Generating my living theory. An interim report
I hope you will enjoy my writings.
Arianna, as someone who's seen a draft of this paper last week I am very impressed and look forward to seeing it progress through the review process and reach publication. It's VERY important work.
All the best
You are sharing so much here--about what CHwB does, about what has historically happened in the regions you work in, about yourself, about how your work affects who you are; all of it is interesting and important for our world. For the purpose of an interim report, I think it would be useful, and fair to each of the many topics here, if are able to focus on what is most important that you would like to convey at this point in time . It sounds like what is primary is your own journey as a human being. But just as easily, you could focus on the work of CHwB.
If you selected your own journey as your focus, perhaps sharing a sense of who you were at the beginning of your work, and then what key incidents in your work caused you to evolve or change or think differently, might be an organizing approach. This would also allow you to exemplify living educational theory.
As I whole I would suggest that you focus, simplify and reduce so that your golden nuggets--precious history that the world needs to hear--can shine through rather than be buried. I am also wondering if you have transcribed your videos? This might allow you to discover exactly what is resonating for you. You will literally see the words, and perhaps more easily find the ones you are searching for to describe these important moments.
I applaud your decision to write an interim report. We learn so much about what is important to us when we write, and the writing journey allows us to hone our focus. Writing and rewriting, sharing and discussing where we are so far, serve as important tools in our own discovery.
I look forward to the next iteration of your thoughts!
thank you so much for reading my paper and for your comments. Your inquiry is extremely useful to help me unveiling some features of both my character and my complex work. Although I'm an experienced professional after many years of fieldwork I still wonder in relation to my job and my life (the two are indistinguishable from each other): what do I care for?
Every time I ask myself this question, the answer is always the same: I care for human development in other words I care for helping the others in reaching their potentials. It does not matter where I operate (I use to move from country to country in average every 3 years) and what projects I’m assigned to, in fact all what matters are the people I work for and with. They are at the center of my focus. They also constitute the reason why I engaged my journey.
Moreover, my professional assignments differ from each other quite a lot. In Albania for instance I support CHwB which deals with cultural heritage; in Afghanistan I was engaged in gender issues and entrepreneurship; in Ethiopia in health and then again in gender, slum upgrading, urban planning, responsible tourism. Some of the countries I work in are struggling with security issues, post-conflict resolution and terrorism so the peace-building component is always an issue.
This is what I call human development and what the UN recently re-framed as ‘the sustainable development goals’ (but that’s politics and I try not to get involve in it).
To be honest with you, I often used to ask myself whether given the heterogenic topics I’m tasked with, I am fragmented in the job that I carry out.
I was also expecting someone reading my paper and not knowing me in person, to wonder the same: “What’s the focus?” I’m amazed by your very subtle capacity to read between the lines and perhaps reading through me, a person you’ve never met. A bit scary though, makes me feel even more vulnerable.
You exactly highlighted a very key issue that lives in me and with me since a very long time. To give you a concrete example, while I was working on another edition of the RRC in Southern Albania (last September) the thought of so many people (refugees) reaching the Balkan region from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea etc. was keeping me (and of course many more in the world) awake. I’m Italian so I’ve been confronted with force migration for decades since unfortunately it’s not a new phenomenon (although the EU tries to convince us that this is the case) and my country is dealing with the refugees’ crises since the early nineties. I’m not new to it, and it did not find me unprepared. However when faced with human suffering, who can remain idle?
My emergency- worker instinct told me to leave and join those who where helping refugees on the front line in Turkey, Greece, Croatia or Hungary. My development -worker self (after a deep and painful internal struggle) told me not to do so, since I am currently dealing with another aspect of human development, which calls for my attention. I have a responsibility towards the people in Albania I committed to.
My reaction taught me that for the sake of those I want to help, I can’t afford to be fragmented and jump from emergency case to emergency case (too many in the world unfortunately).
What I can do is to keep being who I am: multi-faceted or as a good friend said years ago in the attempt to describe me: multi-colored.
In fact, I have not diverted my attention from the refugee crises at all, I’ve just tried to intervene in the best way I could, for the time being.
In practical terms, some friends and I designed a project in order to help the refugees who are in need both in Italy and in Greece. My friends/colleagues are currently in Greece assessing the situation and helping, just helping. Some others have obtained and allocated funds for a project that deals with the integration of refugees in Italy to start with. This is the best I can do date (paraphrasing what Jean McNiff said in 1994).
So all these facets and colors co-habit in me and constitute my living theory.
The focus is always the same, it’s about helping others in reaching their potential (it’s also the title of my PhD thesis).
How? By being the best person I can be
Where? Anywhere I happen to be in the world
When? At any time
Why? For the sake of human development and the flourishing of humanity (as Jack reminds us all)
It’s impossible for me to simply and reduce. Fact is that I need to work hard every day to avoid succumbing to all the painful messiness I/we are exposed to. Going back to my writings I could simply and reduce it, since I believe I’m capable of doing this stylistically. However I wonder whether the result would still represent me, the way I really am.
Your suggestion to share a sense of who I am before the journey is relevant, specially the key incident that caused me to evolve or change or think differently. In fact Ethiopia in 2005 and Afghanistan from 2005 to 2008 was fundamental for me to understand who am I and to focus on my values. The experience I gained in both countries enriched by the beautiful people I met (in Ethiopia I’ve met our daughter Marta and our 3 foster-daughters) have changed my life for ever.
I am pondering on the possibility to add a bit of these in the paper. However how do I defines ‘a bit’ ? a bit of my life? a bit of the people I so loved and still do?
These arguments constitute two chapters of my thesis, but to be very honest with you I’m afraid that if I engage in the writing about those issues that forged me so much, I will get lost at the moment.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m not sure I’m ready to write about that at this stage, specially when it comes to my daughters.
Adding the paragraphs and the video on Salwa in the paper was already brave for my standard. And I’m proud I’ve managed it.
The day will come when I’ll be ready to do so, also because it’s very clear to me that I can’t express my living theory fully without going through my relation with our daughters. If I still sense that the time is not ripe yet, please bear with me if I decide not to do so.
I love your suggestions of transcribing the video, which I’ve never thought of before. I’ll do so and see and hear the words speaking to me differently.
Thank you once more Jocelyn for the thoughts, your comments gifted me with.
What a tender paper...if you can use the adjective-tender for a paper! The quote -Ortega y Gasset, 1957 pp. 141-142- used by you explains it all - your work, your writing and most importantly your values.
I admire the way you have explained two very complex and difficult terms- development’ and sustainability’ in the paragraph pg 2-3… “In this narrative.... from our children.”
I have with reason you used the term admire, as writing ones work is about revealing one’s self. I admire the simplicity in explaining something as complex 'development' and 'sustainability' . As I see it your are not merely explaining the terms, you are to carrying them out and realizing them.
On page 3 you say “LT brings people and their different practice together with the scope of learning, inspiring and influencing each other. It’s a place where critique has no negative connotation, but instead it’s perceived as a valuable way of improving one’s own practice.” Yes, I do believe that is true. I too have expressed something similar ...LT enables you to improve, be true to your values without crucifying you for making mistakes.
After getting me hooked to you and as a reader making me want to know more about your work , Ariana, in “My experience in Albania”, you move away from yourself a bit too much. You report too much about the work of the NGO - Cultural Heritage without Borders (CHwB). It is enlightening, but I am more interested in you. You may feel that you are not able to express in words, but I think the best parts of your paper are when you are communicating your thoughts and feelings. I know this is an interim report, but I do feel I would like to know more about you and more about your work.
When you use quotes it is not so much about what the person says but about its relevance to you, your work and your thoughts. I would suggest you go over them and explain what they mean to you; like you do on pg 14 when you reflect on reveal your thoughts on the idea by Bansky.
There are just a few typos which you need to check and I would also suggest you align you References on the left. Aligning the text with both left and right margin makes the references a bit messy.
thank you very much for reading my paper and for your kind words. You are right Ortega y Gasset says it all when he says for instance:
"if I decide to walk alone inside my own experience, egoistically, I make no progress. I arrive nowhere. I keep turning around and round in the one spot. This is the labyrinth, the road that leads nowhere"
It's so simply, isn’t it?
I know that the more I share and the greater is the reward.
When I got married my sister-in-law got us a card, which says something of the effect of: "happiness is the only thing that doubles if you share it" Sharing is part of my daily happiness treat, I guess.
It is also true that in “my experience in Albania” I move away from myself, I will revisit that paragraph and hopefully manage to put a bit more of Ari in there…
Thank you for the suggestion on how to make a better use of the quotes, I’ll keep that in mind.
Dear Jocelyn, Swaroop and Pip,
I hope this finds you well. I have been working on my paper following your suggestions and comments.
Swaroop I hope the paragraph 'My experience in Albania' reads better now and is less descriptive.
Jocelyn, I've added a new paragraph labelled ' Fragmentation vs. multi-facetism' in the attempt to respond to your inquiry.
Thank you once more for your thought-provoking support.
I very much look forward to your comments.
It was a pleasure to review your paper.
Marie had written to me saying Ari’s work is wonderful and that I would love it. If I recollect correctly Pip too said I would love your work. It was when I saw your videos that I knew why Marie said so. Arianna your videos are very good and they endorse your work.
When I started doing my PhD I was told researchers interested in the multi-form of social communication find videos a valuable tool for data collection and its representation. However, it goes beyond just videotaping. A reflexive account of video data is necessary to enable things to become ‘visible’; what is important is of how we see them rather than simply seeing them because they are there (Pink, 2006). When we study videos / films we can examine... scrutinize more than just words. We can make micro and macro observations concerning behaviour that are reflected in the nods, smiles, eyes, hands, pace of speech, tone, hesitations...So you can perceive and observe a lot more than merely the words. And therefore, when transcribing videos all these features need to be taken into consideration.... maybe more about this later, some other day, some other paper....
Arianna, the videos used by you are very effective in getting your message across. I especially appreciate the insertion of the latest video. I appreciate the way you have used it to support your response to our–the reviewers comments. However, the videos I really loved were Videos 5, 6 and 7. They took me back to my students who were learning ‘life skills enhancement’ to be peer-mentors in an ‘empowerment of adolescent girls’ programme. When you revisit these videos and observe Salwa’s behaviour you will understand what I mean when I say...we can make micro and macro observations concerning behaviour....You have shared very important evidence of your work here. Well done...and as we would say in India-‘Salaam’
[A salutation of peace] and also when one say 'is kaam ko salaam' it means your work is appreciated.
I recommend this paper for publication.
Pink, S. (2006) The Future of Visual Anthropology: Engaging the Senses. London: Routledge.
Wow! Thank you so much Swaroop for your comments and for recommending the paper.
What I love the most is your ability to express the importance of videos.
When you say ‘we can make micro and macro observations concerning behaviour that are reflected in the nods, smiles, eyes, hands, pace of speech, tone, hesitations...So you can perceive and observe a lot more than merely the words’ I feel that your words are so spot on. They remind me of when I started approaching living theory, almost two years ago.
At that time I was simply seeing them. I thought they were helpful to remember people, situations and to transcribe texts. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Today I know that the meaning of the videos lie in the faces, smiles, eyes, gestures, tones, reaction and passion of the people being videoed including myself.
Salwa for instance is telling me a story that I know already, but every time I look at her expressions in the video and at the way she reacts to me and vice versa, an entire new dimension of my understanding of the story unveils!
I hear her story for the first time.
I’m very grateful to Salwa and to all those friends, family members and colleagues that allow me to video our conversations.
On the other hand I’ve recently experienced a situation where people did not allow me to video record, since they would have felt uncomfortable and scrutinized (they said this explicitly). Of course the camera remained off. I just wonder how to explain those people-who have obviously the full right to decide not be recorded- what are we talking about here. I’ll grow wiser along the journey... I hope.
Arianna, I find this iteration of your paper to be more united, and more directive in terms of what you want the reader to consider. For me, that is very effective.
In our dialogue, I have become very aware that I write from my own expectations--my own expectations of what "focus" means, and especially what "interim report" might mean. I realized that I somehow thought "interim report" might mean something shorter rather than the longer completed work, and something that might be more analytical than narrative. I initially provided you with comments coming from my own biases.
I like that in response you have tackled clarifying the issue of fragmentation and messiness; that is a valuable addition to understanding how you work and to your living theory. I like that you explain why you cannot make things shorter. I especially like that you have clarified the points your videos make and why you have included them.
In this reading, I have noted throughout the text what was effective for me, as well as a few small suggestions for revision, mostly of an editorial nature, again based on my own conception of what "clarity" means for me. I also have a list here of other very small linguistic edits: listened to vs being listened, in understanding vs to understanding, man vs the man, starting to identify vs starting identifying, their lives vs they lives, utopian vs utopia, choose vs chose, narrated vs narrate, generate vs generating, child abuse vs child abuses, competencies vs competences, progress vs progresses, actions vs my action.
With these small revisions, I do recommend your paper for publication. Thank you for working so hard to constantly clarify the points you are making.
I do have a couple of other suggestions for you that go beyond the scope of this paper. The first is that I think you should consider writing a book on all of these experiences. It would seem to me that that is a venue where you can delve much more deeply into the profound stories and experiences you have encountered in your work. The world needs such a book to understand the damage that has been caused in various parts of the world over the past 20 years.
The second is that you may want to look at the works of Margaret Wheatley who also writes about trying to capture messiness. In "So Far From Home" she also talks about how saving the world is not the approach to take, but rather each individual making a difference, like your grain/peace analogy through the article.
Good luck in all you do, Arianna!
Apologies for my slow reply, I was traveling for a while.
Thank you for sharing your understanding of ‘interim report’ and clarity. I’m glad that you find the last paragraph on fragmentation and messiness useful and coherent. Thank you ever so much also for the time you’ve spent in making sure that the paper is linguistically OK. This also means a lot to me. I love the English language and I love to write in English although as a non-native speaker is not always an easy task. I have followed your suggestions and amended the text where necessary.
As for the book by Margaret Wheatley, it seems a very interesting story, which I look forward to reading.
Some years ago, Fozjia (currently 17, one of the brightest mind I’ve ever met) told me that she was writing down the story of our Ethiopian-Italian-German family!
‘Little by little’ she said, ‘because I don’t want to forget anything’. When I asked her why she replied: ‘ because it’s a story that brings hope for those who believe they’ll never make it. I want people to know that there is always hope, and that they can be happy again, like us’. Clearly our Fozjia is a very special creature.
That was the first time that I thought that such a story could be passed on as a massage of hope. I concur with you (and Fozu)…it would be important to write it down beyond the PhD.
I have learnt a lot from you Jocelyn as well as from Swaroop and Pieter!
You all made my first attempt at publishing a paper educational, pleasurable and joyful!
I hope our paths will cross again
Thank you for sharing your LT with us. Reading your work - a real-life experience I went through - became part of my LT. (I wish we could come up with a more innovative construct than 'theory' - with apology to our dear Jack Whitehead - but I am afraid this is something that for some time will still draw the academic world, which still is situated in the rut of traditional thinking about research, to what we are involved in in some way). So, what I am about to share is a constructing of meaning of what I have read. I hope it will contribute to our co-constructing of meaning.
I do like the title of your paper - suggesting the continuous evolvement of what you know, experience and live. However, the sub-title to me is redundant as it takes away the blossoming of your LT, converting it into something more of a 'report' that would satisfy the needs of the world of traditional research. The construct 'interim' also suggests a kind of a stop, and yet in your conclusion on page 16 you refer to the very fact that one should refrain from writing such a section. It is almost as if your wonderful account of personal LT that flows from the self is abruptly interfered with. It also interferes with the 'flowing of consciousness' (Whitehead) that you refer to - in this case your flowing of consciousness. On page 5 you write: this is '...theory of my life'. Yes, it is ever-flowing and written as we go ...
In the introductory section you refer to metacognitive skills. I was wondering if this should not be explained in some way: is it not rather to do with strategies? What would be the differences? Should it not rather be 'metaliving' skills/strategies? Does it form part of your epistemological grounding of your study? Would you consider constructivism as part of this - as you indicate on page 10 that a space is created (constructed)? To me 'cognitive' is restricting. So is 'dialectic' to which you often refer. You do refer to 'emotional-self' and 'rational-self'. But this is only part of who we are. You might like to include the notion of whole brain thinking (Herrmann) as you yourself refer to the importance of holistic development (development towards a holistic self, page 7); and on age 10 holistic development of individual emotional, psychological and spiritual evolution. How do we claim that that LT is holistic/whole/all inclusive of who we are? I am thinking of a construct such as 'whole brain living theory'. Herrmann refers to the intellectual self, safekeeping self, emotional self and experimental self.
I got excited when reading on page 6 about 'I'm expressing the energy that flows from me'. This would rather be a description of your ontology instead of what you have as ontology (page 5) which is not that clear.
Let's refrain from considering our work as being not authentic as what we do is real life and that is by default authentic. What we write and how we write about it is also authentic (as I am doing right now in my second language): a real-life experience in meaning making. In this regard you refer to '... nor genuinely communicative'. Well, what I have read and what I have understood as a narrative account of your LT is authentic! It comes from within! So, let's also refrain from writing 'trying to express', using words such as 'incapacity' (p5) and 'I am not able to express this in words'.
A few questions: (p8) Can we restore people's humanity? Or is it about self-restore? - a metacognitive act. Or are we responsible for creating opportunities for self-restoring? Or facilitating the process? What is a 'primitive society'? Who is to judge? p10: Should we create the peaceful space or should it be co-created?
p10: Is creating a dialectic space sufficient? Is it not more than dialect?
The ultimate question remains: What are the LTs of those you are working with?
I wish you all of the best and am looking forward to co-creating living theory with you.
(I deliberately refrained from making comments about editorial issues as I am sure you will be able to use your metacognitive language skills to correct them)
First and foremost thank you for the time you dedicated to me and my narrative and for your engaging comments.
In my language (which is rooted in Latin) ‘interim’ has a beautiful meaning and stands for ‘frattanto’ – in English ‘meanwhile’. I love that because it reminds me that my living theory, as the title of the paper suggests, is dynamic, since it’s generative. There is no full stop. Instead there are very many commas. I would argue I see various intervals of time constituting my life and which are dedicated to consolidate thoughts, develop new thinking and ideas and – my favourite part – translate them into new actions. The ‘meanwhile’ indicates that period of time when I indulge in certain aspects, which prepare me to jump to the next level and welcome another evolution of my thinking. This generates the theory of my life.The full stop of my living theory is my death.
This is also why I like the work ‘theory’. It does not suggest to me any negative connotations related to a traditional way of doing research. On the contrary it offers me a revolutionary way of doing research in which ‘theory’ is not something we are indoctrinated with and required not to challenge. It is rather putting ‘theory’ upside-down and starting with a living experience that eventually generates my living theory, unique and unrepeatable as every human being is. LT builds on what is good from traditional academia and transcends it through actions and accounting for those actions.
In this sense my living theory is word-and-action as Ben Cunningham (2015) writes in his comments to Moira Laidlaw’s paper posted in this forum. He goes on to say that word-and-action is where ontology and ‘conscientisation’ (Freire, 2005) meet. I like how St. Augustine expresses what in my eyes is his coscientisation of his ontology, when he says:
“For I was: I was alive: I could feel: I could guard my personality, the imprint of that mysterious unity from which my being was derived.“(St. Augustine, 1961)
For me the above is very much to do with the explanation of my ontology and conscientisation is the means I use to become metacognitive about my own ontological I. So in addition my ontology is unfinished, is at an interim stage and the more my consciousness evolves (or flows as described in the paper), the more my ontological I develops and so does my living-theory.
Being metacognitive does not form a part of my epistemological grounding of my study, I would rather say that it is the grounding for living my life as fully as I can. This is the path that gets me closer to my own humanity.
I am not sure what you mean by 'metaliving' skills/strategies? I do like the sound of ‘metaliving’ although I don’t know the meaning. However, to be honest, the word ‘strategy’ is a buzzword that I encounter every day and in my context is so overused that I don’t know whether it has a specific meaning I can relate to anymore. This is only my personal bias from the jargon used in my working sector. I’d like to know more about how you position this word and its meaning.
I admire you, Pieter, when you say ‘Let's refrain from considering our work as being not authentic as what we do is real life and that is by default authentic’.
I believe I can totally understand your standpoint here and yes I agree with you, that our work is authentic. I do wonder though, how can I demonstrate it to the people who know nothing of my life? Ultimately – between you and me Pieter – I would argue that it does not matter too much, but what I’m doing here is to draw from my real life an academic paper and eventually a Ph.D. thesis, which require rigour and discipline and to meet certain standards.
Moreover since I know that I have the means and the capacity to account for my authenticity, I’m glad to do so. I don’t feel undermined by doing so. On the contrary, I feel stronger because the first person I want to be accountable to and prove my authenticity to, is myself.
Thank you for introducing to me the notion by Herrman of whole brain thinking which seems to resonate with my sense of ‘whole’. I will explore it in-depth, but I’m afraid there’s no space for that in this narrative However, in the paragraph ‘Fragmentation vs multi-facetism’ my notion of ‘looking at the broader picture’ is my understanding of ‘holism’. I’m excited to find out how Hermann uses his concept and whether the two notions have something in common.
To your questions Pieter:
A few questions: (p.8) Can we restore people's humanity? Or is it about self-restore? - a metacognitive act. Or are we responsible for creating opportunities for self-restoring? Or facilitating the process?
These are the answers I’m looking for in my daily life. I will need my entire life to answer them since every person, every situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. I will have my ultimate answer the moment I die, but not because it’s really the final one, but rather because I’ll be at the end of my LT and of my personal development.
What is a 'primitive society'? Who is to judge?
This is a quotation by Fromm and according to my understanding (but it’s just a supposition) he wants to point out how rare it is in human history to witness a society in which the wealth is evenly distributed among its members. I don’t believe he’s judgmental in his statement, only realistic. When he refers to ‘primitive societies’ I understand he means those groups of people who in the past lived in contexts where the medium of exchange was not money.
p10: Should we create the peaceful space or should it be co-created? I prefer to think that it should be co-created. This is why I like your notion of co-creating living theory. Although how can we create something that is so distinctive and is generated by the ontological ‘I’ of each of us? I feel it’s more realistic to think that each of us can create their living theory alongside each other (Pound, 2003)
This is the reason I don’t know really what are the LTs of those I am working with. I might be able to form my opinion on them, be empathic as much as I can in order to understand their feelings (which I do every day) and so on, but I will never ever be able to claim that I know about other people’s LT simply because I’m not them. I’m the humble me, and can aspire only to tide up the messiness of my LT by sorting out all its ‘meanwhiles’ of a lifetime.
However, although I’m researching my own I, my main interest is also to come closer to a ‘we’ point.
What I want to say is that my internal “I” embraces a dimension where the sense of “we” overwhelms the individualistic perception of the world.
The following quotation by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi helps me unveiling my understanding of the “we” quality.
“Instead of being mere self-seeking, we must bear in mind that individual well-being entails cooperative and contributive existence within society if it is to last any length of time.” (Makiguchi, 1931)
Thus, the self that is researched is not an egotistical ‘I’ but a relational one, similar to the African notion of Ubuntu as expressed by the phrases, ‘i am because we are’ and ‘we are because i am’ (Huxtable and Whitehead, 2015).
Thank you so much for caring and for your thought provoking comments.
I look forward to co-creating alongsideness in our LTs with you.
Augustine, St. (1961) Confessions, transl. London: R.S. Pine-Coffin.
Bethel, D. M.(1973) Makiguchi the Value Creator: Revolutionary Japanese Educator and Founder of Soka Gakkai. Weatherhill Press.
Freire, P. (2005) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, London: The Continuum International Publishing Group. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from https://libcom.org/files/FreirePedagogyoftheOppressed.pdf
Huxtable, M. and Whitehead, J. (2015) How does Living Educational Theory research enable individuals to research into their higher education to improve it and contribute to educational knowledge? Reterived from http://www.actionresearch.net/writings/jack/1HESig8thMaymhjw150415.pdf
Laidlaw, M. (2015) A response to my paper by Ben Cunningham. Retrieved from http://ejolts.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=167
Pound, R. (2003) How can I improve my health visiting support of parenting? The creation of an alongside epistemology through action enquiry. Ph. D. University of the West of England. Retrieved from http://actionresearch.net/living/pound.shtml