We cannot, I think, plan genuine innovative change, but we can prepare ourselves for it (see entry on Preparing activities). Indeed, to go further, we can occasion it, in the sense of ‘setting the scene’ for the happening of change.

As we have seen, there is something very special about the dynamically flowing nature of dialogically-structured activities that has not yet been properly understood and assimilated into the way we conduct our inquiries (see entries on Joint action and the dialogical and Spontaneous responsiveness). What makes this kind of joint activity so special, is that when it occurs, unique, qualitatively distinct, ephemeral ‘somethings’ emerge from within the dynamically unfolding entwinings of the two or more unique ‘flows’ of activity involved within it.

Indeed, as Bakhtin (1986) points out, because (a) something novel, related to the circumstances of the dialogical transaction itself, is always created, and (b) because its overall outcome cannot be traced back to the intentions of any of the individuals involved (see entry on Emergence), the novel ‘somethings’ created are experienced not as objects, but as agencies with their own (ethical) demands and requirements: “Each dialogue takes place,” he says, “as if against a background of the responsive understanding of an invisibly present third party who stands above all the participants in the dialogue (partners)… The aforementioned third party is not any mystical or metaphysical being… he is a constitutive aspect of the whole utterance, who, under deeper analysis, can be revealed in it” (pp.126-127). We can thus find ourselves as participants ‘parts’ within an ongoing reality which affects us as much, if not more, than we can affect it.

One reason for it not being assimilated into how we conduct our inquiries, is the way in which we currently generate and ask the questions driving what we think of as rational to inquire into. We far too easily begin our inquiries from what is a ‘problem’ for us and ‘how’ we think about it now (see entries on Preparing activities and Upstream thinking). The kinds of changes that are needed in our thinking are ‘deep’ changes, changes in our ‘ways’ of thinking, ‘ways’ of seeing, of hearing, ‘ways’ of ‘making connections’ between events, ‘ways’ of talking, and so on ― in short, they are changes not in what ‘we think’ but in ‘what we think with’ (see entry on Withness thinking) — as Rorty (1979) notes: “It is pictures rather than propositions, metaphors rather than statements, which determine most of our philosophical convictions” (p.12).

Genuine innovative changes cannot be produced in a person or organization in accord with a plan or strategy, i.e., it is not a matter of praxis, of conducting an ordered activity with a well defined end in view. It is a matter of poiesis — an originating creativity that goes beyond currently existing understandings, a creativity that just happens, which emerges only if the appropriate dialogic circumstances are in place (see entry on Attitudes, agency, and orientation). Pre-decided questions stand in the way of genuinely creative, dialogically-structured activities (see entry on Joint action the dialogical). Thus, to repeat, innovative change cannot be planned; but it can be occasioned or circumstanced.

Posted in Concepts | Tagged , | Comments Off

Some new papers

Instead of theory critique and debate: voloshinov’s unending, dialogically-structured participatory mode of inquiry

Perceiving ‘things” and ‘objects’ from within processes: resolutions situated in practices

Gergen, confluence, and his turbulent, relational ontology: the constitution of our forms of life within ceaseless, unrepeatable, intermingling movements

More than cool reason: ‘Withness-thinking’ or ‘systemic thinking’ and ‘thinking about systems’

Language, Joint Action, and the Ethical Domain: The importance of the relations between our living bodies and their surroundings

Reflections on sociomateriality and dialogicality in organization studies: from ‘inter- ‘to ‘intra-thinking’… in performing practices

more papers coming soon…

Posted in News, Papers | Leave a comment

Gergen, confluence, and his turbulent, relational ontology:

Our basic way of being in the world, it seems to me (and to Ken Gergen too), is to be constantly in motion, we live continuously in the midst of change. The image – of our living our lives while embedded in the turbulent flow of a number of intermingling activities – has clearly been in the (sometimes acknowledged, and sometimes unacknowledged) background to Ken Gergen’s thinking for really quite some time. Long ago, in his paper, Social Psychology as History (Gergen,1973), for instance, he noted that: “Unlike the natural sciences, [social psychology] deals with facts that are largely nonrepeatable and which fluctuate markedly over time. Principles of human interaction cannot be readily developed over time because the facts on which they are based do not remain stable” (p.310). Indeed, in the introduction to a volume collecting his early works together (Gergen, 1993)1, he commented: “The vast body of psychological theory to which my [early] studies were directed seemed strangely alien – mechanical, lifeless and all too coherent. Most problematic was the romance with fixedness, with a view of human action as reliably determined by a relatively fixed set of internal dispositions, mechanisms or structures… [Whereas] I was struck with the degree to which my own actions were embedded within local and ever-changing contexts” (pp.xi-xii).

Posted in Papers | Comments Off