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Archive for July, 2009

I’ve just started to read David Lipset’s biography of Gregory Bateson, “The Legacy of a Scientist”, part of a small avalanche of background reading that I have caused to fall into my office at Henley from sources obscure and far away. The Internet has proved a good match for my apparent predilection for Plant and Resource Investigator tendencies, and I have recently found several audio recordings of Bateson speaking and several bargain-priced books by or about him and his thinking/legacy.

Today turned up in Pdf format the entire text for his early anthropological report, “Naven”, which I thought was something of a find.

But the reason for writing this is reading, in the biography, that Bateson was sent to a prep school (now a primary school) called Warden House, in Deal, Kent. It made me smile inwardly because I grew up in Deal and went to primary school about half a mile away. By all accounts, I disliked my religiously charged education as he did. One wonders whether there will be further small Velcro points of contact to come in future exploration.  I have other formative memories from that town, several of which must surely one day resurface to be made sense of in the light of this line of research.

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Following some reflection after the panel meeting in Lancaster, I have a new working title for my PhD:   “Pattern and metapattern in learning in post-experience Management Education: using narrative inquiry into learner’s view of relationship in career and family-of-origin to explore and illustrate the epistemology of Gregory Bateson”. I’m sure it won’t remain worded this way for long, but I like it. Will my supervisor agree?

Bateson’s epistemology is, of course, not something that is simple or easy to study, though that is more to do with limitations of our language than any flaw in the thinking. The term “metapattern” was an easy one to get interested in, much harder to work out how it would translate into a research agenda, but the reading I’m doing now (Tyler Volk) is helping to identify some ideas, and also some ways of thinking that cross disciplines such as biology and psychology.

My “unit of analysis” remains the individual, and I’m hoping that the collaborative inquiry into that individual’s  turning points in life will be a route to explore pattern and metapattern of relation, which lies at the heart of the Batesonian view of both ontology and epistemology (for him, these were synonymous).

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I had what turned out to be a pre-upgrade PhD panel meeting in Lancaster this week. I had prepared a document for it and that was used as the basis for discussion with two Lancaster faculty. Not knowing quite what to expect was excuse enough not to be too nervous, although the previous evening’s read-through of my submission left me feeling dissatisfied. I had been working on that document for some time, and it was intended to “state my case” so far, and it appeared to follow convention in its structure and form. However, it also felt in part incomplete and, aside from a few passages at the beginning and when speaking of Bateson’s work, flat. By chance, whilst in the library on campus, I found listed the PhD thesis of someone called Noel Charlton, who had written his PhD on Bateson, and who has since published a book, Understanding Gregory Bateson, which I now must get hold of.

After an hour and a quarter of discussion, questioning, observation and critique, I came away feeling both daunted and excited. Daunted because I was being asked to “rewrite and resubmit”, and still excited because I was also being given the go-ahead to present my thinking in a manner congruent with my subject of investigation. In other words, in my own words. Because I wish to investigate pattern, form and relationship in a more narrative and nested format, I am now offered the chance to do so freed from slavishly following structured convention, and of the confines of the language of scientific reification.

I immediately knew where I wanted to start again, though it will not be an easy task. Bateson.

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