Framing – Agency – World View – Narrative

I have just returned from the 2015 Annual Members Conference of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), near Machynlleth. The main thrust of what they do there has expanded over the years to take in a lot more than Alternative Technology.

Centre for Alternative Technology Machynlleth Tourist Attractions

Centre for Alternative Technology

Copyright M Harding Roberts 2009. If you would like to reproduce this picture please contact


The last few years the main initiative has been Zero Carbon Britain which demonstrates how Britain can become carbon neutral i.e. reduce CO2 emissions to a zero level.  A great deal of what we discuss at the CAT Conference is how to improve the ways we communicate this message to sceptics and climate change deniers.

At the 2014 conference we had a break-out session which looked at “Framing”.

To quote from Wikipedia:

In the social sciences, framing comprises a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives on how individuals, groups, and societies organize, perceive, and communicate about reality.
Framing involves the social construction of a social phenomenon – by mass media sources, political or social movements, political leaders, or other actors and organizations.
It is an inevitable process of selective influence over the individual’s perception of the meanings attributed to words or phrases.
It is generally considered in one of two ways:
as frames in thought, consisting of the mental representations, interpretations, and simplifications of reality,
and frames in communication, consisting of the communication of frames between different actors. 

Once your audience’s “frame” is understood framing can be used to contextual the message you want to convey.
Don’t imagine though that framing isn’t used by the “dark side”. Advertising for example has been doing this for decades.

“Agency” has come to my attention in various contexts recently – Wikipedia defines it as:

In the social sciences, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, structure is those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions. The relative difference in influences from structure and agency is debated – it is unclear to what extent a person’s actions are constrained by social systems.

One’s agency is one’s independent capability or ability to act on one’s will. This ability is affected by the cognitive belief structure which one has formed through one’s experiences, and the perceptions held by the society and the individual, of the structures and circumstances of the environment one is in and the position they are born into. Disagreement on the extent of one’s agency often causes conflict between parties, e.g. parents and children.

Your ability to act as an individual, your agency, is dictated by your framing.
The extent to which your frame is imposed on you, and what influence you have on it’s shape, will inform your agency, i.e. the way you act/react.


Whilst a frame can be seen as a relatively static or timeless construct, your World View contains concepts of Future and Past, WikiPedia again says:

According to Apostel, who was a Belgianphilosopher and professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Ghent University, a worldview is an ontology, or a descriptive model of the world.

It should comprise these six elements:

  1. An explanation of the world
  2. A futurology, answering the question “Where are we heading?
  3. Values, answers to ethical questions: “What should we do?”
  4. A praxeology, or methodology, or theory of action : “How should we attain our goals?”
  5. An epistemology , or theory of knowledge: “What is true and false?”
  6. An etiology. A constructed world-view should contain an account of its own “building blocks,” its origins and construction.

The term denotes a comprehensive set of opinions, seen as an organic unity , about the world as the medium and exercise of human existence.

World View serves as a framework for generating various dimensions of human perception and experience like knowledge, politics, economics, religion, culture, science and ethics. For example, worldview of causality as uni-directional, cyclic, or spiral generates a framework of the world that reflects these systems of causality.

Taking these 3 areas of Framing – Agency – World View together –
I now better see how each of our personal Narratives, i.e. the internalised story of our lives is formed.

It is to the benefit of the “authorities”, the media, commerce etc. to dictate the framing of our lives; where the status quo or the dominant paradigm is left unchallenged, they will continue to control our lives, and dictate the dominant paradigm.

Global Warming is the greatest threat posed to humanity, and unless we can shrug off the dominant frame paradigm, the future will be distinctly terrible.

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