The fundamental position taken by the conference designers is based in circular causality, which was at the heart of the concerns of the Macy Conferences (1946 to 1952) where cybernetics took its contemporary form.
It is easy to talk about circular causality, but to live within it is harder. In part this is because to use the word “apply”, as in applying theory to practice, is to use the linear logic of power. All too often, we see doing as inferior to thinking. (This is one reason that the conference is not a paper conference with one telling many what he/she knows; but a conversational conference in which the exchange of understandings can lead to new concepts and new agreements: a very cybernetic way of acting.) Thus, we all too often seek theory to justify practice, prioritising understanding over action in such sayings as “Before you act you should understand”.
Perhaps the most important contribution of Jean Piaget (1959) is his explanation of the mechanisms of the “Construction of Reality in the Child” (republished by Routledge in 1999 in London): children don’t come with built in understandings, but act in the world both to define that world, and to develop his/her understanding. In this view, action has, if anything, precedence over understanding: doing comes before thinking. The mechanism through which action and understanding can be worked together is through learning.
Precedence and superiority are probably unhelpful concepts. In our conference we will consider the conference theme “Acting—Learning—Understanding” through both the way that action leads to understanding (sub-theme 1), and understanding leads to action (sub-theme 2), bringing the two together in a circular form where each can be seen to cause the other (Concluding Unification). We will do this through talking and through acting together.
In our conference we look for new questions we can work on, rather than reports on already decided answers to old questions. We are looking to move forward—together—towards new questions.