A Symposium at the End of the Universe? (Part #1)
The challenge of integrative, transdisciplinary thinking and meta-theory elaboration has a long tradition. It was provided with a notably international focus through the 1st World Congress on Transdisciplinarity (1994) whose processes were the theme of an experimental presentation (Transdisciplinarity through Structured Dialogue: beyond sterile dualities in meetings to the challenge of participant impotence, 1994).
A further development of the associated challenges has now been provided by the International Symposium "Research across Boundaries" (Luxembourg, 2010). The following account is again an experiment in eliciting insights from that occasion -- insights which may however be considered as merely a pattern of leitmotifs, implicit in personal experience of the formal process (projections onto it) rather than explicit in any way in its programme. On the other hand possible implications of integrative cognition call into question conventional non-self-reflexive understandings of "participation" in an event from "inside" as distinct from "outside" (Intercourse with Globality through Enacting a Klein bottle, 2009). The account reflects plenary events but only one of the four thematic streams, that on Reflections on Integrative Frameworks.
As was expressed by an Indian scholar at the Luxembourg event, there is a need for an "art of integration" to complement the conventional scientific approach to the possibility (Ananta Kumar Giri, Towards A New Art of Integration, 2010). This might be considered consistent with arguments for an aesthetics of governance (Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990; Aesthetics and Informatics: Art of Information for Policy-making and Community-building, 1999). The challenge of interdisciplinary dialogue might also be understood in terms of challenges of interfaith dialogue (Aesthetic Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue as Exemplified by Meditation, 1997). A related contextual concern, as previously discussed, is the role of the imagination in framing the complexity for which integrative processes are urgently required (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). This may be framed through fruitful metaphors (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).
In the quest for such an "art of integration", the following account uses the event as "material" -- as in the plastic arts -- to be moulded and shaped into a form inviting imaginative projections and offering a degree of coherence to them. Can an integrative symposium be transformed into a work of art, an opus, or an opera -- in the spirit of The Glass Bead Game (1943) of Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse? If only for one's own inspiration -- a form of Rosetta Stone by which one's disparate connotations can be associated? To what extent can such a symposium then be understood as a "cognitive installation" -- perhaps a form of installation art?
The concern here follows from earlier explorations of the fundamental relevance of both humour and play in providing an integrative dimension in a global society fragmented by formal structures and processes variously experienced as alien and inhibiting a transformative dimension (Humour and Play-Fullness: Essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005). The current concern with climate change can even be given a fruitful playful twist (Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: Climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005). In this sense both humour and play offer a means of transforming the approach to coherence evident to a degree in climate, notably as a metaphor (Climate Change as a Metaphor of Social Change, 2008; Climate of Change Misrepresented as Climate Change, 2008).
The argument in what follows is that desirable integrative resonances are catalyzed and facilitated by processes which might be variously described as aesthetic and playful. However, if considered, these are treated as incidental to formal events -- as "add-ons" in public relations and image building efforts dissociated from serious discourse.