Monday, April 23, 2012

Two can play this game... :)

So here's a little radar diagram that I've done up to represent some of the things we discussed this afternoon. Specifically, it relates to the idea I had about mapping congregations in terms of their expressed levels of diversity on the horizontal axis and tolerance of diversity on the y-axis. If we further break diversity and corresponding tolerance down into beliefs, behaviours and demographics categories, we could arrange measures for specific faith communities as such:

If we could swap perceived for actual the above schematic, then I think we’d have an interesting handle on what it means to be a tighter faith community (i.e. a relatively small surface area - Church B in this example). The problem with this of course is that doing so would require a list of all the beliefs individuals are supposed to subscribe to and getting a sense of existing drift for each community. Not intractable, but certaintly not feasible for the moment. So we may be stuck with perceived. Actually, now that I think about it, having all three would be ideal - actual, perceived, tolerance. As it stands, “behavioural diversity” is a little up in the air… do we mean life behaviours or worship/religious behaviours? 

Thoughts? Specifically, is surface area a decent measure of tightness? For example, what if group C is really high on diversity, but low on corresponding tolerance measures, and group D is low on diversity measures but really high on corresponding tolerance measures. Both would have the same area but be manifestly different groups. Clearly some distinguishing power is lost. Are both congregations effectively equally Tight but for different reasons? I don't think so, as one would be open to increasing diversity while the other is not. Does this mean the polygon created by the Tolerance axes is the Tightness measure and the other half really constitutes a Disparity measure between "ideal" and "actual" or "perceived"?


  1. As you know, I'm a fan of this sort of representation. This isn't because I've actually used it, mind you, but rather because it seems a potentially very useful tool that conveys lots of information in a tight space. I'm a sucker for graphical representations!

    I'm not really sure where to stand on the perceived vs. actual question. Both seem interesting, though if we are forced to make a choice I'd say that actual diversity is more important. Beliefs don't seem all that difficult to get at, at least not for denominations that have set creeds, disciplines, etc. I think we've discussed this before and ways we'd have to get at it. One thing that would be interesting, actually, is to compare the number of different defining beliefs between groups. Some churches, for instance, have statements of beliefs that go on for pages. Others may only list the Apostle's creed. And then you have Neopagan groups organized around a single belief, "An it harms none, do as thou wilt."

    I take your point about surface area. A way around this might be to use three surface areas. One would be the total surface area. One would be the surface area in the "tolerance" quadrants and another the surface area in the "perceived" or "actual" quadrants.

  2. As I was not a part of this conversation I do not have any deep insights. I do have a suggestion! Surface area of two objects may be same yet their volumes may differ. Is there anyway to add a third dimension to this graphical representation so as to make the differences between different groups obvious?