related boundaries as well. When we play with conventional boundaries with a little awareness we get to see a broader picture. Meta-studies is largely about how we move across different conceptual, methodological and cultural (meaning-making) boundaries and what we do with the results of that movement.
Defining boundaries are essential for the development of any person or any field of human endeavour. There is no exterior place and no interior state that does not have boundaries. As a parent, I know the crucial importance of setting and observing boundaries in bringing up my children. I also know that the first thing to do in setting a boundary is not to lay it out straight away, but to work out what to do when, not if, those boundaries are crossed.