Calm is the lamp and insight is the light | THINKING ABOUT DESIGNING                         

I’m  working my way through this:

http://hackdesign.org/lesson/0/   (It’s free, you can too)        

and I’m currently designing some training materials, AND I’m currently designing some events/interventions/processes. I’m avoiding the t-word, because this is not training, this is not teaching,

This IS about

HELPING people

THINK about and

WORK out

WHAT

they are going to

DO

So, I’m watching the superb movie ‘Objectified’, (you can too, it’s free) and the first clip features Dieter Rams, who designed my Braun alarm clock, which has sat by my bedside for maybe THIRTY years, talking about bonsai, and the second clip features Jonny Ive of Apple talking about designing processes, not just objects: about wanting to produce something that isn’t all hysterical and gosh-wow about what it does and how heroic the designers were but rather, something that is calm and considered, and isn’t even there when it doesn’t need to be, something that is both almost inevitable and almost not designed. He gives us the example of the tiny, slowly pulsing sleep indicator light on the front edge of a MacBook, which is only visible when the machine is charged and not in use.

macbook air side view

macbook air

And my calendar today informs me that:

“Calm is the lamp and insight is the light.”

Hui-Neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen     

lamp and light

lamp and light

My eyes are thinking about what is behind your eyes: Ways of Seeing and Theory of Mind

About this blog item: it has a peculiar status. It is a sort of semi-public, semi-private thing. It came about in response to a friends blog, so what you are about to read is a half-finished item with some rough edges. I’m posting it now because I’m not sure that I will get round to finishing it for months, by which time the debate will have moved on. 

It was written in response to:

 Ways of seeing: interpretation (first draft thinking)   

 which is a rattling good read.

Let me say firstly, Joel: well done, nice work.

I know you are being very cautious in your piece and we both know why. I can well believe that it took you a week to think it  and a day to write it. I haven’t done mine yet [ the unfinished blog that I sent you, that you mention], I’m still thinking.

And you are right to call it a first draft, it is very much that.

(I’ve been wondering whether we should co-write a piece, being as how we is both struggling with this material, drawing on both our bloggages, to act as part of the input to my ‘Love and Play, Play and Love’ workshop. I’m just mentioning that in passing as an interesting idea.)

I love the way you mention ‘love’ the nitty-gritty, somewhere in the middle of the piece! Did I tell you the story of Humberto Maturana and his son in the field of thistles? Ask me if I didn’t. Maturana has developed a biological theory of cognition – the strong claim is that all living systems think. Wow, oh wow, to quote Steve Job’s Zennic dying words. Maturana also talks about love from this biological cognitive standpoint: love is the punchline of the thistle story.

I rarely give advice because people don’t often like receiving advice, even when they ask for it – it’s a bit like playwork: the advice-giver can so easily disrupt the playframe of the other person. So I’m very pleased and flattered that you took my advice and actually read Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ as well as quoting my thinking in detail.

This prompted me to look back to see the genesis of my interest in Beth Chatto. (note to readers, that’s Chatto, not Ditto, mind you she’s groovy also). Because I’ve been using my own Macs since 1993 and have kept everything I have ever written since then, religiously backing it up to external hard drives and transferring to the latest machine, it means that I now have a 19 year history of both other people’s writing that was interesting enough for me to download, and my own ouevre. Researching my own ‘MacArchive’ tells me that I did a briefing for managers based on an article by Peter Senge about a biological approach to systems thinking in 2001, which didn’t mention her, but featured a photo of her garden. I also recall that I had read a long interview with her in either the Times or the Grauniad and had kept the article (now misplaced or lost) and scanned in the photo. It seems fitting that the ideas of what I called a Chattoist approach in my unfinished blog have been growing slowly for nearly twelve years, and are only now beginning to bear fruit.

My linking of Berger’s Ways of Seeing to Chattoism only occurred to me as I wrote the unfinished blog, and I have had further thoughts since then. I’ll mention them here briefly.

I have also been thinking about Theory of Mind for several years. I now realise that ‘the theory behind the gaze’ is what distinguishes this intense seeing from the glance of an unthinking reactive playworker who tidies up my piece of cardboard while it is catching the light.  The key difference is the nature of the ‘theory of mind’ that is in operation. Surely the development of a playworker’s theory of mind is a, if not the, key goal of reflective practice?

That deadly phrase ‘reflective practice’ has been bugging me for years – it has become a holy writ in playwork, and we know that the higher a practice ascends into scripture the more it loses its meaning in the quotidian world. (Not Bob’s fault of course, you don’t get to chose your disciples, as I know to my cost; we must give him credit for promulgating RP, but we can’t hold him responsible for its dumbing down. All hail, reflective practice, shame we seem to have forgotten what it means. If it means anything it is about a learning cycle (mine’s a modified Kolb with an extra stage –  ”publishing“), which is much more than merely recording ‘stuff what happened’ in note form. The cycle has to go all the way round: the observations must be processed, and theorised about, and drawn upon when next we encounter our clientele, or it’s just a diary of cute stuff some kids did last week. RP is the process by which we develop our Chattoist eye, our playwork ‘ways of seeing’, our ‘playwork theory of mind’.

Looking over what I have just written I realise I have done the same as you: made only glancing reference to love and said much about seeing. I’m thinking back to when I first read ‘Ways of Seeing’ – I suspect that I bought the book in 1973 or ’74, so it would’ve coincided with my discovery of Taoism and Zen. Might as well mention all my influences from back then, well as many as I can recall or care to mention: free schools, Summerhill and A.S.Neill, alternative education,  feminism, the Whole Earth Catalog, Intermediate Technology, Arts Labs. Later, in the 80s, I  was influenced by personal development and groupwork and community arts and community development.

 

Enough.

 

 

 

Minor question for you: You quote Berger – did you find some of his book online or someone’s summary of it? If you did could you send me the link, please?  I only have my dog-eared copy of the book, and I’m not sure where it is!

 

 

Finally edited into this semi-finished state on Monday, November 5, 2012,  intermittently, from  about 7 am until   12:36 pm. 

 

WAYS OF SEEING: THE CRAFT OF PLAYWORK

About this blog item: it has a peculiar status. It is a sort of semi-public, semi-private thing. It came about in response to a friends blog, so what you are about to read is a half-finished item with some rough edges. I’m posting it now because I’m not sure that I will get round to finishing it for months, by which time the debate will have moved on. 

It was written in response to:   Children’s play is not about you 

and partly stimulated the writing of  

 Ways of seeing: interpretation (first draft thinking)   

both of which are a rattling good read.

 

 

WAYS OF SEEING: THE CRAFT OF PLAYWORK

 which is identical with

WAYS OF SEEING: THE CRAFT OF MANAGEMENT

in reply to

Joel’s comments about my comments about:

 tigers and gardening and the edge 

( ‘edge of chaos/the ‘edge of order’/’zone of complexity’)

I have spoken about ‘management as horticulture’ in various places over the years. I’ve seen other management writers use the metaphor also, yet, without wanting to sound arrogant, they don’t quite get it.

The model for me is Beth Chatto. She has an incomparable skill in working out how to nurture a garden in any conditions: an example being a cold wet, dank corner of her own garden, starved of nutrients by, and shaded by huge trees. Years of patient experiment based on years of observation is her secret. Feel free to copy it, telly gardeners, you bangers-in of decking and shrubs over a weekend.

To quote myself:

“…the key thinking tool is this: try to understand organisations as if they are living systems [which of course they are], and try to manage them the way that Beth Chatto manages the damp and shady end of her garden, that is:  be gentle, constantly attentive, patient and present-in the garden almost every day, pottering.”

“[we should see]…organisations as living systems in which relationships and communication are much more important than procedures and structures…”

Playwork is easier in some ways, because it doesn’t take years. ”Children are faster than umpires and less slow“, (me, just now – © Arthur Battram 2012). You can get results from your ‘gardening’ much sooner.

But, or rather AND (as in my dictum ‘and-not-but’) you can also screw up much sooner. So in some ways playwork is harder.

WAYS OF SEEING

The key to a Chattoist approach is your eye. This eye is a special eye – it is the eye of a Hockney. It’s a Zen eye, a beginner’s eye, developed by an expert, who has spent years developing it, so that it is almost exactly the same as, and as good as, a child’s eye.

You should read ‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger – the Chattoist eye is the painter’s eye and should be the playworkers eye.

Imagine that you are standing next to a child. The child is gazing at the flickering patterns made by the shadows of the leaves of the trees above falling on a torn, tatty piece of rotting cardboard lying on the soil in front of them…

Picasso strides up and, following the child’s gaze, pauses. Picasso stands quietly beside him. The two of them stand side by side, immersed in the flickering patterns made by the shadows of the leaves of the trees above falling on a torn, tatty piece of rotting cardboard lying on the soil in front of them.

Until a passing playworker, following their gaze, tuts and snatches up the piece of rubbish that had been missed on an earlier tidy-up sweep of the playground.

I like my version, and the idea is not original. I thought I had read the original in the marvellous ‘Making Sense: playwork in practice’: it’s a marvellous publication,  full of marvels – it so perfectly captures the essence of play and playwork. I checked, and the anecdote I’m thinking of isn’t in there. It’s not in ‘Best Play‘ either. Maybe I read it somewhere else, or maybe I was told it- whatever. I’m not that concerned about what some might call ‘objective truth’: poets tell the truth when professors and politicians don’t. Here’s an original, as retold recently by its author, Mick Conway—currently working at PlayEngland after a long and distinguished career in playwork and play associations.Recently (in a comment on Tim Gill’s blog), Mick Conway shared the story he wrote for Bob Hughes’ ‘Evolutionary Playwork’’:

”A boy aged about five was playing with a knobbly piece of wood and pieces of the crushed bark safety surface, chattering away to himself and his play objects. A playworker came by and asked: “What are you doing?” “Nothing” he said, shrugging his shoulders – end of conversation. She shrugged in reply and went about her business of putting up the swings. 

“About five minutes later, another playworker asked him: “Who’s that?” This time he said: “This is my dog. She’s called Fred! And she’s very, very naughty. But she’s hungry too. Here Fred, have some cornflakes” as he fed bits of bark to Fred.”

written: Friday, October 26, 2012 1:23 PM

 revised: Monday, November 5, 2012 9:07 AM

 More soon I hope…

PS: WordPress can be pretty smart about finding useful links, but sometimes it  goofs – witness the link to ‘Best Play’ not the CPC/PlayEngland document, and, not that Tim Gill, or that Bob Hughes, unless there’s something he isn’t telling us.