Addressing "the challenge of bringing into interaction not only a wider range of researchers, but a wider range of social agents, and to the challenge of keeping them working through differences and tensions until plans and practices are developed in which all the participants are invested"

For faculty seminar, Feb 18, 2010


The quote in the title comes from p.199 of my book, Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement Chicago UP (2005). In this book, I argue (quoting here from my website homepage) "that both the situations studied and the social situation of the researchers can be characterized in terms of unruly complexity or 'intersecting processes' that cut across scales, involve heterogeneous components, and develop over time. These cannot be understood from an outside view; instead positions of engagement must be taken within the complexity. Knowledge production needs to be linked with planning for action and action itself in an ongoing process so that knowledge, plans, and action can be continually reassessed in response to developments -- predicted and surprising alike."
The emphasis on "involv[ing] heterogeneous components" poses a challenge for such a process view of knowledge-making and reassessing, thus the question this session aims to address. The emphasis on "cut[ting] across scales" also sets up a tension that concerns me, namely, taking seriously the participation of diverse people whose livelihood is directly dependent on an ecosystem or city or..., and, at the same time, acknowledging researchers' professional identities and abilities as people who can contribute analyses of changes that arise beyond the local region or at a larger scale than the local.

Session goals


1. Read at least one of the following:
on how workshops work
"Generating environmental knowledge and inquiry through workshop processes"
"Cultivating Collaborators: Concepts and Questions Emerging Interactively From An Evolving, Interdisciplinary Workshop"
on the tension between the local and the translocal
"Epilogue: Three Stories", pp. 203-213 in Unruly Complexity
on difficulties putting caring into practice
"Engaging Colleagues in a Caring University", session Nov. 3 (note: I observed ideals expressed by some administrators, sincerely I think, that do not jive with their practice and with its effects on subordinates)
Staub, E. (2005) "The roots of goodness: The fulfillment of basic human needs and the development of caring, helping and nonaggression, inclusive caring, moral courage, active bystandership, and altruism born of suffering," or other work by Staub on bystanders (downloadable from

2. Compose five statements, questions, and/or reservations that are important to you concerning
Submit them to by 8am Feb. 18

3. (For Feb. 18 participants): For a preview of step #6, see examples of clustering and naming .


more instructions provided at the time of the session
1. Digest and make notes on the compilation of submissions with a view to representing not only your own views but also those of others
2. Post-it individual brainstorming
3. Pair-discussion
4. Share with group as a whole
5. Photocopy assembled postits
6. Individual grouping, naming, and synthesis
7. Closing circle

After the session

1. Syntheses copied and distributed (see Peter's)
2. Products and process kept in mind as ISHS proceeds during the semester, and beyond ISHS.


The 9 clusters of Peter's synthesis were subject to back-of-the-envelope "interpretive structural modeling," in which the cluster is lower in the diagram and linked to a cluster above it if the addressing or acknowledging the consideration reflected in the first cluster makes it easier to address the consideration reflected in the second cluster. The result is given in a prezi presentation, in which the clusters are also grouped within three frames as defined in the original synthesis, and these are grouped into one overall theme at the top.
It is interesting to note that addressing or acknowledging that "FEAR IS REAL, BUT WE HAVE HAD SECURE BASES" lies at the root. In the jargon of ISM, it is a deep driver. (Conversely, not taking time/space to address that makes it harder to make progress on the other concerns.)