Californian Governor Jerry Brown. It was a wide-ranging and free-flowing conversation with someone who clearly understood systems and cybernetic ideas and thinking. Later, after the showing of Nora Bateson's film about her father, Gregory Bateson (the reason for Jerry being present), Jerry gave an impromptu public talk in which he articulated a view of governance based on the key cybernetic notion of responding to feedback and articulating a course - a purpose. It was for me very affirming given what we are trying to do in the Systemic Governance Research Program at Monash and The Open University. I left a copy of my book 'Systems Practice' with Jerry. Who knows what might emerge from the conversation? I do know that he asked Nora Bateson to forward to him what she considered the best papers/presentations of the conference.
The conference was organised around three themes: paradigm, recursion and praxis. This worked well, through there is always room for improvement in aligning espoused theory with what becomes theory-in-use. Klaus Krippendorff's 80th birthday was celebrated at the conference. He delivered an insightful and stimulating keynote paper - I hope he turns it into a publication. He made available copies of his chapter 'Pathology, Power and Emancipation' from 'On Communicating Otherness, Meaning and Information', Fernando Bermejo (Ed.) New York: Routledge, 2009. I commend it to anyone wishing to respond to critiques that suggest systems and cybernetics approaches do not deal adequately with power.
Graham Barnes, a Batesonian family therapist also provided a stimulating keynote in which he started by asking: Is the world loving? He moved on to suggest this was the wrong question, posing instead the question: Do I love the system that I call I, you, we, it? Then in a shift towards responsibility he reframed the question as: Is Graham's world loving? Or, Is the world we are making loving?
I took from Terry Deacon's keynote reminders about the operation of constraints (also addressed by Mauro Ceruti in his book 'Constraints and Possibilities. The Evolution of Knowledge and the Knowledge of Evolution'). Amongst many points Terry said:
- in the absence of constraints relations break down (the GFC is to me a good case in point)
- work is need to create constraints and constraints are needed to do work (quoting Stuart Kaufman);
- he claims that the 'whole is less than the some of the parts' is a better framing than the traditional aphorism
- he also claims that self-organisation alone is not enough - there is also a need to generate order.
Marilyn Wedge, another Batesonian family therapist gave a moving talk about her own praxis in the context of increased medical labeling of children as having particular disorders and the prescribed drug culture that follows. Her experience is discussed in her new book: Wedge, M. (2011) Suffer the Children. The case against labeling and medicating and an effective alternative. WW Norton & Co.
My own paper was well received and stimulated several good conversations. The title and abstract are posted below (as an aside Jerry Brown's first question to me was 'what is stationarity'? He had read the abstracts of those joining him for tea in advance!)