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by Stephen Downes
April 12, 2010

Complexity. The new world between chance and choice
"Nonlinear dynamics are concerned with complex, messy systems," writes Esko Kilpi in this excellent post describing the interplay between patterns and connections. "Chaos theory explains how the parameters in the equations cause patterns in time. These patterns are called attractors... At very high rates of, for example information flow, the system displays a totally random behavior. The pattern is highly unstable. However, there is a level between repetition/stability and randomness/instability. This level is called the edge of chaos. The pattern in time is called a strange attractor. The strange thing with a strange attractor is that the ongoing movement is never the same but always recognizable."

So what? Well, it gives you a way of organizing things. You can't manage or control a chaotic system - you can't even predict the outcome. But as this article suggests, you can identify, and even position, attractors. "In sum, our strategy was to control only that which could be ordered. For those activities in the realm of that which is, and must be, unordered, we watched and we shaped – gently, but with insistence. Because I have learned to know the difference between the states of order and unorder, I am now seen by all Athens as the wisest of men." This is at the heart of Snowden's framework (see below). Esko Kilpi, Interactive Value Creation, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Complicating Relationships in Media: Apple, NY Times Dealings Raise Questions
Dan Gillmor points to the increasingly close (and mutually supportive) relationship between journalsists and the technology they cover. "By appearing on stage at the Apple event and by launching an iPad app that the Times wants to monetize in every possible way - an app from which Apple will likely make money as well - the Times is becoming more of a business partner with a company it covers incessantly." The more this is the case, the less we should be trusting what television and newspapers (and, for that matter, tech bloggers) tel us about technology, and to look for less authorized (and more reliable) sources. If they can be found. Dan Gillmor, Mediactive, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Origins of Cynefin: By any other name would (it) smell as sweet?
Dave Snowden offers a longish explanation of the use of the name 'cynefin' to describe his framework. The framework, which describes and relates complex, comblicated, chaotic and simple systems, forms the basis for his approach to knowledge management. The term is Welsh in origin, and "with no direct equivalent in English. As a noun it is translated as habitat, as an adjective familiar, but dictionary definitions fail to do it justice." Now I'm the last person to demand definitions of terms, and I love metaphor as much as anyone, but I don't think having "poetry in your heart" rescues this term. But as Snowden deserves a proper response, which I haven't time to craft at the moment, I'll give him the last word: "You probably do have to have poetry in your soul to understand it, along with a realisation that names are not the same thing as a definitions. It doesn't obscure, it makes you think, challenges literal definitions and allows deeper meaning to emerge." Dave Snowden, Cognitive Edge, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Agenda for Open Online Courses Can Go Forward, Federal Officials Say
The United States government may or may not be funding open online courses. "It's 'not inconceivable' that some of the $2-billion could pay for online courses," said David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges. "But it's not at all the thrust of this," he said. "It doesn't appear to be much the intent of this new program." Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

History of American Education
Can't help but like this Jim Burke quote from Alvin Toffler. "It would be a mistake to assume that the present-day educational system is unchanging. On the contrary, it is undergoing rapid change. But much of this change is no more than an attempt to refine the existent machinery, making it ever more efficient in pursuit of obsolete goals." Jim Burke, Learning in Maine, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Is the iPhone generative?
David Weinberger links to a Steven Johnson column in the NY Times suggesting open platforms are not needed for innovation. "When Dan Gillmor challenged this in a tweet," he adds, "Steve responded with a terrific blog post, further considering the point." For a platform to support a lot of development it needs to be "generative", that is, frequently re-invented in a way that puts amateurs and professionals on roughly the same footing. And only open platforms are generative. But Johnson's suggestion is that Apple's platform is "generative", which is why we see 150,000 apps, which means a platform need not be open to be generative. I really don't think we should take that app count too seriously. Apple has created a platform on which pretty much every web site is its own app (talk about not trusting open platforms!) and in which, therefore, apps are simply recreations of existing websites, and while this represents multiplicity, it hardly represents generativity 9or whatever it would be called). David Weinberger, Joho the Blog, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Sony Unveils New Walkman Series
I bought a Sony Walkman digital music player just last week. It cost less than a quarter what my iPod did, and with audio recording and an FM tuner, does more for me already than what my iPod does. No, it doesn't hold nearly as much music (love that 64 gig on the iPod), and it doesn't have WiFi access. Then again, my iPod doesn't record off the radio. Brian Heater, Gearlog, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Collaboration and Cooperation
I was asked, by email, abut the distinction between groups and networks. "Can we say it has a direct parallelism with the distinction Collaboration vs Cooperation? In terms of enabling student's freedom, how would you describe each one?" This short post is my response, and will be familiar to people who have seen me write on this before. Some good comments already added. Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

The New NewsU
Poynter has upgraded and expanded their interesting "news university." No, it's not free, and I'm not sure that if you added up all the costs it would even be cheaper. But with things like $27.95 seminars, it's definitely pay-as-you-go. That said, Poynter has shown a good sense for the online marketplace in the past, so this enterprise is worth watching. Various Authors, Poynter, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Descending Clouds – Society and Augmented Reality 101
Good post depicting what will happen when the data in the cloud become part of an augmented reality. The second half is filled with videos depicting a sort of web 3.0. It's worth nothing what happens top online learning in this environment. Sending people to classrooms will make even less sense. Learning will be available any place the learner is, in a context precisely where it is needed.
Gary Hayes, Personalize Media, April 12, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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