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Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

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Filtering by Tag: social media

Linguistics of Tweeting/Text Messaging

Below is an interesting talk from a well respected professor of linguistics, born in 1941 mind, on text messaging and tweeting.

I watched it on my iPad while washing up lunch today. (The kitchen window and frame act as a natural amplifier for the sound! #hackthesystem)


I'm a bit late to the party with this video. I stumbled on it by chance but have since realised various others in my PLN have been nattering about it.

It struck a particular chord for me because I've recently re-read 'The Brain that Changes Itself', which is compulsory reading, and finishes with a chapter on how external media rewires the mind. I've heard it said that the human brain is perfect for becoming a cyborg. We don't need bits of wires connected to our actual brain cells to become cyborgs. The input/output comes through our hardwired USB hub: hearing, sight, & all the other senses. I find it perfectly accurate to talk about my iPhone as an extension of myself. Most tech is like this. Ever since clothing.

Our brain USB hub is hardwired but the CPU is softwired. The brain adapts to input.

This is why cochlear implants work. It's also why the vision impaired can get vision-input from their tongue.

I can't help but disagree with the professor on one point! He says near the end that 20 years is not long enough for the brain to be rewired. The revolution in neuroplasticity suggests otherwise. 

How has the media changed our brains? Is 20 years of the internet long enough? Or is 2 months long enough? And how are our brains changing? 

Annnnyway here's the video, kk?

The Hive-Mind and Steve Jobs

My reaction on the death of Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple, was the same as those expressed over and over in the online hive-mind of Twitter, and surprisingly strong.

Thinking about this, I copied and pasted a couple of hundred tweets about Steve Jobs into 'Wordle', which aggregates the most common words and formats them according to frequency of occurrence. Here is the unsurprising result:


What doesn't show up in the graphic is a small number of comments made on Twitter regarding the working conditions in the factories where Apple products are made. If you're not up to speed, a huge number of digital devices sold in the west are manufactured by Foxconn, that operates in various developing nations. From Wikipedia:

"Hon Hai's first manufacturing plant in Mainland China opened in Longhua,Shenzhen in 1988.[5] Now the company's largest operation, 300,000[10] to 450,000[2] workers are employed in Shenzhen at the Longhua Science & Technology Park, a cramped, walled campus[5] sometimes referred to as "Foxconn City"[11] or "iPod City".[12] Covering about 1.16 square miles (3 square km),[13] it includes 15 factories,[11] worker dormitories, a swimming pool,[14] a fire brigade,[5] and a downtown complete with a grocery store, bank, restaurants, bookstore, and hospital.[5] While some workers live in surrounding towns and villages, others live and work inside the complex,[15] which broadcasts its own television network, Foxconn TV.[5]"

There has been plenty of criticism of the living conditions in these factory-cities.

450,000 workers in three square kilometers; it is another hive, a work-hive, creating the devices by which we connect to each other on the hive-mind social media. 

It's the same broad issue that rich people like us face with many manufactured products that we love: the grunt work goes to poor people and we are left to do the fun stuff, the ideas-work.

The ideas-work: the inspirational stuff you can do on an iPad. Whence my admiration for Jobs, whose clarity of mind and insight shaped the devices whose elegance assists us gain clarity of mind and insight. It's a precious prize in a world characterised by information overload and noise.

In the west we navigate an information landscape. At the top of Mount Maslow, my life is in the shape of creativity, not survival, until I die like Steve Jobs. 

When we upgrade our devices, the old ones are liable to be shipped back to a poor country. Journalist Giovanna Vitola blogs about her experiences in the e-Waste dump in Ghana, where shipments from Australia were arriving. Children fossick through the waste and it gets burned and toxic fumes float through a local market. 

My mind is drawn to both these worlds at the sad news of the death of Steve Jobs.

Edward de Bono VS Social Media

I read this article today where Edward de Bono identifies a danger of social media:

"(Social media causes) laziness – that we just feel we’ll just get more information and we don’t need to have ideas ourselves – we’ll get ideas from someone else, we don’t need to look at the data we’ll just see what someone else has said and so on."

My immediate response was: "hang on a tick, Socrates already said that!" because the same discussion comes up in a book I'm reading (listening to, actually) by James Gleick on the history of information, but Socrates is speaking about writing, not social media.

In The Phaedrus. Socrates quotes the god Thamus speaking to the Egyptian god of writing, Theuth:

"you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality." (read more here)

I must confess to giggling, even LOLing at Socrates. He does appear to be describing Facebook, and if Plato had included a 'Like' button I'd be the first to press it.

"they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality."

Heh heh! Fair call, Socrates, fair call.

Now, Socrates' concern about writing seems quite silly 2,381 years later, and is not going to get traction in the media, but de Bono's concern about social media will get plenty of attention.

Why? Because, because, because, us human beings are beset by perils, everywhere we look, but we're most conscious of new ones. De Bono's observation is of a new peril. Socrates' concern is no less valid, but it's an old observation about a well-known technology. 

Of course social media can drown us in information but strip us of wisdom and deep understanding. Well done de Bono. Writing can too - props to you, Socrates. 

When was the last time someone at a party said "You know, I hear a lot about writing, and I've been thinking of taking it up myself, but don't you feel that writing can make us lazy, because, you know, no one has to remember anything anymore, or internalise, you know? The information is just there on the page, ready for any half wit to consume and chalk up to understanding... <sigh> I don't know..."

Or for that matter, any technology, "I'm just not convinced about automobiles. Have you stopped to think how dangerous they are? Also, by travelling further to our work places, I really wonder whether it might dislocate us from our sense of local, village-like community..." Which again is of course quite a valid point.

I get that all the time about social media: It shortens our attention spans, it floods us with noise, it promotes mindless trivia, it distorts our identity with a constant quest for shallow online kudos, it makes us lazy. 

I take such comments as a sign that someone has not sat down and done a full analysis of the technology to point of being comfortable with it. They are clearly still coming at it as an outsider, as a rookie. They're still awkwardly getting a shape for the new thing. I mean if Socrates had joined up for a writing.com account and not left it for Plato I doubt he would have been so touchy about it. Imagine the irony Plato himself felt as he wrote down Socrates' words? De Bono has been plenty a tweeted, too. 

People who criticise Twitter are invariably not on Twitter, or they 'tried it once but got sick of hearing about people enjoying a coffee or buying some new shoes'. That can't possibly be a full analysis of Twitter. If it were, why would anyone be on it?

It's like they stopped half way through a thought and couldn't get any further.

To Socrates, de Bono, and social media worriers, I can only respond: you're better off to dive into the new technology and find wisdom and balance within it, and then share that wisdom with others once you've reached a mature, stable and sophisticated understanding of it.

Otherwise if you have a dig at it as an outsider you just end up sounding like an old codger. Verrrry old.