Reflections on necessity

This is a long unfinished blog post from spring 2013, written for other participants in a small, international collaboration that was waiting to hear about funding of an innovative proposal on economic and political mobilization “from below”–how it may be produced, persist and be productive in spite of social-environmental crises and violence. Read more of this post


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)

Classes in designing a new society (Day 8 of Learning road trip)

The next day I led a workshop for the School for Designing a Society on “How do we know we have population-environment problems? A journey from simple models to multiple points of engagement to contribute to change.” Read more of this post

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)

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