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The Power of Language to Shift and Reinforce Desirable Systems Transformation

Format: Papers, RSD12, Topic: Culture & Society, Topic: Methods & Methodology, Topic: Socioecological Design

Angie Eriko Fleming, Michele Fenlon, and Ruslan Hétu

How language is a measurable medium for catalysing system transformation 

Systems science, citizen science, design science, and data science come together to form a system of interconnected domains that, at their intersection, manifest a space for shared understanding to be cultivated and systems change to emerge. Language is the common thread that ties these four sciences together as it is both a medium in which systems communicate and a leverage point for introducing systems change. We propose that language is the fundamental building block for systems change because it is an expression of the innermost mental models we hold and use to make decisions and engage with the world around us. In making visible the invisible mental models in language, we are able to catalyse moments of self-awareness needed for mental models to shift. Innovative technologies are emerging in the space of natural language processing that can assist systems change practitioners with analysing large volumes of unstructured language data to make visible the relationship dynamics, values and biases that underpin the language. This paper discusses the importance of language in systems change and how systems practitioners can operationalise systems change using natural language processing technologies. We also propose an experimental framework for navigating unique styles of conversations within systems work and associate them with a relevant natural language processing tool. 

KEYWORDS: natural language processing, NLP, artificial intelligence, AI, systemic design, data science, semantic analysis, cognitive biases, conversation design, humane tech, 

RSD TOPIC(S): Methods & Methodology, Society & Culture, Socioecological Design

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Citation Data

Author(s): Angie Eriko Fleming, Michele Fenlon, and Ruslan Hétu
Year: 2023
Title: The Power of Language to Shift and Reinforce Desirable Systems Transformation
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/power-of-language-systems-transformation
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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