Week 4: Readings and Movie Analysis: Systems Thinking

In this week’s installment, I am asked if I understand the inherent challenges of a student.  I don’t mean to dismiss the question, but of course I understand those challenges. I have been in college since 1987 and have worked in education my entire adult career.

Let’s think for just a moment about this.  I have been in and out of higher education systems around the US as a student for 26 years.  I have been a part of the educational systems as an educator for 15 years, have served in an administrative role five years, in addition to the seven years that I have worked for private industry serving institutions of higher education in an ongoing effort to modernize their existing systems and innovate.

Yes, I “get it”.

This week during our class time, working in small groups, we analyzed several readings, applying systems thinking to them.  We used a mind mapping tool called popplet to collaboratively create a relationship map.

Author Relationship MindMap

While reading this book, I find myself struggling to remain engaged with the text.  The text is offensive to me and I would not choose to read it if I were given the choice.  Luckily, I work with chaos and complexity in higher education and understand what it takes to change a system from both the inside out and the outside in.

According to Wikipedia: “The novel’s central theme involves the examination of the human desire to detect patterns or meaning and the risks of finding patterns in meaningless data. Other themes include methods of interpretation of history, cultural familiarity with brand names, and tensions between art and commercialization.”

Chaos and complexity are abundant in the analysis of Pattern Recognition by Gibson using a systems thinking approach.  Kayce, the lead character displays characteristics of the strange attractor as described by Reigeluth.  While her character is still evolving as we continue to read the book, she has a powerful role in working with the Blue Ant design firm led by Dorotea and Stonestreet.

The films have an infinite number of parts and they are introduced in a non-linear fashion.  These films are obtaining the feedback of Kayce and others via the F:F:F.  The mirror world has underlying patterns that are recognizable but they appear different and random. Kayce seems to be impacting the system from the outside in, but I’ll reserve judgment until I complete the book.

In considering the role of Donnie Darko and using the Banathy systems environment model for analysis, we see how Donnie impacts his system from the inside out.  At the start of the story, he stays within the boundary of the system and only has impact on those within that system.

I’ll use Banathy’s model to explain his area of influence on the system at the beginning of the movie as:

Donnie Darko - Start of the Movie

Donnie Darko – Start of the Movie

By the end of the film he has gained enough power and feedback that he begins to impact beyond the boundary of the system. This coevolution based upon the increasing deviations leads to a transformation of the system itself.  To give a concrete example, Donnie initially worked within the system to try to explain inaccurate concepts to the GYM teacher, however that led to feedback that encouraged Donnie to take his “fight” to a different level.  He took his fight to Jim Cunningham’s house and burned it down.

photo 2

The readings regarding chaos theory and complexity were eye opening.  Chaos is not random, but rather the elements that are required for change to occur.  At the conclusion of these readings, I found myself content with chaos and realizing how my role as an agent of change in institutions of higher education is needed in society today.  Without enablers of transformation, systems would not evolve to meet the needs of the future.


Banathy, B. (1992). Chapter two: The systems-environment model. In A Systems View of Education Concepts and Principles for Effective Practice (pp. 25-58). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Eoyang, G. (1996). A brief introduction to complexity in organizations. Chaos Limited, Inc.,

Pattern recognition. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattern_Recognition_(novel)

Reigeluth, C. (2004). Chaos theory and the sciences of complexity: Foundations for transforming education. Informally published manuscript, Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~syschang/decatur/documents/chaos_reigeluth_s2004.pdf