All entries for Sunday 28 May 2006
May 28, 2006
Kay's analysis of my own work quite rightly places me towards the connector end of the line, meaning that my intellectual habits tend towards seeking out related phenomena in distinct realms, looking for connections, and searching for a common underlying dynamic. Other people tend towards the dissector extreme, they are primarily concerned with analysing a single phenomena by dissecting it continually into more fine–grained constituent parts.
I'll leave that conjecture open and unassessed, as there are two more immediate questions that interest me:
- Are the two modes of operation in fact just two aspects of the same intellectual process? – inseparable;
- Does the application of one without the other lead to empty meaningless results?
- Are our learning technologies capable of supporting each mode in the right way and at the right time?
Connective synthesis and disjunctive synthesis
The notional connector person and their counterpart dissector are characterised as such because they tend to make things following one particular pattern. The product of their creativity being conceptual structure, developed within and expressed by various forms (texts, diagrams, programmes, maps).
The creation of concepts, of whatever pattern, is an act of synthesis:
With the two syntheses defined, the inseperability of connection and dissection (question 1 above) is clear. But why should there be character types that favour one of the modes almost exclusively over the other? Surely the best approach would be to recognize the importance of each synthesis in its own time and place, whilst retaining a critical stance? There are no doubt many reasons why people become inflexible in their thinking, becoming trapped within an obsessive dissection or a delirial search for connections. I would like to raise the possibility that our learning technologies may be part of the problem.
To that conjecture, I added the clause 'most current learning technologies'. I do believe that there are a couple of technologies that do encourage this kind of non–linearity, namely wikis and concept maps. Both of these tools allow us to do the following:
- Create a set of topics in relative isolation from each other (the MindManager concept mapping tool even includes a 'brainstorming' tool to assist with this).
- Create a proposed structure drawing upon these topics.
- Extend the structure with new topics, or old topics further dissected.
- Create new connections between the topics.
- Revise topics without drastically effecting the overall structure of connections.
- Revise the structure without drastically effecting the individual topics.
- Track revisions and authoring actions.
In these ways, wikis and concept maps actually work to promote a more effective combination of the three syntheses (connection, disjunction, conjunction), and open that process up to the critical view of both students and tutors.
Theatre is a repetition without finality, a repetition/rehearsal (same word in French). The most effective theatre approaches the limit and retreats, taking the audience on that journey to the edge.
Centuries later, when theatre has lost its ability to go to the edge and back, Artaud sought to recover this power (in his essay on theatre and the plague):
Above all we must agree that stage acting is a delirium like the plague, and is communicable. p.18
...conditions must be found to give birth to a spectacle that can fascinate the mind. It is not just art. p.18
The plague takes dormant images, latent disorder and suddenly carries them to the point of the most extereme gestures. Theatre also takes gestures and develops them to the limit. Just like the plague, it reforges the links between what does and does not exist in material nature. p.18
For theatre can only happen the moment the inconcievable really begins, where poetry taking place on stage, nourishes and superheats created symbols. p.18
Like the plague, theatre is a crisis resolved either by death or cure. The plague is a superior disease because it is an absolute crisis after which there is nothing left except death or drastic putrification. In the same way, theatre is a disease because it is the final balance that cannot be obtained without destruction. It urges the mind to delirium which intensifies its energy. p.22
Most importantly, this theatre is a mobile plague, sweeping across the country. The movement of the travelling company from one city to another is not incidental. The programme of repetitions/rehearsal is repeated in a new setting each time, a new audience, a new set of reactions and interactions. As the reputation of the players builds and preceeds them, the audience becomes even more receptive and superheated, in expectation of becoming infected. Imagine what it must be like for the players, repeating their words and moves, and each time anticipating the differences both subtle and extreme.
Now consider street theatre, even more an addiction played out in varying circumstances. And the theatre of cruelty – the programme of repetitions melds with the stage and its agents, a single exposed body stripped bare and made mobile.