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Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Creating discrimination

A comment on this kuro5hin story got me to read about Jane Elliott, who became famous for her Blue Eyes Brown Eyes exercise in which she gave her third-grade students a first-hand experience in the meaning of discrimination. If you find this kind of thing interesting, you might also want to check out the Stanford prison experiment.
What do you think? []  links to this post    9:05:26 PM  
Bridges to LiveJournal

Thanks to Sasha Wait, this blog is now syndicated on LiveJournal. Sasha, who's at Harvard Med school, has also arranged syndication for the Harvard blogs over on LJ. Initiatives like this might help improve communication between the blogosphere and members of the LiveJournal community.
What do you think? []  links to this post    8:33:24 PM  
Beautiful mechanics

First off, no I'm not talking about car repairmen :o)

Physics was my first muse, intellectually speaking, so I hope non math-inclined readers will forgive this brief incursion into greek letter territory. I just couldn't resist this - in Pity the Freshmen Jacques Distler finds beauty in Freshman Mechanics. While he seems slightly surprised, I'm not. Mechanics is a treasure trove - plus, everyone's got first-hand experiences so many of the concepts feel natural if you've been paying attention to the physical world.

Consider a pencil (a uniform rod) balanced on its tip. As the rod begins to fall, the tip is held in place by the force of static friction exerted by the table.

  1. No matter how large the coefficient of static friction, mu, the rod will reach a critical angle, theta , at which it will begin to slide.
  2. For small mu , the tip will slide the opposite direction from the direction of fall. For large mu , the tip will slide in the same direction as the direction of fall.

[Hmm. Turns out my blogging software changes the greek letters into accented characters. Oh well.]

What do you think? []  links to this post    5:44:24 PM  
Learning in community

Though sketchy, the following presentation summary is very interesting, as with most of what comes from John Seely Brown. Brown says that "learning in the digital age really takes place through practice like in the opensource community, not through old methods of lecture and receive." And I'd add that it's much more fun that way.

Mixing, Tinkering and Reusing in the Digital Age  Short, point-form post of a John Seely Brown presentation. [elearnspace blog]

What do you think? []  links to this post    5:18:52 PM  
Thoughtful pieces on emergent democracy

Via the emergent democracy channel, two excellent recent items:

  1. A UK civil servant's thoughts on how to influence politics through collectively developing coherent, articulate positions that have popular support.
  2. New Harvard blogger Jim Moore's wonderful paper The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head. Here's a choice quote on the newfound power of the individual within a global social movement:

"The shared, collective mind of the second superpower is made up of many individual human minds—your mind and my mind—together we create the movement. In traditional democracy our minds don’t matter much—what matters are the minds of those with power of position, and the minds of those that staff and lobby them. In the emergent democracy of the second superpower, each of our minds matters a lot. For example, any one of us can launch an idea. Any one of us can write a blog, send out an email, create a list. Not every idea will take hold in the big mind of the second superpower—but the one that eventually catches fire is started by an individual. And in the peer-oriented world of the second superpower, many more of us have the opportunity to craft submissions, and take a shot." (emphasis mine)

In a complex world it makes sense to use the intelligence of many more people to reach decisions - if only we can craft a process that effectively allows all of us to think together. I don't think we're there yet, but things are moving fast in many directions at the same time.

Matt Scofield offers an interesting counterpoint to Moore's essay on Joi's blog. "Certainly our democracy is not perfect, but America is not yet an oligarchy -- delibaration in the "second superpower" is what makes the "first superpower" so effective." Indeed, improving deliberation might make the first superpower's decisions better aligned with the second superpower's interests.

What do you think? []  links to this post    4:54:07 PM  
Below the radar

David Gurteen's latest knowledge letter points to Peter Fryer's nice little site called Fryer explains what he means by the term 'trojan mouse' thus:

Much change is of the ‘Trojan horse’ variety.  At the top of the organisation a decision is taken to introduce a strategic change programme and consultants or an internal team are commissioned to plan it down to the very last detail.  The planned changes are then presented at a grand event (the Trojan Horse) amid much loud music, bright lights and dry ice. More often than not, however, a few weeks later the organisation will have settled back into its usual ways and rejected much of the change. This is usually because the change was too great to be properly understood and owned by the workforce.

trojanmice, on the other hand, are small, well focused changes, which are introduced on an ongoing basis in an inconspicuous way. They are small enough to be understood and owned by all concerned but their effects can be far-reaching. Collectively a few trojanmice will change more than one Trojan horse ever could.

There is an art to spotting a Trojan mouse - you need to develop a critically trained eye. Seeing things differently, and seeing different things, is a powerful experience. And once you do, you can set your trojanmice free to create the results your business needs.

I think that some of the really powerful memes that end up driving change are indeed rather subtle in their ways - no loud music, no smoke, just a simple shift in how to do certain things that propagates over social networks from one person to the next. And what's interesting is that pretty much anyone can craft and disseminate them. If you've been listening to the loud music playing elsewhere, you might not notice the change until it's way too late to prevent it from taking over.

Here's an earlier blog post about Dave Winer, Douglas Engelbart, and outliners as positive Trojan horses.

What do you think? []  links to this post    3:58:15 PM  

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