How do people establish scientific knowledge or the effectiveness of technologies? Since the late 1980s many writers in the social studies of science and technology (STS) have accounted for this in terms of heterogeneous resources mobilized by diverse agents spanning different realms of social action (Law 1986, Latour 1987, Clarke and Fujimura 1992), that is, what I call "heterogeneous construction" (Taylor 1995). In the environmental arena heterogeneous construction is, in effect, self-conciously organized through the frequent use of workshops and other "organized multi-person collaborative processes" (OMPCPs). This paper describes my own process of making sense of the workshop form for generating environmental knowledge and further inquiry.
Before proceeding notice that heterogeneous construction expands the object of inquiry to include the actual process of generating knowledge, not only the final product (contra the conceptual primacy philosophy of science still gives to justification over discovery). Morover, the heterogeneity of resources, agents, and realms of social action means that it is not possible for that process to contribute solely to the generation of knowledge. There are always many other products, one of which is highlighted in this paper, namely, the capacity to pursue further inquiry. Thus "knowledge and inquiry" in the title. (Science educators face an equivalent tension between conveying established product and generating capacity to inquire.)
My process of making sense of the workshop form was catalyzed by participating during the spring and summer of 2000 in four innovative, interdisciplinary workshops. By reflecting on these workshops and drawing on other experience I identified six angles for thinking about why a workshop (or OMPCP) might be needed to address the complexity of environmental issues. I used the six angles to review the four workshops. This led me to dig deeper into how workshops work when they do and assemble a list of heuristics and some open-ended questioning. One of these heuristics, as will become evident shortly, involves making space for the audience to bring their own knowledge to the surface. One member of the audience for my first presentation on this topic offered to help me develop a more systematic set of principles for bringing about successful workshops. The outcome, included as an appendix, provides a basis for further inquiry on workshops and the process-product relationship more generally.
Warming up audience involvement--Two contrasting cases
Before I describe the four workshops or the six angles with which I reviewed them, I want to make space for readers' thinking about the process and product of environmental analysis. My intention is to engage readers--perhaps critically--with what I subsequently present. This involves an exercise, preceded, in order to warm up your thoughts, by a brief account of two contrasting cases.
Case 1: As a young researcher I was hired by the "Institute"--an economic and social research organization based in Melbourne, the major city of the southern Australian state of Victoria--to help undertake a detailed analysis of the future of a salt-affected irrigation region. The Kerang region, 240 kilometers north of Melbourne, is an agricultural region where farmers irrigate some pasture, for grazing by beef or dairy cattle and sheep, and irrigate some crops. Soil salinization is a chronic problem; during the middle 1970s, after some very wet years, the problem was acute. The rise in salinity, following a decline in beef prices, threatened the economic viability of the region. In late 1977 the Ministry of the state government responsible for water resources commissioned the Institute's study. An agricultural economist from the Ministry and the principal investigator from the Institute formulated a project to evaluate different government policies, such as funding regional drainage systems, reallocating water rights, and raising water charges. This evaluation would take into account possible changes in farming practices, such as improvements in irrigation layout, drainage, and water management, and changes in the mix of farm enterprises. The analysis was to be repeated for different macroeconomic scenarios as projected by the Institute's national forecasting models.
The central part of the project--my main task--was the construction of the Kerang Farm Model (KFM), which, using an optimization technique called linear programming, would determine for representative farms the mix of farming activities that produced the most income. Different factors, such as water allocation, could be changed and the effect on the income and mix of activities ascertained. Although some refinements were omitted to meet the Ministry's deadline, the KFM was sufficiently flexible to allow evaluation of the required range of factors, yet not so complex so as to be unmanageable.
At the public meeting to present the study's findings some local agricultural extension officers raised objections to the study's having endorsed irrigation of pasture over irrigation of crops. This ran contrary to the advice they had been giving to farmers ever since the decline in beef prices. Subsequent reanalysis, incorporating generous increases in crop yields into the KFM's parameters, was completed rapidly. The result favoring pasture irrigation was robust and could be attributed to beef prices having recovered by this time in the late 1970s. The Ministry, meanwhile, focused its attention simply on results indicating that water charges were not a primary limiting factor on farm enterprises or viability. These results eclipsed others concerning the larger range of options that the Institute had been commissioned to analyze and additional issues about the environmental future of the region that emerged during the study. Their focus suggests that justifying an increase in water charges had been the Ministry's primary concern all along. In any case, the Ministry were unable to implement this change and nothing more then became of our analysis (Taylor 1995).
Case 2: Three years ago I made time to begin facilitation training with the Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). ICA's techniques have been developed through several decades of "facilitating a culture of participation" in community and institutional development. Their work anticipated and now exemplifies the post-Cold War emphasis on a vigorous civil society. ICA workshops elicit participation in planning in a way that bring insights to the surface and ensures the full range of participants are invested in collaborating to bring the resulting plan to fruition (Burbridge 1997, Spencer 1988, Stanfield 1997).
This was evident, for example, in community-wide planning during 1993 in the West Nipissing region of Ontario (300 kilometers north of Toronto), sponsored by the Economic Development Comission (EDC). At that time, industry closings had increased the traditionally high unemployment to crisis levels. Although the projects resulting from the 1993 planning process are too numerous to detail, a follow-up six years later concluded that there were many accomplishments in the areas the process had identified. Overall, the economic base was stronger and more diversified, depending less on provincial and national government social welfare programs. Moreover, the initial projects spawned many others, allowing the EDC to shift from a superintending role to that of a catalyst. The community now sees itself as responsible for these initiatives and developments; the initial EDC-ICA planning process has become lost in the past (West Nipissing Economic Development Corporation 1993, 1999).
Although the economic future is the focus of both these cases, the contrast between them raises many issues shared in environmental analyses. I tease these issues out later in the paper. For now, it is time for the exercise.
Guided freewriting about workshop experiences
Freewriting is a powerful way to clear mental space so that thoughts about an issue can emerge that had been below the surface of your attention. In a freewriting exercise, you should not take your pen off the paper. Keep writing even if you find yourself stating over and over again, "I don't know what to say." What you write won't be seen by anyone else, so do not go back to tidy up sentences, grammar, spelling. You will probably diverge from the topic, at least for a time while you acknowledge other preoccupations. That's OK--it is one of the purposes of the exercise. However, if you keep writing for seven to ten minutes, you will probably be pleasurably impressed by the insights you have (or remind yourself of)--that is another of the aims of the exercise (Elbow 1981). For those of you who are rolling your eyes and are tempted to skip the exercise, let me ask you to subject your scepticism to empirical test and try it.
Please continue for seven minutes where this sentence leads off: "When I look back on workshops in which I have felt really engaged--or, from the negative side, really disengaged--the thoughts or feelings or experiences that come to mind include..."
Kerang Nipissing > 1 person's knowledge and Y Y research skills needed (circum-scri bed fields only) > 1 party involved in X Y environmental issue conduct ongoing assessment X Y that environmental complexity necessitates create knowledge > X Y Sum participants' > any single participant's ensure investment in the X Y product of the collaboration create capacity for X Y productive engagement in multi-party collaborations
pre-workshop Participants contributed key articles for others to read, but these were not distributed in advance. Day 1 Introductions from Group F O on process of Social, on dialogue & ground rules interaction as a in small possible product, once groups articulated & communicated G (O): Different approaches explored using restoration ecology as a shared case Day 2 (O nixed suggestion by F G: More discussion Social, and others for sessions in in small which participants would groups learn from each other.) F: More on dialogue O: What do we want to say to the outside? -> G: Discussion Day 3 O: Needed--Synthesis, G: More discussion Group Achieving visions & social Communication G: Discussion on role of narrative (re-story-ing) Day 4 F: Reflection on becoming G: ASF proposal & - ready to speak O: Product farewells needed -> G: Work on one participant's suggestion--American Science Foundation (ASF) founding document ("Declaration of Independence") post-workshop Key articles still not distributed. OpEd by O & another participant in Denver Post (July) A well-attended symposium at the August meetings of the Ecological Society of America included six workshop participants and two others.2. "How does nature speak?," Pori, Finland, 22-24 May 2000
pre-workshop Workshops with international guests each August since 1996. Sub-project: Finnish anthology of new essays by Finnish participants; target--spring '01 May Days (presentations by Environmental Social Science Doctoral students from Finalnd & two international guests) immediately preceding Pori workshop Day 1 F: Process Themes to chew G (F): Continue to Homework on concerning our elaborate on "what (F): Prep interactions and process as the project looks on shared a group O: How does nature like to me" G (F): case of speak? Themes & Topics G Connections--where developing (F): Freewriting -> Go the projects of a local around on "What the project others connect with climate looks like to me." yours. G (F): change "Focused policy conversation" review for Tampere Day 2 G (O): Freewrite: "I know G: Case - what I can do to help move study--Tampere local from individual view to climate change policy common project" G: Concept G: Freewrite: "What maps of each person's is stabilizable & project what needs more playing with" -> shared reflection Day 3 O: Book back on the agenda. Lunch before - G (O/F): Freewrite on departures tension b/w individual pieces & book as common project G (F): Report on the case for your essay. G (F): Compose 5 statements you are taking away -> Go around G: Appreciations post-workshop ?3. "Developing a Research Agenda for Linking Biogeophysical and Socio-economic Systems," Tempe, 5-8 June 2000
pre-workshop Precirculated O's proposal plus white papers Day 1 G: Introductions & Pre-assigned Working Social brainstorming about Groups (WGs) on criteria challenges requiring to select challenges & interdisciplinary research research areas G: Reports from WGs Day 2 WGs on challenges & New pre-assigned WGs Social research areas mapping research areas to challenges Day 3 WGs mapping research G: WG reports Outline Social areas to challenges + presented by O overlooked areas Day 4 G: WG reports Areas G: discussion (cont.) - covered in WGs but not in outline Other overlooked areas Title Reaching a broader audience Writing post-workshop Report "Nature and Society: An imperative for Integrated Environmental Research" produced by Kinzig (O) following her outline (see day 3), with greater and lesser input from steering committee. Released November4. "Helping Each Other to Foster Critical Thinking about Biology and Society," Cambridge, 29-31 July 2000
pre-workshop Participants invited to submit proposals for experiential sessions, in which "instead of telling us what you have thought or found out, you will lead other participants to experience the issues and directions you are exploring" Day 1 - - G: Brief introductions Longer spoken autobiographies, centered around how each participant connected with the focus of this workshop. Freewriting: "What the 'Helping Each Other to Foster Critical Thinking' endeavor looks like to me"-> Go around Day 2 G: Autobiographies Two Third (abbreviated) continued. partici-p participant-led session ant-led sessions Day 3 G: Freewriting: "What - - is stabilizable and what needs more playing with"-> Go around Sub-groups: Remaining participants presented on their concerns Focused conversation review of experience post-workshop One participant initiated a project with two others to monitor the curriculum development each is undertaking with a view to increasing representation of women and their perspectives in biology.Review of workshops from the six angles
NCEAS Finland NSF CCT > 1 person's knowledge and Y Y Y too small & research skills needed short > 1 party involved in ~ ~ (soc. ~ (unrep- too small & environmental issue sci. resentative short researchers of only researchers or others) conduct ongoing assessment - - - - that environmental complexity necessitates create knowledge > ~ Y ~ Y Sum participants' > (pre-determin any single participant's ed) ensure investment in the X Y X (exc. $$ ~ product of the for collaboration researchers) create capacity for X Y ? Y productive engagement in (increment-al multi-party collaborations ly?)Open Questions