Walk in the Park System

I want to describe a socio-technological system of which I am a part.  I discerned that when I accompany my two dogs to the park down the street the three of us constitute a specialized walk-in-the-park system.  Our interactions make this a social system, and some equipment adds the technological dimension.  In this case the equipment includes the two leashes, which in this case are 20 foot retractable ribbon leashes. Of course, these would not work without collars, which automatically include tags, which we hope are irrelevant to walking in the park.  The other equipment is the poop bag, of which it is necessary to carry 3 or 4.

As part of the background, I should mention that this park is very close, so we walk from the house.  Systems that involve longer distance travel - even to take a walk in a more distant park would involve the car, additional behaviors, etc.  This nearby park is under some rules that are salient to this little system.  It is a park that requires dogs to be on leashes, and for humans to clean up after the dogs.

So what we see here is that the walk-in-the-park system interfaces with some larger social systems as part of our environment.  Once of these systems is the municipal infrastructure-maintenance system (whatever they call it).  We have a particular structural coupling with that, not only because they provide the park itself, but also because they have dispensers for poop bags, and trash receptacles.  The other system that stands out is the system of municipal-ordinances.  This is where expected behaviors are codified, such as whether a leash is required in a particular place.

We can start to see that this little system has components that might be common to diverse situations, and other aspects that make this system unique. One might wish to think of this as a process, but I prefer to think of it as a subsystem of the overall family system.  Being a system within the supersystem of the family, we can bring all the systems viewpoints to bear on it.  Like the coupling idea with the municipal systems, mentioned above.  Or like processes within it.  Here I think of things like preparing-to-go-out and putting-on-the-leashes as processes which are enacted within this system.  But then, for some reason, some observer might want to look at something like putting-on-the-leashes as a (sub)system, and who could argue? In this case, I'm the observer, as well as participant, so my system boundaries need to be accepted, and appropriately questioned and explained.

Importantly, the walk in the park is fun.  The boys are generally friendly (one of them always is, as we'll discuss elsewhere), and there are lots of interactions with people, dogs, trees, lakeshore wilds, mud, people's yards, cars, etc.  So here we can talk about another aspect of the full system view, which is the motivation. 

We can also mention an institutuional view (within the system, where we've also mentioned some coupled institution in municipal ordinances).  There are institutions this system shares, like verbal interaction, walking protocol, etc., and there are unique ones to the walk in this particular park. In general there is an institution of hierarchy. In this little pack it is generally acknowledged that the human can direct the overall trajectory, but we do all we can to not have that be too obvious.  In this park as o other fun walks, we let the dogs dictate the particulars, like speed, when to stop, what to smell, etc. We have very particular institutions for the walk, like what have we negotiated to do when we see Missy and her family. On the other hand, what to do when we see another human/dog system for the first time is a shared institution. 

Now, by the way, I think that there is a whole different subsystem that rezzes for the walk in this same park when my wife takes the boys out.  I know for sure it's a different system when we both take out both boys, and a lot of room for improving the institutional structure of that system.

There are other subsystems that share institutions and processes with this walk-in-the-park system. There is going-outside-in-the-wee-hours-to-pee, which does require leashes, and there is patrolling-the-yard-at-first-light, which does not.

Let's mention here that this is a temporal subsystem that springs into existence at particular times of the day.  The subsystem forms, exercises all its behaviors and dissolves within less than an hour's time.  This is an important aspect of many such subsystems, where others are rather timeless (such as the family itself, which doesn't come in and out of existence).  This is a general point about systems, which can be observed, for instance in the lovely and amazing slime mold ... but that's another story.