The Los Angeles freeway system can be viewed:
- As an Isolated, Static Entity: We ask, what features characterize it? We can draw a map of it; we can measure its total length; we can count the number of overpasses and underpasses. We can describe it in great detail. In fact, such a description could well demand a number of thick volumes. But the point is that we can view anything as an isolated, static entity and begin to find those features that characterize it.
- One Among Many of a Class: We ask, how does it differ from others in its class? From this point of view, we would compare the Los Angeles freeway system with others like it. I, for instance, immediately think of the differences between the L.A. freeway system and the turnpikes of the East and Midwest.
- As a Part of a Larger System: We ask, how does it fit into larger systems of which it is a part? The L.A. freeway system would be worthless if it did not integrate with national, state, and county highway systems; therefore, its place in these larger systems is crucial.
- As a Process, Rather Than as a Static Entity: We ask, how is it changing? In regard to the L.A. freeway system, this question brings up the whole problem of planning for the future, which implies the history, or how the system got to be the way it currently is.
- As a Closed System, Rather Than as an Entity: We ask, what are the parts, and how do they work together? Now we are focusing on the L.A. freeway as a transportation system, each part of which must integrate and function with the whole.
This is but one example of how the five perspectives can work. You can apply them to any subject. Think, for example, of how this sort of questioning could be applied to a person.