Awareness is a very ambiguous notion. Everybody believes being "aware". But the fact is that there are many different forms and qualities of awareness. Critical awareness is widely discussed by M. JACKSON in his most recent book (2000, p. 356), as a basic foundation for systems thinking in general.
JACKSON basically distinguishes a hard approach and a soft one to complex situations and issues. He quotes CHECKLAND's opinion that "hard sytems thinking is guided by functionalist assumptions: the world is seen as made of systems that can be studied objectively and that have identifiable purposes" (Ibid).
Leaving aside the "observing systems" problem (von FOERSTER, 1981), the most favored tool of hard system thinking will be linear causality or, at most, a kind of cybernetical mechanicism. In short, the quality of awareness depends on the range and quality of perception and on the limits of our conceptual frame of references.
JACKSON commends a wider sociological approach to the awareness problem:"with CHURCHMAN, ACKOFF and CHECKLAND, systems thinking becomes much more subjective, and the emphasis shifts from attempting to model systems "out there" in the world toward using systems models to capture possible perceptions of the world". Furthermore this leads to "structure and enhance debate among stakeholders" so that an accomodation about action to be taken can emerge"(lbid)
In short, critical awareness should be kind of stereoscopic or holographic. This view should meet JACKSON's conclusion: "Critical awareness, incorporating social awareness, became one of the central principles of critical systems thinking and remains so to this day. The main problem, of course, is that the apparent strengths and weaknesses of any particular systems approach will vary dramatically depending upon the paradigm from which it is observed and judged"(lbid., p. 357). And moreover: "Critical awareness involves". Criticizing the theoretical underpinnings, strenghts and weaknesses of available systems methodologies and the usefulness of the variety of systems models, methods, tools and techniques in the service of different methodologies"(lbid, p.375)