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Giorgio Bertini

Giorgio Bertini's Public Library

23 Apr 14

This article examines systemic change through a gradual, self-generating change that can lead to a paradigm shift, using urban pioneering movement in Helsinki as an example. The urban pioneering movement aims at transforming the urban culture through activities that generate more tolerant and open city with appreciation to citizen democracy. The movement works against controlled and regulated urban experience and aims at a paradigm shift on how the city is used and perceived. Urban pioneering movement has succeeded in its aims with approaches and maneuvers that may show promise especially in the context of the sustainability movement. The research that was conducted as a part of future learning environments study in Aalto University showed that the urban pioneers generate emergent culture in their environment and they do so by working as if there were two different environments that they need to affect. One of the environments is the visible urban cultural scene where the envisioned change would be taking place and the second is the invisible environment of rules and regulations that the urban pioneers have to work hard with in order to diminish and remove obstacles that slow down the transformation that they aim at. The transformation, when successful, happens as a snowball effect, generating increasingly more change towards the desired goals, until the system has gradually transformed also its values.

23 Apr 14

The theory of cognition of Varela and Maturana differs in specific aspects from constructivist theories and so should not be seen or interpreted as another form of constructivism. To encourage the emergence of a discussion on important differences between both theories, this paper aims at highlighting three of these specific aspects, namely the biological roots of cognition, its phylogenic and ontogenic basis, and the nature of reality and knowledge. In many regards, it is possible that the first two points were seen as extensions of constructivism, and had not been theorized previously as distinctions, as is done in the paper. The third point concerning the ideas of “bringing forth a world” represents a clear conceptual shift from the visions inherent in constructivism, and should not be neglected in discussions on epistemology and the nature of knowledge and reality. This third fundamental point brings us to see Varela and Maturana as being different than constructivists, rather seeing them as “bring forthists.”

It was my intention to elaborate on some aspects where Maturana and Varela’s theory diverged from constructivism, even if they do share many common cybernetic roots, to show that it should not be (mis-)interpreted as another form of constructivism. The intention was, however, not to sort out which is better and which is not, but mostly to prompt and encourage discussions and reactions around the differences (and even similarities) between both theories – to understand what makes each theory its own, and to make better sense of them. I hope to have succeeded in this and played the role of a “trigger” in that sense.

23 Apr 14

It would be futile, John Dewey argued in 1902, to think that we have to choose between child centered, progressive education and traditional, subject-matter-oriented approaches. Calling for adaptivity, he stressed that we need the act of balancing the one with the other. The tendency in current educational policy to lean in favor of traditional, disciplinary modes of control appears to lose sight of this need. The aim of this paper is to reconnect to the task of maintaining a balance between educational freedom and structure, using a variety of theoretical resources such as complexity science, and the philosophies of Deleuze and Guattari, Schiller, and Nietzsche. Based on these resources, the authors also discuss Steiner Waldorf education as an example of how educational practice may approach, and integrate the significance of chaos in the form of a “virtual pedagogy”.

23 Apr 14

A complexivist perspective to teaching critiques the commonplace teaching “methods” and illuminates alternative approaches to teaching and teacher preparation. Focusing on system growth, the mutual influence of systems on one another, and nonlinear connectedness of systems, this paper defines four important components to teaching: A need for mutual influence among teachers, students, the content being taught and the curriculum; enculturation into a scholarly community; reflection on the part of teachers and students; and a need for teacher improvisation. The implication of these components for teacher preparation is then examined.

A complexity approach to education critiques the commonplace methods of teaching, and offers alternatives to teaching and teacher preparation. By considering students and the subjects they study as complex entities, insight into the limitations of commonplace methods – the difficulty of planning without reference to the students in the class and the potential for fragmentation and disconnectedness – can be gained. Approaches to teacher preparation that address these limitations – by recognizing the importance of improvisation, reflection, mutual influence, and enculturation – could be used in education.

23 Apr 14

Some indigenous knowledge is said to be holistic in the way it deals with the environment. Given the difficulties of Western science with complex environmental problems, any insights from the holism of indigenous knowledge are of major interest. Based on examples from Inuit and other northern peoples, it appears that indigenous knowledge approaches complex systems by using simple prescriptions consistent with fuzzy logic. Specifically, indigenous knowledge pursues holism through the continued reading of the environment, collection of large amounts of information, and the construction of collective mental models that can adjust to new information. Such an approach serves the assessment of a large number of variables qualitatively, as opposed to focusing on a small number of variables quantitatively.

23 Apr 14

The issue of inequality is one of the most salient in global and European politics. Thomas Piketty writes on the economic forces which have impacted upon inequality since the end of the First World War. He argues that with disparities in income and wealth rising substantially over recent decades, a global progressive tax on individual net worth would offer the best option for keeping inequality under control. He writes that although implementing such a tax would be a major challenge politically, it would be feasible if the EU and the United States, each accounting for around a quarter of world output, put their combined weight behind it.

22 Apr 14

This article begins by observing how education is currently appreciated primarily for its utility value, a view informed by utilitarianism and neoclassical economic theory. A critique of that framing is offered and an alternative way of valuing education informed by a Capabilities Approach is presented. In doing so, I also observe that while key proponents of the Capabilities Approach promote the idea of freedom, they deny it to children and some young people. The argument they present is that in the hands of children, freedom destroys their capabilities because they lack capacity for good judgment and therefore should only make minor decisions. The focus should be on adulthood because only at that stage can we exercise good judgment and exercise freedom properly. I explain why this view limits the application of Capabilities Approach, why it is problematic and offer a way of overcoming that constraint.

At what age should a young person be able to exercise substantive choice? The answer I suggest is: at the age they express an interest in doing so. When a student expresses an interest in exercising choice, whether it relates to the curriculum, the school they attend or national politics, that is when educators need to be able to detect and tap into that interest, to educate by offering relevant information about the viable options and to assist students in making good judgments about what they value.

22 Apr 14

Vygotsky saw mental and cultural development as ‘mediated’ by artefacts, including tools and signs. He used his ‘genetic method’ to investigate higher cognitive processes in historical context. These insights are foundational to sociocultural theory, which is widely used in education research. However, since Vygotsky, communicative globalization has changed the conditions of theorization, research, policy and practice. Global convergence is characterized by extensive and intensive flows of people, messages, knowledge, ideas and money, and sudden, multiple and disjunctive changes. Educational activity is ‘glonacal’ activity, shaped simultaneously in global, national and local spheres. This article argues that nevertheless, once developed to incorporate global phenomena into the genetic method and the notion of mediating artefacts, Vygotsky’s ideas have much to offer the analysis of globally affected educational practices. This conceptual approach combines the spatial insights of globalization theory with the socio-historical relational understandings enabled by the genetic method. It is illustrated by a case study on the learning to teach English practices of a cohort of Vietnamese pre-service teachers during their practicum. Global flows, media and artefacts, which are used extensively by these teachers, articulate with national and local practices and conventions in innovative ways.

22 Apr 14

Multicultural education usually arises from a concern that schools prepare young people for constructive public participation as citizens in a diverse society that is struggling with equity issues. Conventional multicultural education, which I will critique, tends to assume a liberal conception of citizenship that is based on individualism and a simplistic analysis of how power works. I will argue that the growing reach of neoliberalism requires reframing multicultural education and citizenship education. Neoliberalism can be understood as a ‘restoration of elite power’ in which increased privatization and market competition is eroding a sense of the public, linking education more firmly to the needs of large corporations, and facilitating the flow of wealth and power to a small global elite. Multicultural education conceptualized as a political project of social justice that embraces a diverse public, and that links local with global struggles for equity and human rights, offers a potential counter-narrative to neoliberal education, and a rich framework for considering citizenship.

The task of preparing students as citizens in diverse societies is complex, particularly under neoliberalism. Yet, it is necessary for strengthening participatory democracy and giving substance to ideals of equity and justice. As educators, we have a choice: We can, by default, prepare young people to accept the status quo, or we can dive into the complicated and messy business of educating for multicultural citizenship. I believe that the latter is not only important, but infinitely more interesting.

22 Apr 14

The methodological crisis that resulted from conservative, closed-circle orthodoxy in the field of social sciences has led us to question our toolbox of empirical research methods over the last decade. Aside from the issue of conducting quantitative and qualitative research methodologies separately, and the problems of grounding theory in empirical practice, the discussion of embedded situational research methods has been much neglected in academia. Additionally, the multiplicity of new forms for contemporary knowledge production urges us to adapt our methods. Nowadays, the gap between theory and practice is frequently challenged from a Deleuzian perspective. Deleuzian research is often based on understanding the social subject as an affect and as an experience. Furthermore, from a Deleuzian perspective, in our complex societies ‘data’ is a rhizomatic assemblage that needs to be searched, evaluated, analysed and represented with complex tools or, indeed, with new research tools invented accordingly.

Deleuzian thinking is having a significant impact on research practices in the Social Sciences, particularly because it breaks down the false divide between theory and practice. This book brings together international academics from a range of Social Science and Humanities disciplines to reflect on how Deleuze’s philosophy is opening up and shaping methodologies and practices of empirical research.

22 Apr 14

Despite the frequency with which the concept of neoliberalism is employed within academic literature, its complex and multifaceted nature makes it difficult to define and describe. Indeed, data reported in this article suggest that there is a tendency in educational research to make extensive use of the word ‘neoliberalism’ (or its variants neoliberal, neo-liberal and neo-liberalism) as a catch-all for something negative, but without offering a definition or explanation. The article highlights a number of key risks associated with this approach and draws on the Bourdieuian concept of illusio to suggest the possibility that when as educational researchers we use the word ‘neoliberalism’ in this way, rather than interrupting the implementation of neoliberal policies and practices, we may, in fact, be further entrenching the neoliberal doxa. That is to say, we are both playing the neoliberal game and inadvertently demonstrating our belief that it is a game worth being played. In so doing, this article seeks to extend understandings of what illusio means within the context of educational research.

22 Apr 14

Resistance is normally thought of as a collective exercise of public political activity. In this article, Ball and Olmedo approach the question of resistance in a different way, through Foucault’s notion of ‘the care of the self’. Neoliberal reforms in education are producing new kinds of teaching subjects, new forms of subjectivity. It makes sense then that subjectivity should be the terrain of struggle, the terrain of resistance. A set of e-mail exchanges with teachers, based around Ball’s work on performativity, enable the authors to access the work of power relations through the uncertainties, discomforts and refusals that these teachers bring to their everyday practice. By acting ‘irresponsibly’, these teachers take ‘responsibility’ for the care of their selves and in doing so make clear that social reality is not as inevitable as it may seem. This is not strategic action in the normal political sense. Rather it is a process of struggle against mundane, quotidian neoliberalisations, that creates the possibility of thinking about education and ourselves differently.

21 Apr 14

The following theses will be elaborated on: (a) The whole is at the same time more and less than its parts; (b) We must abandon the term “object” for systems because all the objects are systems and parts of systems; (c) System and organization are the two faces of the same reality; (d) Eco-systems illustrate self-organization.

You knowhistory is not written. It is not, as the Islamic saying goes “mektum”. It is not like that. We are in an epoch of great uncertainty, but, I repeat, with the possibility of hope: hope does not mean certainty; hope maintains confidence, because hope opens up possibilities.

Edgar Morin is a Sociologist and a Philosopher, and Emeritus Director of Research at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France.

21 Apr 14

The field of social cognitive neuroscience has captured the attention of many researchers during the past ten years. Much of the impetus for this new field came from the development of functional neuroimaging methods that made it possible to unobtrusively measure brain activation over time. Using these methods over the last 30 years has allowed psychologists to move from simple validation questions — would flashing stimuli activate the visual cortex — to those about the functional specialization of brain regions– are there regions in the inferior temporal cortex dedicated to face processing– to questions that, just a decade ago, would have been considered to be intractable at such a level of analysis. These so-called “intractable” questions are the focus of the chapters in this book, which introduces social cognitive neuroscience research addressing questions of fundamental importance to social psychology: How do we understand and represent other people? How do we represent social groups? How do we regulate our emotions and socially undesirable responses? This book also presents innovative combinations of multiple methodologies, including behavioral experiments, computer modeling, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) experiments, Event-Related Potential (ERP) experiments, and brain lesion studies. It is divided into four sections. The first three sections present the latest research on, respectively, understanding and representing other people, representing social groups, and the interplay of cognition and emotion in social regulation. In the fourth section, contributors step back and consider a range of novel topics that have emerged in the context of social neuroscience research: understanding social exclusion as pain, deconstructing our moral intuitions, understanding cooperative exchanges with other agents, and the effect of aging on brain function and its implications for the well-being. Taken together, these chapters provide a rich introduction to an exciting, rapidly developing and expanding field that promises a richer and deeper understanding of the social mind.

21 Apr 14

For the past two decades, ‘complexity’ has informed a range of work across the social sciences. There are diverse schools of complexity thinking, and authors have used these ideas in a multiplicity of ways, from health inequalities to the organization of large scale firms. Some understand complexity as emergence from the rule-based interactions of simple agents and explore it through agent-based modelling. Others argue against such ‘restricted complexity’ and for the development of case-based narratives deploying a much wider set of approaches and techniques. Major social theorists have been reinterpreted through a complexity lens and the whole methodological programme of the social sciences has been recast in complexity terms. In four parts, this book seeks to establish ‘the state of the art’ of complexity-informed social science as it stands now, examining:

the key issues in complexity theory
the implications of complexity theory for social theory
the methodology and methods of complexity theory
complexity within disciplines and fields.

It also points ways forward towards a complexity-informed social science for the twenty-first century, investigating the argument for a post-disciplinary, ‘open’ social science. Byrne and Callaghan consider how this might be developed as a programme of teaching and research within social science. This book will be particularly relevant for, and interesting to, students and scholars of social research methods, social theory, business and organization studies, health, education, urban studies and development studies.

21 Apr 14

Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science provides an authoritative single source for understanding and applying the concepts of complexity theory together with the tools and measures for analyzing complex systems in all fields of science and engineering. The science and tools of complexity and systems science include theories of self-organization, complex systems, synergetics, dynamical systems, turbulence, catastrophes, instabilities, nonlinearity, stochastic processes, chaos, neural networks, cellular automata, adaptive systems, and genetic algorithms. Examples of near-term problems and major unknowns that can be approached through complexity and systems science include: The structure, history and future of the universe; the biological basis of consciousness; the integration of genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics as systems biology; human longevity limits; the limits of computing; sustainability of life on earth; predictability, dynamics and extent of earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters; the dynamics of turbulent flows; lasers or fluids in physics, microprocessor design; macromolecular assembly in chemistry and biophysics; brain functions in cognitive neuroscience; climate change; ecosystem management; traffic management; and business cycles. All these seemingly quite different kinds of structure formation have a number of important features and underlying structures in common. These deep structural similarities can be exploited to transfer analytical methods and understanding from one field to another. This unique work will extend the influence of complexity and system science to a much wider audience than has been possible to date. This collection it is a must for your University Library.

21 Apr 14

There is growing recognition that the capacity to conduct research and to share the resulting knowledge is fundamental to all aspects of human development, from improving health care delivery to increasing food security, and from enhancing education to stronger evidence-based policymaking. Today, the primary vehicle for disseminating research is still the peer-reviewed journal, which has retained much of its traditional form and function, although now it is largely digital. But despite improved access to the Internet, researchers in the developing world continue to face two problems—gaining access to academic publications due to the high cost of subscriptions, and getting their research published in “international” journals, because their work is either considered to be only of local or regional interest or does not meet the quality standards required by the major commercial indexes. Summary Points:

Unequal access to and distribution of public knowledge is governed by Northern standards and is increasingly inappropriate in the age of the networked “Invisible College”.
Academic journals remain the primary distribution mechanism for research findings, but commercial journals are largely unaffordable for developing countries; local journals—more relevant to resolving problems in the South—are near-invisible and under-valued.
Donor solutions are unsustainable, are governed by markets rather than user needs, and instil dependency.
Open access is sustainable and research driven and builds independence and the capacity to establish a strong research base; it is already converting local journals to international journals.
However, as open access becomes the norm, standards for the assessment of journal quality and relevance remain based on Northern values that ignore development needs and marginalise local scholarship.

21 Apr 14

Newborns are born largely blind, with dark, blurry, colourless and two-dimensional vision, Tseng says. While in the womb, there is no chance to develop vision. But they respond to auditory cues, which is why the best way to connect with newborns is to talk to them. At two months, they start to see a bit of colour – mainly red and green. By six months, they can see in full colour, although images remain quite blurry. By one year, Tseng says, they can see almost as well as adults. “We started to study infants because at first we didn’t believe that they could learn at such a young age,” says Tseng, who has a PhD in psychology from University of California, Irvine, and has spent most of her career studying perception, attention and learning in adults. “But so far I am convinced that infants have more cognitive learning ability than previously thought,” she says. Through the studies, the researchers are also beginning to understand the correlation between an infant’s learning ability and his or her future development.

21 Apr 14

In the last decade the network approach became increasingly popular to study complex systems. Current network representations simplify system complexity to a ‘one-dimensional’ scheme, where the interactions are represented as a connection-weight. However, the simplicity of network structures has enormous benefits. They not only give us a visual image of complex systems providing an instant recognition of network communities, hubs and other key nodes, but also have a number of general topological properties, which are very similar in biological, social and engineered networks. The small-world character, the existence of hubs, appearance of network communities and hierarchical, nested structures, the stabilizing role of weak links are all general network features. This allows us to use the network description as a conceptual framework to guide our creative associations.

The generality of network properties allows the utilization of the ‘wisdom’ of biological systems surviving crisis events for many millions of years. Yeast protein-protein interaction network shows a decrease in community-overlap (an increase in community cohesion) in stress. Community rearrangement seems to be a cost-efficient, general crisis- management response of complex systems. Inter-community bridges, such as the highly dynamic ‘creative nodes’ emerge as crucial determinants helping crisis survival.

21 Apr 14

Given the dramatic changes in the use of antidepressant, most inequality research on the relationship between inequality and mental health has focused on cross-country variation. Findings from within-country data are mixed. We examined whether changes in municipal Gini index or in the share of people living in relative poverty were linked to changes in the use of antidepressants in several Finnish municipalities between 1995 and 2010. We found that more young adult females used antidepressants in municipalities where relative poverty had increased. Changes in municipal-level Gini index were not positively associated with changes in the use of antidepressants in the municipalities between 1995 and 2010. However, fewer elderly females used antidepressants in municipalities where the Gini index increased. In addition, more young adults used antidepressants in municipalities where the number of those not being educated or trained had also increased. An increase in the number of persons over 65 years of age living alone was positively associated with an increase in the use of antidepressants among elderly females

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