Why are Open Spaces workshops appealing and necessary?

The answer to the title question is that Open Spaces Workshops should not be necessary.  (Continuing the daily writing after the workshop “Open Spaces for Changing Science and Society.”)  They are appealing because the processes foster the interactions and insights that we hope for in other realms, namely, that of the academy or of activism and public engagement.  Ideally then, we would be employing those processes in the other realms and open spaces would not be needed.

At first sight, this leads to the question: In what ways are the open spaces processes closed off or closed down in the other realms?  This is a subject for investigation.  I notice, however, that I’m personally more inclined to create an open spaces workshop (or allied processes) away from the customary work, with its closed down processes, than I am to study and open up the closed processes from the inside.

Admitting this leads me to a second question: In what ways can open spaces experiences be mobilized to bring about shifts in the conventional academic or activist realms?  One answer is through activities that promote a little the Respect aspect of the “4Rs,” which make it more likely for little Risks in which participants in the activities stretch beyond the customary and for little Revelations to affirm these Risks.  The steady experience of these Revelations or insights leads to Re-engagement in the realms of our customary work.

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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