Have we constituted a group that might effectively promote a new organization of scientists (or inquirers)?

Thought-piece by Peter Taylor circulated by email soon after the “Ecology at the Boundary of Human Systems” workshop, March 2000.
1. Have we constituted a group that might effectively promote a new organization of scientists (or inquirers)? [Referring to proposal for American Federation of Scientists]
2. What would we need to do to assess this likelihood? What inquiry would we need?
3. How would we support each other to pursue that inquiry?
Read more of this post

Design change for individuals in/and society

This post presents a series of contrasting models for thinking about how to change individuals, society, and individuals in their social context. It addresses the first case in the course Design for Living Complexities. Read more of this post

Caveat lector (written as I orient myself to the audience for the next book I want to write)

The conceptual themes advanced in this book emerged from puzzling over the positions and propositions of others that did not, for me, fit together. I hope readers appreciate the coherence of the picture I paint, but, even more, that they become engaged in fresh directions of puzzle posing and probing. After all, to move beyond the gaps I identify in the study of variation and heredity requires a wide range of inquiries from people in many different areas… Nature-Nurture? No, 2014

…the book as a whole becomes an opening-up theme. The book does not provide a theory to explain unruly complexity in any specific field or situation, but opens up issues about addressing complexity in ways that point to further work that needs to be undertaken to deal with particular cases.  Unruly Complexity, 2005

A few years ago an experienced facilitator admonished me not to think too much about how to support the translation into everyday work and life of tools and processes [for collaboration and reflective practice] introduced in a workshop setting.  The advice was to the effect that tools and processes are taken up only if they are introduced in actual work settings. http://wp.me/p1gwfa-tz 2013

The conceptual themes advanced in this book emerged from puzzling over positions and propositions until they fitted together for me. I hope readers appreciate the coherence of the picture I paint, but, even more, that they become engaged in fresh directions of puzzle posing and probing.  However, I am well aware of the limitations of building from the conceptual side and writing not to a specific audience. Read more of this post

Vanzetti on gardens after 5+ years in prison & 10 months before execution


Research for Writing, Writing for Research: A workshop

Overview of a workshop run for doctoral students in Environmental Studies at Yale University in Fall 2008.

OK, you’re near the end of a semester learning about qualitative research and preparing a research proposal.  This “writing workshop” will look at the role of writing in research from three different angles:

1.  Thinking about what your project (or thesis) is isn’t finished until you finish writing—and you can’t bring writing to a finish without thinking through what your project (or thesis) is really about.  So, what processes can help you with your thinking and writing at the final stages?  We’ll look at “Sharing” and “Revising with Feedback,” guided by chapters 3 & 13 of Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power (Oxford U.P.) and another piece of his (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/ elbowresponses.html).   (If anyone wants to volunteer a few pages for us to give feedback on, please email me and I’ll explain how this will work.)

2.  The course syllabus says:

The idea is to commit to a project quickly and put some effort into it; you may change your mind later, or find that the problem you thought was worth pursuing is in fact a deadend. Congratulations—that is what research is all about.

Is that what research and writing have to be like?  It is too late to change for this semester, but let’s compare your experience with a process that allows more time for finding a project that really engages you.

Before the workshop:

a. Read the introduction to a book (http://bit.ly/TYS2012) that compiles material from three CCT courses:

b. Examine the “phases of research and engagement,” which are overlapping and “iterative”

c. Consider the idea of “dialogue around written work

During the workshop, we will use two of the tools in the book to compare your experience with the ideas/practices in a, b, & c: Guided freewriting, and Strategic Personal Planning.  (Details of how we’ll do this can wait till the workshop.)

3.  (time permitting)  Many of you will be teachers and researcher advisers one day.  If you see your development as a teacher as an ongoing process, then this process is a suitable subject for qualitative research.  In that light, before the workshop please read the compilation of snapshots from my development, and come prepared to give feedback so I can revise and improve this first draft.  (I’ll be asking you to use one of Elbow’s variety of responses in providing the feedback.)


Home after 20 days of a learning road trip

The blog posts on the road trip can be followed in three ways:

  • Complete road trip: Start on Day 1 and follow the links at the end of each post forward to the next day or activity
  • Activities related to critical thinking & reflective practice: Start on Day 2 and follow links at top right of each post on this blog
  • Activities related to complexity & change in environment, biomedicine & society: Start on Day 1 and follow links at top right of each post on that blog

During the road trip I recalled an earlier learning road trip, in 1974-5, learning about various alternative communities and technologies in Australia.  I wrote about this in a weekly “Weary Feet” column for Lot’s Wife, the student newspaper at Monash University.  The column’s title referred to the poem of Bilbo [and later Frodo] in The Lord of the Rings:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager [weary] feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Another version ends:

But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Classes in designing a new society (Day 9 of Learning road trip)

Today we sat in on two classes at the School for Designing a Society.

The first class was called The Gaze.  People listened to an OpEd from the Nation about the execution of Troy Davis, wrote for 10 minutes, then read their writing aloud.  The participants had been active in drawing attention to shortcomings in the judicial process and had clear, powerful thoughts to convey.

The second class was on ecological design in a series on Liberation ecology, taught by Rafter Ferguson.  The basic principles of permaculture were presented through an interactive lecture.  One of permaculture co-founders, Bill Mollison, defines it as “conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems,” but Rafter spoke more generally of “meeting human needs while increasing human health.”  Either way, four principles emerge:  reciprocity, multi-functionality, unintended consequences, and edge (see longer list).

It was clear from the two classes that SDaS attracts young activist students, who are prepared to come to Urbana for an intense semester.  They wouldn’t have funds for living in Boston and paying for a graduate degree such as CCT.  CCT students are usually working, raising families, etc. and wouldn’t be able to give away a semester to come to Urbana.  However, they should be aware of endeavors such as SDaS which push the envelope more than CCT’s courses.  Let’s see if we can make that happen.

(back to Start of road trip; forward to Day 11)

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