Society, Culture, Education & Self

Individual Agency


Every individual is the center of their ripplework, for ‘the observer is the point of fixation.’ The individual
is a constructor of their knowledge, as well as an observer of their lives within a particular space and specific conditions of the ripplework.

All we know about the world is from our personal experiences and observations, as well as from other people’s observed experiences, and from knowledge-creators’ theories.

As Chilean biologists Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela put it:
‘Anything said, is said by an observer.’

And as Canadian professor of Education at the University of Montreal, Joe L. Kincheloe, wrote:
‘There is no knowledge without the knower.’

In other words, our knowledge about ourselves and our world is generated by us, observers and knowers, who possess the capacity to see ourselves in a larger natural and social context.

The observer records his or her experience of the ripples by verbal means (words), symbolic disciplinary systems (mathematical, chemical, musical notations and other signs), or visual language (sketches, photos, video). By way of relational examination, the knower connects the dots, constructing and refining the patterns of knowledge relevant to a specific topic.

At its center is an individual.

To me, the world doesn’t exist without me.

And so it is to everyone else.

Without my body and mind, I have no agency to connect with the flow of life. And therefore, the individual agency in the concept of ripplework is one of its fundamental components.

In the ripplework, humans and their social interactions are not seen separately from their biological and physical aspects, but in the relational interdependence between them. Much like other organisms in nature, human beings evolve through their ongoing self-organization, thereby continuously altering their surroundings and social organizations. The dynamics of this circular interdependence are maintained by individual irregularities. By virtue of our unique characteristics, individuals ‘push,’ ‘overlap,’ ‘extend’ and, therefore, disrupt the existing order as they strive for progression and improvement. The underlying force that facilitates these processes is individual agency that is merged into collective force.

Agentic tendencies are contrary to I-Don’t-Care (ID'C) psychology. Agentic qualities are cultivated by
the processes of self-reflection and acting not from the position of immediate self-benefit, but by evaluating
the results of previous actions and aligning personal interests with the interests of a broader community. Agentic sense allows the individual to exercise sociological imagination—the ability to perceive features
of personal life within the context of a historical and geopolitical matrix. Agentic traits enable action towards goals by relying upon individual assertive, as well as integrative, tendencies.

Contemporary societies are profoundly committed to creating scientifically, technologically, and economically advanced models. To this end, modern education, as a principle establishment for training new generations
of citizens, provides a society with individuals adapted to operating within a standardized system
of communication and control – one that supports an action model of compete–gain–win. The final goal of
any disciplinary course boils down to passing a standardized test. Much attention surrounds the issue of how proficient students are at following algorithms to code for various databases rather than their sociological imagination—the ability to see their autobiography and personal milieu in relation to history and society.

The logic of standardized testing lies in the fact that to get good grades, students do not need to bother themselves with reflecting on their attitudes towards others, society, or the environment. The integration of individual irregularities and the promotion of personal interests in accordance with the common good – ‘shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society’ – by the use
of individual agency, become too disruptive and, ultimately, counterproductive to established standards
of compete–gain–win. Oriented as it is towards the promotion of technical rationality, contemporary education neglects relational perspectives of self and others and, therefore, contributes to the advancement of ID'C culture.

Individual agency – refers to a person’s ability to act according to their interests and abilities in order to achieve self-realization. Individual agentic tendencies  are self-asserting as well as environment-integrative.

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