Monday, July 21, 2008

The many faces and marks of uncertainty

A book chapter by Michael Smithson in "Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives".

"Uncertainty is a topic that does not fall neatly within a single discipline...The topic lacks a home. The terms employed by various traditions to refer to uncertainty are themselves multifarious, and as a result researchers and scholars from different traditions have difficulty communicating effectively with one another.


Uncertainty does not simply impose itself on us from the natural world; it is socially constructed. Cultures differ considerably in how uncertainty is conceived and expressed, and so do subgroups within the same culture.


It should be apparent that most of the metaphors regarding uncertainty have a negative cast to them...nevertheless, uncertainty can motivate people positively as well as negatively. people find uses for uncertainty and do not always want to ride of it. Readers having difficulty conceiving of positive aspects of uncertainty might wish to consider what freedom, discovery, creativity and opportunity really require, namely uncertainties about what the future will bring so that there actually are choices to be made. no uncertainty, no freedom. (e.g. jazz improvisation and art creation)...Well-written policy often must be vague enough to be adaptable and usable in unforeseeable circumstances, albeit the expense of short-term ease of interpretation. "

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