Category Archives: Gregory Bateson

Imaginal Cybernetics, the Demonic Daemon, Deep Play

Hermes

Part One of Two

First you pour the water in the pool. Then you dive.

I’ve dived into the recent hours of intense creative dialog with Ken Warren. We’re preparing our presentation cum performance at The Society for Analytical Psychology of Western New York on December 12.

Peras-Swine

I’ll get to its description in a moment. First, let’s wander.

Systemics and cybernetics can be viewed as a metalanguage of concepts and models for transdisciplinarian use, still now evolving and far from being stabilized. This is the result of a slow process of accretion through inclusion and interconnection of many notions, which came and are still coming from very different disciplines. Systemics and Cybernetics in a Historical Perspective, Charles Francois, Systems Research Sciences and Behavioral Systems Research Sciences, #16

In short, directed at the above from 1999, Blow that shit up. Ken and I discuss our stuff, and we very seriously marry our paired, then dancing, intuitions. I could identify and then name and then post the essential contexts that inform our brotherly shamanism–and this would interest me more than him–yet most of those contexts are deliberately unstable.

Why? “inclusion and interconnection of many notions, which came and are still coming from very different disciplines,” souls.

We’ve been playing very hard in the overlap of our entangled sensibilities. We also play in the medial space described by the overlap, but, this medial space is outside our ‘pure’ overlap. Near where it’s bounded by the overlap we understand each other, but as our intuitions drift farther away from the overlap, or as our individual impulse reconnoiters closed to the unsharable territory in the other person’s homeland, he or I become tourists.

venn

Yes, the medial aspects cross too. (Ken might attend to this using astropsychology, where I might propose a matrix of classification.) Still, the more one of us leaves behind both our home experience and the means that implicate our individual understanding of our, by definition, non-mutual experience, the more we traverse the medial boundary away from our core and toward the other person’s core.

Why do I mention this sort of map? For one thing, it’s a good example of third order social cybernetics, a framework I am in the process of hatching.

The two of us know something about what goes on betwixt us in our co-creative conversations. And we know that much just comes up from out of some nowhere, from the, as Ken would say, foamy depths.

What we know on our own obviously is a differential knowing, it regards my knowing being different than his knowing. That is not a trivial point. At the same time, we all the time drag one another into the medial territory for the purpose of revealing the so-called second-to-third orders ‘secreted’ there in the borderlands. The borderlands are where the action is!

Here’s the call for our program.

Repairing the Opposites, Doubling Stars, Turning Swine Into Pears
An experiential and imaginal exploration of relationship as individuation and daring-do

What is any human system of relationship in relationship to, and contextualized by?

Is there deep value available in transforming important partnerships, friendships, and, pairings into sites for adventure?
How does activation of the Trickster archetype revitalize the approach of the single, yearning person?

Using experiential learning, archetypal inquiry, and deep astrology, the principles of IN4tuity present an evening’s worth of games centered on the participatory psyche and sparking self-knowledge. Ken Warren and Stephen Calhoun use analytical psychology to bridge esoteric and cybernetic expertise. Their wild blend on this special evening aims to animate a circus of interactive exploration and discovery. Come prepared to play. Come ready to capture an epiphany or two about you and one other, even if the one other has not yet been met.

Pear. In Greek and Roman mythology, pears are sacred to three goddesses: Hera (Juno to the Romans), Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans), and Pomona, an Italian goddess of gardens and harvests.

The ancient Chinese believed that the pear was a symbol of immortality. (Pear trees live for a long time.) In Chinese the word li means both “pear” and “separation,” and for this reason, tradition says that to avoid a separation, friends and lovers should not divide pears between themselves.

In Christianity, the pear, rarely used except in paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, symbolizes the fruit of Mary’s womb. St. Augustine remembered his first sin to be when he stole a pear. His original sin was mimetic with regard to the original sin in The Garden of Eden.

Stephen Calhoun is the principal of squareONE: experiential toolmakers. He recently became one of four worldwide learning partners of Experience-based Learning Systems, and, he is a founding member of the Experiential Learning Community of Practice.

Kenneth Warren is the founder and editor of House Organ, a letter of poetry and prose. BlazeVox recently published his selective history of American poetry: Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch: A Guide to the Homeric Punkhole, 1980-2012.

I created the program in this way: 100% intuition, spontaneously, on a hunch. By 100% intuition I mean, following loosely from psychologist John Beebe: 50% extroverted intuition, and 50% introverted intuition; and by the latter I additionally mean, unconscious/occulted/demonic and of unknown origins.

Next step, to discuss with Ken what it is that is interesting to us both, and so find our hook in this 100% mutual intuitive build, a co-creation now consisting of half conscious and half unconscious interests brought together from our two different sides.

I am just about ready to adjust the program’s call to reflect what it is we will actually try to pull up, and pull off. Up to this point, Ken and I haven’t discussed my original program intuition at all.

What we have been discussing is the birth of romantic relationship, the initial soulful foray toward another soul, and, the paradoxical status of self-knowledge in both the light and dark zones of initial (and initiatory,) relating.

131. But if thou shut up thy Soul in the Body, and abuse it, and say, I understand nothing, I can do nothing, I am afraid of the Sea, I cannot climb up to Heaven, I know not who I am, I cannot tell what I shall be: What hast thou to do with god? for thou canst understand none of those Fair and Good things, and be a lover of the body and Evil.

132. For it is the greatest Evil, not to know God.

133. But to be able to know, and to will, and to hope, is the straight way, and Divine way, proper to the Good, and it will everywhere meet thee, and everywhere be seen of thee, plain and easy, when thou dost not expect or look for it; it will meet thee waking, sleeping, sailing, travelling, by night, by day, when thou speakest, and when thou keepest silence.

THE TENTH BOOK, THE MIND TO HERMES The Divine Pymander, by Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, tr. by John Everard, [1650]

Hermes symmetry

horizonal mirror symmetry, Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus

Part One of Two

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, analytic psychology, experiential learning, Gregory Bateson, self-knowledge | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Missed-Understood and the Web of Hypotheses

This video counts as keeper in my quest for laser-focused riffs on adult development lasting less than ten minutes.

The one qualification I would offer about managing conversations is: be aware of what happens if you idealize the structural and intentional features of a conversation. It seems to me all deep conversations come to be managed in their real time trajectory. From my perspective, discernment and shaping of conversational intentions (of any party to the conversation,) may engage third order repertoires. This seems to me to be part of the system and meta-system of conversational communication. It’s okay.

On the other hand, this may also be rationalizing on my part!

“Not-knowing refers to the belief that one person cannot pre-know another person or his or her situation or what is best for them. It refers to the intent and manner with which the coach thinks about and introduces his or her believed knowledge and expertise (what they think they might know). Knowledge and expertise (e.g., whether from research, experience, or theory) are tentatively offered as food for thought and dialogue and remain open to challenge and change.”Harlene Anderson, h/t C.Visser

Harlene Anderson bio from Taos Institute.

Harlene Anderson, Ph.D., is founding member of the Houston Galveston Institute, the Taos Institute, and Access Success. She is recognized internationally as being at the leading edge of postmodern collaborative practices as a thinker, consultant, coach, and educator. She takes her tools — her insights, her curiosity, her engaging conversational style, her leadership skills and her keen interest — to help professionals turn theory into new and often surprising possibilities for their clients, students, and organizations. She embodies her own belief in learning as a lifelong process — inviting, encouraging and challenging people to be inquisitive, creative, authentic, and open to the ever-present possibilities for newness in others — and in themselves.

reflection

Harlene Anderson and Dr. Harold A. Goolishian developed collaborative therapy as a postmodern approach to creative and solution-based communication. A core component of postmodern collaborative therapy is that the relationship between therapist and client is one of equals; the therapist is not in a position of authority over the client. Instead, therapy is viewed as a partnership that allows the therapist and client to combine their expertise. There is a strong emphasis on becoming comfortable with uncertainty, including the therapist’s own uncertainty. The therapist avoids the use of jargon, and makes notes readily available to the client. Clients are encouraged to actively participate in the process by providing feedback on the process itself, for example, and loved ones in the client’s life are not stigmatized or viewed as harmful. Instead, they too are invited to participate in the therapeutic process.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, experiential learning, Gregory Bateson, social psychology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweetly Focused Nora Bateson

What a great two minutes!

Nora Bateson’s soulful approach to her father’s work, to his way of understanding, strikes me as being beautifully personal, ingratiating, and, most crucially, precisely formulated so as to provide a warm introductory gateway to his legacy.

The following videos help frame her brilliant film about her father, An Ecology of Mind. The interviewers are different, and there is some repetition, yet Ms. Bateson is so much deeply her father’s daughter that I find her views enchanting.

The point of the probe is always in the heart of the explorer. (Gregory Bateson)

According to the popular image of science, everything is, in principle, predictable and controllable; and if some event or process is not predictable and controllable in the present state of your knowledge, a little more knowledge and, especially, a little more know-how will enable us to predict and control the wild variables.

This view is wrong, not merely in detail, but in principle. It is even possible to define large classes or phenomena where prediction and control are simply impossible for very basic but quite understandable reasons. Perhaps the most familiar example of this class of phenomena is the breaking of any superficially homogeneous material, such as glass. The Brownian movement (see Glossary) of molecules in liquids and gases is similarly unpredictable.

If I throw a stone at a glass window, I shall, under appropriate circumstances, break of crack the glass in a star-shaped pattern. If my stone hits the glass as fast as a bullet, it is possible that it will detach from the glass a neat conical plug called a conic of percussion. If my stone is too slow and too small, I may fail to break the glass at all. Prediction and control will be quite possible at this level. I can easily make sure which of three results (the star, the percussion cone, or no breakage) I shall achieve, provided I avoid marginal strengths of throw.

But within the conditions which produce the star-shaped break, it will be impossible to predict or control the pathways and the positions of the arms of the stars.

Curiously enough, the more precise my laboratory methods, the more unpredictable the events will become. If I use the most homogeneous glass available, polish its surface to the most exact optical flatness, and control the motion of my stone as precisely as possible, ensuring an almost precisely vertical impact on the surface of the glass, all my efforts will only make the events more impossible to predict.

If, on the other hand, I scratch the surface of the glass or use a piece of glass that is already cracked (which would be cheating), I shall be able to make some approximate predictions. For some reason (unknown to me), the break in the glass will run parallel to the scratch and about 1/100 of an inch to the side, so that the scratch mark will appear on only one side of the break. Beyond the end of the scratch, the break will veer off unpredictably.

Under tension, a chain will break at its weakest link. That much is predictable. What is difficult is to identify the weakest link before it breaks. The generic we can know, but the specific eludes us. Some chains are designed to break at a certain tension and at a certain link. But a good chain is homogeneous, and no prediction is possible. And because we cannot know which link is weakest, we cannot know precisely how much tension will be needed to break the chain.

6. Divergent Sequences Are Unpredictable
II Every School Boy Knows
Mind & Nature (Gregory Bateson)

Any form of certainty we find along the way is probably transitional. (Nora Bateson)

Nora Bateson from AURA on Vimeo.

Nora Bateson’s film (Amazon DVD) An Ecology of Mind, A Daughter’s Portrait of Gregory Bateson–it’s wonderful– Web Site | An Ecology of the Mind (on Facebook)

Department of Anthropology Indiana University: Gregory Bateson biography

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in creative captures, Gregory Bateson, psychological anthropology, science | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cat Spat

[Gregory Bateson] The first definite step in the formulation of the hypothesis guiding this research occurred in January, 1952, when I went to the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco to look for behavioral criteria which would indicate whether any given organism is or is not able to recognize that the signs emitted by itself and other members of the species are signals. In theory, I had thought out what such criteria might look like?—that the occurrence of metacommunicative signs (or signals) in the stream of interaction between the animals would indicate that the animals have at least some awareness (conscious or unconscious) that the signs about which they metacommunicate are signals.

I knew, of course, that there was no likelihood of finding denotative messages among nonhuman mammals, but I was still not aware that the animal data would require an almost total revision of my thinking. What I encountered at the zoo was a phenomenon well known to everybody: I saw two young monkeys playing, i.e., engaged in an interactive sequence of which the unit actions or signals were similar to but not the same as those of combat. It was evident, even to the human observer, that the sequence as a whole was not combat, and evident to the human observer that to the participant monkeys this was ?“not combat.?”

Now, this phenomenon, play, could only occur if the participant organisms were capable of some degree of meta-communication, i.e., of exchanging signals which would carry the message ?“this is play.?”

(4) The next step was the examination of the message ?“This is play,?” and the realization that this message contains those elements which necessarily generate a paradox of the Russellian or Epimenides type -a negative statement containing an implicit negative metastatement. Expanded, the statement ?“This is play?” looks something like this: ?“These actions in which we now engage do not denote what those actions for which they stand would denote.?”

We now ask about the italicized words, ?“for which they stand.?” We say the word ?“cat?” stands for any member of a certain class. That is, the phrase ?“stands for?” is a near synonym of ?“denotes.?” If we now substitute ?“which they denote?” for the words ?“for which they stand?” in the expanded definition of play, the result is: ?“These actions, in which we now engage, do not denote what would be de-noted by those actions which these actions denote.?” The playful nip denotes the bite, but it does not denote what would be denoted by the bite.

According to the Theory of Logical Types such a message is of course inadmissible, because the word ?“denote?” is being used in two degrees of abstraction, and these two uses are treated as synonymous. But all that we learn from such a criticism is that it would be bad natural history to expect the mental processes and communicative habits of mammals to conform to the logician?’s ideal. Indeed, if human thought and communication always conformed to the ideal, Russell would not in fact could not have formulated the ideal.

(5) A related problem in the evolution of communication concerns the origin of what Korzybski,62 has called the map-territory relation: the fact that a message, of whatever kind, does not consist of those objects which it denotes (?“The word `cat?’ cannot scratch us?”). Rather, language bears to the objects which it denotes a relationship comparable to that which a map bears to a territory. Denotative communication as it occurs at the human level is only possible after the evolution of a complex set of metalinguistic (but not verbalized)63 rules which govern how words and sentences shall be related to objects and events. It is therefore appropriate to look for the evolution of such metalinguistic and/or meta-communicative rules at a prehuman and preverbal level.

It appears from what is said above that play is a phenomenon in which the actions of ?“play?” are related to, or denote, other actions of ?“not play.?” We therefore meet in play with an instance of signals standing for other events, and it appears, therefore, that the evolution of play may have been an important step in the evolution of communication.

(6) Threat is another phenomenon which resembles play in that actions denote, but are different from, other actions. The clenched fist of threat is different from the punch, but it refers to a possible future (but at present nonexistent) punch. And threat also is commonly recognizable among non-human mammals. Indeed it has lately been argued that a great part of what appears to be combat among members of a single species is rather to be regarded as threat (Tinbergen,64 Lorenz,65).

(7) Histrionic behavior and deceit are other examples of the primitive occurrence of map-territory differentiation. And there is evidence that dramatization occurs among birds: a jackdaw may imitate her own mood-signs (Lorenz66), and deceit has been observed among howler monkeys (Carpenter,67). [excerpt: 4.2 A Theory of Play and Fantasy, Steps to An Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson]

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, cats, Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meta Plus Recursion (and a topos for truthiness)

This Is It

The idea of a universally shared source of truth called ‘reason’ or ‘human nature’ is, for us pragmatists, just the idea that such discussion ought to be capable of being made conclusive. We see this idea as a misleading way of expressing the hope, which we share, that the human race as a whole should gradually come together in a global community, a community which incorporates most of the thick moral- ity of the European industrialized democracies. It is misleading because it suggests that the aspiration to such a community is somehow built into every member of the biological species.This seems to us pragmatists like the suggestion that the aspiration to be an anaconda is somehow built into all reptiles, or that the aspiration to be an anthropoid is somehow built into all mammals. This is why we pragmatists see the charge of relativism as simply the charge that we see luck where our critics insist on seeing destiny. We think that the utopian world community envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Declaration of Human Rights is no more the destiny of humanity than is an atomic holocaust or the replacement of democratic governments by feuding warlords. If either of the latter is what the future holds, our species will have been unlucky, but it will not have been irrational. It will not have failed to live up to its moral obligations. It will simply have missed a chance to be happy. -Richard Rorty (Introduction, Philosophy and Social Hope)

Thank you Google for allowing me to search for the paragraph I need from A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson (Peter Harries-Jones.)

recursion

Richard Rorty’s argument for the boundless description and explanation that is pragmatically resolved as a matter of these being true enough as a matter of being useful enough, is related to commission–as long as commission is flexible enough to denote: useful. Even if this stretches the similarity too far, the Batesonian epistemology is partly concerned with the rightness in doing. Crucially: the abductive reason is adequate and commensurate for the purpose of supposing usefulness for Bateson, James, Dewey, and Rorty.

(Richard Rorty, in A World Without Substances and Essences  (1994) argues for a crisp eliminativist, anti-essentialist monism not contemplated by Bateson at all. The two monists had different senses of what is possibly ecological.)

Bonus:

Two Pragmatic Moral Universes: James vs. Dewey and Rorty by Scott Segrest (SSRN)
Dewey and Rorty On Truth by Alexander Kremer (pdf)
Foucault and Rorty on Truth and Ideology: A Pragmatist View from the Left by Chandra Kumar (pdf)

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson, philosophy on the web, psychological anthropology, William James | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rabbit Holes

Enactivist Grid - a form for a heuristic inquiry

Enactivist Grid – a form for a heuristic inquiry

I’ve been reviewing current so-called Integral literature over the last few weeks, but it was Ken who had much earlier got me going back toward that development dynamic when I toppled over ‘into it’ in the intellectual sense from our discussing Giegerich’s critique of classical Analytical Psychology.

I’m not an Integralist.  Understanding in a meta-systems sense that the best and the lesser are sometimes necessarily retained, and, transcend-and-include turns out to be an arbitrary imposition if it then, at times, results in the baby following promptly the bathwater, highlights the fundamental points of distinction between my messy/rigorous viewing site and the seemingly reductive AQAL territories.

I note as much when I peruse the neatly reductive diagrams that have been recently multiplying; and most strike me initially to be graphical, intellectual kitsch. But then I get out my scraper.

Vision-Logic

 

I’d be very interested in scratching beneath the surface of the presumably poetical ” ‘live eros,’ springing forth from chaos.”

What a human system apparently is (to a degree mediated by a, or several, or all domains,) is what he or she entails, and what he or she can possibly entertain, and, so, what I and you feel, and, that which I and you may create from the, my/your, our, current entailment, and, also, how future potentials are foresight worthy. In a nutshell, this is a (my own,) provisional perspective that, at least and as far as I do foresee, is able to encompass just about any ol’ additional perspective which could be tossed toward it, at it, into it, or, even land neatly and dynamically as a tangent, and with enough energy in such a circuit to cause further differentiation and a foundation for adaptation or sudden evolution.

Development is often non-linear.

Horizon is the root of horizontal.

We, you and I, are able to discuss the future. (Maybe this is among the most singular human features.)

The Map never gets close, and that it gets closer is an illusion provided by what I term the sunk perspective. In noting this, at the same time, all sorts of adventurous turns may tumble out of the dynamical interplay caused by being gripped and enthused by the current sunk perspective! Such perspectives then become relativized–and this is may be much different than being transcended and included.

Someday my squaring of radical empiricism and human (or social,) cybernetics will fall down the hole too.

If you should speak and try a hundred ways to express it,
‘Tis useless; the mystery becomes no clearer. …
A horse of wood is useless on dry land,
It is the special conveyance of voyagers by sea.
Silence is this horse of wood,
Silence is the guide and support of men at sea.
This Silence which causes you annoyance
Is uttering cries of love audible to the spiritual. (Rumi)

THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL FALLACY by Wolfgang Giegerich

One conception of the psyche that one can get from studying Jung’s work, above all the work of early Jung, is that the psyche has a clear- cut orderly structure that can be presented in the geometric forms of concentric circles (the ego as the center, surrounded first by the realm of consciousness, then of the personal unconscious and finally of the collective unconscious) or of a cone (with different layers, the deepest of which would be that of the collective unconscious whereas the tip would represent the ego) as well as in the imaginal form of personified figures (ego, persona, shadow, anima/animus, self). To this conception, Jung’s psychological typology with its compass-like representation of the four orientation functions fits very neatly. The crux of this conception is that it starts out from the human person. The human being is here the container or vessel of the soul and accordingly also the horizon of psychology A psychology based on this fantasy clearly operates with the division between man and world, subject and object, inner and outer, psychology and physics and feels competent for only half of this divided whole.

Psychology’s belonging to one side manifests for example in the concept of “extraversion” and in the “object-level” method of dream interpretation. Psychology is here what goes on inside the human person, which is why I speak of the anthropological fallacy. This fallacy is of course by no means a specialty of (the early) C. G. Jung. It is, and has been, the generally accepted, conventional idea about psychology ever since there has been a scientific discipline by this name, an idea that seemed so natural, so self-evident that it was not felt to be in need of any argumentative justification.

In depth psychology the anthropological fallacy had the practical consequence that the individual was urged to turn inwards and, in the case of Jungian analysis, to develop his or her self and to strive for his or her wholeness. Not only the “individuation process,” but Jung’s adamant emphasis on the individual as “the measure of all things” (CW 10, par.523) and “the makeweight that tips the scales” (par. 586) affirmed and highlighted this concentration on the person. It is true, Jung repeatedly insisted that “individuation” and his psychological stance in general does not exclude, but include, the world. But such a semantic statement does not undo the underlying structure or syntax of this thinking, namely that it irrevocably starts out from a human being who has the world (“external reality”) outside and vis-a?-vis himself. Even synchronicity as the meaningful coincidence of an inner and an outer event still has the anthropological conception of psychology as its background and precisely by trying to overcome the opposition of psychology and physics in the direction of the idea of unus mundus once more confirms the anthropological stance.

A serious consequence of this methodological standpoint is that the soul is logically relegated to second rank, as much as it may be prioritized, semantically and emotionally. The human being is here the substrate or actual substance and the psyche is merely one of the attributes of this substrate.

But the human being as the substrate personality is not itself the topic of psychology. It lies outside psychology’s field of vision. Psychology’s topic is the soul, is psychic life (which, however, often manifests in people). The moment psychic life is defined as being the life of the substrate personality, psychology has the task of exploring something (namely, psychic life), whose actual substantial reality (namely, the human being) is pre-supposed as lying outside (“pre-”) its own precincts of competence and responsibility…. The soul, not the person, is what I have to focus on.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, analytic psychology, Gregory Bateson, speculations, William James | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Being Unreasonable About Reasoning

Cultural Evaluations

Schematic Reasoning

 

Deduction

Induction

Abduction

Analogical reasoning

Cause-and-effect reasoning

Comparative reasoning

Conditional reasoning

Criteria reasoning

Decompositional reasoning

Exemplar reasoning

Modal logic

Traditional logic

Pros-vs-cons reasoning

Set-based reasoning

Systematic reasoning

Syllogistic reasoning

wxcerpted from:

Reasoning in every day life
Michal Vince
Department of Applied Informatics Comenius University in Bratislava Slovakia
January 24, 2011

Recently, I’ve been thinking about abduction. Also, I’ve been observing, introspecting, and reflecting on how modalities seem to assemble and blend and, to borrow from the Churchlands, join the cascade. Then, I wished to see what else might join a listing of the modes of reasoning. I shall now add to that list.

Conformative Reasoning

Reformative Reasoning

Design Reasoning

Instrumental Reasoning

Metaphoric Reasoning

Reference-point Reasoning

Tautological Reasoning

Heuristical Reasoning

Intuitive (Hunch) Reasoning

Musical Reasoning

Semiotic Reasoning

Schematic Reasoning

Kinesthetic Reasoning

Connotative Reasoning

Classificatory Reasoning

Antimonial Reasoning

Prototype Reasoning

Improvisational Reasoning

Contemplative Reasoning

Ecstatic Reasoning

Transitive Reasoning

Memetic Reasoning

Exemplar-ordinated Reasoning

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, experiential learning, Gregory Bateson | Leave a comment

As A Kite (or Plane) Flies

Slices

“There is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds, and it is characteristic of the system that basic error propagates itself.” -Gregory Bateson

Suggestion

Incarnate in a human body paradoxically aware of itself as a sign of the body–self-conscious as one body and will, thing represented and representation–the originary human person comes into being. I am a body, totally incarnate; but incarnation means that I must be ironically aware of my spirit and will as things separate from my body. Originary Human Personhood, Andrew Bartlett, Anthropoetics, v16.2

Humor

This [second] ++stage begins at the moment when the child receives from outside the example of codified rules, that is to say, some time between the ages of two and five. But though the child imitates this example, he continues to play either by himself without bothering to find play-fellows, or with others, but without trying to win, and therefore without attempting to unify the different ways of playing. In other words, children of this stage, even when they are playing together, play each one “on his own ” (everyone can win at once) and without regard for any codification of rules. This dual character, combining imitation of others with a purely individual use of the examples received, we have designated by the term Egocentrism. – Jean Piaget

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Gregory Bateson, nature, play, psychological anthropology | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Batesonian sign

20121126-205244.jpg

Also, for me, understanding this is the prime first order insight. What system is my being/doing mostly being-doing in? Consequence: the traffic is me; the traffic ‘over there’ is an extension of me, etc.

The bike won’t free you!

The advice aimed to promote biking is a second order directive, yet, until the differentiation of constituents of traffic is made explicit, these given constituents are identical with respect to how each is related to traffic.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Four Square Matrix – Metaverse Four Square

Metaverse Unfolds

The explanation for this Four Square Matrix is below.

(I’ve been exploring the format of the Four Square Matrix for over five years on the squareONE Explorations blog: Revisiting the Matrix Part 1 / Class of ’72 / Periodic Table of Visualization, And More / More Matrices / The Acid Test / Matrices – Stacked / Slowing Down to Better Problem Solve)

(SOURCE) To construct our scenario set we selected two key continua that are likely to influence the ways in which the Metaverse unfolds: the spectrum of technologies and applications ranging from augmentation to simulation; and the spectrum ranging from intimate (identity-focused) to external (world-focused).

• Augmentation refers to technologies that add new capabilities to existing real systems; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that layer new control systems and information onto our perception of the physical environment.

• Simulation refers to technologies that model reality (or parallel realities), offering wholly new environments; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that provide simulated worlds as the locus for interaction.

• Intimate technologies are focused inwardly, on the identity and actions of the individual or object; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies where the user (or semi-intelligent object) has agency in the environment, either through the use of an avatar/digital profile or through direct appearance as an actor in the system.

• External technologies are focused outwardly, towards the world at large; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that provide information about and control of the world around the user.

These continua are “critical uncertainties”—critical because they are fundamental aspects of the coming Metaverse, and uncertainties because how they will emerge, their relative and absolute development in various contexts, is yet to be seen.

Combining the two critical uncertainties gives four key components of the Metaverse future:

Virtual Worlds

Mirror Worlds

Augmented Reality

Lifelogging

These four scenarios emphasize different functions, types, or sets of Metaverse technologies. All four are already well into early emergence, yet the conditions under which each will fully develop, in particular contexts, are far from clear.

The source document at Metaverseroadmap.org provides the context and additional provocation. This would be most compelling for students of the history of technology, and socio-anthropologists interested in modernity and post-modernity. Download the PDF available there for the full view of the working group.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revisiting the 2×2 Matrix – Part 1.

Never Wrong Matrix

What I term a ‘four square,’ or matrix, derives in modern times from The Boston Consulting Group’s Growth-Share Matrix. I devise my own four squares and collect any others I encounter. At times the 2×2 Matrix in either its ‘cross’ or ‘four squares’ versions have done duty in my work to help depict human situations. For example, I have employed the following one and used it as the basis for a learner to reflect upon the challenge of having it both ways.

Dr Puck' s problem matrix

MDFI Matrix aka Dr. Puck’s Problem Solver

Such visual devices have come to be known as 2×2 Matrix. The essential book on the use of the 2×2 Matrix in business, The Power of the 2×2 Matrix, presents authors Alex Lowy and Phil Hood’s understanding of the tool’s value as an aid to decision making. The Power of the 2x2 Matrix They write:

2 × 2 Thinking is inherently and profoundly transcendent in nature. Two people face an identical problem differently: one sees an insurmountable problem, while the other perceives options and opportunities. Systems thinker Jamshid Gharajedaghi calls these two approaches either-or versus both-and. Confronted by tough choices, the either-or reaction is to feel trapped and obliged to pick one or the other. The both-and response draws us automatically to a new and different perspective, where it is possible to search for ways to reframe the problem or use conflicting factors in the solution.

2x2 Matrix

The Institute for Manufacturing at The University of Cambridge describes the matrix yet misses two central capabilities, the use of the 2×2 Matrix to plot values, and, the implicit relational dynamic given in the identification of what in this description is termed characteristics.

A two by two matrix is a useful tool for initial sorting of qualitative data.

The axes should be chosen so that, e.g., the data with the most desirable characteristics will fall into the upper left quadrant and the least desirable in the lower right quadrant. While groups may be unable or unwilling to assign absolute values to qualitative data, they usually find it relatively easy to come to a consensus as to which quadrant something belongs in.

Generally, the two by two matrix is a useful tool for categorising things that can be reduced to two simple variables, particularly when quantitative information is unavailable and qualitative judgements must be made.

It enables a rapid clustering (or separating) of information into four categories, which can be defined to suit the purpose of the exercise. It is particularly useful with groups as a way of visibly plotting out a common understanding or agreement of a subject.

2×2 Matrices I’ve found, from the growing collection:

Robotics Matrix

Inscrutible Robotics Matrix

Social Media and Business Qualification Matrix

Management Matrix

Unsatisfying to me, “Management Matrix”

I devised the following to depict the tension of oppositions betwixt four entangled philosophical themes.

Unity Matrix

The 2×2 Matrix is a very Batesonian device too. I haven’t beta tested a workshop during which learners build a view of their self (or what-have-you,) using the format, yet, it seems a good idea!

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

art à l’état brut

Yippie, my nominee for the most consistently the most Batesonian tv show of all time returns Community March 15.

Now, if you look at our conventional communication with one another, what you find is that we weave these logical types with incredible complexity and quite surprising facility. We even make jokes, and these may be difficult for a foreigner to understand. Most jokes, both canned and spontaneous, and nearly anywhere, are weavings of multiple logical types. Kidding and hazing similarly depend upon the unresolved question whether the kid-ee can identify that this is kidding. In any culture, the individuals acquire quite extraordinary skill in handling not only the flat identification of what sort of a message a message is but in dealing in multiple identifications of what sort of a message a message is. When we meet these multiple identifications we laugh, and we make new psychological discoveries about what goes on inside ourselves, which is perhaps the reward of real humor. (p 148)

This seems to be a method of exploring the implicit themes in thought or in a relationship. The method of exploration involves the use of messages which are characterized by a condensation of Logical Types or communicational modes. A discovery, for example, occurs when it suddenly becomes plain that a message was not only metaphoric but also more literal, or vice versa. That is to say, the explosive moment in humor is the moment when the labeling of the mode undergoes a dissolution and re-synthesis. Commonly, the punch line compels a re-evaluation of earlier signals which ascribed to certain messages a particular mode (e.g., literalness or fantasy). This has the peculiar effect of attributing mode to those signals which had previously the status of that higher Logical Type which classifies the modes. (p154)\Steps to An Ecology of Mind; Gregory Bateson

Community (NBC) Wikipedia


* art à l’état brut. . .All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists. (Marcel Duchamp, The Creative Act)

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“I Talked My Way Into It”

Anthropologist-Nicholas Conard- Werner-Herzog

Anthropologist Nicholas Conard (left) and filmmaker Werner Herzog examine artifacts from the Chauvet caves in southern France

Werner Herzog’s new film, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, joins my favorite filmmaker to a subject that has fascinated me since I was a kid. Herzog, as he puts it, “talked his way into the Chauvet Cave” in France. With a three man crew and a lightweight 3D camera, the documentarian, shot his film about the beginning of human graphical artistry. Trailer at bottom of page for film on Herzog’s web site. For a Herzog film, significant buzz.

Interview at Scientific American
Podcast and article at NPR
Review by Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian.OK

Another documentary has just gone into very limited release, and I guess I’m going to have to be patient. An Ecology of the Mind is about the great systems thinker, anthropologist, and, multi-disciplinary investigator Gregory Bateson. He was, and his thinking is, second-to-none as a main source of my own outlook and ingredient for my own undisciplined poking around, and, research. His daughter Nora is the filmmaker…and it’s about time.

Nora and Gregory Bateson

From the same page where I purloined this photo is a review and the trailer.

The hardest saying in the Bible is that of St. Paul, addressing the Galatians: “God is not mocked,” and this saying applies to the relationship between man and his ecology. It is of no use to plead that a particular sin of pollution or exploitation was only a little one or that it was unintentional or that it was committed with the best intentions. Or that “If I didn’t, somebody else would have.” The processes of ecology are not mocked.

On the other hand, surely the mountain lion when he kills the deer is not acting to protect the grass from overgrazing.

In fact, the problem of how to transmit our ecological reasoning to those whom we wish to influence in what seems to us to be an ecologically “good” direction is itself an ecological problem. We are not outside the ecology for which we plan—we are always and inevitably a part of it.

Herein lies the charm and the terror of ecology—that the ideas of this science are irreversibly becoming a part of our own ecosocial system.

We live then in a world different from that of the mountain lion—he is neither bothered nor blessed by having ideas about ecology. We are.

I believe that these ideas are not evil and that our greatest (ecological) need is the propagation of these ideas as they develop—and as they are developed by the (ecological) process of their propagation.

If this estimate is correct, then the ecological ideas implicit in our plans are more important than the plans them-selves, and it would be foolish to sacrifice these ideas on the altar of pragmatism. It will not in the long run pay to “sell” the plans by superficial ad hominem arguments which will conceal or contradict the deeper insight.

The closing page from Bateson’s Steps to An Ecology of the Mind; my emphasis.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reduced Bateson Set: III. Set Up; Actuality Matters


(I continue musings which exemplify what I’m musing about. This is the set up to my presenting a schema, the Reduced Bateson Set, I can use to interpret my experience of other person’s presentation of information. Caveat: I am entertaining here an informal perspective. My eventual goal is to connect this perspective with further musings on adult learning.)

Although it may count as one of my most abstruse attempts at communicating complex, ‘softly’ phenomenological discoveries about the exchange of knowledge between persons, between human systems of awareness, the previous post in this series nevertheless entertains several main points. Its first point was that seemingly simple systems of human action do not yield answers to simple questions. The second point was these unanswerables are apparently due to incapacities in both formal and heuristic means for deriving answers and making accurate predictions. The third point was that in a discussion among persons who bring into the discussion differing perspectives and approaches, this discussion productively can happen irrespective of pertinent differences found or implicit in individual perspectives and/or approaches.

Here’s a mundane example. Your car needs a repair. You take it to the mechanic and discuss its ill symptoms. The mechanic sketches some possible causes. You don’t know much about how cars work. The mechanic does know how cars work. Yet, you have a discussion about what’s possibly wrong with your car. In this example, you and the mechanic share the assumption you the car owner do not need to know how a car works, as a condition for having the discussion. However, if you say to yourself, “I really don’t know what he’s talking about since I don’t know how a car works,” then it would be the case that you hold a different assumption. In fact, this different assumption could prove to be decisive. Still, you and the mechanic can have a discussion.

I’m not qualifying, in setting out this example, whether this kind of a discussion is a good or bad kind of discussion. The suggestion is: these kinds of discussions are common.

Another example. A friend once shared a description of their spirituality. The key element of the description was their belief in a single God. I asked my friend if he understood this God to be the God of All. We clarified that I was asking whether this singular God could be defined as being behind or above ‘everything’. He put it that his definition of God could be reduced to a complex proposition:

“God is first, God is last, God is in relation to all phenomena.”

I asked my friend,

“Then your God is also the God the other Abrahamic faiths believe in?”

He had never pondered this. We talked it over, with me suggesting the following implication of the proposition.

“If there is a God of All, then this God is also in relation to those who do not believe in this God.”

On one hand, in this example I’m striving to understand a very fundamental feature of his proposition, while, on the other hand, there’s no reason we could not have discussed his spirituality without attending to the proposition in this particular way. I don’t have to know how his God works to engage in a discussion about his God.

Another example. If I remember correctly, Ludwig Wittgenstein sharply criticizes the method of Freudian analysis by pointing out that the psychoanalyst chooses the element in the analysand’s chain of association that is of psychoanalytic, and potentially curative, interest. Well, by what right understanding of how the psyche works is this a fruitful intervention? The analysand, in this example, is taking symptoms to a different kind of mechanic.

In the same vein, I can discuss Jung’s analytic psychology without entering into this discussion the very basic assumption that holds that there is no substantial empirical evidence able to demonstrate the implicit understanding that each and every human psyche in actuality reflects the structural model given by Analytic Psychology. On one hand, this is a big problem at the level of foundational assumptions, on the other hand it doesn’t have to subvert a fruitful discussion.

I’m sensitive to foundational assumptions. Often hidden, nonetheless these basic assumptions are related to the content of most common kinds of discussions. (‘Discussion’ here is used also as shorthand for many other kinds of communicative acts.) It was fascinating in 2008 as the financial crisis unfolded to read and discuss what different people thought were its causes. That discussants had no substantial idea about how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are actually operationalized in the system of finance does not prevent peoples’ productive discussion about possible causes.

For example, at times in my work life I’ve been told what a marketing plan is to be. I often choose to overlook the plan’s mistaken (to me) assumptions about what are the facts (of mechanics, or operations, or contingencies in the market,) so I can proceed to my role in the plan. The plan doesn’t really make sense, yet this does not prevent discussing it. This doesn’t mean my view is correct. This only means I believe it to be correct given unexamined, or presumptive, or, missing, or, poorly formed, assumptions, suppositions, assertions of factitude, etc..

Obviously, the following point is not profound. Discussions may implicate assumptions which could be part of the discussion, but are not brought into the discussion. Some assumptions could disrupt the discussion, yet these same assumptions are not entertained in the discussion.

Discussions, etc., have consequences. The auto mechanic goes fishing. The inept marketing plan unfolds. Deadly force is unleashed on Iraq even though the assumption that there are WMD is mistaken. The rationales for the Iraq war constitute a series of mistaken assumptions which yielded mountains of productive discussion, even given that assumptions implicit within these discussion were abject.

The Reduced Bateson Set provides, among its six factors, a factor for analysis of whether or not a presentation of knowledge or understanding both depends on, and is informed by, an accurate estimation of what is actually materially, (or positively,) true as a matter of spoken or unspoken knowledge or understanding.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fishin’ Sort of

Sassy & Glori

living the good life

Somewhat in alignment with the Bateson motive, here’s our two new cats, in some relation to an aquarium screensaver. I installed a demo of on my wife’s Macbook.

Glori, the mostly black short hair cat, and, Sassy, the tiger short hair, have enhanced our quality of life since we were almost forced to bring them into our abode in mid-October, after Kate, finally bowed out at almost 19 years of age.

We’re both cat people, and I’d add we’re inveterate cat people. But, I haven’t been in the land of kittens for almost 30 years, and my wife Susan has never had the delicious experience. Since we had it pretty good before, let me tell you what I mean by ‘enhanced.’ For one thing, we have to be careful where we step. The main thing is how much we both look forward to coming back to this land and its amusements. We anthropomorphize our furry children, calling them our daughters and doing so to the extent my step-son, Susan’s son, Matt is now their brother.

By far the finest consequence for me personally is that I get to hear my wife’s laughter even more than usual. Her laughter is by far my favorite sound in the world.

I like to study our kittens’ behavior. I guess this makes me an informal ethologist. Anyway, the two female kittens came from different litters, took to each other over the course of their first half day together, and, yet have established a pecking order too with Glori being the alpha. As far as the shelter was concerned the two kittens were the same age, born around the middle of August. Our vet thinks it likely Glori is a couple of weeks older. She’s definitely 30% bigger. Sassy is deferential at times. We’ve had to protect her food dish. In fact, Glori will go through part of her food and then try to take over Sassy’s bowl.

Still, at the same time, both kittens spend large amounts of time wrestling and chasing each other. Sassy holds her own with her alpha playmate, yet Glori will at times put her foot down, so-to-speak. Both girls handled the influx of relatives over Thanksgiving, including nieces and nephews, oh, and brother, just fine. Also, both are inquisitive.

Sassy was found and fostered very early on, maybe within a week of being born, so she is a wool sucker, although she doesn’t eat into the sweater or what-have-you. Glori, meanwhile, I called the zen cat. Susan calls her the chill kitty. Now, I call Glori the yoga kitty to acknowledge how she likes to stretch in any number of positions, including on her back with her legs up in the air, and, the same, but with her head hanging down off the back of the couch. Glori’s a bit more athletic than her half-sister (!) and has a vertical leap that exceeds her tale-to-nose length of about 20 inches. Both cats usually break into a motoring purr as soon as either of us pick either up, yet neither are lap kitties. They mostly like to hang nearby, lounge next too, but not upon either of us, with Susan sometimes proving to be the exception to this.

Sassy likes to look at the TV should the picture have some motion in it and dialog. She’ll sit below it and gaze at the screen for minutes, up to about five minutes–a mountain of focused time in Kitty land. I’m reminded it is not clear how the human system of awareness can capture the actuality of the feline system of something like awareness, interest, etc.. …a mild Batesonian point, if you will.

Kitties nappin'
A note.

excerpt I. In 2004 Jean-Denis Vigne of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and his colleagues reported unearthing the earliest evidence suggestive of humans keeping cats as pets. The discovery comes from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where 9,500 years ago an adult human of unknown gender was laid to rest in a shallow grave. An assortment of items accompanied the body–stone tools, a lump of iron oxide, a handful of seashells and, in its own tiny grave just 40 centimeters away, an eight-month-old cat, its body oriented in the same westward direction as the human’s.

Because cats are not native to most Mediterranean islands, we know that people must have brought them over by boat, probably from the adjacent Levantine coast. Together the transport of cats to the island and the burial of the human with a cat indicate that people had a special, intentional relationship with cats nearly 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. This locale is consistent with the geographic origin we arrived at through our genetic analyses. It appears, then, that cats were being tamed just as humankind was establishing the first settlements in the part of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent.

excerpt II. Considering that small cats do little obvious harm, people probably did not mind their company. They might have even encouraged the cats to stick around when they saw them dispatching mice and snakes. Cats may have held other appeal, too. Some experts speculate that wildcats just so happened to possess features that might have preadapted them to developing a relationship with people. In particular, these cats have “cute” features–large eyes, a snub face and a high, round forehead, among others–that are known to elicit nurturing from humans. In all likelihood, then, some people took kittens home simply because they found them adorable and tamed them, giving cats a first foothold at the human hearth.

excerpt III. The wide range of sizes, shapes and temperaments seen in dogs–consider the Chihuahua and Great Dane–is absent in cats. Felines show much less variety because, unlike dogs–which starting in prehistoric times were bred for such tasks as guarding, hunting and herding–wildcats were under no such selective breeding pressures. To enter our homes, they had only to evolve a people-friendly disposition.

So are today’s cats truly domesticated? Well, yes–but perhaps only just. Although they satisfy the criterion of tolerating people, most domestic cats are feral and do not rely on people to feed them or to find them mates. And whereas other domesticates, like dogs, look quite distinct from their wild ancestors, the average domestic cat largely retains the wild body plan. It does exhibit a few morphological differences, however– namely, slightly shorter legs, a smaller brain and, as Charles Darwin noted, a longer intestine, which may have been an adaptation to scavenging kitchen scraps.

The Taming of the Cat. By: Driscoll, Carlos A., Clutton-Brock, Juliet, Kitchener, Andrew C., O’Brien, Stephen J., Scientific American, Jun2009, Vol. 300, Issue 6

Our previous vet, once had a bumper sticker that read:

Dogs have masters,
Cats have staff.


One of Gregory Bateson’s most important (and well-known,) papers became the chapter, A Theory of Play and Fantasy, in Steps To An Ecology of the Mind. Here’s enough of an excerpt to allow you to draw the connection with the land of kittens.

(3) The first definite step in the formulation of the hypothesis guiding this research occurred in January, 1952, when I went to the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco to look for behavioral criteria which would indicate whether any given organism is or is not able to recognize that the signs emitted by itself and other members of the species are signals. In theory, I had thought out what such criteria might look like—that the occurrence of metacommunicative signs (or signals) in the stream of interaction between the animals would indicate that the animals have at least some awareness (conscious or unconscious) that the signs about which they metacommunicate are signals.

I knew, of course, that there was no likelihood of finding denotative messages among nonhuman mammals, but I was still not aware that the animal data would require an almost total revision of my thinking. What I encountered at the zoo was a phenomenon well known to everybody: I saw two young monkeys playing, i.e., engaged in an interactive sequence of which the unit actions or signals were similar to but not the same as those of combat. It was evident, even to the human observer, that the sequence as a whole was not combat, and evident to the human observer that to the participant monkeys this was not combat.

Now, this phenomenon, play, could only occur if the participant organisms were capable of some degree of meta-communication, i.e., of exchanging signals which would carry the message “this is play.

(6) Threat is another phenomenon which resembles play in that actions denote, but are different from, other actions. The clenched fist of threat is different from the punch, but it refers to a possible future (but at present nonexistent) punch. And threat also is commonly recognizable among non-human mammals. Indeed it has lately been argued that a great part of what appears to be combat among members of a single species is rather to be regarded as threat (Tinbergen,64 Lorenz65).

(8) We might expect threat, play, and histrionics to be three independent phenomena all contributing to the evolution of the discrimination between map and territory. But it seems that this would be wrong, at least so far as mammalian communication is concerned. Very brief analysis of childhood behavior shows that such combinations as histrionic play, bluff, playful threat, teasing play in response to threat, histrionic threat, and so on form together a single total complex of phenomena. And such adult phenomena as gambling and playing with risk have their roots in the combination of threat and play. It is evident also that not only threat but the reciprocal of threat?—the behavior of the threatened individual?—are a part of this complex. It is probable that not only histrionics but also spectatorship should be included within this field. It is also appropriate to mention self-pity.

From the chapter, Redundancy and Coding.

(7) This still leaves unexplained the shift from communication about interaction patterns to communication about things and other components of the external world. This is the shift which determines that language would never make obsolete the iconic communication about the contingency patterns of personal relationship.

Further than that we cannot at present go. It is even possible that the evolution of verbal naming preceded the evolution of the simple negative. It is, however, important to note that evolution of a simple negative would be a decisive step toward language as we know it. This step would immediately endow the signals— be they verbal or iconic—with a degree of separateness from their referents, which would justify us in referring to the signals as “names.” The same step would make possible the use of negative aspects of classification: those items which are not members of an identified class would become identifiable as nonmembers. And, lastly, simple affirmative indicative statements would become possible.Conscious Purpose versus Nature*

Here, of course, we’ve left the land of kitties.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reduced Bateson Set II. Set up; Participant-Dependence

Consider a thought problem about human whistling.

You are placed in the role of observer. Presented to you is a person who will whistle Mary Had A Little Lamb. Your direction for the exercise is to describe the act of this person whistling this tune. The only qualification for the description you are to document is that you are able to articulate for any of its elements what each has to do with the whistling you are observing.

At the conclusion of you, the observer, documenting observations, your report will be evaluated against two constructs: Observer-Independence/Observer-Dependence. Each element of observation will be classified as being one, or the other.

For the purpose of the former classification, Observer-Independent descriptive elements are those elements that are necessary to human whistling, and, do not require prior knowledge beyond the modest scope given by self-observation.

For example, to state:

(1) I am observing a whistler.
(2) Whistler whistling have to include a human with a blood-pumping heart.
(3) Whistling has to include brain activity.

is to assert Observer-Independent elements.

For example, to state:

(1) This is a fast version of the tune.
(2) The whistling is loud.
(3) The last passage was uncertainly in-tune.

is to assert Observer-Dependent elements. These latter descriptions are not necessarily findings every observers could possibly note.

The situation given by observations rendered through using particular kinds of prior knowledge have feet in both camps. A physiologist might identify a muscle necessary to whistling. The muscle is used in every instance of whistling. Yet, this prior knowledge is instituted only by the kind of observer who can employ it.

What we have here, in such a thought problem–and it’s one which could be done–is one human system observing the acts of another human system. The observations could be furthered qualified with respect to what is their subjective quotient.

There’s a paradox in all this. Let’s say the problem to be solved is this: predict the time the tune will be finished. What kind of information derived from prior observations of other whistlers would be helpful in deciding the answer? Interestingly, much of the Observer-Independent information about the human whistler is completely useless. Even if we formalize this to include specialized (in some formal sense) prior knowledge, most of that kind of information will be useless with respect to simple problems, and the simple problems out of which more complex problem are built.

Would you be able to detail the features of, for example, the heuristic you commonly employ for the sake of getting to know another person? Many dyadic, and group, procedures for inquiry are born by meshing of ‘heuristical’ tools, given differently to such procedures by the various (so-to-speak) parties. Another paradox is that these meshed procedures may be, often are, very effective means for making an inquiry, even though the underlying heuristics are not roughly the same, or similar, or commensurate with one another. In fact, parties to inquiry may not have thought through the very tools he or she employs. These tools can be said to be partly tacit to the user: they operate without the operator entirely knowing what is being operated by their self.

The formal means for understanding complex interactive inquiries use prior knowledge and formalized methods, yet these means are not precisely useful when trained on everyday–for example–interpersonal actualities. If these means can’t unravel whistling, they won’t be more powerful with many times more complex phenomena.

Yet, this situation, the basic imprecision of both informal and formal naturalistic inquiry when trained on particularized subjects, is extended to almost every natural process where knowledge is presented in particularized subjects and situations. So: a marketing idea is presented; a developmental plan is presented; an interpretation is offered; a self-report is revealed; an illustrative story is told; etc., and each of these exchanges is about something truthful, and, each is also about that which constitutes the human system, so-to-speak, of presenting its stuff, and its moment of some kind of truth.

The Reduced Bateson Set, appropriated from my interpretation of Bateson, collects six motifs, (Bateson’s term,) in an array of three positions and three orders. This array of motifs sets up the following means for interpreting a ‘presentation.’

It locates the human subject. It suggests by way of interpretation and analysis that explicit choices reveal implicit choices, and, reveal what is not chosen. It does the same for figuring out what is and is not connected to positive actuality. Then, along the other ‘side’ of the array, it qualifies these motific means with respect to how sensitive the human subject is to modifying their presentation. This latter means for interpretation and analysis holds that this sensitivity itself refers to implicit choices which argue for the human system being, roughly, flexible or not flexible.

Roughly, the suggestion is this: there are human exchanges of knowledge, and these are most often, or commonly, ‘heuristical’ on the part of both parties. What is then given by this flux of two largely informal systems are informal understandings. Embedded in such understandings are great amounts of implicit and tacit givens; threaded into this also are other systems; partialities of informal and formal prior knowledge; histories of experience; and, among many other factors, novelties and innovations given by the specific consequences granted in two or more particular human systems coming into particular participation together over the matter of an exchange of knowledge; alternately, information.

The flux in this human system is a situation of Participation-dependence, which is to say the practical description of the seeming paradox is that there are, for example discussions between two people that necessarily instantiate such an exchange, yet, in this, often widely disparate, individualized features in direct relation to the matter of exchange are not also relevant factors in the exchange. In other words, to turn the Batesonian cybernetic posit on its head, in these instances–which are everyday and ubiquitous, some differences do not make any difference.

My suggestion here is this kind of smoothing of difference allows two people, two human systems of awareness, to conduct exchanges of information without introducing what are demonstrably pertinent differences discoverable as features not shared between the two people.

Another way to put it, is that a conversation proceeds productively without negotiation of, for example, pertinent unshared assumptions.

Were we to convene a group mixed between technical experts and keen observers who are not technical experts, the answer to the question, ‘when will the whistler stop whistling?’ will not arise as a matter of differentiating between formal or informal estimates. However, this same group can productively discuss this question and do so without entertaining its individualized and specific to each member, assumptions about how to answer the question.

Any number of similar thought problems can be created. In each such problem, the suggestion is that there are a large, if not infinite, number of questions which can be discussed but not resolved by the efficacy of either formal or heuristic prior knowledge.

There are two currents given here. One is that the discussion can nevertheless evoke knowledge, and, that the discussion cannot evoke knowledge-in-the-form of an accurate prediction.

From here I would next move to support the claim that most exchanges of knowledge in everyday circumstances refers to heuristical means, is constructed from individualized heuristics, and that the differentiation of this heuristic basis does not prevent productive and efficacious exchanges.

The differences are smoothed over so that these exchanges may happen.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Gregory Bateson, speculations | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Treating the Game As A Game


One of the conventions the Free Play handicapper implements is to set one elder against the other. Here the elders embrace after the contest, and you can’t tell who was on what side of a 20-4 score, can you?

F(ather): Suppose you tell me what you would understand by the words “serious” and a “game.”
D(aughter): Well… if you’re… I don’t know.
F: If I am what?
D: I mean… the conversations are serious for me, but if you are only playing a
game…
F: Steady now. Let’s look at what is good and what is bad about “playing” and
“games.” First of all, I don’t mind —not much—about winning or losing. When your questions put me in a tight spot, sure, I try a little harder to think straight and to say clearly what I mean. But I don’t bluff and I don’t set traps. There is no temptation to cheat.
D: That’s just it. It’s not serious to you. It’s a game. People who cheat just don’t know how to play. They treat a game as though it were serious.
F:But it is serious.
D: No, it isn’t—not for you it isn’t.
F: Because I don’t even want to cheat?
D: Yes—partly that.
F: But do you want to cheat and bluff all the time?
D: No—of course not.
F: Well then?
D: Oh—Daddy—you’ll never understand.
F: I guess I never will.

F: Look, I scored a sort of debating point just now by forcing you to admit that you
don’t want to cheat—and then I tied onto that admission the conclusion that therefore the conversations are not “serious” for you either. Was that a sort of cheating?
D: Yes—sort of.
F: I agree—I think it was. I’m sorry.
D: You see, Daddy—if I cheated or wanted to cheat, that would mean that I was not
serious about the things we talk about. It would mean that I was only playing a
game with you.
F: Yes, that makes sense.

(excerpt; 2.3 Metalogue: About Games and Being Serious | Steps to An Ecology of the Mind; Gregory Bateson)

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reduced Bateson Set I. Set Up; Meta-heuristics

Bateson-Mead-Bajoeng-Gedé

Gregory Bateson & Margaret Mead, Bajoeng-Gedé, Indonesia; photograph by Walter Spies

Sometime ago, yet late in my scatter shot intellectual development, I realized five problems fascinated me in psychology. One is the problem of how our brain instantiates and substantiates consciousness. Two is how it came to be that the equivalent of a William James doesn’t arrive much earlier so as to shift proto-psychology forward at an earlier stage in history. This problem wonders about the relationship between culture and contemporaneous psychological categories. The third problem, related to the second problem, is coded (for me) as the problem of introspection. The fourth problem is coded too, as the bundle of problems given by folk psychology at the level of meta-psychology; ie. philosophy of psychology.

And, finally, the fifth problem, very much related to the fourth problem, is the problem of: everyday behavior joined with how psychology’s different disciplines approach everyday behavior as its object of research. I am especially intrigued by how behaviors are named despite those same names being unnecessary to persons behaving in the way the name denotes.

I will seek to explain what I call The Reduced Bateson Set in a series of posts. The Reduced Bateson Set names a framework I utilize. Meanwhile, from an authoritative source:

For the moment, the set-up for this was evoked by my trying to figure out how to describe what is The Reduced Bateson Set. I was moved to look up the definition of heuristic–or rather a definition–in a standard reference book, because I thought this might be the best descriptive term. If so, I could simply say The Reduced Bateson Set is a heuristic I have come to use and favor.

I didn’t think the term was strikingly adequate, inasmuch as I had a deviant definition of heuristic in mind.

According to the now prevailing definition, heuristics are rather parsimonious and effortless, but often fallible and logically inadequate, ways of problem solving and information processing. A heuristic provides a simplifying routine or “rule of thumb” that leads to approximate solutions to many everyday problems. However, since the heuristic does not reflect a deeper understanding of the problem structure, it may lead to serious fallacies and shortcomings under certain conditions. Thus, in contrast to the positive connotations of the original term, the modern notion of cognitive heuristics has attained the negative quality of a mental shortcut that frees the individual of the necessity to process information completely and systematically. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Psychology

Okay, my definition turns out to be a bit too innovative! But at least it doesn’t imply a ridiculous optimal “problem solving.”

More precisely to the point here, is how rapidly I landed in a Batesonian moment. Unfolded in the encyclopedia entry is a long treatment of the term, yet, it’s not describing much about what I wish to also describe. And, the problem could be that it could not describe even what it seeks to describe–in a deep sense able to capture something very very common.

What is this something? It is that some large portion, possibly a majority portion, of human behavior is “heuristical.” Which is to suggest: it is likely a majority of human problem solving, leaarning, discovery, etc., everyday, (every darn day,) processes information incompletely and not systematically. Also, a corollary to this is: some large portion of human problem solving cannot access both a totality of pertinent information, or, have been the subject of a complete processing within, I suppose, a formal requirement for complete and systematic processing.

Wikipedia’s entry is not robust, but it is more satisfying.

Heuristic (pronounced /hj??r?st?k/) or heuristics (from the Greek “???????” for “find” or “discover”) refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to come to an optimal solution as rapidly as possible. Part of this method is using a “rule of thumb”, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, or common sense. A heuristic is a general way of solving a problem.

Except I will quarrel with it too. I don’t know the correct term for that which is a precise and focused heuristic way of solving particular everyday problems. Yet, I do understand the ‘human everyday’ presents a series of opportunities to problem solve, learn, and discover. Figuring out what you’re going wear is a particular problem, and a problem I’d suppose is solved in precise and focused ways.

(Perhaps a differentiation made among general, and, ‘problem-particular,’ methods is unnecessary.)

Among, (what I will term Batesonian,) distinctions found in definitions is this hot one. First, to develop a correct definition is itself a problem to be solved. Could it be demonstrated that any given normative (or authoritative) definition was created, subject to heuristics? Here of course I’m speaking of an example, the definition of heuristic. A second Batesonian distinction is implicit in speaking of the possible heuristics behind the term heuristic.

Here’s a doable experiment. Collect five of the foremost social psychologists together and have them each write out their definition of the term, heuristic. Assume there is a sound method for scoring to what degree the five definitions match up. For my argument here, let’s assume the result of this experiment shows a very high degree of matching.

The five world class experts are then asked to do the following: “How do you know your definition is the correct definition?” Score the answer.

Let’s do this same experiment and add the following parameter. Before either primary question is addressed, each group member is asked the following: “How many pages will you need to answer the question, How do you define heuristic?” Allow no limit in length for their written answers.

Hypotheses are to be entertained. I won’t offer these, yet I will suppose the results of this experiment will
demonstrate considerable disagreement on question number two, How do you know your definition is the correct definition, and this disagreement increases the longer any answer is to either question. So, the most disagreement would be found between the longest answers.

There’s a problem incurred by my supposing the answers could be scored. How would we score different points of emphasis? Those points could not be scored as only disagreements. Still, our scoring would have to resolve this problem in reckoning with matching points of emphasis and divergent points of emphasis.

My hunch that there would be found disagreement is, obviously, completely a matter of a decidedly intuitive and heuristic approach to thinking about the problem of defining a normative term. What I’m thinking about here is the human system able to develop useful definitions about its own features. The experiment might well defeat my hunch. But, what if the experiment proved the underlying hypotheses?

What then could be suggested by the results of this experiment about hypothesized deviations from agreement? What also could be suggested about how the problem of expert definition is approached by experts? Do these experts employ heuristics as an effective, or not effective, means?

Consider a countervailing–with respect to my hunch–supposition. That: in a description, where detail increases, deviations are reduced. (Speaking of building houses: we can all agree on the sharp nail and the straight board.) This suggests that as descriptions penetrate ‘down’ to more elemental levels of order in a system, deviations between descriptions are reduced.

My hunch asserts the opposite is possibly the experimental result. So: as experts expert in the same system propose descriptions of this system, as the level of detail increases in their descriptions, their descriptions will tend to diverge.

Again, a countervailing supposition might be rooted in the same idea given in the Blackwell encyclopedia: to define a system correctly, and so free the definition from any reliance on heuristic means, this definition must result from a complete and systematic process that reflects deep understanding. However, even if this is true as a matter of commonsense, it is also true that this brings with it the same problem. When we think about the means via which we could shape and amplify convergence, we’re still confronted with this move also opening up to the opportunity for divergence. Surely if you asked five experts in the same field how to promote greater agreement about the field’s conceptual fundamentals, in most fields their answers to this “how” question would prove to be very divergent.

When I walk this back to everyday circumstances in which terms/names/concepts and their concomitant definitions are facts of innersubjective assumption rather than innersubjective negotiation, I’d be even more confident that a similar experiment would verify my hunch.

Actually, I informally test this hunch all the time. The main paradox I’ve discovered in doing this is that people speak about shared concepts, (and these concepts implicate shared systems,) without really caring about whether they share the same definitions for these shared concepts. They likely do not share the same definitions! That this underlying disagreement hardly comes to matter is a fascinating element of ‘folk psychological’ behavior and of what could be called intersubjective heuristics.

Consider the beneficial efficiency gained from being able to talk about systems all the while disagreement about basic stuff is underfoot. Whenever I hear the word socialism in our contemporary political discourse, I’m reminded of this paradox of effectiveness.


The Reduced Bateson Set is a heuristic of the kind that are structured and demonstrably pragmatic. The Reduced Bateson Set is my private naming of a pragmatic structure for working through the experience of observing and participating in, learning, inquiry, and dialog. This structure is useful in other interactive circumstances. I’ve named it so because it is my appropriation of stuff reduced from the partial set of Bateson’s ideas I know.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in folk psychology, Gregory Bateson, social psychology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Batesonian Teaching Cartoons

Okay. I mentioned I had this darn insight many years ago: something like a Batesonian metalogue–which are sprinkled throughout his books–seems to be discoverable in the deep structure of particular Sufi teaching stories. This old insight has evolved and this is due mostly to my original apercu not really being the actual case.

I would put it differently now. There is in this kind of story a hidden potential for shifting one’s “base” way of experiencing their being-in-the-world. (This is but one way of putting the experiential ‘trap door’ contained in such stories.) Whereas, Bateson never specified a comprehensive set of applications which could be said–had these been specified–to be implicate in his research and articulation of his understanding. He never, as-it-were, surfaced those kinds of robust edifying activities.

To hold these two different aspects from two different ‘realizations,’ together, nevertheless, reveals similar practical objectives. One simple way to suggest this is to bring in the metaphor of peeling the onion. Certainly this does fine duty with respect to the technology given by the Sufi teaching story. After all, the teaching story is surely a technology for peeling the onion. On the side of Bateson, similarly, but less tried and tested, there is an implicate technology focused on supporting a deep, counter-habitual, and no less subversive ‘environmentally-experiential’ learning.

Now I’m reviewing my archive of teaching cartoons to see which ones elicit these similar aspects.

Stephen Nachmaninovitch’s seminar was terrific. I’m not going to talk too much out of school, except to make a couple of observations. Later, I’ll highlight Stephen’s resources.

He brought Bateson into his mostly experiential presentation in very subtle ways. He insinuated a handful of ideas by softly integrating each into the composition of his program. From my perspective, it seemed he was ‘making ground’ for negative capability. I suppose I’m sensitive to this, so it was striking. Those of course are just my terms.

Among the bright Ph.D. candidates in the room, many seemed to find their way in a situation aiming to be expansive rather than one aimed to feather their (likely) laser-directed professional aspirations!

This leads to my other observation. There is, in the context of the professional academy, a very ripe circumstance for this kind of instigation. There were many moments during the seminar when I was chuckling inside because so many ‘givens’ were coming under a lot of pressure–except this was entirely by deep and indirect implication. This seemed almost tacit, yet obvious too.

And, at the same time, Nachmanovitch was very selective. He interjected Bateson’s sense about the problem with nouns-with reification-with flattening, but didn’t then highlight this applies to ideas as well as people, places, and things. All he said was that this applies to people, places, things, and ideas. It seemed he was seeding a handful of experiences and frames and allied concepts. Briefly, at the end, he wrapped this all up in a mildly didactic closing.

It was masterful for what he didn’t say; for what he left to ‘roam on its own;’ and, for trusting his students to discover what they will. As Bateson would have it: he didn’t close off possibilities.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minding the Mind

My favorite (Gregory) Batesonian teaching story, reconfigured and originally via Idries Shah.

A frenchman is teaching another french rudimentary english.

“So, the word for froid crème glacée is ‘cold ice cream.’ “

“What’s the word for chaude crème glacée?”

“Oh, they have no need for it, so there’s no word for it.”

Although I have an acute memory, I can’t recall which friend of mine did me the favor of bringing the work of Gregory Bateson to my attention. It was a long time ago. (Maybe it was Chris Irion? Pilcher?) I dug into Bateson’s Mind and Nature thirty years ago, when it was published. In another sense, it only matters as a fuzzy starting point. It was definitely in 1996 that I returned to his opus in a re-doubled effort to make some further connections. This was due to meeting my mentor and squareONE partner Judith Buerkel in 1995. During this first meeting it turned out Bateson was our mutual touchstone. Bingo!

It was only then, after a more mature effort to really deal-in, that Bateson’s understanding came to deeply inform my outlook, and to comprise a large facet in my favorite lens. The interesting nexus for this was a weird insight evoked by my trying to make coherent the weaving together of three things, the Sufi teaching story, my new (at the time) fascination with others’ theorizing about experiential learning (this via Mezirow and Kolb,) and, my revisiting Bateson (via his last book, Where Angels Fear. Toward An Epistemology of the Sacred.) About this last visitation, the bookmark stuck a third of the way through the book–when I picked it up again–marked where I had left off nine years earlier.

Judith basically told me to woodshed! Ultimately, we grappled with how to underpin our applications–what was to become the tool kit for squareONE. We spend a lot of time discussing the practical import for our work of our different Batesonian outlooks. We both thought Bateson was an adept designer; (although this is a novel sense about Bateson, who overtly was an anthropologist, psychologist, philosopher, and naturalist.)

Anyway, my insight at the time, excitedly delivered at our weekly meeting at Arabica, was this: it was apparent to me that something like Batesonian metalogues were embedded, even secreted in the structural folds of many Middle Eastern teaching stories. Judith responded: “They’re folded in everything.”

I’ve been revisiting Bateson once again over the last month. This, however, comes long after I added my experience and understanding of his understanding, (well, some of it,) to be, basically, the fundamental facet of my favored lens. By which I mean: some synergy of dynamic ideas-in-interplay make up the essential background frame for my intentional observations. Funny how lens and frame come together!

I use a ‘reduced set’ roughly taken from Bateson. Perhaps it would better to say appropriated from Bateson. I’m not a Batesonian because I’m eclectic, disorganized, not masterly, and, an ol’ hippie. Yet, in another sense, I often turn the world around to experience its different sides using my idiosyncratic (sort of) Batesonian lens.

If I assert that I’m dedicated to being a student of my environment, then in the background of this claim is this lens. You should know this to know where I’m coming from. I’ll have more to say about this soon.

I’ve recently had reason to woodshed some more and revisit the work of Gregory Bateson. I was invited to participate in a seminar at the local grad school. Stephen Nachmanovitch, author of the terrific book Free Play, musician, and student, friend, colleague of Gregory Bateson, is to give a lecture on something to do with experiential learning and play.

Getting back to one of my main people has been fantastic. The Explorations Blog is going to go on a Bateson trip for a spell. Stay tuned. I’ll wrap with a review of resources I’ve discovered out in the shed.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson, sufism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment