Good news to start the new year: the revised, second edition of the Peeragogy Handbook (“Version 2″) is available now. The Handbook is the world’s first book to present Peeragogy, a synthesis of techniques for collaborative learning and collaborative work. Itself the result of the techniques it presents, this version features a new Foreword from the internet pioneer and collaboration thinker, Stanford University educator, and founding editor of the Handbook, Howard Rheingold. What is it really about? I’ll let Howard explain it:
The Peeragogy Handbook project started in January 2012. Howard describes in his Foreword the process:
In the Peeragogy project, we started with a wiki and then we decided that we needed to have a mechanism for people who were self-electing to write articles on the wiki to say, OK, this is ready for editing, and then for an editor to come in and say, this is ready for WordPress, and then for someone to say, this has been moved to WordPress. We used a forum to hash out these issues and met often via Elluminate, which enabled us to all use audio and video, to share screens, to text-chat, and to simultaneously draw on a whiteboard. We tried Piratepad for a while. Eventually we settled on WordPress as our publication platform and moved our most of our discussions to Google+. It was a messy process, learning to work together while deciding what, exactly it was we were doing and how we were going to go about it. In the end we ended up evolving methods and settled on tools that worked pretty well.
It’s a remarkable project, involving volunteers from various continents. They’re working on the third edition now, and if you feel you could help, have a close look on the project and join us. I participated myself for the first edition, unfortunately I lacked time and energy to contribute to this second edition, but I hope I’ll be able to join in again (maybe for a translation in Dutch). Participating in such a project is in itself a very valuable lesson in peeragogy.
The Augmentationist Weekly with links about the Age of Context, Old and New Media, the Surveillance Society, the Attention Economy, Digital Rights Management and Lowering Standards. You can read The Augmentationist here and subscribe at the right-hand side of this site.
What this newsletter is about
A group of co-learners, inspired by Howard Rheingold, studies how information technology can augment human intellect. Our discussions are dispersed through various social media and closed online venues. In this newsletter I try to give an overview of the discussions in our network. I also include brief comments on related stuff elsewhere.
The Age Of Context
I’ve been reading The Age of Context, a book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. They analyze five forces which are developing rapidly and interacting with each other: mobile, social, data, sensors and location-based technology. I think the book provides a framework for analyzing all kinds of industries - news media for instance, or education.
While the book is fundamentally optimistic about the consequences of the five above-mentioned forces, it also contains a clear warning about the dangers (most notably loss of privacy, political and corporate abuse).
It’s About Relationships
While Google and ever more other companies know where I am, what time of day it’s for me, what I’m interested in, and are getting ever better in finding out about my intentions, newspapers still believe in the myth of the mass media. “Why does *every* newspaper site still treat it’s hompepage as a one-size-fits-all pring page when it could prioritize news that might be more relevant to me?”, Jeff Jarvis asks onbuzzmachine. Newspaper fail to build relationships with individual readers and fail to help advertisers to build such relationships. He reacts against a Googler who – so Jarvis says – does not apply the Google-lessons to the newspaper industry: chief economist Hal Varian.
I partially agree with Jarvis about relationships, but then again I personally like to escape from filter bubbles and look at the news selection made by quality media.
Tablet Magazines are a failure
On GigaOm Jon Lund considers tablet magazines a failure. Not that Lund is a total pessimist: “I believe the future for producing quality content for niches is both bright and promising. But it has to be presented openly, socially, in flow — not in closed tablet apps.”
Does using Tor turns you into a target?
Journalists, bloggers, whistle blowers, dissidents, anarchists, terrorists, police, spies, illegal porn trafickers and drugs dealers use Tor software to hide their traces on the internet. The whole thing was financed by the US military. These days the NSA tries to find out who uses the software and what for. Even though Tor is a pretty robust system, using it seems to heighten the probability that the NSA will try to find out who you are, and there are quite some mistakes one can make which cancel the advantages of the Tor-features. Bruce Schneier explains it in some detail in the Guardian.
Related: Britain is sliding towards an entirely new kind of surveillance society, John Lanchester says in the Guardian.
The Attention Economy
Daniel Estrada about a ‘big idea’ on Digital Interface: “Attention Economy is a protocol for social organization and economic management that works by accounting for what all the system’s users attend to. The idea is one part Augmented Reality, one part Internet of Things, one part Use-Theory of Value, and one part Cognitive Surplus. I am utterly convinced that an attention-economic system will ultimately replace both money and centralized governance as the dominant method for large-scale organizational management, and moreover that it is the only method for ensuring a timely and effective response to global climate change andsustainability.”
No idea what he talks about? The best illustration, so Estrada says, can be found in science fiction, in Bruce Sterling’s 2009 novel The Caryatids (lengthy quote in his article).
Danny O’Brien on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) analyzes the announcement by the W3C that its Director, Tim Berners-Lee, had determined that the “playback of protected content” was in scope for the W3C HTML Working Group’s new charter, overriding EFF’s formal objection against its inclusion. This means the controversial Encrypted Media Extension (EME) proposal will continue to be part of that group’s work product, and may be included in the W3C’s HTML5.1 standard.
So nice. We already had the connectivist Massive Open Online Courses – based on learner-centric, distributed activities using a syndication engine to connect the various events. Then came the xMOOCs – more top-down like massive courses, experimenting with auto-grading systems. Now I learned about gMOOCs – game-based MOOCs.
Have a look at this very rich presentation by Sherry Jones and Kate Caruso (great videos!):
rgMOOC 2 will run between September 2, 2013 to November 10, 2013. In fact, this is already a second round, and the course will explore the rhetoric of first person games and the immersive sandbox game Minecraft. You can find the registration formhere.
Interesting: they’ll explore Minecraft as sandbox game. Second Life is still quite huge, but sooo unfashionable, even among academics, so it seems. Or is it too wild and libertarian for educational use (unless you invest heavily in some closed island) – and what about OpenSim?
I think I’ll participate or at least lurk in this rgMOOC. So many themes are relevant for all content creators, not only game-producers: I’m sure journalists and bloggers will learn a lot during this course.
I did something strange today. I registered for a course facilitated by Howard Rheingold, the Think-Know Tools, you’ll find more about this on the wiki of Rheingold U (I even think you can still register, but hurry up – also, this course is not free).
The strange thing is that I participate in this course for the second time. In fact it’s about the fifth time I participate in one of Howard’s courses, not counting my participation in real life in a master class he gave in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Here you find his keynote he gave on that occasion:
So, why taking a course for a second time (even taking into account the discount Rheingold U alumni get)? Because, even though it’s important to have a great facilitator such as Howard, the students ultimately learn from each other. New contacts mean new discoveries. And because people change – the questions I have today are different from the questions I had the first time I took this course.
Teller said he believed that a likely innovation within the next 20 to 30 years will be the creation of “factories for ideas”, virtual factories which will produce “new ideas in every domain”. (RL: Astro Teller is the top executive of Google X)
I’ve no idea what he really means by these “factories for ideas”. Maybe these virtual factories are beyond humans, as they will be populated by intelligent computers? But in my presentation we can make virtual factories for ideas today already, using Think-Know tools helping us to collaborate, to detect crap, to filter information and build knowledge radars. That’s at least something I want to explore in this course.
What is the role of cooperation in evolution and how does cooperation itself evolve? That’s the topic of our discussions during the course Literacies of Cooperation, facilitated by Howard Rheingold.
The report about the first session can be found here (exploring the biology of cooperation).
We had a second live session about The Evolution of Cooperation, which also is the title of a work by professor Robert Axelrod. Let me quote Howard:
Axelrod’s work is fundamental. Thinking about cooperation, evolution, game theory, and computer simulation led him to use what has since become the e. coli of cooperation studies, the computer-simulated interated prisoner’s dilemma game, a strategy game that probes the ways human react when given the choice between assured self interest and potential but not guaranteed benefits of cooperation. Axelrod’s “Three Conditions” brings the gist of his research to a practical level that can then be used as a lens for looking at collective action online: what are the most important conditions for ensuring cooperation among strangers in a competetive environment.
But first something about the way in which we organize the live sessions in Blackboard Collaborate. One of the neat aspects of these sessions is that Howard incites people to take up certain roles: a lexicon team, searchers, contextualizers, mindmappers, session notetakers en wikimasters. People can propose questions during the chat, and people can jolt short answers on the whiteboard (this involves yet another task: question wrangler).
On the wiki we gather session notes – making life easier for those who missed part of the activities during the week. We’ve a growing collection of mindmaps and resources about stuff such as Honeybee Colony Thermoregulation, the symbiotic relationship between golden jellyfish and algae and cleaner wrass eating parasites from larger fish. One might well ask what all this has to do with human societies in this century, but this will become more obvious – I hope.
Cooperation in a competitive world
Robert Axelrod and W.D. Hamilton found that cooperators can thrive in a competitive environment… if they can find each other and establish mutualistic relationships. We can see how sometimes environments which are dominated by competition can at a certain point harbor colonies of cooperation, and then grow to a situation in which cooperation becomes the dominant theme, only to break down to the previous phases and go into a cycle.
Computer simulations of ‘evolutionary games learned Axelrod and Hamilton these characteristics for success:
- Be nice: cooperate, never be the first to defect.
- Be provocable: return defection for defection, cooperation for cooperation.
- Don’t be envious: be fair with your partner.
- Don’t be ‘too clever’ or too tricky.
A group with cooperators – whether or not those cooperators pay a cost for that – can have an evolutionary advantage, they can survive and reproduce more effectively. Small differences in that regard can make big differences in the very long term.
Cooperation can involve direct reciprocity, but also and maybe even more importantly indirect reciprocity. This simply means that I can consider doing a favor to someone who never before did a favor to me – but others may signal that this person is cooperative and reliable. Hence the importance of gossip – some even think that language was developed so as to enable our ancestors to gossip and in that way establish reputation when the groups became too big for one individual to keep track.
Of course, these days we have alternative systems to establish reputation as demonstrated by eBay for instance – one of the questions of the course will be whether these online developments are radically changing our possibilities to adapt to a changing environment.
I thought it was interesting that Nowak talked about language being the big way of fast-forwarding evolution and the introduction of reproduction of culture/ideas/
In that same text chat also Carver Mead‘s book Collective Electrodynamics was mentioned. He was quoted as saying:
In a time-symmetric universe, an isolated system does not exist. The electron wave function in an atom is particularly sensitive to coupling with other electrons; it is coupled either to far-away matter in the universe or to other electrons in a resonant cavity or other local structure.
Shadow of the future and other topics
We also discussed the notion “The shadow of the future”: individuals will cooperate more if they know they’ll meet again in the future. Question in the chat: what are the communication mechanisms of initiating reciprocity? Are there ways to predict success or failure of cooperation? or sustaining cooperation?
What about kin selection? Would you jump in the river for two siblings or eight cousins – what about one brother? Read also The New Yorker about Kin and Kind.
Talking about gossip and social grooming, there are quite some studies about the notion of fairness among pre-speech children and primates. Watch this video about capuchins rejecting unequal pay (primate fairness):
We discussed the role of religions: stories inciting the group to act cooperatively and eventually to sacrifice their individual self-interest (because of the reward in the after-life or compelling examples) could enhance the chances of such a group in the competition with other groups. Read also: Wikipedia about Darwin’s Cathedral (read also this book review and here is the book itself).
Evolution and the future
Culture is what we learn from each other based on biological evolved attentional and social capacities. This evolved capacity for social learning was particularly adaptive during times of radical environmental change. Learning capacities also created processes that changed the selection environment in which genes develop. E.g. cooking meat selects for those with efficient digective chemistry.
One of the question asked by the co-learners was whether one can design for cooperation? If so, through what tools? But also, what are the outside factors that can disrupt cooperation? How do systems protect and resist these forces?
We continued talking about the channeling of tribal instincts via symbol systems. This involves cultural transmission and selection that continues the evolution of cooperative human capacities at cultural rather than genetic level and pace.
Cultural tools channel innate sociality into cooperative arrangements. Institutions may be punishment, language, technology, invidual intelligence and inventivenesss, ready establisment of reciprocal arrangements, prestige systems, solutions to games of coordination (which could involve our newish web-technologies)…
In this regard Howard mentioned the book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright. Wikipedia says: It argues that biological evolution and cultural evolution are shaped and directed first and foremost by “non-zero-sumness” i.e., the prospect of creating new interactions that are not zero-sum.
Is there something like a biological underpinning of cooperation? We’re used to the idea that there is competition for scarce resources, but what about cooperation? Biology was very much the topic of the first session of our course Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Theory, facilitated by Howard Rheingold.
The interesting fact about the course is that while the subject is cooperation, the meta-experience here is about co-learning. How do we cooperate as a community of learners? The process of learning to inquire together, so Howard explained, is more important than the product.
The underlying theme of endosymbiotic theory, as formulated in 1966, was interdependence and cooperative existence of multiple prokaryotic organisms; one organism engulfed another, yet both survived and eventually evolved over millions of years into eukaryotic cells. Her 1970 book, Origin of Eukaryotic Cells, discusses her early work pertaining to this organelle genesis theory in detail. Currently, her endosymbiotic theory is recognized as the key method by which some organelles have arisen (see endosymbiotic theory for a discussion) and is widely accepted by mainstream scientists. The endosymbiotic theory of organogenesis gained strong support in the 1980s, when the genetic material of mitochondria and chloroplasts was found to be different from that of the symbiont’s nuclear DNA.
Margulis had to struggle to challenge the very strong emphasis on competition in biology. Cooperative arrangements are as important and maybe even precede competitive arrangements, so she maintained.
Stuart Kauffman even says that molecules can co-evolve cooperatively, becoming self-sustaining chemical factories of higher levels of complexity in which the product of one reaction is the feedstock or catalyst for another (read also this article at technologyreview).
But then again, as Howard said, we have to be careful about how far we want to extend any metaphor. These studies are providing frameworks and lenses we can use to look at our societies, but I guess this is just the start of an inquiry about human cooperation. Anyway, we discussed plants (mustard seedlings) knowing, and liking, their relatives. In this study, it seemed that siblings did not compete among each other but shared resources.
Or what to think about a symbiotic relationship in which each organism derives a benefit such as the red-billed Oxpecker eating ticks on the impala’s coat. There even is speculation that the mechanism of sexual reproduction may have started as a defense against parasites… The Red Queen’s Hypothesis suggests that co-evolutionary interactions, between host and parasite for example, may select for a sexual reproduction in hosts in order to reduce the risk of infection. Of course, of you look for it, there is mutualism everywhere: not only the birds and the bees but also domestication is an important kind of mutualism.
Leafcutter ants don’t actually eat leaves, they cut up the leaves, bring them to their nests and use them to grow a fungus, like farmers – or one could think they use the fungus as an external gut. In this arrangement bacteria are a third partner.
((While Howard was presenting some of the course materials, we had a text chat running in which participants shared interesting links such as this one about the book When Species Meet by Donna Jeanne Haraway. Yet another one: “Dogs Decoded” reveals the science behind the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs and investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs—with surprising implications for the evolution of human culture.)).
In Commensalism one organism benefits without affecting the other (fish-eating particles falling out of the mouth of larger fish, organisms that grow from the excretions of other organisms).
Yet another example are superorganisms such as we, humans: we carry twenty times as many living bacteria as human cells. We have 40,000 species of bacteria in the human gut and probably a hundred trillion bacteria in a human – we would not be able to digest without them.
The examples in biology we discussed tended to illustrate the notion that instead of competing for a resource, there is a lot of cooperation going on to multiply the resource. Not only a Californian expert in virtual communities and cooperation such as Howard is using this lens to look at nature, the very business-like The Economist recently ran a story about Me, Myself, Us, “Looking at human beings as ecosystems that contain many collaborating and competing species could change the practice of medicine.”
Rhizobia are yet another classical example of mutualism and show how complex the relationships can become:
The legume–rhizobium symbiosis is a classic example of mutualism—rhizobia supply ammonia or amino acids to the plant and in return receive organic acids (principally as the dicarboxylic acids malate and succinate) as a carbon and energy source—but its evolutionary persistence is actually somewhat surprising. Because several unrelated strains infect each individual plant, any one strain could redirect resources from nitrogen fixation to its own reproduction without killing the host plant upon which they all depend. But this form of cheating should be equally tempting for all strains, a classic tragedy of the commons. There are two competing hypotheses for the mechanism that maintains legume-rhizobium symbiosis (though both may occur in nature). The sanctions hypothesis suggests the plants police cheating rhizobia. Sanctions could take the form of reduced nodule growth, early nodule death, decreased carbon supply to nodules, or reduced oxygen supply to nodules that fix less nitrogen. The partner choice hypothesis proposes that the plant uses prenodulation signals from the rhizobia to decide whether to allow nodulation, and chooses only noncheating rhizobia. There is evidence for sanctions in soybean plants, which reduce rhizobium reproduction (perhaps by limiting oxygen supply) in nodules that fix less nitrogen. Likewise, wild lupine plants allocate fewer resources to nodules containing less-beneficial rhizobia, limiting rhizobial reproduction inside. This is consistent with the definition of sanctions just given, although called “partner choice” by the authors. However, other studies have found no evidence of plant sanctions, and instead support the partner choice hypothesis.
Trees and roots are other important examples/metaphors such as mycorrhizal networks connecting trees.
So ecosystems are complex cooperative arrangements demonstrating mutualism and commensalism at work – typically, if key species are removed, the whole structure collapses – once again, this can be used as a lens for looking at human societies.
This session with Howard and hyper-active co-learners was done in Blackboard Collaborate, using shared screens, text chats, audio and video. This week the discussion continues on the course forums and blogs.
Three courses, three different formats. The first two courses are about education and digital media. It seems the first one is a MOOC along the connectivist ‘tradition’: distributed on various web media, putting the learners in charge of their own experience, facilitated by what is called in this case ‘conspirators’. The second one is organized on the Coursera-platform, which normally means a more classical, top-down learning experience. However, the participants are invited to co-create course content and the organizers want to involve the “wider social web”.
The last course is not necessarily about education, but about literacies of cooperation. The organizer, the virtual communities and digital culture expert Howard Rheingold, does not want this to be a ‘massive’ experience, instead the course is limited to 35 learners (and you’ve to pay a fee). I participated in previous editions, and I can assure you it’s pretty intense.
#etmooc is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about educational design and media.
Welcome (Jan 13-19): Welcome Event & Orientation to #etmooc
Topic 1 (Jan 20-Feb. 2): Connected Learning – Tools, Processes & Pedagogy
Topic 2 (Feb 3-16): Digital Storytelling – Multimedia, Remixes & Mashups
Topic 3 (Feb 17-Mar 2): Digital Literacy – Information, Memes & Attention
Topic 4 (Mar 3-16): The Open Movement – Open Access, OERs & Future of Ed.
Topic 5 (Mar 17-30): Digital Citizenship – Identity, Footprint, & Social Activism
At Coursera: E-learning and Digital Cultures – Jan 28th 2013 (5 weeks long). This course will explore how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for e-learning theory and practice. Follow this course at #edcmooc. This course will consist of viewing short film clips alongside associated readings, as well as discussions and group collaborations amongst participants. Interesting: “E-learning and Digital Cultures will make use of online spaces beyond the Coursera environment, and we want some aspects of participation in this course to involve the wider social web. We hope that participants will share in the creation of course content and assessed work that will be publicly available online.”
Howard Rheingold is convening “Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Studies,” January 24 -March 1.
A detailed syllabus: http://socialmediaclassroom.com/host/cooperation4 a six week course using asynchronous forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, social bookmarks, synchronous audio, video, chat, and Twitter to introduce the fundamentals of an interdisciplinary study of cooperation: social dilemmas, institutions for collective action, the commons, evolution of cooperation, technologies of cooperation, and cooperative arrangements in biology from cells to ecosystems.
We are working on new initiatives to connect and support the communities and people involved in co-creating and using the metaverse, including new events, a new membership-led community organization (coming soon!), and our latest call for proposals for the recently launched Metaverse Cultural Series.
Metaverse Cultural Series 2013
The Metaverse Cultural Series 2013 is a set of events featuring performances and lectures that highlight unique aspects of metaverse culture. The events will take place in multiple virtual world spaces and the series will showcase innovative artists, thinkers, performers, and academics whose work is on the forefront of exploring what it means to work, play, and live in the emerging metaverse.
Hosts and performers will receive a $50 USD stipend for their participation in the program!
Metaverse Future Society – Coming Soon!
There are many places on the web where communities of interest gather around a particular technology or virtual world platform, but there are few places where those communities can come together to discuss the broader metaverse concept, where it converges with gaming and the web, and where we want it to go.
We envision a new kind of membership-driven organization where those passionate about the metaverse can help shape its future. Through issue advocacy, collaborative working groups, technical standards, and policy development, we can tackle the challenges of the fledgling metaverse today while also growing the career opportunities and professional skills of those working to create the platforms, content, and experiences for an exciting metaverse of tomorrow.
Stay tuned for more information about the Metaverse Future Society and how you can get involved!
Volunteer Opportunities & Open Staff Positions
AvaCon has exciting plans for the new year, and we’re on the lookout for people passionate about the metaverse and virtual worlds to help us showcase all of the terrific work being done in Second Life, Opensim, Unity3D, Open Wonderland, CloudParty, Utherverse and other metaverse-y platforms and technologies. We especially need volunteers with great organizing skills who love to meet and work with people in multiple worlds.
If this sounds like you, then join our organization today and help us help the people making the metaverse a reality! See our open positions and volunteer opportunities at: http://avacon.org/blog/positions/
Donations to AvaCon Now Tax Deductible
We are very pleased that AvaCon received formal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS as a public charity organization, so donations and sponsorships for AvaCon events and activities are now tax deductible!
It’s never too early to start planning for your next year’s taxes, so please consider giving a donation to support AvaCon’s mission as we work towards the growth and development of the metaverse, virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces.
We want to personally wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year and we look forward to supporting, sharing and helping shape the future of the metaverse with you as we start an exciting 2013.
Joyce Bettencourt, President
Chris Collins, Vice President
Kathey Fatica, Treasurer
Interesting. It’s not the first time efforts are being launched for this kind of metaverse-wide approach. I remember roadbooks being feverishly discussed, and of course we have MetaMeets and the folks around the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. I think it’s neither too late nor too soon for this latest initiatieve – knowing some of the people involved, I’m sure new and passionating ideas will emerge and lead to new and unexpected projects.
The venerable and ancient community The Well is still alive and kicking – it was bought by community members from salon.com. Right now and for the following days you can participate in the annual discussion with author, journalist, futurist and design guru Bruce Sterling and with entrepreneur and Internet veteran Jon Lebkowski about nothing less than the State of the World.
We’re discussing not just the latest trends in technology but also politics and culture. You don’t have to be a member to participate in this wide-ranging discussion. The URL: http://bit.ly/2013-state-of-the-world