Bateson Reading Group - Video Dialogue - Week 1

Readers Underground participants:

Geoffrey Edwards
Johnny Davis
Lucy Sames
Phoenix Phillips
Douglas Duff

Recorded 10 January, 2019


Legend : GB=Gregory Bateson’s “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” ; NB=Nora Bateson’s “Small Arcs of Larger Circles”

GB: Metalogue : Why do things get in a muddle?
GB: Introduction
NB: Acknowledgements/Foreword
Participants Intros

5:59 - Personal Introductions begin

  • Doug: in Kentucky, USA; unfamiliar with Gregory and Nora Bateson
  • John: Long history and deep love for Bateson and kin

11:25 - Introducing new participant Lucy Sames

  • Familiar with Bateson as a whole, yet hasn’t read a full text. Steps to an Ecology of Mind (now SEM) will be useful as a group read.
  • Familiar with Donna Haraway Staying with the Trouble, Nora Bateson, Mary Catherine Bateson.
  • Research: PhD student in Newcastle - Arts - considering altered states and technology (+ cybernetics/cyberfeminism).
  • Interested in the connections with animal behaviorism, dolphins; does floats and then has a reading group, Katherine Hayles!

15:18 - Geoffrey (Group Host) personal introduction + introduction to Bateson(s) and the chosen texts

  • read Bateson 40 years ago as a student; entire career honors/structured around Bateson’s ideas (of how to go about things, processes)…4th reading of SEM,

  • Quebec City; end of career researcher; geomatics researcher; computer systems for managing space; designing smart environments; performing arts + space

28:09 - Recommendation of Nora’s film + Geoffrey reads quotes from film

  • first quote read from Bateson: “I have always thought that way: that the relation between me and that book, or the book and the table, is still a microcosm of the relation between man and God, or God and the devil, or what have you. That the big relations and the small relations are all the same thing! For study’s purposes, you have to work with small ones, sometimes. And then people blame you for working with small ones. Then you start working with big ones and they blame you for being a mystic. It’s all the same business.”
  • “the major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.”

34:23 - Open Discussion


  • now has a perspective on Bateson’s work that Bateson did not have access. Daughters as “characters” in father’s work.
  • dealing with double messages, ambiguities; affective zones; (comes forward in our dreamscapes)
  • new researchers + non-cognitive consciousness
  • Dreaming metalogue; lucid dreaming as new research; “weird studies” we now have access to
  • Dream experience- girl about to topple down…need to warn her, she falls and lands in arms; “Thank God!”

44:31 - Introducing Phoenix (new participant)

  • Living in Rhode Island; computer programmer; discovered Batesons through curiosity and curious happenings (serendipitious experience of Metapsychosis Facebook “ad”)

48:55 Discussing the framing of the text/the Bateson reading group; Discussion of the assigned reading for Week 1

  • The metalogue assigned is apt to how this reading group flows; a framing that is to be discarded
    Lucy :
  • the arrangement by chapters works yet we will bleed into the ecology; to read beginning to end a good way to tackle this
    John :
  • randomness; chaos theory; Bateson layed the foundation for these ways of seeing; dealing with the random with curiousity
    Doug :
  • The meta-ness of the metalogue quite useful and interesting; a glimpse into his work with a simplistic tone

1:29:54 - Silence and Sensory Deprivation

  • The group discusses the importance of these techniques in processing/forming new ideas, the aesthetic that emerges when the angel of silence passes over us.

  • Closing remarks

New members: Sign up for this group to learn how to participate. Current members: please let the organizer (@Geoffreyjen_Edwards) know if you would like to join.


Something seems off about the timezone conversion here. I think. At any rate, I may have done the math backwards, but I think the time difference is still one of two hours. Does this mean the calls will regularly take place at 8:30 am Mountain time?

I wasn’t able to be on the call today, but will plan to be at the next one. And, I’ll be sure to sign up using the link above.

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Actually, do I need to sign up for this since I’m already part of the Cosmos forum (@Geoffreyjen_Edwards? @madrush?). I don’t yet think I fully grok that part of the enrollment process yet.

No need to sign up if you’ve already been participating.

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That is correct @hfester…sorry we missed you. It was a great, spiraling discussion today and you would have been another core fractal element in the discussion.


Sorry about the early time of the call. The problem is I have to fit both calls into the same day - the Plenum one and the Bateson one. So I had to move the Bateson one to an earlier time slot.

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@madrush, Not sure I understand. Do you mean already participating in the readers underground (which I did for Manning)? Or, do you mean participating in the Bateson group? I only see this feed for it. So, perhaps I need to follow the sign-up protocol afterall?

@Geoffreyjen_Edwards, I just meant that the call time was listed wrong here–No objections to the early time here, though I will have to hustle to make it work. :slight_smile:

Sorry, that wasn’t clear. I meant in the ‘Readers Underground’ reading groups in general. The idea being that once you’re signed up and contributing something back into the system (could be monetary or non-monetary), then it’s kind of like an all-access pass to any group being offered in the community. (Gift economy idea.)

It sounds like we need a mechanism for active members (I consider you active, since last year) who are signing up for new groups. Also, I will edit the event above to indicate that new members should sign up, and existing members just let the organizer know they would like to participate.

I would still like new members to use the page on Metapsychosis to sign up: Bateson Reading Group

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Hi, I’ve signed up for the group and also $5/month membership. Was the week 1 discussion recorded and, if so, where will I find the link? Many thanks


Hello @AdamNextGen,

The recording is available on Vimeo above in the initial post (and here). It will be is now available on YouTube in a bit with timestamps. Feel free to listen all the way through, to “get-to-know” the participants as we do introductions for the first 15 minutes. @Geoffreyjen_Edwards, the versatile host, introduces himself and the Batesons + introductions to the two texts + reflections and quotes from Nora’s film beginning at 15:18 and open discussion begins at 34:23. We were all over the place in this conversation yet we touch on core Batesonian ideas. Glad to have you aboard Adam!


It was a great conversation! Thanks for having me, and especially to @Geoffreyjen_Edwards for organising. Looking forward (with a little trepidation!) to getting into the reading for next week.


Thanks - that’s terrific!


I have signed up, and have received the texts, so I’m ready for week 2 and am currently watching the first week video. Please add me to the list of participants, and thank you for organizing this reading group, Geoffrey!


Great to have you all, @dexterr (Ryan), @AdamNextGen (Adam), @hfester of course, @artex (Lucy) and @fractalnothing (Phoenix) - along with “oldtimers” @Douggins (Douglass), @johnnydavis54 (Johnny) and myself - and anyone else we pick up along the way - this promises to be a dynamic group! The biography I mentioned was David Lipset’s book, “Gregory Bateson, the Legacy of a Scientist”, which, as I say, I quite enjoyed. It is not, as I had suggested, a multivolume work, I was getting it mixed up with the biography of Whitehead that I also read last year.

Lucy mentioned Donna Haraway’s book “Staying WithThe Trouble” - we actually discussed one chapter in this book at the tail end of our discussion group on Octavia Butler’s Parables novels, because Haraway discusses Butler’s books. The other book Lucy mentioned was “The Mushroom at the End of the World : On The Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins” by Anna Tsing. N. Elizabeth Hayles was also mentioned as a seminal thinker - her writing comes into this discussion but was also a motivating text for the work on quantum field poetry, another discussion on the Infinite Conversations site. Many of us have been reading Haraway’s books as well.

Johnny refered to Erin Manning’s work - we held reading group on her book called ”The Minor Gesture” last year, the first installment of which Erin participated in and talked about her book and her ongoing work.


Thanks for the summary @Geoffreyjen_Edwards - also mentioned (by Phoenix I think?) was ‘Biophilia: The human bond with other species’ by Edward O Wilson. And a slight correct to the above: it’s N. Katherine Hayles (not Elizabeth). Of Hayles’ work, of particular interest is ‘How We Became Posthuman’, but she has also written an array of relevant essays as well. Thanks!

edit: also NB’s documentary ‘An Ecology of Mind’, about GB, you can watch the trailer here


I knew that! I don’t know what I was thinking! Must have been tired! Thanks for the updates and additions.

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Thanks, @madrush. @Geoffreyjen_Edwards, I wanted to make sure you saw my interest in participating. I don’t think I’ve seen the page for tomorrow’s call yet. I’ll plan to be on it, but because I have to finish a presentation for Friday and my book is still on its way via interlibrary loan, I’ll have to be quiet. I’m skipping out on a day-long training (just the first few hours) too.

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