June 6, 2021
Networks are fundamental to life, to liveliness and to livelihood. There is growing recognition of this fact. And at the same time, the frame through which one views networks has a lot to say about how one might be living out and into their potential, or not. For example, I still see people a bit enamored of “social network analysis” (SNA) in a way that concerns. It is the equivalent of pinning an insect to a board and dissecting it. The vitality of any living creature does not lie in understanding its “parts” alone, and pinning anything down does not allow “the observer” to see it in action, in its vitality. This is not to say that SNA cannot be helpful, but to keep in mind that anything frozen is not a true representation of life, and that the very observation of something changes it, as in living systems we are constantly engaged in the making “and bringing forth of worlds” through our interactions (see the work of the late Humberto Maturana) .
Which brings me to the use of “it” in referring to a network, or the idea of “building a network.” A network is not simply an it, it is an “us,” at least when we are referring to social and social-ecological webs. And a network is not simply a means to an end, a “so that,” if you will. Networks always “are” in some sense, in light of the myriad and often invisible connections that exist in our world. And as I have written before, the very nature of networks in terms of their patterns of connection and flow, has a lot to say about human and ecological health and resilience.
The use of “it,” which I certainly fall into, can create a degree of false and, in some cases, dangerous separation. A case could be made that much of what ails mainstream society and the human world is a severe case of distance and abstraction. As Andreas Weber has pointed out, this false separation in mainstream biological sciences can lead to the cutting off of something vital – our feelings and emotion! In The Biology of Wonder, Weber makes the case that far from being superfluous to the study of organisms (including social and and social-ecological networks), feelings (and I would add our bodies below the neck), are the very foundation of Life!
Which is why, increasingly, I am playing with full-bodied ways of engaging people in “network ways of thinking, doing and being” – at individual (internal to our selves – yes, we are networks!), group, and larger systemic scales. Whether it be poetry, music/song, meditation, storytelling, somatic practice, there is an apparent need to enlist people in a “poetic ecology” (in Weber’s words) of net work. This to me is key to helping to realize the regenerative potential of networks, and requires dedicated and deep practice.
What changes, what possibilities arise, when you shift towards “seeing” a given network as an “us” and an “as”?
August 15, 2017
I love Twitter.
On the heels of the Hunts Point Resiliency Collaboration Lab (about which a blog post is forthcoming) that a team of us from IISC facilitated a couple of weeks ago, I tweeted the following –
“Change the space, change the conversation. Change the conversation, change the possibilities.”
Without getting into all of the details, by shifting what might otherwise might have been a typical meeting through the use of art, music, tactile objects, intentional arrangement of seating, delicious food, robust opportunities for interaction, etc., those in attendance acknowledged that we were able to get to authentic and important conversations that many had been eager to have. And these have opened some opportunities about which people are very excited.
My almost off-handed tweet was picked up and retweeted by a few people, including Nadia von Holzen, who then put together the wonderful graphic above and put it back into the Twittersphere. I love the enhancement and contribution. Thanks, Nadia!
This is another example of what can happen when you “think or work out loud.” In this intricately connected world, you never know who is listening and what gifts they stand poised to bring to your humble offerings.
August 12, 2014
In my early days many of my friends called me too serious because of comments I would make about the racism and sexism in a Disney film or the rampant misogyny and conspicuous consumption in popular music. My kids still think so. But having come to see systems of oppression, it’s hard for me to “un-see” them when I turn to entertainment. Spoken word poet Madiha Bhatti puts out a powerful message. Much better to listen to the whole thing, but check out the refrain to whet your appetite!
February 28, 2014
“In principle, empathy can override every rule about how to treat others.”
-Frans de Waal
Photo by Vamsi Krishna
Yesterday’s post considered the importance and power of the empathic turn in networks-as-change, to ground people in deep connection with living realities, for the sake of greater imagination, justice, resilience and responsibility. Taking cues from experience and the work and studies of others, here are some thoughts for how to cultivate radical “affection” (to quote Wendell Berry) in networks:
- Go beyond abstraction to interaction – go to and meet in real places, explore them, consider how life happens there (see for example Story of Place and Heart and Soul)
October 4, 2011
I made it out to #occupywallstreet last Friday night. Here is how my experience unfolded:
1. Culture Shock
I’m into showers, they’re not. I’m in my mid-thirties, grew up in a working class Puerto Rican community and I’ve been yupified over the years. I didn’t see a lot of people of color and I wasn’t feeling the vibe. I wondered how people from my community could ever make a link to this crowd. I was welcomed to walk around, curiously browsing, checking out the scene, the art and the people.
April 21, 2011
|Photo by scalespeeder|http://www.flickr.com/photos/scalespeeder/2652863086|
We are big believers here, at IISC, in pulling on all of the senses and our full selves to create engaging experiences that bring out the best that people individually and collectively have to offer for the sake of social change. Often meetings and convenings only scratch the surface of our many sensibilities, as if we were simply brains on sticks, without bodies, without hearts. Subsequently much is lost that we may not even be aware of. As Kare Anderson writes, “Even apparently small physical experiences make a big emotional and even learning difference.”
December 8, 2010
Last month we were graced by the presence of Kathy Sferra, who was on loan from Mass Audubon. Kathy took the initiative to approach us about spending one month of her six week sabbatical apprenticing herself to IISC, observing and contributing to our work and taking the lessons back to her home organization. She began contributing instantly as a thought partner, often making keen observations and asking good questions that her relative outsider perspective afforded. As her parting gift to us, Kathy offered up the following reflections and take-aways, specifically with respect to designing and facilitating meetings and other convenings, that I wanted, in the spirit of the season, to re-gift and pass along: Read More
October 20, 2010
Is it ok to brag about one’s clients? It better be! I’m so proud that I have done work with Community Music Works! The front page of today’s Boston Globe highlights the power of letting music go free. Our First Lady just bestowed the National Arts and Humanities Youth Programs Award to Community Music Works, just a month after its founding director, Sebastian Ruth was awarded the McArthur Genius Award!
I’ve been doing more and more work with arts organizations lately – events like Creative Change and groups like the Arts and Democracy Project. I’ve been seriously considering the role of the arts in our quest for social transformation, and I have to agree with my future wife, Samantha Tan, who is an artist herself – “We’ve exhausted out left-brain approach, linearity found its limits and the problems that we face are now calling on our full self, art is the way.”