Reflections on the Past and Present of Science in Culture

It wil take some time to reflect on the riches presented to us in the course of the workshop; I am struck by the consistency of approach: the need to contextualise science learning and to see science within culture, or in this case cultures. This goes alongside the desire to find the personal engagement with the period of the Middle Ages, the figure of Grosseteste and the world he invokes. At the same time, the seriousness with which the period can and should be approached was also heartwarming, from a medievalists point of view. Not that the period wasn’t joyful and playful as well :), but it is a period all too easily ignored, or navigated around as an age of faith or of superstition, which in turn makes some of its practitioners and modern-day exponents a little too defensive about the achievements and breath-taking vision and imagination of medieval thinkers. We ended the workshop with a meal at Blackfriars Restaurant, in Newcastle, with whom the Durham Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies has been collaborating for some time on medieval food recipes and presentation (see our sister blog: eatmedieval.wordpress.com). I could think of no better way to summarise what the project is inspired by and the interdisciplinary, multi-sensory approaches we can deploy to walk with the past.

With thanks to all of the participants.

Giles

p.s. Now let us know what you think!

One thought on “Reflections on the Past and Present of Science in Culture

  1. Michael Gasper November 4, 2013 / 1:37 pm

    Thank you for the overview of the sessions and groups. It was an interesting and rewarding experience to be part of the conference and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity. Apart from Early Years (0 – 8) I am very interested in multi-agency working and the 2 days provided a unique opportunity to engage in a multi-disciplinary group as participant and observer. The following observations are based on reflections written during the conference and immediately afterwards.
    The initial informal gathering enabled us to begin to get to know each other and members of the core team, ensuring that as the conference group gathered on day 1 a spirit of openness was already established. This desire to connect with each other and with Grosseteste’s writings proved a key contributor to the positive atmosphere of both days. The success of multi-agency working can be based on professional attitude but a new dimension emerges when individuals get on at a personal level. This was nurtured throughout by the members of the core team and enriched by the mix of all our ages and career stages and our perspectives. Being comfortable with uncertainty seemed to be a common feature of the group as a whole. This has the potential to be both an advantage and a constraint and the fact that we worked so well together is a tribute to the spirit engendered from the start and maintained throughout. It seemed to me that it was also to do with Gr himself.
    Gr’s work is an attempt to grapple with fundamental issues: the creation of the universe; light; the rainbow, all of which touch on the meaning of life itself. By drawing on ancient texts and wisdom but also challenging received wisdom, developing his own interpretation, he demands that we observe, question and reflect, that we hypothesise, test and reflect. As the translators revealed the challenges his work presents, each of us seemed drawn further into insights which challenged our previous understandings. The sense of excitement was tangible. There was almost a sense of mischief as we were given a license to explore and create. With this came a sense of responsibility to be as faithful as possible to the process of Gr’s reasoning and style of exploration, and to be true to the context in which he was living and writing.
    The richness and quality of Gr’s reasoning and the insights provided into the wider context drew into us into a process of exploration enabling successful avoidance of purely utilitarian aims. We relished the possibilities we were licensed to explore while creating potential connections to open this world to young people. The creative process was scary but also exciting for us and is something which, hopefully, will be embedded in whatever is finally produced and echo the spiritual and creative elements of Gr and his work, encouraging enquiry and exploration of ideas through reasoning and reflection.
    Final thoughts:
    Could this approach be replicated and prove valuable in other focus areas? I believe it could. Gr’s example utilises an holistic rather than compartmentalised approach in attempting to make sense of his world. The expansion of specific knowledge in separate areas risks losing sight of the inter-relatedness of all knowledge. Exploring links enables far greater possibilities.
    Wenger et al (2002) comment:
    ‘ The value of the personal investment and sense of ownerships that comes from forming a community around a significant domain will usually outweigh risks such a fragmentation, rigidity, or unruly complexity. The depth of knowledge that results compensates for the boundaries that inevitably arise.’ (2002. p 159)
    Reviewing, adjusting and revising the relationships of partners with each other and with the progression and development of the programme will be essential to maintaining the health of this community.
    Michael Gasper
    Reference:
    Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder W. M. (2002) Cultivating Communities of Practice Harvard Business School Publishing: Harvard

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