Vertical-unity—Notes towards a new bio for the person behind the creative project

Continuing a series of posts on the development of the Collaborative for Exploration of Scientific and Political Change within the framework of Ben Schwendener’s Seminar on Creativity.  One of Ben’s requirements is to write a bio for the person behind the creative project.


7 June ’11
Notes towards a new bio

Let me step back from previous bios and tease out what it means to be a facilitator of learning in workshops like the one from the late 1980s.

Facilitator brings tools and processes to the attention of learners who study situations

  • at the same time as learning about their own situatedness
    • in order to change the situatedness, the study, and the situations
    • (Actually, change is always already happening; appearances of stasis have to be actively constructed)

One aspect of unruly complexity at each level (i.e., situations, situatedness, changing both) is the use of Discursive Reductions (of the complexity into simple themes),

To this end, the tools and processes are designed with respect -> risk -> revelation -> re-engagement in mind

  • where re-engagement includes happiness learning in the present (Makiguchi)
  • and taking initiative in and through relationships
    • which necessitates juggling of the six aspects of the Mandala–
    • Indeed, the very ambiguity of this juggling is experienced happily.

Complementing this inward, disposition sense, re-engagement also includes action in the following directions:

  • Probing
  • Connecting
  • Creating change
  • Reflecting

Always such reflective practice opens up the unruly complexity in order to move in those directions.
(Attempting to move in those directions without paying attention to the heterogeneity of components, their development over time, and their embeddedness in wider dynamics is to

  • rely on Method
  • miss opportunities for happiness in the present
  • restrict the very movements, and
  • inhibit the flexible combination of opening up and direction-finding

Tension between open spaces and closing off of spaces…
Flexible engagement…


  1. Inward sense and an emphasis on process, not on the specifics of change in particular situations
  2. Opening up and open spaces, stepping away from the closings off and Discursive Reductions that may be a regrettably necessary part of specific situations
  3. My emphasis on the inward sense, process, opening up, and open spaces is not simply a practical matter of using the limited time available, the specific circumstances I’m in, and the realization that #1 and 2 make me happier. It’s also a move to avoid grappling with the kind of change in situatedness, study, and situations that I profess to be preparing others to make.

So, let me admit that shadow, but modulate it: Set up support for myself as a facilitator of learning (e.g., having an assistant for the Collaborative) in a way that enables me to be a learner as well. My learning is more about studying situations than it is about changing situatedness, study, and situations.

Admitting my shadow affirms or heightens the advice that the six aspects of the Mandala need to be juggled, that is, kept in the air at the same time. It especially pushes back against the hierarchical expectation in which I am the initiator by virtue of bringing tools and processes and perhaps by having made more contributions to the topic or issue at hand. Indeed, there is a deeper ethic or ideal of mutual aid and free association here. Learners can be seen as free apprentices, aiming to draw what they can from my facilitation (in the areas of tools & processes, connections, and contributions to the topic) so that they can then “hang out their own shingles” as facilitators of learning—Learning especially about unruly complexity of situations, situatedness, and change.

All this applies even when the topic of issue at hand is not obviously about science and technology. When the Collaborative’s initial prospectus refers to undermining barriers of access to the production of scientific knowledge and technology, I mean re-engagement, with all that goes into that.


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

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