We at Re-authoring Teaching hope to contribute to a richer conversation about how, as a community, we make space for useful dialogue about all the variations and emerging approaches. In a previous News Blog entitled What are Insider Witness Practices, we posted some background information in the hopes that by educating ourselves, we can each decide for ourselves about the value, ethics and possibilities for this set of practices in training, supervision and higher education. Below you will find links to the Newsletter that sparked the controversy, to a previous newsletter that ironically argued against handling differences in the narrative community in injurious ways, and to some initial responses from those who feel like the descriptions of Insider Witnessing Practices have been inaccurate and unfair, and who feel that the process by which these concerns have been aired involved questionable ethics and use of power. We also include some of our Board’s contributions as we reflect on Narrative Luminaries, Online Ethics, and our intentions to continue this conversation. Please join us!
Vancouver School of Narrative Therapy October & December Newsletters
Regarding Injurious Speech
I feel quite strongly committed towards living the Musketeers code: all for one and one for all. I also feel it is crucial at this time that in order for narrative therapy to survive it is fundamentally important to collectively band together. Banding together in an ethic of trustworthiness.
I hold no pollyannaish belief that we have to fully agree with one another, or for that matter, have to become best friends or even like each other! But a certain amount of respect for difference and the realization that we may be pulling the therapeutic rope in the same direction might go a long way. Because participating in slanderous and injurious speech about our community members is (in my humble opinion) an entirely reckless way forward.
Regarding David Epston, Tom Carlson & Insider Witness Practices
Calgary Women’s Health Collective Responses
Their Call For Next Steps
The Calgary Women’s Health Collective posted on their Facebook page eleven questions to the VSNT faculty, seeking to shed light on the December newsletter by Stephen Madigan, and toward repair and redress in the Narrative Community. Here are their first five questions:
Respectfully, we have some questions in response.
1.What has happened here?
2. How might members of the Narrative community make sense of the 2 recent newsletters, when the October newsletter warns of practices of injurious speech and calls for a spirit of solidarity and the December newsletter seems to be an unapologetic engagement in said practices of injurious speech?
3. What is the rationale for lowering the standards of fair and thoughtful critique of practice between members of our community to personal attacks of this nature? Do you all stand in agreement that the remarks in the recent December newsletter satisfy any ethical standards for our engagements with each other?
4. How do we engage in vigorous conversations with each other when we are in disagreement about practices?
5. What is the rationale of posting these remarks in a newsletter that does not leave the implicated parties with a way to respond?
The Calgary Women’s Health Collective
Who holds the story telling rights?
Please read the second CWHC Facebook post, which questions the collective agreement about the contents – and tone- of the newsletter letter
We are calling on you to shed some light on the recent December newsletter from Stephen Madigan that evoked a royal “we” and so presumably was sent out in all your names. We have been long time friends and colleagues of Stephen Madigan, have attended his workshops, and have learned a great deal about beautiful Narrative therapy practices from him, including the aforementioned question about story-telling rights. In this light, the story that emerges in the newsletter is all the more baffling.
The Calgary Women’s Health Collective
What Can We Do?
In light of recent events in the Narrative community, The Reauthoring Teaching Board – and community- would like to contribute to efforts to develop constructive conversation about online ethics and etiquette. We are driven largely by the belief that the Internet is a vast resource which opens up new possibilities for engagement, connection, education and community-building.
However, we must also acknowledge- perhaps now more than ever- the multi-storiedness of the Internet. The same medium which allows us to build relationship can just as easily assist us in tearing it down. Some of the most remarkable, useful elements of online communication- such as its speed and ability to connect us across distance- can just as easily promote rash responses and an erasing of our humanity, or the humanity of others.
We are sitting with several questions related to this topic, and we are certain there will be more to come. Hopefully they will spur rich, respectful thought processes and dialogue across our global Narrative Therapy community:
- What kind of online community do we want to co-create?
- How might we go about conversations when we disagree with one another?
- How do we make space for dissent, worry, doubt, and concern?
- How can we best maintain personal integrity, as well as the integrity of the work, through our online communications with one another?
- How do hold self and others accountable for the effects of our words when we are not conversing face to face?
- What is the best and most accessible platform for dialogue and dissent, one which allows all parties equal access and ability to respond?
- How do we remain aligned with our values and preferred ways of communicating in the face of forces such as anger, disagreement, and defensiveness?
Cherished Narrative Luminaries
In beginning to ponder the above questions, we are collecting cherished Narrative tenets that represent the broader philosophy guiding our work. These guiding principles are like luminaries that can help guide us in our work and through darkness. Our hope is that together we can create a culture of reflective practice that orients us to “Walk the Talk.” Is there something you would like to add? Please send us your ideas through our Contact link. We are sincerely interested in your responses!
What are our most cherished narrative guiding principles?
Using the Internet in Productive and Socially Responsible Ways
Netiquette is a combination of the words network and etiquette, and is defined as a set of rules for acceptable online behavior. Similarly, online ethics focuses on the acceptable use of online resources in an online social environment.
Both phrases are frequently interchanged and are often combined with the concept of a ’netizen’ which itself is a contraction of the words internet and citizen and refers to both a person who uses the internet to participate in society, and an individual who has accepted the responsibility of using the internet in productive and socially responsible ways.
Being online and being able to share practices across geographies is quite a marvelous thing. However the digital world can also readily become a place where a lot of damage is done in a very short period of time. The digital world is a space where perceived distance can lead to words being used that might not otherwise be used or words being used that can engage readers’ imaginations in unproductive ways. We are all pioneers in establishing ethics for online interactions.
Many interactions in the Narrative Community are online now and up for consumption by community members familiar, unfamiliar and interested in narrative practices. What are some of the some ethical guidelines for our online interactions? What does it mean to be a good Netizen? Here are some starters proposed by Webroot:
- Recognizing that the internet is not some new world in which anything goes, but rather a new dimension or extension of our existing society.
- Applying the same standards and values online as we are accustomed to applying in the rest of our lives. In simple terms this means that the values society has in place against such things as hate speech and bigotry, copyright violations and other forms of theft, child exploitation and child pornography, remain intact. As do the values around courtesy, kindness, openness, and treating others with the same respect we wish to receive.
- Accepting that the laws which are currently in place to protect the rights and dignity of citizens apply online, and that where needed, laws are updated to reflect these rights in the extended environment. Theft online is still theft, stalking, bullying, harassing, tormenting online is still abusive, and so on.
- Acknowledging that cultural differences remain, even when national boundaries no longer apply. This requires finding a way to accept that the social values and norms of some netizens will not be the social values and norms of all netizens.For companies, being a good netizen, applying online ethics, or using netiquette also includes:
– Respecting the rights to privacy assumed and possessed by citizens in their offline interactions.
– Maintaining transparency in their policies and actions so that consumers can easily and quickly understand how that company is using their information, protecting them from harm, and giving users a clear means of ownership and self-determination as to what is, and isn’t shared about them.
Continuing the Conversation
We want to begin this conversation here, and will also be on the lookout for similar conversations cropping up in other contexts. It is our hope that these various conversations will coalesce and find a central home, so that as many as possible can participate. We hope to continue to generate productive dialogue that aligns with our philosophy and values. Is there something you would like to add? Please contact us by leaving a comment below or through our Contact link. We also welcome reflections and questions regarding this Blog Post on our Facebook page. We are sincerely interested in your responses!
Please note: Trolling is defined as making a deliberately offensive or provocative online post with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them. Alternatively, we wish to open a forum for very careful, deliberate and earnest responses. Let’s draw from our best skills in facilitating difficult conversations and being relationally respectful. No trolling please!
A message from la Fabrique Narrative (France)
We at the Fabrique Narrative are shocked and distressed by the article in VSNT newsletter by S. Madigan. We are saddened to see differences of opinion and view point expressed in a manner that appears to us to be lacking totally in respect and human courtesy. As Narrative Practices develop it seems natural and healthy that we question each others’ practices, with respect, and dignity.
However M. Madigan’s article brings forward the question of ethical questioning, done first of all, in a person to person forum with the others and not in a public bashing.
M. Madigan says : “I of course would never dare speak for Michael White, but I’d like to imagine that he, like the rest of us, valued the…” and we would like to invoke the spirit of Michael White in saying: I (we) of course would never dare speak for Michael White, but (we’d)I’d like to imagine that he, like the rest of us, valued above all respect, honest differences of position, above all expressed in a manner as to honor all involved and their points of view and in their human dignity”.
We do not support the article and do not find it in any way expressive of the spirit of Narrative Practices, nor of Michael White.
The team of La Fabrique Narrative
In a more personal way and speaking only for me, I would also like to add that we proudly invited 3 times David Epston and recently Tom D. Carlson in France (in last September) to study in detail these insider witness techniques. As a recent narrative country (15 years), we might not be the world’s most sophisticated high-level demanding audience, but most of us have really enjoyed this creative and innovative work. Apart from the supervision sessions, some of us successfully transposed and use currently the insider witness practices (which we have renamed here « conversations par procurations”) with teens in difficulty in colleges. Others use them in big companies for inaugural / final coaching sessions or to work with professional conflicts. This is an interesting and effective technique, certainly perfectible, but why refuse and disqualify innovation and those who are interested it, in a so scornful and violent manner?
Co-founder of la Fabrique Narrative