Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwinand Bohr

From: Lois Holzman <lholzman who-is-at>
Date: Fri Jun 29 2007 - 21:30:31 PDT

I really like the way you put it, Mike: the heterogeneity of expertise being
a wonderful generative condition of human life
A favorite passage of mine from Rorty is where he speaks about a future with
a flowering of people with diverse expertises but no Experts. It seems
relevant. I wish I could remember it or where exactly to find it. Does
anyone know?

> From: Mike Cole <>
> Reply-To: <>, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
> <>
> Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2007 19:51:00 -0700
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Subject: Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
> Darwinand Bohr
> Hi Louise.
> I spend a lot of my time working on creating activities where expertise is
> widely
> distributed across age, class, gender, etc. So the heterogeneity of
> expertise
> is important to me for many reasons. It is a wonderful generative condition
> of human life, or can be.
> But, to deny that in a domain specific way there are people who have
> attained a deep
> mastery of activities in that domain: abacus users, magicians, cooks,
> pre-school teachers,
> invites the idea that there is no differentiation, in general, to cope well
> with life challenges.Next time
> you fly, ask yourself if you want to change places with the pilot......
> I fear that that way lies cultural nihilism and the idea that we all start
> de novo. That is a very despairing
> view. Equal to the despair of the experts as unquestionable, context free
> authorities, and not, as my son likes to remind
> me, drips under pressure.
> mike
> On 6/27/07, Louise Hawkins <> wrote:
>> I also find issue with the distinction between expert and novice, as if
>> the expert has something to give and the novice something to receive.
>> How many times is it the student who poses a question that raises a
>> point that the 'expert' learns from?
>> Louise
>> ________________________________
>> From: []
>> On Behalf Of Michael Glassman
>> Sent: Wednesday, 27 June 2007 04:37 AM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: RE: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
>> Darwinand Bohr
>> Martin
>> Why this distinction between expert and novice? What does it really buy
>> us? And who gets to make the distinction? It seems to me in an
>> expert/novice scenario all power lies in the hands of those who get to
>> make this distinction on whatever level, and get to define the two
>> classes. Take a look at the political class in the United States, we
>> define experts as those who have the right cultural capital, wear the
>> right type of ties and suits, who speak in somber, modulated voices with
>> a weary sigh of resignation, suggesting "of course you cannot see what I
>> can see, but trust me."
>> This is not to say every generation starts from scratch. Every
>> generation starts with the tools that they have, but then they figure
>> out how to use those tools to solve what invariably must be new
>> problems, or they develop new tools out of the old tools. Let's say we
>> have a set of spears we use to hunt food. There are great spear
>> throwers who use those spears and teach others to use them as well.
>> Their "expertise" in spear throwing gives them great power within the
>> community. But things change, and the spears that were once used on
>> larger animals are not as good for smaller animals. Are the spear
>> throwers going to give up their place in the community as "experts?" Or
>> are they going to say, well if we just wait, or if we use the spear in a
>> different way, or it is the fault of our lazy children who do not train
>> in spear throwing the way previous generations did. Meanwhile the food
>> supply dwindles for the community. A young person examines the spear
>> and says, hmmm, the arrow head pierces the skin but it cannot reach the
>> skin with these new animals that we hunt. Perhaps I can create
>> something else - a bow and arrow perhaps. But she is not an expert.
>> Who, in a hierarchical system of knowledge development would listen and
>> adopt the work of this young innovator? This is always the danger of a
>> heirarchical system of knowledge development.
>> In a more lateral system of development information is everything. As a
>> species were are problem solvers, but our problem solving is based on
>> the easy access and flow of information. I just read the most
>> fascinating article by the economist Amriyat (sp?) Sen. In it he talks
>> about famine. He makes a really good argument that famine is almost
>> never about food. There is always enough food even in some of the major
>> famines of the twentieth century. It is about the lack of capability
>> for getting to the food. At its core the lack of information as a tool
>> in obtaining this basic human function. What else is there other than
>> information. When we define information as static and give it value
>> separate from the problems we are working on, isn't that when we find
>> the most trouble, have the most difficulties in problems solving?
>> I watch my son play his World of Warcraft game. I wish I knew more
>> about it. But I see him adapting and recalibrating constantly,
>> developing strategies and processes that see incredible to me. It is a
>> virtual world in which there are no "experts." The world and my son and
>> the other players co-exist.
>> I don't know if I've done such a good job trying to explore this.
>> Perhaps a problem that needs greater consideration.
>> Michael
>> ________________________________
>> From: on behalf of Martin Packer
>> Sent: Tue 6/26/2007 2:04 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
>> Darwinand Bohr
>> Michael, you would have each generation start on their own, from
>> scratch? No
>> experts, just novices? That really is a post-apocalyptic vision!
>> My point was there is more to life (and education) than "functioning"
>> and
>> "information." The danger with the tool metaphor, and the emphasis on
>> artifacts as tools, is that they reduce all of life to the production
>> process. That is not just a conceptual mistake, it is a political
>> agenda. To
>> argue that thinking is not important, only tool use, is not to argue
>> against
>> formalization, it is to promote a purely instrumental conception of
>> human
>> action and interaction. It is to promote an extreme version of the
>> division
>> of labor, in which only a tiny elite get to think about the nature of
>> thinking, and everyone else is simply using tools skillfully but
>> thoughtlessly.
>> On 6/26/07 12:40 PM, "Michael Glassman" <> wrote:
>>> But if this information is so important, and it exists as part of the
>> problem
>>> solving tools of humanity, don't we trust humans to discover it
>> through their
>>> own activities?
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Received on Fri Jun 29 21:31 PDT 2007

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