quotes and ideas pulled from reading the
social life of information by john seely brown and paul duguid.
Excerpt: "The Internet era glorifies putting extraordinary amounts
of information at a single person's fingertips. But we don't learn that
way. We learn best through community, when we get information in context.
Would-be entrepreneurs are consequently willing to pay up to live in Silicon
Valley because that's where they can meet others who understand the art
of the startup. It is high time, Brown declares, that all that fuzzy stuff,
such as people and context, gets woven into technology from the start."
a major current is that the world is not binary, things exist (and persist)
for a reason, and you can't separate content from its container without
losing something in the process. "generations of videoconferencing are
still far from capturing the essence of a firm handshake or a straight
look in the eye."
in 1938, the New York Times predicted that typewriters would make the
the "six D's" are the refuge of simplistic infocentric futurists: demassification,
decentralization, denationalization, despacialization, disintermediation,
"friction-free" may not equal efficiency in the marketplace. it might
even disable the invisible hand.
"Judgment and discretion are not features of software. They are products
of human socialization and experience."
"Anyone who has had to call a help line with a problem about the way an
operating system from one vendor and a program from another are working
together-or failing to work-knows how hard it is to get anyone to take
responsibility for software interaction."
"Computer scientists have a tendency to count "1, 2, 3, one million,…,"
as if scale were insignificant once the first steps were taken."
"The more cavalier futurists sometimes appear to work with a magical brand
of computer not available to the rest of us. It's hard to believe that
if they had to deal with the inexplicable crashed, data corruption, incompatibilities,
buggy downloads, terrifying error messages, and power outages that are
standard fare for most, they could remain quite so confident about the
ease of hot desking and home working."
"The desire to show that with a computer one person can do everything
may look not forward, but back to the stage in social evolution before
anyone noticed the advantages of the division of labor."
(concerning Xerox repair reps) "…it is not shared stories or shared information
so much as shared interpretation that binds people together."
Wenger - "Learning…is not simply a matter of acquiring information; it
requires developing the disposition, demeanor, and outlook of the practitioners."
"Learning to be requires more than just information. It requires the ability
to engage in the practice in question." "Through practice we learn to
Thomas Jefferson: "A man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed
than he who reads them."
Davenport and Prusak: "Firms need to shift their attention from documents
"Different technologies are not all simply rivals. They may offer complementary
or contrasting capabilities. The telephone, after all, did not annihilate
the letter or the memo."
Context shapes content.
Alternatives (to universities) are more vapor than virtual.
The "envisioned change will not happen or will not be fruitful until people
look beyond the simplicities of information and individuals to the complexities
of learning, knowledge, judgment, communities, organizations, and institutions.
That way, it seems more likely that change will reorganize the higher
education, rather than simply disorganizing it."
"Coming away with a degree is much better than wearing a T-shirt saying
'college of the streets' or 'university of hard knocks.'"
"Knowledge doesn't market very easily. If they can evaluate it, they probably
don't need it. If they need it, they probably can't evaluate it." The
university, then, represents learning to individuals and knowledgeable
individuals to society.
"The ability of the degree to shelter these activities from close scrutiny,
immediate justification, and micromanagement helps provide society with
more diverse and versatile candidates than it knows to ask for. If every
detail of a student's learning were held to public account, a lot of valuable
experimentation and improvisation would probably disappear. … The degree's
misrepresentation thus puts slack in a system that might otherwise be
too taut. If the degree or the degree-granting institutions lose trust
or if the degree as a package disappears, the whole package will be opened
up to 'line-item veto'."
Motivation: Those who possess all the information of their peers but lack
the social experience of school are not valued as highly.
online and asynchronous interaction allows students who are reluctant
to speak in face-to-face classes have their say…
digital technologies are adept at maintaining communities already formed.
they are less good at making them. on the conventional campus, online
activities complement the off-line. they do not replace them.
"separating context from text"
constrains that are also resources…may include social groups, organizations,
"To play with boundaries-of firms, networks, communities, regions, and
institutions-as innovation increasingly seems to demand, requires first
Putting learners in contact with "the best in the field" has definite
value. Peers turn out to be, however, an equally important resource.
An early attempt at distance teaching by video revealed this quite unexpectedly.
Jim Gibbons, former dean of engineering at Stanford, taught an engineering
class to Stanford studnets and engineers from Hewlett-Packard. When it
became impractical for the engineers to attend, Gibbons started recording
the class and sending the video to the engineers. The engineers would
watch these tapes as a group. At regular intervals they would stop the
tape and discuss what Gibbons and the class were talking about, coming
to some sort of collective understanding before going on.
To Gibbons's surprise, the engineers, though they had lower academic
credentials coming into the course, consistently outperformed the classroom
students when tested on course material. This finding has proved remarkably
robust, and other courses using this method have had similar comparative
...the method requires viewers to work as a group and one person from
that group to afct as tutor, helping the group to help itself. Productive
learning may indeed rely havily on face-to-=face learning, but the faces
involved are not just those of master and apprentice. They include fellow
They become "a community of interpretation" wprking toward a shared
understanding of the matter under discussion.