The Dialogue

The “Life - Strategy” Thematic Dialogue is a Knowledge Curation project which aims to curate various knowledge resources from the following two fields:
Life Development, especially Adult Developmental Psychology
Strategic Thinking, especially Organizational Strategic Management
We use a framework to design the “Life - Strategy” Thematic Dialogue. Based on the framework, we generate four dimensions for the “Life” Thematic Space and the “’Strategy” Thematic Space. The last step is connecting these two thematic spaces.
Beside, we also use the “Dialogue Knowledge Curation” framework to develop the “Life as Anticipatory Activity System” integrated framework.

A new mini site for the dialogue


1. An Integrated Framework

2. The “Life” Thematic Space

3. The “Strategy” Thematic Space

4. The “Life as Anticipatory Activity System” Framework

5. Developing Practical Perspectives

1. An Integrated Framework

I use the following framework as an epistemological framework for curating my learning outcome and reflecting my work experiences. As a lifelong thinker, I was satisfied with this practical framework as an outcome in the middle of 2017. ​
The above diagram displays four thematic spaces which refer to four ways of connecting THEORY and PRACTICE.
The “Architecture” thematic space connects my work experiences in Information Architecture and my learning of cognitive science.
The “Relevance” thematic space connects my work experiences in advertising/media/marketing and my learning of semiotics/communication study/culture study.
The “Opportunity” thematic space connects my life experience in my kids’ childhood and my learning of ecological psychology’s Affordance theory and my own work the Ecological Practice approach which was born in 2018.
The “Activity” thematic space connects my work experience with various domains and my learning of Activity Theory.
The above diagram is not a traditional 2x2 matrix. The major difference between my diagram and the 2x2 matrix is the process of making diagrams. For the traditional 2x2 matrix, people define 2 dimensions first, then they generate four conceptual spaces with two values of each dimension. For my diagram, I have four conceptual spaces first, then I find similarities and differences between these four conceptual spaces. In other words, you can’t generate these four conceptual spaces by calculating dimensions from my diagram. For example, you can’t generate “Opportunity” from “Self, Concrete, Rational, Dynamic”.
In fact, there are two hidden dimensions behind my diagram: Situational and Social.
Situational: Abstract v.s. Concrete
Social: Self v.s. Other
The path of my learning journey started from individual cognitive psychology which is located in the “Architecture” thematic space and expanded to other areas. Though ecological psychology (Affordance theory) focuses on concrete environments, it remains at the individual analysis level.
The “Activity” thematic space refers to Activity Theory and Social Practice Theories in general. Its unit of analysis is not individual behavior, it is not macro social structure or cultural meaning either. Since 2001, a group of philosophers, sociologists, and scientists have rediscovered the practice perspective and used it as a lens to explore and examine the role of practices in human activity. Researchers called it in Contemporary Theory. As Schatzki pointed out, “there is no unified practice approach”(2001, p.2). Davide Nicolini developed a toolkit to introduce six different ways of theorizing practice in his 2013 book Practice Theory, Work, & Organization. Activity Theory is considered one of six social practice theoretical approaches.
The “Relevance” thematic space refers to abstract cultural meanings between interpersonal interactions, group activities, and large social movements. It goes beyond the dynamic situational activities and focuses on stable common sense, general cultural significance, signs, symbols, and collective social representations.
This epistemological framework doesn’t want to create one theoretical approach, but just curate my mind in a visualized order. Each visual area refers to a thematic space. Each thematic space refers to a group of theoretical approaches. In this way, I can easily check the landscape of my learning journey in order to conduct a mapping process of my own epistemic development.
You can find more details about the framework in an old article: I also applied the framework to discuss Diagramming and Tacit Knowledge:
As a Personal Epistemological Framework, the integrated framework can generate various practical perspectives on different topics.

2. The “Life” Thematic Space

A thematic space is a large cognitive container, if we apply a thematic space to understand something, we can have many choices. We can generate a Practical Perspective for a particular thing.
By adopting the above framework, I used it to generate four Practical Perspectives of the “Life” thematic space.
Architecture > Life Patterns
Relevance > Life Themes
Activity > Life Performance
Opportunity > Life Discovery
You can also see a reflection report of .

2.1 Architecture > Life Patterns

For the “Life” thematic space, I think the focus should be Variant and Invariant of Life Content. There are some significant events in a person’s life, for example, Birth, Death, Daycare, Graduation, Marriage, Work, Retirement, Drive, Travel, etc.
Donald E. Super’s Life Career Rainbow is a good starting point for understanding Life Patterns. For each significant life event, we can find relevant knowledge models which describe structure, dynamics, and patterns of these events.
Donald E. Super’s Life Career Rainbow
Donald E. Super’s theory is named A life-span, life-space approach to career development. You can find more details

2.2 Relevance > Life Themes

For the “Life” thematic space, I decided to use “Life Themes” as a practical perspective. There are two reasons behind the decision.
The “Relevance” thematic space refers to Self and Other in the context of cultural significance. For Self, “Life Themes” means individual life themes. For Other, “Life Themes” means social life themes, or collective cultural themes.
My own work, Themes of Practice, offers a solution for achieving balance between individual life themes and collective cultural themes.
I have read many books about the concept of Themes. I realized this is an interdisciplinary topic. The concept of Themes connects to Mind, Creativity, Action, and Practice.
In 2019, I developed the idea “Themes of Practice” in order to discuss the “meaning” of the meaningful whole for my book . I realized the notion of “Theme” is a great tool for curating experience and actions.
Anthropologist Morris Opler (1945) developed a theoretical “themes” for studying culture. Career counseling therapists and psychologists also developed a theoretical concept called “life theme.” If we put culture themes and life themes together, we see a “great debate” of social science: “individual — collective.”
I consider Themes of Practice as a process type of concept, not a substance type of concept. Thus, it is not a new category of themes, but a transformational process between individual life themes and collective culture themes. It refers to both concept and action. It connects mind and practice. It indicates the transformation of both person and society.

2.3 Activity > Life Performance

The “Activity” thematic space refers to Activity Theory, Social Practice theories and similar theoretical approaches.
For “Life” thematic space, I’d like to use Life Performance as a practical perspective.
What does Life Performance mean? I’d like to share some related ideas.
The “Performance” Zone of Project
The Stage Metaphor
Fred Newman’s cultural-performatory approach
The “Performance” Zone is one of five Zones of Project. For the initial version of Zone of Project, I identified five themes, five positions and the following five zones:
I defined “Performance” as “the dynamic process of doing something and saying something as performance of project”.
The “Performance” refers to the concrete actions of a project. It also refers to the various ways of participating in a project. For example, I have mentioned the TEDx project in the previous article. According to the official website of TED, as of December 31, 2020, there are 35,713 local TEDx events which were held in more than 130 countries. The TEDx Talks library contained over 30,000 videos from these local TEDx events. There are various ways of participating in the TEDx community, such as organizing, curating, hosting, designing, speaking, sponsoring, photographing, videoing, lighting, translating, listening, watching, sharing, etc. It’s not the word “TEDx” and the slogan “independently organized TED event” define the movement, but real actions of thousands upon thousands volunteers define the movement.
Basically, “performance” means actions. However, the term action is a general word. The term “Performance” is also related to the Stage metaphor.
The Stage metaphor is inspired by the American sociologist Erving Goffman’s . Goffman viewed theater as a metaphor and developed the method for sociological study. For Goffman, everyday life is a theater.
In fact, I use as a metaphor to understand everyday cognitive activities. Now we can use a similar metaphor to understand everyday life performance.
The difference between my approach and Goffman’s approach is that I can use the Mind as Play metaphor and the Stage metaphor together. It means, a person’s Life Performance is both an object of his own mind and others’ mind. While Goffman emphasizes which refers to influencing others’ mind, I emphasizes Reflective Management which refers to managing one’s own mind.
In addition, I want to mention ’s and . Fred Newman and Lois Holzman read Lev Vygotsky in their own perspective and they adopts Vygotsky’s idea about play as a core for their approach. You can find a draft chapter titled on their website. The below three pieces are samples of their ideas.
Developmental psychology tends to relate to culture in one of two ways. Within the broad mainstream of the discipline, culture is considered to be a factor in human development, that is, something that influences the developmental process. Within constructionist and cultural-historical psychology, development is cultural, in that what it means for children to develop is that they adopt (“appropriate”) the culture that they are born in to. My own perspective is that human development consists of both the appropriating and the creating of culture, and that their dialectic interplay is what is most interesting and relevant to understand. That is one way I see the social therapeutic activity of transforming narrative into performance.
This kind of play (and, thereby, learning in early childhood) is performatory, that is, non-didactic, non-cognitively based, and non-individuated. Fifteen-month olds who do not yet know the language of their family perform as speakers of it; two-year olds who are not literate perform as readers; three-year olds who know nothing of perspective or representation perform as artists. The performatory zpd supports them doing things they don’t yet know how to do; it activates what Vygotsky referred to as “the child’s potential to move from what he is able to do to what he is not” (Vygotsky 1987, p. 212). In the performatory zpd children develop because they are both who they are and beyond, or other than, who they are at the same time. This is akin to Vygotsky’s notion that play is developmental for children because it is when they act as if “a head taller” (Vygotsky 1978, p. 102). Perhaps the collective form of working together in early childhood is better identified as a collective form of playing together. It is a playing together in which culture (i.e., the “stage” and the performance) is created and simultaneously appropriated.
Within a performatory (as opposed to a cognitive) modality (community), we (social therapy/social therapists) seek to help create a pointless dialectical (a mixture of Plato’s and Marx’s) group conversation (a conversation oriented toward discovery/creation) in order to generate a new game (a Wittgensteinian game) which completes (in a Vygotskian sense) the thinking, and is itself (by magic, a.k.a. art) a performance (though more activity than an action). (p. 229)
Fred Newman and Lois Holzman consider Lev Vygotsky as a Revolutionary Scientist in their 1993 book .

2.4 Opportunity > Life Discovery

For “Life” thematic space, I’d like to use “Life Discovery” as a practical perspective.
In fact, my “Opportunity” thematic space contains the Ecological Practice approach which is inspired by Ecological Psychology and other social practice theories. In order to explain the value of the ecological practice approach, I adopt the concept of Opportunity as a mediation and redefined it as a formula below:
Opportunity = From a perspective (X), You (U) could do things (Y) with an object (Z).
This formula requires more details than the above two aspects. I add perspective and object to the formula.
This is a heuristic tool for connecting Theory (the ecological practice approach) and Practice (the real life actions). In this way, I can apply the concept of Affordance and other theoretical concepts as Perspectives to the formula. You can find more details about the formula here: .
You can find the original reflection report in .

3. The “Strategy” Thematic Space

Following the same approach, I developed four Practical Perspectives for understanding the “Strategy” Thematic Space.
Architecture > Strategic Thinking
Relevance > Strategic Discourse
Activity > Strategic Acting
Opportunity > Strategic Awareness
Once we have these Practical Perspectives, we can start the “Approach — Application” curating activity.

3.1 Architecture > Strategic Thinking

I consider “Strategic Thinking” as a practical perspective of the “Architecture” thematic space. It means we can claim that Strategy is a cognitive phenomenon. In this way, we can adopt theoretical approaches to cognitive development for discussing strategic thinking.
This perspective roughly echoes what strategic management scholars called “”.
For “Life Strategy”, I pay attention to a person’s strategic cognitive capability. How can we help a person improve her strategic thinking competence in order to cope with life challenges?
This view echoes some of my works. For example:
: Strategy is a process of developing advanced predictive models in order to manage the complexity of anticipation and performance.
: turning pieces into a meaning whole.
“Anticipatory Activity System” is inspired by Activity Theory and Anticipatory System Theory. My idea “Strategy as Anticipatory Activity System” is for understanding Strategy in a broad context at an abstract theoretical framework level.
A core idea of Anticipatory System Theory is the Predictive Model. According to Robert Rosen, “An anticipatory system is a natural system that contains an internal predictive model of itself and of its environment, which allows it to change state at an instant in accord with the model’s predictions pertaining to a later instant.” In contrast, a reactive system only reacts, in the present, to changes that have already occurred in the causal chain, while an anticipatory system’s present behavior involves aspects of the past, present, and future.
From the perspective of the Anticipatory Activity System, Strategy is a process of developing advanced predictive models in order to manage the complexity of anticipation and performance.
We can also learn from some cognitive theories. For example:
Reflective Mind and Mindware (Keith E. Stanovich, 2016)
The term Mindware was initially coined by the Harvard cognitive development psychologist David Perkins in the 1995 book . Later, the cognitive scientist Keith E. Stanovich adopted the term for his books and his model of cognitive architecture. According to Stanovich, “The knowledge, rules, procedures, and strategies that can be retrieved and used to transform decoupled representations have been referred to as ‘mindware’…The mindware available during cognitive simulation is, in part, the product of past learning experiences.” (2016, p.34)
Source: The Rationality Quotient (2016, p.36)
Stanovich and his co-workers developed a tripartite theory of mind (see the above diagram) which is different from the popular Type 1 v.s. Type 2 model of the mind was introduced by Daniel Kahneman in his 2011 book . The tripartite theory of mind suggests that there are two types of mind for Type 2 processing: Algorithmic mind (individual differences in fluid intelligence) and Reflective mind (individual differences in thinking dispositions or cognitive styles). According to Stanovich, “Many thinking dispositions concern beliefs, belief structure, and, importantly, attitudes toward forming and changing beliefs. Other thinking dispositions that have been identified concern a person’s goals and goal hierarchy.” (2016, p.25)
Stanovich points out that there are five types of reasoning errors (2016, p.49). One of these errors is about Contaminated Mindware. The reason is very simple if we misunderstand some knowledge, rules, procedures, and strategies, this learned mindware is not original mindware.
Of course, we can find many strategic models and frameworks from .

3.2 Relevance > Strategic Discourse

In order to highlight the communication between Self and Other, I use “Strategic Discourse” as a practical perspective.
The Strategic Discourse perspective refers to the negotiation between Self and Others around the strategic relevance.
The diagram below is a typology of relevance which defines four types of “self - other” relevances.
Since there are four levels of analysis, we can find various theoretical resources for discussing Strategy. For example:
(Clay Spinuzzi): Clans, Networks, Hierarchies, Markets
(Alan P. Fiske): Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, and Market Pricing.
I used to curate the above two models together. See the diagram below.
Source: Oliver Ding (2020)
The above diagram represents a basic joined the action with two people: person A (subject A) and person B (subject B). Following Activity theory’s terms, this action is part of a collective activity with a shared Object. Subject A and Subject B have their own perspectives on the Object, these perspectives may generate contradictions or consensus. For Relational Models Theory, it doesn’t have the term “object”, Fiske just directly talked about social interactions, and social relationships. Person A and Person B have their own relational models for a particular interaction. These different models might generate contradictions or consensus too.
This example is about conflicts on “division of labor” which is a term of activity theory. Now, we can say these two frameworks can work together. Spinuzzi’s typology is more about collective configurations of activity while Fiske’s framework is more about individual moral intuitions on social interaction.
At the macro level, I’d like to recommend the following theoretical approaches:
Social Representation (Serge Moscovici, 1961)
SCOT — Social Construction of Technology (Trevor Pinch & Wiebe Bijker, 1984)
Voices of the Mind: A Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action (James V. Wertsch, 1991)
Narrative Economics (Robert J. Shiller, 2019)
Concepts: A Critical Approach (Andy Blunden, 2012)
These approaches are about building large-scale cultural meaning which is also a social discourse process. You can find more details about some of the above approaches from .
For Life Strategy for indie creators, I’d like to recommend my own work which offers a solution for achieving a balance between individual life themes and collective cultural themes.

3.3 Activity > Strategic Acting

The “Activity” thematic space refers to Activity Theory, Social Practice theories, and similar theoretical approaches. The diagram below points out that there are three types of theoretical resources for the Activity Analysis project.
The Hegel-Marx-Vygotsky Activity Theories: This is the tradition of Activity Theory
The Continental Tradition
The Pragmatist Tradition
For the Diagramming as Practice Framework, I used the “Activity” thematic space to generate a practical perspective: “Mediating Instrument”(
). This perspective is adopted from the Activity Theory.
For discussing Strategy, I use “Strategic Acting” as a practical perspective. And we can find some theoretical approaches:
(Paula Jarzabkowski, 2005)
(Edward Morrison, 2019)
More “Strategy-as-Practice” approaches: (2010, 2015)
The “Strategic Acting” perspective echoes what strategic management scholars called “Strategic process”.
For “Life Strategy”, I’d like to recommend my own work, .
Initially, I used the term "Project Engagement" to name the second part of my 2020/2021 book Project-oriented Activity Theory which introduces Andy Blunden's "project as a unit of analysis of activity" to Activity Theory. In the past several months, I developed a new version of the Project Engagement approach.

3.4 Opportunity > Strategic Awareness

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the meaning of Opportunity is . When I use the term Opportunity to name a thematic space, I claim that there is an essential notion behind the theme of Opportunity: Possible Actions. This claim connects the Opportunity thematic space with the term Possible Practices and the Ecological Practical approach which is one of my theoretical works.
Possible Actions can be understood with two inseparable aspects:
a) Potentials that are offered by the environment or the situation, and
b) Capabilities, a skill, an ability, or knowledge that makes a person able to do a particular action.
The Potentials — Capabilities coupling echoes the Environment — Organisms coupling. Thus, I use this framework to curate Affordances, Opportunity, Possible Actions, and Possible Practices into one big container which is named the Opportunity thematic space.
Why don’t I directly name it the conceptual space of Affordance? The Ecological Practice approach is inspired by ecological psychology, but it also developed its own theoretical concepts such as Attachance, Supportance, Curativity, Infoniche, Lifeway/Lifeform/Lifesystem, etc. I started from the concept of Affordance and went beyond the field of visual perception. For example, the concept of Supportance is about social interactions and intersubjectivity. You can find more details from here: .
For discussing Strategy, the Ecological Practice Approach is not enough because it is only about micro-level analysis. So, I need to expand my Opportunity thematic space and curate other theoretical approaches into the thematic space.
An important resource about Opportunities is Entrepreneurship Research. According to , “…entrepreneurship as a scholarly field seeks to understand how opportunities to bring into existence ‘future’ goods and services are discovered, created, and exploited, by whom, and with what consequences…At its core the field is concerned with (1) why, when and how opportunities for the creation of goods and services in the future arise in an economy;…”
Venkataraman also points out, “Cognitive conditions, incentives, and creative processing vary among individuals and these differences matter. These variables strongly influence the search for and exploitation of an opportunity, and they also influence the success of the exploitation process.”
For the D as Diagramming framework, I used “Ecological Situation” as a practical perspective (
). For discussing Strategy, I use “Strategic Awareness” to refer to perceiving opportunities by sense-making on changes in environments.
You can find the original reflection report of my “Strategy” thematic space in .

4. The “Life Strategy as Anticipatory Activity System” Framework

I also use Knowledge Curation Canvas to develop the “Life Strategy as Anticipatory Activity System” Framework. The diagram below is the Knowledge Curation Model which presents six types of “Objects of Curating” for a knowledge curation work:
Theoretical Approaches
Conceptual Spaces (Now, it is Thematic Spaces)
Practical Perspectives
Integrated Frameworks
Operational Heuristics
Practical Phenomena ​
Three are three approaches to Knowledge Curation: the top-down approach, the bottom-up approach, and the dialogue approach.
I used the dialogue approach to develop the “Life Strategy as Anticipatory Activity System” framework. See the canvas below.

life strategy - dialogue.png
The Dialogue approach has two directions: Theory > Practice and Practice > Theory. There are four types of knowledge curation activities:

4.1 The Flow - Story Curation

This activity is guided by Reflection. The goal is turning daily life experience and work experience into tacit knowledge. The key is Ecological Awareness.

4.2 The Story - Model Curation

This activity is guided by Generalization. The strategy is designing Mediating Instruments which could be considered as cognitive containers.

4.3 The Objective - Subjective Curation

This activity is guided by Thematic Orientation. The goal is building Thematic Spaces which could support long term tacit knowledge development. The key is Epistemic Development.

4.4 The Approach - Application Curation

This activity is guided by Heuristic Orientation. The strategy is designing Intermediate Instruments which could be mediating tools for the cross-boundary activity.
You can find an early version of the Life Strategy Framework in a Linkedin post:
[CALL & CLAP] The Life Strategy Framework (v1.0)

5. Developing Practical Perspectives

As mentioned above, the term “Practical Perspective” is a significant notion for the “Life - Strategy” thematic curation.
The purpose of Practical Perspectives is bridging the gap between Epistemological Frameworks and Practical Frameworks. Since Epistemological Frameworks are formed by several Thematic Spaces, they can’t directly apply to practical projects. For example, it is hard to directly use the concept “Architecture” to explain something because it is just a name of a set of similar theoretical resources.
We can select one or several theoretical concepts or principles from thematic spaces and group them together as a practical framework. For example, I selected the following four perspectives to form :
Cognitive Representation
Cultural Significance
Mediating Instrument
Ecological Situation
We can use established theoretical concepts from a particular theoretical approach for Practical Perspectives. The “Mediating Instrument” perspective is directly adopted from Activity Theory. We can also use normal words to refer to a direction. For example, “Ecological Situation” is not a theoretical concept, but normal words for highlighting the field of ecological psychology in the Opportunity conceptual space.
Why do we need a new term such as Practical Perspectives? Can we just use Concepts or Perspectives?
For the Model of Knowledge Curation, the term Practical Perspectives refers to the Approach — Application Knowledge Curation. This type of knowledge curation is about turning personal tacit knowledge into real life work. For example, the D as Diagramming project is a real life work about diagrams. The Diagramming as Practice framework is an application of theoretical knowledge and my tacit knowledge.
The dialogue approach also uses “The Flow - Story Curation” and “The Story - Model Curation” to reflection on Practical Phenomena and Operational Heuristics.

The “Life - Strategy” Thematic Dialogue was inspired by a Linkedin post:
[Slow Cognition] The Dialogue Knowledge Curation Framework

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