There are myriad ways in which we humans understand ourselves and our needs and wants within our experiences of the world around us. Self-awareness coupled with the dissatisfaction resulting from unmet needs and wants motivate us to influence circumstances in an effort to have a more favorable experience—to find a solution. Contentment, if ever achieved, is fleeting. The viability of a solution just found crumbles in the face of curiosity, “antsiness,” or ennui as further needs and wants rush in to renew the cycle. While this predicament may appear to be a routine fueled by frustration, the continual search for solutions is the creative impetus that advances every aspect of human civilization.
Solutions exist at multiple levels. The one most familiar to us, personally, is at the mind level. Despite our immediate circumstances we can always dream about a reality quite different from our current condition. In the realm of the imagination all realities are possible. Even though I may not have the details, the mental world in which my solution is envisioned is different than what I experience in the physical world; and it is preferable. This reality envisioned is a powerful construct, that when acted upon externally has the potential to bring a solution into existence at other levels.
Solutions stated are externalized. Whether verbalized, graphically represented, or physically demonstrated, the act of moving a solution from the mind to the surrounding world externalizes the solution. It becomes an agenda item in a forum outside myself and initiates conversation with others. Those in my family or community or workplace react to it by doing nothing or something, but react they must.
Solutions experienced externally are virtual or material. For instance, I can play soccer on a real field in a real stadium with real teammates and a real opposing team or I can play soccer on a virtual field in a virtual stadium with virtual teammates and a virtual opposing team. In the first case I am required to be somewhere at a specific time with the proper equipment and be prepared to expend a great deal of physical and mental energy for the duration of the game and run considerable risk of getting exhausted or injured. In the second case, I have an avatar who responds as I dictate within a virtual space wherein my teammates and the opposing team are similar representations. The game can start whenever and be played by whoever shows up online or I can make up my own players and have my own game independent of others. Fatigue and injury are still possible. However, eye fatigue from staring at the screen too long and injury to fingers and wrists due to excessive rapid maneuvering of the joystick are of a different nature!
The cost of designing and developing the material solution dictates the use of a virtual solution. When the cost of the material solution is quite high and testing is essential to manage risks, modeling that solution virtually at the outset carries significant value. Buildings, equipment, vehicles, appliances, even construction and manufacturing systems are likely candidates for designing and developing the virtual solution first to prove the concept before converting it into the much more expensive material solution.
Virtual and material solutions are transactional. Once solutions are expressed in the external world by whatever means other people experience those solutions and have conversations about them. Our desire to see our solutions be successful defines needs and wants for information, resources, and authority beyond what we can muster by ourselves to fulfill our solutions in the virtual or material realm. These needs and wants lead us to conduct conversations with others in transactional patterns to gain their understanding of, agreement with, and commitment to or permission for our solution to advance. Many times the world easily accommodates our efforts to advance our solutions and the transactions required to carry them out are minimal. Other times, though, the social and natural systems are perturbed by our solutions such that we are compelled to engage in numerous transactions to move forward with our solutions.
Transactions are economic. I need or want information, resources, or authority that others have and I must negotiate with others to get it. Either they give it to me through some altruistic motivation or we come to an agreement where I get it in exchange for something I give them. The nature and type of transactions I conduct to get what I need and want are directly related to the importance and urgency I have for my solution to be successful. As a result, transactions are governed by social convention, ethical and moral frameworks, conversational skill and savvy, and immediate personal circumstances. Transactions constitute the medium of exchange within an economic system by which solutions are externalized within the political and business arenas.
Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Sunday, September 18, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005