Human Dimensions - Part 1 : Collective angle and Contextual Dimensions

April 11, 2017

So we begin exploring our panorama of rich and diverse human dimensions with the starting point of our reflection, that is, the organisational perspective. Each dimension is introduced, related to existing scientific disciplines and portrayed by potential questions it may entail to properly assess and address the situation at hand.


Collective refers to organisational, institutional or corporate system that surrounds the Individual. It comprises a diversity of groups that interact within the collective the Individual is part of, but also the structure of this collective, the processes that run through it, its mission, its vision, its values. This perspective is underpinned by the domains of management science and  organisational psychology as they strike a balance between human, technical and structural aspects of a collective.


  • How is the individual affected by the design of his role, by the social and physical environment of his work?

  • How does the individual relate to the mission and vision of the collective?

  • What is the individual’s involvement in the different groups and processes of the collective?


Following up on that angle, comes the first trio category : Contextual Dimensions.



As much as we like to think of ourselves as unique individuals who act first and foremost out of free will, we are actually very much stuck in ways and perspectives that we share with the wider context that surrounds us. The limited independence of mind, expression and action that we can claim comes at the cost of acknowledging that a major part of our perspective is the product of environmental influences and dynamics that are beyond us. The more aware we are about how we are unwillingly influenced, the better we get at considering these influences with objectivity and hindsight. So let us see those dimensions.




Social refers to the social entities that the Individual is a member of. Everyone is part of one or several social categories: one they were born into, another they may have accessed later on in life, perhaps now they are striving to access a specific social stratum, or to reject the one they are currently part of. All these strata and categories that an Individual is part of are themselves part of their identity, and as such can greatly influence how they behave, interact, how they perceive and are perceived. These parts of their identity can be a source of pride, shame, assertiveness, humility, they can be embraced and displayed or rejected and denied, but when several persons or groups interact, each of them is both a unique entity and a representative of a far wider social context they come from. Furthermore, it is perfectly possible that an individual is part of several different social categories which conflict with one another. This perspective is best explored by sociology which analyses social groups, their evolution and their interactions, and by a part of social psychology which considers the interaction between personal and social identity.


                Questions :

  • What part of the individual’s behaviour is explained by their own personality and free will and what part is explained by their social background?

  • How does the individual identify and perceive themselves? Do they acknowledge the social categories they are part of? Are they aware of the potential privileges or handicap that these social categories entail?

  • How do the social categories of these two individuals affect the way they perceive each other, interact with each other, and present themselves to each other? How do they perceive themselves in contrast to their interlocutor?


Cultural refers to the cultural groups that the individual contributes to. As the individual can be part of a wide diversity of social groups, so do they both receive and contribute to a wide diversity of cultures. By culture we mean a large set of codes, symbols, manners, written and unwritten rules of conduct and interactions, that are embedded in the mind-set and everyday life of social groups. Even with something as clear cut as national culture there can be a difference between the country the individual is born in, the country they grow up in and the country of origin for their parents and grand-parents. And all these different cultures are blended into this one individual. Other cultures may also come along through the parts of the country or city they live in, the schools they go to, the music they listen to… the list is close to endless. To navigate from one identity to another is to navigate from one culture to the other, while keeping in mind that the individual’s perspective is a unique mix of it all, and just as for social identities, cultures within an individual can conflict with each other. This perspective is best explored by the cultural branch of anthropology which investigates and analyses culture through its many expressions and evolutions.



  • Does the individual use similar references as their counterparts, and if they use different references, do these improve or hinder the interaction?

  • Does the individual, with genuine good intentions, act and behave in a manner that is perceive by his interlocutor as suitable, respectful and in line with what is expected ?

  • How does the individual perceive their counterparts in their manner of speaking and acting? Are there discrepancies between expectations and reality? Are these discrepancies understandable?


Geographical refers to the locating of the individual . Where an individual lives and work has a great influence on their daily life, as it impacts their access to resources and the amount of time and energy required to move to other significant location. It may also shape the perception they have of the world. Two persons living in two different parts of the same city may perceive and appreciate that city in two different, perhaps even opposite ways, though externally they are both representatives of the same city. Cultural and social groups can also, to a certain extent, be mapped and represented in terms of areas. However, it is important to keep in mind that when looking for the richness of human dimensions on a map, frontiers are not necessarily clear cut and areas can easily overlap according to the type of discipline we are using.  This perspective is best explored by geography which analyses phenomena of all types on the planet.



  • How can the location of the individual explain their ease or difficulty to access to professional, cultural, environmental and material resources?

  • What kind of landscape and panorama does the individual deal with on a daily basis?

  • Is the individual integrated to the area they live in, are they close to friends? Family? Work?


Thus, we can see that even a simple chat with old and new acquaintances or a simple walk down the high street while observing locals puts several layers of contextual influences into play. Some of these influences can be turned off or reduced, while some others may remain effective and vivid despite our best efforts, hence the need to know which is malleable and which isn’t.


Next are coming the Narrative Dimensions.

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