Seminar: Seeing the World through Indian Foreign Service Eyes – A Blueprint for ‘Diplomatic’ Fieldwork

Greetings from the Coombs Seminar Room A at The Australian National University where India specialist Kate Sullivan is presenting Seeing the World through Indian Foreign Service Eyes — A Blueprint for ‘Diplomatic Fieldwork’ in the study of International Relations (IR).

The talk and topic is particularly interesting to me in that the study readily lends itself to the application of Aspect-Oriented Thinking (a multidisciplinary methodology developed by Dr Shayne Flint) in tackling the integration of the necessary domain knowledge and structure.

In the first part of her talk, Ms Sullivan makes the following interesting points about IR study.

IR is not culturally-neutral: This affects the study of IR theories due to the following factors:

  • Complexity
  • Epistemology
  • Universalist assumptions
  • IR’s ‘debt to the West’

Reforming the discipline of IR study: These issues have been recognized by intellectuals and efforts are underway to reform the discipline, in particular the handling of culture in the context of

  • Foreign Policy Analysis
  • Strategic Studies

IR studies are obviously multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary in nature, encountering issues which can to a large extent be ameliorated by exploiting interpretive contexts. This work presents interesting cross-cutting concerns with current research across The Australian National University by Ziyad Alshaikh in management of context, suggesting effective use of a Context Dynamics Matrix.

In the second part of her talk, Ms Sullivan visits the debate surrounding the narrative exploration in her research studies, successfully arguing a case for contextualizing the implicit nature of theories and methodologies in asking questions about India’s aspirations to be an institutionally recognized ‘global power’.

Finally, Ms Sullivan outlined the effects various drivers and forces governing Indian foreign policy decisions and their resulting outcomes. She argued that we should look at the context of the narrative concerns at a sufficient level of abstraction and detail and map it to an ethnographic effect. This entails a view of the Indian Foreign Service from a perspective of:

  • Data collection/study/interpretation
  • ‘Emic’ (insider) verus ‘etic’ (outsider) approach
  • Attempt to grasp the making of meaningful social behavior
  • Encourage reflexivity on part of the researcher

These research questions are not too different from the questions I seek to answer in the field of contextual concept workflow management (answering the four canonical questions of who, what, when, why), and the need to explicitize the context-tie-in.

Ms Sullivan also suggested that there is a progressive change in the sensitivity with which India has projected its image abroad and in the international arena. She discussed what makes the study of historical and current ethnographies challenging and how academic research could manage ‘in-the-field’ analysis of individuals who seek to inform public policy in international relations.

Finally, there was some time spent in general discussion and questions on issues affecting studies in International Relations. Points raised recognized the need to resolve cultural forces, challenges in marrying inconsistencies between theoretical and practical approaches and the academic material in the context of this research.

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Seminar: Rethinking Systems Thinking

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Speaker: Shayne Flint, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science (DCS, ANU)

Date: Thursday, 9 October 2008

Time: 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Venue: CSIT Seminar Room, N101, CSIT Building, Building (108), North Road, ANU (campus map)

Website: Seminars @ CECS

Enquiries: Dr Malcolm Newey
Systems Thinking refers to a set of approaches that can be used to learn about and make decisions regarding improvements to dynamically complex systems. They are distinguished from other approaches by their focus on the whole and the study of interactions among the parts of a system, rather than the parts themselves. While focusing on interactions helps us understand complex systems and identify appropriate improvements, it is necessary to use detailed knowledge of the parts and other aspects of a system to implement any improvements.

Dr Flint introduces a novel Systems Thinking approach which uses detailed knowledge of the parts to both understand the whole, and to build the systems required to implement necessary improvements.

This seminar is part of the DCS Seminar Series.

Shayne Flint is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Computer Science, Australian National University, and is an active member of the department’s Software-Intensive Systems Engineering group. Dr Flint has broad industry experience and is the originator of Aspect-Oriented Thinking, a systematic approach to developing, managing and integrating the multi-disciplinary knowledge and expertise required to understand and improve complex systems.

Original Seminar Notice at: Rethinking Systems Thinking, CECS Seminar List, The Australian National University, 2008

Introduction to Research Integration for Knowledge and Action

The ANU College of Medicine and Health Sciences and the the ANU Integration Network are organizing a short course of graduate Students on 8 and 9 September 2008.

Introduction to Research Integration for Knowledge and Action is a short one-day course introducing graduate students to integration studies and its role in their research.

An interesting part of the course is the opening dinner on 8 September 2008. The dinner is a pre-requisite for the course and is aimed to introduce the participants and course leaders.

But it is not all fun and games for graduate students. 9 September promises to be a marathon session of enlightenment from 09:00 to 16:00!

This should be an interesting course to attend, particularly so since my work focuses on informing dialog in decisions.

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Varietas: Multidisciplinary Themes in Teaching

Pinnacle is the premier Teacher Training program for PhD students at The Australian National University.

Among other activities in the training program, the students are required to facilitate and organize Teaching Interest Groups in their local area.

Varietas-TiG is a Teaching Interest Group (TiG) that focuses on multidisciplinary themes in teaching.

Topics of discussion will cover:

  1. A multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and course management
  2. Reconciling different pedagogical approaches across disciplines
  3. Incorporating a wider spectrum of research-led themes as guides for teaching
  4. Integrating reusable knowledge across disciplines in skills and services-oriented curriculum
  5. Develop an effective methodology to reuse the semantic richness of multiple disciplines

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