"'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 session 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
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 in paperback or 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)

Courses relevant to GGHS doctoral students

Plus-delta feedback from the session
if you don't see your responses here, please email them and they'll be added

Plus (one thing you appreciated)
Delta (one thing that could be developed further)
I appreciated the varieties of mapping concepts / ideas.
There may be too many vignettes. Fewer stories and more depth/breadth of the story.
I was very interested in the conceptual diagrams provided, and it helped me think through an upcoming project. It was interested to learn about how they can be used to present a lot of data and consider social factors of scientific issues in research. I think this will be a very helpful tool for me in the future on my research.
I would like to learn more about the process of developing conceptual diagrams, such as the ones used and would like for that to be included in future presentations. Also would love a sample of the evaluation sheets used for class evaluations (these were mentioned briefly).
Personal anecdotes, especially about the grant for transdisciplinary work
How the diagrams might apply to social science research. I'd love to read a paper and then be walked through how you diagram the ideas in the paper.
Stories of tangible applications of ideas.
More discussion about what these communities and groups actually ended up changing--or at least what they said they would change.
Resources (on the wikipage) that we can use after the presentation is over. //Conversational style.
Explain the organization/structure/purpose of the vignettes
Point about refractive practice
Some methods on how to develop conceptual mapping

See also Plus-Delta from previous presentations to new PhD students in Portugal: CES12PlusDelta and to critical natural resource economists and other researchers in Chiapas, México: EcosurPT

Follow-up to plus-deltas:
1. Epilogue (see above) includes brief discussion of the participatory planning case from Ontario
2. this handout describes an activity to teach the diagramming of intersecting processes (also discussed in Chapters 5 & 6 of Unruly Complexity)
3. Mapping is described here and illustrated here (from Taking Yourself Seriously; also discussed in Chapter 5 of Unruly Complexity).
3a. A detailed account of mapping in social sciences is given in Chapter 3 of Clarke, A. (2005). Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory after the Postmodern Turn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
4. The three vignettes were meant to illustrate the idea of intersecting processes in diverse domains and the way that form of representation makes us think about there being multiple points of engagement (or multiple practical considerations involved in knowledge-making, aka research). This connects with the original question, "How can we reduce our vulnerability to staying too long with our chosen path of research?" in that exposing and reflecting on multiple points of engagement makes it hard "to simply continue along previous lines."
5. Narrative class evaluations follow the example here.