Interview Å & I

I ”Can you recall a moment from the project, when an issue or problem came up?”

Å Yeah, I have one thing. It was the problem with the “Emotions and Conflict” group. I was not maybe the most involved in this conflict. But anyway, I was part of the group and there was sort of a conflict or something that created friction, and we didn’t know what to do about it. So the way we solved it was that some people left the group and the remaining ones divided into three subgroups. Here everyone did what they wanted to do, instead of, after weeks or months of not being able to do anything, of just meeting and getting frustrated because no one knew what to do. No one was really comfortable in taking leadership, but we didn't have any methods of collaborating without leadership either. We didn't have tools to begin a process – in a collective way.

And if I can think of other ways it could have been solved...I think that this problem came about because of the polarisation between the organizers and the participants - as has earlier been mentioned today, And the fact that the original application had created a structure of how things were going to be done, and then also the idea that we should create something together. But there was an unclarity about how much is negotiable. Or how much we can change, and what needs to stay the same?

We had one of the facilitators, who took part in writing the Erasmus application, in our group. But their relation to the group was a bit strange, or there was a doubleness there, that they communicated. Partly that they wanted to do what they had originally planned, but also that they didn’t want to be in charge, because they were thinking about leaving the group once it “got going”. So it didn't really give us a good place, where we, as a collective, could start. Because we had a kind of "boss person'' in the group, who didn't want to acknowledge their position of power. If they could have said, "Okay, I admit that I have privilege in this situation, because I wrote part of this plan for what we are going to do. But now I want to open it up. And the way we can change things is by doing this." That is kind of similar to how it was in our class [at school] with our teacher, who wanted us to teach how to self-organise. This is a contradiction. Like, "you have to do this, and you have to do it yourself".

I You know, when you have this working group with the title "Emotions and Conflict" it might be quite difficult to come together under that kind of umbrella. And everybody has their own kind of research interests, and then it becomes a situation of managing personalities, and managing personal interests, and stuff like this. And I think that was also something that came up a lot in the “Inquiry Group” during our Masters at HDK-Valand, where there was this difficulty of like reaching some kind of common ground. I wonder, like, if it is a thing of them splitting up and making different groups as you ended up doing, or if there are ways to, I don't know, reach a common ground somehow. But, if everyone is trying not to take leadership positions and trying to keep some kind of, I don't know, maybe you say, fictional hierarchy or keep a fictional flat hierarchy because… I mean, I don't think there is really such a thing as a completely flat hierarchy situation, because there's always someone who started something and then that immediately has implications on how other people are gonna see you, how other people are going to relate to you. People are gonna look to you for answers or decision-making or whatever. And I think, what you said about the problems between the organizers and the participants, I think these were really rooted in this. And then being in groups with organizers, I mean, should organizers or facilitators, or whatever, should they have been external to these groups? Or should they have been in the groups – and then, how would we manage this dynamic otherwise?

Å: In the second group I was in, we also had one of the original group members. But in this group, they took a kind of leadership role and tried – from this position – to facilitate the participation of all. But even this position… could be problematic in other ways. You could say, we have a teacher that wants to do something with students. They cannot just say, "Okay, don't mind that I'm the teacher, we're all the same in here. Because that's not how it is. They need to somehow start by admitting to the position or the privilege they have, and then from that position try to do something with the dynamic.

I That’s a recognition, like you said, that there is this position of power, and therefore power dynamics in operation. If you like to pretend that they're not there or if you shy away from that conversation, then it's really just reinforcing the hierarchies that are in place, and you can't unpack them in the same way.

S Adding here some advise from Priya Parker and her book The Art of Gathering: How we meet and why it matters, which is a quote from the chapter titled, Cause Good Controversy, “Seeking the heat in any gathering is inherently risky. When you can put some process or structure around that heat-seeking, though, there ia a chance for real benefit. Still, that doesn’t mean heat-seeking should be part of every gathering. I bring good controversy to a gathering only when I believe some good can come of it––enough good to outweigh the risks and harm. For your [our] gatherings, you should make a similar assessment” (2018, p. 243). Parker, Priya. (2018). The Art of Gathering: How we meet and why it matters. Penguin Random House UK.

Å Yeah, because power is not just what you do. As a person in power, it's also how other people view you, and how their image of you will make them limit themselves, if they look up to you and think that you are super experienced, and they're just starting out. This really limits the kind of peer-learning environment if we want to create a space where all voices can be heard.

I For sure. Maybe one of the issues that I experienced, or I heard a lot about, that there was an expectation of academia and what kind of results the project wanted. But that was perhaps not necessarily communicated properly. Perhaps it was being reinforced or enforced unaware, without intention. I don't know, how this has been dealt with? I think, in our group, we had, I had a really good time. It was interesting. I wonder, had we had a different group of people, where would that project have taken us? And how would the organizers have reacted to that – had we not have one of them in our group? And I know that, for a different group, was an issue, although I didn't experience it myself.

Å Could you try to develop the last part of what you said? I didn't really understand.

I Like, I heard from other people from the project that they had this expectation [suspicion?] that when they finished working on the project, and they delivered their results, the results were not considered to be the right results, or with a high enough standard, academically, maybe. Now this is like second-hand knowledge. And I wonder how that could have been dealt with in the process, from the start. Because not everybody was on the same page regarding what was intended to be the result of these working processes, but also when this came up, who executes this power of like, what is it supposed to be? Because then also, where does the ownership lie and all that stuff in relation to the project? When the results that you create or work on are not recognized really, because it falls outside the expectations of the original application?

Å Yeah, I can really relate to this. When we had the peer-review session, the feedback was quite hard. During the first workshop week in Brussels when the overall plan of the publishing platform was presented, I remember asking how will the decision-making be done. Who will decide when something is ready to be published? And who decides what will be published? Yeah, and the answer by one of the organizers was that this will just work itself out, or we have so much experience in this or that, they said that "I have so much experience in this, so that will work itself out". But I believe that this kind of thinking really leads to a hierarchy where the one who has the knowledge, both have to make all the important decisions, so they are left with a lot of work that they might not want to have. And it also limits all the participants that might be less experienced in knowing, how will we in our group know when our things are ready to be published? And yeah, so I would really have liked if there was a clear statement from the beginning by the organizing group that "the things that will be published need to fulfil this, and this." And outside that, decisions will be made, according to some principles. So just to give everyone a possibility to, even without experience, to learn how to do it, or to have already in the beginning an editorial group that could communicate with the smaller groups during the research period. So the participants in the research groups can say, "Okay, we have created this so far, can you give us some feedback and maybe help us a bit in direction of something that can be published?"

C The organizers had not agreed on an editorial protocol beforehand. It is true that many different things were said during the first week of January. From "everyone will be able to publish something on the platform, we have to trust each other" to "we will set up peer reviews before publication to ensure the level of the contribution". For this kind of project, I'm really against the implementation of a value scale between contributions. Our group did not wait for the approval of the whole group to publish outside of TTTT and use the tools we created because we needed it as a self-defense tool, we had emergencies that did not allow us to wait for a validation and it was complicated to make people understand. Even now some contributions are not published because they don't seem to "fit in the system" when they could simply be taken for what they are: a work in progress of a group that has worked for a certain among of time on this subject.

I I think, this ropes back to the question, should the people that wrote the apllication for the project, should they have participated in the groups? Or maybe they should have been an editorial team with like an oversight and assistance or trying to manage the project in a different way? I don't know.

Å Maybe one of the working groups could have been the publishing platform group, an overarching research group, not necessarily the organisers, that tried to tie things together. Maybe it's like some kind of spiderweb centre that communicate with other groups and tries to help somehow crystallize something that will be publishable.

And also to facilitate conversations about who are we publishing for? And what do these people need? How do we create this content? Are we creating "cultural content"? Or are we creating very "research results"? Or are we creating pedagogical material?

Like you said, you had used the tools that you have developed simultaneously in a live situation in the school to help people. In what way would you need to publish it? If you would not be the one who worked with it, but you found it somehow online, what kind of material would you have needed then?

I Yeah, exactly. Is it enough to just publish what we've made? Or is it necessary to create situations like workshops or some kind of presentation where people are kind of prepped?

For example, the work of the “Who is in the classroom” working group, in particular, for people to find this material or to dig into this material, they already have to have a certain kind of awareness. They already need some kind of interest in pursuing this. And maybe it's naive to think that it's just enough to publish it. And I think it's important to have some kind of mediation. Is this material easy for someone who is not already in the mind space of what we've created?

Å Perhaps also try to identify who is the reader for this? Try to reach out, to imagine, like okay , so this is for universities, or for schools, or for art schools, and have more…

Who is the reader for this document seems an essential question ?

….perhaps use an early version of what we have created, try to present it to students and teachers in a class, and try to get some feedback and then change it for it to be better in that specific space that it is intended for.

I I'm just thinking about this situation that we had at HDK-Valand where I had this session with staff and the student that was under discrimination and with the union. I don't know if it would have been enough just to send them this material?

Å No, but trying to reach out and find out “who will this be for” and maybe send it to specific groups, like student unions. Like, not just saying, okay we have “published”—“now it's in the world”.

F Sorry to interrupt. Can you please come back to the big meeting please? We would love to hear you. Thank you.