Monday, July 23, 2012

An Ecology of Ideas - Reflections 2

The next ASC conference is planned for 29th July to 4th August 2013 in Suzhou (near Shanghai) in China (hosted by Department of Architecture at Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University).  As with this year the timing and location will be coordinated with the ISSS conference which will be held 10 days earlier at Haiphong in Vietnam. I look forward to resuming the conversation with my ASC colleagues.

One of the highlights of the conference this year was the opportunity to catch up with Humberto Maturana, Ximena Davila and Sebastian Gaggero from the Escuela Matriztica de Santiago. As always, in my listening I found new distinctions that help me to do what I wish to do in my research.  Some of my notes from Humberto's keynote included:
  • nouns obscure the verbs that constitute them (this is clearly the case also with the noun system!)
  • we live in trust that a fundamental inertia operates e.g. that an object placed on a table will remain there
  • recursion can be understood through living every moment which occurs on top of its (living's) previous operation - and something new emerges
  • what we conserve in our living is an organism-niche unity ..which arise mutually. Evolution operates through the conservation of organism-niche unities
  • we are emotional beings ..that use our rationality to validate or to invalidate our emotions
Both Humberto and Ximena stress that in processes of transformation it is not chage that is the central dynamic but what is conserved.  I have now heard Ximena speak twice about her work on 'liberating conversations' as means for the recovery of self love and self respect in the face of cultural pain. Ximena's praxis becomes more compelling with each hearing.

One of the most exciting talks delivered at the conference from my perspective was given by Kathleen Forsythe. The paper was entitled 'Recursion in language and learning: what autism teaches us about praxis.' Whilst impressive in its own right, what I found even more impressive about the work reported was the totally new system of schooling that Kathleen and her colleagues are developing in Canada built largely on understandings from Maturana's work.  This innovation is known as the SelfDesign Learning Community which is a unique online learning environment and Class 1 independent school of over 2000 students, many of whom are autistic or have special needs. The corporate controllers of contemporary universities (and education policy) might well look to this example for the learning pathway(s) that they implicitly or explicitly reject - and which brings into question the social mission of the university.

Rex Wyler and Peter Harries-Jones both delivered keynotes and contributed to the conversation with Governor Brown.  Peter's account of the massive loss of honey bees across North America was a fitting parable for our times. Rex Wyler, a co-founder of Greenpeace, reflected on how minimal the gains were from over 40 years of environmentalism, despite the evidence to support action.  He made the good point that 'debt is pretend energy' and that the G20 has $70 trillion of debt. Later Rex joined a panel with Nora Bateson and Ralph Abraham to discuss some of these pressing issues.  My own reflections triggered by this discussion included:
  • Ralph Abraham's point that the mathematics of complex systems are not predictive means that purposeful action has to be based on a form of not knowing or deliberative judgement
  • Turning to the education system as a potential source of innovation and change as several speakers did is to my mind not likely to succeed.  I would go further and claim that in respect of the relationship between humans and the biophysical world most education systems fail largely because the issues are disembodied and taught outside a framework of praxis - the wrong people with the wrong understandings have their hands on the rudder of education.
  • I wondered what might be gained if members of GetUp, Avaaz or 38Degrees became more aware of cybersystemic understandings and praxes?
I liked Humberto's contribution to the discussion: What if work were to repair not to grow?

Many other presentations were stimulating, triggering new reflections and questions.  Ranulph Glanville's experience showed through in his contribution to the Reflexivity Panel.  Fred Steier and Stuart Umpleby gave well considered contributions as well - the latter on obstacles to reflexivity theory in economics.

Judi Lombardi, a consistent contributor to ASC meetings gave another sterling 'paper' in which, as always, she set out to bring congruence between her espoused theories and theories-in-use.  In addition through her efforts we have records of our doings.

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