Keynote

Keynote speaker John Shotter

CREATING RELATIONAL OR DIALOGIC ARENAS FOR COLLABORATIVE LEARNING:

THE ROLE OF DYNAMIC STABILITIES WITHIN THE CONTINUAL FLOW OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN US ALL

John Shotter

A while ago, Tom Andersen (no date) gave me a piece of his writing in which he said: “What we come to form, and thereafter understand (both the formed and the forming), emerge from us being in language in conversations in movements in relationships in culture in nature (we do not have language etc ‘in us’). The Being ‘in’ these various ins can best be understood by letting ‘the feeling that comes’ (by being in these various ins) create its own metaphors, and let those metaphors be part of the language one searches through in order to find a meaning.” In this, Tom’s thinking was, we might say, comprehensively ‘ecological’ – rather than having life and language in us, as he saw it, we have our lives and language within our living relations to a languaged flow of intra-activity occurring in our surroundings. As has now become quite clear to us (see, for instance, Ball, 2009), all moving matter, whether fluid or made up of particles, whether dead or alive, continually creates pattern and form. What in the past we have thought of as already existing thing-like entities, fixed in their nature for all time (and nameable as such), we are now beginning to see as dynamic stabilities, dependent for their nature upon their embedding within the larger, unending flow of activity occurring in their surroundings. The world has become a much more turbulent place. We now need to explore what our thinking must be like if it has to take place in a ‘fluid space’, a space in which there are no fixed and finished ‘things’ in terms of which to conduct it. To do this, we have, I think, to start again, and to reject many of our well-established, taken-for-granted assumptions thought to be of great importance to us – like the clear separation between what is ‘subjective’ and what ‘objective’, and the idea following from it that the ‘basic building blocks’ of our activities already exist and await our discovery of them – and to install ourselves, now,  at this moment, in the ‘flow of experience’ currently at work in us, a flow that has not yet been ‘worked over’, and to distinguish unique features within it to which we can give only metaphoric expression. I will explore these issues in my talk with the gathering.

Reference:

Ball, P. (2009) Flow – Nature’s Patterns: a Tapestry in Three Parts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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