Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wikipedia is a convivial tool

Illich talked about convivial tools that supported his ideal of returning learning to its natural function dissintermediated from the control of the radical monopoly of the industrial education complex.

Looks like Wikipedia may be able to play an important role in this process. One indicator is that the Landes Bioscience journal is requiring that publication submissions be accompanied by a submission to Wikipedia.

I'm still trying to find a complete rationale for this from the journal but this article describes it in part. I can see this as an effort to ensure that new knowledge is disseminated and subjected to critical scrutiny above and beyond the traditional (and tarnished) peer-review process.

This seems to support the notion as put forward in a number of places that "Information is now validated at the point of consumption, not creation." (eLearnspace, 2008)It makes it evermore important that people develop and use critical thinking skills rather than rely on authority now matter how unimpeachable the source.

Giggling a little over an article about the Catholic church trying to whitewash its treatment of Galileo 400 years later. I love this quote, "Had Galileo been tortured, Nicolini would have reported it to his king. While instruments of torture may have been present during Galileo’s recantation (this was the custom of the legal system in Europe at that time), they definitely were not used." Kinna like the US doesn't use torture, what do they call it? Oh yeah "tactical questioning"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Generating Ideas

This entry is partly inspired by a presentation by Anni DeStefano to the virtual cluster on Dec 20, 2008. Three articles were introduced for advanced readings.

Deegan, M., & Hill, M. (1991). Doctoral dissertations as liminal journeys of the self: Betwixt and between in graduate sociology programs. Teaching Sociology, 19(3), 322-332.

Hampel, R. (2008). In search of new frontiers: How Scholars generate ideas. Chronicle of Higher Education, 72. Retrieved December 20, 2008, from

Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. The failure of dissertation advice books: Toward alternative pedagogies for doctoral writing . Educational Researcher, 37(8), 507-514. doi: 10.3102/0013189X08327390.

I read the Kamler article when my copy of Educational Researcher arrived and had a few conversations with others regarding this particular article. The article references a book that I purchased on the advice of Sue Gordon.

Rudestam, K., & Newton Rae. (2001). Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

I was impressed by the mention of Grounded Theory dissertations.

Generally I agree with the authors position that the preponderance of advice books is not particularly helpful.
Anna referenced p 508 "doctoral writing is best understood as text work/identity work(italics in the original. By this we mean that texts and identities are formed together, in, and through writing. The practices of doctoral writing simultaneously produce not only a dissertation
but also a doctoral scholar."

I also loved the Hampel article especially the reference to . ... psychologist Abraham Maslow, who began keeping journals primarily to let posterity have "everything unfinished, all that is ¼ or ½ done ... it will save all of my forgotten insights, beautiful ones that are lost because I have too many of them to work them all out or even to classify & save efficiently." At age 57, he fretted that "much of my work will die with me."

I can help but think that Maslow would have been a big fan of blogging because most of my blog entries represent ideas in various stages of development. I keep going back and adding materials as I come across them and trying to integrate concepts.

Anna referenced the notion of rite of passage that is part of the dissertation process and mentioned in the Deegan and Hill (p.74) .....Balancing originality and conformity.....The passage is risky...but an opportunity do something grand. Liminal.

P 325. No place for the immature personality.. (Transformative)

Power of writing... professional writers are lodged in the privileged world of publications. Anna mentioned the proliferation of web based tool blogs, wikis and the way that this might have changed this observation. Knowledge construction and dissemination have changed dramatically and the power structures have changed. Web-based tools support the aims of critical pedagogy in these regards.

Topic of collaborating and drawing on fellow students. Fielding supports student input. "Only one student may serve in the official capacity of Student Reader on your committee, and their name will appear on the title page of your dissertation. You may wish to ask other students to review your work informally (and you may wish to do the same
for their dissertations), but their names will not appear on the dissertation. You may acknowledge the assistance and encouragement of your fellow students in your Acknowledgments page of the dissertation"

Recognizing the institutional concerns regarding the use of new media to accomplish academic tasks. Institutions are subject to accreditation processes that make it important to consider the ramifications of adopting new approaches to scholarship such as a wiki-dissertation. The institution is bound to ensure that the credibility of the degree granted is sound for the sake of alumni, currently enrolled doctoral candidates and potential enrollments at the institution.
At the same time institutions that wish to remain relevant must continue to re-evaluate policy and procedure to ensure that diversity and creativity are encouraged and supported in all aspects of learning and contributing to the community of scholars.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ontology, Folksonomy and Grounded Theory

So grinding through a few concepts here. Established that GTM can be used in support of critical pedagogy as long as you steer clear of the impulse to use GTM as an elite process. Evetts, Mieg, and Felt,(2006)

One of the mechanisms of the elite scientific process is the definition of terms, vocabulary and ontology. Lamp and Milton,(2007) talk about the relationship between GTM and the process used to generate ontologies.

Glaser was concerned that GT not become an exclusively academic exercise serving only the proprietary interests of a particular discipline. Of course, Glaser is fairly proprietary about GTM and is certainly representative of an academic elite.

Ontologies can be compared and contrasted to Folksonomies. Wikipedia discusses this. "Folksonomy has little to do with taxonomy—the latter refers to an ontological, hierarchical way of categorizing, while folksonomy establishes categories (each tag is a category) that are theoretically "equal" to each other"

Great quote from Clay Shirky "It is a rich irony that the word "ontology", which has to do with making clear and explicit statements about entities in a particular domain, has so many conflicting definitions."

Here is the tie back to critical pedagogy. I suspect that Illich would see folksonomies as tools for conviviality in that they support the reclaiming of the learning function outside of an academic environment.

Signed up this morning for an web app called Knoodl. This is a service dedicated to the generation of ontologies or vocabularies as they describe them. They make much use of communities and wikis. After I figure it out I'm going to try to create an ontology for KYD and maybe for GTM generally using some of the ideas from Lamp and Milton.

Evetts, J., Mieg, H., & Felt, U. (2006). Professionalization, scientific expertise, and elitism – a sociological perspective. In Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (pp. 105-127). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Lamp, J., & Milton, S. (2007). Grounded theory as foundations for methods in applied ontology. In Proceedings of QualIT. New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved December 16, 2008, from

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Critical Theory and GT

Reading Barry Gibsons excellent chapter (Gibson, 2008) has helped me bring together some ideas and to envision an application of the theory that has emerged from my dissertation research. Critical theory also reminds me to reflect on my position in society and the influence that has had on my theory of human social behavior.

Gibson explains the connection between two important critical theorists, Theodor Adorno and Pierre Bourdieu and their influence on the development of the Grounded Theory Method originated by Glaser and Strauss.

Critical theory promotes social analysis to expose hegemony and the destructive influence of capitalism on social relationships with a view to emancipation of people. Gibson proposes that Glaser and Strauss sought to bridge an embarrassing gap between the theoretical and empirical traditions in sociology. The challenge was to study society from a position within society. Adorno's position was that sociology was a product of the tensions of capital, labour and reinforced the domination in society.

Day later I come across a blog entry on Stephens Web, quoting George Seimans talking about education and power. Looking for article referenced by George. George quotes Evetts, Mieg, and Felt (2006) who "suggest that expertise has as a significant sociological component. Power, authority, and validity all play a role. Focus on accountability, audits, and performance targets are now heavily intertwined with professionalism. Structures of control - such as education - are not solely about knowledge and the interaction of learners with academics. Education is a system based in a sociological context. Or, more bluntly, there is 'no fundamental difference between the pursuit of knowledge and that of power.'"

So education which can serve as a force for emancipation can also become part of the structure of domination. As mentioned in a previous post, industrial education is more about social control and enforcing conformity than empowering learning, or developing knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

Knowledge creators have also evolved a hegemonic apparatus for the systematic extraction and abstraction of knowledge. Mieg, (2006) describes the various levels of expertise in trans-disciplinary projects. Came across some more info about knowledge generation as a professional project and the role that ontology plays in the control of the production of kwowledge. Contrast formal ontology with folksonomie as in the sort of native learning systems that people put together. Illich would have loved Delicious as a tool for conviviality.

Evetts, J., Mieg, H., & Felt, U. (2006). Professionalization, scientific expertise, and elitism – a sociological perspective. In Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (pp. 105-127). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Gibson, B. (2008). Accommodating Critical Theory. In Sage Handbook of Grounded Theory (pp. 436-453). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory . New York: Aldine de Grutyer.

Mieg, H. (2006). System experts and decision making experts in trans-disciplinary projects. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 7(3), 341-351. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Authority and Ideological Transparency in a Digital World

From the article Viadero, D. (2008). Project Probes Digital Media's Effect on Ethics. Education Week. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from

Article included this video clip of Howard Gardner talking about Project Goodplay, a research project from Harvard Graduate School of Education looking at the effect of digital media on the ethical development of youth. Gardener is concerned about the changing definition of "good worker" and "good citizen".

Education, Social Media, and Ethics: Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education from Education Week on Vimeo.

States that ethical standards evolved to manage participation in groups of up to 150 and that we are not prepared, from an evolutionary standpoint, to participate online communities comprised of thousands of people. I'll have to read the original article to see his reference for that "science".

He uses the phrase "young people these days" and if I was doing formal analysis I would probably code such phrases as "status quo defense".

Throughout Gardner refers to the fact that authority is earned because social models were seen as serving the public interest rather than self-interest. He points out that this is now gone and people, especially those with access to channels of information (outside of the traditional mainstream media or academic industrial complex one would assume)no longer automatically credit authority and are much more able to see through ideological agendas. Gardner has a brief rant about Wikipedia and bemoans the superficial nature of online media where students once revered THE TEXT BOOK and THE TEACHER they now look elsewhere for information.

Of course Howard may be a victim of his own conclusions. While his theory of Multiple Intelligences, his position at Harvard and his reputation are the standards of credibility and authority for all matters educational, his ideology is a bit transparent as well. He is very much a defender of the status quo in a consumer culture. He seems bitter that people might put as much credence in a Wikipedia article as they would in his "say so". The irony is that while points out that the standards of authority and credibility have been eroded, we should accept his pronouncements as gospel based on those same standards of authority and credibility.

I'm putting this together with other critical pedagogy articles I'm reading especially relating to Ivan Illich and his views on the collapse of the educational/industrial complex and the emergence of a post-industrial society. The impact that this has had on credentialism and the development of learning webs. From Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality.

Gardner' defense of the status quo is obvious in the construction of his study. He asks loaded questions. (although I haven't seen the actual questions I wonder if one goes like this "Do you think it is right to steal copyrighted music?"

In Illich's perspective Wikipedia can be seen as a tool of conviviality, those tools that allow us to self-educate and self-actualize. Gardner's disdain for Wikipedia makes a strong statement about his regard for learning the occurs outside of the radical monopoly formed by industrial education.

Interesting connection between Critical pedagogy, liberation theology, US Black Liberation theology and Rev. Wright. I wonder if this connection will have any influence on the way Obama shapes a renewed education policy for US.

Illich, I. (1971), Deschooling society, Harper & Row New York.

Illich, I. (1973), Tools for Conviviality,Heyday Books, retrieved from

Friday, December 5, 2008

One White Crow

"To upset the conclusion that all crows are black, there is no need to seek demonstration that no crows are black; it is sufficient to produce one white crow; a single one is sufficient." Lenora Piper was William James' One White Crow.

Reading the book Blum , D. (2006). Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. Penguin Press. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from

Excellent story about William James early studies into paranormal phenomena. He is considered the father of Psychology and he was instrumental in developing many theories of human behavior. This book is a semi-historical account of some of the activities that James initiated with the Society for Psychical Research.

It is interesting to note James willingness to investigate in the true spirit of open minded inquiry in an area where the settled science at the time said that paranormal phenomena were bunk. He was active at a time when scholasticism and the influence of the church on academia were being questioned and rejected.

James also was the author of "Varieties of Religious Experience".

Thursday, November 13, 2008


An old saying that I like is that one should --- comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.

This may be an admirable ambition but fraught with peril. There are no end of examples of the troubler, JC, Ghandi, MLK etc etc. Every society seems to have an archetype for the troubler, the trickster, the idiot savant, mystic, social change agent, , hippy, yippie, divinely discontent.

There are also no end of examples of the perils.

The troubler may be a personality type or a manifestation of a personality defect, passive aggressive, hostile, dissatisfied, malcontent, attention seeker etc. As with most character traits it seems that troubler is dimensional and the psychic energy of this trait can be directed to greater purpose or sublimated to become manifest as antisocial behavior or more structural as in Tourettes syndrome.

Most democratic processes embrace, enshrine and entrench the role of the troubler, the knave, the fool, the advocate, the minority report. Many political processes require unanimity and guarantee that the minority opinion, much of it from troublers, is considered.

I've been asked to describe my occupation and I'm looking for a polite word that describes my natural inclination to be a troubler. I'm hoping that I have been able to redirect my natural inclination in a positive way, not as trouble maker but as one who examines social structures and attempts to use a critical approach to pedagogy. The person that asks the uncomfortable question, points out the flaw in a system. The field of education is ripe with opportunity for such activity and many troublers have contributed to the overall improvement of this important social institution.

Unfortunately, institutional education has abandoned it's natural purpose in society and is in desperate need of troublers. I'm always drawn to analogies between religion and education. What strikes me is the understanding that religion is the institution that is supposedly facilitates the human need for spirituality. Similarly, education is the institution that is supposed to facilitate teaching and learning. Just as it is possible to be highly religious but not able to connect with natural spiritual power, it is possible to be highly educated but not able to teach or learn, both natural functions of homo sapiens.

Mary Baker Eddy the founder of Christian Science discussed the problem with the institutional church. Although she eventually became a victim of her own conclusions her analogy is still apt in my mind. She described the scenario where a traveler is crossing a desert and has run out of water and is about to perish. He comes across a damp spot in the sand, digs down and discovers water and is saved. In his joy at being saved and in consideration for others who might find themselves in similar dire straights, he erects a cairn of stones around the damp spot to make it more discoverable by others. Over the ages the experience is repeated by others, each adding a little more to the edifice that is being built around the source.

Eventually, the edifice is so large that it actually begins to obscure the source and people begin to parish because they can not slake their thirst on fine cut marble or stained glass and the attendants and priest control the access to the life giving source, manipulating it for their own purposes. The agents of religion have developed many sophisticated ways to capitalize on their control of the structures of churches and religious philosophies, each one intent on convincing the largest number of people that their religion is the one and only true keeper of the source. While claiming to help people realize their spiritual potential, they skim off considerable social benefits for themselves, power, prestige, control and resources.

Ivan Illich described a very similar scenario for education. Humans as a species have a natural need/desire/propensity to teach and learn. We have figured out that there is a life giving and life sustaining potential in socially constructed knowledge and we recognize that it is our own best interest to teach and learn. In modern society it seems clear that we have the same problem as we have with our natural spiritual urges; the very institutions that are supposed to facilitate the natural process of teaching and learning are obscuring the life sustaining features in the interests of control and personal profit.
In Deschooling Society Illich proposed the critical analysis and dismantling of the structures of institutional education that impede learning.
Paulo Freire, also described the fatal flaw in an education system that is more designed to control people than to facilitate the natural teaching and learning function. Freire's analytical process is generally known as critical pedagogy and recommend the continuous examination of the policies, practices and principles of education.
Illich and Friere were troublers in the finest tradition and their perspectives are even more important as we evolve as homo electronicus.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Authentic Dissertation

Just received my copy of the new book by Four Arrows, (aka Don Trent Jacobs). The book is about alternative ways of representing knowledge. Don asked me to contribute to a chapter on electronic dissertations. I was very pleased to do so and deeply grateful to be featured in this publication.

Jacobs, D. (2008). The Authentic Dissertation: Alternative Ways of Knowing, Research and Representation. New York: Taylor and Francis .

Four Arrows is the faculty reader on my dissertation committee and is very supportive of my plan to present my doctoral dissertation as a wiki.

I can't say how much this generous sharing of publication credit has impressed me. After seeing many ideas taken without attribution by faculty supervising graduate students this strikes me as a model of a mentoring relationships.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tell the Raven

Tell the Raven

Doug Noon's students. Instead of education as a competitive enterprize ala the industrial education model, trying to incorporate traditional values. Participate in the world of stories.

Quote from NYT article
"Education policy in recent years has emphasized individualistic aspects of learning. A focus on accountability and achievement testing, giving priority to “results,” has promoted a view of learning as a competitive enterprise, responsive to incentives and sanctions. But this businesslike vision of schools ignores something of great value that schools also have to offer — membership in a community. Schools are people, too."

Thursday, October 2, 2008


John Polkinghorne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Investigate connection between theoretical understandings of Polkinghorne and De Chardin, and Zukav.

Interesting to note that many of the people examining sub-atomic particle theory were religious or used spiritual references. "Most of nature is more cloud-like than clock-like. "(Good quote for KYD.)
Great YouTube video of Polkinghorne.
Talking about investigations of the universe. Good quote "from an engineering perspective the universe is ludicrously over designed if its only purpose was to support the carbon based life form that is us".
Discovered that another of my favorite theorists is Donald Polkinghorne. Doesn't appear to be a relationship.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't Go Changing :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, Views and Jobs

The rhetoric of change. eg Educational leadership and change is the ostensible goal and aim of the program of study in which I am enrolled. There is every indication that just saying it doesn't make it so and often if you have to say it you can't do it" It is like the word change is being held up as a shield against anyone that might be critical of a demonstrated lack of change and reverencing of the status quo.

Don't Go Changing :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, Views and Jobs

Excellent onward links in this article including some that discuss the Transformative focus of education. eg the University of Michigan's Workgroup on Transformative change in educational leadership.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Social Network Analysis

Listened to Valdis Krebs pres to CCK08 this AM. Interesting concepts but it left me with more questions and a distinct creepy feeling that somebody was pushing an agenda. This guy supposedly did some analysis after Saudi nationals guided commercial airplanes into the World trade center buildings in NY in 2001.

In his presentation today he showed two networks maps and asked us to identify the terrorist network. I correctly identified the map on the right. The other map was as IBM project work group and he was trying make the point ( I think) that it is impossible to distinguish terrorist networks from any other kind of network and that you had to identify specific nodes as having at least some remote link to somebody who knows somebody who may know a terrorist. By the description of degrees of separation in networks offered earlier in the presentation, that would be everybody. He went so far as to talk about those who actively support terrorists and those who passively support terrorism by not reporting suspicious activity. Not much information on what qualified as links between nodes, the directions or strengths of the linkages. If you ever looked a middle eastern news source did you ring the gong?

The guy struck me as a bit of a fear mongering cold warrior operative working out a plausible case for greater scrutiny of networks. There is lots of bucks in fear especially for network analysts that can say just about anything.

Someone suggested that the recent Wall street situation be subjected to Krebs network analysis and the whiff of something started to arise for me. The clench, spidy senses started tingling.

The collapse of Wall St was the result of evildoers and terrorists infiltrating US commerce and bringing the economy to collapse thus furthering the terrorist aim.... Ergo the US is justified in spending $700 billion without oversight or scrutiny to "oppose the evildoers" and "make the world safe for freedom and democracy". It is the American public's sacred duty to shut up, bend over and make the world safe for truth, democracy and the American way.

There maybe evildoers at work but it is an inside job and you can bet they are scrambling their little rat like claws to get out of accepting responsibility for a major hurt that they have inflicted and are trying everything they can to shift blame and get a bailout.

Too blatant an manipulation?

Then of course what do I know.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What strange machine man is. You fill him with bread, wine, fishes, and radishes and out comes sighs, laughter and dreams.

Reading this very interesting book.

Kurtzweil, R. (1999). The age of spiritual machines: When computers exceed human intelligence. New York: Penguin Groups. Retrieved September 18, 2008, from

Lovely quote from Nikos Kazantzakis "What a strange machine man is. You fill him with bread, wine, fish and radishes, and out come sighs, laughter and dreams."

Kurtzweil describes the difference between parallel computing and quantum computing. Analogy it is like comparing a firecracker to a hydrogen bomb.

Neat description of quantum mechanics and the action of light striking a mirror. Photons have many possible paths available to them and they take them all at once. Each photon actually bounces off each possible point of the surface, trying out every possible path. Most of these trials cancel out leaving the ones predicted by classical physics. This process is dependent on an observer to resolve ambiguity amongst the particles a process called disambiguation or quantum decoherence.

A bit of a discussion in the CCL08 Elluminate session today about connectivism and knowledge generally. The discussion is abandoning epistemology but is looking at ontologies. Part of the discussion seemed to support a typical positivist longing for objective reality.

Reading Kurtzwiel and listening to the CCK08 discussion put me in mind of two other authors, De Chardin and the Future of man, where he discusses the noosphere, the sphere of collective consciousness that surrounds the earth like the biosphere. When we are born our spirit is drawn from this sphere, we live and improve the spiritual energy and when we die it is returned to the noosphere. Mankind advances the state of the noosphere until it reaches the Omega point or Godhead. (That's the kinna stuff that gets you kicked out of the RC church)

Anyway, Teilhard anticipated the Internet and speculated that the mechanism of the noosphere may be electromagnetic computational machines.

Another guy I like is Gary Zukav and the dancing Wu Li Masters. Again an comparison of quantum physics and oriental mysticism.

When I started talking about such things as the noosphere of Gaia hypothesis. Downes shouted in big block letters NO NO NO. Put me off a bit but the guy seems to be a bit of a nutter, not quite as cleaver as he thinks he is. Although way way smarter that me for sure. Him and George have been getting their things pulled by Catherine Fitzpatrick who is a very prolific writer and unapologeticly challenges the basic precepts of connectivism. She make a lot of sense and I must admit that she expresses a few of the reservations that I have had about connectivism and the whole CCK08 show. It has a huge number of subscribers and I like the format but it also seems to be a bit of an ego proposition for the organizers, there is sure to be a book or two,

Anyway following some of the discussion on the CCK08 moodle and Twitter and listening to Catherine Fitzpatrick is quite refreshing although many of the other participants seem to be a bit freaked out about the very uncompromising views and opinions. She has a pretty low opinion of academics and theory making institutions and rightly calls into question some of the basic assumptions of connectivisim. One of the main issues for her is the reverence and awe and the start maker machinery and the fact that George and Stephen are apparently managing the flow of conversation inspite of the rhetoric of openness and mutual creativity. I see tonight she responded very sharply to Alec Courous of U of R. She doesn't hesitate to call a spade, a f**king shovel. These guys are so use to fawning and deference and an environment of enforced intellectual orthodoxy that it rattles them. I'm getting a kick out of it I must admit and I'm inspired by Catherine's tenacity. I suspect she would have my guts for garters if I ever tried to dialog.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Students, exam both come up short | Portland Press Herald

Students, exam both come up short | Portland Press Herald

Who designed the prompt? "Television may have a negative impact on learning? support or refute. Maybe a few preconceived notions at work.
Grade 8's may have passed with flying colours on the essential skill of detecting manipulative BS and giving it it's due respect and attention.

Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere -- Hayles 23 (78): 159 -- Theory, Culture & Society

Reading this article referenced by Alex Reid of Digital Digs and putting a few things together.
Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere -- Hayles 23 (78): 159 -- Theory, Culture & Society

First I wish I would have found this while the Fielding Critical Pedagogy Class was underway. In theory the conversation should be still going there but I'm afraid it is deader that a doornail.

Second, it is an excellent example of the Pedagogy of Propinquity. The Connectivism course is officially kicking off today and this article falls into my field of view. As I understand connectivism at this point it is advancing a very similar POV as Hayles proposed, that we have entered a post human era in our understanding of our species and that the connections are as important as the individual. Humanity maybe a fairly nebulous concept after-all give the recent experimental work with cloning human organs in pigs for transplant purposes (pig to human that is ;>) )

This has always been a position of some spiritual philosophies, Zen, NDN, etc that we are all a part of a greater and intricately connected whole and that individualism is an illusion. Nodes on a network.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Defining “Creepy Treehouse” | Flexknowlogy

Still processing this concept. It certainly describes a lot of online education initiatives that I have observed.

The implied pedophilia reference might be a little over the top. Or maybe not.

Description certainly fits ed institutions that use walled gardens and proprietary LMS. Agents of social control. I always thought that the expression "scratch a teacher, find a cop" was a bit harsh too but I think schools might be getting to be more of an extended hostage taking incident than ever.

Defining “Creepy Treehouse” | Flexknowlogy

Somebody has come up with a counter to Creepy treehouse as posted on Stephen's Web.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Agnotology: Thought Control In Economics | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

Thought Control In Economics | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

Higher ed enforces orthodoxy rather that knowledge creation. Of course it is not just higher ed. Great blog post about rewarding corporate success and failure from Ethlite the Pole Dancing Philosopher.

More info relevant to agnotology, the study of the social construction of ignorance.

With a great deal of help from my librarian buddies at ACC, specifically Josh, I was able to get a copy of a wonderful article

Smithson, M. (1985). Toward a Social Theory of Ignorance. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 20:4, 323–346, 20(4), 323-346. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-5914.1985.tb00049.x.

I created a concept map of the article with Mind Meister You should be able to grab the map with your mouse and move it around.

Another article describes the role of the media in manufacturing doubt. Springs from the tobacco industry's efforts to sow the seeds of doubt about the scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer. Marketers have taken this concept far beyond. The field of sociology refers to the Sociological construction of knowledge and the sociological construction of ignorance. Talks about 3 kinds of ignorance and the importance of each:
-a varied and useful tool in the workings of science,
-a purposeful social negotiation by the lay public
-or a strategic tool mobilized in the service of various private interests.
Stocking, S. H., & Holstein, L. (2009). Manufacturing doubt: Journalists' roles and the construction of ignorance in a scientific controversy. Public Understanding of Science, 18(1), 23-42. doi: 10.1177/0963662507079373.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Francis Heylighen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Collective Intelligence.

Francis Heylighen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "in 1995 Heylighen was the first to propose algorithms that could turn the world-wide web into a self-organizing, learning network that exhibits collective intelligence, i.e. a Global brain."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rebooting Democracy

I just started reading a newly released book "Rebooting America: Ideas for redesigning American democracy for an Internet age". It is available as a free ebook or download individual essays from

The book is a series of essays by thinkers about the use of the Internet and social networking for political and humanitarian reform.

Many of the contributing authors are familiar names, Yochai Benkler, Howard Rheingold, Clay Shirky, Dana Boyd and Dave Weinberger are few that I have been following.

Quote from the forward by Ester Dyson:
"In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant
and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Those words have never been more salient or important than they are today. We have pressing public policy problems, adults who should be leaders yet instead lead willfully sheltered lives of comfort and ignorance, a citizenry increasingly active in elections yet alienated from governance, an amazing array of new digital tools and platforms that have the potential to inform and empower us and let us self-organize in astonishing and effective ways. The stage is ready and the sunlight of the Internet is shining on us: It can provide light and energy for a fertile, thousand-flowers-blooming garden, or it can ignite the whole thing into flames and burn it out."

Also came across this article via Howard Rheingolds Smart Mobs site on the use of social networking tools like YouTube to be witness to public sector neglect and abuses of power.,3800010403,39266049,00.htm?r=1
An argument for the public monitoring the state.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Informal aspects of everyday learning

Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day: Questler: "Quests in Questler are mini-blogs of information categorized into 6 types, Query, Observation, Discovery, Research, Media and Story. Each of those types represents an informal aspect to everyday learning."

Got to try to track down the theoretical underpinning of this social networking application but it make sense to me as a heuritsic if nothing else.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Knowledge is in the Telling

Excellent resource describing the activities of a scholar-practitioner.
Good distinction between an action researcher and a field researcher, highlighting the usefulness and limitations of analytic induction.

References the dramaturgical approach,- drama as a tool for inquiry- and the importance of iterative story telling.

Also has a description of the use of the narrative vignette device.
The Knowledge is in the Telling
follow the link on the page to the Circle of Inquiry. This heuristic extends the action research cycle and places dissonance, raising questions, looking closely, searching broadly, making sense, taking action in a circular arrangement.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Rag & Bone Blog � Myopic Books Paperback Chair

The Rag & Bone Blog � Myopic Books Paperback Chair

MchLuhan was on the money again. Can't find the exact reference but I think he was talking about how the work of the scribe is still around but as an art form rather than as a functional social tool.
I saw this repurposing of books as art in the form of a chair as a manifestation of the same sort of thing. Just like the cave drawings had social meaning and significance but are now regarded as cave art.
Digital text sources make books an anachronistic art for, possibly beautiful but non-functional.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lawley--Bourdieu Paper

Applying Bourdieu's theories of the Sociology of Culture to cyber- culture.
References Howard Rheingold "Virtual Community"

Some ideas from the paper.
Study of CMC has been tool oriented approach need a better understanding of the impact of computer technology on human behavior and interaction.
Lawley--Bourdieu Paper

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Agnotology as opposed to epistemology. Cultural creation of ignorance as opposed to cultural creation of knowledge. Whole new field of Sociology for me. Social theories of ignorance. Sparked by an article in the Inside Higher Ed Online newsletter Plenty to Go Around by Scott McLemee Great quote "Poverty fosters ignorance. But affluence, it seems, does it no real harm" The idea that selective ignorance is an important basic social process.
"Any sufficiently rigorous line of agnotological inquiry must, however, recognize that there is more to ignorance than political manipulation or economic malfeasance. It also serves to foster a wide range of social and cognitive goods."

McLemee quotes Michael Smithson's "Social Theories of Ignorance" and the notion of academic specialization as a form of distributed ignorance. Tried to get this article but not available through Fielding Library database.

Led to further exploration and came across and article by Turner and Michael What do We know about the I don't knows" Talking about the construction of Likert scales in questionnaires. The practice of offering a choice of "don't know" is problematic. Responses are often eliminated from analysis when they could represent a broad range of possibilities. Like I'd prefer not to say" or "none of the choices reflects my opinion on this issue" or "ambivalence, political considerations, implicit PC values are embedded in the questions and the respondent is avoiding censure.
Good discussion of the taken-for-grantedness of scientific knowledge. Also a discussion in the context of agnotology.

McLemee, S. (2008). Plenty to Go Around :: . Inside Higher Ed: Intellectual Affairs. Higher ed online newsletter, . Retrieved June 25, 2008, from

Smithson, M. (1985). Toward a Social Theory of Ignorance. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 20:4, 323–346, 20(4), 323-346. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-5914.1985.tb00049.x.

Turner, J., & Michael, M. (1996). What do we know about "don't knows"? Or, contexts of "ignorance" . Social Science Information, 35(1), 15-37. doi: 10.1177/053901896035001002.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Intellectual Capitalism/Cognitive Contributions

I applaud the efforts of George Seimans and Stephen Downes for setting up a new project relating to Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. I have been a beneficiary of the generous contributions of both of these guys to the collective intelligence of the web.

I also recognize that there is a reputational benefit particularly in academic environments, the world of intellectual capitalism. Publications, residual payments, intellectual authority, attention, popularity, tenure, research funding etc. The rich get richer. I guess we all do it, get students to write exam questions, use student projects as teaching materials in subsequent classes, use student successes and failures to fine tune our academic operations. Glaser (1978) called it Theoretical capitalism and remarked how some professors indoctrinate their students to footnote carefully to secure ideational capital. (p9)

Participating in a few courses/projects where the expectation is that the participants add cognitive content in the spirit of collaboration. The one reservation I have is when that cognitive content is used to develop a course or program or certificate which it then sold. I recognize the need to recover costs of operations etc and the perceived need to monitize web operations. But if participants are forced through a paygate in a walled garden (the typical online university course) and then their production is used to improve, develop or market the course without benefit to the producer the whole activity becomes a form of rent-seeking behavior on the part of the institution. This monopolistic behavior restricts innovation and inhibits contribution.

The project I've been involved with is for Doctoral students in a School of Educational Leadership and Change program. Two tenured faculty have mounted an experimental course called Critical Pedagogy: Recreating Social Movements in Immersive Environments. The idea is to study some of the theorists of emancipatory change in education, Friere, Illich and others of the Liberation Theology genre. The course is being conducted using ICT and is anchored in two particular settings, Open Learn and Second Life. There has been some use of the desktop sharing application, WEBEX and the expectation is that all participants will develop a community of learners. The participants in this project are enrolled in Doctoral studies and participation in this project counts towards the credit requirements for course work. Many of the participants including faculty are not particularly adept with using online tools or practices and most of the interaction has fallen back to the default position of regularly scheduled teleconferences.

The project has been funded by a special grant and as it is with in the structure of an accredited University and as such there are necessary requirements that must be met. The presence of this type structure is apparent but the actual requirements have not been shared with the participants. Given that this is a course in Critical Pedagogy I have been inclined to apply that analysis to this project.

Glaser, B. G. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity. Sociology Press Mill Valley, Calif.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Copyright and Compensation

How much should a copyright holder be paid for usage. Big issue for the billionaires that run the entertainment industry and who have always made a huge profit on the backs of the creative types.
In Canada this issue has come into focus again with the introduction of bill C-61.
What constitutes fair compensation? Associated Press thinks it has an equitable system. If you want to quote an AP article on your blog it'll cost you $12.95 to quote 5 words on your blog.

You get a big discount if you are an educator. $7.50/5 words. Whoopee.

I don't know what is fair but I can't see that letting industry groups decide will ever translate into fairness.
I know when Banks got into digitizing their processes they figured out a scheme that seems to have worked very well for them. Use to be that cheque processing fees were getting up to around CND $1.20 per transaction. The rationale was that people had to handle all the paper and process the transactions and the wages were to high so they had to keep increasing the transaction fees. When they went to digital transactions they realized that people would not tolerate these exorbitant fees so they cut the fees for handling digital transactions to $.60 per transaction, a fairly common rate that still exists. No paper moves, not human hands touch your transaction and some estimates suggest that it actually costs the banks about $.06 per transaction. They laid off tellers and employees, set up ATM's and the modern bank was created. They have been beavering away reducing the costs of handling transactions even further and no doubt have their costs way below that. As a result Banks have been doing quite well and they seem to have been able to get away with charging what they want. Doesn't seem to matter what Bank you use, they are all about the same. hmmm.

So letting corporations decide what is fair probably won't work out to good for the rest of us. There was a thing called the Tobin Tax that was introduced by a economist that proposed an electronic tax on currency transactions.
I've been watching this issue for a while and participated in the campaign to have Bill-C61 rejected. I read the Globe and Mail article referenced above and it mainly highlights the perception that nothing is clear and nobody seems to be able to clarify things, least of the Minister of Industry who is proposing the Bill. Mostly I have been following the discussion in the education blogosphere and the Michael Geist blog is a major resource.

I know that there has been intense lobbying by the entertainment industry and last election one major candidate who was expected to have this portfolio in a Liberal government received major campaign contributions from pro-copyright outfits prompting big concerns about conflict of interest and interference.

My grasp of all the ramifications of the latest proposed legislation is somewhat limited but as an observer of political processes I find the situation interesting and I can help feeling that the bests interests of the Canadian public are not being served by our elected officials.

Jim Prentice, the Minister of Industry seems like a capable person but with a limited understandings of the concepts of the Internet. His Wikipedia entry was edited to remove any criticism of his handling of this file and replaced by laudatory statements about the Minister great virtues. There appeared to be a Wikipedia edit war until someone used Wikiscanner and checked the IP's of all edits and they were determined to all originate from the Industry Canada servers. Wikipedia locked down the entry and the comments about Prentice's involvement with Bill C-61 and his efforts to edit Wikipedia still stand last I checked. I think it embarrassed his office and led to a widely held perception that neither he nor his Ministry really understood what they were doing. The appearance of members of the Public Service altering a public record on (taxpayer paid) company time was an additional irritant.

As regards the notion of fair return for the use of intellectual property it is also a bit of a boondoggle. It is difficult to determine but it seems likely that the copyright holders are more interested in a "what ever the traffic will bear" approach to pricing. There was an additional flurry of alarm in the blogosphere this week when Wired reported on the Associated Press policy and pricing structure for the use of AP material in blogs. It starts at $12.95 for a 5 WORD quote. (The pay-page has since been taken down)

The question of how to collect for the use of intellectual property in an information economy will have to be addressed. This issue has been around for a while and it reminds me of the so called Tobin Tax issue. This was a proposal to mitigate the damaging effects of currency speculators by imposing a leve on all cross boarder currency transactions. This proposal bogged down because of the impracticality of having all countries agree to the imposition of such a tax and the question of who would be the tax collector and how would the proceeds be distribute.

Similar issues face any coherent approach to setting fair rates for IP and the collection and distribution of compensation. These problems may become fairy short lived when the full effect of the information economy is realized and the impossibility of managing information becomes apparent. So for the time being the copyright lawyers are doing well and that doesn't usually bode well for humans on either side of any debate.

Helder Camara

Thanks for the links to the Mani Tese speeches.
Camara was obviously trying to "call it as he saw it". I think he accurately detected the influences and manipulations of the multi-national or, more correctly, the supra-national corporate agenda.

And he also pointed out the sick economics of supplying surplus arms and munitions to third world countries, most often to clear inventories so that they could manufacture and sell more expensive and sophisticated arms to the first world.

Making bombs is big business, but you have to have a way to get rid of old stock so you can keep the defense contracts flowing. Best way to use up that inventory is to keep wars going somewhere.

I was interested when Camara taled talking about some of the secret agendas of the corporations with respect to natural resources in Europe, particularly steel and coal. Just watching a You Tube clip of John Buchanan and reading an article in the Guardian about Prescott Bush, GWB's grandpa and the originator of the family fortune. Seems like a lot of people made big bucks from the Nazi slave-labor steel factories in Poland. Of course, making family fortunes from slavery is not a new thing in the US or anywhere in the world.

I guess that is what this project is all about. We now have the means to recreate social movements using social networks where the unspeakable is spoken and the elephants in the room are mentioned by name.

The Catholic church was able to discredit the Liberation Theologists mainly because they were able to control the communications of the faithful and forbid people to discuss issues that threatened the authority structures.

People now have the means to organize and communicate freely. Grassroots organizations like Voice of the Faithful were able to use the Internet to share information, articulate issues and to demand accountability from the Catholic church. This was especially effective dealing with the problem of the cover up of sexual abuse and pedophile priests.

It is critically important for humanity to make sure that our open channel stays open.

Me Cyborg

I find myself doing more of my work in the cloud, mostly courtesy of Google. All my Gmail messages from when I first started using it in Sept, 2004 are instantly searchable and available anyplace there is an Internet login. I rarely delete anything apart from bacn and the spam is automatically filtered (so none of those wonderful offers from the the guys in Nigeria who wants me to help them move a little money around smile) All my other email accounts bump into to Gmail with POP or IMAP so the only ones missing are the ones that the university's email server loses when it craps out, which is fairly regularly. I use an application called Gspace that allows me to use my Gmail storage capacity like and FTP account for music, pics and stuff. Even so, I am only using 20 % of my total Gmail storage capacity for my main account and they keep bumping it up all the time.

I used Word and Endnote for writing documents and papers for a long time but now it's Google Docs and Zotero. Same deal, nothing is on anyone physical machine so access is available anywhere there is an Internet connect.

I did the redundancy thing for a while but kinna got tired of it. So now I'm working without a net, no belt and suspenders, (or no condoms and birth control) Gotta figure if the Internet ever gets that un-usable it is time to head for the hills anyway.

I am the board treasurer for a local charitable organization and use Google Spreadsheets for all the budget stuff, the monthly reports and statements. Works very well and it is possible to consult with the manager online anytime from a shared document. I hate Powerpoint with a passion but use Google Presentations if I have to read one.

I pay for a little storage for a few things like podcast transcription and web-casting space. I have a paid wiki account for some professional stuff but mostly I use free space. Virus protection is by way of a web-based service that does an excellent job. I used to FTP a bunch of stuff to server accounts but it turned out to not be worth the bother. I do have two IPs and I keep some activities separate.

I figure that Google has server farms all over the world with the best tech and engineering (or better that any commercial service I could get or afford) they stay on top of the vandals and the pirates. I use Firefox which gives me a bit of an edge over most of the annoying pop-ups and malicious Trojans. I try almost every social networking gadget that comes into my view, my latest favorites are Twhirl and Seesmic.

As far as I can tell, (I'm paying darn good money to acquire critical thinking skills) a lot of the hype about the hazards of the internet are fear-based marketing ploys designed to sell me useless stuff that hackers get around in seconds anyway. If anybody really want to do me cyber harm, it is going to happen. There is lot more risk from somebody stealing my credit cards or some waitress or clerk doing the double swipes.

Looks like cloud computing is going to be the norm in the very near future. The cost of online digital storage has collapsed and the ease of use and reliability has increased exponentially. In-house IT is going to go the way of steam-generated, DC electricity. All of the worlds data will be in the cloud and we will just have to tap in to what we need. Even better, we will be able to indulge our natural human capacity for creativity and sharing. That may do more for democracy, world peace and environmental sustainability than a couple of giga trillion bucks worth of bombs and security systems. It is going to make big problems for the political and social structures that are based on authority and control but I'm good with that.

Communicative Action and Liberation Theology

No need to dust off an old book, there is Jurgen Habermas on YouTube, fergoodnesssakes smile.
Look a little further you will see a whole series of lectures and discussions.

I like this interview in particular because Habermas was asked to reflect on what he thought were his own most important ideas. Communicative action is mentioned in the context of democracy.

He describes Nazi Germany and the "re-education" policies of that regime and he talked about the generational discourse that occurred as a consequence of WWII, how the academic cohort of the time, the many scholars, philosophers and sociologists "made their bones" out of that time of torment.
( My own spin, Habermas doesn't make the implication of an academic Mafia but there are some interesting parallels don't you think?)

Anyway, the result was a rich texture of intellectual activity:some sublime philosophy, some rationalization and justification of evil by intellectuals using "scientific processes" and many academic careers were launched.

We are at a time in history where a similar generational discourse needs to occur and is occurring. Just as those in Habermas's intellectual generation engaged in communicative discourse in the commons to expose evil and try to heal humanity, we now have an opportunity to do the same. (I wonder if Habermas feels that some of that effort was wasted because humanity seems to be doing some of the same things over and over.)

Difference is we now have much broader access to the channels of communication of the public sphere and almost instant access to other minds in the noosphere. Just gotta figure out how that Google search works and how to engage in the dialog by comment on a blog or wiki.

A person can even add comments to the dialog on the Habermas YouTube video.
The comments, and there are many, from the ridiculous to the sublime, the profane to the rapturous, give an idea of the impact of an idea, or a thought. It gives you a chance to add your voice and engage the public sphere, be part of an immersive environment.

The other thing I like about watching this clip on YouTube is the visual dimension, because I never met Habermas or seen him in a lecture. I had no idea that he had a physical deformity and I can just imagine what things must have been like for him as a young person in the era of post Nazi Germany. The Nazis exterminated people with physical deformities, so when I read what he writes it now has a whole other texture of meaning for me. His personal response to evil is not an academic issue, he knows how important it is that everyday people inform themselves and take responsibility for the public discourse.
Makes me think about the famous Martin Neimoller poem.
Interesting also to note that Habermas has engaged in dialog with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. That name is familiar from somewhere.

Black Liberation Theology

Looking for resources for this unit. I've read and been greatly affected by the writings of Ivan Illich over the years but I didn't know anything about Helder Camara or Sergio Méndez Arceo. After the looking at Camara in the last unit I was curious about Arceo.

I love wandering around in Google and I am starting to be a big believer in the pedagogy of propinquity, defined as, learning that occurs while we are intending to learn something else.

Of course you can get into some fluffy stuff, the search for Sergio Mendez Arceo yielded a very rich selection of YouTube videos of Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66. I thought that it would be interesting to start a new Internet meme like RickRolling with this YouTube video. La la la.. nice, my family are long accustomed to hearing my eclectic circus.

Anyway, not all time was wasted, I came across an interesting article linking the theology of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and many of the authors we are looking at in in Critical Pedagogy.

As a Canadian following the debates leading up to the next US Presidential election I recognize the incredible furor that was raised by the connection between Barak Obama and Rev. Wright, so this article interested me.

Any thoughts on this? Is useful or just some kind of red baiting and fear mongering? How much would the ideas of Liberation theology influence US politics this time around? How much would that freak out the military industrial complex?

Security Theatre

I didn't even realize this was a topic until I stumbled across an article the other day about all the time and effort that societies put into the illusions of security. TSA is a great example of security theater, it is all a big show to keep everybody fearful, on edge, and accepting of state control and militarism.

Ubiquitous surveillance has rightly generated major concerns world wide. The new high technology that is a great boon to is also being used against humanity in many instances. The response to this is the subject of Cory Doctorow's new eBook Little Brother, freely downloadable.

Another piece of art that I came across was kind of delightful but upon reflection and review is a commentary on Security Theater.
I came across another thing that you might interest you as an artist exploring new forms of expression.

It is a UK band that assembled a music video by setting up and playing in front of various CCTV security cameras and then applying under the provisions of the Access to Information laws for copies of the recordings. They then stitched it all together into a rather nice piece of art, IMHO. Newspaper article describes the project.

Great song and an interesting commentary on Big Brother

Base Christian Communites in Mexico

Still trying to sort out some of the issues relating to CEB's, Liberation Theology and the politics of Latin America. Latin America was and remains a theater of larger geopolitical issues.

Emge notes that " In attempting to relate these various factors (CEB's Liberation Theology, Freirean pedagogy) it becomes impossible to conceptualize any simple line of cause and effect. What becomes obvious is a complex web of interacting variables." No kidding!

One of the variables in play was the other nominally Christian organizations that were active in the arena and how their perspectives were not sympathetic to Liberation Theology.

An article from the Huffington post mentions the intrigues of various political entities, identified as Christian. In particular, this article references Evangelical Protestant organizations who viewed their main Christian obligation as opposing "Godless communism" rather than emancipation of people.

In Nicaragua in the 1980's the socialist Sandinistas were aligned with those that promoted Liberation Theology, mainly Catholics. They were opposed by the Contras who were supported by the Regan administration personified by Oliver North who espoused an Evangelical Protestant Christianity.

I don't know if the scenario was the same in Mexico at the time but I wonder if there were similar religious dynamics. The Huffington post article is mainly directed towards the present day situation in Venezuela but some of the themes seem familiar. It is interesting to see the some of the antecedents of current events.

Of course there are still the criminal drug cartels to consider. Current events this week in Mexico illustrate their influence.

Emge, D. R. (1988). Base Christian communities: A challenge to the status quo. Annual Meeting of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education. Tulsa, OK, November 5.

Shaw, R. (2005). What's Really Bothering Pat Robertson About Chavez?, Huffington Post.

Deschooling Society

Considering that much of society seems to be mistaking the bath water for the baby it might not be too bad of an analogy.

However, using that particular analogy in an argument is problematic. You couldn't argue in support of Illich because then you would be in favor of throwing out babies. It provokes a specific emotional response and inhibits critical thinking.

Sent me rushing to my little blue, although now much coffee stained, "Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools." and on to the Wikipedia entry on logical fallacies.

Maybe drawing from a less emotional analogy would be helpful to assess what Illich was saying.
How does the Zen saying go? Don't mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon.

Illich was talking about looking away from the pointing finger and looking at the moon directly. Once you have the moon in view, there is no need to keep looking at the finger.

In the case of learning, once I know how to learn there is no need to keep concentrating on the "forms of education" that taught me how to learn.

hmmm...I'll keep noodling at this.

Getting Critical with the LMS

One of the things I hope we can do over the rest of the time that we are assembled for this KA is to reflect and evaluate the process we have used so far. When I first used Open Learn before it was pretty cutting edge. Since then new web-based social networking tools have developed that are so much simpler to learn and use. These tools also more naturally support the value of a personal commitment to lifelong learning.

For those who are comparatively new to technology mediated learning, I hope that you are not put off by the clunkiness of Open Learn. Although it is using a open access format ( you don't have to pay for a course access key) it is still using a learning management system (LMS) that is designed, more to make management possible rather than making learning possible.

It is convenient for administration to be able to aggregate all student activities but is not very useful for learners. Often with a LMS, such as the Moodle system that is being used here, once you are finished your course all your contribution stays in the LMS and because your subscription for that course has expired, your stuff is inaccessible. I heard somebody refer to that as institutional malpractice.

One of the weblogs that I follow has initiated a series of complementary online activities for the discussion of social networking in education. Here is a link to Graham Attwell's blog, Pontydysgu (Welsh for Bridge to Learning I think, happily the blog is in English). Attwell is proposing an immersive salon cafe approach with a net radio broadcast, an online phone in radio show where you dial in with Skype (the VOIP online phone system) and then a social gathering in Second Life at Emerge Island.

A little quote from the promotional blurb... "The educational technology community has embraced social software with a wave of experimental projects and activities. But is it working? The tools are great for encouraging new participatory approaches to learning and for building peer activity and networking. However, is there a dissonance between such approaches to learning and the structures and curricula of our education systems? Does the adoption of social software challenge hierarchies and power? What is the role of teachers and trainers in a era where knowledge is distributed through networks." Sounds like stuff that might interest us here.

Habermas would be tickled pink!! It involves using Skype, Second Life, Blogs etc. All free range social network tools that people are putting together in very creative and imaginative ways. Sounds like stuff that might interest us here. We should try to link up with Attwell and Co. or set up something similar for ourselves.

Again, I hope that the people who are new to web based social environments are not completely discouraged by the experience in Open Learn. There are web-based tools that work a whole lot better. That is one of the primary considerations when choosing technology to support online learning, ease of use. There is a principle that "first use leads to future use". If a persons first experience using technology is negative, there is a tendency to blame yourself, "I just don't get it.... or... I'll never catch on to this stuff..." And also a tendency to be leery of other opportunities for online learning and also a tendency to do a fair bit of negative advertising for the program. If you are finding this painful, take heart, I've been working in DE and using web based tools for a while and I find myself frequently frustrated with the applications. It doesn't have to be this problematic.

DE planners must be very careful to choose applications and pedagogies that are appropriate to the intellectual and technology skill levels of the target group. People love to create and communicate, the learning experience should capitalize on these wonderfully human tendencies.

Unfortunately as Illich and others have observed, education often impedes learning because ed admin puts the needs of the organization first. ( Yeah, I know the vision statements all say "Learner Centered" blah, blah, blah..., that is the espoused theory but the theory-in-use is very different) Now that the cost of organizing web-based communication has dropped to zero, educators are no longer restricted to working within the hierarchically controlled environments of the LMS. Gotta shake off the predilection for authority and control unless you are in Education as a money making proposition. Then you will want as much authority and control as your customers will permit. It is taking more and more marketing to convince people that that is a good or necessary thing.


I like this article and this journal. I didn't even mind so much that I had to register to read the article. At least it wasn't behind a paywall.

I was interested when Castells introduced the article as a "set of grounded hypotheses on the interplay between communication and power relationships" What I was hoping for was explanatory theory that is typical of classical Grounded Theory analysis.

Reading the article I found that it was more descriptive than theoretical, and sought to re-frame new social phenomena in old frameworks, specifically using the rhetoric of power relationships and political space. While I think this could be useful and the article does an excellent job of description, the theoretical explanatory power was lacking for me. There is something about web based socially networks that doesn't fit neatly into this framework for analysis.

I think he was on to something with his last statement.

"Thus, as in previous historical periods, the emerging public space, rooted in communication, is not predetermined in its form by any kind of historical fate or technological necessity. It will be the result of the new stage of the oldest struggle in humankind: the struggle to free our minds."
Is it a struggle or a process of human spiritual (not religious) evolution?

Yes, I've read the Rise of the Network Society and I was very impressed at the time, although it is now 12 years old and in the realm of web-based social networking that is like the last ice-age.

I just reread the dedication that Castells wrote in the 2000 edition of that book where he acknowledged that a lot has changed since 1996 and that he was going to stick with his initial theoretical perspective inspite of much world wide academic criticism.

I would suggest that a lot has happened in ICT between 2000 and 2008. It is the speed of change is so problematic for academic analysis of the WWW. It takes at least a year to write and publish a book and have it distributed to the world.

It is a little hard to find unassailable authorities whose theories have the necessary fit, grab, relevance and generalizability as humanity tries to understand how basic social processes are changing so profoundly.

So that was why I was so interested to read something that Castells has written more recently. I was also pleased to be able to read it in a online journal and although I haven't looked to deeply into the journalistic policies of that particular journal; their process of peer review, the make up of their peer review committee etc. I see that Castells is the editor of that Journal so that is interesting.

I will continue to attempt to apply my still forming scholar-practitioner skills to the critical analysis of this particular piece of work.

Complicated Fun and Flow

Just reading and commenting on Howard Rheingolds blog SmartMobs.
He is outlining the procedure that he and his group are using to set up the Social Media Classroom project. He describes the planning process as "complicated fun".

I like that attitude!!

It really fits with my experience working with social networking tools, which I find amazingly absorbing. Trying to figure out how this tool works, how to make a comment on that wiki, how to create a podcast, videocast, concept map, how to add value to a discussion, how to understand what the heck is going on in some web based social networks, all this is very satisfying to me. Sure, I'll call it fun. Adult play!!

When thinking about motivation in learning I always seem to get back to a concept put forward by U of Chicago Psychologist , Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi.

I cut and pasted the following from the Wikipedia entry.

"Csíkszentmihályi outlines his theory that people are most happy when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great freedom, enjoyment, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored"

I get a real buzz from reading, thinking, reflecting especially using web based technology and connecting with the web-based collective intelligence that is emerging all around us. Humans have a natural desire to create, contribute, collaborate, cooperate. As Shirky points out modern ICT lets us do that with an ease that we have never known.

I snort a bit when some of my acquaintances talk about American Idol.I don't get it but, each to their, own as the saying goes. It is a bit concerning to discover that more people vote in American Idol than in their local political processes. The American Idol folks have figured out something important about social engagement and they are making a fortune at it.

Anybody got a really good theory that explains that and how we better can leverage it for the larger social good as well as private commercial success?

MacArthur Series

Reading in the MacArthur Series starting with the section on Civic Engagement and immediately came across many interesting articles that illuminated, for me, some issues that we have been discussing in these forums.

Talk about the matrix of coincidence. Serendipity used to amaze me but I find myself counting on it now.

I liked the article by Howard Rheingold, he seems to be popping up every where I look the last while.

I also was interested in the Marina Umaschi Bers piece.
I was reading her bio and discovered she did her Phd under Turkle and Papert at the MIT Media Lab. Turkle and Papert have reworked the Claude Levi Strauss notion of Bricolage.

"Levi-Strauss used the idea of bricolage to contrast the analytic methodology of Western science with what he called a "science of the concrete" in primitive societies.11 The bricoleur scientist does not move abstractly and hierarchically from axiom to theorem to corollary. Bricoleurs construct theories by arranging and rearranging, by negotiating and renegotiating with a set of well-known materials." (Turkle and Papert, 1992)

As I mentioned in my introductory comments, I consider myself a bricoleur, putting things together out of bits and pieces using unconventional means. This certainly fits as part of the pedagogy of propinquity and also reflects a useful mindset for making sense out of the vast amount of resources on the Internet.

I went on to look at the issues raised by S. Shyam Sundar and his discussion of how technological affordances have affected the credibility of online information. An excellent illustration of this issue is found in the ongoing discussion about the validity, credibility and reliability of Wikipedia. This dialog continues on the Internet and within Wikipedia itself. When anybody can create a Journal and claim authority it is evermore necessary to develop and use critical thinking skills.

These skills must be honed even further because some of our traditional shortcuts for attributing authority and credibility have been undermined by questionable practices and outright fraud. I'm thinking of the process of peer-review in academic journals and how this whole process has been undermined and subverted by practices of tobacco and pharmaceutical corporations.

When such bastions of empirical evidence as the New England Journal of Medicine change their editorial policies to accommodate pharmaceutical corporations, that whole system of intellectual authority and credibility-granting is thrown into question.

No longer can we look to certain institutions to be bastions of truth. The Catholic Church had a doctrine of Imprimatur that said that a literary or similar work had been declared "free of error" in matters of Roman Catholic doctrine. It was an intellectual control mechanism to reduce the chances of the laity being exposed to heresy. This doctrine also made things very difficult for the Liberation Theologists especially those who were considered as adopting the views and attitudes of socialism or communism.

We can no longer grant any institution or individual theorist the unquestioned of authority, the right of Imprimatur. And it is evermore important that scholar practitioners become aware of some of the ways that academic fraud is perpetuated and expose it when ever it occurs.

That puts me back to another of the themes that is emerging for me, the punk philosophy of questioning authority. Edupunk is a very liberating impulse.

I look forward to hearing what others have to say about these articles and others in the MacAurthur series.

Turkle, S., & Papert, S. (1992). Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 11(1), 3-33.

Public Intellectuals

What exactly is a public intellectual?
I've come across a couple of articles discussing related issues.
The first article Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicolas Carr writing in the
One of the suggestion is that ICT is changing the way we read and think and may be changing our neurological structure. The article relates some very interesting illustrations of the effect of new technologies on intellectual practices in the past from Socrates to Nietzsche. It was interesting to read the research referenced in the article that the human brain retains it's plasticity throughout life. Phewf!!...little reason to worry that the Internet is wrecking my brain.

This article Who is a Public Intellectual? from the New York Times by Daniel Drezner tries to add some dimensions to the concept. He addresses in part the availability of the Internet as a channel for communication of ideas.

[T]he growth of online publication venues has stimulated rather than retarded the quality and diversity of public intellectuals.

In both articles it appears the the new affordances of the Internet are clearly becoming an increasingly important part of what it means to be a public intellectual. Ideas are more broadly disseminated, there is far greater opportunity for reflective dialog, and the development of collective intelligence is enhanced.

This is a critical topic especially if we consider ourselves public intellectuals. I find one of the worst and most insidious forms of censorship is self-censorship out of fear. As you ask.." What are we afraid of...?

Thankfully we have the examples of people like Illich and Freire who knew that they were publishing ideas that might be challenging and unpopular but had the courage and persistence to keep saying what they thought.

Whether ideas are in a published book, an academic journal or an online forum, ideas are public. If I try to limit public access to my thoughts and ideas because I have an expectation of profit from my work, that is one thing and we can have that discussion elsewhere.

If I stifle my contribution for fear of what somebody 'might' do with my words or how somebody 'might' misinterpret my ideas, I have erected a system censorship far more crippling than the DHS or the Chinese government could ever envision.

Recreating Cable TV in Second Life

I was watching a Cable TV presentation on the Second Life Cable Network. The presenter is Robert K Logan and he discusses the topic of Media Ecology and prefaces his remarks by describing his interactions with Marshall McLuhan and Ivan Illich. It is an interesting segment in it's own right but it also struck me that it was a pretty excellent example of the task that is the ostensible focus of our group, namely, recreating social movements in immersive environments.
I'm not much of a TV watcher and I haven't really had a TV hooked up in my home for the last 25 or more years. I don't think I have missed all that much although it makes it hard to have an informed conversation about Oprah or American Idol. Oh well...

One thing I did miss out on was the whole Cable TV, community access TV experience. Again, not a big loss for the most part but I have become aware of some truly inspired Cable TV efforts. These were Cable TV stations that were set up to air non-mainstream content and ideas and emerged as venues for a lot of alternative views and social activism.

I recently watched a You Tube of Harold Channer Cable TV presentation. It is a pretty wild and wooly session with fairly low production values by commercial TV standards but it is good enough for the ideas to come through. Channer also references some of the authors we have been considering in Critical Pedagogy although he is talking more from the perspective of economics.

The presentation pointed out that one of the features of the capitalism system is to eliminate the labour component in the interests of reducing input costs and increasing profit. Corporations have always used technology to to reduce their reliance on human inputs. While this has some very advantageous features for humanity in that it has reduced the need for humans to perform some very dangerous tasks it also has some pretty undesirable effects.

The classic case it that or McDonald's outsourcing of it's pay window operations. In some locations when you place an order at the drive through electronic kiosk, the voice that says "Welcome to MacDonald's, Can I take your order please?" is actually physically located in a low-wage, middle-tech country like Pakistan or China. The exchange is conducted via satellite communications systems and the order-taker processes your order and sends it to the cook-staff terminal where is your order is packaged.

Technology has allowed large corporations to eliminate low wage jobs in one country by paying even lower wages in another country. Beyond the issues of corporate ethics the implications are fairly large even for the corporations. What happens when all the wage jobs are gone, who buys your hamburgers?

Clearly, there will have to be a major reordering of economic systems and Channer referenced the work of Louis O Kelso and the idea of binary economics. Instead of working for wages people are able to work as owners of the means of production, the basis of the employee stock option idea.

The other point that was made in the video was that the existing economic system is based on a scarcity model, the science of economics is all about the management of SCARCE resources. What happens when you have an information economy where there is no scarcity of resources, in fact just the opposite. One response is to create artificial scarcity and that is a tried and true tactic. It is going to be very hard to maintain a facade of scarcity of information.

I thought is was very interesting to see some elements of Cable TV being recreated in Second Life for the purpose of airing views outside of the coverage of mainstream media.

Neutral Voice in Simm City

My 18 year old daughter is a long time Sims player and she has the latest version. She was showing some or the features and while there has been an attempt to make the language culture neutral, many of the other features are pretty cultural specific and reflect a consumer society.

The Sims economic system is consistent with a Western consumer labour exchange society. The avatars work in jobs, collect wages, pay bills. Their activities are largely typical consumer oriented, go to the mall, buy stuff.
Relationships are maintained in part to maintain your economic position.

I suppose that those types of consumer transactions are pretty cross-cultural.
The life style choices are broad ranging but are limited to an urban experience for the most part. No opportunity to be a pastoralist or a hunter gatherer. But I guess it is Sim City after all and it delivers as promised.

Padre Glyn Jemmot in Costa Chica Mexico

I was deeply affected by the discussion we had today with Padre Glyn Jemmot and I thank Yolanda and Joyce for making the connection. I appreciate the opportunity to increase my awareness of an instance of social injustice and their effort to focus attention on this community. I think that they have also provided us with a way that we can make real contribution to social justice beyond an personally enriching academic exercise.

I heard Padre Glyn describe the setting of Costa Chica as rural, poor and forgotten. There is not much we can do about the first two conditions but there might be something we can do about the third.

I watched the Padre Glyn video interview on YouTube again and was struck by a comment that he made. He spoke of the "black institutions in the United states that come to beef up their curriculum, their cultural diversity knowledge etc. to teach there. So they come and do the research but nothing comes back and in the research there is no partnership. We talk about folk research where it is ordinary black people from the villages who've never been to Universities who perhaps could not use properly a tape recorder, they're the ones recording their own history. When you have that parity, that partnership...true partnership in the diaspora dialog, I think they'll have something."

I would like to respectfully propose a project whereby we could offer a connection so the people of Costa Chica could have their voices heard and not be forgotten. I don't know if that would help but it seems that to feel that you are forgotten by the world brings on a sense of hopelessness.

Padre Glyn mentioned that the youth of his community just want to get out and that is understandable. I know what it means to have a rural way of life where the choice is to live in poverty or leave and take your chances in a city. I know how vulnerable people in poor rural communities are to abuse if evil people think that nobody cares about it. The indifference of the world to poor rural people is a blight on our collective consciousness. The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.

This is where technology and a commitment to social justice might come to the aid of this community.

Social networks are amazing things and incredibly simple to set up if you have the most basic of technology skills. This is certainly within the technological reach of anyone who can navigate Open Learn or Second Life.

For example, it is the work of minutes to set up a blog in a social networking community like It is also the work of minutes to establish a podcast that could be mounted within the Costa Chica blog. There are podcast services like that allow entries to be made from a telephone. These podcasts can then be heard by anyone with an Internet connection and the blog address.

The residents of Costa Chica could phone and record their stories for the world to hear. People who are interested in social justice could distribute the feed and help to focus a bit of world attention. It may be a while before technology catches up with Costa Chica but that doesn't mean that they can't leapfrog over some of the technological limitations. The knowledge that somebody, somewhere might be listening and might care can have an amazing transformative effect on individuals and communities. A little bit of attention costs us nothing. Even a comment on the Pastor Glyn YouTube video takes only a few seconds but lets the world know that someone has noticed and is paying attention.

I am willing to give this a shot.

Canadian Apology for Residential Schools

I wrote earlier this week about the historic apology that the Canadian government issued to the country for the Indian Residential school experience. I was very glad to see this happen and I hope that it begins a new era of respectful relationships in Canada.

One of the most horrendous effects of the Residential Schools policy was the forced relocation of people from their families and communities. While this was clearly a policy decision, based in part on an agenda of cultural genocide, it was also a feature of educational practice of the time.

In order to offer the industrial model of education, as it was organizationally structured at the time and as it continues to this day, students and teachers were required to physically congregate in specific geographical locations for significant periods of time to be exposed to the intermediated "teaching". This arrangement was an artifact of the organizational realities and applies to all participants in the industrial model of education.

One of the most powerful features of technology mediated communication is the elimination of the necessity to be physically present for learning to occur. If people have the equipment and the necessary bandwidth they can participate in dis-intermediated educational opportunities on their own terms with out having to leave their community context. Furthermore, people can participate in the construction of their own educational experience and they can do that in collaboration with an extraordinary network of resources.

Each individual can become a node and a connection in a network of collective intelligence as has never been possible before. Self-education has always been a viable strategy but web-mediated social networks have taken this into an entirely new dimension. The possibilities for self-determination and emancipation are enormous.

The human race has been severely limited by an economic system based on the control of scarce resources and this has created most of the repressive structures that we all labour under. Two percent of the worlds population controls 90% of it's material wealth and the means of production. However, in an information economy scarcity is no longer and the cost of the means of production for web-based resources is dropping as fast as the usage increases. This has been extremely threatening to the hegemonic institutions of education at all levels.

Institutions have had to resort to some pretty draconian schemes to maintain this positions. One mechanisms is to have society become increasingly reliant on credentials as an measure of the worth of individual intellectual contribution. Credentials are controlled by institutions that have a vested interest in manitaining control over the granting of credentials. They are able to control the conditions of education including an continued reliance on the bricks and mortar model of education as place based, calendar driven.

These institutions have been driven by a the capitalist economic model which is designed to squeeze the maximum amount of money out of any venture. This model is pervasive in society and is increasingly becoming a feature of the Internet. Everybody is trying to figure out how to monetize their contribution. Older mainstream institutions such as the press and entertainment industries have always been able to manipulate conditions in a scarcity economy to make a buck and have into the digital market place and continue their piratical practices.
The issues of intellectual property and copyright have been taken over by the money making machine which has been looking for a way to skim money from every online interaction. They have been very effective at this but the model calls for more, more, more. Stockholder returns must be maximized and people are increasingly being herded through the paygates of the Internet.

The apology of the Canadian government for the Indian Residential schools rang a little hollow with the introduction this week of legislation designed to lock down the internet into a paygate fleecing operation. Instead of figuring out how to increase access to bandwidth and information for the benefit of the population, the government has succumbed to intense lobbying efforts of the American entertainment industry and has introduced legislation that effectively prohibits the sharing of many types of web-based resources. The free and open sharing of online resources is one of the foundations of a distributed education system that would allow Canadian people to participate in their communities and on their terms.

So apologizing for forcing people into one oppressive form of education while imposing another form of oppression that amounts to the same thing is very disheartening.