The permanent and official blog of the University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies PhD student conferences and special events.

5 November 2013

Transmutation #10 - A WORKSHOP! Metamorphoses: leadership, resilience and learning

I always wonder how to liveblog workshops. So much happens.

In this workshop, Nick Winterbotham talks about how both processes and people metamorphose in the context of the museum and society. We begin with a story, and with a task to balance nails on top of each other, similar to those activities offered by museums and science centres. It is seemingly impossible.

If a family unit is given such a task, they might change their roles in relation to each other: if a son solves a problem, they may command a new found repsect from older members of their family. If a family knows that another family has previously achieved the goal, they may seek to imitate. They may also think with their fingers, manage their anxiety with learning things. Flow is also important in solving problems, as Csíkszentmihályi noted. You can also buy in experience.

The baseball player Satchel Paige once said that 'None of us is as smart as all of us' - so if we worked out how to work together, might we be able to metamorphose and solve problems. (By the way, Elee just solved the problem of the nails. Clever thing.)

Ovid's Metamorphoses shot him to superstardom. Each of more than 250 tales was a parable of change. He followed Heraclitus, in viewing everything as change. He saw the vital progress of history as emerging from a concatenation of changes: Winterbothem shows us two examples.

Ever since that time, we have evidence of personal transformations - in history and literature, Caligula, Macbeth, Jekyll and Hyde. Much of Winterbothem's work over the last few decades has been about embracing and making positive the changes that we experience. We can chose what lessons we learn from this 2000 year history of cultural expression, and to chose our own kinds of metamorphoses.

What kinds of transformation are we interested in now? Religious? From religion to secularisation? What, Winterbothem asks, would be our big idea for change? And once you've settled on this idea, does it have soul, emotional appeal? Can it define the new tomorrow? What it's moral underpinnning? Is it a real possibility? Big ideas can be elusive. It's worth going beyond the consensus.

What causes change? What hastens tipping points? Big ideas, disasters, unmet needs, revolt, democracy, guilt, envy, pester power...

Now we have to take part in an experiment - to be the change we want to see in the world. We have to rate concepts in terms of how transformative we, as a group, believe them to be. Back in a moment...

Well, we've debated over many ideas. Restitution, prosecution, literacy. It depends what we are interested in, what we value, and how we determine the nature of transformation. It's certainly made us talk to each other. The following workshop would be about the consequences of our choices, and what they actually, practically mean.

Transformations and metamorphoses are dependent on your standpoint. Ovid contains the obvious mythological metamorphoses; but hiding behind this is the political background and its change from democracy to empire that Ovid lived within. He ended his life in Asia Minor, a refugee on the outskirts of Turkey.

We are meaning makers, but the greatest ones have often been personal and mythical, of sorts. What are we going to do - transform personally, or save the world at the same time. 

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