inter communication

Lateral communication

Lateral communication means communication between and amongst all given entities at a particular level of an organization.

For example:

  • a coordinated flock of birds or a shoal of fish all maintain their relative positions, or alter direction simultaneously due to lateral communication amongst members; this is achieved due to tiny pressure variations.
  • An ants, termites, bees nest is not coordinated by messages sent by the queen ant / bee / termite but by the lateral communication, mediated by scent trails of the ants. Its physical structure is an emergent property of the individual entities.
  • Bactieral colonies communicate with each other, coordinating for example an attack, or the productin of slime using lateral communication based on chemical messengers so that as a group they can detect how many colleagues there are, and if they are likely to overwhelm a target.
  • A group of individuals can often achieve a task without a specific leader, but through numerous dialogues or lateral communication.
  • The pacemaker cells in the heart, Cardiac pacemaker is a very small group of cells, where lateral communications sweeps through the cells, much like a Mexican wave as a three dimensional circulating wave, which relays contraction signals to the whole heart.
  • The slime mould Slime Mould is an extraordinary organism - millions of individual amoeba like creatures can spread out and graze the surface of a leaf. When conditions change, the amoeba all concentrate and form a slug like creature which can actually move off somewhere else before forming a spore body and releasing millions of individual spores - again lateral communication between the individuals controls this process - there is no slime mould uber mind.

(It has been observed that they can find their way through mazes by spreading out and choosing the shortest path, an interesting example of information processing without a nervous system.

In 2006, researchers at the University of Southampton and the University of Kobe reported that they had built a six-legged robot whose movement was remotely controlled by a Physarum slime mould. The mould directed the robot into a dark corner most similar to its natural habitat.)

  • Children are adept at lateral communication, but in school this is frowned upon, particularly in lessons, and central communication is enforced. Unfortunately this habit of mind tends to persist in adults and lack of lateral communication often leads to sub optimal results in excessively hierarchic organization where lateral communication is frowned upon or actively discouraged.
  • Whilst an army is often considered as highly centrally controlled, in fact once in action, forces are largely disposed by each unit noting the position of other units and mutually disposing themselves accordingly, and soldiers in each unit doing the same – they don’t all blunder in like automatons.
  • The positions of human cells, and which type of cell is mediated by lateral communication. When this breaks down, ie the cell becomes deaf to communications from its neeghbours cancer is one result.

Likewise, on the parade ground, whilst the Sergeant Major is drilling them, they all keep coordinated with each other by laterally communication – by noting where the mass is and fixing there position relative to that.

Thus lateral communication is an essential feature of organizing natural systems and human organizations.

Lateral communication can be encouraged by lateral media and replaced by central media by both replacing LMs role and making it redundant.

Central media

Lateral media can transmit Tacit knowledge

whereas Central Media have great difficulty.

See also

lateral diffusion

Interlock Research Interlock research

Natures Bioteams

Bioteams#How natures.27 teams operate


1a. Many of the references listed below are on:

1. "Beyond Mass Media" Brian Martin. Science, Technology and Society University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. General discussion of the IRG concept(

2. The Power Of Open Participatory Media And Why Mass Media Must Be Abandoned. Brian Martin, March 20, 2006. General discussion of the IRG concept

3. The IRG Solution - Hierarchical Incompetence and how to overcome it. David Andrews. Souvenir Press, London, 1984. Pages 200 - 220. ISBN 0-285-62662-0. Detailed description of the proposal.

4. The Hidden Manager Communication technology and information networks in business organizations. Taylor Graham Cambridge / Los Angeles,1986. David Andrews and John Kent. Much tighter description of IRG concept and its application to business management. ISBN 0-947568-15-8, 198 6

4a. Mogens Niss Professor of Mathematics and Mathematics Education IMFUFA, Roskilde University, Denmark "Om folkeskolelaereruddanelsen i det vigtige fag matematik" in Peter Bollerslev (ed.): "Den ny matematik i Danmark - en essaysamling", Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 1979, pp107-122. The relevance paradox is defined on p. 111.

5. Niss, M. (1994) Mathematics in Society. In Biehler, R., Scholz, R. W., Straesser, R., Winkelmann, B. Eds. (1994) The Didactics of Mathematics as a Scientific Discipline. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 367-378. Relevance paradox

6. Energy Research Group, Open University. Communication Within the Agriculture, Water, Waste and Energy Industries. Discussed examples of how the industries mentioned can be integrated to a greater or lesser degree, leading to lower pollution and energy use. Discussed the need for IRGs and how they might be organized. Emphasizes problem is lack of co-ordination and lateral communication between organisations. Describes interlock research in detail, the relevance paradox and the Bilharzia/schistosomiasis issue, central media, lateral diffusion, tacit knowledge, and Lateral Access Networks, later renamed Information Routing Groups, development of private languages as a barrier to inter communication, also describes how computers can be used to speed up lateral communication, and lateral referral . DC Andrews. ERG 033. Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, England 1980.

6. "The Importance of Knowing the Right People" (Article based on ERG 033 on Lateral Access Networks - the forerunner of Information Routing Groups). Printed in the Guardian Newspaper, London (The National Newspaper) March 20th 1980. Discussed Bilharzia / schistosomiasis relevance paradox.

8. Energy Research Group, Open University . Information Routing Groups. DC Andrews. ERG 037. Generalisation of ERG 033, advocated development of software and automatic phone answering modem to link up private PCs effectively creating an Internet. Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, England 1980. David Andrews

8a Library Association Record to a seminar run jointly by IEE and the LA on 'Biblionic man', held at the IEE on 26 November 1980. Covered same ground as ERG 033 and ERG 037.

8b. Andrews, D. (1986) Information routeing groups – Towards the global superbrain: or how to find out what you need to know rather than what you think you need to know, Journal of Information Technology, 1, 1, Feb, 22-35. details of lateral referral, diffusion.

9. Yewlett, J . L . Town Planning, Wales, Institute. of Science & Technology . "Networks : Developments in theory & practice" . The paper reviews developments in the U .S .A. & U .K . in recent years, progressing beyond network analysis to explore the structure & use of networks. The paper seeks to address questions of how to construct multi-actor policy structures, & build networks for particular purposes. Contributory concepts explored included the 'Reticulist', the 'Leader/Co- ordinator', the 'Segmented Polycephalous Network' & the 'Information Routing Group' in CONNECTIONS Sunbelt Social Network Conference World Congress of Sociology American Sociological Association VOLUME IX NUMBERS 2-3 Winter, 1986

10. (see Charnock, Anne (1980) Taking Bilharziasis out of the irrigation equation. New Civil Engineer, 7 August) Bilharzia caused by poor civil engineering design.

11. Social Networks Meet News Aggregation And Filtering: Information Routing Groups

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