By Stephen Downes
February 26, 2004

Maurice Merleau-Ponty
After my discussion of Tversky the other day, a reader wrote to remind me of Maurice Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of perception. Critcizing my paper on Relevant Similarity, the reader wrote, "it is the primacy of our perceptions, which are similar to each other (in terms of how and what we generally perceive) that is the tool for our cognition." Quite right, but to clarify, this is why a system of formal reasoning is inadequate to explain cognition, because if this is all we have, the senses are not sufficient for the task that they actually accomplish. There's a lot in Merleau-Ponty that I like, and especially this: "Habit, and the production of schemes in regards to the body's mobilisation, 'gives our life the form of generality and prolongs our personal acts into stable dispositions" (PP 146). This tendency of our body to seek its own equilibrium and to form habits, is an infinitely important component of Merleau-Ponty's body-subject..." Read Merleau-Ponty and think McLuhan. I need to pull all these thoughts together, because they are related: the nature of similarity, the diffusion of information in a network, causality, interpretation, context, learning, blogging, the semantic social network and the self-organizing web. By Jack Reynolds, Internet Enclyclopedia of Philosophy, December, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Now that Jay Cross has completed his coverage of his trip to Scotland, it is well worth summarizing in an item. One think I like about his work is the number of photos and images - they add a lot. So we are treated with one set, then then another, before we get to the conference. Then coverage of the opening plenary which included one scathing review and this observation: "How many in the audience use PowerPoint at least once a month? (Most of us.) How many learned it by attending a course? (1 person) How many learned via eLearning? (2) How many learned through trial and error and/or asking people for help? (45) This is a typical finding." Moving on, we get some classic Jay as, on the fly, he prepares and gives a talk that covers emergent learning, networks and learning and visual learning - and though we express it differently, it is clear that he and I are on the same wavelength here. More pictures, and then a good summary of a talk by Etienne Wegner, the father of the community of practice. Jay grabs the key point (and in so doing, the logic behind (what should become) learning metadata): "The three aspects of social learning are the Domain, the Practice, and the Community. What, how, and who." Finally, Jay concludes with an amusing describtion of the closing plenary, in which students berate the assembled for chattering and not paying attention. Nobody covers conferences better that Jay Cross. By Jay Cross, Internet Time, February 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

CopperCore to Power Learning Design implementations
CETIS writes great ledes, leaving me with no alternative but to quote them: "The Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL) has just released CopperCore: an IMS Learning Design engine, the first of its kind. Rather than provide a complete take-it-or-leave-it Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), the open source package is designed to be integrated into a range of existing e-learning infrastructures." This clear writing in the same article that used the phrase 'The Gubbins' as a section head, as though we would understand. Heh. Oh, and somebody asked me yesterday about a SCORM player; here's one at ReLoad, found (again) by following a link in the CETIS story. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, February 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Looking Into Practical & Productive Blogging, K8
Somebody asked me the other day whether I had respources on blogging specifically for K-12 instruction. Since I don't focus on specific sectors, I didn't. But I've kept an eye out, and here is the first hit: a weblog devoted specifically to the use of blogs in K-8 schools. I have no doubt there are others out there, so if people let me know these resources exist, I'll post them over the next few days (I did already recommend Weblogg-Ed as the best I know on the subject). By Rick Barter, Conners Emerson School, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Selecting and Implementing an Open Source Software Digital Repository (FEDORA)
The title of this presentation (PowerPoint placed into PDF) is a bit misleading; the talk is mostly about the Fedora digital object repository system. Still, the content is first rate, and for those immersed in learning objects, a peek such as this into the wider world of digital objects in general would be well worth while. Other papers from this seminar "To Have and to Hold: Metadata and Institutional Repositories" are also available online. By Corey Keith and Jon Dunn, RLG Members' Forum, December 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

There's No Such Thing as Free HBO
The lesson here isn't just another case of a company suing its customers, nor is it the new judicial system under which you are guilty if you could illegally access a file. No, while these cases show that the illogic of the music industry debate is spreading to other industries, that's not the story. In fact, the lesson is this: smart cards can be hacked. In fact, smart cards are so easy to hack that the defendants in this story, 22,000 in all (the number of people who didn't settle with Direct TV), are from all walks of life. "We've talked to people who are on welfare, in trailer parks. We talked to one guy whose wife was sued while she was in a coma in the hospital." And the thing is, how are you going to tell? How does a consumer tell that a smart card is legal? How does the producer tell the hack isn't legitimate. "They get caught and they're going to come up with fifteen different stories about how they were conducting field research in smart-card technology or trying to fix their garage-door opener," they say. Well maybe. But conducting research or fixing your garage are legal activities. If the everyday becomes suspicious because the technology is the online equivalent of a free flow lane, how do any of us escape scrutiny and apparantly random prosecutions? My goodness, doesn't anyone over there on the Other Side know where they're taking us? By Kara Platoni, East Bay Express, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-Books and DRM
Would you pay hardcover prices for a book that will be throws away after one read? Of course not, and it is this that publishers do not understand. This article is a good introduction to some of the issues surrounding eBooks (though I would take issue with some of the statements expressed by Adobe spokesperson Shafath Syed). But the comments are the better part of the article, so don't skip them. "The key issues are (1) e-books aren't books and (2) most publishers simply don't understand the technology. A book is both data and a display medium that can last for centuries. Books are inexpensive and easy to read, but bulky, hard to store and hard to search. E-books are data. They are displayed on expensive devices that have a useful life of two to four years, with disk reformats/rebuilds perhaps yearly." By Ed Foster, Ed Foster's GripeLog, February 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Bull Session With Professor IPod
To revisit a theme from a few weeks ago: "Bull noted that a lot of users reported they stored a few "perennial favorites" on their iPod but generally were constantly shuffling new music in and out, which may explain why they're reluctant to pay for something they don't 'keep.' WN: Yeah. Apple has always said the iTunes music store was a loss leader, a way to sell more iPods. Bull: Right. In terms of usage, Apple got it intuitively right. People use (the iPod) as an alarm clock, and when they listen to it at night, they like the fact it can turn itself off. It's how people like to use music." Good look at the sociology of iPods. By Leander Kahney, Wired news, February 25, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Lies! Lies! and Suckers
Hm. John C. Dvorak argues that "The Internet is not a bastion of truth and freedom, it's a pit of horror and lies. It's geared up to become a mechanism of tyranny and madness." Nice example, though, as he argues that "trying to determine the exact wording of the 'bumpy ride' quote said by Bette Davis in the movie All About Eve is another amusing Internet exercise... Go to Google and search for 'Betty Davis bumpy ride' or 'All About Eve quotes.'" Spelling the actor's name correctly produces better results, of course, but I have to ask, is this the fault of the internet? I mean, would there be any doubt at all were the script for the movie posted on the net for all to see? When you are left with nothing but speculation, then of course you increase the chances of error, but this error is caused not by those who speculate, but by those who have the knowledge and won't share it. Dvorak is right, but he blames the wrong party. Oh, and while I'm at it, try the same test using any other medium - television, newspapers, radio - and let me know how your search goes. Piffle, I say. By John C. Dvorak, P.C. Magazine, February 23, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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