SIGNS, CONTEXTS, AND MATRICIES
Although this is a workbook about language, you need to also understand that ambiguity affects not only words and other symbols, but also experiences. Behaviors, events, activities, procedures--all of these are subject to interpretation and thus, potentially ambiguous. The meaning we derive from observing or undergoing1 an experience, is very much a product of the way in which we interpret an event.
Although we may express meaning in words, most experiences are non-verbal to begin with. We observe, create, respond, judge, determine, select, reject, prioritize and solve problems non-verbally2. Whether or not language and other symbols are used as tools of an experience depends upon the nature of the experience. Johanna, the artist, may use only brushes, canvas and paints as the tools of her artistic experience; Ted, the dancer, may use only his body; Susan, the system's analyst, may use numbers and other symbols; Louis, the writer, may use only words. Any of them may or may not use a particular type of tool depending upon the purpose of an activity.
However, whether an activity is verbal or non-verbal, the meaning of the activity is created and comprehended using the same criteria. We make and interpret meaning by making relationships among things. At the beginning of this chapter, we said that "you must have three parts in order for something to mean anything: a thing, another thing, and a relationship between them". Now we're going to explore that statement in a structural way. We're going to look at how relationships are constructed independent of language--although, of course, we're going to have to use language to explain this.
We call the overarching situation of an experience a matrix3. In general terms, a matrix (matrices is the plural form of the word) is a situation, substance or object within which something is contained. In the case of an experience, a matrix is everything in the universe that could impact that situation. Besides containing everything in the universe, a matrix is also the container of a more specific situation in which the experience occurs. We refer to this more specific situation as a context.
You must have three parts in order for something to mean anything
~ a thing; another thing and a relationship between them~
The first thing we'll call the content of the situation since it's the thing we're seeking to create or understand. The other thing is a point of reference....