Tag Archives: systems

Deepening the Ecology of Knowing

I love Nora Bateson; but, I don’t know her so I have to be more precise.

Plus: it is complicated because as much as I do not know her, and as much as I deeply understand to love that which one does not know begs a profound question about what one intends to mean in using the active form of the word love, it is nevertheless by virtue of some shared concerns that this problem of deep feeling for is resolvable.

There is way to go into this, into the ‘this’ that is the flux of the meta-problem, to assert love, and, what I term the playful problem–the problem being played–that yields to the promise of precision.

Many years ago, I stood behind an attractive single woman in a line waiting to be served take-out. I was single at the time and I knew she was single because this all took place at a restaurant I worked at as a manager, and I had casually learned that one of the owners had chatted up this gal and teased out that she was single.

I am not intentionally a flirt, and tend to be shy around strangers. I am not in the least bit forward. Yet, standing there right behind her, she no doubt unintentionally dangled a hook.

“I love ice cream!” she said to no one in particular.

I said “Hmmmm,” loudly enough to cause her to turn around.

“Don’t you love ice cream?” She asked.

Several beats passed, as if a snare drummer was swishing brushes near us.

“Ice cream. I enjoy it very much. It’s just me and I’m peculiar on this point, but I reserve my love for people. At least in the main I try to do so.”

She gave me a two part look, the first part was a tilt of her head, and then she nodded in reflective affirmation of her original sentiment.

“I love ice cream!”

As it turned out, on another occasion I asked her out on a date and her response was memorable and droll.

“Stephen, I’d love to go out on a date but I have just begun seeing a gentlemen.”

Love is one of the most sifted through of the several primary objects of my contemplation and meditation over forty years. Moreover, I fiercely love: my partner, and my friends. Each instance of loving interpersonal relationship also constitutes a unique subject matter, field, opportunity for praxis, site for creation and collaboration, and opportunity for (in non-particular order,) play, demonstration, mystery. If I have loved someone once, I love them forever.

Of course there are the gradients which mediate the overarching gross classes: attraction, interrelationship, devotion, surrender. These windings comprise an ecology of love.

For example, Ms. Bateson is attractive on, at least, several crucial counts: smart, open to learning, optimistic, soulful. The other aspect in my Big Five is: kind. My guess is Nora is also kind. She looks like a kind person. At the lowest level my estimation here is deeply informed by my anima problem. At that level, this is the low level difference (making a difference,) too.

So, from all of this, the cut of precision recognizes that my love flows firstly along the partially unconscious line of this anima problem, and is motivated first energetically, and then, as a result of praxis, or learning.

There is no interrelationship or devotion or surrender involved. Call this Second Order Love. Other elements are subsumed by this second order, but these elements are essential too. These include the body of Ms. Bateson’s work, and the body of work of her father, Gregory Bateson.

I love Gregory Bateson too, but with him the attraction engages the Father Complex, engages Jupiter.

Nora and I share lots of concerns.I bet she’d dig my experiential  tools! I playfully deconstruct, for example, social cybernetic systems, using very surgical methods rooted in various ecologies.

The ecology of love is just one of those ecologies.

Precisely then: I love Nora for distributing her soulful ideas and embodying with optimistic energy her mission to send such messages. In the system of my own loving, this is an extremely limited vector for my possible feeling, but it is much much deeper than my ‘like’ of coffee ice cream.

Every second a voice of love
comes from every side.
Who needs to go sightseeing?

We came from a majesty,
and we go back there.

Load up.
What is this place?

Muhammad leads our caravan.
It is lucky to start out
in such a fresh breeze.

Like ocean birds, human beings
come out of the ocean.
Do not expect to live inland.

We hear a surging inside our chests,
an agreement we made in eternity.

The wave of that agreement rolled in
and caulked the body’s boat.

Another wave will smash us.
Then the meeting we wanted will occur.

version of Rumi by Coleman Barks
(from: Rumi. Bridge to the Soul)

 


Ms. Bateson film about her father An Ecology of the Mind is essential. [$24.95 Amazon]

Nora Bateson Facebook

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

Realism Unwired

Ralph Stacey Complexity and Creativity in Organizations – Amazon

bonus: Bill McKelvey, Transcendental Foresight: Using Complexity Science to Foster Distributed Seeing (pdf)

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning | 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

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

Groups & the Development of Consciousness

My colleague and friend Robert has asked in a comment to Sustainability, Systems Awareness & Eros,

“However saying that, I don’t know if the “group” consciousness actually manages to effect a real conscious change in both individuals and in groups. Are these things of the moment?”

Let’s just speak of a simple hypothesis: that a group is possibly a medium for an individual to increase their awareness. There are, in this, several things we’ll need to test the hypothesis.

One, we’ll need a developmental framework that can support both the proof of the hypothesis and its falsification.

Two, given this framework, we’ll need to employ explicit criteria to make a determination about both how to test and next evaluate the results of the test. And, finally we’ll need to grapple and grip with how to interpret the evaluation.

There’s a crucial distinction I’d like to introduce. A hypothesis of this sort is concerned with the development of consciousness of an individual within a group due to the unique opportunities for this development a group may instantiate. Yet this potential for development is not proposed as a positive result of group consciousness, but, rather, is the result of people bringing their personal consciousness to the medium of a group. In noting this, all I suggesting is that consciousness is only a property of individuals; that it would be very hard to characterize what is meant by group consciousness in any normative sense.

As it has come about–in modern psychology–short of defining a framework, there are concrete terms for characterizing the development of consciousness in the medium of a group. For example, these are some of the developments afforded by groups: better teamwork, closer coordination, acceptance of and mitigation of narcissistic and infantile needs, enhanced problem analysis and problem solving, better skills for discernment and differentiation, support for withdrawal of projections, etc.. and on and on.

Also, groups make possible at times the submission of self-oriented egoic impulses to higher orders of awareness, including facilitating recognition and ownership of the shadow. So it is, to use one broad developmental mode, that an individual in a group may leverage the means for increasing their emotional intelligence.

***

I believe all sorts of artistic teams in music and dance and theatre brings lots of unique developmental potential into being. These provide excellent examples, but so do all sorts of other common groups. One such group would be–at their best–the formal or informal classroom.

Of course, my sense here presumes that consciousness itself is not a mountain to be climbed, but instead operationalizes real world capabilities. In short, to become more able at anything poses a developmental increase.

The only move toward spiritualization, would be to suppose that all such developmental increases are qualities of higher consciousness given a timeworn notion of spiritual development–when those better capabilities do no harm.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, education, social psychology, organizational development | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UNDER NUMBERS

Mark Schenk, writing at Anecdote | If you can’t measure it…

I recently heard a presentation that mentioned the truism ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. It reminded me of how uncomfortable I have always been with this statement and the way it gets touted like a mantra in some organisations. If we view the functions of management as ‘plan, organise, lead, control, direct’, then both ‘measuring and managing’ appear to be more appropriate in an ordered world where cause and effect are knowable. For complex situations, where cause and effect cannot be predicted with acccuracy, the concepts of measure and manage aren’t sufficient to be successful. Measure and manage also don’t make any allowance for emergence and tend to overlook any unintended consequences. Fortunately I think many more people recite this truism than really believe it.

I prefer to view the function of management as ‘creating the conditions that enable people to be successful’. I also much prefer the concept expressed by Albert Einstein: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.

Nor is the count the thing counted. In the best case and presumptively, business degreed managers had to slog through math coursework framed by an explanation of what is the difference between metrics and the phenomena measured, and, crucially, what metrics cannot measure. There’s another crucial step just beyond this which would be to explain how because something can’t be measured accurately (or at all,) doesn’t mitigate its phenomenal effects.

You can test this by asking any manager how the metrics implicate the operations of the thing measured, and, how those operations hang together systematically to describe measurable differentials and contingencies unfolded over time. Note there is in an old fashioned sense a kind of newtonian hydraulics implicit under the numbers.

The key point is that there exist other differentiated and contingent phenomena which are also implicit in the (so-called) system and these are not accurately quantifiable. Which is to say there is, necessarily, a kind of uncertainty principal at work in systematic metrical extrapolations and systematic qualitative descriptions because only some of the effects in a system can be, in effect, computed and qualitatively apprehended.

It follows from this that any rigorous system-awareness would also necessarily acknowledge the cognitive bias made effective through any and all sensemaking which is overly reductive, overly deterministic, overly blind to this uncertainty factor.

This open up to something very interesting. Suppose, then, that there are tacit workarounds to this problem of fuzziness. Those workarounds would instantiate various ad hoc heurisms and I would tentatively submit those heuristic features are not easily measured.

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