Posts tagged "Philosophy"

March 14, 2014

Considering the effects of emerging ecosystems on the “Connected Mind.”

“Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society…”

Marshall McLuhan
Excerpt from Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, Part I.

Originally published in 1964

 

Putting multivalent minds to the task of building the sort of “productive future” alluded to by Howard Gardner should be easy given that we live in an era where our technology radically connects (many of) us to one-another in ways that transcend our traditional constraints of space-time and gives rise to new paradigms of language and discourse that re-define our notions of class, culture and the self, to name but a few.

The inter-web of all things, as Marshall McLuhan presaged in the opening quotation almost half a century ago, has endowed us with one might consider as a shared intelligence that is transforming our paradigms of knowledge and value in ways that may not be entirely obvious to us at this point and, despite our best intentions and designs, these media will shape human discourse according to their own innate potentials and in ways that will bare unintended consequences both good and bad.

The inter-web is a highly complex ecosystem of technologies and protocols that form what we now call the “cloud”—an adjective that adequately expresses the conceptual fog that envelops most of us as we contemplate how we might negotiate its complexity and harness its power in meaningful, ethical and effective ways—ways that eschew sentimentality and longing for more certain and halcyon days in favour of addressing the very real and messy challenges that lie ahead of us.

We are exhorted by Gardener and his adherents to cultivate multi-faceted states of consciousness and to synthesize the data gleaned, gathered, weighed—the insights sparked and given wings and purpose—all against a technological backdrop that is characteristic of an ecosystem in Darwinian overdrive. This backdrop imparts a duality to the economy of transformation that can variously enhance and accelerate it or simply confound it.

The question that is front of mind for me is: “Is it possible to move from merely coping with the challenges that face us to thriving in the turbulence that abounds in their wake? Thriving will depend on whether we can wrestle this seemingly intractable and chimeric landscape and re-shape it on a human scale with human values, language and metaphors at its core. In this way we will be able to comprehend and share in the abundance of opportunities that abound in the hyper-connected globe. Let us then explore some of these challenges by sharing candid reflections on how the connected minds of ourselves and our students are being facilitated or obfuscated in this emerging landscape.

Questions to Consider:

1.         If we assume that, for the foresee-able future, technology will play an increasingly important role in education, what do potential (Good and Bad) do you envision for transforming the current learning ecosystem?

 

2.         What spaces, organizational structures or opportunities exist for the “connected mind” to synthesize and share insights and information from the other domains of the mind?

How are technologies enhancing or inhibiting this synthesis and sharing?

 

3.         How important are student faculty narratives to the process of synthesizing and sharing of information and insights gained from the various domains? Are you actively exploring modes of digital storytelling with the student as an active producer of content knowledge? If so, what form does your storytelling take?

 

4.         Are you exploring Digital Citizenship, Connecting, Collaborating and Building Personal Brand value through active participation in communities of practice? How are you accomplishing this?

 

5.         Are you directly engaging your students with complex, global social ecosystems as part of their learning experience? If so, what is it comprised of and what protocols/ use case scenarios do you find most effective?

 

6.         How do you curate the artefacts (numeric, textual, audio, video, image, reflections, impressions) of exploration from the different domains and how do you articulate/visualize the constituent parts and how they inter-relate with one another?

 

7.         Given students are potentially a Go0gle String from an answer, how do you see and convey the value proposition that you, the educator, represents? How do you position yourself as a conduit of know-how against a multitude of 24/7 ON DEMAND channels of know-how that feature Fast Forward and Rewind?

 

Recommended Texts:

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

By Marshall McLuhan

 

Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity And the New Science of Ideas

By Richard Ogle

 

The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art

By J. David Lewis-Williams

4:12 PM Permalink
June 4, 2012

Goin’ Down the Road: My Teaching Philosophy

My title alludes to Don Shebib’s iconic Canadian movie version of the Iliad—the classic account of the collective journey brought back from beyond the margins of the known—from the creature comfort of the status-quo or the cozy confines of the Hobbits’ shire, in the case of J.R. Tolkein’s novel, The Hobbit.

Teaching, for me, is a story of adventure, of audacity and derring-do. The complimentary aspect of teaching is, of course, learning and the two are mutually interdependent aspects of the same thing—a journey of transformation that, necessarily, brings tectonic shifts in our collective worldview that in turn changes the way we see ourselves and the way in which we engage the world. It is a process of invigoration whereby our lives are given deeper meaning and purpose.

I suppose I chose the awkward, Canadian version of this iconic journey for its allusion to the film whose lack of polish gives it a certain honesty and rawness that lacks the gloss of something that has been overly refined. Refinement and process for me are anathema to the sort of real and visceral learning that typically happens when we wade into uncharted territory—all else is sophistry and formulaic to my mind and this can be the source of some philosophical inconsistencies teaching in a Community College with its traditional emphasis on what the Sophists referred to as “techne.”

I am greatly influenced by the Greek philosophers and, although I derive inspiration from pioneers in holistic education like Rudolph Steiner, I am a Platonist at heart.

I see my role as a catalyst in the ongoing process of the personal transformation of those with whom I am privileged to share time along the path of an incredible adventure that leads us ever forward toward the unknown horizons of a shared dream. Along the way, we listen and help to draw out one another’s hopes, fears and dreams in order to facilitate the process of mapping the route that we have travelled and to reflect on that journey in order to provide a contextual narrative that will help to ground our decisions for setting course for new, uncharted shores. I embrace the wisdom of Poet Robert Frost in his classic “The Road Not Taken.”

I encourage my fellow travelers to be explorers as opposed to tourists—to eschew the proven, vicarious and rote in favour of the novel and risk-laden experiences that enrich the threads of one’s personal narrative and make life and learning interesting and engaging. I encourage trust—trust in oneself, in others and in the possibilities of meeting the unknown. Trust in oneself breeds confidence in one’s abilities to face the unscripted challenges of life. School can too often be nothing more than a “canned experience” that mitigates risk and seeks to contain and restrain by delivering standardized, routinized and predictable outcomes that are at odds with the unpredictable and intractable nature of everyday existence. Trust in others is an essential ingredient of our collective identity. It is the glue that binds us and enables us to do things collectively in a way that transcends the limitations of the individual and allows opportunities for our collective energies to be given sublime, concrete expression. It engenders a form of free and responsible citizenship whose greatest goods come from active participation in the co-creation and co-stewardship of the common good.

A long history in improvisational theatre has taught me the value of collaboration and the importance of both giving and receiving of offers of talent and ideas and how, when we collectively surrender our egos and allow for a space where co-creation can occur, the results can often be sublime. I have learned to accept that failure is an inevitable and important consequence of this sort of experimental and experiential approach to collective creation. I am not interested in what one knows, rather, I am more interested in learning about what we don’t know today—tomorrow and sharing in the process of how we achieved these insights—the narrative of the road. To that end, collaboration is an important dimension of the learning activities in my environment.

Teaching and learning for me constitute an environment that is complex and highly interdependent. It is a whole that transcends its mere constituent parts. It brings many entities into highly complex relationships that, when cultivated, help us to find who we are in these relationships and to experiment with different aspects of ourselves in relation. It is an ecology of deep personal—even spiritual growth and revelation that intertwines relationships forged in a communal search for meaning.

The ecosystem of learning is not limited to clichés of Teacher, Student, Class, School, etc.. I believe that it is an integral part of the broader social, political, psychological and spiritual ecosystem that serves as a space where all dimensions of our collective lives from the rote and banal activities of the everyday meld with our boldest experimentation, where failure and triumph, grieving and celebration meet one another with the sole purpose of allowing us to collectively dream of a brighter tomorrow and to set about investing in this belief through audacious creative endeavours that will bring our dreams to fruition.

The learning ecosystem is an economy of transformation that values the sharing of ideas and earnest effort as its currency. It is an engine of change that facilitates our collective migration from the status quo towards a more sublime ideal. It is a story that has been in the making since the dawning of humanity and one that we continue to write. It is a collective narrative that takes form in informal discussions with faculty and students, formal strategy and planning meetings within the institution, negotiations between management teams and union heads, assignment creation and execution, marking, revision, daily communications with all stakeholders, writing job and grant recommendations, counseling, performing and participating in surveys, posing and answering questions, listening, speaking up, advocating, admonishing, facilitating, meeting, joining, refreshing, participating, excelling, failing, observing, reporting, measuring, analyzing, phoning, emailing, SMSing, Facebooking, Ryppleing, Reaching out, liaising, apologizing, owning, etc..

The reductionist, hierarchal and categorical view of this economy of transformation that sees only teacher, learner, class, school, etc. is an anachronism of the industrial era—a mechanistic view of reality and is out of touch with the hyper-connected 24/7 internet age. The age of instant, ubiquitous and searchable knowledge challenges us to see ourselves in new ways, governed by new relationships in this new techno-cultural milieu. We have been radically interconnected to a degree where paradigms of time, place, authority and knowing take on a radically new dimension that I have heard referred to as a “digital pentacost” in reference to the Christian tradition where people are born into a new time wherein all nations share in the discovery of life changing spiritual vision that cannot be predicted or contained—allowing them to break from status quo ways of being and moving to a new ethic that embraced an open mind to the possibilities of the future. This was a time when traditional paradigms of knowing and communicating were superceeded by new (spiritual) abilities that could transcend barriers of time, space and even language.

We live in this time where embracing the comfort of the known ways of being and doing will certainly result in a continuation of our unsustainable destruction of our ecosystem and our very humanity. There is a pressing need for us to be brave enough and audacious enough to wander down a new path together and the teaching and learning environment can create the sort of climate that is appropriate for seeding such a transformation.

I don’t think that this is something that we can teach in the classic sense of filling the empty cup, rather it is a decision that we must invest in together on all levels by all stakeholders and that we must have courage to move quickly and decisively to walk the walk together and take “the Road not taken!”

To this end I have spent the last 9 years struggling with the challenges that our new ecosystem presents for teaching and learning. During that time I have worked on developing a teaching methodology dubbed RISK-based learning (Rapid Integration of Skills and Knowledge) that uses collective, crowd-sourced approaches to dealing with rapid technological change and its corollary of obsolescence. I have given over 12 presentations to University and College educators from Montreal to San Jose on this topic and was recognized with the McGraw-Hill Award for Innovation in Teaching & Learning in 2007. I have enjoyed the privilege of being an active member of both the Adobe Education Leaders and the Apple Distinguished Educators groups where we work to advocate best practices in the integration and use of technology in teaching and learning.

6:06 PM Permalink
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
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

Content and the Malcontent: A Reflection On the State of Educational Publishing in Canada

A colleague of mine raised the issue of Cartels in relation to discussions we were having on the state of Educational Publishing in Canada and it caused me to reflect deeper on the issue. I would like to share my thoughts on the subject.

Cartel culture runs deep in corporate Canada. Publishers, Media Consortia, Telcoms and, abominably, Beer Producers being the most culpable. Unfortunately, this has stifled innovation because the bottom line for any Cartel is predicated on maintaining the status quo. Recent announcements on a collaboration between Pearson Publishing and Google may signal a change in the wind, however, I remain cautiously skeptical and I cannot help but feel that it might be nothing more than a savvy co-branding exercise.

Canadian publishers have had an entitlement to the wallets of our students and they have been soundly rebuffed by them over the last 10 years in their flight from the bookstores. From the announcement alluded to earlier, it would seem that publishers would like to enjoy the same level of control over the emerging landscape. Why else would one approach the emperor of the internet (Google)? It is a truism to say that the net ecosystem by its nature is infinitely complex, decentralized and  democratic and it will be curious to see how a Cartel mixed with a virtual monopoly can provide a product or service that resonates with the vox pop of the wired generation.

While educatonal publishers still have an important role to play in the media ecosystem they need to eat  humble pie in my estimation. Something inside me tells me that this meeting between Google and Pearson is like lavalife for publishers. Google is the Yenta who is powerful enough to force an arranged marriage that we scholars and our students didn’t necessarily ask for or want.  Using Google in this manner avoids the messy business of having to engage with the very audience who has rejected your offer of marriage in the first place! The scene reminds me of a titled aristocrat desperately seeking a hasty marriage to a well endowed bride in order to shore up his sagging fortunes.

For the less cynical, perhaps, the threat of extinction has caused them to consider what is at stake and they have listened to a constituency that they have largely ignored in the past. The publishers in Canada need to understand the new ecosystem into which they have been unwittingly mired in—an ecosystem where the “consumer” has a significantly different set of attributes and a demonstrably greater degree of power to shape and even create the very content they consume—it is an exquisite act of self-cannibalism. One might say that we are at the dawn of a renaissance in vanity publishing—my blogging activity, for example. And this is where publishers might actually be able to add value in ensuring that vainglory does not trump quality of content. Other factors in the media ecology are also worthy of consideration and may present opportunities for the hungry publisher. They should avoid the lure of trying to create a leviathan content technopoly (I suspect this is why Google is involved) and work on building value for their audiences. I get the sense that they wish to use these technologies to simply lock down and secure a distribution channel for their content and continue with the status quo. The challenges are much greater and it hinges on technology.

Technology is a thread that is ubiquitous in all disciplines and continues to be an invasive (gaining access into areas traditionally not enabled with technology) and disruptive species that causes social and economic turbulence or “disruption”. There is no “settling” of these turbid waters—no period of calm where we can establish the lay of the land and start utilizing it in some meaningful way. By the time we think we comprehend it, it has morphed into something else. This means that we must come to terms with the fact that there are no “set pieces” in education and that this means a significantly lower ROI on assets generated and a much shorter window in which to capitalize on any generated content and it is at “content” and its authorship/ownership where I think the publishers are, unfortunately, nostalgic.

We no longer live in an age where an artefact or content is the thing valued, rather, value inheres in the ability to connect, stay connected and maintain and explore the dynamics of a relationship (ie. Facebook). Content is a by-product of these relationships but the value to the participants lies not so much in what is produced but in the relationships themselves. At the root of internet content generation on social networks is a fundamental human need to instantiate our being in vis-a-vis the “other”. Nowhere in history is it more true than the internet age. Only pre-literate cultures enjoyed such a degree of radical interconnectedness.

If publishers could grasp the fact that their future lies not in securing and indenturing content rather, as brokers of deep and transformative relationships, they may actually be able to bring significant value to the current ecosystem, otherwise they are doomed to be horse traders in the age of the automobile. As content producers they have failed to deliver in terms of price, usability and timeliness. If every domain of human activity is technologically enabled in some way it stands to reason that the diffusion cycles of these technologies will be fairly aggressive and cause knowledge to obsolesce in 12-28 month cycles. Teaching and Learning and Educational Publishing, like it or not, are inextricably linked to the innovation cycle and demand agility in our adaptation to the new ecological niches they create. This is an incredibly demanding task and I don’t believe that traditional publishing workflows and value chains can support this. We need to explore adaptation strategies that engender collective co-authorship and collaboration even highly fragmented forms of  micro-monetization (App Store comes to mind) that allows everyone to participate in a YouTube style economy. The traditional “customer” has a significant role to play in the generation and shaping of content in this new economy with a larger share in both the benefits and the responsibilities. Facilitating this process, with a view to encouraging and promoting excellence is, to my mind,  the new publishing paradigm.

Facebook has categorically proven the value of relation over content and that the sense of authorship has morphed into a domain of co-creation and collaboration. Our students should actually be participating in building learning domain architecture, experiences and content. Not being considered as the bottom of a vertical food chain!

I have been working for the past 8 years on building a “Knowledge Garden” This project at GBC School of Design (an experimental lab in developing crowd-sourced approaches to educational content creation, curation and distribution) has and will continue to support  experimentation in new paradigms of engagement and I would be very keen to develop a partnership with an interested publisher to share in the co-creation of new learning methods from the ground up. We could certainly benefit from their expertise in content management and distribution and we could show them how this can be transformed into something new and meaningful for the wired generation.

2:42 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