The Perception of Leadership on Group Relations

Back in April I had the chance to attend the most known conference on group relations – it was a 2-week residential training hosted by the Tavistock Institute and this week they released the brochure for the Leicester Brochure 2013 [pdf].
The text below is a section of my report of the experience.

Leading and Following at the Conference

My perception of leadership and followership at the conference had to do with people or groups of people who decided to take risks, either by making a declaration, a choice or performing a physical action.

Taking risks may link to the idea of leading through example: acting and inspiring action in others.

I witnessed examples of tentative leadership that worked and some that didn’t and I won’t be able to highlight the characteristics of the people or situation that made a leadership move ‘work’, but it was clear that some people had more authority than others and some risks were perceived as more powerful than others as well.

The two situations I was involved that could be linked to leadership in groups are below:

  1. During one of the open plenaries where an intense discussion was happening, I took the lead in leaving the room with a statement of support of other people’s work and an eagerness to start working.

    This move seems to have spoken to the group as people who joined me in a smaller group started calling it ‘my’ group and declared they followed me because I seemed to be know what I was doing. The latter, as any ‘leader’ knows, wasn’t — and isn’t always — the case.

  2. Almost by the end of the whole conference, I left one of the sessions with other people to go back to a previous unfinished task and invite the conference staff to co-design the closing plenary on the day before last.

    When I was presenting my idea as an opportunity of co-design and participation for my current group, the response was a strong opposition and critique that was beyond expected.

    Later we reflected together and apparently there was a feeling of abandonement rather than a member of the group engaging in a task that could benefit the whole member’s community.

    It took me some time to recover from the shock of being told off with such negative energy. My luck was that this reaction was exactly the same a colleague got when presenting to her group. Having someone else to share my outside-ness was key to support us in keep going.

    Our intervention was later appreciated as an initiative to include conferene members in the overall design of the sessions.

Leadership from the Field

So here are the ‘leadership from the field’ tips 🙂

  • Listen to what is happening to you and to others and take action at the time that appears appropriate. If the listening is accurate and the time is precise, it is your action that will inspire the action of others.
  • Expect opposition and critique of your actions as much as adoration and respect. Being too focused in either is a mistake. Focus on the critique (that will always be there) and you stop listening to what is important; focus on the adoration and it becomes about you something that does not belong to you.
  • There will be times of doubt. For those times you have to find the people, space, ritual, etc that will bring remembrance. Those are colleagues, friends, partners, God, etc. Listen to them.
from ethanmcgrath.blogspot

On Diversity, Resilience and the Growth of Anxiety

Society can become more resilient from environmental changes if its elements can respond better to its perturbations. The ability to listen to those changes increase if there is a more diverse group of listeners and more active subsystems in society.

This diversity implies a more responsive and therefore more resilient society.

Diversity is often used as a way to differentiate elements of a system by identifying (naming) a contrast. Contrasts are born as a result of agreements in how we make this differentiation and they are recognized as truth (or wise) when they bring light into a “difference that makes a difference”.

”Wisdom is the sense of fitness of things. It’s how they fit together nicely at this time and context.” In conversation with David Reis in Sweden

People being able to reach new agreements and name different contrasts are the basis of diversity in communication.

But diversity is not only here in the sense of having a number of different elements. It is also how society communicates the events it produces or its interpretations of environmental changes. Diversity relates to the choices of differences we choose to pay attention to, but more importantly it relates to the possibilities of multiple differentiations of the same event.

The increase of diversity also increases the level of complexity in a system. Exploring social systems as systems of meaning, diversity is in communications rather than related to characteristics of elements. A more diverse social society contains multiple stories and multiple languages being expressed simultaneously.

Limiting Diversity, Anxiety Reduction and Trust

From the perspective of the system, it is not clear if diversity and complexity are limited to the point of ‘workable’ complexity or if people are only able to identify differences until a certain extent.

For the individual, higher complexity implies dealing with more uncertainty and is an invitation for anxiety.

Higher diversity is suppressed, both by individuals and society, in order to reduce anxiety, to reduce complexity at human workable levels. So it is not correct to say that the growth of diversity is always desirable, but it is clear that lack of diversity transforms both living and meaning systems in more fragile ones.

Trust and faith may be the elements used to sit with complexity, including coping with certain anxiety, in a way that diversity is not overly suppressed. Both are, in a way, securing a more positive prediction of the future.

In Hosting Learning, we should allow spaces where trust can be built and where anxiety can sit in the room.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere about Diversity and Resilience

by Jason A. Samfield

Coalitions and Change in our Systems

Last weekend a group gathered in the south of Sweden to explore society as a system and how we can make coalitions to scale up our work towards supporting it to thrive.

Here are some of my explorations based on the group’s reflections. Quotes are based on direct contributions from participants.

How do we change our Systems?

Explorations went around both changes perceived to come from outside and inside the systems we are in.

We have heard stories about changes in the system coming from stronger environmental changes or constraints that invited the system to adapt (example of How Cuba Survived Peak Oil).

We also explored the role of listening with attention from within so we can identify the cracks in the system that might lead to change. The cracks would be the people and places where we invest our energy.

What are the coalitions we have to make to change our systems?

Who should be with us? How can we identify them? We explored the difference between inviting people who are ready instead of the process of identifying people.

Focusing on listening and supporting people with similar frequencies would empower the creation of “multiple alternatives to allow transition to the new”.

The invitation to others is to stand with us in coalition in a place of “turbulence at the edge of the unknown”. The question then became “How do we invite people to come along in an uncertain journey?” and also “What do we need to cope with uncertainty ourselves?”.

What are the signs that I smell in the system that make me stay?

We also explored the question of the decision of staying within the system or leaving. When is it better to stay and how does that reflect in personal sacrifice and compromise? When is it better to walk away and focus our energy in another place? What is it that I identify in a system that makes me stay?

On the last question:

  • I stay in the system when my inputs are valid and when there is a sense of movement and openness to explore;
  • When my personal goal has a place in the organisational goal;
  • When there are strong relationships;
  • When there is sense of being at service, of making ‘essential’ contributions to the whole.

Turbulence at the Edge of the Unknown

At this time, these are the points for reflection in how we create spaces for coalitions to emerge and how we scale up our work towards a more thriving society:

  1. Listen and resonate with the environment so we can find and create cracks in systems;
  2. Naming alternatives to allow the creation of meaningful new paths;
  3. Focus in doing what we are doing and nothing else – Pay Attention;
  4. Support similar frequencies in the system – put energy in what you want to see growing;
  5. Make an invitation to whoever is ready and host the space no matter how many people come.
from hateandanger.wordpress

More Poetic Communications

When I wrote about Poetic Communications a couple of weeks ago, it was indeed a mix of many parallel readings I have been doing and I decided to connect them here by using some interesting quotes.

Type of Events for Poetic Communications

This has to do with events that are not deterministic but emergent. For them, a teleological approach towards ‘development’ or ‘progress’ does not apply. Rather, we are talking about a continuous process of change.

A teleological approach to change presumes that change is the servant of ideal states, or goals; phenomena are more or less “pulled” toward an ideal outcome. By contrast, indeterminacy presumes that change is not directed toward some necessary or ideal end state; rather, change involves ongoing quantitative and qualitative shifts that simply move a system to a different place.[1]

We are less skilled in working in the realm where events are indeterminate because we have an illusion of control of events we are more able to predict. In social systems, because the observer of the system is always placed within the system itself, complexity is at a higher order and can’t be grasped by the planner.

No society so far has been able to organize itself, that is to say to choose its own structures and to use them as rules for admitting and dismissing members. Therefore, no society can be planned. This is not only to say that planning doesn’t attain its goals, that it has unanticipated consequences or that its costs will exceed its usefulness. Planning society is impossible because the elaboration and implementation of plans always have to operate as processes within the societal system.

Trying to plan the society would create a state in which planning and other forms of behavior exist side by side and react on each other. Planners may use a description of the system, they may introduce a simplified version of the complexity of the system into the system. But this will only produce a hypercomplex system which contains within itself a description of its own complexity. The system then will generate reactions to the fact that it includes its own description and it will thereby falsify the description. Planners, then, will have to renew their plans, extending the description of the system to include hyper complexity.

They may try reflexive planning, taking into account reactions to their own activity. But, in fact, they can only write and rewrite the memories of the system, using simplistic devices which they necessarily invalidate by their own activity.[2]

Not Knowing is the Rule

In this type of systems, not knowing is the rule. Instead of applying known models and repetitions, the work is to listen for the way things connect differently and name it. Poetic communications is used here in the sense of using language to author the world, of “innovating” by naming the unknown.

What matters in new learning is not repetitions and regularities. What matters is the occurrence of new distinctions, of new relations and connections, or of differences that makes a difference. […] They do so working poetically: that is, by bringing together two or more situations not usually juxtaposed.[3]

And with not knowing comes anxiety, which is precisely the next skill everyone will be looking forward to master: how to acknowledge anxiety and sit with it.

The way to perceive the new and to author ourselves is the way of not knowing, listening actively and naming poetically.

Other Communications and Hosting Learning

It is important to stress, however, that poetic communications do not diminish the importance of other communications and it’s not a dualism with being knowledgeable about things. On the other hand, it does mean that one can’t be knowledgeable about certain things, and it’s not only the weather we are taking about here.

We have been trained to show ourselves as knowledgeable and to avoid anxiety at all costs by relying on predictions and models and by re-producing known structures.

To better host learning we need to better acknowledge the times of not-knowing, un-modelling and un-structuring – with that comes un-learning of what chain us to the the same old distinctions and open doors to the new.

by pierre pouliquin

Poetic Communications

Not so long ago I used to joke with colleagues that we were going to so many meetings that it was almost impossible to work.

Like many, I was blind to the fact that our conversations during the meetings were in fact the most important part of our work.

Words have the Power of Actions

Co-ordinating our actions and language were most of the work at the time and continue to be today. Having more meetings were not a way to avoid the manual work that should be done, but a way to address the need for more coordination of actions, need of conversational work.

It is common to hear people say: enough words, time for action. On the other hand, words have the power to be valid actions and can change things.

Imagine the power of a country’s declaration of independence or a multi-million business proposal. They both have to be carried forward by changing, respectively, the political and economical systems from which they depend, but it all starts with the act of speech.

So although we can agree and have been claiming that “in the beginning was the deed”, we are also exploring words as actions and generators of possibilities.

More and more we are witnessing working relations that depend upon conversational skills. But there is more to it – the process of generating new possibilities in the workplace are also happening everywhere you find people communicating.

Words Changing our Social Systems

If we consider our created social systems as being systems constituted by communications, the words and utterances that we produce within our systems are both a re-creation of the system structure and the open door for creation of new possibilities.

It works paradoxically – we choose the words we want to use in order to define a system that is less complex that the environment that contains it. That simplifies complexity on one hand, but also makes things more complex to deal with as we are never know if our choice has included all the relevant elements or if it can respond to all environment’s perturbations.

There is no way around it. We can have creative conversations within the systems, but as they are bound by the communications within the system itself, the relevant changes in structure are more about adaptations than human agency.

That implies saying that systems of society merely respond to requests from its environment to change. Change is constant but it is less connected to our decisions and choices and more to what is needed in order to the system to replicate itself.

Poetic Communications may be the way around it

I’ve been always a fan of informal conversations to contemplate my relationship with others and the world of others.

This is not usually the type of conversation that you have in the workplace when you are searching for a solution to a problem or a new design of a product. Not also the type you necessarily find during Friday’s happy hour.

It has intentionality and freedom in this one and I will address it by ‘poetic communications’.

Poetic communications are not part of the subsystems of society. They do not solve business problems or issues of law; they do not grant you a diploma either. Although they are still bound by the way we communicate, they hold less constraints in the directions they can unfold because they are not so closely connected to a need for a subsystem to re-produce itself.

Poetic communications are the way to both learning and social change.

Creating Spaces for Poetic Communications

I believe that poetic communications are the spaces and conversations we should be hosting so we can learn by listening to each other and the world. There is always the job of translating this new language to the subsystems of society, but we are way more skilled on those kind of conversations.

There is no manual for poetic communications, but here are the characteristics that come to mind when I think of them:

  • The call for conversation should come from listening and curiosity, a result of putting our ears to the ground together with a spark of “I wonder…”;
  • The invitation should have a question on its core and go out to the curious community of the world;
  • Time should be plenty, perhaps a good weekend where you sleep twice. It works like slow food: better if you buy the ingredients, cook together and finish with Sunday lunch;
  • No one is selling anything and no certificate is given. Learning is a collective responsibility and people take and offer what they have at hand;
  • The intentionality of shared learning is the most valuable outcome, but other representations can communicate the poetry to the world;
  • People always have a good time.

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by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE

The Stupid Company or the Myth of Collective Intelligence?

Here is my exploration with the eyes of hosting learning spaces to the Blog Carnival proposed by eCollab.

In theory, everyone is for the learning organization or the mobilization of collective intelligence. How could you be against it? Would that make you in favour of the “stupid organization”? Yet few organizations have developed a model for a sustainable learning organization. So, is collective intelligence a myth? What are the reasons for successive failures at attempts to implement the learning organization? How can this be fixed?

Those two terms, learning organisation and collective intelligence, carry lots of interpretations, insights and fantasies. I will add more to it 🙂 with a dialogical perspective and then look at the question of implementation of a learning organisation.

A Learning Organisation is not an Organisation made to Learn

Organisations do not have learning as the centre of what they do. Organisations are purposeful systems, contructs of people who want to perfom a function together. That central function is never about learning (not even schools and universities have learning as their raison d’etre).

As ‘learning organisation’ I will then assume we are talking about a group of people working to adapt its designed system (structures and communications) towards a certain level of alignment with its environment.

If learning does not happen, the group ceases to coordinate their actions in a meaninful way with the environment and ceases to exist. If we look at a designed system as a narrative, adaptative learning is always generative learning.

While people in organisations will always learn, the only way learning can influence structures and communications in designed systems is if we hold spaces to re-design and co-design.

Even if we don’t create an organisations with the purpose of learning, we can design an organisation where opportunities for learning are at hand.

There is an important work in generating learning opportunities or acknowledging learning in organisations today. Besides that, it is crucial that the design allow for spaces of redesign where learning about the organisational system can happen.

Spaces of design benefit from structures where power is more distributed than concentrated and where a variety of voices can contribute to the interpretation of the system’s narrative.

Individual Intelligence is a Myth

Check the questions that are posed by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence:

What would it mean for a group of people to be “intelligent”? For instance, if a single superhuman intelligence had access to all the knowledge and resources of a company like IBM or General Motors, what would it do? What strategies would it pursue? How quickly could it respond to changes in the marketplace? How productively could it use factories and money? How profitable would it be? And-most importantly-how closely could we approximate the behavior of this imaginary superhuman intelligence by cleverly connecting real people and computers?

These questions seem based on the assumption that intelligence relates to knowledge acummulation and/or a systhesis of greater knowledge that could be generated by a superhuman entity.

Making a syntesis of many conciousnesses into one collective consciousness is a road to abstract metaphysic solutions that ends up in stupitidity over time.

To explore many consciousnesses, there is some talk about diversity, but even that can also mean different things.

Diversity can be used as an abstract mathematical concept – there is a positive correlation: higher the diversity, more accurate the answer. Taken this way, the term confirms the assumption of having one overarching entity representing a group of people in synthesis. The synthesis is a creation of a single story that would be the destruction of intelligence over time.

On the other hand, if diversity is situational in time and space, it would mean that individual consciounesses interact in creating the story that integrates that diversity at a certain time. From this perpective it is individual intelligence that is a myth, since nothing is created by one individual consciousness alone.

So if collective intelligence refers to an abstract entity that represents a group, I would think it is a myth. If it is referring to a multitude of entities in a group generating an interpretation, a prediction or an action that can be judged by an observer as intelligent, than it is the only thing that has ever been.

Fixing it

There is a balance between telling your own story of purpose (within the organisation or in your own mind) and listening to what other systems of society are talking about. There is no formula, only a continuous process.

Companies that have no focus don’t last long. Without holding some things in place, we cannot move forward not even in creating the new. An organisation is defined by the boundaries it creates to operate and this definition of boundaries come with the price of less resilience.

Companies that have great focus on what they do tend to have a clear purpose and thrive until a fundamental change makes the focus unclear or irrelevant. Reminds me of the story from Good to Great – companies being consistent as a hedgehog responds to a fox. It makes complete sense for an environment with foxes, but rolling into a ball is not a good strategy in case an earthquake happens. We live in times of both foxes and earthquakes.

We have to constant re-construct organisations. Rather than fixing, organisations should have clear spaces for re-construction. It might be a fix, it might be a rebuild or just a change in colour – but it is only through a place where engaged multiple intelligences can generate new narratives that learning at the level of the organisational system can happen.

It is more than doing things more collectively or collaboratively, it is about creating a structure of spaces and opportunities where natural collective learning can happen.

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On How Society Loves to Predict, but It’s All Invented

It is very easy to get caught in the idea that society can predict things that will happen. Stories we tell in our society serve as a predictive tool, a meaningful construct for our minds.

Prediction is really important in order to avoid anxiety. We look at what happens by making sense of the happening in a way that fits or do not fit our expectations.

A lot of uncertainty drives us mad: how do I behave in this society? How do I know that she is qualified? How do I guarantee he will pay?

Society is about the constraints we create to be less anxious. Those creations are coded as systems: cultural, educational, laws and economics, etc.

The Natural Systems

This also applies to what we call nature, the environment of society. In our relationship with nature, we have created a ‘natural system’ that usually is brought into society by a man-made scientific language. Here too we aim to predict natural phenomena to avoid anxiety.

The difference between natural and social systems is that on the former we did create a prediction process to code for the laws of nature that in principle has been serving our purpose for more than a couple of generations.

We are still not able to predict the complexities of hurricanes and some impact of man-made activities, but we can hold the illusion of control by being able to apply causality to most of the natural phenomena after they happen.

With the illusion of prediction comes the illusion of control. The next step is to fantasize that we are able to apply causality before events happen and that we might be able to control them to a certain extent.

Based on the tradition for natural sciences, the social sciences also carry the fantasy of prediction, causality and control.

The Social Systems

Building intention over a designed system is indeed the best we can do to feel we are agents of change, but that does not change the fact that our prediction of how a system will behave is made up by our own minds as much as success in the system is a human construct.

Fail to recognize this is what generates the idea of changing paradigms or the duality tradition-innovation.

In the end it is all invented right at this moment to give meaning to what has just happened. Here are possible two ways our predictions can turn out:

  • If we can interpret the event in a way that confirms or re-confirms our idea of prediction, we can go as far as to say that a theory, a formula was discovered or has emerged as a pattern;
  • If we are unable to narrate the event in a way that we can fit our prediction, we have two options: first is to discard the event as a meaningful one, deleting from the system; second is to create a new interpretation that might serve as our new prediction tool.

This is not to say that we should not continue to plan as if we could control an outcome, it would actually be silly not to. On the other hand, the idea of giving prizes to an outcome that turned out as predicted and punishment to the ones who didn’t will not make any sense.

If that is true, what would happen to society’s heroes and villains, to the child that did well in school and to the entrepreneur that failed on a business venture?

from wikipedia

Ecological Communication | Niklas Luhmann

I read Luhmann’s Ecological Communication following my inquiry on the importance of building trust for a sustainable society. Searching the Web I had the impression that his work would rely on applying the biological concept of autopoiesis to social systems. This is really the case, but his ideas make this connection in a very different way than the one I had imagined.

“Only Communications Communicate”

Luhmann’s theory takes people and their relationships/structures from being the components of a system and puts communications in its place. From this approach, human communication is a closed system that continuously regenerates itself responding to changes in the environment. This self-creation is what makes it autopoietic in the same way living biological systems adapt their processes and structures to respond to their environment.

Because the environment cannot communicate with us, we interpret its change into our system of communications and adapt to it.

Luhmann is not talking about autopoietic organisations with the same eyes system theory looks at it. He is not looking at people or their relationships as components that are autopoietic, but rather communications are the autopoietic components of a system and both people and human consciousness are outside of the system boundaries.

This understanding impacts many theories of consciousness not only about ecological communications but also in the study of social systems in general. It means that human consciousness do not depend on human agency, but rather in a response (that he calls resonance) to events in the environment.

Theories that imply that people work towards becoming more conscious would be an illusion if we accept Luhmann’s theory. Society would be a system that reduces environmental complexity by structurally responding to its disturbances, meaning that the environment that provides us with what we will communicate about rather than humans as agents deciding what to communicate about the environment.

The acceptance of this view can come out as a very pessimistic way of looking at our ecological dangers such as climate change. Pessimistic because it states that it is the danger that will disturb the system (and the system can structurally change to adapt) rather than society purposefully acting on mitigating and preventing climate change.

Critical Comment

A high point on his theory relates to the proposition that human beings are one of the subsystems of society rather than a special agent that defines and controls:

Luhmann’s resolute emphasis on the systemic aspect of modernity diverges from the previous systems theorists’ continued belief in individual consciousness and their sympathetic lip service to the role and significance of the individual¹.

As much as Luhmann’s theory is an interesting alternative to frame how social systems could work, his attempt to bring his ideas to the practical realm are far from exciting. In Ecological Communication he analyses functional systems (Economy, Law, Science, Education, etc) as the given structures under evolution (development? progress?) and place them as responding to binary dialectical contradictions (Economy based on ‘pay or not pay’, Law as ‘legal or illegal’, etc).

It is understandable that his examples of human systems are confined to functional systems of a Western society and that other subsystems could be imagined in place. Nevertheless the necessity of defining a functional system excludes the non-functional parts of society, parts in which communications also communicate.

Community communication (which I assume relates to his “street communications”) and its adaptation to environmental disturbance is considered irrelevant for society in his theory. No functional differentiation, no right to be a valid communication in society.

Also the dialectical distinctions of system functionality could be a source of criticism per se, but even if accepted, the act of choosing a set of functional distinctions rather than others imply the use of a single voice, perhaps a voice of the sociologist, to provide a second-level system of differentiation, something that in my view would contradict his own theory.

In Conclusion

Luhmann’s work seems to show a solid theory of social systems and it is worth reading in order to invite us to another way of framing communication, the formation of systems and our theoretical dependancy in human agency and the questioning of teleological rationality.

On the other hand, Ecological Communication steps on more practical implications with less glamour in making arguable distinctions of human subsystems and defining these subsystems with a monologic voice towards an even more arguable evolutionary journey.

Read More

  • Ecological communication : Buy it on Amazon
  • ¹ Looking for a critique of Ecological Communication? Search for “Neither Cited nor Foundational: Niklas Luhmann’s Ecological Communication; A Critical Exegesis and Some Theoretical Suggestions for the Future of a Field” by Piyush Mathur in The Communication Review Vol. 8, Iss. 3, 2005
by Camdiluv ♥

Convergence and Contrast in Dialogue Conversations

From photography to music to dance, contrast seems to be a key component of the arts.

When this was pointed out to me in a conversation with a painter from Barcelona, I started to notice how much our daily conversations rely on contrasting concepts. I observed people searching for the opposite in order to understand and define.

Initially I thought this might be our cultural devotion to Hegelian dialectics (thesis – antithesis – synthesis), but later I wondered if it is not part of our need for a reference point, a need for contextualisation. An idea would be clear when we can claim similarity or opposition to another that is already part of our daily conversations.

It might be our eagerness to understand, to settle in known grounds the novelty landing in our territory. The division can become a debate based in a dichotomy (splitting into two non-overlapping parts), a discussion in search for middle ground or for dialectical transcendence as in some forms of dialogue. Socratic dialogue and Bohm’s dialogue are both ultimately based on dialectics. A

Used as dualities or complementary opposites, contrast is a way of both scientific Western explorations and Eastern philosophy.

And even if dialectic transcendence seems a perfect construct to explore the world as an ever evolving process, I’m thiking it might hold a tone that is fundamentally monological.

Imagine two or more people bringing their worldviews together and seeking for convergence. Here are some possibilities of what can happen to those people’s worldviews in conversation:

  • If the sense of co-existence of worldviews is lost, dichotomy takes its place and it becomes a matter of one as opposed to the other.
  • If we claim a need for compromise or transcendence, we give up the ability to contrast present worldviews hoping for a compromised unifying view or one that transcends and includes. The latter is metaphysically flawless, but also means many stories become one new truth.
  • If there is co-existence and we settle on a paradox, we need both contrasted worldviews alive and therefore there is no convergence or synthesis.

The way to accomodate convergence in a topic and at the same time hold multiple worldviews seems to take us in a journey to consider looking at things beyond creation of patterns and systems. To take us to consider worldviews as narratives being constantly developed by a multitude of perceptions and consciousnesses.

Instead of a worldview being represented by our social constructions (represented by our many social systems), it could be the narratives that are perceived as the most powerful ones to accommodate our present social communications.

The convergence of worldviews in a specific matter would serve only at the moment of conception and could not be used as data to pattern formation or a creation of a social system. Social systems as structures would then be restricted to spaces and opportunities where many narratives can be recursively updated and shared in the search of the most powerful for the moment to come.

from wikipedia

Harvesting Online as a Collective Learning Practice

Harvesting my Learning Online

It is approaching 5 years since I’ve started to write my thoughts online. An exploration of a journey that started with the first steps and its on the move.

Some asked me: why bother? The answer is two-fold. On one hand it relates to the challenge of unfolding my thoughts for clarity, on the other hand it means a space to design and invite others in.

I’ve never been a writer, all my thoughts have always been confined to doodles on the creative side and bullet points for the pragmatic ones. Writing has been a way of developing ideas on conversations that I’m exposed to and an opportunity to engage with whoever feels called to co-explore.

Why your own space? It is true that I could write notes on Facebook or one community Ning that I’m attracted to, but I wanted to host my own space to invite you to visit me and to connect with spaces that others are hosting around the www.

I wanted to be free to design as much as to write.

Blogging Carnival

Exactly! I am a big fan of blogging platforms because it opens up possibilities for connected individual spaces. It makes the blogosphere multi-voice and also multi-colour.

Working in your own space gets enriched with the exploration and interaction with other people’s spaces, communities of practice, social media, etc. This is one way that spaces get connected.

Curating Content

Another way of getting connected is to read the individual contributions of like minded people aggregated in one place. Many people have been selecting their own content by subscribing to feeds on Google Reader, for example, or using platforms to automatically or manually share articles, tweets and the like.

Curation is the process of selection and aggregation of relevant material for an audience. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you will receive a selection of my personal selection based on my interests.

Manual rather than Automatic

This selection is manual rather than automatic. Automatic platforms like and can do a good job, but their robot minds do not aggregate enough value.

Manual selection of interesting content, on the other hand, can be very time consuming for the individual. There is, of course, ways to make manual curation easier, so the choice of content is done by the individual, everything else goes to the machine.

Collective Curation

I believe that personal blogging should resist the collective massification sometimes offered by social media. Curation today is done either individually or as brand management. I’d like to explore the benefits of curation of content being a collective learning practice.

Imagine if you could receive a weekly e-mail with what your community of like-minded people explored and carefully selected, where colleagues could add comments about the relevance or questions that might have come up while reading.

Thinking of that I stumbled upon a curation platform that automates everything but the choice of interesting articles and have been calling people who are interested in “learning” to join me in selecting and aggregating.

If you read feeds in your computer, this might be something for you and can increase the learning of content aggregation and creation we find today in online communities.

Of course “learning” is my topic of interest and surely are of some others. If it’s yours, join me as a curator for News from the Field. If it’s not, how about create a collective curation space for what your passion is?

I didn’t really get a lot of attention on this Collective Harvest idea – perhaps it’s nonsense, but I believe it’s too futuristic for people to understand. 😉