Eat, Prey, Rez

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” according to Peter Druckler, who’s writings were marked by a focus on the relationships among human beings, as opposed to crunching numbers. Among the many great ideas, he saw de-centralisation as a key way to bring out the best in people, find a sense of community and dignity in modern society.

The problem with this appears to be dogged centralization of decision making, financial control and policy within top-down structures. Occasional pilot schemes and experiments are awarded only to a chosen few , yet give a public impression of a socially inclusive, progressive approach to education – yet are under lock and key. Almost no funding goes to social-enterprise, yet these are some of the most innovative and dynamic innovators, who see their work as more than a task, it’s a mission. Those with power, never give it up without a struggle, yet de-centralised approaches are rapidly draining the long-held internalised intellectual property once assumed proptery of the central system. It probably doesn’t even notice, but is arguably unsustainable in light of the depth of resources, support networks and research that is happening in lounge rooms every night.

“Personal infrastructure eats institutional infrastructure for lunch”

3G and portable devices have killed the imperative to connect to one organisation channel. Competition in the marketplace is a race to zero which makes BYOD (Bring your own device) only semi-useful unless it is also connected to BYON (Bring your own network). It’s not the Internet that we want, it’s the ability to connect to people who can help us realise whatever we are trying to do – anytime we like and to make choices based on advice from those we trust most – the network.

“Process networks eat organizational networks for dinner”

If we take Kolb’s learning conjectural cycles – Concrete experience, reflection & observation, abstract concepualisation and active experimentation, it is vividly characterised through networks of people (PLN) who come together to solve problems, regardless of their partisan alliances or social status. I grant you, there are some co-opting opportunists here, but in the years I’ve been hacking away at this, most move on or fade as process networks require effort. If the person above you or next to you isn’t doing this, then it’s a sure sign it will be a long winter, requiring fortitude and resilience to stay motivated.  If the person below you is doing it (and you’re not) – then they have no need of you and won’t bother to tell as much either. The Internet and the media carried though it simply doesn’t care about idealism or conservatism. Innovation hinges on invention, and invention is the name of the game online as it leads to reputation within these process networks. Someone who gets things done, is willing to help others and don’t assume they have all the answers.

The Internet was created to connect people, media, mentors and institutions in one dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity. That was what Berners Lee set out to do, so who is hasn’t kept up? When you think about it, institutions had at least a decade head start, and has spend the last one agonizing over what it all means – not that anyone knows really.

By working both in process networks and as individuals (life long learners and researchers) people have an opportunity to engage in online projects that promote critical thinking, creativity, and skill-building. So many projects in fact there is something for everyone. The role of process networks (YouTube, Xbox, Twitter, Facebook etc.,) is to connect physical and online spaces to support people in participating with digital media to get things done faster – and that is fueled by diversity, not conformity.

Professor Mizuko Ito (2008) produced a report called “Living and Learning with Digital Media. This ethnographic study of more than 700 youth found that young people participate with digital media in three ways: (1) they “hang out” with friends in social spaces such as Facebook; (2) they “mess around” or tinker with digital media, making simple videos, playing online games, or posting pictures in Flickr; and (3) they “geek out” in online groups that facilitate exploration of their core interests.

Why? Well, look at the world outside. There is a shortage of authentic, engaging physical and virtual spaces for teens in public space (unless you want to play sport). There is a lack of meaningful opportunities for teens to learn digital media skills while also gaining relevant new entry points into public space.

Public space has to be as dynamic as virtual space if it want’s to be relevant. That means buildings not laptops. it means immersive social worlds, not content-portals. For a generation online, virtual space now eats physical space for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is not optimal, but it is very adaptive. It is full of mentors, interest based research and partnerships – and is now so de-centralised, that continuing to arguing over which parts should or should not be allowed into buildings (by the high authorities) – largely says more about the failure to innovate in learning spaces as it does about curriculum reform.

If we can’t change physical space, why not use virtual space? If you don’t like virtual space – then innovate the physical. Standing still isn’t a strategy, it’s an excuse. Do one or the other.