EIOS 1 and 2 Evaluation Report

EIOS 1: The Group

A total of 16 people participated in EIOS1, with one participant also simultaneously making a film on the experience (under a separate project), accompanied by her cameraman; and one who started as an observer but progressively became an observer-participant. See Annexure 2 to this report for a list of participants and their backgrounds.

The “Integria Group” came together in different ways, including personal contacts and the open (though perhaps not widely circulated) call for papers to the special ISSJ issue on open space. With the exception of a few connections among different members, and a small group in particular, most of us did not know each other beforehand, although some of us had got to know each other in virtual space during the planning process, which had begun the previous October. Prior to the encounter, the papers written for the ISSJ were circulated within the listserv that had been created for the purpose of planning it; those who had not contributed to the journal also made material they had written on Social Forums or related themes available to others; all were supposed to have read each other’s work before coming to Brazil. For the majority of the group, the first contact was in Porto Alegre as we prepared to board the shuttle vans to Integria. The two-hour ride served as a kind of liminal passage, marking a transition from everyday life to the ritual world of the first EOIS encounter, where a kind of collective experience anthropologists call “communitas” would prevail. Perhaps for this reason it would be rather difficult to integrate the five latecomers who arrived after lunch on the second day (i believe this should be slightly more nuanced: like "some felt it was rather difficult to integrate and being integrated". However even more important is that it seems that the process of integration as described here is something that is done BY the "locals" TO the newcomers, fact of which i'm not fully convinced. Moreover I personally felt extremely happy and indeed excited when the five arrived: among them were very good friends of mine and people i was in touch with only virtually, etc., and i never felt there was anything akward, etc. In general, my personal understaing is that it would be more interesting to discuss among us why we believe that the integration is done INTO the existing setting instead of allowing for a more complex and negotiated adjustment in which NOBODY is integrated into anything by all actors contribute to recreate, reformulate etc. the "space" they share. If the people who arrived later felt they were forced to integrate first and that the integration did not happen second, then we have a lot of research to do here...).

On the one hand, significant tensions quickly emerged, including differences in personality, communication style, and tone. Indeed, despite the broadly egalitarian ethos, there would be a great deal of conflict and power struggle, as there are in any group (if power relations are in every group, then what's the point in even mentioning it? as if you mentioned that we also breathed air, as all live creatures do. Instead maybe what we want to highlight here is that: although, power dynamics were never consciously and "openly" dealt with they played a crucial role in determining group dynamics and human relations whose nature and potentiality we never fully explore due to our rather naive approach to power. The lack of an aware approach to power produced a wealth of unpredicted outcomes and a vast range of tensions, that became manifested during the following days), throughout the encounter; this provided additional raw material for our intensive explorations into the nature of open space, adding an emotional plane to the intellectual exchange that had till then been planned. On the other hand, given that latecomers missed out not only on the bus ride, but also the first meal and evening presentations and icebreakers, they were never ritually integrated into the group, or at least not until the brewing tensions came to a head two days later (here it seems that "integration" (whatever that means - i do not feel is the words we want to use anywere in the report or in our work) was impossible due to the fact that the bus ride and the dinner were not shared: i believe this is rather dubious an approach: perhaps in our rather superficial approach to ritualities in group dynamics (as above with power) we missed the opportunities of "openly" deal with such issues. If that would have happened the integration could have taken place even if bus ride and first meal were not shared by all). This more general dynamic, although largely invisible, was perhaps just as important as the personal issues already mentioned, both of which will be further discussed below.

Finally, three additional issues of inclusion/exclusion should also be mentioned with respect to the formation of the group. First, one woman who an invitee requested at the last minute to be allowed to accompany her, was allowed to take part as an observer, thus filling a kind of inside/outside position. Second, two of us who were not ISSJ contributors were invited to participate on the condition that we also help out with certain logistical tasks, while two others who had been part of the EOIS planning listserve did not attend Integria, but did take part in the open sessions at the WSF. Finally, during the planning period, a small group of people (including the two who had not contributed to the ISSJ issue) had been appointed facilitating functions, without that having been made explicit to the others in advance; even though these roles would progressively become shared beyond this original ‘facilitating’ group, the realization of the existence of this small group would breed suspicion and conflict among some people. Thus, questions such as: How open is this space? Who opens the space? and How is it opened? immediately came to the fore, and would persistently haunt the broader discussions, causing a constant feedback between the questions considered in relation to the WSF and other political process, and the particular process of the group gathered at Integria (i'm not sure this should go in the funder's report at all). This would complement the broader examination of open space, and would also be facilitated by the personal dynamics introduced by the explorations in inner space dynamics. EOIS 1 would thus become a fascinating laboratory for investigating open space on personal, social, and political levels.

Contributors to this page: giuseppe , michal , jai and Subramanya (Subbu) Sastry .
Page last modified on Tuesday 26 of July, 2005 15:20:40 IST by giuseppe.

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