School for designing a society (Day 7 of Learning road trip)

Back in the spring some conversations led me to think that “Critical and Creative Design” captured better the spirit of the main program I teach in than its actual name, “Critical and Creative Thinking.”  In May I got to meet a teacher from the School for Designing a Society,  So it seemed  timely to learn more about the School and explore possible collaborations with the CCT program.  The first day of our visit included a walk and talk in restored prairie land.

Some themes that I noted were:

1. to identify my principles for living (which is an SDaS theme).  (These might include: flexible engagement esp. in Future Ideal Retrospective activities; the 4Rs; supporting others to do the best work they can in the circumstances; and everyone needing to construct a 30-person support network [say, 5 immediate supporters, each backed up by 5 others].)

2.  Permaculture—the social side of this is the hardest to achieve and it is downplayed by most permaculturists.

3.  Architect Christopher Alexander’s pattern pools.

That evening we dined and talked with a larger group of SDaS’ers.  Further themes I noted include:

4.  Premise: We want (or desire) another society.  Society needs to change to realize our desires.

5.  SDaS has organizers, not teachers; participants, not students.

6.  Composition (like design)–compose the contexts in which desires can be realized (e.g., for music based on 17 tones to the octave).

7.  Musical composition shares structures with cybernetics (which SDaS’ers refer to a lot).

8.  One participant ran for local office and now sees her governance work as “the coordination of desires.”

9.  Cybernetic theory is referred to a lot.  A Larry Richards Reader is a good introduction.

I use the word “design” when I talk about a process in which constraints are created, dissolved, or transformed.  The process of design I wish to propose is one in which these constraints are made explicit and accessible to all who wish to participate in the process…

(back to Start of road trip; forward to Day 8)

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, On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012,

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