Re: [xmca] Copernicus 2.0 [toolforthoughts]

From: Andrew Babson <ababson who-is-at>
Date: Fri Jun 22 2007 - 12:50:51 PDT

Prof. Lemke's thought below (emphasis in bold) made me think of an
article I recently read by Paul Goodman, in the NY Review of Books, from
> Latour has an interesting analysis in his book Aramis, where he
> considers just how complex the technology of an automated train
> system, or a next generation passenger jet, really is, and what it
> really means to "design" or "understand" such a system. It a good
> example of how we pass the threshold of complexity to systems in which
> it just no longer makes sense to imagine individual minds or even
> small groups of people playing any privileged role as cognizers. *Many
> people today have the intuitive feeling that our technologies are not
> 'ours' anymore, that they are beyond our ability to understand and
> control, and that not only our computers and planes are like this, but
> our economies and our global environment. Yes, it's scary and
> uncomfortable. It's also the objective material condition of our lives
> today. *
Here's the link to the abstract: .

It makes me think of the concept of "locus of control"- a highly
relevant topic for my research into the possibilities of digital
learning technologies for rural South African schools. There is a
balance here between harnessing the power of agentive objects to be
acted upon (technologies) to do more than you could do (alone and/or
otherwise) and feeling /overcome/ by the technology. In the SA case:
great, this technology can help youth and adults learn the foundations
of literacy in multiple languages, esp. English, outside of the
classroom; on the other hand, people feel put upon to learn how to speak
English (a technology in itself) and use a computer just so they can get
a job.

Thanks to Victor Kobayashi for introducing me to the work of Goodman,
whose ideas about technology, education, sexuality, and the emotional
aspects of learning and teaching were, it seems to me, controversial at
the time but still highly relevant now.

All best,
> JAY.
>> Thanks for the economical parsing of David and Katherine's paper, Jay.
>> Let me pick up on just one of the issues. Perhaps others can contribute
>> on this or other parts of the complex puzzle.
>> You wrote:
>> Algebra is becoming obsolete as a tool for the
>> purposes for which it was invented. And so, quite
>> possibly, is writing. Education which takes
>> traditional literacy and numeracy as its
>> fundamental goals is worse than obsolete. It is
>> obstructionist, an obstacle to the efforts of a
>> new generation to prepare itself for a new world, a new reality.
>> You know the book, Foundation? A post apocolyptic world where all the
>> complex
>> technologies are still working, but the knowledge of HOW they work
>> has been
>> lost
>> or is to be found only in one place and the superstructure of
>> civilization
>> is crumbling
>> while its core is hidden away. and etc........ in later Asimov novels.
>> You know the scene on Ed Hutchin's ship coming into San Diego harbor.
>> The
>> naviation
>> equipment breaks and the navigators have to fall back on algebra that
>> they
>> had to
>> painfully reconstruct from years of disuse. But they did so (in a
>> distributed, collaborative fashion, of course). The ship did not crash.
>> So without writing, without 2+2, what would it means to have
>> education in
>> which
>> literacy (old fashioned defintion) and numeracy (old fashion
>> defintion) were
>> known
>> to no one? I am TOTALLY in favor of the use of complex computational
>> simulation models as a basic (dare i use the word?) tool for
>> education. I
>> think David's work on creating
>> simulations of professional practices is terrific. But the use of
>> such tools
>> needs, I believe,
>> to be combined with an understanding of the principles upon which
>> they are
>> based.
>> We often say that development requires top down and bottom up
>> processes to
>> work in
>> synergy with each other (a version of the dialectic of everyday and
>> scientific concepts in
>> Vygotsky). Complex simulations can be a terrific medium for
>> accomplishing
>> this purpose.
>> But to advocate a form of enculturation that depents upon
>> technologies which
>> no one knows how to regenerate strikes me as, minimally, risky as a
>> general
>> strategy for human survival.
>> None of the above negates the importance of the point that we cannot
>> fully
>> understand a system we are inside of, nor can we get a view from
>> nowhere.
>> Its mediation all the
>> way down. But the constituents of the human system of life are not
>> all made
>> of the same stuff except at a level sufficiently micro that it is
>> difficult
>> to see how to reason about human life in such terms.
>> mike
>> On 6/21/07, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
>>> Herewith some notes on the Chosen Article:
>>> Shaffer and Clinton offer us an awkward term
>>> "toolforthoughts" and a profound challenge to
>>> find more intelligent ways of participating in
>>> the new world of pervasive computationally active systems.
>>> I suspect that some readers of their proposal
>>> will balk at its moral or humanistic revisionism,
>>> and others at its radical ontological and
>>> epistemological perspectives. I have things to
>>> say about both, but I think the most important
>>> pragmatic implication of what they are saying
>>> comes in their challenge to our notions of
>>> literacy and numeracy, and to our hopelessly outdated goals for
>>> education..
>>> Knowing something of the history of their
>>> thinking from personal contacts, I believe it
>>> makes sense to see the issues of new literacies
>>> and numeracies as the impetus that pushes their
>>> thinking toward its revisionist ontology, and the consequent moral
>>> conundrums.
>>> So let me start from the concrete and back my way down to the abstract.
>>> Imagine a world, already half-way here, of
>>> pervasive computationally-active systems in which
>>> we all live. Systems we may still call houses,
>>> schools, offices, but much of which will be
>>> "virtual" i.e. will be immersive participatory
>>> simulation environments in which are embedded
>>> computations 'tools' and computationally active
>>> 'partners': artificial intelligences, of lesser
>>> and greater capacity, that will talk to us,
>>> suggest directions and options, carry out tasks,
>>> take initiatives, and immerse us in simulated
>>> spaces and places filled with perceptual
>>> information and motor affordances. Nor will the
>>> there remain clear lines between the virtual and
>>> the rest of the material infrastructure; they
>>> will blend more and more seamlessly in our experience and activity.
>>> If you play an immersive, interactive computer
>>> game at the frontiers of current technology (or
>>> get military training in such a simulated
>>> reality), you get a glimpse of what's coming. If
>>> you participate in a non-game virtual world like
>>> SecondLife, you can pretty easily imagine it as a
>>> prototype for a new kind of "school", or artists'
>>> collaborative, or bordello. If you talk with
>>> traditional mathematicians about why they hate
>>> computational modes of "proof", despite the fact
>>> that some significant results can only be
>>> obtained by such methods, you begin to understand
>>> how deep the challenge to "numeracy" runs. If you
>>> try to understand what kinds of "literacy" enable
>>> young people to make meanings across films,
>>> books, websites, interactive games, and active
>>> play with toys throughout a transmedia franchise
>>> like Star Wars or Harry Potter, you see how
>>> hopeless the old notions of literacy are.
>>> Algebra is becoming obsolete as a tool for the
>>> purposes for which it was invented. And so, quite
>>> possibly, is writing. Education which takes
>>> traditional literacy and numeracy as its
>>> fundamental goals is worse than obsolete. It is
>>> obstructionist, an obstacle to the efforts of a
>>> new generation to prepare itself for a new world, a new reality.
>>> Yes, there's a bit of hyperbole in what I just
>>> wrote. But less than you may wish. I hope we can
>>> talk about the fine points here on xmca.
>>> So what is replacing the older tools of literacy
>>> and numeracy? Shaffer and Clinton give a bit of a
>>> description, and much more could be said. I don't
>>> think we know just what this future will look
>>> like yet, but it's certainly well along in its development.
>>> What about the ontology? While not well-known,
>>> the notion of causality has largely dropped out
>>> of its central place in the physical sciences,
>>> from quantum theory to nonlinear complex system
>>> dynamics in chemistry and even biology. Causality
>>> is the core of our intuitions about agency, and
>>> the lesson from natural science (perhaps inspired
>>> in a roundabout way by our consciousness of
>>> complex computational-and-human systems) is that
>>> we are always in systems (and so is everything
>>> else), and in systems, everything is mediating
>>> (in various ways) the behavior of everything
>>> else. There are no prime movers. The implications
>>> for epistemology have occupied Latour and his
>>> critics for some time. The short answer: every
>>> view is a view from inside, and more complete
>>> views require articulations among different
>>> insider perspectives (from which Latour derives his version of
>>> democracy)..
>>> And the morality? What should we really think of
>>> a morality grounded in humanism? i.e. in the
>>> notion that it is what makes humans different
>>> from all other systems (souls, intentions) that
>>> allows us to hold ourselves and others
>>> 'responsible' for actions? I don't think it's a
>>> logic that can command much respect once we
>>> subject it to rigorous critique. Shaffer and
>>> Clinton don't mention Bakhtin and his notion of
>>> 'answerability' in this connection, but I think
>>> it holds promise for getting to something better,
>>> something more consistent with a mutual-agency view of active systems.
>>> So what do other people think??
>>> JAY.
>>> Jay Lemke
>>> Professor
>>> University of Michigan
>>> School of Education
>>> 610 East University
>>> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
>>> Tel. 734-763-9276
>>> Email.
>>> Website. <>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
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Received on Fri Jun 22 12:55 PDT 2007

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