Tag Archives: collaboration

Paper proposals invited for “Most workshops are dysfunctional–This one wasn’t”

“Most workshops are dysfunctional–This one wasn’t” Interpreting, enacting, changing organized multi-person collaborative processes
This panel at the EASST meetings in July invites presentations or other interactive processes that explore various aspects of interpreting, enacting, changing organized multi-person collaborative processes—functional or dysfunctional; our own in STS as well as those of the researchers we study.

Five principles or themes for addressing unruly social and ecological complexities

On the presumption that the dynamic flux of ecological and social complexities cannot be well understood from an outside view…
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Intersecting Processes: May 2017 New England Workshop on Science and Social Change

Location: Old Fire Station, Woods Hole MA, USA
New Dates May 2017, 8am Sat May 27 – 2.30pm Weds May 31

In this five-day workshop participants will create spaces, interactions, and support in formulating plans to extend our own projects of inquiry and engagement around “intersecting processes.”

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Why a scientist would be interested in collaboration

Some students asked me why, as a scientist, I would also write and teach about collaborative processes. There are a variety of angles:
1. Teaching science students to ask questions about scientific ideas, not simply learn what has been established led me from showing them where there were problems with current assumptions/reasoning/evidence/applications to helping them develop their lifelong capacities to do that for themselves. (Analogy: “if you give a person a fish they eat for a day. if you teach them to fish they eat for a lifetime”) The result was an emphasis on tools and processes like those in workshop 2, http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/journey.html#challenges

2. Working on environmental problems: “Since the 1990s collaboration has become a dominant concern in environmental planning and management, but the need to organize collaborative environmental research can be traced back at least as far as the tropical rainforest ecosystem projects led by H.T. Odum in the 1950s and 60s…” — see start of this article for more.

3. Studying science in its social context: “I argue that both the situations studied [in environmental and health sciences] and the social situation of the researchers can be characterized in terms of unruly complexity or “intersecting processes” that cut across scales, involve heterogeneous components, and develop over time. These cannot be understood from an outside view; instead positions of engagement must be taken within the complexity. Knowledge production needs to be linked with planning for action and action itself in an ongoing process so that knowledge, plans, and action can be continually reassessed in response to developments — predicted and surprising alike. In this spirit, I explore ways to stimulate researchers (and students training to become researchers) to self-consciously examine the complexity of their social situatedness so as to change the ways they address the complexity of the situations they study” (from my UMB home page).

4. Reflective practice in research: The tools and processes as well as the connections made in workshops helps researchers to take stock of what they have been doing and consider alternative paths ahead, so that they do not simply continue along previous lines. (invitation to a talk on this topic and audio & slides for the talk itself)

A brief design sketch for a collaborative project that I would like to be part of

22 August 2012 (prepared for discussion with Portuguese and Mexican colleagues)

1. We are concerned with prefiguring the future without disordering the present.

2. This requires theorized engagement within intersecting (cross-scale) processes of socio-environmental and social epidemiological change.

3. There are multiple potential points of engagement within the intersecting processes.  In what ways can these be linked together in a manner that is intentional and explicit, that allows for indeterminancy of outcomes and does not assume that “truth is great and will prevail”?

4. There is always a tension between solidarities forged through working and living together in particular places—“militant particularism”—and the application of trans-local perspectives, abstractions, or other resources.

5. “Flexible engagement” = a process challenge, rather than a content challenge for researchers in any knowledge-making situation: How do we connect quickly with others who are almost ready to foster—formally or otherwise—participatory processes and, through the experience such processes provide their participants, contribute to enhancing the capacity of others to do likewise?

6. We seek personal integrity (in the sense both of whole-ness and ethical consistency) in the ways that the collaboration prefigures the way we want others to prefigure the future without disordering the present.  (Evidence of that seeking is various explorations including, in my case, narrative and human givens approaches to therapy and community work.)

7. During workshops and other interactions we can experiment with creating spaces for connecting, probing, and reflecting (“CPR”), spaces that allow us to engage within intersecting (cross-scale) processes of somatic, mental, and emotional change over our life courses.  In such spaces we see that it is not possible to simply continue along previous lines.

8.  In those spaces we cultivate ourselves and others as collaborators through the “4R”s.  In brief, the more Respect is established, the more Risks participants are likely to take; the more Risks, the more likely they are to have new insights or Revelations; and the more Revelations, the more likely they are to Re-engage with their interests and aspirations to make a difference through their work and lives.

9.  There is always a tension between, on one hand, the insights, ethical commitments, and energy that arise in CPR spaces and, on the other hand, the challenges of translating those insights, ethical commitments, and energy into engagements outside those spaces with people who have not cultivated themselves as collaborators.

10.  I have a proclivity for making what I now call “design sketches”—Design is about intentionality in construction, which involves a range of materials, a sequence of steps, and principles that inform the choice of material and the steps.  Sketch denotes the incompleteness of the designs—there is often a gap between the principles I lay out and their realization in practice or established knowledge.

11.  This is a brief design sketch for a collaborative project that I would like to be part of.


1.  R. García Barrios.

2. Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). “The social analysis of ecological change: From systems to intersecting processes.” Social Science Information 34(1): 5-30.

3. Taylor, P. J. (2005). “Unruly Complexity; Intersecting Processes,” Pp. 156-165  in Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

4 & 5. Taylor, P. J. (2005). “Epilogue: Three Stories,” Pp. 203-213  in Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/epilogue.pdf).

6. White, M. (2007). Maps of Narrative Practice. New York: Norton. Griffin, J. and I. Tyrrell, Eds. (2007). An idea in practice: Using the human givens approach. Chalvington, UK: Human Givens Publishing.

7. http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/CPRworkshop

8. Taylor, P. J., S. J. Fifield, C. Young. (2011). “Cultivating Collaborators: Concepts and Questions Emerging Interactively From An Evolving, Interdisciplinary Workshop.” Science as Culture 20(1): 89-105 (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/08c.pdf). Taylor, P. and J. Szteiter (2012) Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement. Arlington: The Pumping Station (available online as paperback or pdf from http://thepumpingstation.org/books/)

9. http://wp.me/p1gwfa-px

10. http://designcatalog.wordpress.com/

11. Similar points are developed in Taylor, P. J. (2012ms). “Now it is impossible ‘simply to continue along previous lines’– Incomplete and unrevised notes on Enactable Social Theorizing and Open Spaces.”  http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/12a.pdf.

Collaborative for Exploration of Scientific and Political Change

Initial prospectus [from April 19]:

The overall goals of the Collaborative are to support inquiries, teaching-learning interactions, and other practices of critical intellectual exchange and cooperation that challenge the barriers of expertise, gender, race, class, and place that normally restrict access to, understanding of, and influence on the production of scientific knowledge and technologies.

In its first phase of the Collaborative, this support will happen in connection with two graduate courses–Scientific and Political Change and Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology–offered in alternate spring semesters in association with the Science in a Changing World graduate track at UMass Boston.

These courses use a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach that allows students to shape their own directions of inquiry and develop their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word).

In this first phase, the Collaborative aims to draw a wider range of participants into the 3-week PBL cases: for-credit students from distant locations; not-for-credit students; course alums returning for a refresher; panel members for the final presentations in each case; guides to help in the inquiries of participants; and co-instructors.

Graduate and advanced undergraduate students from all fields and levels of preparation are encouraged to register for the courses. Other participants should contact the SICW track about getting involved, sicw@umb.edu.

In the second phase, participants might translate their experience into running their own PBL-style courses, for which other members of the Collaborative might serve as guides and panel members. The Collaborative may eventually host PBL inquiry and presentations outside the structure of the two courses.


For inquiry towards further development of the Collaborative, see companion blog.

Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology: A bibliography

In a 2011 graduate course on “Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology,” students were asked to add an annotated reference or resource (=person, organization…) to the evolving googledocs bibliography each week.  (Annotations were to convey the article’s key points as well as its connection to the student’s own inquiries and interests.)  The result is as follows: Continue reading