CCK08 Internet over-emphasized

1. This week’s paper by Heylighen plausibly explains how the lubrication of many physical and informational processes works and adds new, complex problems. While this paper emphasizes the amount of information and how a global (connected) brain could cope with it, Lisa’s great analysis sheds light on the new problems of a special process that has also become more lubricated: Finding connections on the Internet.

Of course it seems very positive that the friction of connecting has been so much reduced. But similarly as described in Heylighen’s paper, new problems of losing control arise. In the case of getting too connected, these problems are e. g. skewing balance of natural vs. unnatural pastimes, or even addiction.

This is a particular issue for educators, since children may be especially susceptible to overdoses. Lisa’s metaphor of food is useful here, as well: Before our food supply was “lubricated”, the “friction” of ingesting calories was generally higher (hunting, preparing, eating, digesting) but with sweets the efforts for calories were minimized. Just like kids love sweets, we love to get interesting connections with ever less efforts. And we need to find out when there is too much and what is most healthy.

2. Another indication of our new problems with internet over-emphasis became evident last week when the topic was groups and networks. Although this would have been the week to discuss also the sameness vs. similarity on the conceptual level, only the external/ social level was focussed (and I admit, I also forgot the other).

I think there is also another reason why the connections on internet/ social/ external level are so prominent: Because the connectivism ideas are much more provocative here.

The idea that knowledge resides outside of ourselves, is really fascinating, and there are quite a few aspects where I admit the ideas are very close to plausible:

  • the strong congruence between people and the concepts they raised in their blogs – this gives me kind of a sense of place of knowledge when I try remembering where I read about a certain concept, and I retrieve it at the blogger’s place;
  • the idea of knowledge as navigating the connections – this comes to mind when I navigate my various folder shortcuts, gradually strengthening the memory connections about which topics have tighter ties;
  • the idea of the external extension of the “visuo-spatial sketchpad” of the short-term memory in visualization think-tools,
  • or ultimately, the idea of the outboard brain auxiliary, in devices such as GPS, see David Brooks (via Downes).

All this lets external connections appear as if they could incarnate knowledge of the same kind as the conceptual one (I don’t talk here about the knowledge in the other, simple sense of the word that is already present in encyclopedias on shelves). But I cannot accept that they are knowledge.

Appearing as if, comes from being similar to connections of the conceptual and neural level. But being, means sameness. The former describes a pattern while the latter claims equality. I think the interesting part of connectivism is to highlight patterns that are visible on all three layers, like the unifying neural metaphor, not the equivalence postulated by a unifying theory.

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One Response to CCK08 Internet over-emphasized

  1. Lisa M Lane says:

    I am also having trouble accepting the connections themselves (“the pipes”) as actually being the knowledge, while having no trouble with the metaphors of neural activity. Even in the brain, something is being transmitted, although the fact that a transmission happens is important too.

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