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Lines Part 12: Dancing in the Dark, Seeing in the Shadows

Page history last edited by roy williams 10 months, 4 weeks ago


Index page on Lines: here


Dancing in the Dark / Seeing in the Shadows



Reading Dancing in the Dark - which seems to be a rather unobtrusive text, at first - I was really struck by how much it resonated with what a team of us had done some time back. To wit, drawing lines in/to the shadows … 


“Suddenly Nini realised what she could bring to the party were psychoanalytic perspectives on the work darkness does inside us. Psychoanalysis (and Education) are fields of study that address what eludes sense-making and cannot be readily understood.


“[Its] a clinical practice that plays in the dark. …[and thinks], but not in words. [Its] less a cognitive or investigative endeavour than an embodied process of intuitive, reflexive sensing … the … internal processing of what she [the therapist] notices and acknowledges at the bodily level: the sensory data and raw impressions that emerge when one is immersed in the lived world of another human being.  … the unthought known … what is known at an experiential level yet at the same time remains in the shadows.” (Dancing in the Dark, 2021: p26).



Nested Narratives



Working in a  team of researchers on what ‘technologies’ to explore, what ‘tools’ people really need - to understand their own personal and professional journey (aka ‘development’), two of us stumbled across the biographical narrative interview method, late one afternoon at a workshop in Guildford. Together with the research team, we repurposed / upcycled the method into nested narratives.


We were very aware that we were merging research and psychoanalytic exploration, so we put a host of protocols in place to ensure support was available if and when needed. When you ask someone if they would like to ‘dance in the shadows’, you all need to be properly prepared.


Then we began: “Would you like to tell me a story about something you’ve experienced that matters to you? You have a few minutes to think about it; then I’ll press ‘record’ (audio only), and you can start talking. The story will take as long as it takes to finish it. I wont interrupt you, I’ll be busy taking some notes. When you’re finished, I’d like to take a few minutes to go through my notes, and then I’ll ask you if you would like to say something more about a few things”.


The facilitator (not really an ‘interviewer’) only asks the narrator to tell their own story, and then asks if they would like to expand on something that they have said - which is always a direct quote from their story.  No why’s, no where-fore’s, no new agenda items can be added.


The story stays within the ‘gift’ of the story teller. Always. (And preferably the master copy of the recording is on their smart phone, not that of the facilitator).


The stories that emerge are rich and vital, sometimes surprising, sometimes temporarily disowned (“I couldn’t have said that”), sometimes even quite surprising, or even ‘new’ to the story-teller.  They are resources for all sorts of reflection - professional and personal (and everything in between). 


See here for more details ...






Image courtesy of Matisse, Golden Hare Books, and Jenny Connected 


See: Dancing in the Dark, 2021, Anne Pirie, Nini Fang, & Elizabeth O'Brian. Tilosophy Press, UK.


And ... my summary of HE fits nicely into the challenge to 'dance in the dark', so ...


Undergraduate HE is:  tolerating uncertainty

Masters HE is: accepting uncertainty

Doctoral HE is:  celebrating uncertainty. 


Alternatively, cycle through all three options in your first year of undergraduate study - if you're up for it - and join the dancers in "inheriting the party".


There is a problem, though - and it was picked up in the book as well as the PERG discussion: 


Many (most) of our experiences of schooling are learning about certainty, compliance, and predetermined 'outcomes'. Uncertainty is seldom mentioned, and even the certainty that there is, is no longer as 'well established.'  So called 'received wisdom' is no longer a given - it no longer enjoys a 'broad consensus'. 


But the crucial fault lines run much deeper than that - than the rather lazy 'binary': un/certainty.


The elephant in the room (or the elephant that is not even acknowledged to be in the room) is that most of what we do is more contingent than we would like to admit - more 'probabilistic' than 'certain', and crucially more dependent on consensus building - on common purpose - than we can achieve in a world that is crowded out by fractured narratives and pop-up diaspora - and in which there is actually very little consensus on anything outside of the purely functional - and even that is now being absorbed behind very complicated algorithms that we literally can't access, for outcomes that we don't all agree on, either.


Aside: If we bridled against the 'locked down' experience of the Covid pandemic, that might turn out to be nothing compared to the 'locked in' experience of 'artificial intelligence' that awaits us. 


Cyberspace, the foundation of our modern, globalised, 'civilisation', is being deliberately 'polluted' by monetising hatred and by cyber-disruption. So the core of feral capitalism (aka 'greed') is pollution. In old money, this should be declared 'taboo' / 'haram' / bad karma (etc). 


So called energy 'load-shedding' is just the surface manifestation of the far more invidious 'fog of cyberspace'. The fog of cyberspace/globalised financial markets is increasingly diverting economic and technical resources to gratuitous warfare (nothing new there). But really, guys, we should, as a species, have learnt to deal with that, by now. We haven't. 


We are sleepwalking (further) into an era of ever more complex, inaccessible, financialised, algorithms. It's time to re-evaluate, to reboot, to disentangle, to simplify.


In short, we need to declutter our minds and our practices.  More of the same is just going to make it worse: more difficult to comprehend, to build consensus, to manage and, ultimately, more costly to repair.   













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