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Nov 10 2011

Review of Nora Bateson’s Film: “An Ecology of Mind”

Nora Bateson

Nora Bateson

I just finished viewing Nora Bateson’s film, An Ecology of Mind, about her father, Gregory Bateson.  I got some sneak previews of her work in progress last year, and before that,  when I spoke on the Good Ancestors theme at the Metamedia III conference in Eugene.

It was great to see her ideas evolve from a collection of home movies to a very professional film telling her father’s ideas in the context of a young daughter growing up with them.  I recall wondering, “how do you give the viewers time to absorb all this material?” but the wonderful use of graphics opened it up and drew us in simultaneously.  Such is the art of film making.

Gregory Bateson, as an English anthropologistsocial scientist,linguistvisual anthropologistsemiotician and cyberneticist, deserves the designation eclectic.   His quip that “information is the difference that makes a difference” lingers in today’s thinking, as does the notion of the Double Bind.

I particularly liked his discussion of beauty, something that’s been preoccupying me for some time now – how do we design beautiful systems?  Steve Jobs has shown that it can be done.  The question is, can we incorporate it into our other systems, as well?

Gregory Bateson was clearly one who looked at the connectors, not just the dots.  In a world that is over run by the dot-counters, rather than looking at the relationships between the dots, this is an important concept to get out.

I guess I was left with a bit of a “now what” sensation after the film.  I understand the “wholeness” argument, and talk about it all the time in my “toasters and cats” riff.  But how do we take this forward?  (This, of course, is exactly the question Gregory was trying to get us to ask.  The fact that I’m asking it now, well after his death, is testimony to his success)

Nora is married to jazz drummer Dan Brubeck, son of Dave Brubeck, so I was expecting more music in the film than I got.  In particular, I think the opening quotation rather than being silent, could have started a “heartbeat” to the film that would pick up again throughout the film.

I’ll be hosting a screening and a workshop for her in the San Diego area Feb 3-4, so stay tuned.

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