Asking for Blog Suggestions

“Instead – I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging.”

https://tomcritchlow.com/2018/02/23/small-b-blogging/

I will be on hiatus from this blog and from twitter for a few months. DMs are still open, use email if you have it.

In case yon haven’t read the “Small b Blogging” post, the link is above. The article describes nicely the stabilization of blogging that seems to be happening now.

One of the inherent features of small b blogs is that they are difficult to come by way of the wind. It’s easy to find the Big B blogs (both in general, and within the topic specific ‘strong circles’ out there), but is takes a little effort to dig up people just writing what they think, what they notice, what they process, mostly for themselves.

I prefer following these types of small b blog, and preferably in a cross-section of many disciplines. So, I realize that I need to do a bit of work and a bit of asking.

Can you recommend a blog that you enjoy?

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Generalism in Education

“All told, the implication is that working generalists are “professional amateurs.” We’re relegated to the level of oxymoron. If that is what I am, I’d like redeem the term.”

https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/in-defense-of-generalism/

The redemption of the term ‘generalist’ can probably be taken up in fields in addition to design, including education, or at least extend into the field of “educational design”.

In reading this article, I get the sense of how the author is someone who could dive into any specific area of design, based on need, and be successful. She might not be able to dive as deep as a specialist in that area (tho that probably depends more on time restrictions, one skill of a generalist is skill acquisition) but she sure will be able to know which questions to ask of a specialist consultant, and/or be able to advance a project to a certain point prepping it for a specialist, and act as reliable communicator between that specialist and others.

Everyone starts out learning the basics of education, dipping into different STEM subjects through secondary and post-secondary school. Eventually, they start to specialize in a discipline, learning the basics, the concepts, the vocabulary, the gathered information from past practitioners, and the implications of practice today. Everyone starts out learning on a general front, and gradually specializing to a certain degree.

That degree might end up being narrower or wider. The wider front of practice, the generalist, is obviously different from the general learning of someone figuring out the basics at the start of the learning process. Yet, as mentioned in the article, the value of the more-general-than-specialized practitioner are not always discerned by colleagues and managers. The article highlights the tension for designers looking for work and the expectations placed on them for landing a job early in their career as reasons for this. I would add that value from generalists often comes in the form of absences, from less time efficiency pitfalls to avoiding miscommunications – not always the easiest benefits to notice.

If you’re someone in education who hires others, I urge you to think about the the value of generalists. When people hire I think many tend to look for specialists, the applicant who maximizes that job description that was conveniently constructed with the help of that HR form. Think about how specialized you really need that new hire. Think about how valuable someone with more general skills, yet also capable at filling that position, will be at communicating with others and understanding the roles around them. Think about how much more nimble your team will be in the future.

With so much change in education these day, people who can do many skills well will set your organization apart.

Education, Grades, and Personalities

“The risk of writing an essay that contests the theories promulgated by a professor or teacher’s assistant may be too consequential when the goal is to secure a job or a place in grad school upon which a GPA may be heavily dependent.”

http://quillette.com/2018/05/15/students-dilemma-conformity-education/

Unfortunately, this is all too real of a situation in higher education.

My own experience involves an instructor being attentive to questions and papers that were within his specific area of concern, while minimizing his attention to the rest. He would published student work to his personal blog (with consent) when it supported what he also wrote about, providing amazing opportunities for feedback and discussion for that student. For other papers, he checked-in with a few sentences of comments.

He was a popular figure in the world of education, and I can only speculate here, he was used to the popularity that comes with social media spaces, and not with the more intense direct communication of a shared space of about 10-15 students. It was an awkward class, one where he was noticeable not present for most of the time.

At the end, this instructor chided our class for being concerned about our grades. He told us that we should only worry about what we are learning and disregard the desire to get good grades.

Which is…one way to look at it.

Grades are an easy thing to sacrifice if you are doing it on behalf of others. As the quote above suggests, there are implications of grades that go beyond my opinions or my professor’s.

The article doesn’t offer any real solutions to this problem. I can’t think of any either, without getting into a deep exploration of the issue. Education’s in an odd place. The good comes with the bad right now because it’s tough for trending opinion to tell the difference.

Recalibrate with Old Books

“Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

https://reasonabletheology.org/cs-lewis-on-reading-old-books/

One of the better books I’ve read in the past few years is Being Digital, a 1996 book about the digital age. It was informative because of the amount of information about basic digital infrastructures is presented so clearly. It was also fascinating to read an account of the digital state of of the world in 1996.

Some might think that reading a book in 2018, written in 1996, about the digital world, might be a waste of time. It isn’t. There are so many reasons to read old books.

  • Concepts in their younger stages have a type of basic clarity and focus that gets lost with age.
  • In the Information Age so much content gets skipped over and goes undigested, there’s no reason to put a time limit on content.
  • Good ideas, ideas that inspire, are increasingly littered through history.
  • It’s a difficult endeavor to analyze myself in the moment, just as it’s difficult for society to see itself in a historical perspective. Looking back reveals new perspectives.
  • Reading thoughts of other people’s analysis in their moment, their era, fills in gaps about how I understand here and now.
  • Old books are multilayered – I can compare them to now and have a better understanding of from then to now.
  • People thought differently in different times, reading old books builds diversity of thought.

I get frustrated when I see people comment that an article, book, idea, even a meme, is old because it is a decade, a few years, or even “months/weeks old now.” There’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to do this in our media platforms.

When I find myself focused too much on the trending, or even the future, I feel that stagnant perspective. That social algorithm that keeps trying to send me content based on what I liked just yesterday. I know that I need to older writings to move myself forward.

Recalibrate. Read old books.

 
More: I came across the C.S.Lewis article through this post.

Space Between the Seamless – Cognitive Friction

“We get frustrated when interfaces don’t function seamlessly, and the aim is always to overcome cognitive friction in software. Of course, the flip side of the lack of friction is that we build unconscious habit and let our fingers do the walking, as we open Twitter for the Nth time in an hour without ever intending to…and stay there catching up with nothing.”

http://stillweb.org/archives/575

I like this post, Mariana has many interesting things to say on the topic of cognitive friction. There also a great discussion in the podcast that this article links to. This quote above jumped out at me because I think it’s one that can be explored deeper to a wealth of important questions.

I develop habits with or without cognitive friction. Developing unconscious habits, mentioned above, are the habits developed by technology for me. The conscious habits that I develop myself, with the help of and among friction, are the conscious ones that I develop myself.

What could be said to be the difference between these two types of habits? Maybe control. Maybe a degree of knowledge, learning, or literacy.

 

More: What if educators tried using edtech more for itself, to create friction and perplexity? https://apointofcontact.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/technology-for-friction/

More: Daily Stillness

Strange Animations on Youtube

“These videos, wherever they are made, however they come to be made, and whatever their conscious intention (i.e. to accumulate ad revenue) are feeding upon a system which was consciously intended to show videos to children for profit. The unconsciously-generated, emergent outcomes of that are all over the place.”

https://medium.com/@jamesbridle/something-is-wrong-on-the-internet-c39c471271d2

I was walking around campus one day, a month or so ago, and in the market I saw an obviously exhausted woman with two children sitting at a cafeteria table. The woman was just resting, reading maybe, while the kids were glued to a laptop, watching one of these 3D animation Spiderman/Elsa videos on youtube (the ones near the end of this article).

My first thought was to go over there and explain to the mom that these videos are not good. But, of course I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t do something like that.

Then I thought, she probably thinks these are just some strange North American cartoons that are all the fad right now, if she thinks anything about them at all. Being from another culture, how could she even tell this cartoon from one that wouldn’t be described as ‘disturbing’?

Would you ever intervene in a situation like this, one where there’s no imminent danger?

More Than Technology

Inuyashiki is a show about two people, one a teenager and the other a man in his 50s, who get abducted by space aliens or something (the viewer never really find out) and are killed. The aliens, who seem to have a conscience about killing humans, decide to replace the humans, however they replace them as superpowered robots that have a full range of technical, digital, and healing powers. This all happens in the first episode.

The elder man struggles to learn how to use his powers. He achieves a certain amount of competence to go around saving people in emergency situations, and curing terminally ill patients at the hospital. The teenager learns quickly – the viewer never even sees his learning process, he just knows how to use it fluently. He doesn’t cure people though, he kills people anonymously for fun. Then, the teen begins to struggle with the consequences of his actions.

The meaning of Inuyashiki is pretty blunt: our society is giving powerful technology to younger generations before they are ready for it, before they can understand the consequences of their actions. The adults, who traditionally have passed down society and values to younger generations, are struggling just to understand how the mechanics of society.

Younger people are proficient at using technology but lack substance in their purpose (so the show states, very generally). Society risks falling apart because of this gap. Inuyashiki has strong things to say about smartphone use and trolling, among other tech related behaviors.

This was a good show, a bit disturbing in its violence, so definitely not for kids. It was also a quick watch at only 11 episodes.

“The Gestalt has a head and hands, organs and a mind. But the most human thing about anyone is a thing he learns”

Related – I also recently just finished re-reading More than Human, an old sci-fi novel about a group of odd kids and emotionally unstable people who form a new type of higher being through their telekinetic powers and mind communication.

The message in MTH, we find out at the end, is that this “new being” has always been incomplete because they’ve lacked a sense of ethics or morality. The human that fills this role role of ‘conscience’ is spectacularly unspectacular, but this is what ethics is. Not flashy, and very necessary. This with this new member, the being is able to advance into a new realm of existence. The reader gets a glimpse of this at the end, which is fantastic.

 

Both Inuyashiki and More than Human are relevant today because they are telling us, 60 years apart, that sure it’s great to know how to do things, but unless we have knowledge and balance about what we are doing, things can go haywire quickly. ‘What’ matters just as much as ‘How’. Teach substance.