Monthly Archives: February 2011

Mapping for Me vs for the Collective

I recently attended an exceptional workshop through the Institute of Noetic Sciences. I was first introduced to IONS when I mapped their 2008 conference in Tucson. It is a great community of people that blends the science minded and the spiritually minded. They have their fingers in everything that is fascinating to me. They are on the edges of the gap between science and spirituality. That gap is the same one we often leap across when we bring “art” (visual facilitation and other creative engagement methods) into business environments.

The workshop last week was called “Engaging Fielding of Consciousness in a Living Universe | For Group Leaders.” I could not resist. As a Visual Facilitator and having spoken to many people who do this kind of work, the visual reflections we create for groups are often the result of tapping into some content other than just what is being said. I won’t go into more of that now, but save that for a future post. This workshop was lead by Duane Elgin and Christopher Bache. They were a perfect combination. Christopher provided specific practices to support and engage fields within group and Duane provided the visionary context and importance for this way of working at this time in our universe.

I was inspired by the leaders and the possibilities for working in this way with groups. I am attaching my notes from the weekend. I don’t imagine they will do more than spark interest and curiosity for you. For me, they trigger memories of not only the content but the experience and field that was created by the fourteen people who were in that room at the Earth Rise Retreat Center last weekend. The notes are also a window into how I take notes for myself, rather than when I am being paid to produce a visual record for a broader audience. I enjoy being solely responsible for what I want to capture and how. I shared these notes with other workshop participants and they resonated to some extent for them, because the content is familiar. If I had been “working” this event, I am sure my notes would be very different. In part because I would have been working on a wall. I would have been listening to the collective and for the collective, rather than for me and my interests. I would have been sensing and hearing in a different way just by standing to the side, rather than sitting in the circle. I would have been more diligent to capture details that were not as pertinent for me alone.

I am curious to see other visual practitioner’s personal sketchbook notes and the differences between what they capture for themselves and what they capture for everyone else…

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Visual Facilitation will be required by law.

I have had this idea for two years now. It came about through the work I currently do as a Visual Facilitator and as a result of the work I have done as an Audio Describer.

First, let’s define Visual Facilitation. My description is that is the process of capturing in real-time, a conversation or dialogue with a group or individual, using images, words and symbols to create a mural sized map. These maps are used to facilitate whatever process of engagement that these people are in, by literally reflecting back to the group or individual what has been said, in a visual way.

This field has been developed into a profession for the last thirty years. It still remains a novelty for many people, though it is used extensively and internationally in business and education contexts. It is but one of many ways in which we humans can be intentional about how we gather and commune. My friend Ken refers to a wonderful description of the roots of the word conversation: Turning together. Visual Facilitation would be a picture of what that dance looks like.

Often Visual Facilitation is perceived as ‘eye candy’ and can be relegated to meeting that have the budget for ‘art.’ Sadly it’s full potential is often not utilized, even when a Visual Facilitator has been hired. So how is it that this practice may in the near future, be required by law?

Let me first go back to my work as an Audio Describer. This is the process of providing audio descriptions of what is happening visually, so that the visually impaired may enjoy the same experiences as the sighted in media, theater and art. An Audio Describer will view a performance for example, multiple times, creating a descriptive script that will give a visually impaired person more information from which to experience the presentation. During the live performance, the describer broadcasts in real time, their descriptions, so as not to step on lines etc. to members of the audience who have one earphone tuned into their broadcast. Many times, in theater for example, there is much information that is conveyed visually that moves the plot line forward. Someone enters a scene, in a certain way, postures, gags, surprises etc. often involve many visual cues that non-sighted members of the audience would not have the opportunity to ‘see.’

Did you even know this was a service? It is, and most of the work I did in San Francisco was for the major theater houses that showed the ‘Best of Broadway’ productions. These big houses were required to offer one performance per run that had audio description for the visually impaired. The reason was not out of goodwill, but rather compliance. The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that this service be offered, much like an interpreter for the deaf. The reason you don’t see this offered in EVERY theater in town is basically that someone needs to ask for it. Just like the wheelchair ramps, that took a huge movement to get compliance from public meeting places to offer accessible ramps.

So how does Visual Facilitation come to be required by law? The ADA in January of this year, 2009, expanded their definition of diabled to include challlenges with thinking and concentrating. There is already included in the definition, certain learning disabilities. What this says to me is that there is an expanding awareness for different ways of knowing, different ways of learning. Visual Facilitation is an interpretive service on multiple levels, but certainly for those people in the room who are inclined to be more visual and kinesthetic learners. The presence of Visual Facilitation can be incredibly helpful to an individual’s ability to track the conversation, focus on the content, and understand what is being said. In other words, Visual Facilitation increases accessibility, just like a ramp in a doorway increases the accessibility for individuals to enter that space.

When people’s accessibility needs are taken into consideration, accomodations are made, usually via compliance to some larger system. This is why it seems that in the not too distant future, Visual Facilitation will be required by law, in schools and business meetings, to serve the needs of those people who benefit or even need this process as a way to access information that many people take for granted.