What Is the Concept of Mutual Causality in Understanding Museum Changes?

July 21, 2021


Yuha Jung

Alongside open systems theory, the Buddhist concept of mutual causality (Macy, 1991) is crucial in understanding different social systems such as museums. The concept of mutual causality explains change to be a complex process, occurring in a typically non-linear feedback loop. A feedback mechanism or loop can be positive (i.e., self-organizing and renewing process) or negative (i.e., self-stabilizing and stagnation process). When a positive feedback function is triggered, a museum can understand the external input (e.g., visitor input on programming) does not match its output (e.g., programs and exhibitions), recognizing the need for change. In a negative feedback function, a museum’s input matches its output, leading to inertia and maintaining the status quo. Triggering a positive feedback function leads to transformation in practice. Applying this mutual causality concept and positive feedback mechanism, museums can maintain the state of dynamic equilibrium that is ready to change in relation to external inputs and pressures. My book, Transforming Museum Management, explores this alternative museum change theory that can help transform museums to be a more diverse, interconnected, and welcoming space for local communities and different demographics. This work provides a roadmap for a much-needed change, illustrating current issues and roadblocks on the way.

If you’re interested in exploring more about these ideas and purchasing the book, use the discount code SMA05 (also below) and apply at checkout when you purchase the book here.


I am an associate professor and the director of graduate studies of Arts Administration at the University of Kentucky. I am a devoted educator and researcher who is passionate about studying museums and social and cultural justice issues around the arts and cultural organizations and teaching students about them. I primarily teach financial management 

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