Now You’re Talk’in My Language: a #rhizo16 preface | or A Case for Interest in a World of Resilience

Yet philosophies of esthetics have often set out from one factor that plays a part in the constitution of experience, and have attempted to interpret or “explain” the esthetic experience by a single element; in terms of sense, emotion, reason, of activity; imagination itself is viewed not as that which holds all other elements in solution but as a special faculty. The philosophies of esthetics are many and diverse. It is impossible to give even a resume of them in a chapter. But criticism has a clue that, if it is followed, furnishes a sure guide through the labyrinth. We can ask what element, in the formation of experience, each system has taken as central and characteristic. If we start from this point, we find that theories fall of themselves into certain types, and that the particular strand of experience that is offered reveals, when it is placed in contrast with esthetic experience itself, the weakness of the theory. For it is shown that the system in question has superimposed some preconceived idea upon experience instead of encouraging or even allowing esthetic experience to tell its own tale.

~ John Dewey, Art as Experience

Simon wants me to contribute to some kind of exquisite corpse

It is some type of preface to #rhizo16

I don’t completely “get” it because he keeps tweeting half of it in French

But then he calls me out directly

I love exquisite corpse

It is one of my favorite parlor games

He linked to a post that I did a year ago when I had this “Salon” at my home. The Salon d’Automne; not because it was held in the fall but because I fancied myself a salonnière. There were a lot of people there – more than I had expected. If you are not familiar with my theory of the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB) it is a simple equation – the more voices you add to a synchronous conversation the more you see a reduction in intimacy in that conversation. It’s a theory – I’m pretty sure someone else already thought of it but I’ve yet to find them. Because of the size of this gathering giving you glimpse of it was hard – hence the exquisite corpse from the post Simon linked to can be helpful – well maybe not so much as the written version.

I don’t really know much about these Salon things. I’m just playing with the ideas. I’m piecing together fragments of popular culture (thank you Woody Allen) and wikipedia articles. Like what is the difference between this salon, this salon, and this salon? And how does that figure into this ongoing bigger picture over history and across countries about art and subjectivity. How does that affect science and objectivity? But I’m not sure what that means – exactly. I just find it curious. Again, I’m just playing with the idea.

I don’t speak French

My grandmother spoke French… Well sort of… When she was mad she would speak French

She didn’t get mad very often

It’s not Simon’s fault that I don’t speak French

I should get off my lazy butt and learn, I suppose

But languages have always been so hard for me

I’ll never forget the Brasilan children making fun of me because I only spoke English

Kids can be cruel – that’s what they always told me anyway

I can’t really participate if I don’t speak the language but how can I speak the language if I don’t participate?

I suppose there are wars fought over such things. I have no interest in war but I wonder if interest is a kind of language? Insomuch as language affords us communication; in that communication gives us a glimpse of what the other is experiencing. And then maybe empathy. And, if it all aligns right, often through the art of conversation – that is the art of not just talking but of listening… then maybe… transmutation. 

But there is a big difference in having an interesting conversation and an uninteresting conversation. Is it wrong of me to mix the ideas of interest and interesting? I’ve been thinking about conversation a lot over the last year. Questions about who gets to talk, and who gets to be heard, and who is listening are interesting to me. My gut tells me that with interest comes passion and attachment and a deep desire to express, be heard, and to listen. And there is something transcendent about it, sometimes – if you go deep. Where the interest takes over and you care more about that thing outside yourself than you care about your own feelings. 

I can’t really participate as fully if I’m not interested but how can I be interested if I don’t participate fully?

So here is where I start to come back to #rhizo16 with it’s focus on resilience

The idea of resilience is all we have to go on right now as Dave Cormier has yet to issue any prompts

(So please understand this preface is blind… but this is the way with the exquisite corpse)

But I tend to think an interesting conversation more resilient than an uninteresting one

Though, what if you need to have a conversation? What if it were in your best interest to have that conversation?

I have no interest in war but does that mean I am excused from the conversation about war?

George Seimens recently presented some thoughts in a post on his blog that stuck out to me in this regard.

“What is our obligation as educators and as researchers to explore research interests and knowledge spaces? What is our obligation to pursue questions about unsavoury topics that we disagree with or even find unethical?”

and then later

“I’m worried that those who have the greatest passion for an equitable world and a just society are not involved in the conversations that are shaping the future of learning.”

The point I took was that those with these great passions for a just society, who should be interested, are not participating in the conversation. I think that George has found some truth in this; I’ve seen evidence of it myself. He attributes it to a lack of integrative systems/networking thinking. I agree we need folks who can see the connections – but it really is quite messy. In thinking about resilience, I have to wonder why these folks with a such a great passion for a just society can’t find inspiration to see those connections and chime in? And then, in thinking about conversation and how it is a process of talking and listening, and in thinking about language, I wonder if there is a lack of interest (or in perceived interest) between those participating and those not participating. Even if it might be in both parties best interest to hear each other out. Maybe it’s not even in the subject but in some aspect of how they are addressing one another – the language that they are using.

What responsibility does Simon have to speak in English?

What responsibility do I have to learn French?

What responsibility do we have to make things interesting for those that need to be at the table?

What responsibility do those that need to be at the table have to sit if they are not interested?

Another post that stood out to me this week was Mike Caulfield writing on the e-Literate blog about personalization where he turns the idea of personalization on it’s side. He roots a great example in a story about his daughter who is starting to make connections between indie rock music (which he is playing in the car to try to convert her) with her physics class.

“It turns out that there’s a number of principles of physics that she remembers through a complex set of associations she’s developed referencing indie rock songs.

Mike makes the point that the personalization of learning should not be tied to isolating what content a student does not know and then giving them pre-canned delivery mechanisms of that content. Rather, it has to do with thinking about who that student is so that they “could get an example that resonates more with their life and doesn’t make them feel unwelcome every time they read the textbook”. 

Again for me, this comes back to interest. Taking interest in the person. Who they are, what their story is, and how can it connect to this thing that we are trying to teach them. What is this person already interested in? How can we help them connect it to things that they don’t think they are interested in but that are in their best interest to have a say in?

Interest and Conversation 

These things are standing out to me

I see Simon talking about something in French and I pay it no mind

Then he calls me out in English and he ties it to something he knows I am interested in – exquisite corpse

So, I start to piece together these ideas that I have encountered over the last week and try to weave them together and here we are – Autumm’s blind preface to #rhizo16

If you don’t like it, blame Simon ;-P

About one year exactly after I held the Salon d’Automne, Bonnie Stewart came to town (thank you alma mater). She used Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak as a metaphor in which to tell her story. The thing that stands out to me is that in the end, again, we have these two groups – this time its those that see value in networked scholarship and those that do not who are struggling through power dynamics and the ability to advance change. 

The IMB was all over the place at this conference of 800 people but I was able to transmute it for a bit. There were no parlor games but there was conversation and art. There was a particular conversation and I’m not sure if I’m going to get this right (a drawback on non-recorded conversations) about the way that change comes about. One that was sort of ‘a given’ was research but the other was conversation… at least that was what I was calling it. I back-channeled Bonnie and asked her to confirm and she said she thought of it more as narrative; the cultural meaning flowing through media and conversation. I found this distinction between conversation and narrative to be important but also this focus on meaning to be an important piece in terms of interest. The fact that meaning exists inside of conversation and inside of media… can we use things like conversation and media to convey meaning and develop interest, to give people a shot at better resilience around unpalatable topics? Maybe. But if so I think it is going to take people with an eclectic base of knowledge that encompasses things like art and music and science and data as well as an ability to empathize with one another and make meaning of those things to relay interest in places that are not necessarily comfortable and to people who are not necessarily interested.

And I know that this post is long but I never did get around to posting that written version of the exquisite corpse from last year’s salon. This piece was composed by various people that attended the 2015 Salon d’Automne at Autumm’s house. The players had to write at least two lines and the entirety of the piece, except the last two lines, were hidden from each player.

The exquisite corpse
Shall drink the new wine
Expensive wine
Cheap wine
With a dark wing
And a baby’s smile
The bay horse moved to the fence line
Milling wheat with its canter
And proceeded to declare
Its independence from the world
“I’m free” he bayed
But wait, he thought, I
have never really been
free,  I have always been
a prisoner of my own mind.
But I walk along the ocean
and understand the universe
The motion, entropy, heat transfer
q=mc∆t. Physics is my God
Six strings buzz buzz buzz; flat
Fingers crawl up the neck; a back
beat counts off timing, by the
hands of the clock and all is silent

Image credit “Beauty” by Stanley Zimny CC BY-NC