onsdag 17. juli 2013

Deliberate dyslexia as a de-signing practice

This is the abstract and introduction of a paper I presented at the EGOS colloqium in 2012. In 2011 I submitted a short essay based on the same data material called Action at the whining range. The 2011 version was not accepted. The 2012 version won a prize for That's interesting! This is still work in progress, so I'd happily take suggestions that would improve the paper, or indeed, make it more interesting.   


A strong focus on the need for crisis for change to happen can overshadow efforts to keep change processes joyful and continuous. This paper introduces the practice of “deliberate dyslexia”: a deliberate misreading activity that creates new words and concepts. New concepts are explored through repetition through story and transformation to physical manifestation. This might be understood as a de-signing practice that treats language as an inexhaustible resource of inspiration – it is a sensemaking practice based on joy and abundance. The practice has multiple effects and may be discussed in several ways: the balance between exploration/exploitation, the difference between craziness and unproductiveness, and the transformation from initiative to institution.


In this paper I present a de-signing practice that uses language as an infinite resource of inspiration. Deliberate dyslexia might be understood as a de-signing practice that allows for the creation of new concepts, words and objects with a focus on joy instead of crisis. New dyslexic connections are tried out as a pastime, and ones that work are made into special objects that again become stories for use in inspirational lectures. Concepts are repeated and kept alive as stories and judged by their aesthetic qualities, until suddenly being imbued with new meanings and possibility for physical manifestation.

The tension between reality and possibility becomes a playground for signs and de-signs, while building of physical manifestations brings opportunity for transformation different forms that enhance possibility of reflection and creation of new meaning. This is a type of sensemaking that is focused on joy, abundance and empowerment, far from the dissonance and risk that drives Weick’s (1995) concept of sensemaking.
The necessity of crisis for change is rife in literature. Argyris and Schön (1978) claim that the bigger the gap between the intended outcome of an action, and the actual outcome, the better conditions are for organizational learning. Even more strongly, the popular Kotter (1995) advices to start any process of change by instilling a “sense of urgency” in people, so that they see that it is necessary and dedicate themselves to responding to the changing conditions of the outside world.

Changes and development from within, with joy as motivation, is that even possible? There are promising inflows from a pragmatic view on practice theory, where change is understood as a part of a natural cycle (Lave and Wenger,1991). Learning in communities of practice (ibid) gradually changes those communities as new elements are brought in from the periphery over time changes the practice as well as the people constituting the community. On the other hand, change might be understood as the natural state of being, where stability is the real accomplishment (Feldman and Orlikowski, 2011). A process view turns attention to organizing as an on-going and emerging project where an illusion of stability is upheld by people working hard to keep it that way (cf. Tsoukas and Chia, 2002).

A combination of external pressure to change and existing practices are found in approaches that view the creative opportunities offered and taken as a consequence of outside demand.  Czarniawska (2008) shows how externally imposed change makes the organization transparent so that people take responsibility for making their own changes. Similarly, Hjorth (2003) shows how the shortcomings of imposed plans give rise to creativity as people see the opportunity to merge the plans with their own intentions. The simultaneous repetitiveness and novelty of practice might be shown in how intensions of the mind are transformed to extensions of the practices in the world (Antonacopoulou, 2008). This allows change to be continuous as well as disruptive, and in any practice there is a flux of possibilities between what is and what could become, between intensions and resulting extensions in the world.

However, these views on change still suffer from change being small until “something happens”. How should we understand changes that rely on internal resources only and people’s ability to reach out? De-sign!? Can we change change by de-signing practices?

This paper proceeds according to the following structure – first I argue that de-signing is a practice with an ironic perspective on language and the world, before enriching Weick’s (1995)  sensemaking theory with more senses and aesthetic ambiguity with Leach’s (1976 anthopological structuralist theory. Then a short presentation of the field and my involvement with it before I present three clusters of word play that are the result of deliberate dyslexia. Finally a discussion giving some food for thought on what this paper will contribute.   
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