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Metaconferencing: discovering people / viewpoint networks in conferences


Description of Round 1
Description of Round 2
Comment on Round 2 (in comparison with Round 1)
Future possibilities: analysis and tables
Future possibilities: mapping and tensegrity

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Based on documents, tables and maps prepared by Stafford Beer, Syd Howell, Alan Mossman, and Gordon Pask on the occasion of a conference on Improving the Human Condition: Quality and Stability in Social Systems -- the Silver Anniversary International Meeting (London, 1979) of the Society for General Systems Research (SGSR) appeared in: Transnational Associations, 32, 1980, 10, pp. 411-420. A description of a subsequent use of the technique on the occasion of the World Forum of International / Transnational Associations (Brussels, 1980) appeared in Transnational Associations, 33, 1980, 2, pp. 103-106. [PDF version; in collection PDF version]


This paper gives an overview of the process and the results of the "Call to experiment" launched by Stafford Beer, Past-President of the Society for General Systems Research (SGSR), during the recent international conference of the Society in London. The theme of the conference was: "Improving the human condition; quality and stability in social systems". His justification for the experiment in an inaugurai address, appeared in a previous issue of Transnational Associations (1 ). A description of the process as an aspect of "participant interaction messaging" appeared in an earlier issue (2). Stafford Beer's specific proposal to the 228 participants is reproduced here (see Insert 1 ). The following description is that of an interested participant and does not necessarily reflect all the concerns of the people who made the whole experiment happen, namely Stafford Beer and his colleague Gordon Pask (who initiated the idea and Alan Mossman and S D Howell (who made it work with some assistance from the others).

Insert 1: Stafford Beer's Proposal

A large supply of small blank white cards is available in the reception room.

I ask everyone to subscribe to a single statement, written on a card, at least by the time proceedings begin tomorrow morning, and to mail that card in the postbox provided there.

What statement ? That is for you to decide. It should be something relevant to the purposes that brought us all here. It could be a declaration, a comment, a question, an injunction, or something e/se that you want to put down. But it should be something you regard as important

Watch out for motherhood statements. In case anyone present does not know this trick: make sure that the negative of the statement would find defenders. If not, you have made an empty utterance.

Perhaps you have more than one statement to make. Then please use more than one card- otherwise sorting becomes impossible.

Please make a conscious effort to avoid the accepted categories : of this conference, of world-affairs, and (forgive me. but especially) of your own specialism.

You might say something that has never been reimage garded as relevant; or someting which - because of the logic of accepted language - could not even be said. In that case, your powers of communication will be strained.

So far I have spoken to you individually, because I believe in the individual. Make your personal statement, ascribe your name, and post it - by all means. You personally are the unit subset of a group. Then what became of the self-organizing groups of two or more ? Easy: if they can agree on a statement, then all of them add their names.

I asked earlier that each of you should "subscribe - to a statement by the morning, and avoided the phrase "write a statement", for just this reason. The more people who discharge the obligation that I am trying to lay on them in group form, the better. Each can make a statement of his own too. of course, but it would be good to catch on to the synergy of emergent groups as soon as we can.

Please PRINT your names.

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