THE WHAT AND HOW OF GROWING
I ended the last chapter by saying that science needs to grow. That everyone and everything needs to grow is the theme of this book. That our obsession with knowing keeps us from growing is the argument of this book. That we can create a culture of and for non-knowing growing is the call to action of this book.
So, it’s time to call you to action.
The XYZ of Growing
Conventional wisdom has it that learning begins with the ABC’s. Could be. After all, that is where schools (and now pre-schools) begin and that’s where learning starts to turn into knowing. But we’ll start at the end of the alphabet, with X, Y and Z. That’s where the growing action is. First up is Z, where it all begins.
Z is for Zones of Proximal Development.
This term was coined by Vygotsky and is probably what he’s best known for. It was one of the ways he tried to convey that human learning and development derive from and live in the social spaces people create together, rather than within any individual. A Zone of Proximal Development is an environment allowing people to go beyond what they can do alone. Little children spend their days in these environments, ones that invite and support them to do what’s “proximal” to where they’re at, to play at speaking, reading, dancing, and so much more. They might not know yet how do those things, but the people they’re with do know how. And these people don’t just speak and read and dance by themselves. They encourage the little non-knowers to speak and read and dance along with them, to play and perform as speakers and readers and dancers even though they don’t yet know how. The way I see it, Zones of Proximal Development are nothing less than the how and the where and the when people develop into who they’re becoming. They are the space and the activity of becoming who we are by performing who we’re not. And what, some will ask, about learning? Aren’t the little non-knowers learning to speak and read and dance? Yes, they certainly are. But they’re learning in a very specific and important way. They’re learning tied with—inseparable from, unified with— their development. They’re not learning before they develop. They’re not learning after they develop. The beauty and the magic of the socially created “space and activity” of Zones of Proximal Development is that when we are performing who we are not, learning and development happen at the very same time.
If Zones of Proximal Development (let’s call them ZPDs for short from now on) create learning and development together as a unified whole, what does that say about the great pillars of the knowing paradigm—dualities and dichotomies, and causality and linearity? As I shared in Chapter 4. “The What and How of Knowing,” these conceptions—that something is one thing and not another, that something always comes first and another follows, and that everything has a cause—are the foundation of what it means to know in our culture. But ZPDs can’t be understood in terms of these conceptions. ZPDs are non-dualistic, non-linear and non-causal. They don’t create either learning or development, but both. Neither learning nor development comes first. Neither one causes the other. The space and the activity, and the learning and development, are created together. So much for the knowing paradigm!
There’s another way that ZPDs defy the knowing paradigm—they happen without knowing. Babies certainly do not know. As I’ve said before, when we are very little, not only do we “speak” before we know how, we don’t even know that speaking or knowing are things to do. Every day, little children learn developmentally without employing knowing. They actively participate in their development without knowing either how or that they are doing it. This ability of little children to move from what they are able to do to what they are not was so important to Vygotsky that he identified it as the central characteristic and creative activity of the unity learning-and-development (See Note 1.)
It’s also the case that the people who create ZPDs with little children do so without knowing either how or that they’re creating them. Barring extreme devastation or deprivation, as soon as infants are born, the people in their lives help them grow. They don’t sit around the living room and discuss the best ways to create ZPDs. They immediately begin relating to their children as who they are and who they are not (who they are becoming)—as helpless infants and as members of and participants in the family, the community, the culture and the world. Parents, older siblings and other caretakers carry on conversations with them before the little ones know how to talk, they play games with babies and toddlers before they know what a game is or its rules, they listen intently to the sounds they make and respond to them. Think of how much of the knowing paradigm family and caregivers are ignoring! They’re not following the rule of either-or. They’re not adhering to notions of temporality and chronology in what to do. They’re not relating to products, but to social beings “in process.” Bravo to these growth creators!
I have one more Vygotskian insight about ZPDs to share with you. Our brilliant guide through development believed that ZPDs are created when little children play. Calling play the greatest developmental activity for pre-school children, Vygotsky tells us what he thinks happens when children engage in pretend or free play: “In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself” (See Note 2). I so love that image—“a head taller!” It captures the dialectic of becoming who we are by performing who we’re not, don’t you think? [have an illustration here]
Child’s play is like a dance between imagination and rules. Vygotsky’s examples are very low tech (remember, he was working on this 80-90 years ago). He describes what goes on when a child picks up a pencil and pretends it’s a horse. The child is creating an imaginary situation and at the same time making up the “rules” of her/his imaginative play—rules like “keep jumping,” “make whinnying sounds,” “don’t write on the paper.” Another Vygotskian example is playing Mommy and baby. The imaginary situation that’s created is one in which baby plays Mommy and Mommy plays baby (or baby plays Mommy and teddy bear plays baby). The playing also creates the rules of how the characters “Baby” and “Mommy” talk and relate to each other. (The baby playing Mommy, for example, is not allowed to cry.) In both of these play examples, everything—the child, the mother, the pencil, the horse, the teddy bear, “Mommy” and “Baby”—are what/who they are and, at the same time, other than what/who they are.
I ask you to see this kind of playing as scenes in a play (“Horsie Galloping,” “Mommy Dresses Baby”). Ditto the conversations that go on throughout the day, like this one: “Mama, baba, babababa”; “Yes, sweetie, that’s a little baby doll.” Such are the scenes in the ongoing performance of “The Life of the Developing Baby.” Even though mother and baby aren’t aware that they’re performing like the actors on a theatrical stage are, when we look at these players side by side, we can see that both casts of characters are being who they are and who they’re not. We can see ZPDs as performance stages created by people who develop along with their stagemaking. We can see development as socially-created performed activity. And if little children and their families and professional actors can do that, why can’t all of us, at any age and circumstance?
Spoiler Alert. We can.
Creating ZPDs (Performance Stages) Everywhere.
And we do. All over the world, more and more of “the rest of us” are being let in on the discovery that we perform our way to growth. Inner-city teens, adults in therapy, school children, work teams, disabled and diagnosed people of all ages are being invited to—and learning developmentally how to—create ZPDs. I call those who are inviting them performance activists, a new term for those who bring play, performance and improvisation to their work with children, teens, adults and entire communities. (See Note 3 for ways to learn more about performance activism.) They might be educators, community organizers, researchers, creative artists, doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, or theatre directors. They might work in schools, non-profits and NGOs, universities, outside of school programs, hospitals and mental health centers, prisons, consulting firms and human resource departments, refugee centers, women’s shelters, nursing homes, museums, consulting firms or think tanks.
They and those they work and play with have seen first hand what happens when people consciously perform and begin to see themselves as performers—the possibilities and choices it creates for how to see and be in and change the world. Some performance activists have my understanding of ZPDs, development and non-knowing growing, but most of them don’t. I love sharing it with them and seeing what comes of our conversation.
When Fred Newman and I made the connection between little children and their everyday life performance stages, and actors and their theatrical stages, the door to a new understanding of human development and learning opened. What we saw was that human beings develop through socially-created performed activity, creating the stage and the performance, creating ZPDs. We were amazed and excited. What possibilities! We began to look at different environments and life situations, including the work that we and our colleagues were doing in therapy, education and culture. Were people creating ZPDs? If not, could they? Would they?
Performing Therapy. One of the first things that happened was that we came to understand what was going on in Fred’s social therapy groups. Made up of people who came to therapy for a lot of different reasons, these groups were (and remain to this day) unusual in their focus on helping people develop emotionally, rather than “fixing” them, relieving their symptoms or finding the cause of their emotional distress. What’s more, helping people develop emotionally requires them to create the environment that makes this possible. And so social therapy groups are charged with the task of creating their therapy as an environment where everyone can grow emotionally—without any one knowing how to do it. They have to perform it without knowing. Their task (their work and play) is to create the environment in which to perform their therapy and their emotional growth.
Fred and I came to see that the group was creating the environment and the performance simultaneously. The group was becoming a ZPD—specifically, an emotional ZPD, as Fred and I called it. How? Mostly by learning a “new language” of emotionality. Typical therapy talk is individuals telling their stories—mostly “me and what happened to me” and “I have this problem” stories. Gradually, the social therapy group transforms this individualistic and problem oriented way of talking about emotions (“It’s just how I am, always in pain” or “Help me with my problem”) into a social, environment-building way of speaking (“How can what I say help to build our group?”). We saw that how the group does this transforming is playful—like the conversations between babbling babies and their caregivers—and improvisational—like that of improv comedy troupes (there will be more on improv in the next section). (See Note 4 for ways to learn more about social therapy groups.)
Over four decades Fred trained many social therapists who practice across the US and internationally. Former dancer and special education teacher Christine LaCerva is one of them. Christine went on to direct the New York-based social therapy practice and continue the training of new therapists that Fred began. She also expanded social therapy to children and families, especially those with labels and diagnoses of mental illness and developmental disability, with her unique multi-family groups. Any particular family has created its play and knows its “script” by heart. Putting families together makes public the family play each has created and came to therapy feeling stuck in. Putting families together increases the amount and kind of potential creators of a ZPD in which both the adults and the children might do new things that are beyond them and their current scripts and ways of relating. Putting families together allows them to engage in a creative environment-building process that helps them recognize the social and cultural nature of diagnosis and labels. Together, with the therapist for support, these families can play and perform both who they are and who they are becoming.
A colleague of mine, Peter Smagorinsky from the University of Georgia, recently published a very fine book (with a very long title!), Creating Positive Social Updrafts through Play and Performance: Fostering Creativity and Community among Autism-Spectrum Youth that includes a chapter by Christine LaCerva on her multi-family social therapy groups. It’s a great read. (See Note 5 for more about Peter’s book and Christine’s chapter.)
Peter, who is a great admirer of Vygotsky, has this to say about social therapy, which I think speaks to it as a non-knowing growing activity:
Designed as a playground for emotional and social growth, social therapy groups interrupt psychology’s fascination with the individual self and shifts attention to the group. It helps therapists and patients alike restrain the knee jerk impulse to dig into the psyche of the individual or analyze the dynamics of the family unit. In its place is an activity theoretical approach of organizing environments that facilitate both adults and children working together to create new ensemble performances of their relational lives. (See Note 6)
Performing School. Fred and I also came to understand that schools don’t create ZPDs. And we set about to create one that does.
I directed that school—a Vygotskian community school—during the 1990s. It was completely run as a theatrical performance. “How shall we perform school today?” was the daily question. Our goal was to develop the children (ages 4-13) and the teachers (who we called “learning directors”) as a community of developmental learners. I’ve written about this school—the Barbara Taylor School—many times, including devoting a chapter to it in the book Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models. I give quite a few examples of ZPD-creating in that chapter—and of the children’s imaginative ways of supporting each other to perform “a head taller” as mathematicians, scientists, test-takers, readers, and more. Nothing was off limits, performatorily speaking, as the following example of performing a temper tantrum shows. (I’ve shortened and summarized it.)
Walking around the school one day, I came across a performance within a performance. With an audience of about a half dozen children, one eight year-old and one of the learning directors were “staging” a circus. They stopped their performance for a “commercial break” performed by an eleven year-old (Justin) who very often had temper tantrums in school and at home, and another learning director (Len).
Len and Justin walked onto the imaginary stage. Len said, “Justin, you won’t be going to your speech therapist today.” Justin stopped in his tracks, yelled, cried and fell to the ground in a screaming temper tantrum. Len looked up at the audience for a moment, took some wads of paper out of the manila envelope he was holding and, arching them toward Justin’s mouth, loudly declared, “The miracle cure—‘Matchore Partz’ [Mature Parts]” which was written on the envelope. Justin “swallowed the pills.” He stood up and he and Len began the scene again. Len: “Justin, you won’t be going to your speech therapist today.” Justin looked up at him and calmly said, “Oh well, I guess I’ll go home then.” The audience applauded.
Justin carried with him diagnoses of specific and general learning disabilities and emotional problems. He had attended special ed schools until he entered the Barbara Taylor School at the end of the previous school year. His parents were concerned that he had “reached a plateau,” as they heard often happens with children like Justin, and that he just wasn’t developing any longer. Justin’s emotional development was at a standstill. He repeatedly did what he knew how to do—which, far too often, was to have a tantrum.
Like most of us, Justin was unaware that this particular emotional response of his, perhaps frustration or disappointment, was socially constructed by himself and others. And it didn’t occur to him that there were other things he could do (dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands) when he was told that the plans had changed.
In the commercial for Matchore Partz, Justin performed his temper tantrum. This experience is vastly different from “having” a temper tantrum. The experience/activity of performing who you are and think you are (your fixed identity) on a real or imaginary stage for an audience doesn’t look or feel the same as when you’re “just doing what you do” without conscious awareness. It can help move you beyond identity as the construct by which you understand and relate to yourself and others. And in my book, that’s development.
Following this performance with another one in which Justin performed calm was yet another different experience from the usual having of a temper tantrum. Both performing the tantrum and performing calm were, at that time, beyond what Justin could do “on his own” and without participating with others in creating the performatory ZPD. But creating the stage and performing on it, Justin and others broke the pattern. They played with what had become an automatic response and, in the process, created new responses. This transformed Justin’s tantrums from being his only response in certain situations to being one among others. He now had more possibilities. And in my book, that’s development.
Performing gives the lie to the either/or paradigm of reality (of knowing)—the having to choose between permanence and change, between I and not I. It demonstrates that one is both permanent and changing, oneself and other than oneself. And in my book, that’s development.
Y is for “Yes, and…”
“Yes, and…” is the golden rule that makes improv comedy work. It’s how the players build their scenes. It means, “I hear you and accept what you say and I add to it.” Here is a (not funny) example—“This train is going so fast.” “Yes, and we might get to Boston early.” “Yes, and then we can have lunch before the big meeting.” Just like that the scene is created of two people, probably co-workers, riding a morning train to Boston for a big meeting that will take place around lunchtime, but at which as far as they know lunch won’t be served.
Contrast—“This train is going so fast.” “No it’s not.” “Yes, it is.” The “no” stops the scenebuilding.
“Yes, and…” is much more than a technique to get laughs at a comedy club. It’s a huge part of what makes us human. It’s how we become members of the human culture. It’s how babies become speakers (and much more)—in creating the ZPD. Baby: “Wa wa.” Daddy: “Yes, the doggie is drinking water.” Baby: “Doggie wa wa.” Very few fathers studied improv comedy and learned the rule of “yes, and.” But 99.99% of fathers accept (say “yes” to) their baby’s babble and add to it, build with it (“and” it), as in the example. Accept and build. It is simply, gloriously—and literally—a humanizing way to relate!
So, we develop into speakers and language-makers through “yes, and…” But then something happens. People stop “Yes, and-ing” us so much (and we them). As babbling fades and we become competent speakers of the language of our family, community and culture, we more and more hear “No” and “Yes, but…”—and this continues throughout our lifetime. I’m not suggesting that we never say “No” again. “No” is often warranted, not only to keep children from running into the street but also among adults in many situations. What I am inviting you to do is to take the “negative temperature” of your conversations and those around you. Are they filled with denials, rejections and negations of what someone says? Do they more often than not get tense, lead to some bad feelings, turn into an argument or go nowhere? Do they have to?
That depends on what you and your conversational partners are doing together. If you’re doing knowing, then the negative temperature is likely to be high. Your friend says something you know to be wrong about a recent event, your co-worker wants to go out after work to a bar you don’t like, your sister wants to spend a lot of money she doesn’t have on a vacation. What feels like the right thing to do in these situations is to negate the person—to correct the “facts,” to reject the bar choice, to tell your sister she’s a jerk. It feels right because we’ve been socialized into the knowing paradigm—in effect, we’re saying, “Knowing is what matters. And I know better.”
You might well be wondering how you can “yes, and” in these situations and many others when there’s a difference of opinion or a disagreement or you strongly object to what someone is saying to you, either because you know it to be false or you find it hurtful or disturbing. What else can you do but let the person know what you think and how you feel? Should you really be hiding that? Before you answer, ask yourself these questions first: How come, right now, I need to say what I know or think? How will that be for the relationship I have with this person? And if you do this, other ways to respond just might occur to you. Maybe you’ll let yourself be curious (“Gee, tell me more about how come you like that place so much.”) Maybe you’ll take it as an offer to explore your differences (“We agree on so many things and here’s a situation we see so differently!”) Maybe you’ll give you and your conversational partner a new challenge (“How can I support you even though I disagree with what you want to do?”) Maybe you’ll …
Practicing “yes, and” can help you expand how you listen. [See Note 7 for some of who said what about the virtues of “yes, and…”) You can learn to hear offers, instead of hearing opinions or truths or falsehoods. What’s even better is you can actually learn to hear both at the same time! In improv as a performance technique done by actors and comedians, it’s often said that you have to accept what someone says as “true” in order for the scene to work. I’ve never been comfortable with that formulation or that rule. I believe you can accept it without the truth part IF you accept that something doesn’t have to be either “this” or “that” but that it can be both what it is and also something else. In other words, if you reject the dualism of the knowing paradigm. For, off the theatrical stage in life’s activities, including most importantly in the conversations we create, what someone says might well be “false” or abhorrent to you and be an offer at the same time. One doesn’t preclude the other, since everything is what it “is” and other than what it “is.” It’s the primacy of knowing and its pillars of dualism and dichotomy that keep us from “yes, and-ing” throughout our lifetimes.
I hope that you are beginning to see “yes, and” as a kind of play. Playing with others. Playing with language and meaning. Playing with patterned behaviors and ways of speaking. Play as in creating ZPDs (the environment and what happens “in” it, the stage and the performance, the tool-and-result). Play as in non-knowing growing (playing and performing “a head taller”). Play as in a dance between imagination and rules (as Vygotsky described it). Play as in creating your conversations, instead of merely having the ones you know how to have. And, most importantly, play as an improvisational way you can be with people other than very little children and, thereby, create new possibilities for growth throughout a lifetime.
X is for the Unknown.
It is possibilities that lead directly to our next letter, X. Whatever you remember from high school algebra, it probably includes that X stands for the unknown. Ever wonder how come? Terry Moore did and he relates the curious way it happened in this 2012 TED talk (See Note 8.)
In algebra, of course, we find the unknown by a particular mathematical problem-solving process. We “solve for x.” In this case, x is unknown, but it is knowable. In life, however, x is not knowable. We don’t solve for it or find it. We create it. We create the unknown.
“Creating the unknown.” As I write this, I become aware of how unusual a phrase it is. I’m pretty sure it’s an oxymoron, which is what opposite or contradictory or seemingly illogical terms juxtaposed are called by people who like to categorize how we speak and write (what they call “rhetorical devices”). How can you create the unknown? If it’s not known, how can you do anything at all with it? And if you create it, doesn’t it then become known?
To see that we not only can, but we must, create the unknown in order to grow as people and as civilizations, we need to step more deeply into the biases of the knowing paradigm to see how subtle and pervasive it is, so that we can then step out of it. The first step is to explore what “unknown” means in our knowing culture. Does it simply mean “not known?” Not if this list of common synonyms is any indication: nameless, undiscovered, unexplained, unexplored, unidentified and unrecognized. These related words all imply potential knowability—that the unknown isn’t really “not known” but rather “not yet known.” And potential knowers are implicated as well, those who could name, discover, explain, explore, identify, or recognize the currently unknown object or entity. In other words, “unknown” refers to something potentially knowable by knowers.
This kind of “unknown” (the not yet known kind) isn’t what I mean by X as a fundamental of (non-knowing) growing. “Unknown,” to me, means not able to be known, having no knower, unknowable. Unlike mine, the dictionary definitions reflect the primacy of knowing, for example, “incapable of being known or understood” and “beyond human experience or understanding.” Both of them presuppose and imply that knowing is necessary for experience and for understanding, something I take issue with.
Let’s explore what I mean by “unknown”—which, in one word, is “unknowable.” I wasn’t sure if “unknowable” was a ‘real’ word (that is, in the dictionary) or something I made up, so I looked it up. It’s there. If we examine the associations we make with, and the images evoked by, “unknowable” we find that they too are revealing of the strong cultural bias toward knowing. Compare the synonyms I listed above for “unknown” with these common synonyms for “unknowable”: cabalistic, esoteric, mysterious, occult, and mystical. (See Note 9.) There’s quite a different picture being painted! A picture of some other world (maybe even a scary one), not the one we “know.” In the dominant culture, “unknowable” is, so it seems, not of this world. Such is our obsession with knowing that it’s inconceivable that life on earth could be unknowable.
But of course it is. Much, maybe even most, of it. You might have plans for the next five hours, but what you wind up doing is unknowable. If you do what you planned, you’ll think that’s because it was knowable. If you don’t, what will you think? Probably that something got in the way and the plans changed. Remember Justin, who was so obsessed with knowing he couldn’t tolerate a change in plans—until he was invited to perform? You might have an adult version of Justin’s tantrum, or you might go with the flow. Either way, it probably won’t occur to you to consider that what was going to happen was not knowable until it happened.
Holding fast to the belief that the happenings of our lives are knowable can get us into deep trouble. (So too can believing that what will happen in politics and world events is knowable by the experts, which we are witness to each day). We can be unprepared, both materially and emotionally, if things seem to take a sudden turn because we “thought we knew for sure” how they’d go. Accepting—better yet, embracing— unknowability helps us be more, not less, prepared. More prepared to participate in what’s transpiring and give some direction to it. More prepared to create with others what will emerge from the process. More prepared to improvise. More prepared to grow.
Embracing unknowability is a way to live a “yes, and…” life. It can not only lower the negative temperature of your conversations, but also help you see offers in some pretty grim situations. One of the greats of the musical improv world, Stephen Nachmanovitch, writes articulately about the value and joy of an improvisational life. Here, he focuses on some of the grimly unknowable we can build with:
Pieces of art can be built; incredible things can be built from conflict. They can be built on uncertainty; they can be built on fear. That’s the great thing about this kind of work, it doesn’t have to be nice; it doesn’t have to be known. But if you are using your capacity to listen and if you are using the innate structuring ability that’s built into you as a 4. 5 billion year old living organism, then you can use fear, conflict, difficulty, unknow-ability as the basis for doing incredible things … (See Note 10)
Or, as Fred Newman used to say, “We can create with crap.”
Creating Our Growing and Growing Our Creativity
The X, Y and Z of growing you’ve just read about—X (the unknown/unknowable), Y (“Yes, and…”) and Z (Zones of Proximal Development)—lighten our cognitive load (our Overweight Brain) in favor of activating and nourishing our creativity. What’s needed to grow, to become, to transform our culture, politics and institutions, to make a better world are ways for human beings to exercise our creative power. I’m not talking here of you, me, Steve Jobs or Mozart making something special—original, novel, unique, and perhaps extraordinary or extraordinarily significant—and being ordained as a “creative person.” That’s the dominant understanding of creativity. No surprise that this understanding reflects and perpetuates the cultural assumptions that place the individual center stage and products as what’s of value.
As these assumptions are challenged, so too is that understanding of creativity (and I’m by far not the only one who’s doing the challenging). (See Note 11 for others.) Rather than being a trait of certain individuals, we challengers see creativity all around us. We see creativity as a social phenomenon, a relational process, and one of the most important ways human beings give expression to our connection with each other, with the natural environment, and with the cultural artifacts (things and ideas) that—yes, we created. People, in all kinds and sizes of groupings across centuries, created the computer I’m writing with, the print or e-reader screen you’re reading, the very words that are appearing, the modes of exchange that connect us. Every single thing you can see in front of you at this very moment is evidence of the human creative process.
And so is how you see these things and what you understand them to be. We create meanings, conceptions, systems, structures, understandings. And one of the most non-developmental ways of understanding that human beings have created is the one that blocks out the human social-historical process that created the meanings, conceptions, systems and so on. We’re left with unmoored understandings and definitions and “that’s what and how things are,” which then govern what we do and how we relate. The individualized, product-oriented understanding of creativity was itself a human creation. The irony is that this very understanding we created keeps us from exercising our immense capacity to create!
I believe that new understandings emerge along with new activity. I’ve read many of the challengers who put forth social and relational understandings of creativity and learned a lot from them. But I’m convinced that my new understanding came from—and was simultaneous with—throwing myself into X, practicing Y(es, and…) and building Z(PDs). I invite you to creatively imitate me!
Notes to Help You Go Deeper and Broader.
Note 1. There are several versions and translations of Vygotsky’s writings and lectures. For his deconstruction of previous theories of the relationship between learning and development and presentation of his own, I prefer the version contained in Volume 1 of The Collected Works of L.S. Vygotsky, published in 1987 by Plenum.
Note 2. This quote is taken from the chapter, “The Role of Play in Development,” in Mind in Society. This small collection of Vygotsky’s writings, compiled by Michael Cole, Vera John-Steiner, Sylvia Scribner and Ellen Souberman and published in 1978 by Harvard University Press, is credited with beginning the groundswell of interest in Vygotsky’s work that continues unabated to this day. It was not until the last decade or so, however, that Vygotsky’s ideas about play and development have been recognized.
Note 3. Performance activism is an emerging trend of community action and social change efforts that involve performance, play and creative arts. Performing the World, a conference and community that Fred and I, along with other colleagues, launched in 2001, plays an important role in organizing, connecting and supporting performance activists. You can read a history of performance activism in a chapter Dan Friedman and I wrote, “Performing the World: The Performance Turn in Social Activism”—which appears in the 2014 book Performance Studies in Motion.
Note 4. The most comprehensive sources of material on social therapy are the following sites, where you’ll find articles to download, a listing of full-length books, and blog posts: eastsideinstitute.org; socialtherapygroup.com; loisholzman.org.
Note 5. Peter’s book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is titled Creativity and Community among Autism-Spectrum Youth: Creating Positive Social Updrafts through Play and Performance. It includes chapters by different authors who write from personal experience about anime, theatre, poetry and therapy as entries into community for people of difference. Peter’s introductory chapters give an important Vygotskian perspective to the rest of the volume. Christine’s chapter is titled “Social Therapy and Family Play.”
Note 6. This quote appears in Peter’s book on page 22.
Note 7. Books, videos and blogs abound delineating the virtues of “Yes, and…” and learning improv.
Here are a few of my favorite videos—
And some terrific books and articles—
Performance Breakthrough: A Radical Approach to Success at Work. Cathy Salit
Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City. Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton
Note 9. I got these synonyms from this website
Note 10. This quote is taken from “Improvisation as a Tool for Investigating Reality,” a keynote address Stephen Nachmanovitch gave to the International Society for Improvised Music in 2006.
Note 11. One of my favorite thinkers about creativity is Alfonso Montouri. He’s a professor at the California Institute for Integral Studies. His writings, including “The Evolution of Creativity and the Creativity of Evolution,” can be downloaded at https://ciis.academia.edu/AlfonsoMontuori. Another creativity writer is Keith Sawyer, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. You can find out all about him at http://www.unc.edu/home/rksawyer/