July 19th is the 49th meeting of Systems Thinking Ontario. Please RSVP at Eventbrite.

Embodied Systems Thinking

By using the term embodied we mean to highlight two points: first, that cognition depends upon the  kinds of experience that come from having a body

with various sensorimotor capacities, and second, that these individual sensorimotor capacities are themselves embedded

in a more encompassing biological,  psychological, and cultural context. (Varela et al. 1991)

Systems Thinking makes use of abstract concepts: boundaries, functions, processes, signals, feedback, parts and wholes, in order to rise above the incidental features of some messy, real-world concern, craft an idealized representation – the “system” - and thereby analyze, predict or influence things. Indeed; our Systems Thinking Ontario sessions typically entail reading abstract, theoretical papers and engaging in intellectual discussions focused on various key concepts, ideals and representations - piling abstraction upon abstraction - lots of thinking.

But if Francisco Varela is right, maybe – despite being confined during our school years to chairs lined up in neat rows - the path to greater enlightenment its not always about being in our heads, juggling abstract representations and transmitting ideas with words. Maybe we do some of our best thinking – our most important systems thinking, even - when we get out of our chairs, out of our usual places, out of our usual postures – to engage our sensorimotor capacities - with the spaces and the people around us - in an embodied, enactive, extended, interactive… way.

With the help of Stephen Sillett – whose practice employs embodied, spatial and dramatic modes – we’ll take this occasion to experiment with, reflect on and gain insight into different approaches to making sense in the world such as are emphasized by thinkers like Varela, Ziemke and De Jaegher and Di Paolo (see suggested readings).

More about Stephen: In May 2017 Stephen started his Practice-based PhD started chaired by Prof David Lane from the Professional Development Foundation and accredited by the Salomons School of Applied Psychology at Canterbury ChristChurch Univ. in the UK. He is addressing questions relating to enabling emergent, bottom-up transformation in communities and organisations. What kind of service design and system designs need to be thought about, and the use of enactivist approaches, such as participatory theatre, socio-drama, contextual drama, and spatial meaning making are central to his work.

Join us in an open discussion. Newcomers always welcomed.

In preparation, please review the following notes:

What’s that Thing Called Embodiment

Making Sense in Participation

Venue: OCADU - Lambert Lounge, 100 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 1W1


Post-meeting artifacts: