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Group work sessions

The aim of the summer school is not only to deliver lectures but to facilitate and promote productive discussion and debate. These will take place in both traditional formats (such as questions after a talk and general discussion sessions at the end of each day) and less traditional, more focused group work sessions. Groups will be constituted semi-randomly. We expect between 10-12 people per group and they will remain the same for the duration of the summer school, allowing continuity of discussions and mutual learning from the different disciplinary backgrounds.

Please read carefully these instructions till the end, the discussion sessions are a very important part of the summer school and it is important that you understand the structure and recommendations listed below.

The group work sessions will take place in the early afternoon. They will last 2 hours. We recommend starting on time as discussions often tend to prolong themselves and you will have to produce some concrete output by the end of the session. We also recommend that someone in the group plays a bit the role of a coordinator, keeping track of the discussion, facilitating everyone’s participation and (very important) keeping track of time. Another person should keep a record of what’s being achieved during the session. We recommend using ; type directly the sites address followed by a name that identifies your group (e.g. and every visitor of the site will be able to write down the notes in collaboration, you can use this site as a collective board so that everybody can monitor and improve the notes of the group discussion session. The roles (facilitator and writers) may be fixed during the summer school or changed each day, that’s up to you. We only recommend that the person keeping records use a laptop so that the results can then be easily collected for the general discussion.

Recommended structure of the Group Work Session.

The idea of these sessions is to facilitate discussion, learning and the generation of new ideas. We recommend that some aspects of the discussion be focused on the topics of the talks heard in the morning session but also to have ongoing “themes” to come back to. You should feel free to allow variations on this recommended structure, if the group dynamics or the topics so require it.

1. Find a place.

If weather permits, you can find a comfortable place in the park surrounding the Miramar Palace, otherwise in the main room or other areas. Make sure everyone can listen and participate and that everyone in the group is aware of the meeting place.

2. Round of impressions.

Take 10 or 15 minutes for a short round of impressions provoked by the talks in the morning. This should be a rather quick round giving everyone a chance to say what struck them as interesting during the talks or what they found difficult to understand. It is not recommended to engage in a discussion or elaboration of these points yet. The important thing is for the group to “sample” its own the general impressions without premature conditioning. Think of this round as a kind of free brain-storming.

3. Focus

Identify 2 or 3 important issues that arise from the talks. After the round of impressions, what seem to be the central concerns or questions that come up? Why do they strike people as important? What are the different opinions on each of these issues? Is there a division of perspectives? A spectrum of possibilities? A semantic problem? Take some time to debate these questions. Make sure everyone gets a fair chance to speak and listen to the others. If their opinion is very different from yours, try to figure out why. Might you be looking at two different questions altogether? Is there a genuine disagreement? It will be important for someone to keep track of the central insights that emerge during this discussion. On the whole it may take between 30 – 40 minutes.

4. Advance

Now you need to think collectively and propose some new ideas. You should generate suggestions for conceptual, modelling, or experimental work that could be carried out to address these issues.  Do you know of work that could definitely help resolve the 2 or 3 issues that you’ve been discussing? Are the advances on these problems mainly conceptual or empirical? Can you think of ideas that are missing that would help make progress? Can you think of experiments that would settle some of the questions? Can you maybe suggest some specific experimental designs? Is robotic or modelling work useful? How do you envision such work helping sort out some of the issues? Again, someone should keep a record on what the different proposal and the overall section should last about 30 – 40 minutes.

5. Challenge to the speakers

Based on some of the things you’ve been discussing, what would be for you the single most challenging question that you could ask the speakers of the morning session. Of course, there may be many such questions, but can the group agree on what would be the most challenging one? The one that if resolved satisfactorily, would significantly advance the field? A bit of advice: Don’t just think of very general or nearly unanswerable or contentious questions (e.g., what is consciousness?). Think of concrete, specific challenges that may have wide significance. Difficult, but not out of reach; maybe solvable in the next 5 years. Take the rest of the time for this or other issues that come up. Write down this single challenge. It will be presented to the speakers and the rest of participants during the general discussion session. Make sure at the end of the work session that the record is read out loud and allow people to make amendments if necessary.

6. Final expression and publication of the challenge

The final expression of the challenge to the speakers should take the form of: i) a tweet-like question (maximum of 144 characters) and ii) a follow up explanation, abstract or set of bullet points with a minimum of 150 words and maximum of 300. Once you have finished you should add a comment to the discussion post of the day (that will appear in the main site) including the following information and formatting:

Group Name
Short description of challenge in bold
Content of the summary or abstract or bullet points

This way the challenge of your group may be discussed online and we will have a good record of the discussion of the day.

7. General discussion session

After a short break (if you have finished your challenge publication on schedule), we will meet again back at the main conference hall. You will be asked to read the challenge of your group in front of the rest of the groups and speakers. The challenge will open to discussion and a panel with the speakers of the day plus an additional invitee will comment on it.


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