This blog entry is a report in the style of ethnographic action research. It is ethnographic in the sense that it presents a descriptive and non-evaluative account of observed human interaction. It is action research in the sense that it singles out particular features of the observed human interaction as having high potential for enhancing the foundations for a resilient economy.  The rest of the blog entry is composed of three sections, including some implicit metaphors that resonate with a longer trajectory of action research for the social good.
  1. Risk and Value
  2. Moulage
  3. A Resilience Regime

Risk and Value

One of the major shifts occurring in our lifetime is the increasing risk of being a victim of a disaster. Adapting to these new, changing conditions presents a classic challenge because day-to-day survival is generally taken for granted. The conveniences of technology and superb engineering infrastructure have cushioned much of the population from considering the constant threat of death that historically characterized human existence. Survival used to depend upon individual fortitude and extreme cooperation within communities – everyone knew this and acted accordingly.

Emergency Response Training for Community Volunteers in the District of Colombia

Emergency Response Training for Community Volunteers in the District of Colombia

It may become true again that survival will depend upon individual preparedness and the tightness of your immediate community in planning together how to respond to a disaster. Trained professionals are stretched to encompass a vast range of knowledge, skill, and experience in their discipline (fire, policing, medical, etc.) and beyond. Now, First Responders must also

  • be skilled in communicating with diverse communities (there is no one-size-fits-all language),
  • understand the precisely relevant needs of unique individuals (rather than assuming everyone is exactly the same as everyone else), and
  • comprehend and use new technologies of social media.

Although amazing improvements have been made throughout the field of emergency management since 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, recent natural disasters around the country continue to expose weaknesses and gaps. Invariably, many these gaps revolve around expectations that volunteers will miraculously appear and take care of all the ragged edges.

Interoperations: Self-enclosed or Interactive?

Of course there are, and always will be, spontaneous volunteers during acute stages of a disaster. Some good samaritans will also gut out the long haul. But vital services for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and medically ill, transportation for people with mobility disabilities, language support services for people fluent in languages other than English, childcare, pet and service animals husbandry, and a host of other specific functional and access needs are not going to materialize out of nowhere. Adequate emergency response now and in the future is going to be measured on the basis of casualties among people in these groups. Just as recent disasters have illustrated that professional First Responders are not yet capable of anticipating and responding properly to every individual situation, the inadequacy of relying on volunteers to respond effectively and efficiently in caring for the most vulnerable populations is also blatantly obvious.

The entire system needs to evolve.


Serve DC exercises Community Emergency Response Team Members

Serve DC exercises Community Emergency Response Team Members

The District of Colombia’s Mayor’s Office of Volunteerism, Serve DC, is taking steps to build relationships between trained volunteers and professional emergency responders. On Saturday, April 14th, more than two dozen previously-trained Community Emergency Response Team members were given a taste of what it would be like to deploy as ‘first responders’ to a scene involving multiple victims. This first-time event for the District put volunteers in the field to be coached by fire personnel and emergency response consultants. On a beautifully sunny day, a well thought-out “high wind event” disaster scenario challenged these would-be rescuers to work in teams, coordinate with each other both within and between teams, and demonstrate their ability to stablize wounded people while awaiting more highly trained medical personnel.

Inter-role Communication

It was my first experience with moulage, the realistic display of severe injuries. I spent most of the time observing the Incident Commander and considering the communication dynamics. There are some tough inter-role dynamics to sort out. By role, I mean the different categories of function that need to be performed by designated individuals. Roles are distinguished by tangible criteria such as amount of training and experience, and are performed according to less tangible personal qualities of the individual. For this CERT exercise, the primary roles were professional First Responders (acting as coaches) and volunteers – including the victims (talk about a role that requires patience!). While the actual exercise was focused on intra-role communication (among and between CERT volunteers), the practical test of CERTs is going to be how and when they are integrated by the professionals into the response effort.

This will require some adaptation on both sides: volunteers need to learn to confirm to hierarchies of command that are fairly rigid, and professionals need to accept more variation in the communication of significant information.

A Resilience Regime

Jason Williamson evaluates the success of the first Serve DC CERT Exercise

Jason Williamson evaluates the success of the first Serve DC CERT Exercise

One of the most telling indicators of the quality of human social organization are the lines drawn around paid and unpaid labor during emergencies. I have already begun to argue the necessity for a new, temporary designation for professionals and paraprofessionals who respond during a disaster. Minimum levels of training would need to be established, along with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for alert and notification, issuing safety equipment, deployment, administration for billing and reimbursement, and access to post-disaster services such as trauma counseling and medical care.

This is the second ‘report’ on a possible problematic moment at the mini-Bakhtinian conference on education hosted by the University of Delaware in March (ending on April Fool’s Day, a co-incidence of no note, unless we decide it helps the heuristic!).  Contents of this blog entry are:

  1. Perils in the Foreground
  2. Promises in the Background
  3. Possibilities of Dialogue: Repressed or Just Damn Hard?

Perils in the Foreground

We are grateful for Eugene’s engagement with our first “report” on a possible problematic moment at the mini-Bakhtinian conference on education. At a later point we hope to respond to his What Do You Think (WDYT) query, for now we are framing our second report in response to his assertion that we are privileging form over content. (Our claim is to draw attention to process — what we sometimes call “the social” — which could be understood as a succession of forms, and is typically under-emphasized in academic contexts.) In fact, James’ comment to the first report anticipates Eugene’s criticism!  James wrote:

We missed out on presenting our content.

From our vantage point, then, Eugene and we are ‘on the same page’ or ‘looking in the same direction’ or otherwise ‘united’ in gazing upon an object/subject of relevance.

James and Steph pinpointed our self-critique on James’ admission, during the fishbowl, that “my mind is a complete blank.” That was a facilitation issue – Steph was juggling a dual recognition: that the small group work intended to preceed and thereby inform the fishbowl task had been subverted by several conference participants, and that James – who was supposed to lead the fishbowl – had been silenced. In retrospect, the facilitation move Steph prefers she had made (and hopes she recalls if such an event arises again) would have been to hold the space for James to articulate his experience. Instead, she moved on, contributing to the miniaturization of James’ complex identities and intelligences.

The silencing of James (a co-facilitator and the originator of the Problematic Theory) is the most blatant example we have yet experienced of simultaneity at work. We find ourselves still somewhat floundering – especially in the ‘silence’ (non-response) of other individuals who were in the room during the fishbowl activity which was designed as the centerpiece of our workshop, Bringing Simultaneity to Dialogic Pedagogy.

Promises in the Background

We are delighted that (from our perspective!) we accomplished everything we hoped to and learned more than we could have imagined.

Denigrated identities.

Did we recreate the dynamics of the PM-the group stuck.
Liesl photo. Do we know any symbolic interactionists who could help us do a spiel on her possible significance? Any juice in the youngest/eldest daughter issue? Nazi context for Sound of Music. Time Nazi comment by Eugene.

Possibilities of Dialogue: Repressed or Just Damn Hard?

responsive workshop design and the necessity of participation from others in handling the emergent dynamics

No overt norms but many covert norms some of which became manifest.
Problem of trying to get academics to reflect and apply their theories in practice. Application or implication?

Hierarchy of chronotypes. Most locked in individual chronotype.
Bring in differand work.
Follow up work to conference we are doing.

Through me the afflatus surging and surging . . . . through me the current and index.

Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you,
You my rich blood, your milky stream pale strippings of my life;
Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you,
My brain it shall be your occult convolutions,
Root of washed sweet-flag, timorous pond-snipe, nest of guarded duplicate eggs, it shall be you,
Mixed tussled hay of head and beard and brawn it shall be you,
Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you;
Sun so generous it shall be you,
Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you,
You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you,
Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you,
Broad muscular fields, branches of liveoak, loving lounger in my winding paths, it shall be you,
Hand I have taken, face I have kissed, mortal I have ever touched, it shall be you.

I hear the trained soprano . . . . she convulses me like the climax of my love-grip;
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches unnamable ardors from my breast,
It throbs me to gulps of the farthest down horror,
It sails me . . . . I dab with bare feet . . . . they are licked by indolent waves,
I am exposed . . . . cut by bitter and poisoned hail,
Steeped amid honeyed morphine . . . . my windpipe squeezed in the fakes of death,
Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.

Performing "I Sing the Body Electric" in the 1980 film, Fame.

Performing "I Sing the Body Electric" in the 1980 film, Fame.

Leaves of Grass

Dolphin  Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc
Garden City, New York
“…a reprint of the first edition, published in Brooklyn, New York, in 1855. The text is a faithful copy of the original, and has not been edited or abridged in any way. The typography and design…have been altered, however, to meet the requirements of [now, post-]modern production methods.”
Quotations (in sequence) from pages 55, 56, 59, and liner notes before the title page.

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