Understanding Vaguely

When we use our intuition independently, or follow a mutual custom (say in our work place, or in cultural setting) we understand what we’re doing, but only vaguely.

We know the direction, and the boundaries of our action (do this and not that), but seldom can we draw the exact logic, enough to articulate it.

That same act of vague understanding can be particularly useful when tackling difficult and unknown topics. For example when leaning something new, or trying to unpack a scientific paper.

Understanding, like knowing, is not a binary state.

There are many gradients of abstraction we can use in order to unpack and transform our understanding.

If for example we’re reading about a new scientific breakthrough, the details of the method could be out of focus, but the outcome could be understood. If the outcome is not understood, maybe we can map the disciplines this new innovation is connecting. If not maybe we can just set a very plain google alert for that scientist so we can get a link to their Ted talk, when one happens.

Being an expert mean understanding precisely – fully grasping a topic. But being a ‘stationary’ expert means less today than it did yesterday.

Understanding vaguely can kickstart an inquiry and help to mobilize our practice across discipline lines.


Now read this

On Universality

Tools are designed to be universal, of course. A hammer can’t change to be a screwdriver. With algorithms we now try and use context where possible. With data, sensors and other externalities we might try and change the behavior of our... Continue →