Saturday, 20 October 2012

scratch communication competencies

(updated - Sat 20 Oct, 20.09)

A response to:
A Right Stooshie and the Question of ExcellenceBy jenmcgregor

Artists' Open Space (26 October 2012)
There's a continuing danger in allowing structural reorganisation to be framed as merely 'miscommunication' -- as "communication difficulties" where "Creative Scotland’s senior team wanted to improve its dialogue with the sector and to be viewed as open and responsive" (Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, in Note of Meeting Held on 7/8/12, with the Cultural Alliance ) -- and thereby also any 'solution' to it as merely 'improving' management competencies, as can be seen by the letter of appeal to the CS board and its subsequent response.

It has instead been more constructively (and uniquely) referred to by @ABissett as "what was taking place was not simply a complaint being registered, but an industrial dispute unfolding". 

On it being about conflict, not misunderstanding, as Copenhagen Free University prophetically put it back in 2001:
"With a tradition of truce and consensus politics in Danish society the aesthetic disciplines have been predominately playing along the lines of the state in the reproduction of cultural values. The state […] is convinced of the 'single' common good that can come from the integration of the aesthetic disciplines in the nation's general production of value. Both in terms of cultural and monetarian capital, that is.  Synchronously the state is encouraging all, including the cultural producers, […] to behave with social responsibility and, in general, expects people to express themselves and promote individualised subjectivity. This strategic double bind is the technology of power -- a technology for creating and controlling the voices present in society. Conflicts are explained as misunderstandings and mediated through the panacea of 'dialogue'. - The Committee of 15th July, 2001/Henriette Heise & Jakob Jakobsen
More specific still in problematising a de-politicised, salutary notion of 'dialogue':
“The post-political … describes a space of political operation structured by choices relating to micro-political procedures, administrative apparatuses and technocratic management. Operating wholly within the shrunken coordinates of neoliberalism, political agency is constrained to nothing more than a shadow play where decisions can only tinker with the edges of a system whose core ideological structure remains inviolable”.  - Adrian Lahoud, Post-traumatic Urbanism, Architecture in the Aftermath 
And so as to identify the traps if we are not careful:
"...Rose’s post-structuralist analysis offers the connection between discourse and the ability to create governable subjects. Here, discourse is more than language but rather it denotes a way of acting and behaving. […] this opens up the possibility of exploring how discourse becomes the means of shaping behaviour and that specifically it becomes feasible to create “categories of public that are produced for the purposes of participation”. […] the future is expressed as a consensual understanding; it does so through emphasizing the value of local participation as steering policy. […] As a plethora of studies have shown […] participation, particularly where it is initiated through state-led practices, operates at different levels from the tokenistic to scenarios in which there is a real redistribution of power [...] Realisation of empowered participatory governance […] is the exception; clearly, pre-existing centres of institutional power, urban governments, will be reluctant to devolve decision-making powers substantively. Further, to do so would be to undermine the legitimacy representative modes of democratic practice are able to claim. If politics is the negotiation of conflict, the post-political formation is defined around its antithesis, that politics is a managerial task involving the identification of consensus. Limiting participation to relatively ‘shallow’ forms of democratic engagement averts the problems of conflict." - Ronan Paddison, 'Protest in the Park - Preliminary Thoughts on the Silencing of Democratic Protest in the Neoliberal Age'

As I previously posted in December 2011 on the service delivery model of provision:
With Creative Scotland's continuing opacity, unfolding contradictions (no cuts/ cuts) and informational asymmetry (including drip-feeding rumour of uplifting a few FXOs to Foundation status, since dismissed), to date as practitioners we have mostly tended towards focusing on Creative Scotland's largely unfamiliar (to us) 'language' of Service Delivery while perhaps not yet naming it as such - in part because exploration has taken us to this point of recognising it.In the absence of a cogent explanation from Creative Scotland of the fundamental changes it is effecting and why, our focus on Creative Scotland's unfamiliar language and its alienating effects has been understandable as one of the few (in)tangibles we have.One concern emerging, though, is in appealing to Creative Scotland for it to moderate this language as being the same thing as a change to the new model of provision itself and the Scottish government objectives that underlie it. Again, in part, this may be because we have regularly experienced changes to the lexicon of funding with incremental changes to provision models - e.g. 'Social inclusion' - but nothing as abrupt and all encompassing as what we now experience. (And for this reason comparisons with provision in England may be erroneous.)It may now be time to get to the crux of where that language comes from, what system it is of and what is meant by it, which appears to lead us to analyse what was/is meant by "single purpose government" in Scotland and its assumptions surrounding economic growth at any cost.What is becoming evident is that what we are being subject to is less of a 'national cultural strategy' and more of a 'national service agreements' 'service delivery model': [more]


jenmcgregor said...

Would you mind attributing the quotes in your opening paragraph? Your formatting makes it look as if they come from either my post or my invitation, which is not the case.

Wanting to communicate well is not the same thing as wanting consensus or even wanting a lack of conflict. Defining our terms can mean reaching a mutual understanding which removes the need for conflict - but it can also be a metaphorical selection of weapons. If you're going to engage in conflict, it's best to do it effectively. You fight effectively by using your weapons well, which means you have to understand them rather than just wave them around.

Consensus can be forced by a refusal to define terms. Indeed, that's what first got me involved in the Creative Scotland stooshie - at the hideously-titled Theatre Sector Review meeting I requested that particular terms ('ecology' emongst them) be clarified. This request was denied. Without knowing how the terms are being used, how can we agree or disagree? But since we can't disagree, a lack of opposition can be taken as acquiescence. Defining terms involves conflict. Even once they're defined, they can and should and will be challenged. Conflict is an ongoing thing. But in order to have conflict rather than chaos, we need to be able to communicate well.

Or are you defining conflict and consensus in a different way to me...?

Peter Pascal said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is
also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,

The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.

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