Practice, devalued?

I had a short email conversation this morning with a colleague – we are trying to name a site- and I suggested something with the word “practicing” in it. The initial response was that the term seemed too much like “playing at” something, not quite active and concrete enough. I understood the reaction, though I wish it weren’t so. Practice is such a time honored thing – One practices a craft or an art – and it carries with it connotations of apprentiship and community. Or at least that was a predominate meaning. Now we practice for life…… we pretend in order to get ready for the real thing. Meanings shift, I understand that. Just in this case it struck me more than others.

And it points up to the well worn and time honored issue of how we manage to communicate anything at all, with any clarity, given the disjoints in meaning we carry around with us. But that’s one of the things about practice, it’s generally embodied (in my world view) and involves acting in the world – not just speech acts but tangible, physical acts. So we practice deliberation by doing it – the practice is the doing. And yes, deliberation – more talk less action, but I’ve got opinions and thoughts contrary about that too.

Scattered thoughts about the commons, rivers and wells

I’m trying to find the right metaphor for a presentation I’m doing next week. The subject under consideration is broadband and the model/metaphor I currently have is that of a river and a village well. Which almost but doesn’t quite work, I think. What I’m trying to get at is the difference between viewing the internet as an outward journey to find things (video, wikipedia, fantasy baseball, etc.) which you then “bring home”, or things you take from home to launch “out there” (videos, pics, etc) as opposed to/ or complimentary to using the bandwidth locally to engage others in your community around issues of local import. The river and the village well.

These two uses are not exclusive of each other, but rather build on each other – the connection out into the broader world allows for the infusion of new ideas and information which can then be brought to consideration locally. Or perhaps not even overt consideration but an in-flowing of the exterior. ( And yes, bad things can come in too but that is an other conversation).

And the commons – as I was thinking about this today a number of things came up, such as why do we pay so much for internet access at home but again thats a whole other conversation, which I tried to focus down to some consideration about the nature of the online commons (or internet as commons). Some of the conclusion depends upon your orientation- is the internet a for profit venture, a megamart online with preferred services and all that that implies or is the net a common good, open and self replenishing, a market of ideas and communication? For profit implies a limited resource, gatekeepers, tollbooths, checkout counters (virtually) – an economic relationship. A common good implies other values ( and this had me sidetracked a bit on speculation on how few common goods we actually have any more) such as accessibility openness, etc…

So ones orientation towards the net is an aspect of ones political orientation- it exposes or at least points at economic relations, intellectual relations and activities and so on. This is not a news flash but has implications on the provision of service, equal access, open access which, I think, should be articulated clearly and more prevalently that is current. This also implies a stance towards education which is well worth looking at, re-enforcing and bring from a virtual to an embodied position.

Reenactors, Anachronists, First Lives and Second Life

One of my co-workers has a current significant other who is a pirate reenactor – which I have to admit was a new one to me. And we have spoken here, on occasion,  of the SCA in tones ranging from admirable to puzzled but one thing I will say unequivocally, without any puzzlement,  is that at least all the reenactors and anachronists are running about in the real world.

I mention this because I am continually reminded of the vast stores of enthusiasm some people have for Second Life, which puzzles me to no end. People who’s opinion I otherwise respect, seem to get swept away in the irrational fervor and illusory promise of an online world that is sure to be the “next big thing”. I’m puzzled even more deeply when I see educational institutions jumping on the pixelated bandwagon.

So what’s my beef with 3d virtual worlds? I really have no problem if someone wants to while away their life glued to a monitor, clicking, swooping and zooming in some make believe world. But what I’m hearing, from some sectors, is how wonderful and educative it is – which in select cases it may well be, but it’s very select and it’s very exclusionary and passive. Changing the clothes on your avatar don’t change nothing in real life, cleaning a pixelated toxic river doesn’t save one real fish, and in my humble opinion, what we need now is people who can effect real (positive) change in the real world.

So my beef includes:

  • Privileged assumptions about univeral access to high speed internet connections and current computing technologies
  • Assumptions that we live in a digitally literate world
  • Creation of an illusory sense of impact ( we can’t change the world but I can change my avatar, so that’s something)
  • Disengagement with the real world

That’s a partial list. There are so many factors at play, so many risks unaccounted form, in our naively enthusiastic adoption of and egagement with technology. I’m not the first, by a long shot, to mention this but I think it bears frequent repeating.

More to come, without a doubt……..

Expert – Practitioner dynamics in an online environment

ep dynamics cmap I’ve been reviewing some of the data we gathered last year during the course of a project that invited practitioners into an online environment to work collaboratively (to varying degrees) with academic experts. I’m specifically interested in the role technology might play in mediating the boundaries and relationships in this exchange/environment. It’s a slippery subject, in some ways, because there are all these “messy” human factors to take into account – interpersonal dynamics, pre-existing relationships and so on – which don’t especially lend themselves to clean analysis. They do, however, lend themselves to the story – or that’s my impulse at this moment.

Three slides about a web site – technology to support a mixed community of practice

This past week I was involved in a presentation about the Landscape Measures Resource Center, a new site we’ve developed to support the practice of landscape measurement. This is a fairly new practice and integrates knowledge and stakeholders from multiple domains. I’ve extracted the three slides that directly addressing our use of technology and repackaged them, using Adobe Presenter. I can’t get the presentation to embed well here so the direct link to the slide is:

If you’d like to take a look at the in-development version of the web site it’s online here: