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Appreciative relationalism

Bernard Stiegler (2018) reminds us, in this past decade, that any knowledge is provisional. As much as critics love to criticize work that dares to come into being, so is criticism ‘provisional’ knowledge, requiring continual revisiting, without arrogance (Ricoeur 1997).

Michael Pupin models this for us through an appreciative approach to knowledge. His narratives can guide us even today because he weaves together the intercultural and interdisciplinary, accepting the challenge of growth while remaining balanced through a respect for both where he came from and where he was going. This can be considered as an example of a generative imagination: for the ties between these points along his journey only become obvious once the poetic connection is made in his mind. It is hard work. It is easier to idealize science or to idealize critique (cf.). I say this, but I consider I really need to watch out for this in myself: there are times I momentarily slip into lazy consumerist thinking (by consuming ‘readymade thought’) which is funny, if I may speak categorically, when so much of modern-day critique itself is based in Marxism.

Pupin noted the tension between ideology critique and the ideology of science:
The steam-engine and every other kind of mechanism were to him a deadly prose which, in his opinion, Satan had invented for the purpose of leading astray the spirit of man. ‘They are the weapons by which people like you are keeping in slavery people like me,’ he said once, jokingly, referring to my interest in the boiler-room operations and to my admiration of the great captains of industry whose lives I studied and whose work I had seen and admired at the Philadelphia exposition. – Michael Pupin
Elsewhere, Pupin writes of the ‘friendly faultfinder’ of industry. How can we work on doing something similar today? I would like to believe that there continues to be a space for dialogue between industry and society; technology and culture – and know that it is happening in some places.

As a teacher (docendo discimus), I wonder how can we nurture appreciative relationalism in this rapidly changing time.

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