Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is books making us stupid? #rhizo14

In a word; yes.

There are very few absolute, definitive truths. One “fact” I like to cite when challenged on this, is the number of planets in our solar system. Once Pluto was downgraded to an asteroid weren’t all bets off? 

Indeed the relation of earth to other planets, to the sun, and even if it’s indeed round (or at least non-flat) are all topics that have been written about, and considered absolutely true, and subsequently “corrected” over the course of history.

The process of capturing and recording “data” or “facts” or moving from the relative to the objective as Dave describes it in his video, begins the process of obsolescence for that particular volume.
The corporate world understands and accommodates the fact that capturing information dooms it to irrelevance by:
  1.  Incorporating dates into file names as part of prescribed naming conventions
  2. Using “track changes” in word processing software like Microsoft Word
  3.  Taking advantage of the version control capacities and methodologies “baked into” content management systems like Livelink and Sharepoint
  4. Referencing  “living documents” to make it explicit that consumers of said material can expect changes (and will need to know how to distinguish/where to find  current vs. previous versions)

Of course the challenge—no matter one’s area of endeavour or discipline be it corporate, educational, medical, political, social or whatever combinations thereof—in all of this is determining how to mediate the flow of information and arrive at what constitutes “truth” or the right (at least for now) answer? 

How do we accommodate the uncertainty which some believe (and I’ll include myself in this group) essential to truth-finding and sense-making? How do we keep the quest for knowledge relational (along the lines of the oral traditions Dave mentions in his video) and allow for the betterment and development of the existing canon in a given subject area?

One approach may be to embrace the stupid (along the lines of uncertainty for those so inclined) as proposed by Neil Postman and brought to my attention—perhaps not surprisingly—by one of the most inclusive and open instructors, Trevor Owen, I had during my M.Ed studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.