Upshot: Conversational conferences are difficult to design in a way that avoids the consequences that arise when participants are not experienced with or fully value the conversational mode of interaction. So, the designers of such conferences must experiment with ways to build a culture, use a structure, and facilitate participation that might mitigate some of these consequences. The potential of the experimental conference designed in the light of second-order cybernetics lies, in part, in the prospect of identifying and acquiring the (...) conversational abilities and appreciations necessary to support a participative-dialogic society. (shrink)
Purpose: This paper intends to connect ideas from the radical constructivist approach to cognition and learning to ideas from the constraint-theoretic approach to social policy formulation. It then extends these ideas to a dialogic approach to social transformation and design. Method: After demonstrating a correspondence between von Glasersfeld's fit/match distinction and my constraint-oriented/goal-oriented distinction with respect to policy formulation, the paper evaluates the basic assumptions of radical constructivism and builds from them a framework for thinking and talking about a desirable (...) society and ways to participate in its realization. Findings: The ideas of von Glasersfeld's radical constructivism contribute significantly to the development of a conceptual base for applied research on social activism by raising new questions and stimulating new thinking. Practical implications: Social activism in everyday affairs can be a way of living in the "world." Conclusion: The work and thought of Ernst von Glasersfeld opens a path toward a rich array of concepts and ideas with the potential to inform efforts in a wide variety of human endeavors. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “The Banathy Conversation Methodology” by Gordon Dyer, Jed Jones, Gordon Rowland & Silvia Zweifel. Upshot: The Banathy Conversation Methodology offers an approach to organizing and facilitating conversation groups among individuals self-identified as interested in a particular topic. As someone who would like to see more conversation integrated into academic conferences, I propose two extensions of BCM for consideration by the authors: one is an extension to the theoretical underpinnings, namely the conversation theory of Gordon (...) Pask, and the other is an extension to the tools and techniques, namely the group syntegration process developed by Stafford Beer. If the authors do not like the direction these extensions might take BCM, I would be interested in their assessment of the circumstances under which alternative approaches to conversation groups might be more or less useful. (shrink)
Context: A tension exists between the needs and desires of the institutions providing the funding for academics to attend conferences and the potential for transforming the knowledge and understanding of conference participants - than in advancing their own careers and celebrity. Approaches to the problem can recognize the importance of funding and career-building in the current society, while still experimenting in ways that could generate new ideas. Method: Ideas from second-order cybernetics are used to derive design principles that might alleviate (...) the tension and encourage deep conversations, idea generation and experimentation. The author draws on experiences with designing, organizing and participating in cybernetics conferences over a period of 34 years. Results: An academic conference designed to a set of broad, second-order cybernetic principles, where participants are informed of the design intent before they decide to attend, can open an opportunity for learning, understanding and the creation of new ideas in ways that would not otherwise be available. Although there are no guarantees, such designs can attenuate the tension, often experienced at traditionally designed conferences, between advancing individual careers/celebrity and building new knowledge together. Implications: The design principles derived, already exhibited in some conferences, could be useful to organizers wishing to foster incompatible and opposing ideas and facilitate dialogue among conference participants. These same principles have implications for the design of other social systems and point to the possibility of a new and more humane society. Constructivist content: A feature of second-order cybernetics is that knowledge is continually changing as our desires change, and we must take responsibility for the consequences of the ideas we construct and use to satisfy our desires. Key Words: Design by constraint, dynamics of interaction, asynchronicity, tyranny of the clock, times of truth, moments of art. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “A Cybernetic Approach to Contextual Teaching and Learning” by Philip Baron. Upshot: The idea of personal, customized education has been around for a while, and few disagree that it would be superior to what we have now in most public education systems worldwide. So, the questions are: Why has it not been more broadly implemented? And what would it take to make it the dominant approach to education?
Open peer commentary on the article ““Black Box” Theatre: Second-Order Cybernetics and Naturalism in Rehearsal and Performance” by Tom Scholte. Upshot: Scholte proposes using the theatre as a laboratory for experimenting with ideas in second-order cybernetics, adding to the repertoire of approaches for advancing this way of thinking. Second-order cybernetics, as art, science and craft, raises questions about the forms of experimentation most useful in such a laboratory. Theatre provides an opportunity to “play” with the dynamics of human interactions and (...) relations and possibly demonstrate value in second-order cybernetic thinking. (shrink)