Juggling as a metaphor

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(Activity 2.20, 2.22)

Updated 29 December 2010

I do use the metaphor of juggling in relation to the competing priorities in my life – being at work; being an OU student; domestic life; spending time with my husband; getting to see our wider family; organising holidays; my allotment; my other hobbies.  When any one of these ‘balls’ is active, there is another sub-set of tasks to juggle – so the allotment ball opens up a series of other balls – plant potatoes; dig in compost; sow leeks and so on.

The juggling metaphor conceals a few things – in real life, you can opt to ignore a ball for a time or just give it lower throws so that you can save your engagement for other balls.  In juggling, that does not really happen.

In real life too balls have a life of their own.  They are not reliable and subject to the laws of physics.  It is not certain how they will react to each ‘toss’.  Other metaphors like herding cats or – as I heard recently – putting a pair of knickers on an octopus (!) help a little more here.

So far I use juggling in relation to juggling tasks – things that need to be allotted time, not just attention.  Time does have an upper limit – it is not an infinite resource – you can’t add in new balls or give more attention to one ball without something else giving way.

I noticed that Ison (2010) is using juggling more in relation to practices – doing what you do when you do what you do – rather than tasks.  This is more about giving attention – or your awareness – to something.  How many balls can your attention accommodate?  I am sure it is not infinite, but as a resource it is not like Time.

Update 29 December 2010

Just got a little further on in the Study Guide – it changes what I have put in the last paragraph above – what we are juggling is the relational dynamics between practitioner, framework of ideas, method and situation i.e. the relationships between the elements within practice, not the elements themselves.

My initial understanding of the four juggling balls are:

B for Being – which is about the relationship between the practitioner and their ideas.  So it must be partly about reflexivity – thinking about the way I think and questioning assumptions.  There must also be an ethical dimension

E for Engaging – which is about the relationship between the practitioner and the situation.  It is about the choices I make for the way in which I engage with a situation.

C is for Contextualising – which is about the relationship between the method and the situation and the way in which I would need to adapt the approaches I use so it is appropriate for the situation.

M is for Managing – which is about the relationship of the whole both at a point in time and over time – and juggling the juggling itself!

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