Archive for Other things of interest

R:2025 – An interim stocktake (Sept 2016)

R:2025 is an extended, fifteen year, creative programme of activities; a contemporary exploration (to 2025) of things linked to representations, ideas, people and places.

It has a couple of overall intentions. One of these (To engage in a range of exploratory activities, making the outcomes from these activities freely available) is felt to be substantially being met.  There will now be a greater emphasis on developing the other strand (To explore how any insights gained can have real-world real-time impacts and value).

Activities underway since 2010 have been shaped within a loose and flexible framework constructed from a number of threads. Substantial progress has been made in exploring:

  • unfolding interpretations of ‘contemporary’, ‘progress’ etc
  • the pursuit of writing in a range of styles, for a variety of purposes
  • issues associated with cities and urban living
  • thoughts around places, spaces, neighbourhoods and locations
  • the construction of identities (of people; of places)
  • concerns with inequality, fairness and social change

More now needs to be done around:

  • aspects of learning and development
  • concerns with wellbeing, flourishing and sustainability
  • approaches to ‘value’ and ‘impact’(at personal, public and social levels)
  • the nature of evidence, research, knowledge and understandings
  • the characteristics and usefulness of art and creativity
  • aspects of emergence, complexity, uncertainty and contingency
  • public and private innovation and policy implementations

The website already holds a substantial amount of eclectic content from the first five years of activity. This content is meeting the original aims of being broad-based, interesting, responsible, thoughtful, and different. There have been a number of seminars, workshops and focused conversations in cities in UK, USA and Canada; as well as the use of a small number of related blogs, and the publication of several ebooks. The activity was intended to incorporate other outputs. These have included a photographic portfolio and a small number of paper/clay-based art objects: all based around the same framework listed earlier. There is more to be done to build up this stock of art objects. Links are being made with the broad ‘world of art’ – writings based on exhibitions; an outline framework for work on cities and public art; being Researcher in Residence attached to a 2015 exhibition.

The emphases within the work have ranged from quite personal concerns to recurring issues across an increasingly urbanised, globalised and uncertain world. The endeavour is still considered to be a contemporary undertaking since it reflects many of the themes of identities, change, ambiguities, relationships, fracturings and aggregations: locally, nationally, and globally.

The approach continues to be one of developmental and exploratory puzzling, and of purposeful development. Conversations with key contacts have confirmed that what has been achieved so far can be regarded as linked, curated content that forms an extended creative programme operating at a number of levels and in a variety of ways.

At the beginning of the activity a potential Vocabulary was set out. This was composed of words that would be expected to recur in articles, thinking and discussions. A review of these words has been undertaken. It is concluded that nothing additional needs to be incorporated and that any weak spots in usage of the vocabulary are highly likely to be addressed within the next set of developments.

Sitting behind the activity there is still a desire to impact on a number of social issues, and to explore the ways that creative activities can do this is the current context.  Although stress is put on flexibility and emergence, the overall driving idea remains clear:

To use creative activities to make demonstrable contributions to changing the ways in which people think, behave and interact; in order to reach better understandings of social processes and developments – with the hope of levering some practical impact on a number of significant issues.

This aspect of the work is seen as an integral part of the project’s development activities and is regarded as one of its greatest challenges. It is in its very early stages and will be a focus over the next three years and beyond. This will be interesting, but not straightforward. Emerging notions around usefulness, public value and social impact will increasingly be drawn on as the work continues. It is believed that continued, occasional reporting against this intention is important.

This is the first of such public reportings.

Some outline thoughts concerning everyday puzzles with understanding autism

This is a skate across some of the puzzles that arise for many people when trying to understand the common current thinking associated with autism. It is not written with any claim to expertise. It takes the view of the interested bystander.  It does not seek to explain everything to do with autism. Nor does it seek to lessen the daily experiences of those living with lives influenced by autism.

It aims to understand how current ways of talking about autism might get in the way of society adapting sufficiently quickly. The aim is to explore rather than pin things down, and to look at things as a set of recurring puzzles. Some of these puzzles stem from there being a variety of descriptions of autism, which lead to a range of understandings and misunderstandings amongst the general population that, in turn, get in the way of society being structured in ways that support people with autism. The article is deliberately rather wordy but, again, that is all part of taking an exploratory approach.

The first part of what follows is an outline drawn from various documents and websites of people and organisations actively involved with autism. The second part lists the many detailed behaviours that organisations and individuals consider as recurringly observable in the range of autistic people. The third part tries to set out some of the difficulties that get in the way of everyday understanding of the issues around autism.

Read more

Researcher in Residence

In the period April-July 2015 I acted as Researcher in Residence attached to an exhibition (‘Im Bau’ by Aideen Doran) at the Grand Union Gallery in Birmingham, UK.

What follows is an exploration of the researcher-in-residence model; a description of what was undertaken in relation to this specific exhibition; and a listing of some of the headline thoughts that were outcomes from this activity. Read more

Contemporary Identity of Individuals: a personal exploration

Why is the idea of identity worth exploring? Is contemporary identity any different from any past or common-sense understandings of identity?

What follows is a summary gained from reflecting on my own experiences and studies, up to and including the transition to retirement.

Identity is a complex and strategic notion that sits at the centre of many current events and discussions. Identity appears to be crucial, yet is contentious. Identity defines, differentiates and distinguishes. It is central to our individual being yet, for many people, identity is seen as structured by social processes beyond the individual.

In recent decades, it appears that identity has become more central, as accounts seek to explain events as culturally rooted in individual concerns. Identities, and processes of identifications, have become important again.

Contemporary views of identity sustain a number of puzzles that are worth exploring.

This is the first of a pair of linked articles on identity. It focuses on identity and people, whilst the next article focuses on identity and place. Read more

Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy has got a bad name. It is seen as a relatively recent disease in society, yet it has had a long history. Based on rationality and fixed procedures, it can be seen as having stemmed from very positive attempts to deal with variability, unpredictability and patronage – injecting transparency and fairness into social processes.

Bureaucracy has changed as society has changed. With the advent of mechanised mass production and the search for ever more efficiency, it became variously associated with totalitarian regimes, rule-based systems and a lack of humanity. As society continues to change new forms of bureaucracy are emerging. These can be viewed positively as adaptations to flexibility and creativity, or can be viewed more critically as the permeating of all social interaction by procedures and attitudes that are relatively meaningless yet which operate as a means of control. Read more

Some exploratory thoughts on Progress

The idea of progress is a complex concept. Normally it is taken to mean that the human condition is improving over time and will continue to improve into the foreseeable future.

This conceptualisation of progress include a sense of advancement, forward movement, and gaining a higher understanding or ability. It is an upward linear progression, a continuation, a development. Progress is Onwards and Upwards.

It also has the more subtle sense of simple passage of time; a going from place to place, a procession or journey, things being underway – as work being in progress: an unfinished thing that may or may not work out well.

The Enlightenment struggles with the idea of Progress were attempts to rationalise ways forward. Do we have similar impulses and methodologies that allow us to sense ways forward, to make contemporary progress, in a world that seems more fragmented, with uncertain sets of relationships. How will we agree what constitutes progress in a context that is complex, ambiguous, and kaleidoscopic? Read more

Thinking about ‘Contemporary’: a hesitant exploration

As with so many useful terms, there is no simple single understanding of ‘contemporary’. It is still being explored and in some ways may never be fully settled on. At the same time, there are some clear lines of sight that help people see a way through.

Contemporary, by its roots, is about time and belonging together. That apparent clarity is immediately one source of difficulty. Its common-sense understanding has contemporary relating to particular things coexisting within this current time period (Contemporary = of the present) but (a) there is a different sense in which anything in the past was contemporary with other things in that same past period. (Everything is contemporary in its own time – so there is nothing especially contemporary about today); and (b) not everything that exists together in the here and now might be judged to be contemporary in its values.

Maybe one answer is to declare that the currently contemporary relates to the now of today and simply ‘is’, as something that cannot be generalised beyond its very fragmented existence. This sees the contemporary as being a highly diverse set of outlooks (more so than things have been in the past) – with diversity in cultural production, exchange, consumption, materials, meanings …. and with little expectation of being able to neatly draw boundaries to contain it. That, in turn, leads back to contemporary being able to encompass everything and anything, so long as it is thought of as contemporary.

This contemporary-as-diversity arises from an understanding that we currently live in a very different kind of world, and that any socially-constructed activity will reflect things that are shaped by a unique set of stronger, broader, different forces. This brings some paradoxes and puzzles: The world (physically and socially) is more connected than ever before but, at the same time, feels more fragmented. There are widespread, almost universal, influences but these play out differently everywhere: Think global; Think local.

This was also true, in its own way, of past eras of expanding trade and industrialisation. There is something particularly new and different in the nature of those same influences, making the contemporary what it is today. What is so specific about the shaping forces of now? What is it within anything contemporary that clearly marks it out as such: as being characteristic of twenty-first century existence rather than of any previous age? Read more

Thinking outside the box: just another glorious day

Sam is the main character of the ebook ‘Another Glorious Day’. released from the confines of that text Sam is free to be “the man from the box” and to write a blog in that role. That blog has been turned into diary form, wtih dates removed and posts put in sequential order. Sam’s diary can be read here:  Man from the Box.

Where is it all getting to: Next Steps

Earlier posts outlined some of the features of a flourishing organisation, and ways that agencies may need to think differently if they are to make progress. These arose from thinking about cities. They can equally be used as a framework for reflecting on any set of activities – and here are being used to assess where my own work (captured on this website) might be going.

This has highlighted some of the things that I will need to emphasise more over the next three years. These include:

  • Being able to clearly articulate why I wish to occupy myself in this way … the purposes behind what is being done … with sufficient ‘presence’/ confidence/ self-determination whilst still being tentative/ modest.
  • Responding to current concerns and interests without slipping into populist reactionism … Still being at least a little bit different in what is being undertaken … having more challenge to the aspirations, pushing myself in what I am comfortable doing.
  • Reflecting on what is being done, without endless internal activity that is of little value to anyone else
  • Being more active in engaging with others (authentically rather than simply clocking up more and more links/ likes/ followings) … countering it being a solitary undertaking … looking for more things that might require collaboration with others.
  • Actively promoting content/writing, and asserting myself as author, without unnecessarily heavy self-promotion
  • Maintaining an approach that is based on puzzling, wondering, being curious for its own sake … as well as aiming to produce stuff that could be of value/use to others.
  • Covering costs without being a money-driven set of activities … with most things being freely available to anyone … things done voluntarily.

That’s it: I have my list of commitments that I have already signed-up to, and this sense of next-step directions to follow. Time to get on with it all.

 

ebooks: A variety worth looking at

The following ebooks by Geoff Bateson are available on the Amazon kindle store:

It’s Murder on the Eleven
This light murder mystery is set around Birmingham’s famous Outer Circle number 11 bus route. When bus drivers start to be killed, passenger Gail decides to get to the bottom of it all.

Made in Birmingham: The Tales

Almost seventy short fictional tales as told by a wide variety of characters. The tales demonstrate a broad range of personalities and viewpoints.

 

Made in Birmingham: The Poems

This collection of poems was drawn together to cover a wide range of lengths and styles and to appeal to a broad variety of readers. Some are meant to be taken lightly and others are meant to be lingered over.

 

Another Glorious Day

Sam, for reasons that cannot be divulged here, is contained in a box – alone with his thoughts, memories and imaginings. Will he escape ….? Read to find out.

 

Visit ‘Geoff Bateson’ at the kindle bookstore on www.amazon.co.uk or www.amazon.com. The books are also available on the German, French, Spanish, Italian, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, Japanese, Indian, and Mexican versions of Amazon.