Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Design: Sustainable Commute Survey Stage 2

Road route is marked by thin blue line, with approximate train route marked by red line followed by tube route in green.

According to: www.distance-calculator.co.uk/distances-for-south_woodham... The approx distance between South Woodham Ferrers and London (oxford Street) in a straight line is 33 miles (53.1km) - while the actual driving distance is 40.6 mi (65.3km) (taking about 1 hour 11 mins in normal conditions).

According to www.nationalrail.co.uk/ a train & tube journey between South Woodham Ferrers train station and London Tottenham Court Road tube station in the morning should take between 1hr 1 min and 1hr 10 min from a scheduled start time. According to www.travelfootprint.org/journey_emissions/ - the train journey between South Woodham Ferrers train station and London Stratford station is 30.2 miles (48.6km) plus a tube journey of 6.4 miles (10.3km) - so a total distance of 36.8 miles (58.9 km).

According to a Personal Travel Factsheet produced by the Department of Transport and based on data from the National Travel Survey (NTS) assets.dft.gov.uk/statistics/series/national-travel-surve... : "The average journey time to work has been steadily increasing; it takes 28 minutes, an increase of 18% on 1995/97 (24 minutes). The average journey to work for London residents takes just over 41 minutes, 48% longer than the national average." While: "On average, commuting trips by foot take 18 minutes, by cycling 22 minutes, by car 24 minutes, by bus 41 minutes, and by surface rail 69 minutes."

According to a 2003 RAC Foundation study reported on by the BBC, the average UK commuter's trip takes 45minutes, while the average distance travelled is 8.7 miles (these 2 facts don't seem to add up though!) news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3085647.stm The journey time was reportedly the longest in Europe.
A subsequent report by the RAC Foundation in 2007 indicated that the average distance travelled remained 8.7 miles, while the commuter travels for 54 minutes a day. One in ten commuters have a daily journey in excess of 2 hours. People working in London have average daily commutes of 86 minutes, almost double the commuting times of other regions. www.racfoundation.org/media-centre/files/theukcommute.pdf

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Rivers of Life

Over the last few years, I found myself called upon three times to draw up a 'river of life' presenting a pictorial narrative of my development with important people and events noted and acknowledged along the way. The first one I did was at the start of my Msc in Human Ecology in September 2008 with the Centre for Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde, and if not currently lost is certainly mislaid. The second one I did is shown above and was created at the start of the Training of Teachers course  I did with Designed Visions. The third is shown below and was created in January 2010 on a Diploma induction day with Graham Burnett and Hannah Thorogood.

Being the kind of person I am, I wanted to know where this technique came from and have traced it back to the work of the theologian James W Fowler. In the Manual For Faith Development Research by James W. Fowler, et. al. the technique is presented as "The Life Tapestry Exercise" and its provenance is given thus:

The exercise entitled "The Unfolding Tapestry of My Life" (see Appendix 7.2) was originally developed for use in some of the workshops conducted by the Center for Research in Faith and Moral Development. It draws on the work of Levinson (1978), Progoff (1975; 1980; 1983), and others, as well as faith development theory.

The references given in that quote are to these books:

Levinson, D. J. (1978). The Seasons of a Man's Life. New York: Ballantine Books.
Progoff, I. (1975). At a Journal Workshop. New York: Dialogue House Library.
Progoff, I. (1980). The Practice of Process Meditation. New York: Dialogue House Library.
Progoff, I. (1983). Life-Study: Experiencing Creative Lives by the Intensive Journal Method. New York: Dialogue House

Daniel (D.J.) Levinson was a psychologist, and one of the founders of the field of Positive Adult Development. Dr Ira Progoff meanwhile was an American psychotherapist, best known for his development of the Intensive Journal Method.

Having this kind of context is very useful for me as a learner, although I am aware that my cognitive style and desire for this kind of context may work against the lived experience of just doing an exercise and feeling the results. I do have a tendency to over-intellectualization!

Design: Sustainable Commute - Survey Stage 1

(noun) a person who travels some distance to work on a regular basis

In May 2012 I began a new full-time job in central London, while living out in Essex. Not for the first time in my life, I became a commuter...

There are reasons and justifications for all the decisions that led to this situation, living in Essex - working in London. All of which are worthy of inquiry in their own right, but for now I'll just accept these as boundary conditions of a situation that requires design.

In fact when I began the job, I felt my options were limited and chose to repeat actions I had made before, which had largely worked. [this is a design process of a sort, of course, and one commonly used - what worked before? do that again - but a very limited one]. I bought a monthly season ticket for the local railway, which was expensive but affordable within my new salary and began a daily return journey to work using train and tube to get me to work.

I'm now in my fourth month of repeating that pattern and at the end of a 3 week hiatus after a week's leave followed by a fortnight of telecommuting during the Olympics. It seems to be a good moment to pause and reflect - to do a survey of how things stand as the initial stage of a design process.

I think a good place to start a survey/begin reflection might be with a client interview - a pre-determined list of questions that I can use to structure my reflections and guide me toward capturing valuable information that an informal account might miss.

There are a few pro-forma permaculture client interview sheets around, including:
  1.  one put together by Joe Atkinson for the Permaculture Association's Introductory Course materials.
  2. one put together by Aranya and provided as a download for purchasers of his book Permaculture Design - A Step by Step Guide.
  3. A client interview checklist printed in Patrick Whitefield's book The Earth Care Manual.
These all share many common attributes, not the least of which is that they are all land based/site focused. This means that they are not immediately appropriate for a non-land based design.

I feel that Aranya's provides the most easily modifiable to my purposes, so I have adapted his Client Interview questions for a wider context. [It's a quick and dirty solution however, as thinking about the type of information the site questions are seeking to draw out and considering the non-site analogues for that type of information, quickly reveals that a non-land based based client interview sheet really needs its own design].

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Natural Patterns

I've now tweaked the video of the Natural Patterns talk I gave at the 2012 London Permaculture Festival, incorporating the presentation slides at the relevant point, which will hopefully assist in communicating the information. Here it is: The book I mention in the video is Metapatterns: Across Space, Time and Mind by Tyler Volk, which I first encountered after seeing it referred to in Starhawk's book The Earth Path.

Volk has a few videos up on Youtube including a short series on Metapatterns. Here's the first:

During the Q&A I mention Vi Hart's videos on the Fibonacci sequence in nature, there;s an excellent series of 3 on Vi Hart's video channel, the first of which is embedded below:

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Patterns of Mind: Habits

Tyler Volk's book Metapatterns is subtitled 'Across Space, Time and Mind' - highlighting three distinct areas in which we might examine patterns. I have started to address some of the aspects of pattern in spatial terms, in my work on natural pattern that you can see some of here.

I've also been thinking a lot recently about mental patterns, patterns of mind - what we might also refer to as habits. This seems a fruitful area to explore for the Diploma student. In fact a commonly referenced book in regard to learning as a Diploma student, uses the formulation 'habit': Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

Two other resources which may be useful in this regard are Leo Babuta's book and website Zen Habits, and  Charles Duhigg's book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

Public Presentations

A good way of getting Permaculture ideas to reach a wider audience is to talk about it publicly - by which I mean outside the formal teaching context and its self-selecting attendees.

Thus far, the closest I've got to this if a kind of halfway house - giving workshops and presentations at small events and at the London Permaculture Festivals in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Stills for films in the Reels of Resilience show
 At the first London Permaculture Festival in 2010 I curated and presented the 'Reels of Resilience' film show of archival documentaries from the 1930s and 1940s, encouraging the audience to find parallels between then and now. I tried to make it more than just a film show, so that the audience would both observe and interact with the material. I thought that the Permaculture ethics were apparent in the films and that they showed ordinary people creatively adapting and responding to change and inspiration to us now with our different challenges. I had presented these films (and others) previously in other Permaculture and non-Permaculture contexts including the Permaculture Picturehouse in Hackney (2nd June 2009), Green on the Screen in Crouch End, a Transition Leytonstone event, and at The Hornbeam Community Cafe in Walthamstow - I also repeated the presentation at the 2010 Permaculture convergence.

I first conceived the idea whilst studying Action Research with Nick Wilding during my MSc in Human Ecology during which I created the document Reels of Resilience - Audience Development and Sustainable Community outlining the project in more detail.

At the 2011 London Permaculture Festival I was involved in two public engagements. I gave a presentation of the life and books of Robert Hart alongside Claire White's presentation of Forest Gardening. I also led a workshop on Future Scenarios connecting with the Permaculture Association's work in this area. I've written more about that here.

At the 2012 London Permaculture Festival I gave an interactive talk on the subject of natural patterns within the context of Permaculture, I've written more about that here.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Trivium

First thoughts on The Trivium critical thinking meme - education #design skills for the #permaculture auto-didact?

I recently stumbled across the contemporary interest in The Trivium in the USA, which has revived my thinking around independent scholarship and the idea of the auto-didact.

This was completely new to me, before listening to this podcast the other day.

The upshot: classical (& Renaissance?) education was based around study of the 7 Liberal Arts - to be studied in a precise order and divided into 2 blocks The Trivium and The Quadrivium.

The Trivium: Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric
The Quadrivium: Number, Geometry, Music, Cosmology

The podcast led me to a contemporary US "movement" promoting The Trivium as a model for self-education and resistance to hegemonic power/propaganda. These seem to be the main nodes: Trivium EducationTragedy and Hope, Trivium Binder

A more general google search, once you get past the heavy metal band of the same name, tends towards the use of The Trivium in the US homeschooling movement, especially amongst the Christian edge of that.

Other negative associations - parts of The Trivium fanbase seems to include political conspiracy theorists and Ayn Rand style Objectivists.

Other interesting associations - Jan Irvin of Trivium Education also runs Gnostic Media and has background interest in psychedelics, qabbalah etc.; There's also a relation with the radical education views of John Taylor Gatto, spoken about by Derrick Jensen amongst others.

As with anything like this, there's a lot of crap out there, and while there's a wealth of interesting web audio/video - some of the more interesting commentators have terrible droney voices.

Nevertheless, I sense something important in all of this, and would be interested in yr thoughts and any connections/associations with any of this you may already have.

Natural Pattern Talk at London Permaculture Festival 2012


Raw video of the talk I gave at the 2012 London Permaculture Festival  - I'm currently working on an edited version incorporating my presentation slides.

UPDATE (9th Aug 2012). The edited/tweaked version is now uploaded and viewable on this page, where it is joined by further supporting videos & references.

Scything at Wimpole Hall