Conversational Leadership: Thinking Together for a Change

After experiencing his first World Café dialogue at a program on self-organizing systems, Bob Veazie had an uncomfortable epiphany. At the time, he was a senior engineer and manufacturing manager at a Hewlett Packard plant in Oregon. In that World Café, Bob experienced how the collective intelligence of a group can become visible as people move from one table to another over several rounds of conversation, cross-pollinating ideas, making unexpected connections, developing new knowledge, and creating action opportunities. Afterward he said:

“Something profound but disturbing happened to me during those Café conversations. I realized that the boxes on my organization chart might more accurately be depicted as webs of conversations. Each day, we are engaged in conversations about different questions, just like in those table conversations, and we move between the ‘tables’ as we do our work in the company. It hit me with laser-beam clarity: This is how life actually works! So I began to wonder: If our conversations and personal relations are at the heart of our work, how am I, as a leader, contributing to or taking energy away from this natural process? Are we using the intelligence of just a few people when we could gain the intelligence of hundreds or thousands by focusing on key questions and including people more intentionally in the conversation?”


Posted in Leadership, Systemic change, Systems | Tagged , ,

Dancing with Systems

People who are raised in the industrial world and who get enthused about systems thinking are likely to make a terrible mistake. They are likely to assume that here, in systems analysis, in interconnection and complication, in the power of the computer, here at last, is the key to prediction and control. This mistake is likely because the mindset of the industrial world assumes that there is a key to prediction and control.

But self-organizing, nonlinear feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way our reductionistic science has led us to expect. Our science itself, from quantum theory to the mathematics of chaos, leads us into irreducible uncertainty. For any objective other than the most trivial, we can’t optimize; we don’t even know what to optimize. We can’t keep track of everything. We can’t find a proper, sustainable relationship to nature, each other, or the institutions we create if we try to do it from the role of omniscient conqueror.


Posted in Self-organized systems, Systems | Tagged ,

Theatre Pedagogy

Theatre pedagogy (German: Theaterpädagogik) is an independent discipline combining both theatre and pedagogy. As a field that arose during the 20th century, theatre pedagogy has developed separately from drama education, the distinction being that the drama teacher typically teaches method, theory and/or practice of performance alone, while theatre pedagogy integrates both art and education to develop language and strengthen social awareness. Theatre pedagogy is rooted in drama and stagecraft, yet works to educate people outside the realm of theatre itself.

Practitioners of theatre pedagogy operate with a situation-oriented educational framework, usually using the medium of theatre as a vehicle to achieve an objective. Through this method, theatre pedagogy gives access to participants’ own ideas and impulses, expanding the avenues of communication and interaction with the self and one’s sociocultural environment. Through the use of gesture, intonation, facial expression, and behavior onstage, participants analyze these performative aspects created by the dramatic tension of everyday life. Through these physical and personality-affected models, real-life situations can more clearly express themselves.


Posted in Pedagogy, Theatre | Tagged ,

Happiness and Children

It is a mistake to expect children to be happy, worse still to insist on it. Childhood is navigated via rage and disappointment as much as by joy and pleasure, often in quick succession. Nevertheless, a five-year-old knows about as much as there is to know about happiness. In their love of the outdoors, their easy physicality and fascination with everyday objects, young children already understand the very things that adults struggle to learn. Positive psychologists tell us we should avoid ‘comparing’ ourselves to others, which—one might presume—would include avoiding enforced comparisons between children who are only a couple of years out of their nappies. But there remains a serious blind-spot. Economists assume that competition is something that occurs spontaneously in the market, a natural force that public policy can prepare us for but not alleviate or shape. Positive psychologists reduce anxiety and depression to defects of behaviour or cognitive biases. But what if people are being socially compelled to compete, perform and prove themselves? And what if that compulsion, far from being ‘natural’ or even a diffuse cultural effect of ‘late capitalism’ or ‘modernity’, is in fact deliberately designed by policy-makers who seek to bolster their power with more and more data?


Posted in Childhood, Children, Happiness, Schooling, Tests | Tagged , , , ,

Pirate Philosophy: For a Digital Posthumanities

In Pirate Philosophy, Gary Hall considers whether the fight against the neoliberal corporatization of higher education in fact requires scholars to transform their own lives and labor. Is there a way for philosophers and theorists to act not just for or with the antiausterity and student protestors — “graduates without a future” — but in terms of their political struggles? Drawing on such phenomena as peer-to-peer file sharing and anticopyright/pro-piracy movements, Hall explores how those in academia can move beyond finding new ways of thinking about the world to find instead new ways of being theorists and philosophers in the world. Hall describes the politics of online sharing, the battles against the current intellectual property regime, and the actions of Anonymous, LulzSec, Aaron Swartz, and others, and he explains Creative Commons and the open access, open source, and free software movements. But in the heart of the book he considers how, when it comes to scholarly ways of creating, performing, and sharing knowledge, philosophers and theorists can challenge not just the neoliberal model of the entrepreneurial academic but also the traditional humanist model with its received ideas of proprietorial authorship, the book, originality, fixity, and the finished object. In other words, can scholars and students today become something like pirate philosophers?


Posted in Pirates, Scholars, Social movements, Student | Tagged , , ,

Networked Learning: An Educational Paradigm for the Age of Digital Networks

This book is a major contribution to the field of networked learning and provides the most comprehensive examination and analysis to date of its place in education in a networked society. As Chris Jones comments in his conclusion, at root the book argues for a relational view of learning through which networked learning can deal with the new mobility and  from which networked learning can take its next steps by designing educational opportunities for citizens in an increasingly complex network society. In this book Chris Jones clearly identifi es and differentiates networked learning as a specifi c fi eld of research and scholarship that is broadly based on social theories of learning. The book explores the relationship between digital and network technologies, learning and social life. We are not aware of any other book on networked learning that does what Chris Jones does here, nor of any book that does it so thoroughly. He examines the broad themes of networks, networking and networked learning as seen or experienced by institutions, through the use of infrastructures (the socio-material contexts), as well as perspectives and experiences of the human elements of academics and students. It’s a broad sweep, taking the reader through the major components of networked learning as we experience them today.


Posted in Digital networks, Digital technologies, Education, Educational technology, Learning, Networked learning, Networks | Tagged , , , , , ,

Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics

Prince of Networks is the first treatment of Bruno Latour specifically as a philosopher. Part One covers four key works that display Latour’s underrated contributions to metaphysics: Irreductions, Science in Action, We Have Never Been Modern, and Pandora’s Hope. Harman contends that Latour is one of the central figures of contemporary philosophy, with a highly original ontology centred in four key concepts: actants, irreduction, translation, and alliance. In Part Two, Harman summarizes Latour’s most important philosophical insights, including his status as the first ‘secular occasionalist’. Working from his own ‘object-oriented’ perspective, Harman also criticizes the Latourian focus on the relational character of actors at the expense of their cryptic autonomous reality. This book forms a remarkable interface between Latour’s Actor-Network Theory and the Speculative Realism of Harman and his confederates. Harman does for Bruno Latour what Deleuze did for Foucault. Rather than a recounting of Latour’s impressive sociological analyses, Harman approaches Latour as a philosopher, offering a new realist object-oriented metaphysics capable of  sustaining contemporary thought well into the next century. What ensues is a lively and productive debate between rival, yet sympathetic, orientations of object oriented philosophy between two of our most highly original, daring, and creative philosophers, giving us a text destined to have a major impact on contemporary philosophical thought.


Posted in Latour, Networks, Philosophy | Tagged , ,

The Evolutionary Origins of Hierarchy

Hierarchical organization—the recursive composition of sub-modules—is ubiquitous in biological networks, including neural, metabolic, ecological, and genetic regulatory networks, and in human-made systems, such as large organizations and the Internet. To date, most research on hierarchy in networks has been limited to quantifying this property. However, an open, important question in evolutionary biology is why hierarchical organization evolves in the first place. It has recently been shown that modularity evolves because of the presence of a cost for network connections. Here we investigate whether such connection costs also tend to cause a hierarchical organization of such modules. In computational simulations, we find that networks without a connection cost do not evolve to be hierarchical, even when the task has a hierarchical structure. However, with a connection cost, networks evolve to be both modular and hierarchical, and these networks exhibit higher overall performance and evolvability (i.e. faster adaptation to new environments). Additional analyses confirm that hierarchy independently improves adaptability after controlling for modularity. Overall, our results suggest that the same force–the cost of connections–promotes the evolution of both hierarchy and modularity, and that these properties are important drivers of network performance and adaptability. In addition to shedding light on the emergence of hierarchy across the many domains in which it appears, these findings will also accelerate future research into evolving more complex, intelligent computational brains in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics.


Posted in Evolution, Evolutionary complexity, Hierarchy | Tagged , ,

Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order

This volume examines how generative mechanisms emerge in the social order and their consequences. It does so in the light of finding answers to the general question posed in this book series: Will Late Modernity be replaced by a social formation that could be called Morphogenic Society? This volume clarifies what a ‘generative mechanism’ is, to achieve a better understanding of their social origins, and to delineate in what way such mechanisms exert effects within a current social formation, either stabilizing it or leading to changes potentially replacing it . The book explores questions about conjuncture, convergence and countervailing effects of morphogenetic mechanisms in order to assess their impact. Simultaneously, it looks at how products of positive feedback intertwine with the results of (morphostatic) negative feedback. This process also requires clarification, especially about the conditions under which morphostasis prevails over morphogenesis and vice versa. It raises the issue as to whether their co-existence can be other than short-lived. The volume addresses whether or not there also is a process of ‘morpho-necrosis’, i.e. the ultimate demise of certain morphostatic mechanisms, such that they cannot ‘recover’. The book concludes that not only are generative mechanisms required to explain associations between variables involved in the replacement of Late Modernity by Morphogenic Society, but they are also robust enough to account for cases and times when such variables show no significant correlations.


Posted in Morphogenesis, Morphogenic society, Morphostasis, Social, Social change, Social order | Tagged , , , , ,

Social Morphogenesis

The rate of social change has speeded up in the last three decades, but how do we explain this? This volume ventures what the generative mechanism is that produces such rapid change and discusses how this differs from late Modernity. Contributors examine if an intensification of morphogenesis (positive feedback that results in a change in social form) and a corresponding reduction in morphostasis (negative feedback that restores or reproduces the form of the social order) best captures the process involved. This volume resists proclaiming a new social formation as so many books written by empiricists have done by extrapolating from empirical data. Until we can convincingly demonstrate that a new generative mechanism is at work, it is premature to argue what accounts for the global changes that are taking place and where they will lead. More concisely we seek to answer the question whether or not current social change can be regarded as social morphogenesis.


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