Academics from different disciplines

Peggy S. Holman peggy at
Thu Dec 2 15:44:39 PST 2004


I'm looking for examples for a colleague I'm working with on a conference.  He's expressed a concern about OS in a situation among a group, mostly academics, from different disciplines.  I haven't yet allayed his fears.  Our exchange on the subject is below.  I'd appreciate any stories or words of counsel from you.  

Thanks for any support on this,

 1.  I am in the midst of reading George B. Dyson's DARWIN AMONG THE 
> provocative.  Lots of stories of brilliant people in the last 400 years 
> envisioning, inventing, getting in trouble, etc., co-creating (and 
> co-being) the dense weave of our increasingly interdependent world of 
> digital and human intelligence.
> Aside from the fact that Dyson should be on the waiting list for the ES, 
> there is the fact that I don't understand 10-15% of what he says due to 
> jargon and unfamiliar conceptual / experiential frames.  This made me 
> wonder:  With the ES [Evolutionary Salon], we are bringing together a fairly diverse group who 
> have fairly diverse languages (jargons) and conceptual/ experiential 
> frames.  Will those who are speaking be patient and capable enough to 
> familiarize the newbies to their universes and languages?  Will some of 
> the newbies want to get clear each step of the way, while others will just 
> want to move on, riding over the grey areas of semi-comprehension in 
> search of the light ahead?  Will people who already know the language and 
> worldview of the speaker tolerate slow-downs to help others catch up, when 
> they could be surging ahead to some new insight with their same-worldview 
> colleagues?
> I've never arranged a conference with this diversity of (not just views 
> but) languages and experiential groundings.  Do you 
> folks have any ideas about helping such cross-disciplinary conversations 
> work?  I may have some other people I can ask if we don't have the 
> expertise among us.
1.  To your concern about people understanding each other, please, let it go, or be prepared to be surprised.  The beauty of open space is that people get their needs met, with all their differences. It is DESIGNED for diversity; it's where it shines.

> Thanks for the advice, Peggy.  Coming from you, I just might take it! :-)
> But I'm still wary -- not so much as a participant (I can tolerate a lot) 
> but as a designer (I feel responsible for not making any bad judgments 
> that could have been avoided).  I'm interested in stories involving not 
> just differences in viewpoint, experience, etc., but differences in 
> academic expertise and language. Do you have examples of interdisciplinary 
> academic Open Spaces?

> When I try to envision being in an OS session with Dyson and a bunch of 
> geeks, I can feel that either they or I would walk out in frustration. 
> That's the law of two feet at work.  AND it is a failure to bridge between 
> the two worlds -- 
> which, in our case, is the primary purpose of the gathering....  How to 
> satisfy both needs...

Peggy Holman
The Open Circle Company
15347 SE 49th Place
Bellevue, WA  98006
peggy at

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