Vickers’ key concepts

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(Activity 3.10, 3.11, SAQ 3.3)

I think I mentioned elsewhere that I have come across Geoffrey Vickers work on “appreciation” a few times before but I have never had the opportunity to look at the source material and the writing of the man himself.  From reading the relevant chapter (Blackmore (Ed), 2010, Chapter 2) I have gained the following understanding of key concepts.


Vickers used this term as in “appreciating a situation”.  As that is a verb, I will think of it as a practice.

It involves judging both the facts and values of a situation as well as identifying the relationship between the facts and the values.

Vickers said that the word appreciation seems to him to “carry with it those linked connotations of interest, discrimination and valuation which we bring to the exercise of judgment and tacitly determine what we shall notice..” (page 19)

Appreciative system

These are the “linked connotations of interest, discrimination and valuation” mentioned above.  Vickers uses the term system to draw attention to the fact that they are all linked and changes in one is likely to lead to changes in the others.

It is a “state of affairs in our heads” (page 19).  That which gives rise to our communication and is changed by communication by ourselves or others.

The appreciative system develops on an ongoing basis as a result of demands from “physical world of biological survival; the social world of communicating persons; and the personal world of conscious experience” (page 20)

Appreciative setting

As the appreciative system changes regularly, Vickers refers to its state at any one point in time as the “appreciative setting”.  We cannot observe this setting – just infer it after the event.

Appreciated world

“A world of represented contexts” (page 23).  It is not neutral but:

– selected by our interests.

– shaped by our expectations

– “given meaning by our standards of judgement, ethical, aesthetic, political and other” (page 23).


Vickers applies these terms at the level of an individual and also for the “common settings that give coherence to groups, societies and cultures” (page 19).


Various abstracts from the writings of Geoffrey Vickers reprinted as Chapter 2 in Blackmore, C. (Ed) (2010) Social learning systems and communities of practice, The Open University/Springer, Milton Keynes/London

Ramage, M. and Shipp, K. (2009) Systems Thinkers, The Open University/Springer, Milton Keynes/London.  Chapter 8 on Geoffrey Vickers.

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