[NetBehaviour] "Networked Conversations as Activism"

Helen Varley Jamieson helen at creative-catalyst.com
Tue Dec 10 11:40:38 CET 2019

well ... change is the only constant, & whatever we do (on a spectrum
from nothing to everything) impacts on change in some way or other.
therefore my opinion is that it's always worth doing something, even if
the impact is very small, & that often a lot of small actions over a
long time can have more impact than big fast actions (tortise / hare!).

i agree with your last point - that open, equal, conversation can occur
even when there are power imbalances - & that is one of my goals in my
work. there are always power imbalances to some degree, so to
acknowledge those imbalances & make them visible means that we can start
to find ways to address them.

h : )

On 02.12.19 17:33, Max Herman wrote:
> Hi Helen,
> Your chapter title is very relevant and makes a lot of sense.  Civic
> engagement cannot occur without a fundamental basis in conversation;
> and conversation is always infused with aesthetic and visual context,
> habit, and preference.  Therefore starting a conversation by saying
> "conversation is informed by our art context, and is itself an
> artform" is a good place to start and to practice iteratively.  This
> approach highlights for people that true conversation is creative not
> pre-determined, and a suspension of judgment as to who "wins" or "is
> correct" is the only way for this creativity to have the freedom it
> needs (especially for network forms of expression like conversation
> and many other cultural processes that require participatory
> communication).  
> Open conversational practice, of course within whatever limits are
> deemed appropriate and/or necessary, also suits the dynamics of change
> and implementation in complex systems.  The field of implementation
> complexity provides strong evidence that system change cannot be
> completed anew out of whole cloth but will always be a gradual,
> partially random, and decentralized process or set of processes
> evolving in time and subject to influence by all the other complexity
> going on.  This of course does not at all mean that change is
> impossible, can never happen, is a waste of time, or cannot be
> influenced at all by local choices.  There must be a commitment to new
> modes of behavior and expression, but one which is balanced with an
> understanding that not all outcomes can be controlled, known in
> advance, or forced to happen on a strict timeline.  Some degree of
> Hippocratic humility is always advisable to avoid worst outcomes while
> making best ones possible.
> To some degree these were the goals of some of my past work, of course
> very inconsistently achieved.  In some cases I wanted to ask as wide a
> variety of people as possible to answer the same three questions.  I
> tried to precede this with as little performance as possible on my
> part, while hoping that the questions themselves and collecting as
> many answers as possible within a time constraint would prompt
> sufficient uniqueness of expression, generating a creative diversity
> and independence of viewpoints on a shared theme.  There was an aspect
> of data integrity here as you might have in a social science survey so
> that to some extent it could be said (and known to myself) that I
> avoided scripting or goading people's answers as much as possible.  It
> was also an aesthetic imperative though -- if there wasn't genuine
> creativity by the interviewees the whole thesis that such creativity
> is possible from simple origins would be unconfirmed.  My contribution
> would be to ask the questions, answer the questions myself for the
> video, select what footage to include, and read some relevant quotes
> from various authors.  Also there would be some attempt at visual
> interest in the image selection, to enhance context and watchability,
> like trees, animals, architecture, etc. "local" to the interviews. 
> Then I would do my best to create a video that others could view,
> allowing permutations on the theme to potentially continue (ideally in
> a scalable, adaptive, and evolving way that included both new insight
> and error-correction). 
> There was certainly a fair amount of conversation though in some of
> the interviews, where I would try to follow up with additional
> questions or comments to the interviewees.  Results in these cases
> were very mixed so much of that footage was edited out.  Some was kept
> where I felt there was an aesthetic or philosophical rationale to
> leave it in, it didn't overpower the unique expressions of
> interviewees, and/or illustrated some flaw, deficiency, or mistake on
> my own part as a means of error correction.
> I still believe that improved mediation and support of open
> conversation is a viable goal for our network age, if not a survival
> imperative.  It seems likely to be a necessary but not sufficient
> condition of addressing many of society's greatest challenges, not
> guaranteeing success by itself but being a crucial element of
> solutions, improvements, and ameliorations.  Open conversation has
> always been under threat by social censorship, so in many cases a
> judicious caution is pragmatic.  Some theory has argued that open
> conversation is a false goal, because interactions are always
> determined by power relations.  I don't believe that to be an absolute
> truth however, and open equal communication can occur, if only
> episodically, even where there are power imbalances (often this is
> achieved situationally by obtaining a suspension of hierarchy among
> the conversational participants).  The nature of complexity (and
> recent time theory) means that equality is only ever approximated and
> time-bound, therefore better described as "equivalency" which is time-
> and context- specific.  Where power imbalances and hierarchy dominate
> the conversation, whether consciously or unconsciously,it's not really
> conversation but coerced scripting.  Even in such contexts small
> episodes of true conversation, even one word, can emerge and usually do.  
> Judging by the state of things it is easy to call conversation a
> fool's illusion, but there may be a temporal obligation to keep
> attempting it even if it is impossible just in case it isn't.  🙂
> Best regards,
> Max
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *From:* Helen Varley Jamieson <helen at creative-catalyst.com>
> *Sent:* Monday, December 2, 2019 4:25 AM
> *To:* Max Herman <maxnmherman at hotmail.com>; NetBehaviour for networked
> distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
> *Subject:* Re: [NetBehaviour] "Networked Conversations as Activism"
> hi max,
> thanks for reading & responding :)
> i can't speak for all of the performers & participants, but for me the
> conversation is part of the whole event, therefore part of the
> performance / art / activity. it's preceded by a cyberformance which
> is definitely an artistic action, and the intention is that the
> cyberformance part of the event informs the conversation part of the
> event by provoking, questioning, challenging, shifting, encouraging
> participants to open up their thinking, to hear other points of view,
> to engage in discussion rather than argument. in many contexts our
> conversations have become very combative, about trying to convince
> others to agree and believe in the same things as we do, rather than
> actually listening, sharing, thinking. i try to approach the topics as
> openly as possible, drawing material for the cyberformance from a wide
> range of sources and involving individuals and groups who have
> different perspectives in creating and presenting the cyberformance.
> it can become a complex, layered collage, which demands a lot of focus
> from the audience & is often other than their expectations. so before
> the conversation begins, they have been shifted somewhat, & this means
> that the conversation starts from somewhere different. so yes, a
> change of consciousness can occur; even if it's a small & subtle
> change, it can niggle away under the skin like a tiny splinter & lead
> to longer term changes in individual's thinking and approach. these
> things are pretty impossible to measure, i'm basing my thoughts mostly
> on personal feedback from colleagues or associates who, years after
> participating in one of these events, mentions the ongoing effect it's
> had. it's personal & small-scale but i believe longer-lasting &
> ultimately highly impactful. there are also the further conversations
> that participants have beyond the event, & the ripples those cause,
> that i don't always know about but they do happen.
> the global-local connection is important because it brings unexpected
> contributions & this stops us from falling into familiar patterns.
> sometimes it's surprising to learn that things are almost exactly the
> same in different places, & other times things are totally different.
> the conversation goes between the universal & the particular, &
> somehow in this balance there is an openness & understanding. i like
> your image of unknotting, it's very fitting - we can become so knotted
> up in our own realities that we need someone or something from
> somewhere far away to be able to see where the knot needs to be picked
> at to loosen it up & undo it.
> i've written a book chapter that explores these methods & projects in
> more detail if anyone is interested in reading further, it's in
> "Convergence of Contemporary Art, Visual Culture and Global Civic
> Engagement",
> https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/we-have-a-situation/172764
> h : )
> On 28.11.19 19:16, Max Herman wrote:
>> Hi Helen,
>> My internet is not working so I'm typing on phone, but I like this
>> article and these ideas a lot.  Verfremdungseffekt is a good new word
>> I didn't know. 
>> Are the performers and participants generally thinking of the
>> conversations as art, an art form?  I think that idea of
>> participatory art forms is important.  Bohm writes about group
>> conversations in On Dialogue, thinking that if they happen similarly
>> to what you describe then a change in consciousness occurs and new
>> consciousness can occur.  He means dialogue as "through-meaning" or
>> meaning-flow rather than exchange per se.  He doesn't really view it
>> as art, more from a science standpoint, but the idea of "no pre-set
>> conclusions" is key.
>> One challenge of the open-ended discussion I agree is effectiveness
>> or "result." There can sometimes be a very predictable repetitive
>> outcome, or an attempt to "do too much" that is either overwhelming
>> or unfocused.  I do think there must be a middle road something like
>> "beginner's mind" that can be both a worthwhile state in itself and
>> contributive to something larger or in process (like say a method or
>> manner, methode so to speak).  This mid-range is part of theater and
>> literature since their prehuman origins I think, including shared
>> visual imagery, symbols, abstractions, etc.
>> When you refer to global-local that has a relevance to middle or
>> betweenness, with an emphasis possibly on the "present" as this
>> meeting-space.  Where the present knowns of the past, our packets of
>> info, can be called into play in the context of massive future
>> challenges or unknowns, resulting in a known/unknown mix in the
>> present space that can be literally new and permutations can lead to
>> ideas or conditions that didn't exist at the start of the conversation.
>> I have usually found this approach to have a lot of elegance and
>> relevance but it doesn't seem to fit most typical definitions. 
>> Frankfurt school communicative theory sort of relates, but I'm not
>> sure that Marx or Freud really do.  Postructuralist theory sometimes
>> seems unnecessarily complex to me and perhaps obfuscating.  You can
>> get a lot of complexity and change, perhaps sufficient, from rather
>> simple "ingredients" like those you describe.  Certainly the natural
>> world has tremendously complex and adaptive, innovative capacity with
>> arguably no theory whatsoever. 
>> Rambling now, but knot-riddled shoulder (I have device-shoulder
>> symptoms lately) makes me think there is a vocabulary of nodes or
>> topics, topoi, which come up in conversation but are often knotted. 
>> Your method seems well designed to ameliorate these, and I think
>> there may be a larger historical era calling for this.  It would be
>> something like a network-literate set of manners for each node,
>> methods that defer the fight/flight fixity that freezes up the
>> knots.  The nodes roughly correlate to the spheres or disciplines of
>> knowledge, so each discipline would need a conversible
>> network-orientation to be achieved, plus popularly known or at least
>> to those in conversation.  These would be site specific somewhat or
>> situational, so I think your reference to situation is very relevant.
>> I do think the core method you have of conversation is the key
>> though, say a general network intelligence method, which can be
>> applied to all particular methods and help elucidate them.  For
>> example network genetics, network biology, network dramaturgy,
>> network math, etc.
>> Thanks for the very interesting article and link,
>> Max
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> *From:* NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org>
>> <mailto:netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of
>> Helen Varley Jamieson <helen at creative-catalyst.com>
>> <mailto:helen at creative-catalyst.com>
>> *Sent:* Wednesday, November 27, 2019 8:40 AM
>> *To:* NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity
>> <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
>> <mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
>> *Subject:* [NetBehaviour] "Networked Conversations as Activism"
>> my article "Networked Convesrations as Activism" was recently
>> published in the latest issue of Interact, a portuguese online
>> magazine for art, culture & technology. the article discusses the use
>> of cyberformance and networked conversations to encourage critical
>> thinking & civic engagement. (it's in english).
>> https://interact.com.pt/30-31/networked-conversations-as-activism/
>> the theme of the issue (30-31) is art, activism and digital networks,
>> & it also includes a review (in english) of the cyberformance
>> "Letters to the Earth" which we did in april this year
>> (https://interact.com.pt/30-31/letters-to-the-earth/). there are lots
>> of other interesting-looking articles, if you can read portuguese.
>> h : )
>> -- 
>> helen varley jamieson
>> helen at creative-catalyst.com <mailto:helen at creative-catalyst.com>
>> http://www.creative-catalyst.com
>> http://www.upstage.org.nz
> -- 
> helen varley jamieson
> helen at creative-catalyst.com <mailto:helen at creative-catalyst.com>
> http://www.creative-catalyst.com
> http://www.upstage.org.nz

helen varley jamieson

helen at creative-catalyst.com <mailto:helen at creative-catalyst.com>

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