By Stephen Downes
February 17, 2004


A moment...
Give me (lever and) a place to stand, and I will move the world.

The network seeks its own balance.

Not a posteriori, not a priori; in the moment.

Quality, quantity, moment.

To perceive a moment, one must be outside space and time. A forest perceived only by seeing more than the trees, a wave perceived only by seeing more than the droplets of water. The moment is created not by types of entities, or numbers of entities, but combinations of entities. Moments are emergent.

the circuits of communication are the supports of an accumulation and a centralization of knowledge; the play of signs defines the anchorages of power; it is not that the beautiful totality of the individual is amputated, repressed, altered by our social order, it is rather that the individual is carefully fabricated in it, according to a whole technique of forces and bodies.

The concept of the arbitrary nature of the imaginary representation of the real conditions of existence...

Individuals grow, replicate, interact and create the network; the network seeks balance; this interplay creates patterns of perception, emergent phenomena, moments; and these exert a non-causal influence on individuals as we attempt to interpret that which we cannot comprehend.

If we were to imagine the internet as a global mind, how would we determine what it was thinking? Not by examining any individual website, or even every website, but by looking for the patterns, the standing waves, the moments. And if we were to seek a single one of the internet's thoughts, how would we look? We would not seek through individual neurons, but would depend on the mind to organize itself, and tell us.

The pixels on the screen have no causal power, but the image on the screen can make you run and hide, or jump for joy. We must learn to perceive, to use, the internet in exactly the same way, as a self-organizing network.

By Various Authors, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

No Future?
Good diagram depicting types of knowledge sharing (and non-sharing). My organization, like most, I suppose, belongs in the fourth group: the "knowledge fortress," where knowledge is hoarded against external threats, and where sharing is encouraged only though building cross functional teams - hence our emphasis on inter-group collaboration, and also on collaboration with selected companies and universities. But my sense of knowledge sharing is more like the first or second groups, where knowledge sharing occurs through a (wide) network. Sharing knowledge with only select groups to me runs counter to the idea of knowledge sharing at all. In the end, what matters is, how can the knowledge best serve my employers, the people of Canada? And my belief is that it serves them best if it is shared with them. By Unknown, mpsos, February 16, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

TrackBack: Where Blogs Learn Their Places
Via elearnspace. This article is a concise and accurate introduction to the concept of the 'trackback' in blogging. As the author (who has obviously done his homework) explains, "A TrackBack ping is blogspeak for a short message sent from one Web server to another." It lets one blog know that another blog is linking to it. The key word here is "send" - pings must be sent and received, which means that you must be using a specific blogging tool for pings to work. Though the language for pings is widely shared, through APIs (application program interfaces), it means that to participate in the system you have to do more than merely make your content available. I have argued elsewhere against the use of trackbacks, suggesting that the same result may be obtained through content aggregation. Why am I opposed to pings? Well, it's a form of push, which means I am in effect letting someone else place content into my system automatically. And history tells us that any push technology will be abused by spammers and worse (it's just this sort of system design, in a different context, of course, that makes Microsoft so vulnerable to viruses). Moveable Type users especially have already had to deal with API spam, and this trend will only increase. So while the benefits described in this article are real, the implementation by today's blogging software is flawed. Anyhow. I am the only person in the world, it seems, opposed to Trackback. So for now, it may be best to go with the flow. But maybe have a back-up plan ready, just in case. By Phillip D. Long, Syllabus, February 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Content Delivery in the 'Blogosphere'
Introductory article on educational blogging (you can tell the writers are still uneasy about it from the scare quotes around the well established term 'blogosphere'). I wish the authors of these articles would look a bit more deeply into the subject; while Weblogg-ED is a good introduction, I don't see how Blogsphere.us qualifies as one of the top two blogs you'd list on the subject of educational blogging. And a 1991 reference about community building does not indicate a genuine desire to credit people who have developed the field in the online environment. By Richard E. Ferdig and Kaye D. Trammell, T.H.E. Journal, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Publishers Unite to Tackle Copyright
U.S. publishers have singled out Ukraine and Pakistan as countries where 'piracy' occurs (note that the actions are called 'piracy' even though they may be legal the other jurisdictions) and recommend that China be placed on a watch list. Via digital-copyright. By Unknown, Authorlink, February 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Total Quality Management Strategic Plan for Distance Course Development
It's enough to make some academics shudder, of course, but this article describes the development and application of an evaluation rubric to distance learning courses. The think with measuring quality is that you have to be sure you are measuring for the right things. How, for example, does one make sense of this: "Despite the poor student evaluations for videoconference classes and the high dropout rate for online classes, the demand for distance classes continued." The application of TQM also raises questions about the underlying motives, something this paper does little to dispell: "In order for instructors to receive compensation for distance courses, their courses would now have to be evaluated against standards of best practice through a peer review process." One wonders whether the University in question applied its policy consistently, and charged students tuition only after they had expressed satisfaction with the course. Yeah, I thought not. By Donna G. Wood, Melissa Roberts Becker, Rodney L. Osborne, Joyce A. Van Nostrand, Sharon A. Winn, and Chuck Ziehr , DEOS News, February 16, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Microsoft Killers
Nice essay on the benefits and history of open source. The article hits the usual targets, including OpenCola, Slashdot, and Linux. It inlcudes a discussion of open source in education, with references to OpenCourseWare and BioMed Central. Goof introductory text. By Azeem Azhar, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-print Repository for Research Output at QUT
Queensland University of Technology adopted this policy effective at the beginning of the year, making its entire "corpus of refereed research literature, conference proceedings, and other non-refereed output" available to the world. Via FOS News. By Various Authors, Queensland University of Technology, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Constructivism and Hands-on Exercises
Intelligent discussion of the composition of statements of learning objectives in a constructivist environment. "It seems to me," the author writes, "that we always tend to define learning objectives centered around tasks, even though the ability to accomplish tasks is only part of the learning required in order to be able to correctly choose and apply task-based knowledge in practice; the type of learning that constructivism promotes." Nice take from Bill Brandon, in which he suggests that the author "is looking for a way to guide learners without directing or telling them." And the author's response. By Holly Henry-Pilkington, Holly's Research Journal, February 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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