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by Stephen Downes
June 14, 2007


Greetings from Taiwan, where I am just packing for the long return flight home. My visit has been interesting and engaging - greatly aided by the super-competent volunteers who have been working here with Lucifer Chu. My email is now working, just in time for the flight. Anyhow, today I have only one photo, but I will post the rest next week. Stephen Downes, Flickr June 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Democracy 2.0
I haven't said much about democracy and governance in these pages, not directly at least, because my attention has been directed elsewhere. But it has always struck me that attempts to implement e-democracy have been stuck in a 19th century model of governance, one that enshrines the representative function as the almost definitive of democracy. What is democracy, after all, without votes for your representatives? And yet - embodied in this epitome is the very idea of disempowerment, the idea (straight from Hobbes) that we surrender our own liberty in exchange for security and safety (and the other elements of 'good government'). The idea that we could govern ourselves is not merely rejected as wrongheaded, but as dangerous. As though we - who, after all, elect our (mostly untrustworthy) representatives, cannot be entrusted with our own governance. And so we have evolved into a system of government that is mostly about wresting power and control from each other, and not about the collective safety and security - a model that leads us chaotically lurching from Iraq to global warming to Darfur to Enron. I believe that we, as a people, could do a better job governing ourselves than could our elected representatives (especially those more interested in looting us than leading us) and that internet communication technologies make self-governance possible. It is this idea, I believe, that e-government should be exploring, and not things like better systems for public 'consultation' or 'online voting'. Doug Noon, Borderland June 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Setting Learning Free
The open source movement is beginning to recognize the open courseware and open educational resources movements. This article is pretty much party line (ie., "In the Beginning was MIT, and They Invented Open Content") but the more important thing is that it captures the appeal of open content and shows the beginnings of awareness that there is an entire community behind it (and not just a few well-funded institutions that get Hewlett grants). Unattributed, Linux News June 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Another Tough Gig - I Enter the Lion'S Den
I don't post conference announcements but I can't resist passing along this session description )because it captures so many of my own predispositions): "Our keynote speaker has been working closely with UBC's IT professionals for years, and has consistently vexed them with his unorthodox demands and unwillingness to specify use cases. Brian will attempt to defend his shockingly lax approach to planning as a grounded philosophy intended to foster user autonomy and innovation. He will also review some approaches to web strategy that are emerging outside of campus environments, such as open access to content and open APIs, and attempt to make a case why we need to learn from these efforts and apply them within our educational institutions." He remarks, 'I see that the organizers deleted my concluding sentence, which was: "Attendees are responsible for bringing their own projectiles.' I guess that means suitable throwables will be provided in the conference loot bag." Read the rest of this post - Brian Lamb is tapping into some important trends (like, 'what happens when you can do massive web innovation on 6.95 a month'). Brian Lamb, Abject Learning June 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

How has Information Changed?
Tom Hoffman's observations - that this post is not about the nature of information at all - are on point. But the post is illustrative of common misconceptions about the changing nature of media. Of these, forst is probably the confusion between 'information' and 'content'. By 'content' we can mean the messages sent over various media, including television, tabloid newspapers, email, radio, and the rest. But not all of this content is information - if the message is one you've already heard, or if the message is of no use to you, then it is not 'information'. To be information, the content needs to change your understanding of the world (cf. Fred Dretske). A second misconception is in the confusion between the medium and the information. If the information is 'Paris is the capital of France', the medium - be it networked, physical, overwhelming - does not change this information. Paris remains the capital of France. What changes is our understanding of the information - be cause we, being inescapably human, cannot resist bringing our prejudices and biases to the table. Dave Warlick, 2 Cents Worth June 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Oh Canada...10 E-Learning Memories From 9 Trips in 2 Years
Curt Bonk has some very nice things to say about Canada (and about me... *blush*) in this retrospective of 9 different trips here over the last two years. Good observations, goofy photos, and a fun sense of humour ("they made me wear the Calgary Flames shirt for my journey up to Edmonton..."). Perhaps the Conference Board of Canada (see below) should review this list before making pious pronouncements Curtis J. Bonk, TravelinEdMan June 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Failure to Innovate Sinking Economy: Report
As somebody whose job description is basically 'to innovate' a report like this is almost personal. Do we really not innovate in Canada? I see so much evidence to the contrary! But then when I look at the indices, I see the explanation: "Fewer scientific articles are published in Canada, fewer patents are granted." Does the Conference Board of Canada feel my work - which is government funded but which produces very few patents or formal publications - to be a "stunningly poor" showing? Well maybe. But perhaps the Conference Board doesn't understand 'innovation' any more. Perhaps it should to update its understanding before making declarations that are empirically implausible. Unattributed, CBC June 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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