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Future of the Academy Discussion Forum

Page Two



Why some meetings work well

Michele Emmer

An Institution to fill a vacuum

Kerry Gordon

We allow systems to rule us

Dick Bird

Are we just dreaming?

Robert Ransick

Setting standards to knowlege

David Wiltshire

The Canadian situation

Tom Hennigan

Formal versus informal educuation

Inna Semetsky

Change criteria for admission into the Academy

Paul White

A small local academy?

David Kirk

Alternative Institutions

John Heron

Small groups and institutions may be the alternative

Guillermo Agudelo

The Wider context of how social institutions work

Max Velmans

Science has become too highly organized and expensive

Mendel Sachs

A paradigm shift in physics

Mendel Sachs

Learning outrside universities

Gordon Shippey

The Fate of Good Intentions

Anthony Judge

A Transdisciplinary Conference

Basarab Nicolescu

New Messages posted since March 2000

From: (Michele Emmer Mathematician, University of Rome "La Sapienza")

I am answering your request of comments on the FUTURE OF THE ACADEMY. I have been working in universities for thirty years. But I am also involved also with other groups and organizations like Leonardo and the ISAST (Int. Ass. for art and sciences).

Two years ago we met with 30 people for one week to discuss of the role of technology in the arts and on technological art. The meeting was located at the Foundation Les Treilles in France. A wonderful place and very stimulating meeting. The proceedings have been published as a special issue by ALliage, a WEB site is available and a selection of papers will be soon published by Leonardo, MIT Press.

In the last three years I have organized a meeting in Venice on "Math and culture" with mathematicians, artists, filmmakers, writers, etc. I am very satisfied with all these events. Why? Because there were very well organized; not just a meeting to meet but with speakers, with a schedule, with the idea to publish the results. So I think it is important to have a non academic place for scientists and artists to discuss together but I think that "the future of academy" is rather a very vast theme (or a very narrow theme).

I have tried these days to start with Leonardo a discussion in the WEB on the war. There is a war now in Europe. It seems that scientists and artists have nothing(?) to say. Not because they are more clever than the other people but because they can easily discuss and contact people all over the world, including Yugoslavia and Kosovo.

So what I suggest is to start a discussion in the WEB with specific themes and collect the ideas having in mind to organize a meeting. It can be interesting to meet for a couple of days to discuss of everything without any schedule but I do not think it will have a future. Or a sort of preliminary meeting to see what happens can also be an idea.

From: (Kerry Gordon, The Psychocultural Institute, Toronto)

Thanks, I received your message and comments regarding The Future of the Academy. It looks very interesting and seems to reflect some of the issues that we have been considering here in the context of the Psychocultural Institute. Indeed, part of the reason for the creation of the Institute in the first place was to respond to vacuum in education that universities are either unable or unwilling to fill.

Let me quote from Jim McNamara: In the late twentieth century cultural vacuum of post modern relativism, family breakdown, competing economic interests, institutional failure, outmoded leadership and generation X nihilism, new models of inter-relatedness and continuity are needed to revitalize Western culture and ground it in a more holistic, soulful, humanistic perspective. Driven by a restless spirit and an unmet need for belonging, people are once again turning to spiritual traditions, though not necessarily those of their family of origin.

Ever since the 60's the counterculture has been experimenting with new forms of relating, ways of being, and styles of education. Emerging from this, the model of twentieth century educational growth centers is reminiscent of the Renaissance Neoplatonic and humanistic academies. The Psychocultural Institute, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, the California Institute of Integral Studies, Schumacher College, Esalen and the New York Open Center are all examples of this rebirth. With the universities encumbered by constraints of intellectual orthodoxy and bureaucratic entrenchment, the Institute wishes to bring forth a new vision of humanity, nature and the divine. It is our hope that there are many like-minded souls who wish to join together in the revitalization as we give birth to twenty-first century Western culture.

Thanks for including us, this is central to much of the work we are attempting to do here with the Psychocultural Institute. Kerry

From: Dick Bird, Division of Psychology, University of Northumbria

List Owner: Science Structure

Science Dialog

Thanks for the very interesting dialogue so far. Here is my view:

We seem to be stuck with the presently evolving system of universities, where success is defined by apparently rising (but in reality falling) standards, and where an assurance of quality (consistency of approach) substitutes for a guarantee of value (quality of content). More numbers (possibly universal tertiary education?) and greater economies are in the offing.

To take our case in Northumbria University Psychology Department, we have just been through a Quality Assurance inspection in which we gained 22/24 (so no sour grapes) but what the inspecting team were examining was procedures and documentation, not what is being taught. I don't think that one query was raised about the content of any course. The chairman of the team was a non-psychologist, I suppose on the old principle that the best judges are deaf because they don't hear the evidence and so are unbiassed. And what could the team have suggested? They didn't want an academic debate, their function is to hand down a judgement.

The fault lies not in ourselves but in our systems that we allow them to rule us in this way. Things don't have to be like this: we could set ourselves different standards and try to live up to them. I'd like think the time may soon be near when it will be possible to successfully set up a new kind of institution. This would be some sort of community of scholars (possibly even living together) who would support themselves in a partnership, co-operative or even company structure, by selling their teaching skills to would-be followers in their various disciplines. They would not probably get very rich by doing this, but they would lead interesting and useful lives, teaching the sort of things which are necessary to a civilised society, the understanding of its fundamental cultural and scientific ideas and methods and its heritage.

They would naturally appoint an administrator who would look after their corporate relations with the outside world; he would probably be a scholar too and might even be one of them chosen to play this part for a season or two. The organisation's success would depend on its reputation, and if this was high then it would grow and prosper; inferior imitations would not do so well.

At present this is merely being idealistic of course: we do not form a community of co-operating scholars, appointing one of our number to govern for a term of office, and to serve the institution. Academics have been turned into proletarians. We are the primary producers of ideas, teaching, research, and we are owned by our administration, whose aims are completely different from ours: to exploit labour, to enlarge markets and to increase profits. The present universities in the UK evolved out of my ideal structure by over-reliance on outside funding and too little interest by academics about its consequences.

And this in turn rests on the values of our society: if a nation has a belief in absolute standards, then all else follows from them. If truth is a value, and if honesty and goodness are values, then we have a duty to act in certain ways. There may be conflicts of duty, and these are the stuff of tragedy, but duty is, or can be made, clear. If on the other hand we live in a society governed by one standard only, that of the market, then all other standards will sooner or later fall. This collapse of values goes well with a postmodern philosophy of life, and in a way some academics are their own willing executioners. I foresaw this during the Thatcher era in the UK, and it goes from strength to strength: if not stopped, it will permeate the world, and all the sectors of life and endeavour.

One day soon as I say there may be a turnabout, but not yet! The knife will cut quite a lot deeper before it reaches the bone. To anyone who doubts this and who thinks I am over-dramatising, I recommend a reading (or re-reading) of "That Hideous Strength" by C.S. Lewis, which describes the headlong progress of a university along our present lines. It was written in 1945, but how apposite it seems now. In the end sanity prevailed and the university (based on one just down the road from me actually!) got "nuked".

From: (Robert Ransick, Director of photography of The new School for Social Research)

I must admit that whenever I hear or read anything like *the future of the academy* I want to vomit. And I suspect the usual whining from tenured professors in traditional settings who are pissed that they are no longer handed everything they need to live and think. Your forwarded email is for the most part no exception. I did find Antony Judge and Marc Lyucks to be interesting though-- they at least point out the dated reality of such a conversation and the reality of what is happening.

Anyone who thinks the *academy* is ever going to be what it was, is really dreaming and, in my opinion, missing the point. As an artist, you intimately understand what it takes for you to make your work--and you are in the minority of those who can secure the funds/resources necessary to accomplish it. Perhaps your success in this is directly related to the fact that you were never handed large amounts of money via the nea or guggenheim or genius grant. Perhaps you'd be upset too if you had--since those funds have nearly all dried up.

Private funding is the gross reality for most all institutions of higher learning and decisions in those institutions are made based on where they can get the money and for what initiative/program. Boo hoo. This doesn't mean that the conversations and research can't continue--you are the example that they can.

I am interested in certain issues here, but not in any way the demise of the traditional *academy,* which I don't believe ever existed in an ideal way--*an island that fostered teaching and research* is an unrealistic fantasy. There have been many, many minds and ideas that have been closed out--your friends are just beginning to experience what the majority of academics have dealt with most of their careers. It is only natural for the academy to change, and that could be good. I am interested in a vision of the new learning institution, not a rehash or lament of the old.

Many of my opinions arise from the fact that I work at one of the most untraditional institutions in the country--a university started by some of the most important intellectuals of the time in 1919--to escape the traditional academy (Columbia) and the constraints of that structure. Perhaps another *new school* is needed.

There's more, but a drink is needed.

Date: June 8, 1999
From: (David Wiltshire)
Subject: Relevant article in Physics World

I just came across the article below from the current issue of "Physics World", which I think might be of interest; e.g., they make recommendations about the question of "setting the standards of knowledge" in the current climate, which you alluded in the remarks you emailed last time.

[ The article referred to can be viewed in the Discussion Papers section of this forum. ]

Some of the related links may also be of interest, these include. a number of the talks that were presented at the "Future of Physics and Society" conference.

They are online at:

The "World Conference on Science" site: also has a few interesting links:

Date: June 9, 1999
From: (Tom Hennigan)
Subject: Future of the Academy

Dear David Peat and Colleagues,

David Wiltshire's comments on the Australian universities are all, alas, equally applicable to Canada. Beverly Rubik's words on the social background make sense. Robert Ransick is right when he cautions about indulging in fantasies of some past, perfect academe. Still, things are in many ways getting worse, although Dick Bird's invocation of C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength may be going too far. (Lewis is a fascinating culture-study in himself, although some of his ideas of academe are pretty grotesque and his various chauvinisms insufferable). I agree with Lee Smolin that alternative groups usually founder on rampant egotism and often sink into irrelevance. I do believe the universities are going to continue to be the basic centres of learning, research, indoctrination (whoops!) - as to artistic creativity, when did it ever really flourish there?

If I had to set an agenda for this topic it would include such items as:

1) What are the implications of the term "freedom of research?" Is it being undermined by corporate control or corporate structuring of the universities?

2) In what ways, positive and negative, is technology affecting university teaching and research? Are opportunities for teacher-control and innovation being missed, or are they being frustrated by the imposition of models from corporate communication, entertainment, etc.? Is the increasingly thick technological envelope inhibiting and muffling human communication at our universities? 3) Why have the universities so singularly failed to improve the general public level of understanding of objective thinking, creativity, scholarship, moral perception, etc?

4) Given the narrower and narrower frameworks of learning, research, student programs, how can we ensure that universities remain forums for broad humanistic or whole-phenomena communication? (As some of us were happy to assume that they were!)

5) Has the advent of postmodernism made the older ideas of humane study, seemingly fostered by the traditional university, impossible or irrelevant? I take the postmodern phenomenon to include: a) a breakdown of the old social, artistic and intellectual hierarchies and values; b) the fractionalization of reality in all spheres; c) the transformation of the knowledge base from books to other media; d) the thoroughgoing politicizing of arts and learning; e) increasing polarization and tension between local and world culture; f) the apotheosis of youth culture and the denigration of mature culture; g) the apotheosis of acquisitiveness; h) the contamination of personal experience by mechanisms and media.

I will conclude with two points. Yes; I would like student feedback, but from what I have seen of it in my own university, it would predictably centre on the high cost of university education and the stress involved in getting the high marks seen as necessary to succeed in job acquisition later. Persons like myself are commonly denounced as the fat cats of a ruthless demography that forces youth to sweat and strain while we blather about education and culture, and build up our bank balances and pensions.

An April 26 article by John Ibbitson in Conrad Black's very right-wing National Post suggested that the Conservative Ontario government of Mike Harris intends to "transform our education system into a seamless, job-creating machine that latches onto the child the moment it leaves the womb, prepares it through years of basic education, streams it into apprenticeship, vocational or professional training programs, hones it at the post-secondary level into an ideally incubated worker ready for the province's state-of-the-art economy, and then refreshes and retrains it until death."

That seems to be O.K with most of the students, too. How would they know otherwise, since neither our society nor our typical postmodern university has recently given them much chance to read, to ponder, to compare, to think, to feel, to dream, to create?

Tom Henighan

Date: June 9, 1999
From: (Inna Semetsky)
Subject: Re: Dialogue Forum

Dear David,

Thank you so much for including me in the list. I read many inputs and appreciate the passion with which people embarked on the exchange of information.

This passion, according to spinoza, has the capacity to affect even independent of intention, thus making the discussion forum a priori active. I've been thinking about relationship between formal/informal education a lot, and i tried and exercized both. And I think that scholar's responsibility still remains to bring knowledge in not to take it out, especially because "out" seems so easy these days because of the internet. The task of performing the same work inside universities is a real challenge. perhaps this is one of the reasons why i went back to school getting my 5th degree for the purpose of becoming able to disseminate knowledge obtained outside formal walls, this is a question of professional and personal ethics i think but also the feeling of necessity like giving birth -something one cannot resist. This is of course the feeling only a woman can share, but also emphasizing the idea of "becoming-woman" advanced by Gilles Deleuze. (do not confuse this expression with becoming a woman). Another interesting question is the role of internet and associated virtual reality. "Art" (techne) precedes "real" in some deep sense. Remember Titanic story: a fiction - and then, so many years after, the real fact. I am working now on the question of the so-called ontology of the virtual (the expression itself, if i am not mistaken, belongs to C.Boundas of Trent university in Ontario, the deleuzian scholar). From another perspective this question takes us to Peirce's legacy and contemporary neo-peirceans' posing existence of semiotically real entities (Deely, Merrell). Those are philosophical questions, but of course bordering on what Shimony called the experimental metaphysics (that i do not know much about unfortunately but hope to pick up from many physicists' inputs on your discussion list). Thanks again for keeping in touch.


Date: June 23, 1999
From: (Paul White)
Subject: Re: Dialogue Forum

If you want to foster creativity in the Academy you have to change the criteria for admission, especially admission into graduate programs. Currently the criteria for admission is based solely on test scores, GPA's, GRE's, etc. This criteria works fine if you want a student body (and thus future faculty) composed of good little conforming robots. It's a disaster if you want creative, imaginative, original thinkers. Every university should ask itself: if the teenage Einstein or Newton applied to this school, would they be admitted? The sorry answer is that for 99% of the so-called "prestigious" universities, the answer would be a big fat NO. Both of them were B students. Yet these same schools pride themselves on being magnets for the "best and brightest". I would suggest rather that they are magnets for "conformist exam jockeys born into wealthy families". And these students end up as the faculty of the universities. So, what do you expect? You reap what you sow.

Here's my advice to the prestigious universities: find a way to determine a person's "creativity/imagination quotient", and admit at least 1/3 of your students primarily on that basis. Maybe they already do this in the Arts and Music, but they should also do it in the hard sciences like physics, which is what my degree is in.

Since I don't expect anything to really change for the better in this regard, I can guarantee one thing: The next Einstein or Newton ain't gonna come out of a prestigious university physics program. He or she will come out of *nowhere*, as usual. Although Newton went to Cambridge as an undergraduate, I doubt if in today's climate of "grades are everything" he would have been admitted to Cambridge or any other top-tier school. Thus, in this regard, things are actually *worse* today for creative people than they were in the 1600s. Maybe this answers your question of why creativity seems to be more scarce these days at the Academy than in the past: the present criteria for admission tends to weed out truly creative people, and leaves only ambitious, career-seeking, politically-correct robots.

Date: June 24, 1999

From: (David Kirk, filmmaker)
Subject: Creatvity and Education

Dear David:

I'm intrigued by the ongoing discussions you're spearheading regarding the Future of the Academy, though I confess I have no more ready solutions to offer than most of your other correspondents. The idea of an academy on the web is certainly in keeping with the times, though I'm not so certain how well such a venue would lend itself to the building and sustaining of inspired educational initiatives over the long term.

Personally, I find the idea of a small academy located somewhere in your neck of the woods far more appealing. Precisely what such an institute would do, however, and how it would manage to have an impact globally, are questions that would require a great deal more thought, on my part at least.

I think what Matthew Fox is doing in San Francisco is certainly of considerable interest. The University of Creation Spirituality is still fairly diminutive in size, admittedly, but the commitment, enthusiasm and creativity of both students and faculty are remarkable. I was down there a few weeks ago and was very impressed by how fresh and vital the atmosphere feels. It's not exactly academia in any traditional sense of the word, granted, but maybe that's why it works! Personally, I think Plato had the model right, and suspect that the very size of the modern university is a key factor in undermining its objectives. I can't pretend to be an expert in such matters, however, although I certainly would be interested in discussing them.

Date: July 2, 1999
From: (John Heron)
Subject: Re: Dialogue Forum

I have set up 'alternative institutions' within universities: the Human Potential Research Project at the University of Surrey, and a radical Education Department within the British Postgraduate Medical Federation (BPMF) at the University of London. The first I ran for seven years, and the second for eight years. Both had uncompromising counter-cultural agendas, which were constantly under attack, and which I sustained because of my disregard of conventional forms of teaching, research and publication. Promotion was not an issue because I was at the top of one branch of the academic tree, as Assistant Director of the BPMF.

I regard these two undertakings as forays into the system from the counter-culture without it. I have co-operated with others over many years in setting up several alternative institutions in this counter-culture: Centre for Organic Philosophy, Co-counseling International, Institute for the Development of Human Potential (running two-year part-time courses), Research Council for Complementary Medicine, International Centre for Co-operative Inquiry, and others.

Alternative institutions are vital, in my view, to explore many cultural forms which the academic protocol of universities is, with honourable minority exceptions, too rigid and defensive to countenance. This defensiveness is a lot to do with fending off the sorts of emotional, interpersonal and political competence needed fully to develop these forms - which include:

  • Student participation in educational decision-making about: learning objectives, the curriculum, teaching and learning methods, forms of assessment, course evaluation.
  • And this as part of an integrating balance between hierarchy, co-operation and autonomy in educational decision-making.
  • Self and peer assessment among students, collaborative assessment between staff and students.
  • The integration of student autonomy in learning with holistic forms of learning.
  • The application within learning and research of an extended epistemology, which seeks congruence between experiential knowing through direct acquaintance, presentational or aesthetic knowing, propositional or conceptual knowing, and practical knowing how.
  • Fully co-operative forms of learning and research.
  • The integration of transpersonal, interpersonal, emotional, political (participative decision-making), socio-structural, ecological competencies in learning and research.
  • Self-determination in emotional and spiritual growth in co-operative peer groups.

While some departments in some universities try out some versions of some of these items, the system as a whole has too much vested interest in sustaining improper control over students, as a relatively unaware projection outward of the suppressive internal control which constricts academics to live out, in their working life, a very limited model of what it is to be an educated person educating others.

Date: July 2, 1999
From: (Guillermo Agudelo)
Subject: Re: Dialogue Forum

The future of the academy shall definitely imply a change; change which must be forced. It will be mandatory a model where all the various disciplines go than their corresponding arguments and contradictions.

For people like me, who is at present devoted to a synthesis project absolutely incompatible with the traditional academy, to learn that there is somebody interested in starting up a dialogue among scholars who maybe are in the same situation is most encouraging.

I strongly believe that while official or traditional education institutions are reluctant to change or expand on account of various pretexts, small groups and informal institutions and organizations may represent a solution. I personally have taken the path of orientating young students prior to their University life. I think I will eventually reach good results however limited. Yet, I think that this is the way the change can be achieved; start from the very bottom using those seeds which will become, in the future teachers or investigators.

There are several problems though for any of the alternatives to work out; this specially in small groups:

  • Financing research or tuition.
  • Organization and follow-up of programs
  • Evaluation of projects.
  • Publishing the results of above.
  • Inter-relationship with similar groups.

It might be adequate to start by just deciding on a few items as the subject is quite vast. It is also mandatory to implement some solutions as that which is wrong with the present academy is well known to those interested in this forum. It is interesting to know that this problem is like many others: it has globalized.

I agree with Anthony Judge's argument: "any face-to-face encounters should emerge from e-encounters".

I will follow the debate with much interest and I am most willing, at a convenient time, to participate in a meeting to get some solutions and to furnish some others.

Date: July 4, 1999
From: (Max Velmans)

Dear David Thanks for bringing this to my attention. You are raising very important issues, but they are of great complexity. Ultimately, they are not just about "the Academy" but about how social institutions currently work and about the implicit values that drive them. Exposing all this to open scrutiny would at least be a first step towards corrective action. If you do have further meetings keep me in mind. With best wishes Max

Date: July 9, 1999
From: (Mendel Sachs)
Subject: the future of physics

I read the piece on your web site, "The Future of the Academy". I certainly agree with most of what you say. You stated, corectly, that the original purpose of the Academy (the "university") was to seek the truth at a foundational level, thereby contributing to advancement of the human culture. What Academia has evolved to in our day is, instead, business, with little interest in basic truths. You say that other types of institutions (research institutes?) will take over the function of a university, as it was originally intended. But I am not too optimistic about this, especially in the sciences - at least in the short run. The trouble is the following: One needs money to run research institutes. Then if society should make such money available for pursuing fundamental truths, one needs approval to use this money. Invariably, such approval is put into the hands of the present leaders and their loyal followers, who are quite single-minded and prejudiced, as to where the real truth lies! Academic freedom is a thing of the past in this day and age. But academic freedom is what we need to make any real progress. So, as I see it, the real enemies of scientific progress today are within science itself - its leaders and their followers.

Because science is so highly organized and expensive these days, I don't see any relief of this situation. But perhaps there will be a change of attitudes by the middle of the next century, when academics will start to think for themselves once again! I hope so! Let me know what you think.

Best wishes, Mendel

Date: July 12, 1999
From: (Mendel Sachs)
Subject: The Future of the Academy

Dear David,

On your question about my own research program, I do not try to intentionally be iconoclastic! As a scientist. My main aim is to find the truth. If I believe that the truth is not in the conventional directions, for technical and logical reasons (math/logical inconsistency, etc.) then I feel that as a scientist it is important to look elsewhere. My reserarch program .entails a paradigm shift to that of the continuous field approach of relativity theory.

Bohm (and Planck) were wrong about the young people thinking for themselves after the `old ones' die! The followers now are more insecure than ever and for the truth they religiously defend the words of the high priests. Thinking freely is strictly forbidden for themselves or anyone else. It is too bad that this is the situation today for physics, but it is the way it is! We hope it will change fior the sake of progress in physics. Maybe your conference on the future of the Academy, if it materializes, will help.

Best wishes,

Date: August 31, 1999
From: (Gordon Shippey)
Subject: The Future of the Academy

Since the last time I wrote to you I have read some of the E-mail on the future of the academy debate. My first reaction was THANK GOD people like me are finally being noticed, I can not remember if it was yourself or C.Isham who talks about a growing number of people in the community who are learning outside universities.

I myself have not been part of any university, and as an outsider I have studied both popular and tech books on Quantum Field Theory (Kaku,ryder,..etc )and have an interest in most other areas in physics. I have recently attended Lectures and met and talked to some people in the Physics community (C.isham, M.Kaku, David Gross), all who were most happy to talk to an OUTSIDER like myself. However as an OUTSIDER I am finding it more difficult to find people of a similar interest.

As someone who lives with students I am becoming increasing aware that they are more interested in gaining the piece of paper (cramming at the end of the academic year) than questioning and exploring the subject in question. Recently while talking to Dr Kaku he expressed a similar opinion that the majority of students did not have the enthusiasm for exploring their subject further i.e. quantum gravity.

I have found that working with people who have mental disabilities show more enthusiasm for learning and creativity than do most so called intelligent people who settle for mediocrity and the active uni social life .The Net at least provides contact for people like me and hopefully in the future discussion groups will develop. Science especially Physics desperately requires stimulation from outside as well as inside the academic world.

Thanks for your attention


Date: October 19, 1999
From: (Anthony Judge)
Subject: The Future of the Academy


I am very sensitive to the fate of good intentions in this domain, to the point (being my nature) that I am more inclined to sketch out some of the rocks and quagmires between which we need to navigate. These can be best highlighted by reference to other initiatives and their limitations. Take for example:

  • Lazlo's efforts with respect to his own centre in Italy and his Club of Budapest
  • Various think tanks in the USA
  • Colonies of artists
  • Various alternative communities
  • Various web based initiatives, listservers, etc

Unfortunately the enemy tends to be ourselves and our psycho-social needs:

  • founder needs to be at the centre, eminence calls for recognition, etc
  • dialogue decays into conversational sprawl, without any ability to distinguish sprawl from valuable dialogue, and then there are bores...and don't we all turn off some others
  • institutional sponsors want their pound of flesh (whether international bodies like Unesco, WAAS, etc) or local authorities that need positioning time and pay-offs
  • schools of thought engage in competition and exclusion operations, leading to designing in and designing out
  • simple issues like smoking and behavioural mores
  • time is wasted in formalities when we would prefer certain styles of dialogue
  • concern with the preceding item leads to fancy facilitation by someone who is unfortunately identified with their preferred process and their central role in it
  • trapped in paternalist, maternalist, feminist, or other *ist* dynamics and dialogue, including cultural variants and assumptions
  • concern about theme and how relevant themes are to be identified
  • sense of deja vu; we have all been there before and had our hopes dashed
  • loss of energy and lack of mutual stimulation; it is a turn off rather than a turn on, even in the case of listservers
  • ties to various forms of accreditation, including paper publishing
  • copyright issues
  • hidden agendas, as with the current invasion of WAAS by a particular sponsor
  • trapped in some group of artists take on art, which is seen as an opportunity for them to perform and for others to be trapped/blackmailed courteously as audience
  • difficulty in dialoguing frankly about any of the above

So then beyond these challenges what is it that we seek to achieve:

  • a special dynamic
  • exploring new frontiers and new patterns between existing frontiers
  • a special focus, beyond conventional preoccupations
  • congeniality
  • a longer term commitment, rather than a 3-night stand
  • a sense of strategic relevance
  • beyond particular clusters of disciplines, namely what WAAS might have stood for according to its name through a responsiveness to the arts as providing intriguing patterns of relevance to the sciences, and vice versa
  • beyond the usual traps

But as with any design challenge there are magical compromises to be made.

However, I think it is easier to explore the pattern on a website supported by occasional meetings.

I hope this is helpful


Date: September 24, 1999
From: (Basarab Nicolescu)
Subject: Transdisciplinary Conference


The proceedings of the 1st World Congress of Transdisciplinarity (Convento da Arrabida, Portugal, November 1994) are published by Hugin Editores, Lisbon, under the direction of José Carlos Tiago de Oliveira.

The congress was organized by the famous Portuguese painter and philosopher Lima de Freitas, who died in 1998. UNESCO and CIRET co-sponsored the congress.

Contributions by Ubiratan d'Ambrosio, O. Costa de Beauregard, Françoise Bianchi, Jorge Brito, Michel Camus, Costin Cazaban, Maurice Couquiaud, Nicola Dallaporta, Marc-Williams Debono, Raquel Gonçalves, André Jacob, Marc Jarry, Anthony Judge, Julie Thompson Klein, Lima de Freitas, Raul Motta, Basarab Nicolescu, Patrick Paul, Carlos Bellino Sacadura, Carlos Silva, Dominique Temple, Antonio Bracinha Vieira and other authors.

This book offers a good idea of the stage of transdisciplinarity five years ago.

The book can be ordered at:
Hugin Editores, Rua do Zaire, 11A, 1170-397
Lisboa, Portugal
FAX + 351-1-8144212

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