Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cybernetics - new books

ASC President Ranulph Glanville writes:

I would like to bring to your attention two publishing ventures.

The first is the Echoraum WISDOM series of books.

These concentrate on second order cybernetics and consist of a mixture of new work and critiques and appreciations of those who have gone before. The series of 18 books which, when the covers are put together, make a full reproduction of Breughel’s Tower of Babel. There are a couple of further books which include the book outcome of our {ASC} Troy conference, Trojan Horses: we have ordered copes for all members and you will get these as soon as we can organise cheap postage, in the new year. Please make sure that we have a good address for you.

Amongst the publications is a selection of my papers in 3 volumes called collectively The Black Boox. You can buy the volumes separately, or subscribe to a collectors version with the 3 volumes with black covers in a black box (a self-referential pun), signed by the “artist”. The special offer price runs out on 18th November.

The books (full set) can be found here.  The special edition is noted here where you will also find Trojan Horses.
The second is the English language version of the Heinz/Karl and Albert Mueller book, The Beginning of Heaven and Earth has No Name. You can pre-order the book here.

This is a book with a strong ASC connection. Heinz, of course, and the Muellers who are both trustees of the society. Bruno Clark, recently elected a trustee, too, is series editor. The German version of the book dates back to the 1990s: we have waited a long time.

The publication details are:

Heinz von Foerster (edited by Albert Mueller and Karl H Mueller), The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name, Fordham University Press, NY

Monday, November 18, 2013

Living in Change

Is the title of the 50th anniversery conference of the ASC (American Society of Cybernetics) which will be held in Washington D.C. between 03-Aug-2014 and 09-Aug-2014.

In outline, the conference is organised around a main event (4 to 8 August) consisting of paper sessions (4 and 5 August); a day for the telling of the ASC story by past presidents and other elder states people moving into dreams for the future (6 August, our anniversary day); and a session for the future (7 and 8 August) in which we consider how to bring cybernetics and learning together in all aspects of education. There will also be pre- and post-conference days (3 and 9 August). In addition, the ISSS conference will be on Long Island, just before the ASC conference, for those who would like to go to both.

More details shortly.

Flexible learning: six new ideas

A recent HEA (Higher Education Academy) report highlighted in this Guardian article elaborates six new ideas for flexible learning, arguing that "flexibility should be seen as a skill in its own right, rather than a method of teaching"  The six areas are:

  • Learner empowerment – actively involving students in learning development and processes of co-creation
  • Future-facing education – enabling people to think critically, creatively and flexibly to generate alternative visions of the future
  • Decolonising education – extending intercultural understanding and experiences of students so they can be sensitive to global ways of working
  • Transformative capabilities – seeing capabilities not just as abilities but being able adapt a skill to be used in both familiar and unfamiliar circumstances
  • Crossing boundaries – to support interdisciplinary, interprofessional and cross-sectoral learning
  • Social learning – developing cultures and environments for learning that harness the emancipatory power of spaces and interactions outside the formal curriculum, particularly through the use of new technologies and co-curricular activities. 
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is held up as an exemplar.  I would claim that our STiP (Systems Thinking in Practice) Postgraduate programme, like ESD, offers many, perhaps all, of these flexibilties. We would certainly like to further strengthen moves in this direction in time.  See for example the following chapter which relates to one of the core offerings in the programme:

Blackmore, C.P. & Ison, R.L. (2012) Designing and developing learning systems for managing systemic change in a climate change world. In Wals, A. & Corcoran P.B. eds. Learning for sustainability in times of accelerating change. pp. 347-364.  Wageningen Academic Publishers, Education and Sustainable Development Series, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Based on our OU experience with Systems education I would suggest that the researchers have missed one key 'flexibility' that of epistemological flexibility - the ability to appreciate one's epistemological commitments and traverse  multiple epistemologies. This is a flexibility that the STiP programme sets out to address.

My thanks to Chris Blackmore for alerting me to this report.

Leverage Networks

'November 14, 2013 (Boston, MA): 
Leverage Networks, Inc. announces that it is reinventing the core business of the former Pegasus Communications, Inc., through a new, online platform. Having acquired most assets of Pegasus, including The Systems Thinker® newsletter, publications, webinars and other resources, the new company is focusing on creating effective change by spreading the use of Organizational Learning, Systems Thinking, System Dynamics, and related fields by providing relevant, accessible resources and support. The new company will be led by Rebecca Niles (Co-President), Kristina Wile (Co-President), and Kathleen Skaare (Marketing and Operations Director). Early advisers include industry thought leaders and former Pegasus board members: LeAnne Grillo, Ginny Wiley, Dave Packer, and Elayne Dorsey. Investors include Ohana Holdings LLC, an investing arm of Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay.
Leverage Networks will launch an interactive online platform (www.leveragenetworks.com) for information hosting, community building and referral services supporting the broader Systems Thinking communities in an effort to increase adoption of the field. The platform will include many of the original publications as well as new digital and physical media such as articles, games, webinars, videos, interactive mobile apps, a matching service for coaches and practitioners, and an industry event calendar. For more information about the launch of Leverage Networks, including product sales and partnering information, please contact us: info@leveragenetworks.com'

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sri Lanka - Australia's moral and systemic failure

Those who follow my Blogs will know that I have made several posts relating to the situation in Sri Lanka and Australia's policy position. My motivation comes from having been in Sri Lanka in 1983 just before the so-called 'civil war' erupted. In addition I have close friends and colleagues affected by what has happened, or more importantly what is failing to happen in terms of security, justice and reconciliation. 

For someone with this background it amazes me how poorly understood Sri Lanka is by journalists and politicians alike.  This came home to me in a posting yesterday by BBC correspondent Nick Robinson. What is telling is that in the stories he reported he clearly did not know that there are at least two main Tamil communities in Sri Lanka - those from the north, around Jaffna who have lived there for over 2000 years - and who for much of that time have been marginalised by the majority Sinhala community.  So the conflict, in historical terms is not new. Nor is the ongoing injustice. The other Tamil community are more recent arrivals to the areas around Kandy brought in from India by the British as labour in the tea plantations.  These different histories create different interests and experiences.  If you read Robinson's post the issues become more apparent.

This year Michelle de Kretser's novel 'Questions of Travel' won the Miles Franklin Award in Australia.  One of the protaganists is Sri Lankan and an asylum seeker who ends up in Australia, by plane as it happens rather than boat. However the novel captures well the fear that drove him to Australia and the degradation he had to endure to arrive.  It is hard to imagine that anyone in Australia who has read this novel can be fooled by the idea that supporting an authoritarian regime and providing military boats to keep those who are oppressed within has any moral integrity.  But what about those who don't read novels? How much longer can the simplistic framing of the issues by this, and previous Australian government be sustained?  

To date I have not had much time for David Cameron's policies but his stance and actions in his CHOGM visit are to be admired.  The contrast with Tony Abbot is telling and compelling. It is hard to imagine that Abbot has gained the ego boost that sustains him in a context where CHOGM was rejected by the Queen, the Indian PM, the Canadian PM and Mauritius.  To be in Rajapakse's good books is in international circles a badge of dishonour. In creating the circumstances where it was offered and then accepted our PM dishonours all Australians. 

The British media have also been more professional and incisive in their reporting.  In contrast much Australian reporting has reeked of self censorship. An exception is the excellent, nuanced report by Tom Iggulden. To better understand the hypocrisy of Australia's policy stand in recent years turn to this report by Gordon Weiss who argues that:

"... the issue is not CHOGM, but is rather what will happen next with Australia's adopted position on Sri Lanka, pursued by both Labour and Coalition governments since 2009, and the depths of hypocrisy that our own political leaders may shortly be compelled to trawl. Have our political leaders placed short-term domestic political considerations to deal with those thousands of boat people who inundated our shores last year, at some cost to our long-term interests?"