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Unleashing the Potential of Participatory Communication in Community Transformation

Jul 13, 2023 | 0 comments

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Jul 13, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Most of us by now have distinguished between information and knowledge. Given that our culture, especially its educational institutions, is increasingly presenting information as the only kind of knowledge, how would you suggest we articulate the difference and value of knowledge as distinct from mere applied information?

Please note, you don’t have to encompass everything in this essays. A tightly focused exposition is better than a huge, vague, and general one.

Include references from the additional note I have attached in the essay, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, label the references “attached note”. Include additional three source

You need to explicate the ideas and arguments in the course material. This is a very important part of the assignment.


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The essay must have a thesis statement in the introduction, i.e., a claim that centres the discussion. The ideas in the body of the essay must be well organized and were often pertinent to the topic. And less grammatical problems.

“Life is Lived Individually and I Want to See What YOU Know and Think.”2

“”Survival,” has a Darwinian ring to it these days, not just in biological circles, but in politics and economics and in just about every other sphere of life.

survival of the fittest… the principle that animals and plants suited to the conditions they live in are more likely to stay alive and produce other animals and plants than those which are not suited3

It denotes staying “alive”, sustaining life (“…vive”). But 20th & 21st Century developments in health and science, to say nothing of military technology and commercial trade law, have raised serious questions about what life is, when and how it begins and ends, and who has “property” rights over it.4 A couple of sections of Dr. Renaud’s paper raise what he describes as “democratic life”5 issues we need to resolve if Costanza and Luque and Jonas and others are right in their assessments of where our current technological culture has brought us. We can begin by noting what he sees as the past.6

Both the corporatization of universities and the prominence of natural sciences have sent shock waves to the ways we conduct our business in the social sciences and humanities. The glory days are long gone for the stereotypical pipe-smoking English professor in his tweed jacket, with leather patches on his elbows, making timeless pronouncements on high culture or for the bearded sociology professor discussing the next phase in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

My argument will be that we are now way past the old debate between the so-called social sciences and the so-called humanities. I’ll argue that the real debates are about the:

role of disciplines in academe (multi-, cross-, inter-, or trans-disciplinarity);

place of group, team or network approaches to knowledge building;

place of problem-, issue-, mission- or performance- driven research (also called targeted or strategic research); and place of knowledge transfer (mobilization, translation, management) in our scholarly undertakings.

Despite my own beard—and a deep affection and respect for many such tweedy, bearded professors in my own life—I fully agree that the traditional “tweed jacket” approach practised by many of us “bearded sociology,” or philosophy, “professors” is no longer effective culturally or pedagogically. I will come back to this important issue in a moment.

We must also note what Renaud cautions us7 he is “NOT” proposing.

I am NOT making the case here for some kind of mythical “unity of knowledge” whereby the human mind would transcend all the differences between the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities… (T)his debate has not much ground to occupy anymore. The variance within disciplines is now larger than that between disciplines. The economist who is a quantitative modeller has more in common with the mathematician than with the economic historian. The qualitative sociologist has more to do with philosophy or literature than with the quantitative sociologist, who may feel closer to the scientists who have sequenced the human genome.

Renaud makes an important point here, in my view. And, just in case there is some confusion about my own argument, I want to endorse this aspect of his position as well. In my view—and in Aristotle’s as I understand it—any epistemic unity or discursive integration such as Costanza and Jonas hope to secure is not likely to emerge as some jointly held set of truths on which there will be some universal consensus.

The only epistemic unity or discursive integration possible in our current technologically dominated culture is as a function of jointly experienced needs; “needs” like those encountered by the dialectical companions at Republic 372, which we have seen Aristotle address in his practical treatment of the effective relationship of knowledge and action in the Nicomachean Ethics. Any discursive integration or epistemic unity will arise through searching for what we do not yet properly “have” but need, rather than through searching for “survival” in securing and enhancing what we think we already have, our presumed wealth. In Aristotle’s view as I am arguing it here, the properly disciplined scientific search for what is causally “necessary,” and the recognition of its relevance as actually needed, provides an irresistible urgency that forces us to act (“praxis”) selectively and wisely.

And we can actually make the selective choices (that Dreyfus says computers cannot make) in Aristotle’s view, if we recognize what he and Plato both saw as the “weakness” of language, and if we adopt appropriate measures to overcome that weakness. The appropriate measures, Aristotle argues, are that we jointly undertake thorough, faithful, logically disciplined analysis that will reveal to us which acts mediate the obviously “weak” names we variously and inadequately use to “symbolize”9 the furniture of the world for ourselves. That analysis entails, and shapes, a unified, jointly discursive set of political practices and cultural behaviours that, in Dreyfus’ terminology, embody a shared field of relevance, a shared culture, a shared “life.” This dialectical approach fosters constantly growing, unified, living bodies of practice rather than finished, dead—and deadening—unified bodies of knowledge.10

Renaud goes on to say:11

The real issue is, How should we structure our approach to knowledge development in the future? How can we … strike an alliance to make sure the ‘human’ sciences deliver as much to the world as the ‘natural’ sciences … have done?

Renaud then sets out to answer this question by examining four related and vigorously debated features of contemporary academic life: “multidisciplinarity, teamwork, problem-focused research, and knowledge transfer,” which he describes as “having emerged as fundamental issues only over the last quarter century.” Dr. Renaud notes a recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

What if the humanities adopted a different model for intellectual interchange? Imagine if ideas in the humanities evolved not in response to public—and adversarial—diatribes in magazines, journals and conference panels, but in a regular, even routine, manner, the equivalent of a science laboratory. In a lab—or at least the platonic ideal of a lab—discovery of one sort or another is the shared, overt goal… The humanities could borrow from the collaborative model of the lab, where even the most senior and junior members count on one another, and where joint publication and grant applications acknowledge and formalize a structure of mutual dependency. The Oedipal “anxiety of influence” so championed by humanists is counterproductive for both junior and senior members …12

And then he strikes a note that responds to a key aspect of the problem we saw Jonas raise: how, if at all, do solitary individuals participate in contemporary knowledge? Renault observes:

No matter how brilliant and creative, there is no way a solitary thinker could puzzle through the complex issues of today’s world as deeply and comprehensively as a group of people from different fields, different areas of expertise, different disciplinary training and perspectives, and spanning several generations. The difficulty now is figuring out what this all means for academic work. As I kept telling my students who were constantly asking for collaborative term papers to be accepted, “Life is lived individually and I want to see what YOU know and think.” Collective undertakings cannot supersede the need to make a contribution that is specifically one’s own….Yet, collective work can make a huge difference in terms of its overall depth, breadth and impact… Inadequate attention to human sciences… has contributed to making human problems seem beyond the reach of human understanding and redress. When “common sense”—often no more than prejudice and superstition—holds more sway than solid evidence and debate, we court a huge risk of error and a grave decline in the quality of democratic life.

You will recall that I introduced this Philosophy course on “contemporary” issues in technology by stating that its goal was to raise some “timely” questions: ones we can no longer avoid asking, because they can no longer be safely postponed. “Contemporary” comes from two Latin words, cum which means “with”, and tempus which means “time.” So a “contemporary” issue is one that is “in time with us.” A recurrent theme of these essays has been the role of history as a way in which we accommodate, and accommodate to, time.

I have tried to suggest a view of history that is based on Aristotle’s biological “teleology.” I am not convinced that Aristotle has it right. In fact, I am pretty certain he does not in certain important respects that are, however, not particularly relevant to our discussion here. But his approach is valuable in that it raises a perspective we may find helpful in testing our sense of being imprisoned or determined by history when it is viewed as a record of a causal chain of inevitable events, or even as a science of the meaning of past events as they shape the present and future. Aristotle sees history in technological terms, as a technique or skill for accurately determining precisely what is possible. He suggests that we can use history to support free possession, exploration, and practice of the possible so as to ensure that events occur in ways that do not impede their best outcomes.

But the course as a whole is not about history or time. It is about whether contemporary practice, informed as it is by modern technological skills and devices, can be more wisely grounded in scientific knowledge conducted according to relevant measures of value. That is what we have seen as the contemporary issue preoccupying Emilio Luque and Robert Costanza and Hubert Dreyfus and Hans Jonas and Marc Renaud and the Buccaneers and Helen Caldicott and Seamus Heaney, among others.

A lot of energy went into exploring how relevant measures of value are achieved, and into trying to see why bodies, as Dreyfus and Aristotle both argue, are crucial to all knowledge, including scientific knowing. Dreyfus sees a body as a site of risk, and therefore as the lens that finally determines what really is relevant. Building on that notion of risk, and on the problems facing contemporary knowledge institutions, we explored how bodies of practice risk doing the truth as a result of directly experiencing a compelling need.

That experience of need is what, in the earlier essays, we saw Plato design into his dialectic as practised by group of faithful participants bound by a faithful commitment to name things as accurately as language permits. Aristotle transformed this procedure into a description of how a practically wise community body, he suggests, can be effective once the impediments are removed by attending to the lessons of history as we explore the possible. Bodies grow when anything threatens by its presence, as participants in dialectic threaten each other with meaning-lessness unless their experience leads them into practices that are vital and sustaining. Bodies are sites of contested relevance resolved in practice.

There are lots and lots of questions left dangling as we come to the end of this course. On the other hand, I did not promise you I would be asking questions to which there were good answers; just questions we can no longer avoid asking, because they can no longer be safely postponed.

The Video Technology

First we should note something about what the video is. The actual making of the video was, itself, a key part of the impediment-removal process. The film’s Director, Charlie Callanan, and the members of MUN’s Educational Television Unit did not go out to Buchans as voyeurs, simply to observe and record the pain and frustration of its people as they struggled to decide their future. Nor were they acting as journalists to record events so as simply to inform the general public. Nor, finally, did they make the video so we could sit, also like voyeurs, and watch the story as a kind of entertainment.

The making of the video itself was a formal documentation of a history-making communications event that provided an occasion for the people of Buchans to ask themselves, and others, some of the questions they needed to ask. Please note the way Mr. Callanan describes (at about 5 min 10 secs) the participation of the people of the community in the technical aspects of the community television event.

It is not nostalgia that prompts the need to document such moments. It is faithfulness, in the sense we saw the term used earlier by Plato, that makes this kind of documentation necessary. The video documents what the participants themselves said to themselves. It establishes a reference by which they can judge their future acts. It provides a memory, a criterion of relevance, that allows the townspeople to test the truth-basis of their actions. In this sense the video functions in something like the way old treaties were recorded graphically hundreds of years ago and are now used as the basis for determining land, and other rights. It is even a bit like the famous Bayeux tapestry,2 though perhaps not quite such a supreme work of art!

This dynamic use of live television, and film, and later video, technology arose out of an approach developed earlier here in Newfoundland at Memorial. It was called the “Fogo Process” and was designed as a “tool in participatory community development.”3 The Guelph University Web site describes the process, as follows:

…. It was to be a project that used film to assist communities in coming to terms with some of their problems. It was intended to help the people realize that they had problems in common and to move towards building cooperation and development.

The community members interviewed clearly identified a number of island issues: the inability to organize, the need for communication, the resentment felt towards the idea of resettlement, and the anger that the government seemed to be making decisions about their future with no community consultation process. (The film maker, Colin) Low decided to show the films to the people of Fogo and thirty- five separate screenings were held with the total number of viewers reaching 3,000. This became an important part of the process. It was realized that people were not comfortable discussing issues with each other face-to-face. Instead, they were quite comfortable explaining their individual views on film and having those opinions played back to other community members. By viewing the films, the islanders started to realize that all the communities were experiencing the same problems; they became more aware of these problems and what needed to be done to solve them.

There was controversy back at the university about what the political consequences for the institution would be because of the blatant criticisms of the government that occurred in the films. After some discussion, it was decided that the Premier and his cabinet should view the films. This was phenomenal since it allowed fishermen to talk to cabinet ministers. It was also successful: the Minister of Fisheries, Aiden Maloney, asked to be able to respond to the commentaries. The government point-of-view was filmed through him and shown back to the communities. This brought about a two-way flow of knowledge between community members and decision makers. From this point things began to happen on their own. The films simply helped contribute to an island-wide sense of community and assisted people in looking for alternatives to resettlement.

It is not known for certain what would have happened on Fogo had the filming never been done. What is certain is that “the fishermen formed an island-wide producers cooperative which handled and processed large catches, enabling them to keep the profits on their island. Unemployment of able-bodied men disappeared, and government directed their efforts into helping people to stay. Films did not do these things: people did them. There is little doubt, however, that film created an awareness and self confidence that was needed for people-advocated development to occur”… The Fogo project became an internationally acclaimed prototype using media to promote dialogue and social change and was later used by various communities around the world.4

Filmmaker Colin Low and his crew recognised there was a natural communication dynamic emerging in the process that was important politically and culturally. The film process provided a reflective medium in which people could test what they could safely say to each other, what they needed to say, what was really relevant. And it allowed them to say it more precisely, more cogently, more accurately. Like the participants in Plato’s Republic, they were being enabled jointly to search for the right names for their experiences, and to develop a more precise definition of themselves and their situation. That enabled the community to engage not only more effectively within itself, but also with others, including government officials.5

The Buchans community event, and the documenting of that event, were applications of the “Fogo Process” technology. The aim was to create a suitable opportunity that might move talk into action by focussing the talk into a reflective moment crystalizing everyone’s experience around what was relevant to them as a body.

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  • Herman Bailey

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