— Cultural Sources of Newness

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Januar 2013 Monthly archive

Some articles are too stimulating to read alone. J.K. Gibson-Graham’s provocative article “Diverse economies: performative practices for ‘other worlds’” cries out for conversations. It challenges researchers to become “conscious of the role of [our] work in creating or ‘performing’ the worlds we inhabit.” The authors invite us to go further than this by using our “power to bring new worlds into being. Not single-handedly, of course, but alongside other world-makers, both inside and outside the academy.” (2008: 614)

I invited colleagues in Audencia Nantes School of Management to talk about this article over lunch today to see how the questions and suggestions the authors raise there resonate with their self-conceptions as researchers. Even a French lunch is not enough time to do the article justice, but it started the kind of conversation we too rarely take the time to engage in during our full schedules. 

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After conducting so much research on the impacts of artistic interventions in organizations and the roles that intermediaries play in the process of linking artists and organizations, it was particularly interesting to witness the potential beginning of a new project. I introduced an experienced intermediary for the Fondation de France program “Nouveaux Commanditaires  / New Patrons  to the CEO of a French Group. Over lunch I listened to their exploratory conversation and observed the zigzag movement between clarifying and blurring understanding, as they posed each other questions, explained the structures and processes of their organizations, and started formulating desirable and unwanted outcomes.

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“You learn something new every day” is an age-old expression, and it was certainly true today: I had the time of my life learning about and from my first science slam at the WZB.  Instead of going to lunch, we had an hour’s worth of stimulating brain food from four political scientists who rose courageously to the challenge of presenting their new research ideas “in an entertaining and understandable way” in max 10 minutes, as the showmaster from SO36 strictly instructed. Until a week ago, I had not even heard the concept “science slam”, so I was very curious. The WZB’s main conference room filled fast with equally curious colleagues from all departments.

Standing room only at first WZB Science slam January 23 2013

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John Hartley’s seminar on Cultural Science that I wrote about last week addressed connections with concepts and methods from theories of evolution. Little did I know that day that a completely different link between evolution and culture  was awaiting my listening pleasure this weekend on BBC Radio 4’s iPlayer: “Just So Science”. Vivienne Parry explores the science behind five of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, which are beautifully read by Samuel West.

The interviews with experts from diverse disciplines (including Richard Dawkins of course) in each of the 15-minute episodes are fun and stimulating; the one on “How the Leopard Got His Spots”  engaged me as a researcher the most.

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John Hartley (Curtin University, Australia and Cardiff University, Wales), currently a visiting fellow in our unit at the WZB, is writing a book with Jason Potts  (a former visiting fellow of ours) on“Cultural Science”. As he points out, it is quite unusual and challenging to write a book about a science that does not yet exist but that needs to be envisioned and realized. In a seminar today John explained that he sees culture as the evolution of meaningfulness, and he gave us glimpses into the work-in-progress on the book. Here I share a few glimmers of those glimpses.

 

John Hartley explaining "What's New?" January 16 2013, WZB

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