Change, Technology, Learning and Adaptation

Euan Semple concluded a recent post with an interesting observation:

Comparing the levels of technical competence of my kids with those of my non internet friends and comparing the peaceful majority at the student demonstrations in London to the wistful recollection of more politically engaged times amongst my middle class friends, I find myself wondering if the children are becoming grown ups and the adults are succumbing to voluntary infantilisation.

via – The Obvious? – Parents, children and wikileaks.

More than three years ago I asked another question that somehow seems rather on target:

After all, secrecy is still the currency of power. What are the power gate-keepers to do when secrecy ceases to be a valid currency because what was secret has become common knowledge?

In the face of change, inertia takes you into denial, survival will force you to adapt.


Tomorrow: BarCampSwitzerland

Why is it that blogging is not about blogging? I am really quite curious about this event, and if I was reasonable, I would not be going because there is all that other stuff that I ought, should or want to be doing, and this just does not quite fit in the plan, and then it does. I am holding a workshop next month on blogging and I have been having a lot of conversations on the topic with a variety of people from theatre directors, linguists, editors, journalists, book authors, and school teachers.

Blogging in my view is today’s alchemist’s panacea. The thing is that today’s alchemists call themselves something else, but I am not quite sure what it is that they call themselves. I am having a difficult time these days taking a lot of very serious sounding people too seriously. This may all just be related to the fact that recently I had to do background checks and get claimed facts to be confirmed, and as is often the case, it is hard work that involves going offline and doing some hard cross-checking of facts, talking to people, seeing documents, assessing validity and authenticity of documents… etc, etc. These days for me, if there is something difficult to find, it is a real fact.

When in one of these blogging conversations very intelligent people tell me that blogging is just diary keeping in public, I wonder what it is that has not yet communicated and why it is that they arrive at this conclusion.

I like to turn blogging around on its head, and then look at the process of finding information on the web, including blogs. So, you have a real interest in Neurospora crassa, how are you going to find any reliable information on it on the web?

Ok, N. crassa does not turn you on, you are interested in something more real like Cuban cigars, or how to treat athlete’s foot. When do you know that you have found information that is reliable, accurate and useful?

How do you evaluate the quality of the information that you are being presented with in a website? What does that have to do with a blog?

Fact is, and this one is a fact, that blogging applications have made it possible for anybody with an internet connection and personal computer to put anything from text to video on the internet. How to make use of all of that which gets regurgitated, agitated and thrown on the web is the challenge.

Blogging is a piece of cake. Blogging is accessibility and communication technology, and it is a tool of the affluent cultures that can afford personal computers and internet connections. Its instantaneous and global character do give it a powerful reach, and those fearful of the spread of information have all the reason to be fearful. What if the facts get out there in the public? What if the best of strategic planning and agendas get to be known ahead of time?

After all, secrecy is still the currency of power. What are the power gate-keepers to do when secrecy ceases to be a valid currency because what was secret has become common knowledge?

But we are not there yet. Secrecy still rules, even in the age of information and the knowledge worker.

So, what is blogging all about anyhow?

Join me tomorrow, and we will give it a go!

LIFT07: Communication Revisited

In my much too long, much too Möbius-strip-like logic of the previous post there was much that I did not address, there are many missed chances to reference the excellent presentations that I did witness and to connect a bit more to what the whole of what Lift is about. The whole may seem that it went by me in a blur, but… well, there are always surprises.

This post by David Galipeau that I have referenced briefly before has however struck quite a chord with me for in it many of the elements of what evolving dynamic systems are about are included. I like it indeed. For any body interested in understanding this in any more detail I do recommend reading C S Holling “Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems” which presents quite a few useful ideas about adaptive cycles.

I hold the view that the present technology – hardware and software – is still rather rudimentary to be used as a social interaction tool that empowers individuals and communities into the next evolutionary stage. This may be a particular bias from my side produced by having read one too many patent specifications that deal with such tools and that tend to bore the living daylights out of me not because of the complexity, but because of the lack of ingenuity and the continued obfuscation of the disclosure.

If we are going to address the challenges and opportunities of technology in our society, perhaps one should have gotten clear first as to what the challenges are and what the opportunities are. I think that technology and law are both here to serve humans, i mean, the collective society, not the other way around. We being wonderfully complex as a system do self-organize spontaneously and build communities along various types of ideologies from nationalism to buddhism passing right through A-Z in -isms. Furthermore most members of one community are also members of other communities, so there is a super-structure of communities that builds up.

All these communities or social systems communicate through the communication that its human members produce, and a lot of noise is produced and broadcast along side with all the ambiguities, disconnects and plain dead antennas and disruptive channels. It is messy really. We do struggle to keep one’s own attentional resources manageable, and somehow squeak through with our emergencies to that of others. I know that I deal with this by checking email on the hour, or depending how prone I may to distraction, less often. On occasions I also go off the internet, and produce what one would call real disconnection. I have always been fond of two buttons in my mobile, the off-button and the silent button. I keep the fixed line phone plugged in easy reach of a master switch. On occasions I also love to just listen to the ring tones, but mostly they irritate me. People have complained and written me snail mail about their frustration in reaching me. Snail mail does not really help, I am notorious about not checking my post office box, not always without unpleasant surprises. I have used IM from constantly to not at all for months and I have used it in a variety of setting from work to home, using my civil identity or a variety of nicks or handles. Of course I get some warm fuzzy feelings when somebody dear to me is online, be it my brother, or cousin, or friend, but I do not always interact. Some goes for Skype. I have met people face-to-face first and I have met people on the internet first, and I am convinced that there is a bit of a difference on the way that initial relationships get formed depending on which channel constituted the first encounter or the way of learning about each other. After all social interactions do involve learning about each other, even if all you want is to strike a good business deal.

I have had quite a mixed bag of reactions when it comes to LinkedIn that I happen to like, and to me the verdict is still not out on Facebook as there are elements of it that find irritation buttons with me all over the place, and some features seem really cool. The lack of permeability between LinkedIn and Facebook is obvious but it would be so desirable. Facebook’s email import tool sucks.

When it came to LinkedIn, I have taken my contacts from the mac address book and sent invitation to my real life contacts and the results have been surprising. Some, a minority, took to it without any resistance and was glad to see me using it and what not. I was myself initially invited to join by Jean-François Groff – whom I think still does not have a blog, brave soul! – but it took some convincing from his side. The interface is at best unfriendly, although once one has become familiar with it, there is a lot of good features. However I have gotten reactions that have included questions about it being spam or what on earth was I up to, and this from people who are otherwise rather cool and good buddies of mine in the face to face system. But I also have had many people simply not reacting to it, and I do suppose it is because it may have landed in their spam; this is a problem with my colleagues that are in edu environments and something that I do not take any pride in trying to figure out. One particularly interesting report from the users of LinkedIn was when one of my more reluctant LinkedIn invitation acceptors, and who happens to have a company producing some rather cool internet enabling software, discovered that there was somebody in my contacts whom he would like to be reintroduced to. I had already introduced them many years ago, and this person being modest, thought that a reintroduction was called upon. We then exchanged a few emails, I accommodated his request, then we exchanged a few more emails and I told him my two bits about LinkedIn. A few days later I get an email and find these words “I went on my long-dormant account on Linkedin and saw about 36 invitations over the last several years. I also learned a bit more about the service, cleared up some of my misconceptions, and I see the value. So I think I’m going to activate my account and start accepting all those invitations.” If this happens within the geek community, what are the rest of the folks facing?

I really wonder what it really means when somebody does not accept your Facebook or LinkedIn invitation. Can one really make any conclusion about it? Well, you can, if you take it personally, and that one hook does get me too. So when I deal with this kind of software it is always a good place to be reminded of being Zen. It really does not mean a thing… muuuh!

Where is this all going? To me face-to-face interaction can not be replaced, and the tools to provide some sort of virtual record for those real encounters are still at an early stage of development. I do think however that there is a great deal of social disruption that can be caused by reading in too much into any of these virtual communities, for as far as the eye can see they are infested with dys-functionalites. I think that the role of communication and information flow need to be addressed from the fundamental point of view of what challenge, if any, we are addressing. Or is the challenge just having fun? What on earth are we building here?

Still first, we need to understand just a bit better how it is that relationships are formed and how they are nurtured and cultivated in an internet obsessed environment,, and what purpose, if any, this all serves society.