Kate Doyle and Paul Pangaro
Contemporary societies seem to have a solutions problem. That is, we persist in thinking that “fixes” to all the world’s inequities and illnesses are attainable through a problem-to-solution mindset and usually by linear, hierarchical processes. We need to look at the way we are observing systems, not just at what we forefront as components of the systems themselves.
We can pursue a cybernetic framework—a systems approach that is reflexive, acknowledges the subjectivity of the observer, and takes processes as circular and recursive so that each turn emerges from its prior. We must also be consistent in the vocabulary we use, for example, by acknowledging that while we desire “solutions”, in cases of “wicked challenges,” we can only hope for “mitigations.” Accordingly, we can transform our thinking about “problems”—as if they pre-exist in the world—by describing them as wicked challenges, defined by us, embedded in our values, and subject to our biases. This shift in language emphasizes the “messes” of systems and our limitations, possibilities, and responsibilities within them. The experience of all observers—sentient beings—working with and within systems is vital for shifting from iterative to recursive—gaining value through the cycles of our living.
#NewMacy was founded in 2020 to catalyze conversations across geographies and generations and beyond disciplines in order to navigate the wicked challenges of our time—unpredictable entanglements that stretch across diverse social and environmental domains. We are informed by second-order cybernetics, so we act with the awareness that we are a part of them and must adapt as they do. We develop knowledge through lived, collaborative experience. We thus strive to approach systems with the humility of not-knowing and the awareness that we are always learning. That is to say, we embrace creativity, experimentation, and conversation at the centre of all that we do.
Colloquies for Transgenerational Conversation is #NewMacy’s current project. Its premise is that academic and industry domains—despite their languaging practices around interdisciplinarity and innovation—rarely fully embrace transgenerational and transdisciplinary conversation. Our methodology takes the concerns of graduate students and rising faculty as impetus to re-frame and re-vision systems of learning that influence so many aspects of our lives and living.
Our talk further articulates practices of the #NewMacy initiative and the Colloquies project. We outline the intentions of this phase of the project and its futures, for which we are grateful for our partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University and RSD12.
KEYWORDS: #NewMacy, Macy Meetings, transdisciplinarity, cybernetics, second-order cybernetics, design cybernetics, wicked challenges
Kate Doyle’s work explores art practices and forms through the framework of cybernetics. An attention to the processes and poetics of creative reception serves as the foundation of her teaching-learning, which encourages new modes of conversation and interaction. With Paul Pangaro, she co-organizes #NewMacy, an initiative that spans geographies and generations and transcends disciplines to catalyze conversations in navigating the complex challenges of our time. With Damian Chapman and TJ McLeish, she runs The Reading Group, a think tank for embodied research, learning, and creative archiving. Trained in the visual arts and violin performance, Kate received her PhD in musicology from Case Western University in 2018. She has been an invited speaker or collaborator at the Chelsea College of Art of the University of the Arts London, the Dia Art Foundation, and the Library of Congress. Kate is currently Assistant Professor of Music in the Department of Arts, Culture & Media at Rutgers University-Newark and based in New York City.
Paul Pangaro’s work explores the role of conversation in design, innovation, interactions, and organizations. His career spans startups and consulting, research and publishing, teaching and performance. With Kate Doyle he co-organizes #NewMacy, an initiative that spans geographies, generations, and disciplines to catalyze conversations that confront the complex challenges of our time. He is current President of the American Society for Cybernetics and Visiting Scholar in the School of Architecture and School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, after serving there as Professor of Practice in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute for 3.5 years. His product designs, teaching, writing, and research are grounded in the cybernetic theory and methods of Conversation Theory by Gordon Pask. His presentations, publications, and videos can be found online at pangaro.com.