Message found in a bottle of snake oil, in the Sargasso sea…

A friend of mine said, in a lovely,erudite presentation to some very smart folk:

“a weakness of my current thinking is a lack of explicitly encompassing the group, the social.”

Totally agree, we all lack this.

Re-examine page 49 of ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’, written by myself.

Then think about that botanical nostrum – Early Years textbooks teach that there are three kinds of play in young humans and many mammals: 

  • individual play
  • parallel play
  • social play

Know that this is botany – classifying plants by the shape of their leaves. We observe the spots of a leopard, but what is the mechanism that creates them?

What are the primitives, the atomic irreducible processes that underly the phenomena?

We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups. I  suspect they are incommensurable, like weather prediction after Lorenz.

We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups.

This has hamstrung playwork, education, professional football, orchestral performance, NASA budgetary oversight inquiries, Air Accident Investigation, Corporate Fraud Investigation, etcetera etcetera.

There are clues in the Miles Davis approach to group play.

There are clues in Taoism, and Zen.

But as Sapir, Whof and Wittgenstein, and probably Gibson (JJ not W) would tell you, language shapes thought and we do not have the language. 

Try explaining how to put oil into a car without using any car-related, or engine-related words. Go on, try it. Write it down, now go through it and strike out any car-related and engine-related words that crept in. We don’t have a big enough RAM, our short-term memory, to hold even one sentence of the resulting tedious arm-waving stuttering verbiage.

Why doesn’t the world move when I shake my head?

~~~~~~



M’learned friend also said:

“This has many implications, but that main one is that we should judge education by the value created for stakeholders (laudate Tom) – this is fittingly complex and circular. 

NO NO NO, NO!

Very pleased that you rate teecha Tom.

Not stakeholders, feck stakeholders. Leave that to the Tory Goovey Gradgrindians.

I  think you might mean participants? If so then I‘ll semi-agree.

How would you judge a Beth Chatto garden? Answer that and you’ll know how to judge education .

~~~

Read Seedstock by Frank Herbert… full text here… https://momentoftime.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/seed-stock-frank-herbert/

I  cannot link to that story without rereading it, and when I  reread it, I  cannot help but be moved to tears.

~~~

Koan for you: “how can we value things without judging them?” asked the abbot.

Answers on a postcard to my fastness by Ruabon mountain, please, or via ‘e-mail’.

~~~

Smaller Mirrors: shrinking containers, the senescence phase

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/04/republicans-democrats-politics-homeless

trader culture in politics. Jane Jacobs

Adjacent possibles, brittleness fitness landscape. Stuart Kauffman

Life cycles

Evolution only goes forward, like politicians

All things pass gas (apologies to George Harrison)

Collaboration not competition is the way of life

https://slate.com/technology/2020/01/darwin-competition-collaboration-evolutionary-biology-climate-change.html

it’s survival of the best fitted, not fittest, ya morons.

“Fast forward a century and a half, and “survival of the fittest”—the expression social theorist Herbert Spencer coined to sum up Darwin’s thinking—is as much a cultural cliché as it is a scientific theory. Hell, your worst colleague at the office might even offer it as a justification for his one-upmanship. More than just a cliché, though, the supposed naturalness of competition has played a central role in substantiating the laissez-faire variety of capitalism the majority of the American political spectrum has championed for the past four or so decades. Indeed, any non-market-based solution to social issues usually falls prey to claims of utopianism, of ignoring the fundamental selfishness of the human species. Advocates for welfare programs, for instance, often run up against criticism that their policy proposals fail to understand to importance of “losing,” that they lessen the stakes of the competition innate to human social life. Similarly, collectively owned spaces or institutions (like communal land trusts or co-ops) are often presumed short-lived or inefficient, doomed to suffer the “tragedy of the commons” as the innate self-interest of each member leads to an overuse of collective resources—a thesis that has been debunked again and again since its first articulation by Garrett Hardin in 1968. To put it simply, we have let Darwinism set the horizon of possibility for human behavior. Competition has become a supposed basic feature of all life, something immutable,

“Yet new research from across various fields of study is throwing the putative scientific basis of this consensus into doubt. Mind you, there have always been people, scientists and otherwise, who conceived of life outside a Darwinian paradigm—the idea of evolutionary biology is and has been a conversation among a mostly white and male global elite. Yet, even within centers of institutional power, like universities in North America, competition’s position as the central force driving evolution has been seriously challenged recently. In fact, criticisms have been mounting at least since biologist Lynn Margulis began publishing in the late ’60s.”

blind men and elephants, naah… it’s worse 

blind men and elephants, naah… it’s worse
it’s more like people living at the bottom of their own private mineshaft,
gazing up at the flickers of light far above them,
like victorian families viewing daguerreotypes
projected by candle flame via an epidiascope.
Like this herbert…

​who obviously hasn’t read this ‘product’..​.

The Origins of Order – Stuart A. Kauffman – Oxford University …

https://global.oup.com › product › the-origins-of-order-9780195079517

​or maybe he has, but he certainly hasn’t read …
Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (1992) ISBN 0-679-74816-4
​or 

The Nature of Economies (2000) New York: Random House, The Modern Library. ISBN 0-679-60340-9

…or maybe he has, and does not acknowledge it. Aeon should be ashamed to publish essays without references.

Another mineshaft dweller

 in his own little academic bubble, 

lord of his tiny intellectual domain. 

Another seeker of the one system, 

the one theory, 

the one ring, 

the theory of everything. 

There are a hundred theories of everything 

and they all hold fragments of the true cross, 

and they are all right in some ways

 and sooo wrong in others.

What is it useful to believe right now, grasshopper? 

Does that make you happy?

​Still, you gorra larf innit?​

Local authorities dwelling sightless in Plato’s cave

ADSS get really grumpy…

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/sep/16/councils-unwittingly-helping-drug-gangs-recruit-children-inquiry-says

“Councils are unwittingly acting as “recruiting sergeants” for drug gangs by sending vulnerable children to care homes miles away from where they live, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

“Thousands of young people who are sent to children’s homes up to 100 miles (161km) from their homes are becoming magnets for paedophiles and gangs who use children to traffic drugs from inner-city areas to provincial towns, according to evidence sent to the all-party parliamentary group for runaway and missing children and adults.

“More than 70% of the 41 police forces that responded to the inquiry said placing children out of area increased their risk of exploitation, often resulting in them being coerced into going missing.”

ADSS spokesdroid grumpily hinted at ‘having words with’…

Rachel Dickinson, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “The suggestion in this report that local authorities are acting as ‘recruiting sergeants’ is wholly inappropriate and we are in dialogue with the report authors directly.”

Social workers would be struck dumb if they couldn’t use ‘inappwopwiate’ and ‘dialogue’ going forward…

If the ADSS had any understanding of networks, predator- prey interactions and autopoiesis, and

If they had any youth workers, and

If they listened to their youth workers

They could easily have seen this coming…

If you contract out your service delivery, you contract out your sensory apparatus.

You might think that monitoring is your sensory apparatus, but it don’ work like dat. Blakemore’s infamous experiments on blinded kittens (I know, don’t tell me, tell him) demonstrate that the visual system remains unformed if it isn’t able to autopoietically and cybernetically interact with the locomotor system. You can’t separate learning from doing as I said in 1995 in my Manifesto for Learning.

A kid hits another kid…obvious, yes?

Kevin Johnson, a friend of mine, a parent and ex-playworker in the UK’s West Midlands, asked a deceptively SIMPLE question which turned out to be more COMPLICATED than at first sight. A lot of playwork is like that. It appears CHAOTIC, you wish there was more ORDER and you’ll fail if you can’t get your thinking gear around the nature of COMPLEXITY, so have a read of this stuff, that might:
  1. help
  2. do your head in.
Kevin asked:

“Let’s say you witnessed a kid hitting another kid or something to that effect deliberately. Would you make the kid apologise?”

Depends, depends, context, etcetera.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to decide what to do? Well, there isn’t. But there is a complicated, if not actually complex, ‘sense-making’ model that can help.

Complex is not just a posh way of saying complicated – you need to grasp that firmly. Have a read-up…

https://www.google.com/search?q=complicated+v+complex&oq=complicated+v+complex&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.6172j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

These items seem reasonably helpful and not too misleading…

https://www.inc.com/theodore-kinni/smart-leaders-know-the-difference-between-complex-.html

http://learningforsustainability.net/post/complicated-complex/

Anyway, that model. It’s the Cynefin framework from David Snowden, who, like the mountain, is Welsh. It’s pronounced Kunevin, roughly. Here are two diagrams which give you a hint of what it’s about. It’s a business model, developed to support leaders and strategists making decisions in complexificatified situations, so it’s a bit of a stretch to apply it to playwork, yet that’s what I do. The keyword in all of this is SENSE-MAKING.

A lot of the time the sense we make is nonsense or worse. ‘Common sense’ hmmm, as my gran woodov said, it’s ‘common’  as in there’s a lot of it about and it’s not very good.

Wrap your visual acquisition system round these, and note that, to confuse the English, he changes the labels now and then. The one on the left is the latest labelling, the content, like the song, remains mainly the same…

cynefin diagrams

These links might help you think it through…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_framework

https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making

https://medium.com/@jamieschwandt/cynefin-framework-a-quick-and-different-look-bd10ede26693

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/November-December-2018/Schwandt-Wei-Chi/source/post_page—————————/

Oh, and please, don’t complain about the military/battle/war/death/killing/not nice aspects of these applications of his model. It’s a tool, like that hammer you just used to repair that dangerous platform on your playground. Hammers can kill or mend. “Tools don’t kill people, people kill people” to misquote that git, Charlton Heston. If the war stuff winds you up you’ll love this:

Leader's_Framework_for_Policing_Protest.gifBy Maxgeron – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55158193

So, back to Kevin’s question, let’s try to make some sense of it. Is his situation… complex, complicated, chaotic or obvious?

Clue – it’s not obvious, sorry.

About the only thing in playwork that is obvious is locking the office when there’s nobody in it and turning off the lights when you go home.

Have fun, and if you get stuck, my easy-to-read cult classic,  ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’ is still available secondhand. Go to abebooks.co.uk, not Amazon.

I’d be fascinated to hear from anyone if they find any of this stuff useful…

 

 

 

Who shall we blame for the way you turned out, hmm…?

“And we are products of years of programming by our parents, by our revisionist history public and private schooling, and by the media, so it stands to reason that some embarrassingly stupid shit is going to come out of our mouth on occasion.”

Really?

If that’s true, it means you are f*cked.

But it isn’t.

That isn’t how socialisation works.

It’s both worse and better and more complex than that.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally support what the writer is trying to achieve.

https://armyofjane.com/2019/07/13/on-being-problematic/

But the biggest single influence on how we turn out might be none of the above: it might be your peers.

Read some Judith Rich Harris.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/parents-peers-children/

Superb work, I have one caveat, My take is that she needs to broaden the term ‘peers’, to include anyone that influences them in their daily life. It’s not just other children, it’s other significant people, grandparents obviously, but also the nice man in the corner shop, the grumpy lady at the post office, the crabby bloke who sits at you for playing near his car.

But mainly, OTHER CHILDREN, not media, not school, other kids.

Now think through the implications of that…

Here’s the Conversation We Really Need to Have About Bias at Google

By Farhad Manjoo

https://medium.com/the-new-york-times/heres-the-conversation-we-really-need-to-have-about-bias-at-google-ca6cf00f63b3

President Trump’s charges that Google shows anti-conservative search bias is wrong. But Google may well be biased against minorities and others who lack real-world power. Go to the profile of The New York Times The New York Times Aug 31, 2018

~

(note to lawyers – entire article lifted from Medium/NYT, will be taken down immediately if asked!)

~

Let’s get this out of the way first: There is no basis for the charge that President Donald Trump leveled against Google this week — that the search engine, for political reasons, favored anti-Trump news outlets in its results. None.

Trump also claimed that Google advertised President Barack Obama’s State of the Union addresses on its home page but did not highlight his own. That, too, was false, as screenshots show that Google did link to Trump’s address this year.

But that concludes the “defense of Google” portion of this column. Because whether he knew it or not, Trump’s false charges crashed into a long-standing set of worries about Google, its biases and its power. When you get beyond the president’s claims, you come upon a set of uncomfortable facts — uncomfortable for Google and for society, because they highlight how in thrall we are to this single company, and how few checks we have against the many unseen ways it is influencing global discourse.

In particular, a raft of research suggests there is another kind of bias to worry about at Google. The naked partisan bias that Trump alleges is unlikely to occur, but there is a potential problem for hidden, pervasive and often unintended bias — the sort that led Google to once return links to many pornographic pages for searches for “black girls,” that offered “angry” and “loud” as autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “why are black women so,” or that returned pictures of black people for searches of “gorilla.”

I culled these examples — which Google has apologized for and fixed, but variants of which keep popping up — from “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” a book by Safiya U. Noble, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication.

Noble argues that many people have the wrong idea about Google. We think of the search engine as a neutral oracle, as if the company somehow marshals computers and math to objectively sift truth from trash.

But Google is made by humans who have preferences, opinions and blind spots and who work within a corporate structure that has clear financial and political goals. What’s more, because Google’s systems are increasingly created by artificial intelligence tools that learn from real-world data, there’s a growing possibility that it will amplify the many biases found in society, even unbeknown to its creators.

Google says it is aware of the potential for certain kinds of bias in its search results, and that it has instituted efforts to prevent them. “What you have from us is an absolute commitment that we want to continually improve results and continually address these problems in an effective, scalable way,” said Pandu Nayak, who heads Google’s search ranking team. “We have not sat around ignoring these problems.”

For years, Noble and others who have researched hidden biases — as well as the many corporate critics of Google’s power, like frequent antagonist Yelp — have tried to start a public discussion about how the search company influences speech and commerce online.

There’s a worry now that Trump’s incorrect charges could undermine such work. “I think Trump’s complaint undid a lot of good and sophisticated thought that was starting to work its way into public consciousness about these issues,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia who has studied Google and Facebook’s influence on society.

Noble suggested a more constructive conversation was the one “about one monopolistic platform controlling the information landscape.”

So, let’s have it.

On the power of just being there, when a child is in distress… and childrearing is not just for parents.

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/04/new-research-on-disciplining-children-will-make-you-better-parent-and-spouse/

I’m really fed up with all these parenting experts. Everybody yammering away, demanding that you fix your kids. Other people who aren’t parents can also help!

It is said that “it takes a village to raise a child”, and this has become an enervated cliché. Judith Rich Harris, in her book The Nurture Assumption, contends that children are raised by their peers, not their parents. You only have to look at how little time kids spend with mum and dad these days to realise that school and friends must have a significant influence as well.

Notice this word ‘parenting’. It’s a thing parents do, therefore! If we call it parenting we are embedding the idea that parents are the only people who can do it, or should do it. You are a parent, it’s your job! You are not a parent, it’s not your business! This is nonsensical and counterfactual. It ignores the potential involvement of all the other significant adults in the child’s life.

People like older brothers and sisters, and grandparents, and teachers and family friends, and as we shall see in a moment, playworkers.

Can we stop calling it parenting? I have developed a conceptual aversion to nouns being turned into verbs. Let’s call it childrearing. Not a thing reserved for biological parents. Which is just as well, because if yours are absent you can’t be parented, can you?

Childrearing. Who can do it, who does do it?

Jane Jacobs, in The Death And Life Of Great American Cities, describes how all the others that children meet as they make their way on the streets make a contribution to the socialisation of the child. Imagine a spoilt brat, who is given everything they need by doting parents. Now imagine this brat throwing a wobbly in the corner shop. A learning experience for them, yes? Tantrums don’t work on strangers. Through these everyday interactions with people who aren’t parents, children learn to get on with others. It’s socialisation, something that just happens, not something that parents can command and control like managerial managers at work.

But those adults can’t be expected to be supportive when a child is having a meltdown in their shop. Though they may care about the child, because humans do, their main focus is not the child it’s their customers and their shop.

Everybody has an agenda, except one, because they aren’t trying to educate or control or whatever: playworkers.

It’s unfortunately true that some playworkers have been channeled into becoming childcare workers, and thus an agenda had crept in. I’m not taking about them.

I’m talking about those playworkers who are still free to facilitiate {deleted: ‘allow’ replaced with ‘facilitate’} children to play freely. A vanishing breed.

The article I’m pointing you to is pretty witless. It’s based on the assumption that everything is down to the hovering parent to fix. It’s like every neurotic parent has Fix You by those mawkish poshboys Coldplay on repeat all day. Over-parenting is part of the problem, it’s not the solution. But buried in this tiger-mom piffle is an important insight, drawn from some fascinating brain scan research:

Because neurons wire and rewire themselves very rapidly when we are young, Siegle’s results, supported by numerous follow-up studies, suggest that an adult, by establishing a connection with a child at a moment of stress or conflict, can actually stimulate development in the parts of the child’s brain that control emotional regulation.

Translate that into the playwork context and you have a fundamentally under-appreciated contribution that playworkers can make in the lives of the children they work with.

Unlike parents and other authority figures, playworkers are expert in what Gordon Sturrock has called ‘witnessing’, the simple act of being there, being on hand, non-judgementally.

And this research validates the importance of this playwork role.

______________

NB:

I’m not that happy with this piece. I’m not convinced that I’ve got my point across. I’d appreciate any comments from readers and friends that will help me improve it.

Childrensaving and Ship Building (NB: it’s Shipbuilding, all one word)

Currently, Wallsend is having its children saved. Hurrah.

Childrensaving is happening, thanks to a government-funded programme, delivered by a national children’s charity, saviours of  children, heroes in their own lunchtime {a lunch of rocket, kale and organic polenta, to be precise}.

This is part of the ongoing long-term —some things are long-term, aren’t they— the ongoing long-term deracination and outsourcing of the role of local government in the public realm.

Successive governments, red and blue and yellow, have decided that local government can’t be trusted. Central government prefers to impose 3rd sector agencies from London on communities, because local government is infested with a ‘can’t-do’ mentality and is bogged down in local politics and can’t make the thrusting managerialist interventions, on absurdly short timescales [ie. before the next election], that politicians command but can’t control.

If you wanted to talk about shipbuilding to people in Wallsend, which is the topic today, BTW, you might start by learning that shipbuilding is all one word, it’s not Ship Building. A ship building would be the hut in which you keep your little rowing boat, by a river bank. Or is it riverbank? A river bank would be a bank in which you keep rivers, or something.

So anyway, here is The Theory Which Will Transform Wallsend, starting from the ‘Past Context’ of “Ship Buildings (Lost)”…Wallsend Children_s Community Initial Overarching Theory of Change

And here is another Theory of Change…

 

You’re all busy people who don’t have time to listen to some bloody lefty pop song from 1982, so here’s the lyrics for all you busy managers who need it one side of A4 by 9 o’clock tomorrow morning…

Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding
Well, I ask you
The boy said, Dad, they’re going to take me to Task
But I’ll be back by Christmas?
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of  The shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture postcard
Within weeks, they’ll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin, once again
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
When we could be diving for pearls
When we could be diving for pearls

 

https://www.quantamagazine.org

https://www.quantamagazine.org/first-support-for-a-physics-theory-of-life-20170726/

First Support for a Physics Theory of Life

July 26, 2017

Take chemistry, add energy, get life. The first tests of Jeremy England’s provocative origin-of-life hypothesis are in, and they appear to show how order can arise from nothing.

Great Big Story : A Fold Apart: Origamist Robert Lang’s Incredible Paper Creations

https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/folded-universe-the-astonishing-beauty-of-origami

Just astonishing.

And the practical applications are also breathtaking.

Organisation, management. 

One side of A4 indeed, o, managers.