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The ICS-Principle (individual, collective, systems level)

is a means to plan and control your research findings

Original idea and Phenomenology

If you see a bird flight, you can try to single out an individual bird and follow its movements or you can look at the whole quantity of birds collectively and follow the collective movement. Or you can think of the collective as a unity (the bird flight) leaving out the particular bird. This is the system- or macro-level. The others are the individual- (or micro-) level and the collective level.We can look at a phenomenon from 3 points of view:
  • either we look at the individual event with its individual properties,
  • or we gather many events in a collective and look at "common" (statistical) properties,
  • or we look at it on a systems level, studying only the properties themselves and the relations between them.
a phenomenon can be seen and described on three levels:
- an individual,
- a collective, and
- a systems level.
(hence the Acronym I-C-S-principle)

1. Individual level: one observes an individual object or phenomenon and determines its individual properties with certain parameters.

2. Collective level: one looks at a set of objects, which have a property ‘P’ in common (the collective of ‘P-objects’) and is interested in the distribution of some other properties in this set of objects. Statistical methods are used for counting the frequency of these properties. From the statistics with more than one parameter, correlations and factorial analyses can be established.

3. Systems level: one looks at the property ‘P’ in relation to some other property ‘Q’ and tries to formulate a general law for this relation: either a statistical parameter or one can induce a deterministic law for the mean values.

Once a particular level is chosen for a research project, transitions between these levels in argumentation have to be looked at carefully to avoid risking fallacious results. There is one exception, however:

- Under certain conditions one can change from the individual level to the collective and to the systems level (by way of abstraction). The transitions between the systems level and the individual level can be considered under the terms TYPE and TOKEN. Once you have abstracted from individual objects some typical quality and moved it on to the systems level, you have created a TYPE for this category of objects. Individual objects can be seen as TOKENS of this TYPE. A TOKEN must have all the qualities of the TYPE and in addition some individual and collective qualities. The individual qualities distinguish the individual object strictly from any other object. They form its identity criteria. The collective qualities are those TOKENS which have the same TYPE in common (without being a TYPE).

- As a rule, transitions from the systems level to the collective level or to the individual level yield pseudo-scientific or fallacious results (for further details cf. Storrer 1992, Gerzymisch-Arbogast 1996, Gerzymisch 2003).

Your car of a certain TYPE (defined by the constructor on the systems level), your concrete car is a TOKEN of this TYPE: it has some individual qualities (identifying qualities: e.g. the car number) and idiosyncratic (transient) qualities: e.g. the clutch may be defective). If you go to a garage, the technician may put you at ease: "most cars of this Type have this defect!" – the reasoning here is: The defective clutch is not a purely individual, but also a collective object.

In Sociology, you can statistically analyze the number of children, e.g. for German families: The criterion parameter ‘P’ for being a member of the collective is ‘German families’. Then you take as parameter to study ‘Q’, e.g. ‘number of children’. Applying statistics on your empirical sample, you will get the result that the German family has 0,83 children. From this value, you see that the macro-object ‘German families’ cannot coincide with a real concrete object of a German family. Therefore, your macro units on the systems level must be described in a macro language, which may differ from the language for the micro level. And this means that you must pay attention when you use a term like ‘German family’ because it has three different meanings and three different logical properties (as TYPE on a systems level, as TOKEN on an individual level and a collective meaning and property).

In Linguistics and Translation, the meaning of a word in a given text (contextual meaning) may differ from the meaning of statistical findings on meanings in texts (collective meaning) and differ from the systems level meaning given in a dictionary (lexical meaning).

LIT : Floros 2003, Mudersbach 1997, 1999, 2008. On the fallacious transitions between the ICS
levels: Storrer 1992, Gerzymisch-Arbogast 1996, 2003, 2008.