The Daily State of Disruption: Controversy about viral #stopkony campaign

Today’s The State of Disruption is about the the campaign to stop Joseph Kony, a cruel warlord who is accused of abducting, murdering and raping children in Uganda and neighboring countries. A video produced by the Invisible Children went totally viral, and #stopkony was a worldwide trending topic. However, there are some fundamental discussions going on about this campaign. Why do we discuss something which is clearly a matter of human rights and foreign policy? Because this video has been viewed by millions of people all over the world, and leads to in-depth discussions about a situation which seems far away and hardly relevant to most Westerners. It seems that the web once again is bridging geographical distances and goes beyond the borders of states and the old institutions.

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So, the core question is around engagement

These days I’m working on my contribution for Howard Rheingold’s Peeragogy project. I’m working on “connected learning”, much inspired by the Massive Open Online Courses organized by Stephen Downes en George Siemens. I’ll add some stuff I learned by organizing daily chat sessions and (live)blogs for my newspaper (I wrote some posts about this for MediaShift, like this one about using CoverItLive).

However, the notion “connected learning” is not very precise. Howard just pointed me to the launch of http://connectedlearning.tv — the connected learning hub for MacArthur Foundation’s connected learning effort. They use the term in an overlapping but I guess somewhat different meaning.

Not that I care that much about definitions. The connectedlearning.tv seems very interesting. Connie Yowell, director of education of the MacArthur Foundation, explains their vision, which has everything to do with the experience the kids have, who the kid is, asking the core question “is the kid engaged”. Other experts in the video point out how it’s no longer an issue of transmitting information as efficiently as possible from a single source to the kids, but of match-making, facilitating connections between learners and mentors (cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito):

The Essence of Connected Learning from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

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What I think about Net Smart

For the first time of my existence, I wrote a customer review for Amazon.com, about Howard Rheingold’s new book Net Smart. I’ll post it here also:

Some books are just… interesting, or beautiful. There are books however which not only discuss existing literature and research from a new angle and provide new insights, but also make you think about your practices and change them.

Net Smart is such a book. I follow the writings, posts, courses and videos of Howard Rheingold since quite some time, but I was amazed to discover the way in which he discusses the research and experiences he accumulated since the early days of the web. He discusses other books about the impact of the internet on society in a very thoughtful and nuanced way, but also adds precious new insights.

This is not a book which limits itself to discussing theories, opinions and research. It does all this in an admirable way, but it also gives some great advice to the reader – about how to deal with a ‘always on’ world of ubiquitous computing. It’s realistic in its judgment of this ‘always on’ era, but also liberating as it describes the internal and external literacies which we can use to make the world into a better place.

It’s the kind of book which changes your life – for some maybe small but meaningful changes, for others big changes.

Read also: Becoming Net Smart with Howard Rheingold.

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Becoming Net Smart with Howard Rheingold

I just bought the Kindle edition of Net Smart, Howard Rheingold‘s new book, published by the MIT Press. I participated in various of Howard’s courses: one about literacies of cooperation, another one about mind-amplifying tools, and now I’m involved in a collaborative project facilitated by Howard aimed at creating a peeragogy handbook.¬†¬†Peeragogy is like peer to peer pedagogy, self-learners collaborating via a variety of social media to create, deliver, and learn an agreed curriculum (which they compose themselves).

More about peeragogy by Howard during his UC Berkeley Regents’ lecture:

UC Berkeley Regents’ Lecture: Howard Rheingold (Presented by Berkeley Center for New Media) from Berkeley Center for New Media on Vimeo.

In Net Smart Howard explains that we’re in a period where the cutting edge of change has moved from the technology to the literacies made possible by the technology. This is not just a book about how to become a more efficient user of digital technologies, there is a bigger social issue at work here: “if we combine our individual efforts wisely, enough of the right know-how could add up to a more thoughtful society as well as enhance those individuals who master digital network skills.”

The author does not hesitate comparing the web’s architecture of participation to the invention of the printing press and the spread of reading skills which amplified collective intelligence five centuries ago. Of course, it also lead to revolutions, bloodshed, manipulation and fanaticism. These experiences make it abundantly clear how important literacies such as crap detection and the avoidance of echo chambers are. In other words, Net Smart is a book which is a must-read for people seeking a balance between their physical and virtual environments, for parents, young people, business people and educators.

It’s not just about learning skills which one can practice alone. It’s about the ability to use these skills socially, in concert with others, in an effective way. Howard distinguishes in his book five literacies: attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection and network smarts.

Howard is a talented inventor of new words and concepts. He’s the guy who came up with the notion of “virtual community“. More recently he coined the term “infotention”: “a mind-machine combination of brainpowered attention skills and computer-powered information filters” (also have a look at the Infotention Network).

Watch Howard explaining his book and project for the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) Change11:

 

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Amplifying my mind

Among my lofty intentions for the new year is amplifying my mind. This will be facilitated by Howard Rheingold. I really enjoyed Howard’s previous course, Toward a Literacy of Cooperation.

Introduction to Mind Amplifiers, is a five week course using asynchronous forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, social bookmarks, synchronous audio, video, chat, and Twitter.

Some of the texts we’ll read in the course will be familiar to the readers of the priceless The New Media Reader (MIT), like As We May Think (Vannevar Bush), Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework (Douglas Engelbart) and Man-Computer Symbiosis (J.C.R. Licklider). These texts are incredibly deep and inspiring and could be the subject of whole course (we worked on them during the Digital Awakening Course, which had regular sessions in Second Life).

Howard is a master in inventing words and concepts – he is credited with inventing the notion of ‘virtual community’. In this course we’ll work on yet another of his ideas, infotention:

Infotention is a word I came up with to describe the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters. The inside and outside of infotention work best together: Honing the mental ability to deploy the form of attention appropriate for each moment is an essential internal skill for people who want to find, direct, and manage streams of relevant information by using online media knowledgeably. Knowing how to put together intelligence dashboards, news radars, and information filters from online tools like persistent search and RSS is the external technical component of information literacy.

As I learned during the previous course, Howard expects his students to be very active. This culminates in the final session(s) which are prepared and organized by the participants. In this course we’re also supposed to apply what we learn by developing an attentional-informational strategy, organizing an information dashboard etc. It’s my intention to do this focusing on the themes developed in the book Race Against the Machine (Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee).

I’ll report here, on MixedRealities, about my experiences during this new course.

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