NOTES ON: Olsson, L (2009) Movement and Experimentation in Young Children’s Learning: Deleuze and Guattari in early childhood education.  London: Routledge.

[This looks like the usual stuff with Deleuze and Guattari used to critique oppression and capitalism and all that, and then a process of trying to use their concepts to validate particular models of progressive education.  There are many ironies.  For example, there is a recognition here that Deleuze wants to break with conventional thinking, including the processes of recognition and representation.  This is used to critique conventional pedagogy: but when applying Deleuze, the author uses exactly the same flawed processes, recognizing in progressive practice certain Deleuzian concepts like rhizomes.  There are more concepts than the usual ones though, and this poor person has struggled with the real thing and with some rather tricky micropolitics -- reconciling researchers and touchy preschool teachers for example.

There is a particular oddity in using this heavyweight analysis for preschool education—surely nobody wishes to impose any nasty didactic models on infants?  It is really weird to hear of kids having to construct and pursue lines of flight from conventional positions: doesn't this just mean that teachers/researchers found a new vocabulary to object to those positions? Any version of progressive education might be useful if these imaginative practices had to be defended to anybody.  If Deleuze has had any benefits in this study, it is probably in helping the author as a postgraduate research student to engage in critical thinking.  That’s far more likely, because it is years of secondary and post secondary education that could be seen as oppressive, including the developmental psychology Olsen probably had to learn earlier.. 

However, I have my suspicions about how this book came to be written, and maybe how the earlier thesis was shaped—Deleuze and Guattari just seem to be necessary fashionable decoration, for what could easily have been Foucault, had he not dropped out of fashion.  This poor person needs to grind through an awful lot of Deleuze and Guattari, or at least the commentaries, just to instrumentally show her research bona fides? The background is also clear -- there needs to be more people with postgrad qualifications in Swedish preschools, she tells us.]

Children are very creative and they learn how to do things like walking all on their own.  Of course, this is not just walking, but ‘the question of exploring rhythm…  [Exploring] the potential of their bodies and encounters of bodies and forces…  Everything becomes movement and experimentation’ (5).  Children apparently never just pursue immediate goals, never imitate or search for solutions.  Children all have their own specific styles although we usually ignore them by focusing on the goal.  This is a way of ‘taming subjectivities’ (6).  The creative potential gets forgotten and turned into automatic behaviour.  It is not enough to critique if we do so instrumentally.  Looking at how children act ‘can bring back some hope to us’, involving a trust in movement and process.

These views have arisen from experiences in Swedish preschools and their collective experiments.  Initially, research was ‘inspired by’ Foucault (7), using ‘post structural discourse analysis’ to challenge the dominant discourse of psychology [which seems to involve some rigid developmentalism, or a 'competent child' model -- see below]. The schools in Reggio Emilia were also inspiring [there are some videos about them] .  The experimental empowering model spread throughout Sweden.  There is thus ‘many years of experience of how to question and deconstruct one’s own practice’ (7).  However, there is also been some rigidity emerging in the mapping of children and their learning, which ran the risk of becoming new predetermined schemes.  New challenges have emerged to look at the forces at work before they settle into patterns.

Practical resources.  Already, children teachers and parents come together with the desire to experiment with subjectivity and learning.  Naturally, these are intensive and unpredictable events.  Ideas are shared in a particular network based on a universe research department.  Ideas are swapped with Reggio Emilia schools.  The work consists of continuous project work with children and teachers collectively constructing problems and knowledge rather than transmitting and imitating.  All sorts of perspectives are involved.  Children’s thinking is as important as any other.  The work is documented in photos, videos and various other kinds of artefacts.  Discussion goes on at all sorts of levels, from conceptualizations of children, questions of ethics and politics, discussion and alternative working. 

Care is taken not to let this work settle into standardized notions of the competent child, involving simply following the children’s interests, although this is a constant tendency.  Another trend is for interdisciplinary work to become ‘a somewhat confused and shallow trick of the different disciplines’ (13).  Pedagogical documentation has a tendency to become the mere telling of truths about children.  Different projects have emerged which attempt to ‘reactivate movement and experimentation’ when thinking about teachers’ children and knowledge

The image of the child has been rethought, to go beyond the idea of gaining competencies: the emphasis instead is on ‘the child as perpetually becoming’ (14), and on the relations between the individual child and aspects of the environment which include bits of popular culture.  Teachers as co-researchers became a matter merely of teachers following children’s interests, often through their own predetermined ideas rather than merely listening to children.  Real engagement with children is seen as the hardest part of the work, so more preparatory work was needed, trying to see what children are interested in and then setting off a project [the examples seems particularly naff—kids like the overhead projector, so teachers prepare material on theories of light in physics and architecture].  Teachers observe and attempt to understand how children learn uniquely.  Listening has been particularly important.  Teachers have a role here to propose knowledge to be worked on rather than just following children’s interests.  This knowledge should fully grasp that events in society outside schools are also important [such as a local construction process]

Proper co-construction involves teachers and researchers as well [and this seems to have been accompanied by a claim that preschool is particularly important as a way of influencing the world, as a political institution, perhaps to allow a role for researchers].  Project work can be turned into transmission and imitation, or rather confusing and shallow dabbling in interdisciplinary work.  As a result, more focus has been given to the notion of how problems get constructed—in mathematics, for example and in other disciplines [Deleuze on topological geometry would be especially suitable for the under fives!].  Teachers have to say why they are working in this way, and what kind of knowledge and learning might be developed, what content of knowledge might be suitable [apparently though this is not the same as ‘defining preset goals for the children to attain’ (17)].  [the examples actually turn on using language, incorporating multicultural encounters and technology]. 

The main thing though, is to start with the problem that the children seem to be closest to, starting with established problems and then allowing them to go beyond, to construct the problem in various ways rather just learning solutions, for example using the creative potential of language.  Children enjoy this process of construction.  Children also develop knowledge ‘from a wide range of different perspectives’, for example seeing the beauty of mathematics.  This is not the same as transdisciplinary work, though and is aimed at constructing the problem rather than ‘working with trivial universals’ (18).  However, and as well, children are pragmatic, for example in mathematics, or in writing letters [the latter activity apparently uncovered a problem of understanding and reading each other’s work.  The teacher motivated the children by making letter boxes for each child and providing lots of material.  It was very successful, apparently, and ‘children pushed and constructed the problem in many complex and interesting ways’ (19).

Pedagogical documentation tended to just state the obvious.  A new emphasis focuses on the ‘recognizing and representative aspects’ of the documentation, using it to see how a problem has been constructed, revisiting the documentation with the children.

A new concept of subjectivity and learning ‘as a relational field’ (20) emerged, with an underlying emphasis on movement rather than seeing problems or humans as fixed.  Apparently, each child, teacher and researcher has their ‘own unique ways of thinking speaking acting and feeling’, but these [always?] develop into ‘a collective culture of knowledge and values’.  Children do learn strategies from each other.  They can be encouraged to resolve possible conflicts [the example is managing to maintain peace and quiet for the youngest children when they were sleeping, producing maps and suggestions about how to move through the room: ‘these maps and suggestions became part of a collective value culture in the entire preschool and it worked since it had been produced by everybody involved’].

Happily, all this can coexist with conventional acquisition of the content of knowledge, since problems are at the centre.  This is not a pedagogy where anything goes, it is rigorous, although it avoids ‘nailing down specific knowledge goals to serve as departure points’ (21).  Teachers do define important aspects of problems, ‘related to ontological, political and ethical features, but once they meet with the children they are left with nothing but experimenting’ [as if all the social differences could be just left behind].

Needless to say, the results are ‘quite astonishing’ judging by the documented material.  Kids have been creative and they have also learned existing facts and codes.  They can act in surprising ways, but they also learn what they are supposed to in traditional educational codes.  They develop new kinds of relationships, which are ‘more singularized and absolutely unique and still united’ (21).  Each child does contribute [in their own way, of course—this might include silence and withdrawal?], but the group develops a particular culture concerning knowledge and values.

So the experience provides a number of useful resources.  [after a great deal of talk up].  [The conventional notion of the subject as unique,creative and providing meaning is also unchallenged here? It is discussed a bit later though, but the Deleuzian stuff is used to justify the creative subject after all?].

Theoretical resources.  Some of those from Deleuze and Guattari have been valuable.  We can start to locate Deleuze and Guattari first in the move away from structuralism: Deleuze prefers to see structures as ‘open-ended and unstable assemblages’ (24), never closed.  Deleuze is particularly interested in the nondiscursive which escapes structure [sounds more like Foucault].  This leads to his critique, with Guattari, of signifying regimes, including the discovery of the asignifying sign.  This means that there is room for experimentation, creation and pragmatism.  Deleuze and Guattari want to deconstruct the taken for granted and habitual ways of thinking, challenging recognition and representation, including fixed ideas about the child [with the first of lots of references to Dahlberg, who I guess was Olsen’s supervisor, head of the research unit and editor of the series about childhood].  Their conceptions ‘may be helpful to preschools’ ongoing struggle with vitalizing their practice’ (24), but their conceptions are complex and wide ranging.  The task of the philosopher is to create concepts [but of course in a particular sense which may not be grasped here?].

Deleuze and Guattari break with conventional philosophy which is sedentary and grounded, and put forward nomadic thinking, which deconstruct codes and reconnects them.  Any particular ground has to be laid out and organized as an act of creation [as in constructing the plane of immanence and all that—possible only for advanced philosophers?].  Thought is constructed through encounters, which force us to think, and this is vertiginous but also joyful and creative [again this is really only half the story, though.  In Spinozan terms, you first have to develop common notions, then to encounter something really difficult and paradoxical, like the nature of God.  Deleuze himself talks about encounters with avant-garde literature and film.  Proust apparently encountered a different notion of time.  For most of us, encounters do not produce radical thought like this, since we simply domesticate them by seeing them as extensions of or analogous with what we think already].

[And this is where a nagging doubt surfaces. These encounters describe adult learning. Deleuze makes a lot of Spinoza's concepts of learning (for example in his lectures on Spinoza) -- which Olsen also cites in a bit on what bodies are capable of. But Spinoza is a stage theorist. Raw encounters produce affectios --feelings of sadness and joy -- but not notions. Until we develop notions we are at the mercy of the encounters we randomly or 'automatically' bump into. Eventually - but when? -- we realize that we have something in common with the bodies that produce joy and we form 'common notions', early understandings or generalizations. Not until we have a lot of those can we get start to maximise our knowledge from encounters, and then get to the final stage -- confined to the few and always adult philosophers -- of  getting to ideas of essences, the infinite, the way the whole cosmos works. Kids are surely confined to the first stage. Swedish preschools seem to be devoted to providing little kids with lots of encounters of the kind they approve of, although encounters with routine things that they meet outside in their normal lives will do as well -- we did not have yto wait for Swedish preschools before we developed philosophy. So Swedish practice looks like it is based on some cultural deprivation theory that downrates experiences at home in favour of those at school? They try to make these joyful at least,although a purist might say you need sad encounters too. At best, kids do pre-philosophy at the first stage.  Swedish teachers also try to move kids on now and then -- but they should really just leave the automaton to do its work? A good study would involve asking whether such kids proceeded to the common notions stage earlier or better in some way?]

So thought is creatively developed through relations and encounters, as a kind of experimentation, but not as in the sense of controlling all the variables: rather it ‘concerns the new, the interesting and remarkable’ [when it is Deleuzian philosophy that is].  There are many different applications of these ideas, since it is so ‘abstract’.  New possibilities are raised, including accounting for contradictions.  However ‘This brings philosophy very close to what takes place in everyday practices’ (27) [a fundamental misinterpretation here in my view, based on some notion that philosophy and every day practice alike constructs reality—‘producing reality and even producing itself as it goes on’ (27)].

This approach is empiricist, but not in the usual sense: instead there is ‘a wild kind of empiricism that accounts for the unstableness and continuous production into thought and practice’ (28) [again, only half grasped in my view, and implying a vitalism—‘Before thought there is life, and life can never be totally identified or systematized’].  Again, it is a matter of creating thought through encounters, which permits practitioners to ‘use [Deleuze’s] concepts in relation to examples from practice’, where practice provides the encounters.

This work is clearly of interest for preschools who want to experiment and introduce movement, and the idea of encounters and relations as basic to thought is clearly of interest to the idea of learning as relational.  It also helps preserve unpredictable experiments.  Because it is empiricist, it builds relationships between research and practice.  [This is where the whole analysis slides off into identity thinking].

Particular works have been useful, including Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition, especially their discussion of the event.  Pure Immanence... has helped define unpredictable experimentation between theory and practice.  Guattari’s Chaosmosis [and an untranslated French volume] has helped develop the connection with ethics.  In addition, ‘a few concepts have been chosen out of Deleuze and Guattari’s vast philosophy.  These concepts are micro politics and segmentarity; transcendental empiricism; event; assemblages of desire.  The point is been not to apply concepts to practices’, but ‘Rather, the concepts have been chosen on the basis of their functioning together with practices…  The four concepts listed above…  seem to be the ones that function best in relation to preschools’ struggle with regaining movement and experimentation in their practice’ (30).[ To be fair, the notes to the chapter show the problems of doing this --it risks 'overlooking and misuse' (203). But there is no time to go too far --a PhD student's plea]

Other resources have also been important, including Massumi on theory and practice, the focus on process, the need to go beyond cause and effect relations [apparently, he uses Spinoza to talk about affects and how these are themselves being regulated so as to control the production of desire: he calls for more politicised experimentation].  Other commentaries have been helpful, including those which see immanence as the crucial theme.  DeLanda has useful commentary, other commentators focus on complexity theory and the understanding of change especially self organized change which has affected practice in an unexpected way.

There are other post structuralist deconstructors based on Foucault, including Dahlberg again, especially working on the gaze and systems of discipline.  Apparently, these researchers were the first to think about early childhood education ‘as part of a wider context of governing and subjectification’ (34), especially in the form of classifying and measuring the normal child.  Two models emerged, ‘”the child as nature” and “the child as reproducer of culture identity and knowledge”’, citing Dahlberg.  The first one sees childhood development as predefined, and learning as decontextualised, the latter is the familiar tabula rasa.  Both individualize.  Both appear in current pedagogy in terms of teacher supporting the right time to assist development against some normal curve.  In practice, such definitions permit ‘an extension of the state, a tool for governing and educating citizens’ (35).  [So this is the paranoid definition against which modest alternative pedagogies are going to be seen as generating lines of flight]. 

Societies have changed, however in that they are more decentralized and privatized, and this has required ‘a new kind of subjectivity’—‘”the competent, autonomous and flexible child”’ (35), citing Dahlberg as usual.  This stresses problem solving and self reflection, and ‘this child is presumed to have a desire and capability to learn and is encouraged to ask questions, or result problems and seek answers’ (36). However, this is only a different kind of governing, this time aimed at the ‘child’s very inner desires’.  These competencies are still being measured against predetermined goals and standards, according to what is defined as competency [necessarily haunts this project as well?].  Privatization has encouraged this in the form of responding to local definitions of competency.  Individuals are expected to design their own lives, and there is supposed to be a continuous process of learning—lifelong learning (37), extending throughout a life and through all institutions.

Some feminists [including Walkerdine] have insisted that there are multiple discourses in play, however, and also that it is possible to reconstruct subjectivity, including through preschools experimentation.  This then becomes a form that will ‘empower children as well as teachers’ (37).  Others have used Foucault to criticise discursive regimes of subjectivity found in pedagogy, but the construction of events can still be observed.  In the right environment, children get engaged in an encounter which will lead to ‘a continuous process of becoming’.  We are back to the resemblance to Deleuze and Guattari.

There is more specific related work by Mozère [much of it still in French] who is worked in early childhood education and who collaborated herself with Deleuze and Guattari in the 1970s.  For her, the key concepts are micro politics and subject group.  Her experimental practice did bring about changes in the image of the child and the role of the teacher, breaking from ‘a paradigm of hygiene and hierarchy’ towards ‘collective experimentation and magic moments’ (38), based on collective desires between children and teachers.  Mozère describes this as a new micro politics to overcome passivity, and describes the emergence of group subject [I've forgotten which way round it is] , arising partly from local politics and the events of May ’68.  It matches Guattari’s concepts where a group pursues a project through encounter and experimentation [and comes to self consciousness].  Mozère also refers to different sorts of segments, rigid and supple ones.  A key role is played by ‘the arrival of the nomad, such as a preschool teacher who refuses the established power relations’ (39).  Supple ones never triumph totally, but they do permit the emergence of lines of flight which permit new forms of expression.

Mozère says researchers should cooperate in these transformations, rather than just intervening in practice.  They need to overcome their own habits and restraints.  Singularized moments can bring about the release of repressed energy, as in the emergence of a group subject.  Researchers simply provide support.  Mozère has also explored some implications of the control society and the idea of becoming child [looks really useful—there are two references in English, one in Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood,  7 (2), 2006: 109-118, and one in Educational Philosophy and Theory, 39 (3): 291-99, 2007].  Olsen intends to use the work on group subject in her discussion of assemblage.

Dahlberg has also done great work [!], seeing the competent child in Foucaldian terms as a new form of governing.  She draws on among others Levinas on absolute alterity to provide an ethical basis for radical dialogue, dissensus and ambiguity.  She also likes Reggio Emilia and their pedagogy of listening, which she sees as an ethical form of encounter.  And she likes the rhizome, which she sees as ‘a different logic of knowledge where there is no predefined progression’ (41).  She also sees the pedagogical documentation as a form of construction, visualizing, to open the possibility of transformation [which avoids all the nasty stuff about having actually to prove that the approach works in a conventional sense,which I assume is the issue].  For Dahlberg, this is a form of political practice, micro politics or minor politics.  She and her colleagues are keen to resist the modernist narrative, to restore vitality of thought and event and ethics.  It leads to an emergent, creative, cooperative and democratic pedagogy based on encounters and events. 

She and a colleague have apparently explicitly used Deleuze to break with ‘the domain of recognition, representation and regulation expressed in practice through observing, assessing and normalizing children’ (42), and uses the term rhizome instead to guide struggle and possibilities.  They also take the term transcendental empiricism, which they see as important in a new conception of subjectivity, ‘a certain kind of preindividual singularity, where…  subjectivity is considered a process of becoming’ (42) [ as a habit!].  Here a wild empiricism focuses only on that which is new and under creation, which matches Deleuze’s image of thought which ‘constructs and experiments through making new connections in a pragmatic way’ (43) [but not at all for the usual purposes of obeying convention and reaching consensus, of course].  This is ‘an affirmative pedagogy’, leading to the construction of a ‘”community of enquirers with an experimental spirit”’ (43, citing Dahlberg and Bloch).  The community depersonalizes and collectively produces.  It engages in forms of visualization to connect up new forces and transformations leading to ‘” difference – to lines of flight”’.  This practice [producing the documentation?] is justified by transcendental empiricism.  [another rather drastic domestication—the point of transcendental empiricism is to lead to the discovery of the multiplicity, not to provide a critique of the usual positivist ways of recording kids achievements]

Wenzer (2004) has also been inspired by Deleuze and Guattari using the notion of de/re/territorialisation, and how becoming is made invisible by a territory.  He sees an abstract machine as producing specific models of the child, including the current one of competence, and this machine takes part in an assemblage involving pedagogic, economic and academic machines.  The whole thing needs to be deterritorialized, using Nietzschean concepts of activity as opposed to reactivity.  Active analysis sees a specific subject as produced by multiple assemblages in a state of constant becoming.  [Somehow] this permits the child more freedom to become what it wants to.  Pedagogues should also remember Hardt and Negri on the active manipulation of desire in capitalism.  Academics and researchers need to pursue their own production of desire instead of just reacting, and this includes not just following a critical agenda but producing their own subjectivities, adding new dimensions [looks quite good—his contribution is in H Brembeck, B Johanssen and J Kampman (eds) 2004.  Beyond the Competent Child: Exploring Contemporary Childhoods in the Nordic Welfare Societies, Frederiksberg: Roskilde University Press]. Olsen sees her particular kind of interwoven research as producing new subjectivity through experimentation.

MacNaughton (2005) [Doing Foucault in Early Childhood Studies: Applying Post structural Ideas.  New York: Routledge] likes the term rhizome and practices ‘rhizoanalysis in relation to child observations’ (46).  This involves connecting texts in the observation with other texts, and questioning one’s own activity ‘in closing or opening up for diverse meanings’.  In particular, this apparently shows how gender stereotypes, and identities generally, are more complex.  She observes a play scene combined with some feminist researchers, and some popular culture texts, all designed ‘with political intent’ (47), while not introducing her own gendered stereotypes.  The result is a rhizome not a tree, and also uses the empirical material differently.

Lind has drawn on Grosz to see children’s bodies as assemblages with organs but also many ‘processes, desires and behaviours’ (47).  She sees connections between these assemblages and others in an environment.  Apparently ‘everything interacts and connects: desires, passions, behaviours, thoughts, materials etc.’ This also helps open up the idea of pedagogic documentation which becomes more negotiable.  She uses the notion of the rhizome too in describing children’s projects: ‘the project is read as a collective process of the simultaneous creation of lines of flight in between children and teachers; lines of flight that permits not only a creative approach to the material…  But also to the existing social and gendered order’ (47).  [I wonder what the kids actually did] The pedagogical documentation became a social memory of a collective process.  The processes of (de)territorialisation and how they affect assemblages is particularly useful as an alternative to linear ideas of progression and an excessive focus on conscious thinking.

All this led to the specific problem of how to work with movement and experimentation.  Following Massumi, three decisive points are identified, and texts and concepts of Deleuze and Guattari are added.  They are:

1.       There is already a struggle in preschools to reintroduce movement and experimentation, but this needs a theoretical justification.  We must rethink positioning which does not allow for movement [with a supportive quote from Massumi on the need to reintroduce movement into analysis].  Thousand Plateaus will help here [!] with its emphasis on flow, desire micro politics and segmentarity.  Segments and positions are not stable but depend on ‘flows of belief and desire’ which precede them (49).  These flows are never entirely controllable, which raises alternatives and the possibility of experimentation to regain movement.  ‘This seems to function well’ with experimental pedagogy and poststructuralist research [so is it practice or research which has the highest priority?]

2.       New methods need to be used to study this ‘collective intense and unpredictable experimentation…  in a relational field’ (50).  Conventional critique will not do, since this only registers processes and immobilizes them as effects.  This stems from the claim that critical thinking simply uncovers a reality, in the form of representation [relying on a quote from Massumi again—representation here means representing reality in the form of concepts-- I bet she does this though].  This cannot grasp collective experimentation and unpredictability.  We need to think instead of transcendental empiricism.  This involves drawing up the plane of immanence instead of attempting to find some transcendental ground: this is a horizon for thought, created at the same time as thought itself.  ‘This plane is in itself transforming and connective’ (51) [it will be nice to see how this actually works].  [Then she gets rather mystical, alas—it takes nothing away from the world, it sees theory as another practice, it focuses on the new interesting and remarkable.  However, this is domesticated again since it immediately unites research with events in practices, and threatens to become a kind of action research—after all, we all construct the world].  We can also focus on the notion of the event, referring to Logic of Sense.  There is denotation, manifestation and signification, but this tends to treat empirical material as if they were simple facts, and this misses aspects of the event [this is quite good, but of course these extra dimensions of the event are not easily grasped by any form of common sense understanding]. We have to examine other ways of making sense, focused on problems rather than solutions.  Here, research is the same as pedagogy again, since both are about making sense [but not in a Deleuzian philosophical way --maybe through the phantasm?].  All participants ‘construct and produce sense’ (53).  It therefore helps to focus on events [I bet these are being conceived here as just everyday occurrences, learning from experience and all that rather than engaged in any deep philosophical explanation of events as singularities].

3.       All participants in preschools wish to experiment with subjectivity and learning.  A new theoretical understanding of the relation between individuals and societies is required.  At the moment, this is seen as a dualism and this in turn sees movement and experimentation as a matter of causes and effects, as in conventional research.  Essentialist claims are also apparent in biological or social models of the child.  Instead we need a multiplicity of discourses and a focus on movements as ‘an attempt to valorize the in between’ (54) [supported by Massumi again].  In Anti Oedipus and Thousand Plateaus we find suitable work on the individual and society through the idea of assemblages of desire at different scales which interact [sounds like DeLanda].  Individuals are assemblages as are groups.  Desire quickly becomes interactive.  Freudian psychoanalysis domesticates desire.  Desire is about the production of the real, and ‘This seems to work well with the preschools that more and more try not to bother about children’s needs, by starting to wonder about what kind of features of reality children through their collective desires are producing.  This also seems to work well with how research now tries more and more to bother not with what practices are lacking [] so this is the negative critique that upset preschool teachers?] , focusing instead on how movements…  are produced in practices’ (55) [it all seems to fit together really nicely].  Desires have been territorialized but a subject to a rhythmic de and reterritorialization, and this helps us reject the idea of progressive linear ideas of learning.  There is also a bodily logic involved, working through the Spinozan concept of affects, which helps us not rely on conscious thinking.  Instead, bodies encounter each other, and situations have different potentials.  All these ideas ‘seem capable not only to account for how of desire in the preschools expresses itself through new ways of thinking, talking and acting…  but also…  seem to manage to keep the empirical material open ended and in movement…  [And] invites one to engage in intense and unpredictable experimentation into subjectivity and learning’ (56).  [Deleuze, as Gramsci once did, explains everything and permits progressive practice]


Micropolitics and segmentarity.  This relates and expands the first decisive point—regaining movement and experimentation.  Deleuze and Guattari say that there are different kinds of segmentarity—linear, binary and circular [the last one is pretty odd].  The segments can be rigid or supple.  Segmentarity clearly affects subjectivity and learning.  However, it is not a matter of making segments more supple, since all segments are ‘intertwined and simultaneous’ (58) [pretty well unresearchable, then].  There are also lines of flight, and these sound creative, since normally, segments are involved in governing particular flows: this can never be fully successful so ‘something always escapes’ (59).  We can apparently see lines of flight in the practices of Stockholm preschools.  [so lines of flight  do not follow from analysis of organizational and other constraints, specially not analysis involving tracing actual organizations back to the virtual and engaging in becoming—they simply arise inevitably, as a form of complexity, structural looseness].

An example of a binary segment is shown in the way in which children are separated from adults, especially in the conceptions of childhood discussed above.  Circular segments can be seen in things like the centralized state apparatus which surveys and disciplines, governs and educates.  Again, ‘society as a whole is going to be governed through preschools’.  Linear segments can be over coded which makes them rigid, as in the interest in predetermined well defined tasks, and is in normal educational careers.

Sometimes segmentarity can be more supple, as in notions of the competent and autonomous child, or when there is no tight resonance with the state, as in privatization of schools [a bit naive, and needs Marxism].  Educational careers can also be more flexible, as in the case of lifelong learning.  However, this sort of suppleness does not make things better, and can be just a new more flexible way of governing.  Deleuze predicted as much in his notion of the control society.  In particular, he also identified four dangers: (A) supple segmentarity can lead to invisible governing, or governing through inner dispositions and desires; (B) suppleness can be individualised; (C) suppleness can be identified with work in small groups, but these can still be powerful and intense, especially if they do not challenge the social field generally; (D) supple and rigid segments overlap and coexist, so there is no simple progression from bad old rigidity to nice free suppleness.

In Stockholm schools, there is ‘a wandering back and forth’ (62) between old habitual rigidity and new progressive suppleness.  Sometimes, the new seems to be merely a version of the old.  Sometimes the new doesn’t seem to work very well.  But sometimes something new and different does happen—‘These are the moments of the lines of flight’ (63), which zig zag [a clear problem of tautology here—lines of flight simply describe things that we like? See below].  These are never the result of rational planning, but are instead ‘magic moments where something entirely new and different seems to be coming about.  This is recognized only by the tremendous intensity, and very often, the physical expression of goose bumps that take possession of participants’.

Example   The project had focused on the heart and its rhythm, and the kids used drawings to show each other their ideas.  Teachers provided stethoscopes, paper and pen.  Kids ran round and discovered their hearts beating faster.  They tried to illustrate changes in rhythm.  Teacher documents and then they discuss what they think has happened.  Two girls used numbers to measure rhythms [larger numbers mean faster rhythms rather than anything actually metric], other girls draw dots [of different sizes or density?].  Kids are fascinated by hearing their hearts and also by the ‘mathematical logic of the rhythm and the possibility to illustrate this in different ways’ (65).  They also swap ideas although they don’t speak to each other -- communication ‘beyond the spoken word’ then (66).  Teachers discussed their documentation before suggesting any ways forward.  They had been selective in their observations according to what they ‘found most interesting’, but this upset some of the children, and they lose interest.  This shows that what kids find of interest is not the same as what teachers do.  Teachers rethink and organize a discussion with the original illustrations and all observations, and this does lead to an agreement on what to do next—work outside.  This time  ‘The children are intensely engaged in the activity and they find many different sounds that they can start illustrating by drawing’ (67).  This time they try new borrowed techniques.  Teachers ‘are fascinated and curious about the flow of ideas, strategies and activities that are exchanged’, although this is hard to observe [and document?].  They ask if kids want to continue, this time working in pairs to make sounds with their mouths that they can then illustrate and playback as a charade—the kids do so immediately, and ‘this creates an intense atmosphere in the room with a lot of activity and laughter, followed by many other related activities over a period of time’ (69) [with lots of photos and illustrations]. 

Olsen describes this as ‘delicate negotiation…  wandering back and forward…  continuous exchanging’, an example of a line of flight.  These are favoured in certain conditions—for example when children are no longer seen as individuals according to psychological theory.  There is cooperative work for example in swapping the strategies.  Teachers and kids meet around a problem.  The problem is constructed.  The emphasis is on relational fields and flow rather than rigid lines.  The interests of kids ‘are treated like contagious trends and they do not reside in each individual.  This is exactly where lines of flight are born’ (71).  The example also shows that despite careful preparation, something actually escapes in the encounter with children—so teachers also have to follow a line of flight away from their rigid organization and evaluation.  This is not just suppleness but ‘a delicate but intense act of collective negotiation and experimentation’ (72) [seems to be teacher directed at crucial points in my view, hints of the stage management of discovery. I'm not even sure the idea of illustrating sounds is all that original].

Lines of flight emerge when preschools have been defined as offering collective constructions rather than transmission, including the right to question knowledge and values, and an expectation of continuous transformation.  Nobody knew the course of the actual problem, and ‘Teachers and children struggle with the ethical features of the situation to reach a way of acting in singular and unique ways, while still being united’ (72) [nobody wanted to do anything different?].  The pedagogical environment encourages lines of flight, because the entire day’s content is negotiable, children can choose to work in different groups, furniture and material are accessible and can be changed, and some furniture is been specially designed to be flexible: such furniture ‘presents a divergence, a zigzag crack in the interior of a preschool’ (73), enabling children and teachers to transform classrooms [victim of designer PR here?].

The projects focus on process rather than outcome, not even on supple ways to achieve the outcome [I have my doubts].  Where there are no pre-existing solutions and answers, we can consider projects as lines of flight [a nicely contextual definition, that gets going by setting itself up against a straw man].  The documentation assists the creation of a line of flight, since it helps participants visualize the problem: this contrasts with observations to check progress along a predefined trajectory.  In this case, the documentation ‘does not rely on any conscious or taming logic; it is a line of flight in that it is unpredictably experimenting’ (74).

However, such lines of flight are in competition with more rigid and supple lines, involving a constant struggle to create them.  Sometimes, people are not aware of the impact of some higher organizing principle—the ideas of the leader, or control of resources—and so micro political struggle cannot even emerge.  For Deleuze, this shows how the micro and macro are always linked.  Hierarchy actually depends on a flow of micro political movements [or their absence—we need Lukes on power].  Preset curricula, for example still have to be implemented creatively. So we can see everything as micro political, including the kids' refusal to participate at one stage.

Molecular and micro political movements are flows of belief and desire, for Deleuze and Guattari, and these have to be managed in order to supervise, control or evaluate.  Constant adjustment rather than top down rationality is needed.  In preschools, the micro political level is crucial, leaving room for creativity and struggle.  Kids are not expected to be regulated as much as adults by the molar [she recognizes at last].  Teachers can governed by latching on to children’s desires, even though this does not always work [as above—but wasn’t the successful resolution an example of teachers apparently permitting children a voice, giving way to their specific desire for a more total picture of their efforts in order to persuade them to cooperate in a teacher led extension of the project?] [There is also a hint of revolutionary possibility and optimism as always present, just as in Deleuze and Guattari—and loose coupling somehow guarantees a revolutionary upheaval].

Micro political activity seems more applicable than ever, although contemporary governing hijacks affect.  Nevertheless schools can use affect to produce experimenting and intensity, unpredictable encounters between bodies.  Feelings are not the same as affect but ‘are the actualization of affect’ (77), a guide, as in the pursuit of joy.  Massumi is a pessimist about the penetration of marketing and the media, as in the emotional coverage of 9/11.  Olsen sees this as ultimately pessimistic, and sees her role as only modulating these manipulations.

Massumi recommends modulation, apparently, and Olsen develops the idea in the context of an analysis of Paris riots, and the use of violence in politics generally.  If only politicians would do true listening instead, before engaging in collective, intense etc experimentation with would-be rioters!  This would be to create a space for affect, an aesthetic politics for Massumi.  This requires an ethical stance, although, and again, Massumi on Spinozan ethics is useful, instead of morality.  Overall, liberation from constraints need not involve breaking them.  The politics of fixed identity is the wrong way, and potential should be stressed instead, ethics rather than morals, and this is supported by Dahlberg: preschools are not just technical institutions.  Conceptions of preschool are socially constructed, with components that include instrumental rationality.  This in turn produces measuring instruments such as various universal rating scales.

These routine uses stop proper thinking, for Deleuze, managing the chaotic implications of thought.  Pedagogical orthodoxy does this, in the interests of common sense.  What we need is a shift of paradigm, including pragmatic rather than universalized ethics, focusing on process.  A candidate would be Guattari’s ethico-aesthetic paradigm.  This has been usefully applied to ecology.  It is based on a different kind of ontology.  Moving away from orthodoxy involves choices and therefore responsibilities, ultimately political responsibilities.  However, we cannot rely on a fixed morality, but teachers have to struggle with ethical issues—in this way, preschools are ‘political in a larger sense’ (85).  It also adds insecurity.  However, we must be alert to potential in the moment.

Deleuze and Guattari warn us of the dangers.  They include fear once rigid lines are abandoned, residual beliefs, for example racist ones that we fall back on, and anxieties if children do not behave in the way in which they are supposed to.  There is also the danger of clarity, which appears if rigid lines becomes supple—the example is the attempts to clarify the competencies of the child [with a long quote from Deleuze and Guattari, probably relating to the possibility of fascism in black holes].  Excessive power is a danger, especially if it exploits suppleness, but the main danger is in excessive attempts to control, supervise and evaluate young kids, trying to stop their lines of flight.  Deleuze and Guattari remind us that lines of flight can also produce a kind of despair if it leads nowhere, and can even become self destructive [turn to rioting violence in this case].

The real problem is that children are now expected by power to reflect upon themselves and their competencies, while submitting to external measurements and control.  This can produce a particularly lonely kind of individuality, where even a line of flight might not connect to any other lines.  [classic oscillation between optimism and pessimism, just as in Deleuze and Guattari themselves].

Methodological approach. This one turns on the concept of transcendental empiricism in relation to decisive point two—grasping the idea of relational field and thinking out the new way to study it that’s not just negative critique.

[The political background is interesting].  The discipline of pedagogy emerged only recently and is supposed to be about the scientific basis of teacher education and an analysis of classroom practices, to respond to social change.  However, so far, researchers are very few, especially those with a post grad qualification.  Hence ‘There is been a great need to create a research field that permits a closer working relationship between research and practice…  where teachers…  formulate questions and problems and…  conduct research that is closely connected to their practices’ (92).  This is been achieved by encouraging them to undertake post grad work in special research schools.  These are to extend basic teacher education and grow out of pedagogical practice.  At the same time, a suitably complex theory on the relation between theory and practice needs to be developed: we want to avoid [politically and commercially?] just colonizing practice with existing theory, while leaving practices insufficiently theorized  leaves them ‘described no differently to the way that every teacher can already describe them’ (93) [which wouldn’t be proper academic knowledge].  Practice is at the centre, however.  This new approach is only just developing, and ‘it seems quite legitimate to try out a new theoretical perspective such as Deleuze and Guattari’s’. Deleuze and Guattari seem to offer a new relationships between research and practice, and this emerges if we look at how they discuss empiricism and transcendental empiricism.  This will help us in particular to account for [collective, intense as usual] experimentation.  [So practice is really the dominant one in the pair again, but Deleuze and Guattari will also lend all sorts of academic gloss].

Deleuze rejects the usual view of empiricism as offering a series of sensations that needed to be organized by thought.  Life itself produces thought as a result of encounters.  Something transcends the idea of thought as a cause and organizer.  However transcendental does not refer to something outside or above thought itself, but rather to a transcendental field [and there is a nicely mystifying quote about thought as duration of consciousness about a self, which probably really belongs to the further argument that there is no thinking subject.  Nevertheless, Olsen thinks this means something positive about ‘the status and capacity of the human subject to use his or her consciousness to comprehend and act in the world’?  (94)] [But then] it is consciousness working in the transcendental field that provides knowing subjects and empirical objects.  This field is also the plane of immanence which precedes the conscious subject [but there is the ambiguity about whether consciousness is required to activate this plane].  Thought self-creates, establishing its own grounds as it thinks.  There are only different speeds and forces at work.  As a result, ‘everything becomes immanent’, and the normal form of empiricism is replaced by a wild kind of ‘that can account for the unstableness and continuous production of the world’ (95).  [So perhaps I’ve been unkind in accusing Olsen of still hanging on to the humanist subject?]. 

Research and practice are also normally seen as a dualism, where research explains practice as an object and occupies a transcendental status from which it delivers critique.  It implies that only researchers are subjects, while practitioners are objects [very good!].  Unless this is challenged, we will end with colonizing practice with theory, even if teachers are allowed occasionally to become subjects to reflect: ‘Self reflection is maybe the strongest indication of a transcendent logic’ (96).  At least with Deleuze, we recognize that theory itself is a practice, and its role is not to speak about another practice, but to speak with one  [finished with an astonishing quote from Deleuze in the book on immanence, that seems to say that science is an inquiry, following certain practices and thus “The result is a great conversion of theory to practice”.  I have not read this text, but it is interesting that Deleuze is talking about science, and this could be seen as an argument that says that science and all conventional thinking is in fact closely intertwined with common sense and good sense, compared to philosophy that breaks with both of them.  If this is so, the critique of conventional relations of theory to practice is a good one, but it seems to miss the point that Deleuze then goes on to say it is perfectly possible for philosophy to offer critique from its own unusual vantage point of having merged with the multiplicity, united with Being, or escaping through the sheer effort of brilliant and dedicated thought, or whatever it is that Deleuze is claiming].

In any event, we should not just critique practice on the basis of a misunderstanding and limiting of empirical data, and some implicit transcendental claims which are never fully explicated.  This is a particular flaw when we use statistics or ‘intrinsic interpretation procedures…  Methods of categorizing, or attempts at critical reflection’ (97).  Transcendental empiricism on the other hand is more modest and more open to the complexities of empirical data [at the first stage at least, before the transcendental deduction is performed?].  It is a form of collective invention [sounds like a slip back to social constructions of reality?]  rather than discovery, and it involves a full acknowledgement of the inventing role of the researcher.  This will permit a collective experimentation which includes practitioners.  [I think this contrasts with the view that scientists should be left to get on and do sciences, while philosophers reserves the right to theorise about the results, moving up and down the chain respectively, as in DeLanda] This openness also means it is unusually open to unfamiliar encounters.  [Actually, the link only works if both theorists and practitioners agree to do Deleuzian philosophy?  Given the aims of preschool pedagogy, this also means that children must also be doing Deleuzian philosophy?  Apart from anything else, I don’t think this describes the conceptual depth and difficulty of Deleuzian philosophy—poor old practitioners if they have to become Deleuzians as well as experts in the classroom].

It is not possible just to add theory to practice.  There should be an encounter instead, with no hierarchy.  Apparently Deleuze says as much [in the book on desert islands], since both theory and practice are fragmented: it follows that practice can never be the origin of theory either.  Both theory and practice need experimental procedures to overcome obstacles, and one example is the role of political practice according to Foucault’s foreword—political practice intensifies thought, while analysis multiplies possibilities for intervention.  This will fit pedagogical matters as well.

We find in the work of Deleuze and Guattari some concepts which do not correspond in a simple way to preschool practice, but which can be ‘put into work together…  in a reciprocal relationship, sometimes in a very violent way’ (98-99) [I see no violence so far -- maybe the teachers feel some in the insistence on Reggio methods?].  The concepts themselves had to be stretched [ I think Deleuzian concepts have to be actualized or concretized, and cannot challenged by practice as such – I have never found any notion of an empirical test for concepts in Deleuze, but rather a series of slippery evasions, redefinitions, special uses of words and all that].  Olsen admits that this stretching sometimes makes Deleuze’s concepts ‘completely change their function in the theoretical system’, while concepts in practice similarly change and transform into new ways of proceeding (99).

One example is the notion of desire as the unconscious production of the real, and this can be seen in the practice of preschools in ‘permitting children to deploy their desires in different ways’.  This is the positive and productive notion of desire, and it similarly involves the teacher now looking for the positive aspects of children’s production, and not what they lack.  This is revolutionary, changing the idea of the teacher as an authority or judge, and the Idea of normal development [but is it entirely relativist?].  Teachers try to see what sort of desires are in operation, and see them as intense forces producing learning [so every wish or preference by a preschool child is seen as some intense vitalist desire?].  Situations have to be developed to continue this process, as a part of more productive planning.  Desire now seems to be a fundamental concept in understanding preschool processes, [after she did her PhD?] and it also stretches Deleuze [presumably by giving it new concrete context—but Deleuze actually uses terms like becoming in the case of Little Hans?].

This interconnection is typical of the whole process she has been through.  Preschoolers have actually latched on to some of these concepts.  Deleuzian desire is always relational, and this has helped teachers to look at the relations between children rather than the individual child, and how these relations work, for example in producing classroom work [I am sure the usual cosy notion of cooperation as good would do that, with no need to interrogate Deleuze]   The same encouraging results were found in the inservice teacher training courses, where participants are given observational tasks, they return with their documentations, and these are theoretically and practically analysed.  There is no fixed curriculum, but there are ‘several important and decisive points and themes’ (101).  Again, concepts stretch and change their function, while practitioners broaden their perspectives.  A construction of understanding takes place.

The most important concepts here seem to have been ‘desire, micro politics and the event’.  We've done desire, but micro politics pointed to the possible way of changing the teacher’s role, questioning underlying assumptions about authority, and therefore not exercising excessive power over children.  The event raised issues about the child’s use of language as meaning making.  This usually meant signifying and representing, which made it difficult to understand how children make meaning except as an inferior version of adults.  The Deleuzian concept of sense offered an alternative, especially its connection with apparent nonsense: teachers looked for how children are attempting to make sense.  [Still no mention of the phantasm, but there is more on making sense later].  It became clear that children were always trying to make sense even in their ‘oddest expressions’ (102).  Events therefore appear to be ‘filled with life’. 

The researcher also has a new role, based on Deleuze's views about the role of the intellectual expressed by Foucault, as having to engage in struggle.  Deleuze apparently uses this to express a pragmatism again, with theory as a tool box, which follows from the crisis of representation [the example is the book on Immanence again, which I must get].  This led to a rejection of the idea of speaking for other people, seen as an inevitable deployment of power.  Again this permits constructive ways of working between theorists and practitioners, involving ‘co production of research as well as practice’, and an abandonment of the usual hierarchy (103).

So we all do ‘add to and invent the world’ (104), but in different [constraining] ways according to different practices, including the practices of research and practice.  However if we permit intensive etc experimentation, we might produce something new.

Pedagogical documentation as events.  The documentation consists of photographs with written observations.  The intention is to treat documentations as events, to relate to the second decisive point above—understanding experimentation.

Deleuze says that language works through denotation, manifestation and signification, but all of these close down the event [indeed, especially the past and future notions of the event, and its links with the virtual].  We have to be careful that we do not immobilize events in documenting them.  Making sense offers possibilities here—‘the unconditioned production of truth in a proposition’ (106).  [She also notes the idea of non sense as something relating to physical things outside of language].  Sense is linked to learning and culture, and the intention is to try and see the production of sense by the participants, including a way of understanding nonsense as the construction of a problem.  In this way, the conventions of documentation as above can be supplemented [sounds a great idea!  However, I’m not sure that the nonsense deliberately developed by Carroll or Artaud as a result of playing with language is the same as the nonsense produced by children who have not yet learned the conventions of language].

The conventional notions of making sense clearly inform research of the conventional kind as well.  Denotation, manifestation and signification arise there too.  Denotation in particular implies the notion of truth or correspondence to things, and this idea underpinned positivist documentation in the old days, using developmental psychology.  Manifestation refers to the speaking subject and its desires and beliefs, and this informed documentation in terms of discussions of subjectivity and interpretation.  Signification and signifying chains in structures were implied in those forms of documentation which attempted to develop particular truth regimes, and were revealed when teachers began to deconstruct the assumptions.  All depend on assumptions concerning the relation between language and things, or between language and structures as grounding principles.  We need to keep the complexity of events apparent instead.

When Deleuze talks about making sense, he starts by discussing something outside of propositions and not conditioned by them.  This requires an additional dimension to making sense, something which produces the more limited operations in language.  Turning to pedagogical documentations, we need to treat them as events, not just as ready made factors which have been interpreted upon reflection.  We need to look at the sense in the events themselves, something that is continually produced.

In an example, children measured time and speed of two cars in a car race.  Initially, their racing track produced a bottleneck, since the tube used to ensure a fair start was too narrow.  Discussion revealed that the problem was ensuring both cars start at the same time.  One solution was to put wings on one of the cars, seeming ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘incorrect’ (111).  However, this is a rational solution in the sense that it would permit one car to fly above the bottleneck.  [Was this the best rational solution, though? Was it really a solution at all? Was this followed through and what happened when it didn’t work?].  Documentations should account for this thinking, adding something to the standard linguistic conventions.

Deleuze talks about Lewis Carroll and the snark hunt, and uses terms like ‘greening’ instead of ‘green’ to insist on active attributes.  Sense has its own objectivity not expressed by the proposition alone, although it must be expressed in propositions.  Similarly, things are the result of verbs or processes, and this also has to be captured by sense.  Sense focuses on becoming and should not be confused with the empirical actualization.  In documentations, we should also not see qualities as fixed events but stress processes.  Reggio schools talk about ‘the importance of the invisible’ (112, which may be the same thing.  We should certainly not routinely document what it is that we already know, but rather focus on processes of becoming about.  It is not just a matter of representation, but should be seen as helping the process of learning.  [But she still has not said how events in the full Deleuzian sense should be depicted—how do we get to those from the empirical actualizations?  Kids should diagram? Preschoolers have to become Deleuzians again].

Sense cannot be simply opposed to nonsense.  Nonsense words show something more complex, but all words have to deal with nonsense in order to produce sense.  Sense is never simply already determined but has to be produced.  Documentations should look for this happening, and so what appears to be nonsense is just as important.  Young children often play with language, for example and there should be seen as showing that ‘everything is potentially otherwise and not static’ (114).  [Very sensible, but do we need a Deleuzian sledgehammer?]

Deleuze sees problems as far more important than solutions, and as not captured by their solutions.  Problems and events are ‘points of singularities that express their conditions’ (115). The important thing about singular points is that they cannot be captured in conventional language, and a Deleuze quote is cited in support, including the phrase that ‘the singularity belongs to another dimension…  It is essentially preindividual, non personal and aconceptual” (citing Logic of Sense).  [So are these extra dimensions to be explored and treated as real, or just seen metaphorically?].

Sense is produced ‘on the border of language’ (116).  Problems not solutions are important.  Pedagogical documents should look at events and the construction of problems [again not in the usual way though, surely, but from following additional dimensions, as in topology].  Kids enjoy constructing problems and often prefer problems to solutions.  They also produce their own sense and truths.  We should not judge truth or falseness without considering this production.

We should go on to develop a specific view on learning and knowledge, again based on Deleuze.  We should enter the field of singularities, as in the example of learning to swim.  This is not just learning solutions.  We should not be misled by domesticated views of processes of learning ‘because it is the fashion’ (117), but which really aim at attaining fixed solutions.  Instead, Deleuzian learning can never be predicted planned or evaluated.  It takes place in the unconscious as in swimming and its encounters [and again Deleuze is quoted on the implications of this view, that there is such a strong link between nature and mind—but we are surely a long way away from the idea that learning is natural as in say Rousseau?].  Documentations should somehow indicates that learning is impossible and unpredictable, and that predetermined goals are inappropriate.  Documenters themselves must enter the problematic field.

There are implications with teaching methods, which are often about attaining goals.  Documentation should not focus on the methods of learning, which often involves a false universalization.  We need to remember instead that a whole culture surrounds this process, and this cultural effect on the problematic field should be documented.

Of course we must use language conventionally, but then add something to it, rather than just using denotation and manifestation and so on.  We should attempt to find and construct sense [and here, curiously, Olsen addresses the reader directly to just to do something—‘do not look for solutions…  Do not look for knowledge’ (119)]. We get further in the next chapter looking at assemblages of desire, which include desire, lines of flight, affect and language, treated as sequential components, apparently detectable in an actual project. 

We began with collecting lots of empirical material over 10 years, and the idea was to find a theoretical perspective.  One particular project has been chosen as an ideal case study to be explored in more depth.  This study itself aims at constructing problems rather than arriving at solutions and deploying existing methods.  Problems have been contextualized, practical and theoretical resources have been summarized, and the contemporary political debate has been discussed as an aspect of surrounding culture that constructs problems.  ‘The concepts have been picked out on the basis that when confronting them with the empirical material “something happened”’ (121).  It was not just a matter of ‘rational thinking or conscious choice’ be included ‘a “feeling” of expansion or limitation of the research body’.  This guided the research not a logical straight line but ‘a continuous wandering back and forth’.

Putting Deleuze and Guattari to work implies not just finding the weak spots or undertaking a comparative study, but thinking rather ‘what one can do with this particular theory in relation to this particular practice’ (122).  Other ways of treating the material were possible, and these are discussed in the footnotes.  This study is been about pedagogy not philosophy as such, and one implication is that all scientific theories are based on suppositions and choices: the point was to develop some of the choices made in this study rather than criticizing or comparing it.  How valid was it?  It was aimed at formulating a problem rather than arising out a solution, and Deleuze and Guattari themselves say that it is not just a matter of truth and falsity, but also whether work is  interesting remarkable or important.  Instead of abandoning traditional notions of identity, however, the choice was to change the definitions slightly, to relate it to sense making in a pragmatic sense.  [Further justified by reminding us again that it was about pedagogy not philosophy—quite defensive here in what must have been the rationale for or conclusion to the thesis].

‘The concepts have been used only exactly as much as was needed in relation to the empirical material’ (124).  Some choices had to be made, and some way of dealing with the complexity of the presentation: ‘reduced to what was absolutely needed in relation to the empirical material’.  This can look like just scraping the surface, she admits.  Deleuze and Guattari themselves seem to recommend a pragmatism, and Mozère says this is an aspect of their style of doing philosophy, following 1968 [when Deleuze apparently adopted a much more informal style addressing people who were not always conventionally qualified—Deleuze was trying to get people to use philosophy].

So they already developed an experimental and creative style, which implies that we should do research in the same way, and not just imitate their thought.  We should also not to be constantly negative, but taking a more positive notion of desire.  The experiment is to see how this would work when applied to preschool education and its empirical particularities.  As a result, it can be claimed that this study offered an intensification of the concept and the theory, and ‘broadened the means and domains for intervention of the preschools’ (125).  It would be absurd to generalize, but Deleuze and Guattari might be tried in additional areas.  The concepts are sufficiently open ended.  Perhaps other areas of education might use them, ‘Maybe even academic education and writing’.

The empirical material was collected by herself and other teachers during fieldwork, and it was analyzed collectively, although she worked in particular on encounters with theoretical resources.  The example that follows is particularly suitable for this encounter.  The teachers shared the analysis.  The ethical practices of the Swedish Research Council were also followed, especially those relating to the protection of the individual—parental consent was sought, including permission to publish photos.  Photos were essential ‘to capture the expressions on the children’s faces’ (127).  It was also important to indicate the collective process [why no video, given that process and movement seems so important?].  The analysis is limited to the particular episodes, seen as  ‘the perfectly singular’ (128).  It is not a true representation but a constructed story, and the processes of construction have been indicated.

There is a growing climate of fear in preschools leading to new health and safety and regulations about touching children.  These could be ‘strategies for governing through fear’ (128).  Teachers do have to be vigilant and careful, though, and be aware of ethical and political issues.

 Assemblages of desire. This will deal with the last point—experimenting in a relational field, with implications for individuals and societies. The focus will be a project [lasting two years!], involving 15 children between one and two years old when it started. The main theme and the commentary on the project will be desire as the production of the real, and the way in which children produce new realities. Assemblages of desire and their components will be analysed.

The project. In the first year, five kids worked with an OHP [making shadows with themselves and with various objects projected on to a sheet. Kids could go behind the sheet]. It started looking at photos, but the teachers decided, after observation, that light and shadow seem to be of more interest. Teachers are also taking a course at the Stockholm Institute of Education, and discussing it. Their worry was that they wanted to move the children on, but not intervene excessively—they decided not to intervene but to do more observation. Eventually, one kid moved an object on the OHP, and another kid noticed the effect of doing this. The whole group got excited, began dancing and shouting "The Ghost, the Ghost!" (136). Apparently, the expression on children's faces showed this was a matter of some intensity: whenever the ghost appeared 'The entire group was up and running, dancing and screaming: "The Ghost, the Ghost!" [Actually the picture shows one child of the three apparently not very moved at all, 137]. The first, teachers imagined that ghosts were scary, and thought about pursuing a line, but again decided to wait and discussed the photographs of the children—a possibility was that the ghost was 'ritual for celebrating when they have discovered something new, or when they stand in front of something that they do not understand but that interests them and excites them' (138), and this was supported by a further observations. The kids developed an interest in comparing shadows of different sizes, and then turned to dressing up in costumes to make shadow effects and then make stories. They use the OHP throughout the year. Their behaviour became ritualised—they put costumes on first. They negotiated with each other and 'brought each other in all the time'. Teachers observed and gave the documents back to the children for discussion, including displaying it—kids talked about the pictures and sometimes reenacted what they were doing.

Olsen says this shows that desire was turned on its head. It was not a lack, but something that emerged with teachers' help. Children's questions and problems were 'considered as possible productions of new realities and new ways of thinking, talking and acting' (142). They were not to be tamed. They revealed intense etc. experimentation involving everybody. The project was intended to 'hook up' with children's desires. Desire is then discussed further—it is usually seen as a lack, something that we want to acquire, often treated as a fantasy which is then coded in Freudian psychoanalysis. The notion of lack is also apparent in some practices in early childhood education, especially those based on developmental psychology, where desire is replaced by a vocabulary of needs. However these needs are also constructions, and also 'repress and tame' desire (143). Desire is only used to motivate children to achieve predetermined goals. This makes children look needy and in need of redirection.

Deleuze and Guattari's notion of desire apparently also applies to children. 'There are no preexisting needs or lack within children'(144). Nonconforming children are produced as not normal. Children do have different ways of managing and navigating. Even those with 'certain illnesses or handicaps' are included in this [and Deleuze and Guattari's admiration of schizophrenics is quoted as showing that 'the schizophrenic identity is produced within the walls of the institution' (144), and should be read instead as desiring production]. In a [French] interview with Parnet, Deleuze says that people should experiment with their assemblages instead of trying just to get analyzed or cured [indifference to suffering if not positive malevolence]. Overall, lack and need are effects not causes: 'Since this is a prevailing logic within most of society's institutions, it is easy to see that the same kind of desiring-repression that is at stake within the walls of the psychiatric clinic also functions in preschools' (145) [dubious analogy to put it mildly].

The same problems occur with the tabula rasa view of childhood, that all they have to do is imitate and repeat, and that their own desires are not considered important. However, desiring production occurs at birth, as do relations with other people—Deleuze and Guattari talk about a nonfamilial experience[in response to Freud and Oedipal suffocation] . Children have many sorts of desire. However, they need to live in the same world as us. Their desire to experiment 'should not be understood as a natural trait inherent in children' (146)—instead, they have not lived long enough to have been fully oedipalized [which seems to contradict the paranoia of repressive preschools]. In Stockholm, there have been new ways of developing children's desires 'away from the institution's repression of desire'(147). Children do realize subjectivity and learning is a form of production, and this exceeds even supple lines.

Desire comes in assemblages, which contain desiring machines. Assemblages contain machined assemblages 'material processes of bodies and actions', together with 'corresponding speech and signs'. We have to remember that the signs arise from a collective assemblage of enunciation. In the other direction the assemblage contains reterritorialized lines that create territories, 'functioning as systems of habit', but also points of deterritorialization, which allows to break free of habits (147). Affect is a key term—'a body's capacity to act'(148), and assemblages either restrict or expand this capacity. These effects appear as feelings such as joy or intensity. The sort of experimentation into subjectivity and learning in preschools arises from an assemblage, certainly not from the rational planning of teachers. We can see desiring machines at work, 'forces not connected to rationally thinking'. Individual children can construct and produce their own questions and problems, and teachers can talk about them in new ways [this must be the collective assemblages of enunciation]. Habit and unthinking reproduction can occur as a form of reterritorialization, as in the reversion to conventional psychological models. However, there are also points of deterritorialization or lines of flight, and these produce feelings of intensity, 'often registered through having "goose bumps"'. We can use the notion of assemblage to analyze what happened in the OHP project.

Desire is always assembled or machined, never just natural or biological. Desire is assembled together with its complex objects of desire this is constructivist not natural [and apparently Deleuze actually uses the terms constructing and constructivism in the interview with Parnet, French edition. I still don't think this means that social constructivism, however.] An assemblage of desire produces reality in this sense of a machine [or diagram?]. It is not run by conscious subjects. The collective assemblage of enunciation also implies a [collective] unconscious. We can see its effects in indirect discourse, or the way in which words also function as order words: Deleuze actually uses the example of the school mistress instructing her students in what looks like a neutral and technical way. Language is nothing but order words. It is the collective assemblage of enunciation that produces them. However, this is continually changing, for example producing redundancy. 'All individual statements and also subjective enunciations are such, only to the extent that they are needed and determined by a collective assemblage' (151). This makes language pragmatic, something internal to enunciation, something which is more important than structure, and something which exceeds linguistic structures. Signs are asignifying machines [always? The references here are to Logic of Sense]. Habit involves occupying a familiar territory, but territory is always subject to destabilising and restabilising forces in a rhythm [the process of endless little bangs becoming habitualized?]. All territories are subject to this. Reterritorialization is always likely.

Individual bodies and consciousnesses represent wider and deeper realities and thoughts. [Ordinary] consciousness cannot grasp affect, but only affections in the form of sadness or joy. Apparently, this 'can make us focus on the specific potentialities in every situation' (153), and we will use this insight in our analysis of the project.

The project revisited. Kids were still working with the OHP practically every day even in the second year. They always have put on their costumes. Teachers introduced some new materials—construction blocks with images of all the kids on them: they wanted to investigate identity. Kids were initially hesitant. They liked working only with blocks that had photos of children in costumes. They tried to use the blocks with the OHP. Olsen thinks this shows that 'desiring forces are set in motion' (155) between themselves and with the machine. The important thing for them seems to be the costumes. They are not interested in the blocks themselves, only in their possible usefulness in their interest in the OHP. The OHP becomes 'organic material… treated as if it had a proper life' (156). Children are also machines, and even 'their organic bodies also function at the same time as non organic machines'.

Teachers are also desiring machines, prepared to abandon their projects if necessary. Children's desires have emerged to overcome the institution's repression. As a result 'Children are part of producing the every day reality of the preschool in new ways' (157) [massive talk up here -- nothing to that below!].

Teachers pursue the issue of the importance of the costumes. While listening carefully, they hear the children saying that costumes are necessary to make people visible. One child who wishes to insist that they can be seen without a costume is ignored. Perhaps they just wanted to go on with their investigations, and keep their problem going? This problem of 'whether and when one is seen or not' (161) is the real problem they are working on. The costumes themselves work only as part of an assemblage of desire, based on the OHP. No one seems to own this assemblage. Teachers document with the active involvement of the children, as a self reflexive act [I thought these were bad]. The emergence of the problem shows how desire functions as a machine. The documentation is the focal point for the relations between the children and teachers.

One of the children put a construction block on the OHP, and this produced a renewal of the Ghost ritual. This time there was a story—the construction bloc was a letter sent from the Ghost. The reappearance of the Ghost can be seen as an asignifying machine with no inherent meaning, but acting as a signal that things have become intense. The children appropriated this order word to their own uses. It brings bodily activity as well. The Ghost seems to be a nonsense work, but it does make sense. Teachers do not denounce the Ghost as nonsense, but use it to access sense production and to see how kids use language pragmatically and creatively, with no notion of correct usage. Kids also showed they were interested in returning to investigations they have done before, for example trying to create shadows even where the light is not directed. This shows that knowledge is not directed in a linear or logical  way, but many things are going on at the same time [and, for the first time, this includes 'the importance of the teacher documenting the process' (167)]. However, these are never simple repetitions, since conditions change slightly. The territory of knowledge is continually being changed. It's possible to infer from all of this that the real problem is the issue of being seen [this is a transcendental deduction? It is a way of the researcher making sense of what is going on in Deleuzian terms?].

This can also be seen by further actions, when a particular costume was not available. All the children rallied round until they found a suitable costume—one that would help the child be seen. Olsen analyses this as showing that costumes raise bodily potential, and the anxiety about not having one is a matter of 'seeing one's affective potential being decreased' (173). The reason the children found experiment so joyful is that their affective potential had increased, but this was an emergent process, and repeating it might not have had the same effects. By bodies, she means children's bodies but also the physical body of knowledge and learning, bodies of light and shadow which are in a relational field with children's bodies. The project shows that there is more to rational thought and the idea of a body, exactly as above [not surprising really -- she reads and likes Deleuze so she sees things in Deleuzian terms].

Subsequent activity produced more insights, this time by using two light sources. [This confused the little bastards. I mean…] the children were able to see what happened with different combinations of light and shadow. 'They sing and dance' (175). Teachers eventually saw that their own earlier efforts to use multiple identities was on the right lines after all [phew -- no nasty critique needed] and had not been rejected by the children. Instead all the activity we have seen can be seen as 'an indication of the children actually being in the middle of living multiple identities' (177), and in a much richer sense—they are living it, in a bodily way, experiencing affect. The actual teachers' project paled by comparison, because they had too simple a sense of identity as the construction of different parts which can be consciously rearranged: instead, we need to think about assemblages acting with unconscious desires and being acted out. [a bit of critique then] The kids stuck with this conception [the kids had this conception??]. Eventually, their interest in whether they could be seen or not 'is a fantastic creative response to the problem of subjectivity and learning that is normally treated as a problem of being. The children resonate and vibrate together with the phenomena of light and shadow in a creative response' (178). It is a response dominated by vision, an affective gaze, showing that the kids were acting 'through the logic of immanence and affect where their bodies as well as the bodies of light and shadow pop up, and not as each other's opposites, or as fixed entities encountering each other, but rather as inseparably joined and continuously moving in a relational field' [Jesus -- fucking bright 2-year olds in Stockholm!].

Conclusions. The problem has been to decide 'how to work with movement and experimentation in subjectivity and learning in early childhood education practice and research' (179) [so fully practice based now?]. Such movement is already there. We can use certain concepts as we have seen to engage in it. It must be there if you argue that all changes and subjectivity and learning depend on flows of belief and desire that are already there' (179). The alternative rational models do not work as well, because something always escapes. Schools therefore need to add to the idea of listening and experimenting [a very modest political proposal] and researchers can deliberately look for those things that escape [ so the main role of all this is critique after all?].

We saw this in preschool practices in Stockholm, where new features did emerge, and where people were engaged. This could be seen as a form of desiring production suitable for academic and pedagogical institutions, a form of modulation. All this activity takes place in a particular environment characterized by an ethics of listening, experimentation and care. There is a danger that individual lines of flight could become 'sources of demolition' (180). Self reflection measurement and evaluation do help us remember each individual, but they are 'very dangerous tools' and need to be complemented by an interest in helping individuals connect lines of flight to other lines. Many dangers exist. The environment is unpredictable and messy.

Teachers and researchers must be listeners and collective experimenters, fully engaged. Theoretical concepts should not be applied, 'rather they have to be chosen simply on the basis that they function in relation to the practices or examples encountered' (181). The relational field should be seen as an immanent one, preconscious, permitting movement. We should start by recognizing that movement is already going on and the need is to experiment, having latched on to kids' desires. We need to be prepared for surprises. We can rely on the idea that transcendental empiricism sees life as being stronger than thought [what a strange "philosophical" and rather stoical comfort, helping no doubt to stave off any feelings of inadequacy between teachers and researchers?].

We need to see documentation as recording events, or movements that are already there, involving the on going production of sense, which itself needs to be seen as connected to nonsense, solutions, and cultures. Research should not be just a matter of commenting, interpreting and reflecting, which close down the dimensions of the event.

Substantial preparation is required, however, to facilitate experimentation. Teachers should be highly knowledgeable in order to provide as many perspectives as possible. [But how do they hold on to acquiring formal knowledge of the same time as having a Deleuzian critique of it? It is the old problem raised by Kuhn of commitment]. Teachers' choices should be informed by ontology, politics and ethics, and we can be guided by Spinoza [but see above].

Which theories are to be developed, and which methods? This requires examining 'the entire culture surrounding the problem'(184) [in practice, adopting a particular take like the Foucault-based position of the powerful Dahlberg?]. However, encounters with children should make us let go. Assemblage of desire can help us see how reality is produced unconsciously. We get a more complex notion of change, not based on dualisms like cause and effect or individual and society. We need to turn conventional notions of desire on their head and enter a collective assemblage of desire, to see what new realities are being continuously produced. We can do this by asking children about their desires and their assemblages [which means asking teachers what they think children are desiring? Unless we are to see childish answers about what they want as an indication of what they desire, a position already rebuked]. However, children's desires should not be pursued to the extreme [liberal cop out]. Children also sometimes just want to play, although they are also capable of picking up 'the focus and interest for the teachers and they are prepared to go into a construction of problems and questions with teachers' (185), so teachers do have a role. However, they must operate in a 'tentative and pragmatic way', and this can clash with what the school system requires.

However, most children do manage to survive formal schooling, even though we don't know what they are actually learning, except through formal descriptions. However, the child should not be seen as a creature of nature, more as a machine. We can see the analysis of machinic desire more easily in children, since they had not yet been fully repressed or subjected to 'organized schemas of desire' (186). The real desires probably go on beneath the surface of formal schooling [she is not prepared to see any positive effect of formal schooling]. Nevertheless, the notion of assemblage of desire could add to the formalized school system, and even be recognized as the starting point for a new practice. We should not focus our enquiries on children's language alone, especially if we are judging it against a formal model and not as a series of pragmatic acts.

Learning should be seen as billowing back and forth, following different lines and occupying different territories which are subject to being reshaped. It is not just a matter of consciousness, but one of involved bodies, including inorganic ones, and their potentiality. Pedagogy should create more space to expand capacity rather than announcing that we already know what children or the resources they encounter can do. It is not just a matter of emotions and moral values—these can 'stop almost all affective potential by taming children's desire'(187) [the example turns on the insistence that children say sorry].

The situations observed 'very often increased the affective potential of the situation and in turn created joyful passions'[among teachers?], But there is no general rule. Overall, this practice can coexist with the formalized school and research system [not at all like Deleuzian revolution here then? No grasp of the power of the system to coopt and recuperate?]. Formalised schools must not only experiment but 'answer to what is expected', and this even affects preschools.,however 'a little bit of movement experimenting inventing and adding to the world might be somewhat beneficial, not least in relation to those children who seem to manage to decode and adapt to the system less well'(187) [progressive methods for the less able as usual]. Such children might not have been able to connect lines of flight, or link them to desire on the one hand and the world on the other. When this does happen, it can become a forceful encounter, reinforcing what children are already living 'as an immanent principle'(188). Most of the beneficial effects have come from leakages and surprises, processes and focuses on problems. This is how children operate anyway, 'in assembled desires all the time' (188) [but conventionally, of course, and not philosophically]. This is what lies behind Deleuze and Guattari's view that '" children are Spinozists"'(180), apparently a quote from Thousand Plateaus, 282. Children often outflank adult ways of conceiving. This is not seeing children as natural, nor is it 'putting Deleuze and Guattari on to children' (188), but it does help focus a different image of thought. Overall, it means that we still have something to learn from children [a further quote from Desert Islands, 208 says that if children did make their protests heard it would derail the whole educational system].

Epilogue.  [More formal Deleuzian and rather lyrical style].  The problems are constellation of points of singularity and when we learn, we join these points to create a problematic field.  This is what unites the child learning to walk and the surfer learning to surf, and it is also what happens when you write a dissertation.  Deleuze is right to say something in the world forces you to think, so you do not use a problem exactly, and is not surprising that you don't come across solutions, only extensions of the problem.  In this case, what is required is no less than 'a reformulation and reactivation of time and space' (189), and some additional concepts: 'a-lives, virtuality, crystal time and becoming'.  Full development requires another whole project.  A-lives refers back to the example of the child and the surfer.  It is a way of realizing that people are not individuals but 'processes of individuation' (190), impersonal but singular.  Objects are also a-lives.  Singularities mean that children learn in a distinctive way, and selves emerge.  On a plane of immanence 'there are only forces and bodies'.  Bodies and forces are a-lives [which appeared to be actualized singularities].  Children realize this because they always insist on using the indefinite article—'a person, a rhythm…'[massive generalization. What happened to close observation?]

Virtuals actualize themselves into the familiar forms.  We often confine ourselves to actualized forms as the only dimension of reality, but pedagogues must recognize the virtual dimension, which is equally real.  A virtual child is an image, but not a copy and 'the virtual actualized has no resemblance whatsoever to the virtual' (191), reminding us of the potential to be other.  The notion of a virtual child restores movement and subjectivity.  The virtual is not the same as the possible, which is usually another version of what we already know.  We should use the virtual/actual rather than the usual notion of fantasy/real.  Kids' play is a form of actualization, and is usually not taken seriously.  'The point is to play joyfully and seriously' (192) [poor kids, being forced to philosophize at every moment—either that, or philosophy is no more than children's play].  Virtual children are real, just only on another plane.  They also function in another dimension of time—not a linear development, the form of time that divides the present into past and future.  The past is the virtual and the present is the actual [this is a Bergsonian reading, which can easily be seen us to do with subjectivity or collective memory rather than the full Deleuzian horror].  Present and past are simultaneous [the source here is Cinema 2 -- but this is a summary of Bergson as I recall].  The point is to account for movement in the present, and this is where the idea of crystal time comes from, where we see time splitting into the actual and the virtual.  'This would also be subjectivity and learning taking on the features of becoming' (193) [I'm not sure about this, I think this is a form of pedagogy possibly confined to the cinema—how could preschools display this crystalline form? Why would they need the concept?]

Examples about surfing [and swimming] do not indicate becoming in the usual sense, but they do indicate what happens when particles [points] connect to each other—a more molecular notion of becoming.  Becoming is not an analogy, but a matter of extracting particles enabling a process of becoming [the reference is Thousand Plateaus].  'Children…  are capable of many more becomings than adults…  because they have not yet decoded and adapted to the molar positions' (194).  They have a becoming specific to every age.  Children do not develop but involve themselves in blocks of becoming.  Becoming imperceptible can be seen as an alternate kind of becoming, total immersion, 'when one is connected to everything, dissolved in a continuously changing relationship with everything' (194) [TP].  Conventional notions of children's development just looks at stops on the road, the empirical level.  We cannot perceive real movement, which is displayed [in thresholds between stages].  On the plane of immanence there is nothing but movement, principles of composition, new kinds of perception.

It is hard to leap from this to 'every day practice in preschools' [and why would you want to -- pragmatically? The essentials are all there already, surely, in the usual progressive stuff --kids as bundles of potential, play as learning, kids learning at their own pace, teachers looking out for magic moments].  We can use this notion of immanence [to produce a suitable attitude in teachers—'a certain amount of vigilance and humbleness in front of subjectivity and learning'(195)].  We should let children persist in their own efforts, rather than trying to plan and predict.  'Machines function only when they break down, the order is order only as a moment temporarily stagnated from out of order.  It is when out of order movements moves' (196).

back to Deleuze page