Tame Problems and wicked problems

Community Of Practice In Philosophy for Management

The clear definition of the problem also unveils the solution.
The solution is determined according to criteria revealing the degree of effect— goal is achieved fully or partially, outcome is true or false.

Systems are difficult to work with, and seeing things for what they are is an essential first step.  Horst Rittel in the late 1960s distinguished between “tame” and “wicked” problems.  This is not the distinction between easy and hard problems—many tame problems are very hard.  But wicked problems, while not evil, are tricky and malicious in ways that tame problems are not.  The unexpected consequences we’ve seen have been because systems problems are wicked.  We will understand systems better—and why they spawn unexpected consequences—if we understand a little more of the properties of wicked problems and approach them with appropriate respect.


Tame problems can be clearly stated, have a well-defined goal, and stay solved.  They work…

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Did Social Media Cause The Egyptian Revolution?


social mediaI was recently asked (by otherwise sensible people), “Dr. Peterson, how would you assess the predominant media narrative that the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions—nicknamed ‘Facebook revolutions’ at the time—were caused by social media?”

This was my answer:

Much depends on what you mean by causality.

A few years ago I sat in on a senior capstone course on international policy. The idea was to assess a particular problem in US policy and make recommendations. One of the student projects recommended that the US could start a revolution in the particular country about which they were advising simply by promoting Internet access in the country. Apparently they had read Wael Ghonim’s maxim ” if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet” as policy rather than exuberant hyperbole.

I had to explain to them just a few of the complexities of the so-called Internet revolution in Egypt, not least of…

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Ethnocentric View

How does our ethnocentric view contribute to our production & decoding of media? Do we have the right to subjugate others to our beliefs and values under any circumstances?

Ethnocentrism, a term coined by William Graham Sumner, is the tendency to look at the world from the perspective of our culture/identity. Each of us has an ethnocentric lens on our reality and every bit of media we consume either challenges or reinforces those beliefs and values. The content of the Internet is overly oriented to an Occident (yes I am actually using that word on purpose) ethnocentric worldview of values and beliefs based on neoliberal ideologies, protestant work ethics, patriarchal structures with a consumerist core and hyper-sexualised imagery through the exclusive use of the English language. Everything  else seems to be either judged through that lens or just excluded from it. The global media is not much different, so the social norms being set by a minority in the global village could be coercing the majority into subjugating local knowledge, values and beliefs for something else.

Today this is of particular relevance as more and more individuals exercise their human right to migrate into and across over-populated spaces. Arguments abound as to what values and beliefs national laws and social norms should follow.

Some people are consciously/unconsciously selecting their exposure to information to avoid cognitive dissonance and in this way their beliefs and values are consistently reinforced in addition to engaging with people of like mind. Others may get the same messaging by accident-on purpose due to their lack of access to diverse media and opinions.

Franz Boas suggested (1887) that an individual’s beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s own culture. This approach is known as “cultural relativism” and a key component of cultural relativism is the concept that there is no such thing as a neutral worldview. Therefore the best way to deal with our ethnocentric assumptions is not to pretend that they don’t exist but instead acknowledge them, and be aware that they inform our interpretations of the world around us.

Researchers can try to mitigate their ethnocentric lens on the world as much as possible by:

  • accepting that other world views are not better or worse, just different
  • apply alternative viewpoints to research questions for a wider scope on a topic
  • promote/present diverse world views whenever/wherever possible
  • share the value of diverse viewpoints and the benefits of learning from them
  • consider alternative viewpoints of contentious issues to seek common ground

Visual Culture, Identity & Representations in the Media

Media representation of tattooed individual tend to be limited to dangerous machismo and “otherness”, outlaws and outcasts.

Here are some examples:

Vern Schillinger in HBO TV series Oz (1997-2003) – Aryan brotherhood crime syndicate

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 12.56.36 AM

That ’70s Show: Season 3, Episode 22: Eric’s Drunken Tattoo (2001)
The bookish character of Eric get’s a tattoo to prove how masculine and dangerous he is

Psychotic criminal Max in Cape Fear (1991) – classic representation of “other”, machismo and danger

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) represents both outlaw and outcast with her behaviour, her style and her tattoos


Beeler, Karin E. Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. Print.

Visual Culture, Identity & Expressions of Subculture Association

Tattooing was introduced to Western culture the 18th century through Captain Cook and his tales of polynesia and the tatau.  Tattooing was then transformed into a visual culture practice for sailors that went to exotic places or eccentric arististocrats who could afford to have someone reproduce this quaint cultural practise as part of their fetish obsessions  the ‘other’  and with orientalism.

By the 20th century, the invention of the electric tattoo gun and the production of tattoo art as ‘flash’ made tattooing accessible to the working classes and less unique. Consequently the practice fell out of favour with the elite as it became popular among military servicemen, the lower, working classes and their so-called “low” culture like tattooed circus sideshow ladies.

Tattooing became more “fragmented” in the 1960’s and the practice was appropriated among subcultures such as bikers, prison convicts, punks and the gay/leather subcultures to create marks of identity. Today. although popularity has resurged among the middle class, the act of getting a tattoo is still connected with deviance and resistance to the mainstream, which in itself can mark a body as different “other”  which is part of identity. In addition to this however, there are specific symbols that are chosen to mark one’s identity within a specific group or a desired association with that group.

Here are some examples:


West Coast Gang Affiliation


Russian Mafia


Hardcore Scene


Straight edge

My references and excellent reading about tattooing history and representation:

Beeler, Karin E. Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. Print.

DeMello, Margo. Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000. Print.

Hemingson, Vince, and Lars Krutak PhD. “Tattoo History – History of Tattoos and Tattooing Worldwide.” Tattoo History – History of Tattoos and Tattooing Worldwide. Vanishingtattoo.com, 1999-2010. Web.

Hesselt, Van Dinter, Maarten. The World of Tattoo: An Illustrated History. Amsterdam: Kit, 2005. Print

Mifflin, Margot. Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. New York: Juno, 2001. Print.

Visual Culture, Identity & Expressions of Ancestral Lineage

I have been reading and researching about tattoos as expression of identities and have found  the history and psychology around this fascinating. Here are some interesting examples I found of people wanting to express their identity through their ancestral religions and lineage:


adinkra tattoo











The Masks We Wear

The Masks We Wear

Revolutionary activist Mohammed Magdy and his bride, wear masks against tear gas and jointly hold a used tear gas container, celebrating their wedding in Revolution Square, the center of weeks of anti-government clashes, in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, Egypt, on March 4, 2013. (AP Photo)

In The Atlantic April 3rd, 2013