Social Cybernetics: Week Four

Here is the recording from the fourth seminar on Social Cybernetics with Prof. Raul Espejo.

The slides for this week can also be downloaded and will be especially useful as we spent some time discussing illustrations of the Viable System Model and different case studies of complexity, including the case of ‘Baby P’, a firm in Birmingham, and UK national energy policy.

As always, reading material for the course can be downloaded from the SSC website, and new people are still welcome for the final seminar on Tuesday 15th March, 7-9pm. The reading for the final week is Raul’s paper on ‘Cybernetics of Governance: The Cybersyn Project 1971-1973‘. Raul was the Operational Director of Project Cybersyn and worked closely with Stafford Beer.

Social Science Imagination: Seeing the world differently with social science

Thursdays, 7–9pm, from 8th October, every two weeks, until 10th December 2015

Involve@Lincoln Centre, Mint Lane, Lincoln, LN1 1UD

This free course is for anyone who wants to learn more about how the social world works and how we can change it, with the help of social science. Today, the economy is in crisis; people are struggling to find work and homes, pay debts and make ends meet; prejudice and discrimination are rife; social policies are changing fast; and new social movements and experiments are springing up everywhere to respond to this situation. This course, offered by the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, can help.

The course encourages participants to think about ideas, problems and issues that are important to them based on their own life experiences. Rather than viewing these experiences solely as individual problems, which can often overwhelm us and make us feel powerless to act, the course considers how we can make connections between the individual problems we face in our everyday lives and wider public issues that affect us all, such as cuts to public services, rising food prices, and racism, sexism and homophobia in daily life.

The course is based on a close reading C. Wright Mill’s The Sociological Imagination. This book provides a framework for thinking about our own life experiences and understanding the world around us in a way that gives us confidence rather than feelings of frustration, fear, anxiety and indifference. For Mills, it was important to understand how our personal lives are affected by power in the wider society and how, by making this connection, we can start to overcome the difficulties we face individually and collectively. During the course, we will explore various ways of doing this by examining our questions through many different ideas that have been developed within the social sciences.

The course is taught in an informal environment that is inclusive, and that encourages and supports participants to share and think about their experiences. Both teachers and students are considered scholars who can learn a lot from each other. Everyone doing the course will be encouraged and supported to read authors who have written about their concerns, and to write short essays setting out their own ideas.

Please contact us on info@socialsciencecentre.org.uk if you want to learn more about the course. We hope you can join us.

Lucy McGinty and Mike Neary

Know-how: Do-it-ourselves research (course outline)

A new term starts this Thursday, 26th February, 7-9pm at the Renew Involvement Centre, Mint Lane, Lincoln. Anyone is welcome.

Below is an outline of the planned sessions. Readings in advance of the class will be circulated on our course mailing list. Please get in touch if you wish to be added.

Week 1: (26th Feb) Introduction to Academic Research

Week 2: (5rd March) Is co-operative education an antidote to the neoliberal political system of academy schooling?

Week 3: (12th March) The Academic Guerrilla

Week 4: (19th March) Co-operative Higher Education

Week 5: (26th March) Urban poverty: Space, time and inequalities

Week 6: (2nd April) Break: Reading, writing and contemplation

Week 7: (9th April) Rhythmanalysis – after Henri Lefebvre

Week 8: (16th April) Questioning Historical Research

Week 9: (23rd April) Research Design and Social Innovation

Week 10: (30th April) Home Reading Project

Week 11: (7th May) Seeing power

Notes for Know-how: Do-It-Ourselves Higher Education (first session)

16th October 2014

Venue: Croft Street Community Centre, 7 pm

Present: Gerard, Martha, Joss, Mike, Tim

We spent some time at the beginning of the session looking at and agreeing the outline of programme of work for Kh:DIO.

We then spent some time thinking about the meaning and purpose of the SSC. We reminded ourselves about the main aims and objectives of the SSC with reference to an article that was written jointly by members of the SSC and published in Radical Philosophy in 2011. We agreed that although based in our own community of Lincoln we are not a community development project, rather we were established as an act of resistance against government policy for Higher Education. While criticising the latter we are not against particular institutions that implement that policy such as any British University.

We spent some time discussing the extent to which we provide a service for student/scholars who join us on the courses, and to what extent student/scholars are collaborators with us in the production of new knowledge. Reference was made to the idea of prosumers that has come out of the business school-management literature, where consumers are encouraged to think of themselves in having a role in creating the products for sale.

The main focus of the Kh:DIO course is research: learning through the process of research, especially by understanding it rather than by emulating some of its popular procedures. The main research question would concern the provision of HE in the city of Lincoln, starting in Abbey Ward. We felt it important that through the process of learning about research we should learn about Abbey Ward. We rehearsed some of the arguments from earlier meetings about the efficacy of doing this work, the nature of our relationship and commitment to the local area as well as what we hoped to get out of the course and what other local residents would get out of the course. We also concluded that

As part of learning about the local area, participants agreed to bring some information about Abbey Ward to the next meeting as Community Reports, local newsletters as well as a list of contacts to be made. One of the participants is to do some similar research into the area where they are currently working and where they are hoping to carry out a research project on the health and well being of local residents, starting with young people in a local FE College. We all agreed it would be good to have this comparative analysis.

We all agreed it was important to attract more participants to the course. Contact has been made with DevelopmentPlus, a local community development enterprise, although that relationship needs to be developed, and an advance notice of the course has been advertised through the Lincolnite.

Making ourselves accessible and open to people with child-care and other caring responsiblities is a key issue. We discussed a paper that had been written by the Child Care Working Group. We agreed to use the suggested paragraph, see below, in our publicity and would put into practice other suggestions made by the paper depending on demand and with one exception: we all felt that running the course in the same space as child care arrangements would be too distracting.

‘Please let us know if you need help with childcare. We are able to offer support and activities on site during the classes, and would be happy to talk with you about your needs. Please get in touch a week in advance of the session you want to attend so that we can make the best plans possible. Contact sarah@socialsciencecentre.org.uk or info@socialsciencecentre.org.uk.’

At the end of the session we spent time discussing one of the participants research project in his college, offering advice and support. This member of the course said how important the SSC is for the work he is doing as a counter project and as an alternative way of doing higher education.

Know-How: a course in do-it-ourselves higher education

The Social Science Centre, Lincoln

New course 2014-2015

Know-How: a course in do-it-ourselves higher education

This course1 introduces participants to the principles and practices of social science with the aim of achieving something for the benefit of ourselves and our local community. At the Social Science Centre, Lincoln,2  we believe strongly that social science can provide the resources for people to take some control over their own lives. Focusing on issues of interest and concern to those involved on the course, and using the methods of research and discovery, participants will develop understandings, create meanings and produce knowledge about things that matter to them and to their friends,  families and communities. Work done on this course will be shared with others, e.g., as stories, photographs and creative writings, contributing to the store of general social knowledge.

The course starts on 16th October and carries on until the 18th of December, 7-9pm at Croft Street Community Centre, Lincoln. The course may be extended after the Christmas vacation if more time is required.

Structure of the course

The course is divided into themes related to the overall research project. Each theme may take more than one session.

Lively and Engaging

All of the sessions will be participatory, giving all scholars the chance to engage with the materials in ways that are lively and engaging. At the Social Science Centre (SSC) we refer to each other  as ‘scholars’, rather than students and teachers, as a way of respecting  each others’ intelligence and recognising that we all have much to learn from each other.

1. What is the Social Science Centre and who is it for?

The first theme will be about the nature and purpose of the Social Science Centre: who is it for and what does it do? The SSC has been set up by teachers, students and local residents as an alternative form of higher education. The SSC is free, in the sense that there is no fee for the course and participants are free to think beyond the learning outcomes that structure university degrees. A particularly important issue for the SSC is that participants are free to think beyond the financial imperatives that dominate higher education. This session is about how you might get involved with the SSC, how you can contribute and what you’d like to get out of this course.

Suggested Reading

Amsler, A., Canaan, J., Cowden, S., Motta, S. and Singh, G. (eds)  ( 2010) Why Critical Pedagogy and Popular Education Matter Today, Centre for Sociology, Politics and Anthropology,  Higher Education Academy, University of Birmingham.

Bonnett, A. (2013) Something new in freedom. Times Higher Education.

Collini, S. (2011) What are Universities for? Penguin Books, London and New York

Holmwood, J (2011) Manifesto for the Public University, Bloomsbury, London and New York

Social Science Centre (2013) An experiment in free, co-operative higher education, Radical Philosophy.

2. Planning our research and discovery projects

The second theme will look at  research planning, incorporating the questions of the whole group as well as particular issues that people  want to research. This session can offer support with research  that participants are already working on.

3. Community Research and Discovery

The third theme looks more closely at the topic of research in a community setting. This will include thinking about ways of doing research that is public and participatory, promoting solidarity and social change between academics, activists and concerned individuals, as well as challenging power relations. This session will look at different approaches to doing this kind of research: feminist, Marxist, anarchist and enlivened learning, as well as the different methods we can use to learn from each other, e.g., structured conversations, social photography, extended case studies and other design frameworks.

Suggested Reading

Blackshaw, T ( 2009) Key issues in Community Research, Sage

Living in Lincoln: Abbey Ward,including Community Plan, published by Community First (n.d.)

Stacey, M. (1970) Tradition and Change: Study of Banbury, Oxford University Press  Banbury

Chatterton, P. Fuller Routledge (2007)  ‘Relating Action to Activism – Theoretical and Methodological Reflections’ in Pain, R and Kesby, M (eds.) Connecting People, Participation and Place, Routledge London 245-287.

Motta, S. and Estevedes, A. ( 2014)  ‘Reinventing Emancipation in the 21st Century: the pedagogical practices of social movements’, Interface: A journal for and about social movements  6 1 1-24

Teamy, K. and Mandel, M. ( 2014)  The Enlivened Learning Project

4. Adult Education in the Archive

The SSC has been invited to London by the librarian at London Metropolitan University to look at the archive for adult and trade union education in the UK. The archive has material relating to adult and trade union education in Lincoln. This session will prepare for the visit by considering the practical and conceptual issues relating to doing research in an archive.

Suggested reading

Derrida, J. (1995), `Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics 25 2  9-63

Steedman, C. ( n.d.) ‘Romance in the Archive

Steedman, C. (2001) Dust: The Archive and Cultural History, Rutgers University Press

Smith, B. (1998) The Gender of History:  Men, Women and Archival Practice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS

5. Exhibition Gallery

Scholars will present  work they have done so far on the course to each other for comments and support.

6. Fun Palace

The Fun Palace3 is an event at Croft Street Community Centre on the 20th of December, where the SSC invites local residents and other community based projects to an evening of music, dancing, comedy, food and fun.

  1. Know-How is a term for practical knowledge on how to accomplish something purposeful, combining know-what (science) know-why (reason) and know-who (prosociality) []
  2. The Social Science Centre, Lincoln, is an independent cooperative with no link to any university or higher education provider. []
  3. The Fun Palace is the name of an alternative university developed by the actor, Joan Littlewood, and architect, Cedric Price, in the 1960s in London, England. The Fun Palace was also known as ‘the University of the Streets’ (Mathews, S. (2005) From Agit-Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price, Black Dog Publishing). The Fun Palace was never built  but the ideas on which it was based have made it an inspiration for community education projects ( Neary 2015). []