This blog is a collection of working documents: ideas that we are developing as we think through the dimensions and implications of the concept of institutional legibility.
Our subject might be quite academic in nature, but nothing you will read here constitutes an academically complete article or essay. The posts are simply intended to capture our current thinking and insights, like snapshots and sketches in a traveller’s journal. At times the development of the posts will feel a lot closer to “thinking aloud”, or a conversation in a coffee shop, than to final texts.
Don’t expect that the tone of the writing will be consistent – we don’t. Some pieces will be very academically oriented, and others will be narrative, conversational, or maybe even just a few separate short thoughts. Different ideas, and the degree of their development, need different voices. Sometimes we are simply testing out different writing styles to see what feels right for certain topics.
Taken together, the posts will not form a consistent whole. They will be fragmentary, approximative, and may even be internally contradictory at times. There will be holes in arguments, and flaws in the logic, and we’ll have to work that out as we go along. We hope you will accept that as a characteristic of developing a new understanding of a complex subject.
We reserve the right to announce that we now believe that something we said before was just plain wrong.
This is a record of an ongoing exploration and our conversations about the journey, and it is written as such. The exploration will meander at times, and sometimes, ill-advisedly careen down the sides of hills. It will hit rough terrain requiring backtracking, very likely circle back to the same place more than once, and at times require us to stop and set up camp when it gets too dark to follow the trail.
In short, we’re using this format to explore unknown terrain, and we hope that others (including you) will join the conversation with feedback and ideas that will help us to map this space more effectively.
As you may have noticed already, we are likely to talk a lot about terrain and maps. We find maps and mapping, exploration and navigation, a natural way to think about things. This is owing mostly to the similar but peculiar wiring of our two minds. However, although we think that maps and mapping are necessary approaches to locating ourselves, we are also skeptical about their capacity to fully or objectively represent human experience of spaces.
We value metaphorical thinking as a way to reframe complex phenomena, to question assumptions, and to change the scope and scale of our thinking. We think pattern recognition is a natural part of the way humans parse their experience, for good or ill. Bear with us through the odd divergences, we will come back with a point, for good or ill.
Our work draws on a broad range of disciplines, domains, and methodologies. This is in part the consequence of our own very different backgrounds, in part our interest in searching new domains and disciplines (for us) to find relevant ideas and approaches, and in part a deliberate attempt to use multiple lenses to reframe and defamiliarize the territory for ourselves, to find new perspectives and insights. We understand some of these methodologies better than others, and we’re looking to understand them better as we go along, but we’ll learn more by actually trying them out – see above.
This work is grounded in scholarly literature from various academic fields, but it is also informed by many mainstream writers and sources. Our exploration has to do with how people actually parse an institutional space, how people think about and make decisions in complex systems, and how to make it easier for people to do these things. These are difficult questions, and we want to tackle them using as many well-thought ideas as we can, regardless of who the thinker is or how they choose to write about it. This mix of writing styles, intended audiences, and approaches to thinking about and communicating ideas offers a range of insights not really available through any one.
This blog is an invitation for you to join us in our exploration of the Legible University.