Posts tagged "Culture"

March 20, 2012

ON-DEMAND AMNESIA AT THE SELF-SERVE WINDOW OF EDUCATION

Plato, the smartest man I know, is often credited with having said something to the effects that “if I know anything, it’s that I know nothing at all.
Was he alluding to his own philosophy of ideal form and the fact that he considered himself a perpetual student of life-unformed, unperfected and still in the processs of attaining to perfection-perhaps. Could it be that he was genuinely suffering from some sort of senile dementia that had robbed him of his intrinsic capacity for memorization?
I think that it was a little of both. To understand this we need to re-visit history- both Plato’s history and the phenomenon of history itself.
The historical narrative as we know it in the west today underwent tectonic changes in the period leading up to and beyond the time of Plato.
Traditionally, a people’s history, it’s myths, customs and secrets to survival were encoded and transmitted through a rich mix of media forms that included image, song, dance, story and elaborate eulogies and rituals. This mix of media was used as a mnemonic device to facilitate burning the shared narrative into the collective conscious.
Attending to this legacy of collective wisdom required a collective response and all members of early societies were compelled to bear the burden of the cognitive load of their history by committing some or all of it to memory. This titanic feat of memorization was facilitated through their participation in rituals designed to replicate the DNA of their narrative. This form of the shared burden of memory was highly codified and participatory in nature and constituted a significant drain on the resources of early people’s and may well have been the impetus behind the shift from hunter gatherer societies to sedentary agrarian modes.
The birth of the sign, be it a hand on a cave wall, a hieroglyph or cuneiform impression in clay, “marks” a major shift in media that allowed history, narrative and collective memory to be externalized. According to seminal theorists like Harold Innis, Erik Havelock, Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, the shift to writing revolutionized the manner in which we were able to organize ourselves and, in the end, our systems of thought. With the embrace of writing, ideas could be disembodied and travel through time and space to reshape the power constructs that shaped our social contract and its associated value systems.
The move to embrace the technology of writing, for all it’s promise, was hotly contested by the Greeks of Plato’s time (It has been contended that Homer and the Iliad was a collection of oral stories that were shaped into a collectively celebrated and performed oral chorus that were eventually canonized into an official text under the aegis of a single author) An early Egyptian account of Pharaoh’s rebuff of the god Toth’s gift of writing also speaks to this issue. Pharaoh contended that writing one’s history would invite sloth and forgetfulness in his subjects. Aristotle pushed writing as a means to establishing standards, verifiable facts and officially sanctioned versions of events-a singular perspective over a mosaic-the very things that make empires and institutions possible. Historical narrative and identity went from being a living, shared legacy to a lifeless, static disembodied archive that had to be retrieved and reconstituted, often without the crucial keys of context. The complex data set of living history was no longer participated in by those who had lived it. If one’s experience was deemed to be valid, it would then be recorded, re-framed and redacted by a singular author. This created a world view that had shifted from composite view to a one point perspective.
The advent of the internet and social media has once again invited a composite and participatory narrative where we can upload testimonials to the banal and the sublime dimensions of our existence. What is interesting to note is that while we are immersed in this participatory narrative, the repository of our experience no longer exists embodied within us in the same way as it did in pre-literate societies. In our state of what Walter Ong refers to as “secondary orality” we have dispensed with the burden of memory. The fact that we use the cloud as a mass-repository of our collective data set allows us to forget. With a simple Google search (Scholars portals for the more academically rigorous) we can conjure up that entire data set on a whim. In short, technology—like spellcheck—has rendered memorization culturally obsolete!
I have observed this phenomenon first-hand in the classroom. Often, when I give a lecture or demonstration, it is painfully obvious to me that few students are paying attention to what I am saying or doing. Performance aside, the fact is that they have access to multiple channels of information through the internet, cell phones, neighbours, etc. and despite prefacing my musings with “THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT IGNORE AT YOUR PERIL!” They continue to push and pull information on demand from these sources. Clearly, I am in direct competition with a staggering array of alternative channels of information. It is not that my students are neglecting to pay attention, they are opting to attend to other priorities at that particular time. It is not that they don’t value what I have to offer either. Invariably, after providing my demos a student will ask a question that I had directly addressed in my presentation. On repeating the demonstration the process frustratingly repeats itself until each student in their own time and on their own terms has what they need from me. At times it feels like I am working the drive-thru window at a burger joint!

What has become obvious to me is,  given that I podcast many of my lectures and that so many similar podcasts abound in places like Youtube, a student can gain access to information if an when THEY need it, NOT when I think they need it. It is truly an ON-DEMAND phenomenon that challenges our assumptions about what constitutes effective teaching and learning. So, despite my frustration at their seeming inattentiveness or inability to memorize I have to remind myself of the environments that they inhabit and the rules of engagement that those environments tend to promote or curtail.
Like it or not we have entered an age of a technologically-induced culture of amnesia and instant gratification. To argue whether or not this is culture has validity vis-a-vis our old teaching and learning ecosystems and their associated methods is not a profitable one, rather, we should be exploring how can we reshape the arena and methods of discourse to facilitate deep and meaningful activity for those who have assumed these new technological milieus as the ground conditions of how they access and use information.

I am still working on the answer to that question!

9:18 PM Permalink
March 6, 2012

Worth vs. Work Transforming People and Organizations for The Knowledge Economy

Labour, as its name would suggest, has shouldered its own burden through the ages. Elevating its noblesse or reducing its worth has pitted politicians, social engineers, economists, Marxist theoreticians and capitalists in a titanic ideological struggle that has resulted in labour being commoditised and reduced to the lowest common denominator. Clearly—the dominant western view enjoys a pan global embrace—putting labour, as we once knew and loved it, squarely at the bottom of the Darwinian food chain.

It stands to reason that value or worth inheres in something other than the proverbial “sweat” of our brows. Value now accretes around our ability to build and leverage connectivity and the accumulated  social capital that is measured not in dollars and cents, rather in clicks and likes. Social platforms provide us the ability to form a vast and persistent wake or  train of links to a constituency of people who maintain an ongoing interest in us and provide us with a basis of worth in the emerging economy. The prudent investor seeking to increase his or her “worth”  in this environment, then, would be wise to invest in being highly social and joining the conversation around the water cooler.

There are many, and I would include myself in the many, who stubbornly cling to a sentimental notion of “work” and who view the “Social Thing” as a waste of both time and money (two very familiar friends from the old paradigm of work). This group sees internet use as a form of play at its best and distraction at its worst. We fail to see “traditional” value in it and many of us in law, finance, markets, advertizing, education struggle to wrestle this round peg into the very square hole we created for ourselves over the years.

Walter Ong asserted that the wired generation would enter into what he termed “Secondary Orality” Where being interconnected to the degree that we are forces us to be highly participatory and involved rather than isolated and detached. If you consider traditional organizational schemas pertaining to work, it was mechanistic and hierarchically and linearly structured with each cog doing a very specific job (valued in years of experience and levels of education) performed in relative isolation. It was the age of specialization.

We must then ask, what are the competencies for thriving in this new economy? Learning the Art of Conversation seems to be a crucial one. Connecting and conversing through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and WIKIs and the like are a good start. Knowledge in this arena seems less proprietary and more of a multi-valent narrative much like going around a campfire circle improvising the lyrics as we move from one camper to the next. For this to work well you need to develop expert listening skills so that you can take what is offered to you, add to it, and pass it on—classic IMPROV theatre techniques that can be gleaned from the works of Sages such as Viola Spolin or Keith Johnstone. A good conversationalist needs to be a generalist so that you can engage with people on their own turf and terms. A good generalist should, naturally, be willing to assume a variety of roles. This ability to switch roles not only confers an adaptive advantage on the individual and the entities that they provide worth to it also helps to build a deep sense of empathy for others in similar situations—especially when you assume new and unfamiliar responsibilities—you understand firsthand what it is like to walk a mile in the novice’s shoes and gain an experience at a grassroots level that older, structured organizational forms cannot  accommodate.

While most organizations recognize the sea changes that are washing over and around us, few have a clear vision of what they need to do in order to engineer a successful transformation that can effectively leverage the emerging paradigms of value. Part of the problem is the inability to wean the organization from traditional rubrics of valuation and organization. Most consider integration as being a scheme aimed at embedding a new technology into an existing structure with the least amount of disruption. The irony is that it is the disruptive aspect of these technologies that should be leveraged NOT mitigated! Often in these circumstances the irritation caused by the “integration” is grudgingly tolerated by decree. The points of contact in the organization are not in alignment with the natural tendencies of the technologies adopted and they often fail or fail to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Few storied organizations are flexible enough in their thinking to consider that a radical restructuring of the org chart is necessary in order to allow these technologies to revolutionize the way they do things. The real innovation, interestingly enough, is in the capacity to consider the sweeping cultural, organizational and economic changes that might be required—the technology simply acts as an accelerant.

I have been working for approximately 8 years on driving cultural change vis-a-vis technology in an applied education context and have encountered the tensions between maintaining the status quo and driving innovation. I can assure you that simply acquiring the latest greatest technology simply does not work without exporing new forms of organization that reflect the inherent tendencies of these technologies and the environments that they help to shape.

I have attached a dossier of illustrated PDFs that detail some aspects of the knowledge and media ecosystem, the competencies and relations between people working in these environments as well as a series of snapshots detailing moves that I have been making away from linear, factory models of organizational efficiency toward models that are more organic, self organizing, agile  and adaptive in order to facilitate RISK-based learning (Rapid Integration of Skills and Knowledge) and effective engagement with emerging technologies and environments.

knowledge_economy_package

3:14 AM Permalink
October 28, 2011

RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Method of Teaching

Trapped in a Tar Pit

Metaphorically speaking, a dinosaur is any entity lacking the capacity to adapt to environmental changes in a timely fashion. While a dinosaur may well possess the ability to adapt it may be an unfortunate accident of biology or culture that predisposes it to an internal rate of transformative change that is relatively static compared to the rate of change in the environmental factors that, normally, support and optimize conditions for its survival. This inability to match the pace of change places the dinosaur at a competitive disadvantage that eventually pushes it to the margins of relevance and results in its eventual extinction—both literal and metaphorical.

No creature would invite change for its own sake and—humans being like most other creatures—expend enormous amounts of energy attempting to stabilize our situation and achieve a form of stasis that allows us not only to survive but to thrive in relative safety and comfort. We tend towards mitigating the effects of the unknown and the unpredictable and this requires apprehending and utilizing knowledge of the environment in order that we might exploit it to advantage.

Our ability to utilize binding symbolic language and symbolic artefacts and to fashion tools that—according to Marshall McLuhan—extend, enhance and accelerate our effective selves, creates a buffer between us and a natural order that challenges us with the timeless struggle for survival.

The fact that we will soon be uneasily celebrating the turnover of our biological counter to the 7 billion mark is a testimony to how successful we have been at disconnecting from or minimizing the risks that the natural order presents. One could argue that this disconnection could be better characterized as a complete domination and subjugation of the environment that carries with it a dire corollary for our long-term survival and that the technocomplex that we created constitutes its own environment with its own evolutionary pressures.

The Silicone  Pit

Iterative improvement and automation have resulted in the sort of hyperbolic innovations that engineer Gordon Moore predicted in the mid 1960′s. The rate of change is dizzying and poses significant challenges to our capacity for adapting to the changes they usher in. The explosion of new technologies, whose cycles of innovation and obsolescence relegate one to the status of instant expert or instant dinosaur in the blink of an eye, constitutes our greatest environmental challenge.

Having knowledge of one’s object of inquiry has traditionally meant being able to give a name to it—to plot its co-ordinates and assay and record its characteristics. This sort of knowledge has traditionally conferred on the inquirer a degree of power and control over their object of inquiry—it is a form of experiential mapping, if you will. However, this is not so easy with respect to characterizing much less predicting the evolutionary trajectory of our modern technological landscape. Mapping the contours of our ever-changing, ever-expanding information and techno-complex is intractable as mapping sand dunes or clouds—the particulars are so infinitely complex and changing that it defies linear, rational and concrete approaches to knowing. It is a phenomenon that has rapidly emerged into a quantum state where power comes from making sense of the relational dimensions between the elements of this complex rather than knowing the particular qualities or quantities associated with the constituent elements themselves. Understanding, then, assumes a holistic character where inductive logic gives way to deductive and intuitive processes that may benefit more from a metaphor or narrative thread with which to frame or anchor one’s understanding of the infinitely complex. This form of knowing differs from the traditional detached objective methods of scientific knowing. Instead, this form of knowing is experiential, immersive and, simultaneously, transforms both subject and object.

Consider that, in using a technology, you have changed the manner in which you interact with the world around you and this results in the emergence of new patterns of behavior, new modes of interaction, shifts in language, value systems and culture and we are irrevocably changed and the system within which this technology has been used is changed too. This implies that the relationship between subject and object have also shifted. In short we see the world in a different way for the simple reason that our internal value systems have dramatically shifted and the world that we inhabit has also dramatically changed. While we highly value information that is accessible and searchable many with the means to do so would pay millions of dollars for a highly inaccessible “original” painting by, say, Rembrandt, while few of us would be willing to pay for a digital version of it. An objects potential for ubiquity works in tension with its unique instantiation. An object that can readily be reproduced and reducing its value to near zero in a commodity-based economy where value is predicated on scarcity. The web-enhanced age in which we live is one of infinite abundance and, hence, traditional economic value cannot be derived from the objects produced in this ecosystem but, rather, from the relationships that it facilitates. While scarcity and  authenticity are still significant arbiters of value today we see from the runaway success of social resources like Face Book

The Renaissance Through the Looking Glass

The age of now has oft been described as one of digital tribalism where the age of empire, standardization, control and concentration of power and influence have given way to chaotic and barbaric forces that truculently refuse to be defined and controlled by the old paradigms. We are advancing toward the past—almost medieval, semi-literate forms of informal, quasi-embodied social interaction where the emphasis is on the relationship—on being there (digitally) and participating in the conversation. It is Walter Ong’s Post-literate society or age of “secondary orality.” We are leaving the time where meaning was defined in terms of rational scientific constructs and entering a new epoch where our old science creates more questions than it is capable of answering—adding to an already infinite data set. We are entering a new mythopoetic age where it is pointless to look at the massive complexity of our modern technological and information ecosystem and hope to induce meaning and significance through observing it. What is significant is that we are not detached from it (as the old science would have it) we are caught up in its turbulence trying to keep our heads above water, as it were. The more sane approach would be to recognize that this leviathan chimera unleashes enormous pressures on us and to not ask what this means but, rather, to demand “what do we wish this this to mean for us now and in the future” and to hold it to account for this vision. We must not embrace technology simply for its own sake, rather, it should be subsumed in the service of our collective vision for the future and, in that sense, we are called upon to dream and to do so boldly. To envision a world where technology and information serves to nurture humanity requires that we come to understand who we are at our root and to what purpose must our hearts and our minds be put. These questions resonate with aspects of spirituality that seem antithetical to the project of science. However both science and technology have no life or no meaning without being grounded in the context of life—of attending and attaining to being fully human in a world that is rich,  diverse and healthy and to this end all human projects should bend their respective backs to the task of enriching life on this planet and, thus, must be held fully accountable to this demand. Human health is linked to a complex web of inter-relationships that extends out beyond the human sphere to include the entire created order. Our evolving technological landscape has the potential to allow us to discover who we are both individually and collectively in relation to the broader world and to deepen the veracity of relationships that putative modern western science, and the tsunami of uncritical progress it unleashed, has unwittingly compromised.

Why Are We Here and What Are We Doing?

The philosophical perspectives/worldview that I outlined in the preceding paragraphs were not derived from gleaning through the tomes of savvy and erudite pop culture gurus (although I owe a great debt to Harold Innis, Eric Havelock, Marshall McLuhan, and Walter Ong and have enjoyed sharing insights articulated by the likes of Richard Ogle, Don Tapscott and Malcolm Gladwell), rather they came from a direct experience of some fundamental changes that I was experiencing in relation to my subject area and my relationship with my students.

 

2:44 PM Permalink
March 1, 2011

RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Method of Teaching (Part 3)

The Renaissance Through the Looking Glass

The age of now has oft been described as one of digital tribalism where the age of empire, standardization, control and concentration of power and influence have given way to chaotic and barbaric forces that truculently refuse to be defined and controlled by the old paradigms. We are advancing toward the past—almost medieval, semi-literate forms of informal, quasi-embodied social interaction where the emphasis is on the relationship—on being there (digitally) and participating in the conversation. It is Walter Ong’s Post-literate society or age of “secondary orality.” We are leaving the time where meaning was defined in terms of rational scientific constructs and entering a new epoch where our old science creates more questions than it is capable of answering—adding to an already infinite data set. We are entering a new mythopoetic age where it is pointless to look at the massive complexity of our modern technological and information ecosystem and hope to induce meaning and significance through observing it. What is significant is that we are not detached from it (as the old science would have it) we are caught up in its turbulence trying to keep our heads above water, as it were. The more sane approach would be to recognize that this leviathan chimera unleashes enormous pressures on us and to not ask what this means but, rather, to demand “what do we wish this this to mean for us now and in the future” and to hold it to account for this vision. We must not embrace technology simply for its own sake, rather, it should be subsumed in the service of our collective vision for the future and, in that sense, we are called upon to dream and to do so boldly. To envision a world where technology and information serves to nurture humanity requires that we come to understand who we are at our root and to what purpose must our hearts and our minds be put. These questions resonate with aspects of spirituality that seem antithetical to the project of science. However both science and technology have no life or no meaning without being grounded in the context of life—of attending and attaining to being fully human in a world that is rich,  diverse and healthy and to this end all human projects should bend their respective backs to the task of enriching life on this planet and, thus, must be held fully accountable to this demand. Human health is linked to a complex web of inter-relationships that extends out beyond the human sphere to include the entire created order. Our evolving technological landscape has the potential to allow us to discover who we are both individually and collectively in relation to the broader world and to deepen the veracity of relationships that putative modern western science, and the tsunami of uncritical progress it unleashed, has unwittingly compromised.

5:44 PM Permalink

RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Method of Teaching (Part 2)

The Silicone  Pit

Iterative improvement and automation have resulted in the sort of hyperbolic innovations that engineer Gordon Moore predicted in the mid 1960′s. The rate of change is dizzying and poses significant challenges to our capacity for adapting to the changes they usher in. The explosion of new technologies, whose cycles of innovation and obsolescence relegate one to the status of instant expert or instant dinosaur in the blink of an eye, constitutes our greatest environmental challenge.

Having knowledge of one’s object of inquiry has traditionally meant being able to give a name to it—to plot its co-ordinates and assay and record its characteristics. This sort of knowledge has traditionally conferred on the inquirer a degree of power and control over their object of inquiry—it is a form of experiential mapping, if you will. However, this is not so easy with respect to characterizing much less predicting the evolutionary trajectory of our modern technological landscape. Mapping the contours of our ever-changing, ever-expanding information and techno-complex is intractable as mapping sand dunes or clouds—the particulars are so infinitely complex and changing that it defies linear, rational and concrete approaches to knowing. It is a phenomenon that has rapidly emerged into a quantum state where power comes from making sense of the relational dimensions between the elements of this complex rather than knowing the particular qualities or quantities associated with the constituent elements themselves. Understanding, then, assumes a holistic character where inductive logic gives way to deductive and intuitive processes that may benefit more from a metaphor or narrative thread with which to frame or anchor one’s understanding of the infinitely complex. This form of knowing differs from the traditional detached objective methods of scientific knowing. Instead, this form of knowing is experiential, immersive and, simultaneously, transforms both subject and object.

Consider that, in using a technology, you have changed the manner in which you interact with the world around you and this results in the emergence of new patterns of behavior, new modes of interaction, shifts in language, value systems and culture and we are irrevocably changed and the system within which this technology has been used is changed too. This implies that the relationship between subject and object have also shifted. In short we see the world in a different way for the simple reason that our internal value systems have dramatically shifted and the world that we inhabit has also dramatically changed. While we highly value information that is accessible and searchable many with the means to do so would pay millions of dollars for a highly inaccessible “original” painting by, say, Rembrandt, while few of us would be willing to pay for a digital version of it. An objects potential for ubiquity works in tension with its unique instantiation. An object that can readily be reproduced and reducing its value to near zero in a commodity-based economy where value is predicated on scarcity. The web-enhanced age in which we live is one of infinite abundance and, hence, traditional economic value cannot be derived from the objects produced in this ecosystem but, rather, from the relationships that it facilitates. While scarcity and  authenticity are still significant arbiters of value today we see from the runaway success of social resources like Face Book

5:41 PM Permalink

RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Method of Teaching (Part 1)

Trapped in a Tar Pit

Metaphorically speaking, a dinosaur is any entity lacking the capacity to adapt to environmental changes in a timely fashion. While a dinosaur may well possess the ability to adapt it may be an unfortunate accident of biology or culture that predisposes it to an internal rate of transformative change that is relatively static compared to the rate of change in the environmental factors that, normally, support and optimize conditions for its survival. This inability to match the pace of change places the dinosaur at a competitive disadvantage that eventually pushes it to the margins of relevance and results in its eventual extinction—both literal and metaphorical.

No creature would invite change for its own sake and—humans being like most other creatures—expend enormous amounts of energy attempting to stabilize our situation and achieve a form of stasis that allows us not only to survive but to thrive in relative safety and comfort. We tend towards mitigating the effects of the unknown and the unpredictable and this requires apprehending and utilizing knowledge of the environment in order that we might exploit it to advantage.

Our ability to utilize binding symbolic language and symbolic artefacts and to fashion tools that—according to Marshall McLuhan—extend, enhance and accelerate our effective selves, creates a buffer between us and a natural order that challenges us with the timeless struggle for survival.

The fact that we will soon be uneasily celebrating the turnover of our biological counter to the 7 billion mark is a testimony to how successful we have been at disconnecting from or minimizing the risks that the natural order presents. One could argue that this disconnection could be better characterized as a complete domination and subjugation of the environment that carries with it a dire corollary for our long-term survival and that the technocomplex that we created constitutes its own environment with its own evolutionary pressures.

5:35 PM Permalink