The Abstraction Ladder is a good representation of the way our minds often seem to make abstraction “errors” by leaving out certain details. By doing this, we can better cater our message to our stakeholders, or at least we think we can. But by leaving out details you only tell a partial story. And a partial story is only a partial truth. So how do you know if you’re not hiding essential information? After all, if you look at something from a “large altitude”, the “world” below you will seem flat. You left out the dirty details. But in reality you and I know the world isn’t that flat at all. So what is then really the point in abstracting? What added value is there in abstracting or oversimplifying anything? To leave out the dirty details? Or just simply to share knowledge about certain details to those who don’t want to know about the details? So far for the abstraction ladder. The Semiotic Ladder is also a nice one. It is a guide to help you determinining the abstraction of the message you are conveying. It is geared towards stakeholders. If you are on a “low” abstraction level and fully into the dirty details, you probably want to convey a message on morphological level. If you climb higher on the semiotic ladder, you probably want to convey a different kind of message, for example geared towards stakeholders where you want to explain the “meaning” of a certain abstraction. So here we see a kinda connection between abstraction used in “object meaning” way (the semiotic ladder) and abstraction used in “value meaning” way (the abstraction ladder). And then ofcourse we also have the Ladder of Inference. So how does this ladder relate to the other two? Well, infact, I think the ladder of inference is helping us making abstraction errors (abstraction ladder) or meaning errors (semiotic ladder) if we encounter something where we have certain fear to dive deeper into detail. Ofcourse this is all just my interpretation of these three ladders and by no means theory or science of any kind…Decide for yourself if you find these valuable viewpoints or not.
How the Ladder of Inference, the Semiotic Ladder and the Abstraction Ladder are related, and can be used for your benefit
November 7, 2011