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¨ t Dresden, Germany Technische Universita
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to show how students of today react to Bateson’s texts when they are not integrated in a semantic explanation. Design/methodology/approach – Students of social work at the University of Dresden were asked to develop plans for a certain social problem. Afterwards they studied certain texts of Bateson. Finally, they had to review their former plans. Findings – Bateson’s thoughts are still disturbing for today’s students. However, if they are able to connect his thoughts with their own problems there is a good chance of opening ways for a more complex thinking. Originality/value – The paper shows how Bateson’s legacy might be used today. Keywords Cybernetics, Social services, Problem solving Paper type Case study
Introduction When I was asked to contribute to this Gregory Bateson memorial I decided to have a look at how students react today to Bateson’s thoughts when they are not embedded in the semantic context of my explanation. It was a kind of a pilot project, also for myself. Owing to the lack of time there was no possibility to me cover the subject scientiﬁcally. So this is rather a personal account. Student reaction to Bateson’s texts ¨ dagogik) are mainly concerned with two Students of Social Work in Germany (Sozialpa issues to: (1) understand the theories of social politics and municipal administration; and (2) acquire tools of pedagogical support and counselling. In this course of their studies they normally develop an “intentional” attitude for social situations. They tend to act and intervene in order to attain a certain aim. Planning for them means to ﬁnd a way to fulﬁll political or professional instructions. The general atmosphere has traits of conceitedness, an attitude they regard as professional. This was the general background for my seminary “Social Planning in Theory and Practice: Bateson’s Concept of Ecology” which was held 2006/2007 with 12 students at the University of Dresden. At the beginning, the students were asked to make proposals for a quite usual problem:
In a district with a high population (about 4.000 people in multi-storey buildings with migrant background in a little town with 18000 inhabitants) there is a high incidence of vandalism, thefts and mobbing. The offenders are mainly young male Russian-speaking German immigrants. What kind of plans would you develop?
Kybernetes Vol. 36 No. 7/8, 2007 pp. 946-948 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0368-492X DOI 10.1108/03684920710777469
They were instructed to make plans in which they should not become active themselves.
I introduced an even wider frame. The social context is difﬁcult (closed area. . “Social Planning and the Concept of Deutero-learning” (pp. cooperation with the local police and politicians. especially a job program for people under 25. gathering more data on the living situations or the involvement of experts. They did not understand how these texts could be related to the topic of the seminary and with the exercise they had to write. and . It dissolves into individual biographies. But I did not have the impression they got an idea of the implications of the concepts they used. more leisure-time activities. 177-93). . 440-7). but it did not help them to be integrated into the labour market or into new social nets. planning might be non-technical and is able to lead in a non-intentional way to changes. these tools were mainly proposed with the intention to control the situation and to attain a deﬁned result. interventions (especially aimful interventions) into a social context may lead to unexpected and harmful developments. These are the usual tools of social workers. They face a foreign “sub-cultural” minority they are not acquainted with. and . A main consequence of this program has been that it improved the life style of certain people. direct discussions with the young. As a next step the students had to work on the texts “Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation” (Bateson. learning is not a simple acquisition of data but also the adaptation to certain situations.) . (Municipal politicians do not want to set special policies for such residential areas. .This question confronted the students with a bundle of problems they were more or less aware of: . Interestingly. The measures the students proposed ranged from practical interventions to more theoretical aspects like: . 2001). Therefore. Such areas are undersupplied in terms of “institutional” presence. . although criminologists know that juvenile delinquency is temporary and ubiquitous in juvenile development. local information. These texts were selected to show that: . there are no political objectives besides integration. Juvenile delinquency is well present in the media and places municipal governance and administration under high pressure. “A Theory of Play and Fantasy” (pp. 159-76) and “Schismogenesis – or the Minister of the Interior is in danger” (Ivanovas. In several sessions we worked on different interpretations. pp. We investigated the effects of some social initiatives of the German Government of the last years. especially when social control agents do NOT intervene in a formal way (adjective procedures) and instead engage with the young people in a diversion process. This move was rather disturbing for the students. there are not only facts but also patterns of interaction. 1972. Still disturbing 947 . rivalling groups and gangs).
(1) We analyses the role of communication in backing and involvement processes on different levels: . on the level of ofﬁcial contacts (political institutions and administration). Ivanovas.Rudolph@tu-dresden. NY. We encountered this deadlock from different angles. on the level of professional involvement (social workers. but quite often not as intended by the creators of the programmes. G. And as I regard it as a quite promising approach it induced further activities. Second. problems themselves. “Schismogenese oder Gefahr fu ivanovas. their attitudes.html (accessed 9 February 2007). Ballantine. a future project would be to involve a new group of students into the process of judging their own changes which might eventually lead to a conjoint publication. Moreover. ¨ r den Innenminister”. police. associations and clubs). This seminary was rather different from what I had done so far. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. the students will be further supported through an internet platform we initiated after the seminary. References Bateson. leading eventually to a better understanding of a general interconnectedness (“we are part of a professional process with an open end and many participants – it is quite good to back people in their own interests – there is no pressure to set our aims as the only possible”).com/schismogenese. First. local action groups. and . (2) We analyzed the living area in order to detect social and personal resources. had understood that a lot of factors (especially the way of communication) play a role. of course.K 36. was the way they thought about such problems. What had changed. as well. they were more inclined to initiate process which would not necessarily lead to the deﬁned “scientiﬁc grounded aims” but would continue even when they lost sight of the related persons. This discovery created a general helplessness concerning the topic of the seminary (Then it seems to be impossible to plan!!!) and it led to a long enduring phase of uncertainty.de To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. their understanding of professionalism and their self-esteem. especially in regard to the members of the groups creating problems – which have. my behaviour had changed. Corresponding author Martin Rudolph can be contacted at: Martin. However.com Or visit our web site for further details: www. They had learned to live with the feeling of uncertainty.7/8 948 The result of our attempt to bring social experience and a theoretical background together was the discovery that young people for whom programmes are developed in fact learn and adapt to their social reality. however. New York. G. available at: www. (3) The own role as social planners was reﬂected. (1972).emeraldinsight.com/reprints . At the end of the seminary the students did not make essentially different propositions in how problems like vandalism could be approached. (2001).
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