"'No longer possible to simply continue along previous lines': Cultivating flexible, transversal engagement in intersecting processes of social, environmental and scientific change."

“I made the wrong turn 30 years ago,” remarked a senior researcher in the final session of a half-day workshop I led in 2011 on creative thinking in epidemiology. (In brief, he had designed studies to use the newest technologies rather than to understand the larger context in which health issues rise and decline.) How can we reduce our vulnerability to staying too long with our chosen path of research? Two ideals to address that challenge are introduced in this lecture and illustrated with brief case presentations from socio-environmental studies, social studies of mental illness, and interdisciplinary workshops for reflective practice.

Changes in political-economics, environment, population health, science—from soil erosion and disease incidence to establishing new knowledge—can be seen as the outcome of intersecting processes operating across different spatial and temporal scales, transgressing the boundaries of the situation under consideration and restructuring its "internal" dynamics. Analysis of such processes exposes diverse sites of engagement. In this light, transversal engagement is an ideal, in which practice and policy
a) takes seriously the creativity and capacity-building that seems to follow from well-facilitated participation among people who share a place or livelihood;
b) mitigates adverse trans-local decisions, such as those made in governments and corporations operating on a larger spatial and temporal arena; and
c) incorporates the knowledge-making of non-local or trans-local researchers—people who did not share experience of and commitment to livelihood in one place—including their analyses of abstracted dynamics of political-economic change.

Flexible engagement is a complementary ideal in which participants in any knowledge-making situation connect quickly with others who are almost ready to foster participatory processes and, through the experience such processes provide their participants, contribute to enhancing the capacity of others to do likewise.

Participants in the course will be encouraged to connect these ideals with their own interests in knowledge-making and social engagement—and to question the picture presented in the lecture.

Additional materials
Gaps & design: see downloadable book on Design
Visual aids for the presentation:
Video of a previous presentation of the lecture: http://bit.ly/VsaC5Q

Guided freewriting

Email: peter.taylor@umb.edu
Personal website: http://bit.ly/pjtaylor

Taking Yourself Seriously book (available as hypertexted pdf)
Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (epilogue: taylor,_epilogue.pdf, includes discussion of Raymond Williams and the tension between local solidarity and trans-local positions)

Plus-delta feedback from the lecture:
(Please let me know when the spanish translation needs improvement)

Reflection on the construction of knowledge -- the self-criticism and the opening to multidisciplinarity and transversality
Make the presentation a little deeper and xx
A technique that serves to integrate knowledge. Shows the large challenge of multidisciplinary work and can serve as a guide to our "revolutionary program"

The clear definitions of flexibility, transversality and refraction as resources for multiple interventions in intersecting processes
Perhaps more time in the examples to understand the connections
Clear & straightforward way of presenting different approaches to analyze our research work (e.g., using mindmaps and diagrams)
Group work, class discussions
What to do and how to do when I do research?
How to improve and what to produce when I do research?
The difference between reflexion and refraction in the practice of research.
It seems to me that I could improve if I participate in the search for the refractive processes.
To hear how other people have overcome the difficulties in things we have previously submerged.
Translate the presentation into spanish. For me personally, identify the tendencies that get in the way of appreciating workshops.
The explanation of the techniques was dynamic and illustrated.
It would have been good to run a workshop to learn and employ the techniques. Identify all the parts of xx and analyze their interrelations.
The analysis of the necessity of human (psychological and social) factors in the improvement of life.
Not only political economics defines human necessities.
I discovered how different interests can be put together without one being more important than the other in order to get the best of each.
I want to be more familiar with the new terms presented.
The idea of harmonized collaboration between the academy and social action.
The necessity of reflection about our practice and to search for other ways to look at reality.
Because the presentation was in English I could not enjoy all the details.
The emphasis on the study of the intersecting processes because it is a very good set of tools for understanding complex processes.
To develop more or to use more examples is the refractive process because I have the general idea but feel that it can be deepened.
Becoming more aware of the processes in which I am embedded.
I intend to be more systematically aware of this. It would be interesting to expland the focus from the research process to the process of social change.
Connection with Action Research.
Expand on the paths that people take to bridge gaps and the role of refraction in this.
Insert "road signs" during the presentation.
The examples used to make the case for the necessity of a change in the form of planning the problems to be investigated.
Some ideas or key questions, that in our investigations of the theme we plan that reflection is necessary.
To learn about investigations that have been able to study what changes are occurring in the making research and how the researchers have incorporated these questions.
The first person approach of the talk. It is not ego-centered or self-serving, but rather is trying to show the different forces that shape us as scientists and citizens.
I will try to do more exercises that allow attendees to experience the process of refraction.

See also Plus-Delta from a previous presentation to new PhD students in Portugal: CES12PlusDelta