(Skeptical) notes on: Sellers, W. and Gough, N. (2010) 'Sharing outsider thinking: thinking (differently) with Deleuze in educational philosophy and curriculum inquiry'.  In International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 23 (5): 589-614.

Dave Harris

[Wild and wacky freewheeling 'delirious'  stuff by two real enthusiasts responding to reading bits of Deleuze and Guattari.  They are clearly inspired and liberated, and have engaged in playful explorations of their own earlier work {to put it politely}, with a view to thinking out education and curriculum.  Impossible to precis, so I am not going to bother.  I remain deeply skeptical, and a bit embarrassed at reading this unapologetically indulgent stuff]

They have decided to collaborate just like Deleuze and Guattari.  They have both pursued some issues already—'rhizosemiotic play' for Gough (Noel) , and 'rhizo-imaginary' 'picturing' for Sellers (Warren) .  Both have used these exercises to think about curriculum and educational philosophy.  They have collaborated already and have enjoyed seeing 'the ordinary extra-ordinarily' (590).  Here they are extemporising 'inter-picture-and-text-ually'[the first of many irritating hyphenated neologisms].  The intention is not just to use metaphors from Deleuze, as many others do, but rather to generate 'discourses ~ practices' [the ~ is used 'to signal a conjoining of co-implicated notions in what we think of as complicity, i.e. thinking that is complicit with writing and simultaneously vice versa. Complicit in this sense is not so much ‘wrongful’ as not ‘rightfully’' ( n 1, 610).

They want to think with Deleuze, developing his remarks on art brut, as a kind of innocent philosophy.  They write sometimes in the first person to distinguish between themselves.  Sellers, for example thought about the imaginary, encountered Deleuze and Guattari, and deconstructed common usages of figuration and metaphor as an example of what he called 'rhizo-imaginary' thinking.  Gough pursued imaginative inquiry, including mixing philosophy with science fiction and other narrative experiments involving work, 'to deconstruct educational questions, problems and issues'(590) [apparently his earlier scattered efforts now constitute a project].  They were already post structuralists and saw no need to separate theory from practice: qualitative inquiry produces assemblages in both areas.  They got deeply into philosophy, and are particularly interested in enacting or performing thinking differently, including producing unusual texts.  This one can be considered as 'a reading ~ picturing on unfolding folding' (591) [prats!].  The idea is to introduce outsider thinking into curriculum and educational philosophy.

Reading a novel by Delillo gave Noel the the idea to bring together some thoughts [the title was Point Omega, and this led him to consider 'a point~omega~point as an imaginary for a meta discourse fold' (591).  They imagine educational change as such a fold, inspired by Shakespeare.  They are often asked what the point of their work is, and this is led them to think about various discursive moves to manage paradigm shifts in a way which brings different thinking to a tradition, as in smooth space.  The thought about this when attending committees and working parties and wasting time in 'crosstalk', instead of proper discussion.  The point is to not reduce positions, but think in terms of 'hidden folds…  Which may reveal momentous changes that could either be a paroxysm or something enormously sublime and unenvisionable' (592) [I think you get the style pretty well from this].

Warren talks about 'two co-implicated lines of flight'[- not ~], linking thinking and picturing in a rhizo-imaginary, 'the move to discourse that is beyond present language', where he is lost for words, and therefore capable of stuttering.  He turns to pictures and sounds.  He used to be embarrassed, but now he understands that this is generative of new thinking.  It has produced an [erased --imagine a strike-through] authentic deployment of Deleuzian philosophy, in the sense that it has helped them generate work.  His first collaborative publication with Gough emerged from an e-mail conversation [reproduced as an exhibit, 593].  We can see that the email features 'several lines of flight' [that is, mentions an interesting commentary on Beardsley].  Beardsley pictures can then be seen as akin to a Mandelbrot set, and 'allusive resonances' like this open up meaning, specifically that Beardsley's imagery can be seen as linking to climatic concerns, and representing 'both the consequences of collapsing consciousness around modern reductionist science and culture and potentialities for emergent notions of complexity suggested by James Lovelock's "Gaia" thesis' (594).  Generally, he began to think about reality outside of representation [linguistic representation?]

Meanwhile, Noel was thinking about the links between educational philosophy and science fiction.  Deleuze agrees that sometimes philosophy can be seen as a kind of science fiction, and this encouraged him, especially when asked to write 'an autobiographical vignette' on a book about educational inquiry and the arts.  Science fiction had already informed his understanding, and he could see its potential in teaching science or environmental education, as well as research methodology.  He was not very aware of Deleuze and Guattari at the time, except for the notion of 'rhizomatic inquiry', and the notion of 'conjecture as a rhizome space' [which apparently is Eco's phrase]. He was able to identify two 'co-implicated lines of flight' in his work (595) , including an interest in cyborgs and in particular themes in science fiction referring to inner space—JG Ballard's Crash had already been seen as a classic example of postmodernist science fiction.

Haraway on the cyborg had already argued that science fiction and social reality are merging, and her work on primatology was inspired by a particular science fiction story about the limits of vision.  She sees discussions of other possible worlds as characteristic and helpful, and proposes joining together S.F. narratives and scientific ones in order to promote the imagination.  Gough tried this by reading a standard biography of Isaac Newton after having read about Dali's sculpture Homage to Newton, in the 'heterogeneous space' that emerged.  He saw this space as a nomadic space and 'a rhizome space' (596).  Meanwhile, Haraway uses Asimov to demonstrate her approach, and reviews several women SF writers, mixing the conventions in order to better understand scientific narratives and their claimed privileges.

[It is simply frightful, but manageable if you are a hero to find that] 'I am working in an "impossible" discursive space', inhabited by fragments of different orders.  But this can also be seen as an inner space, or a zone, where multiple worlds exist, and familiar spaces are undermined.  The effect is demonstrated by the opening words of The Twilight Zone, pointing to a new and unsettling dimension. Other writers talk about these unsettling areas as zones.  There is a connection with postmodern notions like cyberspace, or mega cities [lots of thrilling examples, 597].  Apparently, the technique involves linking two adjacent areas of space in a novel way, or positing an alien space inside a familiar one.  Reality is given not by the mundane notions of realism, but by the writing itself. 

Educational inquiry can be seen as textual practices like this, where familiar arguments are taken out of the context to break with objective reality, and we can see the narrative effects that construct their own reality.  This approach was pursued in a number of Gough's publications on curriculum, science education, and environmental education: he proceeded by assuming that what we take to be the real world is in fact the result of a fiction, and we can therefore move educational inquiry 'into a hyperspace of simulation in which we push propositions and suppositions beyond their limits' (598), Deleuzian concepts like assemblage, line of flight, rhizomes and deterritorialization 'complemented my existing dispositions'.  The difference between a sedentary and nomadic point of view was particularly helpful in undermining conventional and settled concepts and theories.

Back to Warren.  His second collaboration used his ideas of picturing to review Gough's book [it is now reading like something from Brokeback Mountain].  He thought of some suitable images, and hyperlinked them in this online review, and more exhibits (599, 600) display the results as 'sketchbook notes' and 'colored pencil sketches'. He includes another picture trying to show 'generative resonances in words and images' that generate different readings and help 'the process of unfolding folds'.

Back to Noel.  He can see a link between intertextual play and the notion of Deleuzian geophilosophy.  This can be seen in describing narrative experiments based on the inspiration of the rhizome—'rhizosemiotic play'.  He has reported them already [!] but he wants to show the textual strategies arising from intertextual reading.  One example is his work on 'RhizomANTically becoming-cyborg: performing posthuman pedagogies' (Gough 2004), again displayed in an exhibit (601) [below].  He wanted to use ants to show the proliferation of 'cyborg bodies and identities in sites of educational practice'.  He could see how you might use cyborgs as heuristics, and encountered a paper about cyborg pedagogy grounded in ANT, He wanted to see if Deleuze could add value.  The term ANT led him to think of a sentence about ants in Thousand Plateaus, and someone else's description of rhizomes as like ants [and lots of other things].  His son enjoyed playing again called SimAnt, he remembered some films and stories about giant or mutant ants.  A graphic novel called Cyborantics was particularly influential.  It is a story about creating a cybernetic ant, and is a bit self-knowing, serving as 'meta fiction', apparently.  It illustrates characteristics of chaos and complexity, and pursues the link between science and literature, in a postmodern way.  It helped to restore 'art, paradox and humour' to the discussions of pedagogy, to help motivate imaginary investigations.  So the neologism proved to have 'interpretive possibilities' (602).  It reminded him that ANT cannot exactly be equated with rhizomatics [he really is a desperate gadfly], but they might fit to some extent.

There are two other examples of rhizosemiotic play illustrated more fully elsewhere. Again fictional inputs were also important, in this case a song about shaking a tree which 'led me to imagine rhizomes "shaking the tree" of modern western science education by destabilising arborescent conceptions of knowledge' (603).  The Dali sculpture mentioned above, and another S.F. thriller were important for him  -- and some of his peers, apparently. Some SF stories by Le Guin also inspired him and prompted him to '"play" with Deleuze and Guattari's argument that modes of intellectual inquiry need to account for the planes of immanence upon which they operate— the preconceptual fields presupposed by the concepts that inquiry creates'. The planes of immanence for curriculum inquiry need to change if we develop international curriculum studies [so plane of immanence = context or local scholarly field?].  So all this comes from Deleuze arguing that philosophy can be SF, and Noel has certainly had 'a little fun' en route [and loads of publications, it seems].

They and St Pierre believe in working from the middle, so there is no need for a conclusion [!].  However, a few reflections are appropriate, especially how Noel found agency, amid all the ambiguities of language and cultural practice'(603) [so it is all about finding a voice and an agency after all?  Finding your role in the HE system as a practitioner who has been forced to publish, or a postgraduate student who has been forced to read all sorts of bizarre French philosophy?].  Novelists have done some interesting narrative experiments, including Virginia Woolf, who stresses the need for rhythm in writing, as a matter of organizing words and emotions, almost as an external force.  For Noel, 'At the time of writing I speculated that ants created a wave that broke and tumbled in my mind—and I made words to fit it—but no doubt I shall think differently next year (or even sooner)' (604).  [I predict he will move on to Rancière].

For Warren, the interest is art, and Deleuze's reference to Foucault's compliments about his philosophy—he was simply doing art brut, innocent and guilt free philosophy [not in the classic traditions].  Warren interprets this as 'a"non professional" practice having more in common with "mental patients, prisoners, and children"'[ignoring the lengthy and productive professional philosophy before the 2 texts on capitalism and schizophrenia.Handy this -- you don't need all that careful scholarly work to be a deleuzian after all!]  A self portrait by Deleuze makes this point [and two exhibits compare this with his own digital drawing of Deleuze from a photograph].  Warren also includes a self portrait as an exhibit..  He has never felt comfortable with school, although he was obviously a creative little chap, producing books, newspapers and paintings from an early age.  He now realizes 'their curricular communication capabilities' (605), expressing his enjoyment and wish to share.  He also imagined he could capture ideas in an umbrella.  This led him to see 'curriculum(ing)'(606) as self embodied and self motivated rather than structured and organized as in conventional views.  Why should material be organized?  It is because of our 'world view, our onto-epistemology' [nothing to do with bureaucracy?  Marketization?].  However, we know everything is 'always already' in flux. This is where the rhizome is useful to 'disrupt the hegemony of the popular arboreal metaphor for knowledge organization'.  It helps us imagine other perturbing ways to organise.  It is akin to decentring the earth in astronomy.  Kuhn says that was difficult too [definite heroic tone now].

Warren has attempted 'unfolding folding' (607).  For him, the fold helps 'us to play tricks with scale, proportion and dimension' as we fold in a way that is like doodling.  Professional folders like bookbinders or origami artists can develop this as 'full-fill-ment'.  He read Deleuze on the fold, [The Fold, not the book on Foucault which is much simpler] and liked particularly one of his potty drawings [reproduced on 607]. Although the text was 'quite dense' [!], the picture helped.  His musings appear as exhibit 12 [below].  He played with the picture inverted it and squeezed it 'anamoprphicallly'.  He explains that this involves developing a non- Euclidean notion of space, just as in Deleuze's words.  He realized that the old split between subject and object could be replaced by a notion 'superject~ objectile' (608),[so we also accept Whitehead's ontology?]  related by inflections [as Leibniz conceived them -- points where tangents touch curves?] , producing folds within folds: 'this is not a question of understanding what this means, but the pluralities of meanings it generates for understandings' [so don't bother with actual Deleuze, use it as a personal ideology?]. [Sellers has missed the main implication for me that there is no separation between subject and object, and that points of view are provided by reality itself, while human subjects merely take them up. Pov include nice subjective 'personal' meanings of the text. Creative writing gets nowhere if it does not acknowledge the connection between the creative subject and the objects it discusses? One of the sentences he has underlined makes that point really clearly. The point of anamorphosis is to demonstrate that subject/object interconnection The text is difficult,but more might have been done to see what Deleuze's actual argument  was getting at rather than leaving that and sauntering off on your own? For my take on the fold etc see my notes here]

Because Deleuze and Guattari worked together, so did Sellers and Gough.  We need to pay more attention to Guattari, as a psychoanalyst and activist, hoping to overcome impasses and blocks, to help people break out from bureaucracy and to develop lines of flight.  He tells us that the outsider can help us by suggesting 'an otherness~other-wise'(609).  This is how writing together helps to develop 'immanent emergent meaning - making: releasing rhizomes flush with matters of expression affecting the micro political', operating at local levels to thwart dominant subjectivity in Integrated World Capitalism. 

Overall, education should involve collaboration to produce thinking differently.  This involves a recognition that the world is always in flux, and this is generative and positive.  'Change is not a problem, rather, we need to think differently about change' (609) [reduced to the banalities of change management here?].  So climates are always already changing, and we should not necessarily see this as a crisis.  This could be redundant way of thinking.

Over to the reader.  We are invited to 'stretch all our thinking into/across a meta discourse fold'.  They are urge us to see their work as 'the flowing of the emerging thinking of readers ~ writers recursively reading ~ writing ~ thinking'.  A list of their particular interests follows as a small diagram, although we should see this as them performing 'an assemblage of empathetic responses to thinking (differently) with Deleuze'.

[A classic example really of 'applying' Deleuze. Very selective, with the work on the subject ducked in particular, almost as much as Guattari's conservatism and emphasis on social reproduction.  What they have done here is to cherry pick terms, the usual suspects such as rhizomes and lines of flight, or occasionally even single sentences about science fiction {although no mention of HP Lovecraft}, and even, God help us, ants.  Nothing on faciality, which might be odd for an artist?  Gallant attempts to tangle with the stuff on the fold, but, typically, this material is just used to legitimise and dignify some existing thoughts.  These two seem to have been quite happy with the other grand theories to legitimise their thoughts before they encountered Deleuze and Guattari, particularly ANT, but also Haraway.  Horrible defensive tone throughout here, especially with Sellers—the poor bastard seems to have been thrown in at the deep end.  Overall, it all becomes just a licence for bourgeois 'creative thinking' for those who do not prosper in educational bureaucracies].

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