Tuesday, 13 May 2014

On the benefits of walking and talking

walk
The STEPS Centre Summer School kicked off yesterday, with 38 students from 25 countries meeting at IDS for two weeks of intensive debate and discussion.

Tomorrow, after a short lecture on ‘uncertainty’, they’ll take a long walk over the South Downs, talking to each other around a set of guiding questions. This builds on a strong tradition of ‘walkshops’ pioneered in Norway, as described in this 2014 paper by Wickson, Strand and KjĂžlberg. In theory, the walk opens up the workshop format, adding energy and breaking down the traditional patterns of interaction.

From the abstract:
“Through walkshops, we have spent several days walking together with our colleagues and students in open outdoor spaces, keeping a sustained intellectual discussion on ethical aspects of science, technology and innovation while moving through these landscapes. For us, this has generated useful opportunities to escape established hierarchies, roles and patterns of thought and to rethink conceptual and philosophical issues from new perspectives, under new attitudes and with renewed energy.”

Less recently, the French writer Montaigne also had something to say on the virtues of walking for opening up creative thinking:

“Every place of retirement requires a walk: my thoughts sleep if I sit still: my fancy does not go by itself, as when my legs move it: and all those who study without a book are in the same condition.”

Could walking be a cure for stale thinking? Let’s hope so.