Australian Society of General Semantics Inc.
President’s Report: October 2009
The year has seen major changes in the lives of AGS members, but the identity and activities of AGS have continued at a steady, modest pace. I think that it's important for us to celebrate our identity as a group that's probably among the longest running GS groups in the world, in terms of continuous shared activities and membership.
We should rejoice in our diversity of talents and energies: Laurie with his strong focus on intellectual rigour and passion for the time-binding value of gs to humanity, Gavan and now Pauline for their congenial hosting of Tuesday discussion groups and weekend seminars, David for his loyal public-officer duties and professional presentation of seminars, and Dion for his enthusiastic leadership and participation in seminars. Betty's keen engagement in discussions and contribution on points of interest has been important to us, as have the contributions of Jeanne, Frank and others on occasions.
Thank you to the loyal office-holders for your work in promoting the activities, communicating with members, maintaining the web page, engaging with the international gs community, keeping statutory records, collecting and spending money, maintaining the library, hosting and presenting activities. Thank you also for those volunteering to do it again for the coming year!
We've had another very steady year, with the loyal core of members obviously finding some personal benefit in our various activities. Members have participated enthusiastically and maintained warm and intimate friendships. This all in the context of building and expanding our knowledge and application of GS.
Enquiries generated by our website have resulted in new members in Queensland and Victoria. These are most welcome, but bring a challenge for maintaining contact and nurturing engagement, which is difficult for us to satisfy.
We have real difficulties in recruitment, as traditional promotional means such as newspaper or other advertisements have been very ineffective. Apart from people finding "Science and Sanity" in libraries, by far the most effective introduction to GS has been by personal recommendation. Let's all rehearse our response to that most feared question "What is GS?" (Is it like asking a Christian "What is God?").
A number of directions for promoting members have been mooted, including Laurie's "Coffee Club" and an improved AGS web site. Use of posters and other means to promote further AGS activities beyond Sefton in Sydney will be considered as resources permit. Some "special projects", yet to be actualised, may prove to be an effective outreach.
The Melbourne Chapter of AGS!
Laurie and I have been able (in the context of family weddings!) to meet some eager GS followers in Melbourne this year. Laurie in particular, has spent many hours with Tom and Earl at the two sets of meetings, resulting in the proposal to inaugurate the Melbourne Chapter of AGS.
These two bring personal and professional resources to us, which are most welcome. We look forward to developing the Melbourne Connection by strengthening the personal contacts, sharing resources, and exploring together what GS has to offer.
I am presenting a proposal for formal establishment of the Melbourne Chapter, as a motion for the 2009 AGM.
Proposed First National AGS Conference
The strong connection in Melbourne has prompted the proposal for a "National GS Conference" to bring together as many as possible of the people who have expressed some interest in GS, and also provide a possibility for public engagement. I am presenting a proposal to this effect as a motion for the 2009 AGM.
Our Group Activities
The Tuesday Night Study group has continued for several years, to meet at Gavan's home in Sefton, for study and reflection. I am not sure if the stated objectives are closely adhered to, but the group is clearly important in the lives of its participants.
The monthly one-day seminar series covered wide-ranging topics including ...
* Truth, Operationalism and the GS way (What do we mean by "Truth"?)
* The Non-identifying personality
* What is this GS business, anyway?
* Developing skills for applying general semantics formulations
* Conflict Resolution / Self reflexiveness
* Conflict Resolution / Formulations from Bois "The Art of Awareness"
* Formulations of Self reflexiveness
* No I Don't Want to Join a Book Club - Letting go of youth
* How to Live Longer
* What stops us applying GS principals?
* Christmas get together – Movie, discussion over dinner.
Presenters utilised a variety of techniques to maximise interest and retention. One of the familiar challenges is to meaningfully include newcomers, as well as "moving ahead" with new material for old members (Oops - members of long-standing).
Sadly, GS literature is characterised by what newcomers might label as "jargon", with special words and uses of familiar words in a new context. Many of the recent writers in GS have made an effort to communicate effectively in "everyday language", but we struggle to "maintain rigour and purity" while attempting to make sense to the "uninitiated".
Not all of our meetings are dedicated to processes of
intellectual rigour. The beginnings and endings of get-togethers are a time for
sharing experiences and plans at a personal level, since many of us have a
long-standing association, but do not see each other between GS meetings.
This is not an elementalistic division between "business and personal" matters, since much of the "GS study time" utilises case-studies drawn from our own lives and consideration of how to use GS on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, what would be the purpose of the discipline if it could not be applied thus?
I think that our frequent friendly dissention, for example, on the issue of whether a meeting contain too much frivolity, too much socialising, or too much jargon, are an inevitable outcome from our various personalities, origins, and objectives. It would be an unbalanced group indeed if we were all the same (Oops - very similar) in these respects!
If we confine our expectation of potential AGS members to those who love reading "Science and Sanity", then the field would be limited indeed. Pauline's insights and application of GS principles into the personalities and processes of her family life are just as relevant as those that I might bring from my workplace, or David from his research environment.
A vital element in the value of the Tuesday evening and monthly daytime gatherings has been the hospitality offered by Gavan and Pauline. This has extended not only to use of their home and its many facilities, but to provision of the most enjoyable meals for various numbers of participants. The multi-tasking Gavan seems to be able to maintain an input of wisdom from his other lives and incisive commentary on the presentations, all while brewing and serving excellent coffees, boiling rice and stewing amazing creations (including vegetarian and gluten-free options) - and even insists on doing the washing-up! Thank you, Pauline and Gavan.
Pauline and her family have generously invited us to their creek-view home in Towradgie a number of times, for a refreshing change from city life.
Between-meeting contacts by way of telephone and email, and special-purpose visits have been an integral part of the networking.
The AGS Library
The AGS Library, kindly hosted by Gavan, has continued to grow during the year, with the addition of periodicals and volumes. I have found it a most useful resource to access, without having to maintain lots of books of my own. A time-binding way to ameliorate the clutter of notes and articles etc. is to organise them electronically on our website. This has advantages of sharing them around, making them searchable, and ensuring secure storage and backup.
Laurie's studies in Linguistic Sociology received an impetus from materials discovered during his trip to the UK. This is a field closely allied to GS, with abundant scope for cross-fertilisation. Laurie continues energetic and wide-ranging study and sharing of material, particularly this year, from the works of Norman Doidge and Chester Porter.
David has supplied insights from his ongoing research in corporate decision-making. Robert has shared material from his work in social justice and inflammatory letters to the media. Betty, Pauline, Dion, Jeanne and Frank have shared matters from their professional and private lives.
These contributions all inform and enrich our interactions. They can all be considered in the context of (for example) identification, evaluation, semantic reactions and levels of abstraction. The challenge is not in having a nice time discussing them over cake and coffee, but in applying powerful principles when the cake and coffee are long finished!
AGS is a small but valued member of the global GS community. Laurie and David, when visiting the Society and the Institute in the USA, were warmly received as close friends and colleagues.
Our library continues to receive copies of "ETC", which is full of news and articles from the GS community. David, in particular, has been quite successful in having his articles published there.
Our website www.ags.org.au has accumulated a considerable amount of material from our activities etc. It has attracted several enquiries and has much greater potential.
The website is an important medium in terms of linking us with the global GS community, presenting our material to a vast audience and attracting membership. I believe that it is a powerful medium for time-binding investment.
Contacts with other Disciplines
GS cannot flourish in a cultural vacuum, so it is important that we forge links with other like-minded groups and individuals. Like "all" good communication, I propose that this should be a two-way process: we need to improve our own awareness of alternative disciplines, to compare and contrast them to what GS has to offer.
Individual members bring experiences and links to the group as a matter of course. My own contact with the Jung Soc. in Canberra, and an ongoing Jungian discussion group, has been a most valuable source of information and insight into group process. This, of course, acts in both directions, and I believe that all members carry learning and insight into their wider lives.
But we are surely not developing these contacts to the fullest extent possible. Perhaps initiatives like exchanging journals, and placing materials into libraries should be explored. Providing guest speakers for other groups can be an effective form of introduction. Our web site can certainly be developed to make us more accessible to those in search of the wisdom and fellowship that we offer!
Financial and Legal
Thank you to our loyal Office Bearers for the past year and volunteers for the current year. The jobs of Pres, V.Pres, Secretary, Treasurer etc are not onerous, but are important.
We continue to effectively manage our small cash-flow, based on collection for seminars, and expenditure on IGS Membership, Subscriptions and reference materials. Although the absence of financial commitments protects us against financial peril, we are unable to fund, for example, any substantial public events, promotions or travel exchanges.
Laurie's proposed initiative in bringing new people together in a "coffee club" setting has the potential to introduce new members to AGS, as GS techniques are used to consider issues of concern to the participants. Laurie's great experience in small-group work, and Betty's perceptive and personable contribution, should prove effective in forging a group that is most valuable for the participants,
Prospects and Challenges for the Year Ahead
We continue our weekly and monthly meetings and wider correspondence with a small but very loyal membership. This obviously fulfils a need in the members and plays a role in the world-wide GS community. I have been heartened by the very warm response to our correspondence and visits with our international colleagues.
However, we have not been successful in expanding our membership, forging effective links with like-minded organisations locally, or contributing in a corporate manner to public or academic debate. We have not established any presence beyond the regions convenient to
our own travels. That means that we are not time-binding in any real fashion, beyond our immediate and personal spheres. (Let me know if you disagree with this assertion!).
My ongoing participation in AGS is very satisfying in terms of social contact, personal and professional development. I have great respect and affection for the members, and value your friendship. But these are personal benefits, and I don't feel a great sense of AGS contributing strongly to our community.
Let us aspire in 2010 to strengthen ties with local and international communities, expand our membership, and devise effective channels for communicating our discipline to a wider public.