Environmental Approach to Case Conceptualization©
BY ERIC Y. DROGIN, J.D., PH.D.
This is an exercise designed to generate as many ideas as possible in the initial brainstorming approach to case conceptualization. An analogical model with interchangeable components, interactive currents, and concentric or otherwise related fields may add significantly to the creative output of the multidisciplinary team.
There is something counterintuitive to imposing too much structure on the free-for-all brainstorming process, and this is not our intent. Rather than viewing the basic graphic tools in this exercise as templates or categories for group discussion, we will discuss a system of generators designed to spark the improvisatory energies of each member of the multidisciplinary team.
Some generators will
be proposed which can serve as standard models for the conceptualization
of any criminal case. Others may be more specialized. A systemic method
will be provided for the construction of customized generators that can
be designed around the requirements of each individual case.
I. The Basic Generator
A: primary component
B: secondary component
C: primary field
D: secondary field
E: tertiary field
The secondary component (B) is that entity which is viewed as an addition focus of brainstorming, complementary to (or in opposition to) the primary component.
The primary field (C) is the environmental context of the relationship between the primary and secondary components.
The secondary field (D) is the immediate area or context in which the primary field is located.
The tertiary field (E) is the broader area or context in which the secondary field is located.
As the first of a series of pragmatic observations on the development and use of generators, it should be noted that the labels applied to various fields and components are not essential to employment of the model, which is designed to be as straightforward and utilitarian as possible. Ongoing use of generators will probably lead to such shorthand labels as the A character, the B character, etc., without detriment to the purpose of the exercise.
II. The Initial Generator
Let's construct a sample generator for the following basic case example:
The components and fields might look something like this:
A: the defendant
B: the alleged victim
C: their gang
D: all gangs in the neighborhood
E: the neighborhood itself
Once an initial generator is constructed, its use can begin. This consists of three basic activities:
2) Brainstorming every question we might want to ask about the interactions or currents between each individual component and/or field.
3) Recasting the questions in (1) and (2) above in terms of the past and future as well as the present.
The first activity would yield a wealth of inquiry concerning the status or functioning of the defendant, the alleged victim, the constellation of gangs in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood itself, all in isolation.
The second activity would
involve generating all questions we might have about the relationships
between each of the components and each of the fields. on a one-to-one
basis, the following relationships can be examined:
A/B B/C C/D D/E
A/C B/D C/E
In other words, what was the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim, their gang, the other gangs in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood itself? What was the relationship between the victim and their gang, the gangs in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood itself? What was the relationship between their gang and the other gangs in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood itself? Finally, what was the relationship between the community of neighborhood gangs as a whole and the neighborhood in which they were located?
The third activity would involve going over all of the questions posed about the individual components and fields, and all of the questions about their various interrelationships, and asking: How would the answers to these questions differ if we looked at these fields and components in the past? What if we were to look at them in the future?
After the changes in answers
are discussed, the team can ask itself: What are some of the different
questions we would ask about all of the components and fields, if we were
thinking in terms of the past or the future?
III. Altering the Initial
Once the three activities outlined above have been performed, the generator can be altered by changing any or all of the components or fields in a systematic fashion, and then recapitulating the three activities in light of different component or field descriptions and interrelated currents.
To use our initial example, we might want to replace our secondary component, the victim, with each known member of the gang. We might want to replace our primary component, the defendant, with other gang members. The primary field of the gang might shift to that of the classroom. The tertiary field of the neighborhood might expand to that of the city.
Of course, the interpolation of some new components or fields may dictate alteration of other components or fields; for example, if we wish to examine the relationship of the defendant and his mother, we would probably want to change the primary, secondary, and tertiary fields to the family home, the brook, and the neighborhood, or to the family, the extended family, and the ethnic community.
This last example also serves
to illustrate the point that fields need not be viewed strictly as physical,
environmental entities. Indeed, they could function as little more than
ideas; for example, they could stand for local ordinances, state laws,
and constitutional laws, or friends, acquaintances, and fellow citizens.
Similarly, components need not stand for individuals, but could be symbolic
of alternate diagnoses, potential suspect genders, or different verdicts.
IV. Constructing New Generators
Once a certain number of alterations have been made to the initial generator, the team may decide to start from scratch with brand new generators that represent a paradigm shift from their predecessors.
To continue with our earlier example, the initial primary component of the defendant might be plucked out of the universe of options in which the crime allegedly took place, and might instead be placed with classes or categories of potential jurors or other courtroom figures within the various levels of our court system, or within the context of each of a series of related charges, or as diagnosed with each of an array of potential diagnoses.
Different potential treating
professionals, invest-igators, or witnesses might be examined as primary
or secondary components. How would each of the available judges be expected
to view the defendant? What would be the likely environmental effects of
V. Rewiring, Expanding and Chaining Generators
The initial A/B/C/D/E construction and one-to- one currents of the simple generator are readily adaptable to more elaborate brainstorming opportunities.
Rewiring would involve looking at more complex interactions than just A/H, D/E, etc. Team members could develop issues related to A/B/C, B/C/D/E, and other interactions.
Generators could be expanded with addition of multiple components (for example, A, B, C, D, and E) and multiple fields (for example, F through J). Certain components could be combined within some fields while other components could be combined within additional fields;
For example, A through C could be combined in field D while E through I could be combined in field J, all existing within Field K.
These combinations are made easier by the fact that there is no theoretical significance attached to the use of any particular letter or sequence of letters in the construction of generators, and by the use of graphic representation as opposed to complex formulae for expression of individual descriptions and currents.
Chaining of generators
could occur in much the same way that other systems combine genograms
into ecomaps. Currents could run from various components of one
generator between any number of components or fields from a bank of additional
generators, as well as between components of related genograms, ecomaps,
© ERIC Y. DROGIN,
Louisville, Kentucky 40252
Tel: (877) 877-6692
Fax: (877) 877-6685
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Kentucky Dept. of Public Advocacy