Ming the Mechanic:
Acquiring knowledge by interaction

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Acquiring knowledge by interaction2007-07-02 22:13
14 comments
by Flemming Funch

A statement from an anti-Web2.0 piece by Michael Gorman, former head of the American Library Association.
"Human beings learn, essentially, in only two ways. They learn from experience—the oldest and earliest type of learning—and they learn from people who know more than they do."
That can't go unchallenged, of course, so here by Tim Spalding of LibraryThing, "Libraries as Conversations":
There is something attractive about this conception. Some people have experiences, and they pass it on, directly or through writing. Knowledge happens. We get it one way or the other.

But this has never been quite right. Learning and knowledge, at least important learning and knowledge, are a conversation.
And, about conversations:
Conversations work because, at their best, they know more and produce more than their members. They work because the knowledge is in the conversation. It happens in the very interplay of ideas—asserting, contesting, extending, simplifying and complexifying the dizzying whirl of fact and opinion, creative and synthetic, smart and dumb, right and wrong, from this angle and that. Literature works like this too, but can be even more meaningless without "conversational" context—genre, alusion and immitation and so forth.
Mention of this is via David Weinberger.

Yes, of course conversation is part of it. Maybe we learn more and better that way than simply by individual experience and listening to people who're smarter than us. But it isn't just conversation, it is interaction. We get something out of interacting with others and with situations, and learning emerges from what happens. Incidentally, the next item in my blog aggregator, from Nancy White, had this item, quoted from a thread about knowledge sharing:
In Bahasa Indonesia people say 'socialisasi' which means to make people aware of something through interaction - I've always wished there was an English equivalent!"
It might be the traditional view that knowledge and learning is about transferring abstract facts. But conversation and interaction in general is likely to plug into something deeper and wider than mere facts. People don't learn just because you give them a lot of facts.


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14 comments

2 Jul 2007 @ 23:03 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : Every heart sings a song, incomplete,

...until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.
---Plato  



3 Jul 2007 @ 16:59 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : Plato and the Dunning-Kruger effect

A platonician take on the Dunning-Kruger effect:

According to Plato's Apology, Socrates' life as the "gadfly" of Athens began when his friend Chaerephon asked the oracle at Delphi if anyone was wiser than Socrates. The Oracle responded that no one was wiser than Socrates. Socrates believed this to be a riddle, since there was no record of the oracle ever having given an individual praise for their achievements or knowledge. Socrates proceeded to test the riddle, by approaching men who were considered to be wise by the people of Athens. He questioned the men of Athens about their knowledge of good, beauty, and virtue. Finding that they knew nothing and yet believed themselves to know much, Socrates came to the conclusion that he was wise only insofar as "that what I don't know, I don't think I know." Socrates' paradoxical wisdom made the prominent Athenians he publicly questioned look foolish, turning them against him and leading to accusations of wrongdoing.  



3 Jul 2007 @ 17:22 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : Socrates and Athenian Politics

Despite claiming death-defying loyalty to his city, Socrates' pursuit of virtue and his strict adherence to truth clashed with the current course of Athenian politics and society. Here it is telling to refer to Thucydides: "Applause, in a word, went to one who got in first with some evil act, and to him who cheered on another to attempt some crime that he was not thinking of." [One of Thucydides' central themes was the ethic of Athenian imperialism.] But perhaps the most historically accurate of Socrates' offenses to the city was his position as a social and moral critic. Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of immorality within his region, Socrates worked to undermine the collective notion of "might makes right" so common to Greece during this period. In the Apology, Socrates refers to himself as the "gadfly" of the state, insofar as he irritated the establishment with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness. His attempts to improve the Athenian's allegiance to justice may have been the source of his execution. [wikipedia]  



3 Jul 2007 @ 17:59 by i2i : The War that Never Ends ;-)
Those who don't learn from history........



The Peloponnesian Wars (Athens vs. Sparta for 27 years) told in the format of newsbroadcast-like monologues by Theucydides, Plato, and other: imbd  



3 Jul 2007 @ 18:10 by i2i : ...the mistakes of the past

"Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected."

- Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War: LXXXII.  



3 Jul 2007 @ 18:33 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : Cracking the Thucydides code

The truth is that the explanation for most things is before our eyes but we see it not:

Following is part of a relevant essay by Michael W. Jackson which was published in The Antioch Review:

"There are those who suppose that there is secret knowledge. The conspiracy theorists, the Rosicrucians, UFOlogists, Scientologists, the esoteric knowledge adherents are all examples. Who can forget Mel Gibson as the bug-eyed conspiracy theorist in Conspiracy Theory?! And at a remove there are also the many thousands who have devoured Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and its many precursors and imitators. In the 1990s Fox television aired the "X-Files," which was based on the same premise: that the real explanation for unexplained phenomenon was known and secreted away. Like the very arguments that these believers condemn as cover-ups, their own assumption is exactly wrong. The truth is that the explanation for most things is before our eyes but we see it not. The truth is not out there, hidden; it is right before our eyes most of the time. The secret is that there is no secret. In these pages I want to make that point by considering an ancient text. It is a star that is 2,500 years way from us and yet its light reaches us and reveals something of our reality.

(...) The truth is so simple that it is hardly satisfying to those conspiracy theorists who seek a larger meaning, and also for those who wish to deny their responsibility.

Thucydides knew all of this and passed the word in his book the History of the Peloponnesian War. It is an X-file that explains much of what happened in that war and does so in a way that sheds light on our wars, too. As Thucydides tells us how men acted under pressure, so he tells how we will act under like pressure. One of the best ways to predict the future is to study the past."  



3 Jul 2007 @ 18:59 by i2i : Will to believe doctrine
"The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths."
- William James

It cuts both ways.  



3 Jul 2007 @ 20:06 by ming : Truth
The truth might be right in front of our eyes, but yet it isn't necessarily what it seems. Most things aren't what they seem, but what they are is still right in front of us. If we just accept them as what they appear to be, we might never get any further. It takes a sense of curiosity, intrigue, mystery, to look further, even into the things we thought we knew all about. Doubt what things appear as, and delve into finding out what they really are. Doesn't require a conspiracy. Might not so much be that anybody's hiding things from us, as that we're simply used to not looking. Or to not keep looking. We often stop the moment we have a picture of what is there, a name for it, a place to store it in our minds. Rather than keeping looking, deeper. There's always something more.  


3 Jul 2007 @ 21:11 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : Truth, conspiracies, etc.

Yes, as Michael W. Jackson put it: "the truth is that the explanation for most things is before our eyes but we see it not."

And no, it "doesn't require a conspiracy," now, does it?

Which is not to say, of course, that conspiracies do not take place.

Contrarily to popular belief, the more insidious of conspiracies are not the clever secret convoluted ones, the more pernicious ones are "hidden" in plain sight.

When it comes to it, most so-called conspiracies are not even that well hidden actually. But although many of them are mere repetitions of a few simple mechanisms which happened before, again and again, under not so dissimilar circumstances, there seems to be some kind of a dark historical determinism to how conspirators get away with it and how entire nations are suckered into repeatedly buying the same party tricks.  



3 Jul 2007 @ 22:20 by i2i : eyes
"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
---Proust

That sort of things, eh?  



3 Jul 2007 @ 22:25 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : new eyes

Or...

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought."
---Basho

;-)  



3 Jul 2007 @ 22:41 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : New Landscapes

Though there is nothing wrong with "seeking new landscapes," either.

Nor with "following in the footsteps of the men of old," for that matter. Lol.

"If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." - Sir Isaac Newton from Letter to Robert Hooke, 1675/76

And even Non-Newtonian physicists stood, at one point or another, on the shoulders of Newton (in grade 8, or so) before they went on exploring some new paths.  



6 Jul 2007 @ 00:51 by ming : On a clear day you can see forever
Particularly when you're standing on the feet of giants.

Yes, new eyes is what it takes. Or, nothing new needed, really. Just using what one has, what is there.  



12 Sep 2007 @ 03:20 by tarangas @80.168.198.137 : On a clear day you can see forever
'Particularly when you're standing on the feet of giants.' but you could see even further than forever if the giants are doing handstands!  


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2014-09-26 15:15: Brevity
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2009-10-15 08:32: Abstraction
2008-06-29 16:47: Complicated and Complex
2008-02-20 16:39: The universe as a virtual reality



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