A conversation about faith, serendipity, and openness

Here is a little back and forth I had with Alec Couros which actually led to some interesting ideas and questions (at least for me) of the contemporary usage of the term serendipity as the premise for a kind of faith system of openness similar to Dickens’s idea of coincidence in his novels. A somewhat secular belief system in connections, chance, and some kind of beneficent fate. Serendipity may be the enemy! 😉 More seriously, this is a hacked together series of ideas I want to come back to in greater detail at some point, hence the capturing of it here, on my space, not twitter’s.

Jim Groom

jimgroom“Openness is as much a function of design as it is of any set of beliefs.” I said this in the UMW Blogs Story, it will frame my opened talk

Jim Groom

jimgroomhere’s the post, which on a re-read is a doozy: http://bit.ly/ST85R


 Alec Couroscourosa@jimgroom a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing going on there, which determines which? beliefs influence design/architecture or vice versa?

 Alec Couros

courosa@jimgroom or more directly, what do you see as the relationship between the two?

Jim Groom

jimgroom@courosa
I think some assumptions about openness can change as the architecture of the web does, making the design almost as important….

Jim Groom

jimgroom…as the philosophy. And I think openness can sometimes be stepped into, kinda like shit.

Jim Groom

jimgroomFor example, UMw Blogs a was not so much premised on openes as a doctrine, but rather as necessary extension of the application of education

Jim Groom

jimgroomIn other words, might we think of openness as a side effect of the new web that has been rhetorically transformed into its raison d’etre

Jim Groom

jimgroomThink about the combustion engine, it changed the built environment of a large part of the earth during the 20th century, scarring it deeply

Jim Groom

jimgroomYet the car remains one of the great icons of of freedom, liberty, and individuality—a veritable culture machine that poeticizes the road

Jim Groom

jimgroomHow can the happenstance of design not come to inform all sorts of cultural valences we couldn’t predict, yet often privilege the “verities”

Jim Groom

jimgroomOpenness has become such a verity, and by extension has become as fraught for co-option and commodification as the very road that enabled it

 Alec Couros

courosa@jimgroom For me,my beliefs have influenced edu.design,& as I measure student
success attr. 2 openness,it reinforces & extends these beliefs

Jim Groom

jimgroomHahahaha, now there are some late night tweets that no one will hear fall in the twitter forest 😉

Jim Groom

jimgroom@courosa But beliefs are conditional, and they themselves become emboldened by possibilities

Jim Groom

jimgroom@courosa Or even better than that, “Serendipity” becomes a kind of new faith system of openness, akin to Dickens’s turn to coincidence

Jim Groom

jimgroom@courosa
We believe that to give back is ultimately good, and will pay forward-promotion is the reward for sharing-there’s a faith system

Jim Groom

jimgroomWe built a religion on top of design principles, from that comes a philosophy of beneficent chance, aka serendipity-it all makes sense now

 Alec Couros

courosa@jimgroom Interesting point re:Dickens/parallels,pay forward &
coincidence,both values indicative of particular view of society;faith driven

Jim Groom

jimgroom@courosa Forgive my indulgence-I don’t get out much, And while what I said makes no sense, I just worked out a timeless theory

Jim Groom

jimgroomAnd to push forward with this idea-how do religions themselves adjust to the design challenges of their respective eras? How does education?

Jim Groom

jimgroomNobody tweets like the bava, NOBODY!

Jim Groom

jimgroomHate to go, but I have a bunch of tweets to hang on my “I love me” wall, thanks @courosa 🙂

 Alec Couroscourosa@jimgroom It’s always a pleasure Jim. from web

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7 Responses to A conversation about faith, serendipity, and openness

  1. Frances Bell says:

    It’s difficult to have a conversation about Openness and Design without mentioning commerce (that is in itself quite happy to lie low when benefiting from the warm glow of sharing ‘loser-generated content – see First Monday article on Web 2.0). Religion can also be drummed into the service of the exploitation of the masses ;)or engage with it – see Vincent Nichols valiant but not fully informed attempt http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/shanerichmond/100002679/archbishop-nichols-doesnt-understand-social-networking/
    Promoting Openness as an absolute principle reminds me of the Kantian libertarianism that characterised the ‘Electronic Frontier’ of the 1990s where the Internet culture was drawn up by the white western middle class males that predominated, and ridiculous claims for democratisation were 2 a penny.
    Openness and Design are not intrinsically good or bad but complex and ripe for critique (just like commerce and the motor car). I think the role of education in innovation is to explore and critique it, reflexively over time, looking for patterns and changes, so we can all shape our futures.
    I am currently working on a comparison of the learning of technology in teaching/learning with the learning of older crafts (e.g. Fair Isle knitting!!) and the issue of the ‘nearness’ of design to the practice of the craft is one to ponder.
    BTW, this is part of my long-running campaign to infiltrate geeky discussions with references to textile crafts 😉

  2. Ed Webb says:

    The Reverend in conversation with @courosa and Frances? This page might just be enough to start a religion. A sect, at least.

    I have nothing remotely intelligent enough to add yet. But I’ll be back after some coffee.

  3. Ed Webb says:

    The Reverend asks: “might we think of openness as a side effect of the new web that has been rhetorically transformed into its raison d’etre?” Indeed, we might. There is a frequent conceptual blurring these days between internet, www, social web, networks. But what has not happened yet is the complete linguistic and social occlusion of the infrastructure. People still speak of ‘going online’ or ‘using Twitter,’ pointing to the tools rather than the activity. Distinctions are maintained between online and offline lives, and we are often fascinated by the overlaps between the two – tweetups etc – suggesting that the two domains remain quite distinct in our imaginaries. That distinction relates to the public/private distinction, also not yet quite erased. Advocacy of opennness can be seen as an argument for erasure of the distinctions public/private and online/offline, and argument for personal and social integrity, if we’re being optimistic. Or it can be seen as naively giving away our data and our labour, embracing our own commodification and exploitation at the hands of any entity less committed to openness than ourselves. It will probably continue to go both ways for a bit.

    If I’m not making sense, I’ll get more coffee.

  4. 19 copies of the same image in a single post. A new record.

  5. Reverend says:

    @Frances:
    Are you sneaking in plugs for knitting on the bava? Shame on you, this is a purely white male Western dominated conversation, deeply rooted in Kantian Libertarianism—I though you knew this 🙂 That was brilliant, a highlight comment for the sheer amount of ground you cover in two paragrphs. And the kicker is this gem:

    Openness and Design are not intrinsically good or bad but complex and ripe for critique (just like commerce and the motor car). I think the role of education in innovation is to explore and critique it, reflexively over time, looking for patterns and changes, so we can all shape our futures.

    This is exactly right on, and while I am part of the push for openness, I often wonder what it means. And the job, as you point out above is to keep the critique close at hand, but also balance a certain amount of faith in the possibilities for a new order. And it is in that very act of balance that everything seems so tenuous and difficult. I try and walk it, and my discussion about the new faith of openness and serendipity seems to critique it, but at the same time it is something a deeply believe is somehow good and right. I think the real issue is that I haven’t spent enough time closely framing why I believe that is, and what are the difficulties with which we understand openness, and safeguard it against co-option–the facts that the co-option seems inevitable is a huge source of depression for me, and is something I experienced first hand after the idea of EDUPUNK became a household term in edtech.

    All this by the way of saying thanks for an awesome comment.

    @The Ed Webb:

    Once again, wow:

    Advocacy of opennness can be seen as an argument for erasure of the distinctions public/private and online/offline, and argument for personal and social integrity, if we’re being optimistic. Or it can be seen as naively giving away our data and our labour, embracing our own commodification and exploitation at the hands of any entity less committed to openness than ourselves. It will probably continue to go both ways for a bit.

    You delineate the struggle beautifully here, and the notion of commerce that Frances mentions in her comment, resonates deeply within this tension. And what I see in this dichotomy—which I understand is far more complex and problematic that one or the other approach—is he two sides of this congealing idea of openness with the advent of the new web. One that is premised on a new infrastructure and architecture of design, but is born of some idealistic, but vital, principles of making education free, open, and universally accessible. It’s an important mission, and I think that is where the religious overtones sneak in, and the idea of serendipity becomes a stand in for some kind of online providence. And we have to believe that the power to share cannot be controlled and litigated by a multi-national force for commodiication. It’s all so complex and ripe, as frances notes, and it’s why it’s the only palce to be—come what may.

    @Stephen:
    And all of the right Reverend Cotton Mather from the 1976 Marvel Team-Up series, my favorite super villain. You know, that’s what downes.ca needs, a good avatar of a marvel super villain, you should really get to work on this.

  6. Ed Webb says:

    Re: a Marvel super villain for Downes – I believe I have an excellent candidate:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendigo_%28comics%29

  7. Ed Webb says:

    Moreover, everyone should read C. Wright Mills on blogging:

    http://savageminds.org/2006/08/14/c-wright-mills-on-blogging/

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