Supporting documents to
"Process and product in the generation of environmental knowledge and inquiry: A comparison of four innovative workshops"
Paper presented by Peter Taylor to Environmental, Coastal and Ocean Sciences Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston, November 15, 2000
(Last revised Nov. 13, 2000)
- National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Research, Workshop on "Rethinking the "and" in "Humans and Nature": Ecology at the Boundary of Human Systems"
- American Science Federation proposal
- Thought-piece by Peter Taylor, circulated by email
- Commentary in Denver Post
- Symposium at Ecological Society of America, August 2000
- See also G. Bradshaw and M. Bekoff, "Integrating humans and nature: reconciling the boundaries of science
and society," Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 15(8): 309-310
- University of Tampere (Finland), Environmental Social Science Group: "How does nature speak?"
- NSF workshop on "Developing a Research Agenda for Linking Biogeophysical and Socio-economic Systems"
- Critical & Creative Thinking Program: "Helping Each Other to Foster Critical Thinking about Biology and Society"
- Responses after Freewriting Exercise, 15 Nov. 2000
Declaration of Independence (produced by NCEAS working group -- see website author's reservations)
We hereby declare our independence from current practices within the scientific community that restrict research, ways of knowing, citizen inclusion, and respect for nonhumans.
We affirm that:
We will work to estabish an American Science Foundation that will emphasize:
- Science is social knowledge.
- Solving the environmental problems known to us all is the mission of ecology.
- Ecology is a cooperation among sciences, humanities, and human cultures.
The American Science Foundation will:
- Research accountable to people, nature and quality of life.
- Questions with local, regional, and democratic significance.
- Citizen inclusion in formulating and doing the research.
For information on subsequent developments with respect to the ASF, contact Joan Roughgarden, email@example.com.
- Compete with the NSF and NIH for funds on the basis of documented accomplishments in supporting effective and influential research.
- Differ from the NSF and NIH by not privileging one direction of integration between molecular and other levels of organization.
- Promote the crossing of boundaries between the practical and the abstract.
- Use knowledge in the service of life rather than in teh service of power.
Thought-piece by Peter Taylor circulated by email soon after the "Ecology at the Boundary of Human Systems" workshop
1. Have we constituted a group that might effectively promote a new organization of scientists (or inquirers)?
2. What would we need to do to assess this likelihood? What inquiry would we need?
3. How would we support each other to pursue that inquiry?
After a good night's rest (but no remembered dreams) the sense I have on these questions is that:
1. I wanted us to learn more about each other's work and thinking, that is, not merely leave with a sense of enthusiasm for the project arrived at on Monday. Without circulation of papers or "learning sessions," not enough of this learning happened for me to commit confidently to the group and the ongoing project.
2. I wanted to learn more about each other's inquiry into areas that were unfamiliar to them. I don't know how many of the group are interested in inquiring into the sociological/political conditions for the project, nor for ideas of nature-human boundary as a metaphor for many other divides that we might confront -- we're not immediately ready to rethink (see...)
3. I am even clearer now than I was when I proposed that the ASF [American Science Foundation] affirms that "the hardest work is supporting others to inquire."
Y: What do you think of the Declaration of Independence [founding the ASF], Peter?
P: I'm not sure I'm ready to put my energy into promoting it yet.
Y: What would you need for you to become ready to do so?
P: Good question.
Y: Is it the wording? I noticed that you stated-twice I think-that you wanted it to affirm that "the hardest work is supporting others to inquire." And that wasn't taken up.
P: No, it wasn't. Why didn't you comment on that while we were together as a group?
Y: Hmm. Good question. I think I wanted first to know more about why that phrase was important to you. I should have asked you.
P: I wonder if some of the group were unsure even of what the phrase meant. I should have asked if that were the case.
Y: You would have had a hard time doing so-there were so many voices and lines of thought trying to get addressed.
P: Yes, especially if you include those still below to surface, almost about to emerge. But I would have liked to have a discussion of how a group can address such multi-vocality.
Y: I think we did pretty well over the course of the workshop.
P: You're right. But I wanted more attention to multi-vocality before we were asked to act in consort.
Y: So it's not the wording of the Declaration that troubles you?
P: Right-it's this multi-vocality-unison tension. I wanted us to learn more about each other's work and thinking. That would have helped me to commit confidently to the group and the Independence project.
Y: I too wanted to learn more, but you can't do everything in such a short time.
P: True, but have we constituted a group that can effectively promote a new organization of scientists-or inquirers? To have a sense of this, I needed to learn more about each other's inquiry into areas that were unfamiliar to them.
Y: Such as?
P: For a start, many people talked as if we needed to integrate humans and non-human nature or recognize that the divide is false.
Y: What's wrong with that?
P: Well, historically ideas about separating humans and nature or overcoming the separation can be interpreted non-literally, as stand-ins for ideas about the social order people favor (omega.cc.umb.edu/~ptaylor/nature-culture.html). I don't know how many of the group are interested in inquiring into the implications of this.
Y: Perhaps more than you think.
P: I didn't say I knew few of the group were interested-I said I didn't know how many were. Similarly, I don't know how many of the group are interested in inquiring into the sociological and political conditions for a new organization to take off.
Y: But, no organization would ever take off if its members waited for everything to be clear in advance of getting their hands dirty.
P: Perhaps, but do we believe that this Declaration will keep us interacting, moreover that it will promote the kind of inquiry that got put on the backburner while we pushed to have a product before we left Santa Barbara?
Y: I don't know.
P: Neither do I. That's my point.
Y: Which is?
P: Well, two points. We didn't learn as much as we needed about each other's way of working and thinking. And this was especially the case when the issue is each other's way of working and thinking on how best to support each other's inquiry into unfamiliar areas.
Y: Unfamiliar areas such as how best to support each other's inquiry.
Y: OK, but does that answer my question about what you would need to become ready to promote the Declaration?
P: Well, try this. I think campaigns for social change flourish when the campaigners have a strong sense of being supported by each other.
Y: But many campaigns take off that suppress inquiry about people and things that are unfamiliar to the campaigners?
P: Yes, but our campaign is for a Foundation that supports inquiry.
Y: And affirms that "the hardest work is supporting others to inquire."
P: You got it.
P: Denise asked if I'd read Parker Palmer's The Courage To Teach.
Y: She recommended it to me as well. But she said she wished it'd had been "The Courage To Learn."
P: Hmm. Anyway, given that others have mentioned the book to me over the last few years, I thought it was time to take a look.
Y: What did you find?
P: At the end-I often take a peek at the endings of books-Palmer summarizes the dynamics of social movements from their beginnings as "chaotic energy fields":
"Stage 1: Isolated individuals make an inward decision to live "divided no more," finding a center for their lives outside institutions.
Stage 2: These individuals begin to discover one another and form communities of congruence that offer mutual support and opportunities to develop a shared vision.
Stage 3: These communities start going public, learning to convert their private concerns into the public issues they are and receiving vital critiques in the process.
Stage 4: A system of alternative rewards emerges to sustain the movement's vision and to put pressure for change on the standard institutional reward system." (p. 166)
Y: How does this speak to your concern about supporting each others's inquiry into unfamiliar areas?
P: Well, if the group has moved to stage 3 and we have our eyes on stage 4, but if we are still unclear or "divided" about the importance of supporting each other's inquiry, then it's premature for us to be acting as if we're at stage 3-especially when the new organization we envisage is meant to move inquiry beyond its current boundaries..
Y: Do you think that's the situation of our group?
P: Let me speak just for myself. To be honest, I haven't made Palmer's inward decision to live "divided no more."
Y: I wonder what others in the group think about this line of inquiry.
P: I do too.
Notes from Workshop on "How does nature speak?" Finnish anthology, Pori 2000
Preamble about project and heterogeneous group of students
Handout 1: Process Themes to chew on concerning our interactions and process as a group:
* We know more than we are able, at first, to acknowledge.
* Our goal could be for each of us to express "what the project looks like to me," and from that basis develop a vision of our common project, one that still holds each of the individual views within it.
* The challenges are to acknowledge our investment in our specific projects while finding ways to stretch what we are doing and to connect with the projects of the others, and to generate a book that is distinctive in finland and appropriate for a finnish audience.
* One way the book can be distinctive is if it also reflects the process by which we worked together to produce it.
* The hardest work is to support each other to inquire. (To inquire includes each of us inquiring further on the issues that arise in our own projects and in the projects of others. It also means inquiring into how we support our own work and the work of others.)
* Reflection at the end of each phase is important, leading to one concrete product to take into the next phase.
Supplement -- Themes from May Days "New voices in Environmental Social Science" workshop about using knowledge to influence change [Note]
I doubt the whole question, that knowledge would be "a solution" for the change. Nevertheless, the guiding principle is that you should TOUCH people in some way -- emotional etc.
Have enough time./ Start from the beginning (whatever it is)/ Hear everyone/ Make something together, which contains all the opinions.
First of all I am able to give only certain kinds of knowledge which is my speciality. Combining my knowledge with other peopleís, NGOís etc. knowledge would change. I would (like) decision makers to think the problems that I feel important get people interested in.
"Homeopathic" knowledge about processes: In what sort of ways can things go wrong? (And metaphors that feed the imagination -- images)
I use my background knowledge and from research studies to get people to communicate by accepting their own background and that of others. Or there may be use for a ítranslatorí to get people communicating.
Administration needs to study plan and then act (initiative taking)/ Find a partner/partners among the "local"/ Within communities, not persons -- that is for SMOs/ Examples need to be found or done/ Good exampls made public -- translocal news stories (media)/ Go further -- local media (too) will follow-up.
To present new ideas and arguments against something in a way that the listener woudl like to hear and develop/ learn what was said.
People must have a feeling that they have been taken seriously.
Even if a... combination of knowledge from different directions and layers, a... mixture of different kinds of knowledge. It is important to collect knowledge very freely first with the help of intersubjective process.
Since knowledge is not universal but historical & contextual, knowledge needs to be meaningful for change to take place. Universalistic authority should give space for more open-minded dialogue.
Knowledge has to become part of the everyday reality of the one who is to be influenced. It has to be translated into commentaries, material practices or as a part of identity. It has to somehow become "material" and automatic part of routines.
Knowledge as such is not enough, it has to be connected with concrete elements: people, practices, material objects etc. in order to change something.
Open conversation, open cards. You have to be ready to open you up, everybody should reveal something fromtheir heart and from reality e.g., a company should open its "heart" and local people their "heart."
Problems in the process: What is my role? Am I a "neutral" researcher or consultant? Am I doing a research or solving problems (this might be my personal problem, question or my role in the project)
We must see that Hume's thinking is wrong -- Facts are important, but it's more important to get people to process it to an ethical knowledge.
When people's voices are mutually recognized they can engage more flexibly in generating the knowledge needed.
(Note: Typing up these themes showed me that the May Days participants knew more about the process themes above than I had realized. It seems that we were able to acknowledge ideas not usually stated in environmental social science through the exercise of freewriting and writing down one theme.)
Handout 2: How does nature speak? Themes & Topics
Guided Freewriting: "What the project looks like to me."
-> Go around: One thing I hope to have worked on by the end of the workshop.
Continue to elaborate on "what the project looks like to me" - each person reports to the group
Connections - Mark a ffew points in your notes where the projects of others connect with yours. Then report to the group
Homework for day 2: On the basis of your current work, describe how you would approach the case of developing a local climate change policy for Tampere, addressing the 9 topics where appropriate
Freewrite: "I know what I can do to help move from individual view to common project"
Rule a line and record themes from freewrite that you want to keep in view during the rest of the day
"Concept" map of your own projects
Pair-share -- describe the maps
Pair-share -- identify connections with the projects of others
Share in the group -- one solid connection; one intriguing connection
Case study of developing a local climate change policy for Tampere
Freewrite: What is stabilizable and what needs more playing with
End of day reflection: 1. Something stable/ solid/ clear; 2. Pleased at having sorted out; 3. Need to chew on more
1. Extend the 3 items into notes to be used in writing tomorrow that addresses both what's solid and things in play.
2. Look back at your list following the freewrite at the start of the day. Reflect on which you pursued and which not.
Bring the book back on the agenda: Freewrite on the dialectic tension between the individual pieces and the book as a common project
Report to the group on the case/story/ thick description you might write indicating 1. the stable core (with new slant if any that has emerged), and 2. what I am struggling with. Think about "I would like others in the collective project to hear this."
Compose 5 statements/ themes/ questions that you are taking away with you (use carbon paper so it can be typed up and circulated)
Go around with Appreciation
Pori 2000 workshop -- Departing statements/ themes/ questions (May 24, 2000)
1. Identity (local contested scale)
3. Tampella case
4. Narratives & arguments
5. Foucauldian nature, which creates social order
6. Test your case (empirical data) with others
7. Theme of essay for book: "Fight over face of Tampere"
1. It is important to get to know more about each others' not-yet-stable aspects. And to allow this to happen it helps to not fill up the quiet spaces that occur.
2. We shared the experience of being unsure, but excitable - this is something worthwhile to continue. Q: Is it un-Finnish to express unsureness & excitability? If so, can this be overcome for us?
3. Theme to chew on (How fruitful is it?): Generativity and routinization are two aspects of the same dynamics (like health & illness).
4. While I flesh out what I mean by "flexible engaging," I want at the same time to examine how to promote the transition from relying on trans-local knowledge to being prepared to flexibly engage.
5. Q: Can people who flexibly engage keep in view the larger-scale restructuring that capital managers are instituting behind closed doors?
1. The environmental binding of a human individual is contextual. Locality is one part of contextuality.
2. Because of contextuality, the only way to study environmental binding is empirical-practical. The environmental binding rises from social practices, which at least partly are locality-based.
3. The knowledge-emotion dimension is important, but it cannot be considered alienated from practices and actions. They are not things as themselves, but products of processes or social practices.
4. The ethical dimension is necessary for handling motives of action and management of risks. Development of ethical views of people might be captured by narratives.
5. Identity and self are something that emerges in fields of action and power relations.
1. Force yourself to fly with other people's ideas - to search for the non-obvious.
2. Dynamics is the interface (?) between stabilization (routinization) and change (generativity). Don't kill the dynamics of action by explaining and categorizing too much.
3. Network is a good metaphor, but there is a need to distance from Latour's concept of network.
4. Keep searching for connections to people's everyday.
5. Move from the description to analysis, not the other way around.
1. Generativity of the workshop: Developing themes by freewriting, discussions, ect. could be a useful way to keep things alive over the summertime.
2. Some new connections that opened between the members during the workshop could be developed by pairs.
3. Going on after Pori: Thick descriptions of the themes and concepts from the angle of everyone's own case.
4. Practices - what are they in a large sense. Can they include more dimensions than we have discussed?
Thequestion I keep asking myself is how far does ANT carry me?
1. -- focus more on the social realm - small things "the invisible"
2. - the plurality of narratives, every day - different things revealed/hidden
general -> specific
1. from top-down to bottom-up ~ trust in the process, instead of deduction
2. throw off didactics
3. the challenge: point out alternative dynamics (not just formal alternatives which are irrelevant more often than not)
4. history/present - where does change come from? Does change (at present) always require rewriting of the past?
5. Stabilization of concepts as "actors" - quasi-periodic oscillation always? (i.e., recurring patterns that indicate dynamics)
6. Social order.
An individual contribution to synthesis into the proposed research agenda
Peter Taylor, 7 June 2000, with subsequent minor revisions
Q: Why should society want research on linkages between biogeophysical (BGP) and socioeconomic (SE) systems?
A: So that vulnerability of BGP and SE systems can be reduced and adaptibility enhanced. Indeed, effective research on vulnerability and adaptibility of BGP & SE systems (in relation to each other) is part of the adaptibility of SE systems.
Proposed title for Program:
"Vulnerability and Adaptibility in Biogeophysical and Socioeconomic Systems"
a. Any overview under this title would make the interdisciplinarity clear, that is, the program is about BGP in relation to SE systems (and vice versa). Similarly, it would make clear that adaptibility is in response to vulnerabilities.
b. Putting aside the specific suggested title, the program should have a title that conveys something that non-scientists would be able quickly to appreciate its constructive orientation. That is, that conveys that the program is not about self-servingly getting more $$ for scientists.
To be conceptually and expositorily powerful each component should be expressed in a way that conveys its connection or potential contribution to the unifying theme expressed in the title. As a step towards this end I have spelled out the rationale of Ann Kinzig's five categories (from PM on Day 3 (6/7)) in relation to reducing the vulnerability of linked BGP & SE systems and enhancing their adaptibility. I hope this is helpful in the process of reworking and renaming the components:
1. "Dynamics of coupled socio-ecological systems" includes
a) Vulnerability of BGP systems in relation to changes in SE systems; and
b) Adaptibility (actual) of SE systems ("cultural norms") in relation to SE-induced vulnerability of BGP systems ("settlement patterns", "urban development").
2. "Coping with change, uncertainty, and complexity" includes more of 1a & 1b. perhaps emphasizing more of the SE vulnerability over SE adaptibility.
3. "Ecosystem services" is about potential adaptibility of SE systems that might reduce BGP vulnerability, because measuring ecosystem services creates the possibility of valuing them in a changed SE system. (Aside: Since the mid-80s "biodiversity" has also been wielded to try to increase social valuing of something(s) so as to reduce BGP vulnerability. Interestingly, the term has been invoked very little at this workshop.)
4. "Environmental dimensions of human health, welfare, and security" includes vulnerability of people and groups (SE systems) in relation to vulnerability of BGP systems.
5. "Communicating scientific knowledge" is about contributing to adaptibility of/through SE systems (individual decision/attitude/norm-making, institution-building-formal & informal-and policy-making/ implementation). In this light the component could be reworked to refer to knowledge use by different agents (a.k.a. "knowledge construction"). The ways different agents use knowledge must be understood in order to design better environmental communication (2-way) and even to redesign the research done into BGP and linked SE-BGP systems.
a. A stronger place could be made for SE and associated BGP vulnerability in relation to SE dynamics around inequality.
b. It would be inconsistent for a program concerned about SE adaptibility not to build in an explicit self-conscious process of learning and of changing research definitions in response (see the last parts of the preamble and of 5). This means more than the standard evaluation of program. It requires a research component on "giving voice" to subordinate and emergent strands of knowledge-making-both lay & specialist.
c. One emergent aspect of "Northern" SE systems is a significant increase in many spheres of social life of facilitated participation in visioning, problem-solving, and action-planning. My personal take is that this has the potential for enhancing SE adaptibility to BGP vulnerability without nearly as much need for specialist knowledge (model-making etc.) as most Tempe participants assume (Ludwig's paper excepted).
Formulate a word or short phrase that captures what made a positive workshop experience engage you (or a negative experience disengage you).
Responses, Nov. 1, 2001
* common goal for group is derived
* help me cope with ambiguity/ the unknown
* well led collaboration works more quickly; not everyone is a leader
* visual presentations are easier to follow
* strategic planning process for curriculum allowed each subgroup to take ideas from collaboration and develop implementation to their area
* informal relationships are the key to success in formal collaborations
* participatory activities
* personal relations have to work -- multi-person collaboration is not only about knowing the subject. if they work, it is really engaging and much more productive than working alone
* quality of experience depends a lot on participants' interest in clear communication -- not necessarily consensus
* that the persons involved determine to a great extent whether these collaborations are fruitful or not
* dense information content
* engagement in feedback
* unexpected learning
* group spends far too much time describing "what's wrong" and little on "what are potential solutions"
* people relying on numbers
* consultant with preconceptions
* self-administration is arduous
* goals of most collaborations are "nominal" -- each actor brings in her own understanding of what these goals are
Responses, Nov. 15, 2000.
Understand peer group.
Understanding group to be managed.
Get useful, realistic action items and ideas-not just catch words or phrases.
engaged: organized chaos
disengaged: mundane, repressive
1)The feeling that participa[nts] will make a difference rather than just participating in the process.
2) role of workshop leader: Facilitator is a plus. Dominance is a negative
engaged: change leadership
disengaged: timing, hierarchy, only followed
usable information shared
Engaged: When my ideas and thoughts are considered, workshop not dominated by only a single interest.
When I form relationships with others
A facilitator that frames the question and keeps the definition of the objective in the minds of the participants.
personality dynamics can make (+) or break (-) a workshop
Engaged people talking about what they don't know.
Personality dynamics can engage or disengage one's views easily.
Relevance of information
Abililty to communicate
Open mind to different points of view, to different goals to be addressed.
no break, food, attention to human needs (-)
--lots of voices/opinions both good & bad -- good if equal listening
--Less structure better; more time needed for answering questions in workshops
--Followup very important
"Facilitation of structured process without end-results in mind."
guided environment that builds emotional rapport
(+) working cooperatively towards a goal
(-) detachment from outcome