Flow at the Exploratorium

During my recent visit to San Francisco, I was able to visit the Exploratorium museum of science, art and human perception.

Located at relaxing Pier 15, I have always wanted to visit this museum and had heard wonderful things, particularly about its participatory and interactive design and also how one can experience the interconnective nature of sciences, arts and social sciences in a hands on kind of way.

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It was clear that within a few minutes of entering this realm, that often misunderstood polymaths like Da Vinci and Galileo would have felt quite accepted here, as did I (a humble inter-disciplinarian!)

Upon entering there were multiple inventive, magical toys to play with and explore, which prompt anyone to wonder how and why?

“I wonder why. I wonder why. / I wonder why I wonder / I wonder why I wonder why / I wonder why I wonder!”

-From Feynman’s curious writings (quoted on the wall next to this peculiar ball floating on a stream of air!)

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Of course, fully understanding how and why doesn’t come overnight (or within the few hours that we had to spend here!). But the Exploratorium provides the perfect atmosphere and energies to spark inquiry based learning and curiosity about how things work.

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Wandering through the Tinkering Studio made us realize how little we knew about everyday mysteries, puzzle pieces and how ‘to understand is to invent’.

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One thing I learned was how integral mechanical physics and motion is to understanding everything in the universe (of use and no particular use – just for fun)!

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The color, lighting and optical illusions were an incredible blend of science and visual art – thoroughly enjoyable!

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WAHEY!

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Raj enjoyed these jelly beans in two different lights in the SAME ROOM! How bizarre.

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This sculpture artist has some serious patience with toothpicks, superglue and extreme love for this city (and it looks like an ongoing passion!) Devotion so inspiring.

My first visit here was only for a couple of hours and it was clear that we needed at least a day to leisurely wander and think through everything it had to offer. My first visit was very enjoyable and it also made me hope that one day I could return here with my family – it was heartwarming to see children playing with morse code messages, fostering independent inquiry based learning and asking their parents and staff how, why and why not? (even if they were just as puzzled!)

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Outside waiting for our Uber playing I spy with my little eye… hey Google Street Car! (Or a mysterious camouflaged surveillance camera…? I see you!)  😮

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Growth through relationships

Relationships are stepping stones to personal growth. Without developing our relationships we cannot know who we are, or who we can become.

One of the pitfalls of social networking sites is that while they do allow us to cultivate our relationships, online and in real life, they can often be counterproductive in developing meaningful relationships. A relationship has to be meaningful before one can begin to learn from it.  A certain level of trust needs to be established before learning (and growth) can occur and how that trust is built both online and in real life is another area which needs further exploration. With so many superficial ‘friendships’ on Facebook and the like, its usefulness to someone who believes in continual personal growth is very limited. New ways of facilitating developmental networking, both online and in real life, are needed.

Unspoken spaces

You know that ‘aha!’ moment when you realise what a certain person was trying to teach you, weeks, months or even years after they were an immediate part of your life? Whenever it happens I never know whether to think ‘I wish the other person had made it more obvious’ or ‘I wish I had been a faster learner’. Maybe a bit of both. Then I ask the questions ‘Did they intend for me to learn that?’ or ‘Was this something that I created for me to learn?’

There is often an ‘unspoken’ space between people who are in a developmental relationship, where knowledge is transferred through osmosis. This is commonly referred to as ‘tacit knowledge’ and Polanyi has obviously thought very deeply about it. Tacitness is perhaps the most complex and problematic facet of the process of managing knowledge in human interaction.

What is happening in the ‘unspoken space’, and in the multiple ‘unspoken spaces’ within one’s own developmental network? Perhaps if we could answer these questions, we could have those ‘aha!’ moments much earlier and move mountains.

The ‘human constellation’: A prologue

When I first heard Professor Kathy Kram describe developmental networking as a ‘constellation’ of relationships with people that support one’s learning and growth, I imagined the stars up in the night sky, twinkling and gathering one minute, then burning out and segregating the next, then relocating to a different part of the universe and reforming a new constellation, made up of changed versions of previous celestial bodies.

Then I was reminded of Nietzche’s ‘dancing star’ born out of chaos within oneself. A microcosmic view of Kram’s constellation and a metaphor I once personally identified with. A catalyst for the neophyte phase of my PhD. Nowadays I am more inclined to the reverse; that normalisation and a sense of interconnectedness has potential to ‘defuse’ such chaos and that the ‘dancing star’ is constructed, in ways deliberate or mysterious, in the spaces between oneself and another.

The developmental constellation from a human perspective is a concept which is a step towards understanding how the universe works and how the universe unfolds. Perhaps more importantly, it is a practice which can help us build knowledge which is useful and progressive.