Mapping information landscapes & Emergent Learning

Personal Research Agenda; Environmental sustainability, architectures of participation

Background; Three factors govern what I now do educationally, in a post-Web2.0 world

1. Being involved in the longest occupation of a UK University, actually Northern Polytechnic in London, for 5 months in 1971; we also occupied the Canteen for 5 years and ran it as a student co-op.

2. Working in government on digital inclusion and realising that, in a representative democracy, no politician is the least bit interested in social inclusion

3. Teaching the Social Impact of Computing and developing my own model of technology-driven social change; NSU, networks, services, users.

Issues; From the first experience, as a key member of the occupation committee, I learnt that socially-organised problem-solving is the best way of understanding anything. Which could be so welcome to this workshop…

From the second experience I learnt, like William Goldman with Hollywood, that when it comes to politics “nobody knows anything” (in a way I also kind of learnt this when occupying) so you should build the futures you want to see

From the third experience I learnt that the real social impact of new technologies always lags behind their uptake as tools and products, perhaps following what Kondratieff calls “long-wave” cycle of social change (50 years). In my view, pretty much since 1770 in the UK, cycles of social change can be seen every 50 years via what I call NSU, new networks, new services (replacing products), determined by user choices…

Personal Research Agenda; mine is “how do we build participatory democracy” especially in the most opportune years between right now and 2021 (the end of the long-wave of microprocessor change). I wrote about this in Homi & the NeXT One back one in 1989; incidentally NeXT was the computer that Tim Berners-Lee wrote the World,Wide Web on.

1. If, as my experience in occupation taught me, and I have been called a “learning anarchist”, you should be designing tools for communities to appropriate and use on their terms, then I have just been in waiting for the loose ties of social networks to come along to enable this desirable possibility. For me it is ONE of the possibilities of Web 2.0 and its notion of “dialogical architectures of participation” are constructs we should be developing and enabling people to use for themselves. See Before and After Institutions for more on this, especially on the role of Heutagogy and Technology Stewards.

2. As my doctoral non-advisor Paul Feyerabend counselled me, no one pays you to think for yourself, you have to “separate your income from your ideas” as he put it, because change won’t come from within the system. I’ve increasingly tried to be an open educator, what Dougald Hine calls a Public Intellectual 2.0, and I say steal my ideas *please* as I am interested in creating a socially-just society, not social capital for the largely upwardly mobile, and it seems to me that that  happens outside of institutions. Actually to be effective you need to operate liminally to institutions. People are essentially good and are also our best resource; we can’t design them out of society with smart systems. Elsewhere I have covered the sequence of how our ideas developed, but if change for social good occurs outside institutions then mapping emerging information landscapes needs to also explicitly value the changes that we are trying to realise, and needs to be based on trusting people to use participative tools creatively.

3. When teaching the social-impact of technologies I realised that “money is the most environmentally-damaging technology” (I define technology as “order imposed on nature”). So what I was trying to do in Homi & The NeXT One was to envisage the design of a social use of technology that was both people-centric and not environmentally damaging. It was a paper I wrote for my Masters; my thesis was on the “environmental impact of computing” I helped set up the Creekside Environmental Education Trust and the Creekside Centre, and as a part of Stoke Newington Transition Town have developed PeerPayMe, which is a non-environmentally damaging peer-to-peer money system.

My personal research agenda then is more than just about research, it is about building participative democracy. Research does not create social change but can inform it and can make it more acceptable to public debate.

Presentation for the Workshop on Emergent Learning; 


2 thoughts on “Mapping information landscapes & Emergent Learning

  1. Pingback: Ronan O'Beirne's Weblog » Blog Archive » Mapping Information Landscapes – a first step

  2. Pingback: Digital Public Space; CyberSalon | Open Digital Practice

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