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Nora and Gregory Bateson

Clean Conference 2014

Nora Bateson (2)

Nora Bateson and her father Gregory Bateson


‘An Ecology of Mind’ is a film portrait of Gregory Bateson, celebrated anthropologist, philosopher, author, naturalist, systems theorist, and filmmaker, produced and directed by his daughter, Nora Bateson.

The film includes footage from Bateson’s own films shot in the 1930s in Bali (with Margaret Mead) and New Guinea, along with photographs, filmed lectures, and interviews. His youngest child, Nora, depicts him as a man who studied the interrelationships of the complex systems in which we live with a depth motivated by scientific rigor and caring integrity.

Nora Bateson’s rediscovery of his work documents the vast – and continuing – influence Bateson’s thinking has had on the work of an amazingly wide range of disciplines. Through contemporary interviews, along with his own words, Bateson’s way of thinking reveals practical approaches to the enormous challenges confronting the human race and the natural world.

Gregory Bateson’s theories, such as “the double bind” and “the pattern which connects”, continue to impact the fields of anthropology, psychiatry, information science, cybernetics, urban planning, biology, and ecology, challenging people to think in new ways.

Until now, his work has been largely inaccessible to most of us. Through this film, Nora Bateson sets out to show that his ideas are not just fodder for academic theory, but can help instruct a way of life. She presents his thinking using a richly personal perspective, focusing on the stories Bateson used to present his ideas and how the beauty of life itself provided the framework of his life’s pursuits.

This film hopes to inspire its audience to see our lives within a larger system – glistening with symmetry, play, and metaphor. An invitation to ask the kinds of questions that could help thread the world back together from the inside

What film critics are saying about An Ecology of Mind

“An Amazing film” Wade Graham, Harpers L.A. Times

“Nora Bateson presents viewers not only with an intellectually challenging and inspiring work of art, but also with a glimpse of evanescent hope.” Marilyn Wedge, Huffington Post

“The task she took on was hardly easy. Pinning Bateson down takes a fair amount of effort. Coming up with a simple definition of, say, systems theory is one thing. Doing so in a way that educates the average filmgoer without making her film feel like a mere academic exercise is something else entirely. Yet Nora Bateson manages to do so by always keeping the man she knew at the center.”  Dan Webster, NPR

For an interview with Nora about ‘An Ecology of Mind’, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTsGtTeVEAI

For an introduction to ‘An Ecology of Mind’, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hOMAGEB7Ko

To buy this wonderful film, (we expect copies will be on sale at the Clean Conference on 7 June 2014), see: http://www.amazon.co.uk/An-Ecology-Mind-Nora-Bateson/dp/B0061UJJXW


Finding the Edges of the Frame.  Metaphors, Courage, and Invisible Ink

The work of Gregory Bateson has been emerging globally to address the need for new approaches to some of the crises we face in this era. We know now that we are interconnected… but what next? What does that actually mean to the way we make decisions?

Nora, Gregory’s daughter, brings her work as a researcher, educator and filmmaker to the exploration of the messy processes that are inherent in inter-relationality.   She asks, “How can we become more comfortable with using some of Bateson’s challenging and elegant concepts in our work?”

For many, Bateson has been cloaked in mystery. In this session we will open up some of Bateson’s seminal contributions and play with the shift in perspective they offer. In order to interact with the complex world, in our personal lives and in the larger frames of societal and cultural interface with nature, we are going to need to be able to see the interrelationships that form our systems. Revealing the invisible ink inherent in our description of any system is a radical move in the right direction – and it is a step into the beauty of life.

We are facing hard questions now, living in an era of mixed up priorities, and we sometimes feel stuck. How do we get loose of the limits of metaphors we live in?


Nora is a filmmaker, lecturer, writer, as well as director & producer of the award-winning documentary film An Ecology of Mind, a portrait of her father Gregory Bateson’s way of thinking. She has developed curricula for schools in Northern California, and produced and directed award winning multimedia projects on intercultural and ecological understanding. The film An Ecology of Mind offers audiences a lens through which to see the world that effects not only the way we see the world, but how we interact with it.

Nora teaches internationally, leading conversations and seminars with international change-makers, ecologists, anthropologists, psychologists, designers, and IT professionals.  She has been utilizing the film as a tool to introduce some of Gregory Bateson’s thinking tools, asking the question: How can a better understanding of the dynamics of complex systems inform our capacity to respond to the world we live in?”  Nora is uniquely qualified to facilitate cross disciplinary discussions. As an “interdisciplinary interloper” she travels between conversations in different fields and with different audiences bringing multiple perspectives into view to reveal larger patterns.

Currently she is developing her next film and writing a book about the practical application of systems thinking and complexity theory in everyday life, entitled, “Small Arcs of Larger Circles”.

Nora is the president of the International Bateson Institute in Stockholm Sweden, home to projects from around the world, that require interdisciplinary research reaching into and beyond the academic frame. The IBI brings together the sciences, arts and vocational wisdoms to create a focused qualitative inquiry of the integration of living systems. Asking, “How we can create a context in which to study the context?”


Fritjof Capra (1988, pp76, 77) reports Gregory Bateson to have said ‘Metaphor, that’s how this whole fabric of mental interconnections holds together. Metaphor is right at the bottom of being alive.’ Gregory Bateson was interested in patterns, and in particular, in what the pattern is that connects all living organisms, and he came to see metaphor as ‘the pattern that connects’.

Here are further extracts of what Fritjof Capra says of Gregory Bateson:

‘He was, in my opinion, one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. The uniqueness of his thought came from its broad range and its generality. In an age characterized by fragmentation and overspecialization, Bateson challenged the basic assumptions and methods of several sciences by looking for patterns connecting different phenomena and for processes beneath structures.’

‘He made significant contributions to several sciences — anthropology, cybernetics, psychiatry, and, most important of all, to the new interdisciplinary field of cognitive science, which he pioneered. But perhaps even more important is the fact that he championed a new way of thinking, which is extremely relevant to our time — thinking in terms of relationships, connections, patterns, and context. As we replace the Newtonian metaphor of the world as a machine by the metaphor of the network, and as complexity becomes a principal focus in science, the kind of systemic thinking that Bateson advocated is becoming crucial.’

‘Gregory Bateson was not only an outstanding scientist but also a highly original philosopher.’

These extracts were taken from http://www.anecologyofmind.com/


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