Dreaming the Dark

This reading talked about how a group’s structure can be thought of “as patterns of communication that determine how information flows,” and specifically noted the benefits of a circle or web structure. People often think equality is a natural state that doesn’t have to be managed, but there still needs to be a way of organizing information, including information about relationships among people. The difficulty of actually doing this, makes me wonder if mutuality is ever really viable in our mainstream culture. Even the reading referred to moments of group implosion (during the air, fire, water, earth stages) and talked about how human nature  makes it impossible for the group dynamic to not be affected by other human impulses (such as attraction to one another). In nature, resources are used in a sustainable way, while humans exploit resources until they no longer exist. That notion reminds me of a game called, Fish Banks*, which is a tool used to teach people about the mechanics behind over fishing. The only way to win the game is by working across groups to share information in order to sustain enough fish for everyone, but people don’t figure it out until it’s too late since it is set up as a game where whoever makes the most money from fishing wins.

While there might be pockets of this idea of a shared culture in specific communities, I think that overall, people are stuck in the hierarchal model at this point in evolution. But is it worth trying to change the structure of hierarchal groups, or better to learn how to work those systems in a mutually beneficial way? I think a blend of hierarchy and equality is the ideal form for a group to have the most success.

And as far as the roles that Starhawk describes, I think they are a bit superficial. I don’t believe that one person is solely the clown or the self-hater. I think people are more complex than that, and different aspects of their personality come through at different times and in the presence of different people.




* http://forio.com/simulate/mit/fishbanks/simulation/login.html

7 thoughts on “Dreaming the Dark”

  1. I totally agree with Stephanie’s last paragraph in the sense that this reading is kind of superficial and that this labels are drawn in a simplistic way that is not true. I totally can relate to some of them, but I feel we are much more complex. This particular point made me feel a bit

    Just to follow the comment about hierarchical model, I recently read a paper from MIT for my Algo class, called Decentralized Modeling and Decentralized Thinking, which I feel fits well for our group and resonates to the topic.
    It’s a long paper, but what I felt it was interesting was the following paragraph:
    ” When people see patterns in the world, they often assume that there is some type of centralized control, even when it doesn’t exist. For example, most people assume that birds in a flock play a game of follow-the-leader: the bird at the front of the flock leads, and the others follow. But that’s not so. In fact, most bird flocks don’t have leaders at all. Rather, each bird follows a set of simple rules, reacting to the movements of the birds nearby it. Orderly flock patterns arise from these simple, local interactions. The bird in front is not a “leader” in any meaningful sense—it just happens to end up there. The flock is organized without an organizer, coordinated without a coordinator. Yet most people continue to assume the existence of a “leader bird.” ”

    You can find the rest of the article here: http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/decentralized-modeling.pdf

    1. Thanks Gustavo for posting the MIT decentralized modeling reference. I am interested in how systems theory algorithms can apply to rule based or self organized systems in animal as well as human made systems. Turns out that Mitchel Resnick from MIT, the author of the article you read, also wrote a book I read in grad school (in the late 90’s!) called Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds. Very cool book. He spoke about the bird flock system, as well as termite colonies, traffic jams etc. And devised a simple coding language called Logo to teach this type of decentralized modeling to young students. Skimming your article it looks like it incorporates another decade at least of data. Psyched to read more about slime mold (not kidding at all, I am way into slime mold).

  2. Agreed with Stephanie’s last paragraph +1. When reading the article I felt that those characters are interesting, but I found myself corresponded to several characters at the same time, also it varies to different experiences in groups.

    In the article it mentioned that group structure is like a circle, yet I feel each individual is like a circle too, and inside this self circle which has its own self structure. When fitting an individual into a group, it overlaps with other individuals and the group structure at the same time. ( A little bit like this -> http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/Graphics-Geol/STRUCTUR/MANUAL/FIG131d.gif ) So I feel that’s impossible to use one character, or view each individual as one single dot, to describe how group structure works. Also I’m thinking maybe it’s not just a circle, could rather be a sphere with more dimensional aspects.

  3. When talking about hierarchies, I quite agree the idea from the reading that information is the key point. For hierarchical groups, when information controlled by a small group of person, they are the group to make the decision. In a nonhierarchical structure, members share information with each other, so they make decision together.
    However, for me, even though everybody share information, they can not make decision together, because not everybody can get exactly same amount of information. The one who get more information can make decision. Recently I finished a group work research on model system. We divide our works, each person focus on different aspects belong to model system. Finally, after sharing the information. We need a person to make the ppt. Only the person who clear with all the aspects can make the ppt logically, reasonably and clearly. This person can decide who talk first, how much and what we can present. So the person who knows more information can make the decision.
    For me even though in the nonhierarchical system, information can change the structure of a group.

  4. It seems agreed upon that Starhawk’s defining of roles is superficial and narrow-minded; however, in thinking about the formal versus informal roles, they are bringing out different reactions in me. I find that the formal roles are, yes, a little too defined by explicit actions, and people would more often find themselves doing multiple things from each of those roles. But the informal roles actually seem right to me, for the most part. Sure, no one embodies totally one role and can have characteristics of each role, but because they are more about general personality traits, I believe that certain characteristics definitely stick out in an individual, and I would tend to judge him or her based on that impression. I have worked in a collaborative group in which we all do essentially the same physical actions and have equal power, but personality-wise, I could certainly see my partners falling into the categories listed in the reading, namely the star, the self-hater, the lone wolf, and the clown. I suppose this might be superficial of me, but I don’t deny that I tend to categorize people as such if they exhibit that kind of personality more.

  5. Starhawks take on hierarchies in collaboratives and the roles people play are some what exact. In a circle or or a group he describes that the decisions are made by a few people and the small number will make those key choices When working in a group . Starhawk writes about 6 formal roles for groups. I believe that people wear many roles when working in a group. a nonhierarchical structure where every one can make a decision works best for me. In a hierarchal group some one could be left out side the group just being told what to do and can make one feel unwanted or not important. I think I fall into Peacemaker and Mediator role. For example I’m currently in a group working for a non-profit and two group members do not get along I definitely stepped up and had them discuss their issues with one another and it some what solved the problem. Also in the beginning I was placed in a group where one person made all the decisions and told others the task that they had to accomplish, this did not work for me so had to leave this group.

  6. My absolute favorite part of this reading was when Starhawk wrote,
    “Another lesson we learned is that the roles people take on in groups are often related to their class backgrounds. Class is not just a matter of income, but values and expectations, the subtle messages one gets from one’s family and peers. My family valued intelligence and education — there was never a doubt in the atmosphere that I was bright, would go to college, and would succeed at something requiring brains. I could have been born, equally bright, into a family in which children were discouraged from speaking to their elders, or where there were too many children for any one to receive much attention. The family values might have centered around hard work instead of education, and the expectations might have been that we just weren’t the sort of people who excelled in school, which wasn’t an important arena of life anyway. I might have grown up thinking I was dumb and should keep my mouth shut in groups of smart people.”
    I couldn’t agree with this more. When my mother came to this country when she was 18 years old, she was told by her dad she had the choice of either staying home and learning how to cook and clean or go to school; she chose school and her sisters chose to stay home. My mom’s children grew up to be motivated individuals who are in college, while my cousins don’t have anyone around them to motivate them to go to school. If there are positive people in your life, people setting examples for you and giving you reasons to push yourself, you can succeed. My cousins are smart people, they just don’t have anyone around them to look up to, there’s nobody around who finished school and I believe they could have been in the same position as my brother and I.

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