Ming the Mechanic:
Information Immersion or Abstraction

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Information Immersion or Abstraction2002-01-06 12:05
by Flemming Funch

Having just spent a couple of weeks in Denmark, I notice how many things one only picks up by being immersed in a place, by being there. I'm usually kind of obsessive about figuring out certain things in advance when I travel somewhere. Like, I don't really go anywhere without being sure I have mobile phone service and a way of connecting up my laptop. In part because I want my customers to keep paying me as if I'm working, even though I'm on vacation. And I usually end up fairly well prepared on that kind of things, but only after time-consuming research. Things that might be quite simple when I'm there can be rather hard to figure out remotely, as one doesn't necessarily know where to start.

E.g. the phone company monopoly that existed when I was last in Denmark no longer exists, and there is no longer even a company with the name it used to have. And there was no cell phone service at the time, so I'd know nothing about that. It is very hard to know what is the common way of doing things when I'm not there. Each time I find out one piece of information, there are a few other hurdles. Like, I finally locate what appears to be the cheapest pre-paid cellphone service in Denmark, but they only accept payment through a system I don't know what is, and don't have.

All banks I had known had ceased to exist. I.e. they had changed their names or been bought up by other banks. And they had changed most everything about how business is done, so there are all sorts of convenient electronic ways of doing things, which however aren't convenient if I don't have the proper accounts, and I don't know what it all is anyway.

Lots of these things are easily solved by looking around and asking around and going into a store, once one knows roughly what direction to go. But if you don't know first what doors to knock on, and what words to use for things, it might all remain mysterious.

My point is that a lot of learning of "how to do things" requires that one is immersed in the environment in question for a little while. Unless one is lucky to find a source that will explain things completely from scratch, "for dummies" so to speak. And in some areas, that is very rare.

I have great respect for teaching materials and information sources that actually explain things from the beginning, giving the whole picture. Because most people can't do that, and most teachers and experts don't do so. It takes a certain talent to be able to put oneself in the shoes of an innocent and ignorant student. In my eyes, that takes a true expert.

When I moved away from home, a little book named "Cookbook for Kids" was invaluable for me. It was apparently the only cookbook around that actually explained really basic stuff, and didn't take for granted that you already knew how to do it. I mean, the steps to boil an egg are not necessarily obvious to a young bachelor.

Travel guides tend to do it well too - explaining how some place works, so that people who've never been there and who have no clue, will have some idea what to do there.

The current fad of "*** for Dummies" type of books are also often helpful in that way, I suppose. Although many just resort to being cute and funny, rather than actually explaining things completely from the basics.

Anyway, I put great, great value in simple and complete how-to explanations, and I wish for the world to be full of them. Simple educational material that will answer the question of "Eh, what IS this?", that will give me enough of a picture of where I'm at so I can start asking better questions.

And I notice painfully where such things are absent, or where I'm unable to find them, even when they do exist.

Many companies or public agencies are completely impenetrable unless you say the exact right key words. I.e. the organization consists only of people doing their exactly named little piece of the puzzle, and if in advance you know the exact proper name of something you need, you might end up talking with them, but if you don't, you might never get through.

Many people seem entirely unable or unwilling to explain what they're doing or what is going on in anything other than a specialized jargon, which makes no sense to those who don't already know it.

The educational solution in relation to such people and environments seem to typically be immersion. I.e. if you somehow hang around or intern with these people for a couple of years, you'll probably figure out what they know, and you'll be able to do the same things and speak the same language.

A problem in teaching anything at all is often that there's a lot more to it than anybody has figured out how to catalog. Teaching by explaning things is an abstract affair. Somebody needs to have synthesized the essential abstractions out of the much larger collection of available information, and needs to be able to present that clearly to somebody else.

In an immersion situation, the student is taking in everything, and does his own processing. Thus he isn't victim of somebody else's failed ability to abstract the importantances, and he might quite easily notice some obvious things that nobody would otherwise have thought of telling him. And thus that method will work even if nobody has gotten around to writing a curriculum.

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6 Jan 2002 @ 14:17 by istvan : Welcome back Ming
Uhhh...that was a "page full".I have immediately connected to your firs sentence"I notice how many things one only picks up by being immersed in a place, by being there."Now, that is a solid truth if i ewer heard one. It also points to my belif that if we are really serious about a New Cicilisation we have to start putting our wisdom to practice and living what we preach.
Maybe the only way to do that is creating and/supporting living communities and teach by examples of nonviolence,truth, sharing, compassion and all the other dreams to see if they are as real as we dream them.
Nice to have you back. Istvan  

6 Jan 2002 @ 15:09 by ming : Being a New Civilization
Yeah, I suppose the most viable way of creating or promoting a new civilization would be by being it, by being willing to risk something, and actually live how we think or feel one should live. As we probably don't understand it well enough to be able to explain it all in a "New Civilization for Dummies" book.  

7 Jan 2002 @ 11:56 by sharie : Living your truth
I agree Ming. To have a New Civilization, you have to live it. You have offered us all a wonderful forum here at newciv.org where we can communicate our ideas about the kind of world we want to live in.

Many people are still caught up in the propaganda of capitalism - "the evil of communism". We've all been lied to all our lives about politics and social policy, economics, and education. It's hard pulling yourself out of it, and assessing things with your own eyes, and your own heart. Name one country that is communist. Russia and China are elitist, just like the U.S.A. The elite have a lot, the poor have nothing. That's not communism, it never has been. We've been lied to about communism. I'm not advocating communism, I'm saying capitalism breeds barbarians and heathens, and there's got to be a better way. Let's re-think the society. What we have is hell on earth.

People should be allowed to live the way they want to, so long as they don't hurt anyone else. I certainly don't want anyone forcing me to live a certain way, even if it's by insidious commercials that tell us what to buy day in and day out, commercials that tell us that in order to be valued we have to look beautiful and have a lot of money - no matter how we get it.

The society we have now doesn't offer peace... or even safety. Where can innocent children play without being abducted and molested, or murdered?

Where can people live cooperatively, in mutually-beneficial relationships, rather than always trying to sell something - sell themselves, their skills, their information, their morals? Why in this society is a woman arrested for selling her body, while a man who prostitutes his ethics, morals, or integrity as a doctor or lawyer is patted on the back?

When is the time that children can receive love and share in the happiness of their mommies and daddies? If parents just had time to laugh and play with their children, to hug and tickle their children, to run and jump with their children, to share in their hobbies and talents, we could have a whole new world. As it is, the competitive market means your "worth" is based on your financial assets. What a crock.

Everyone is infinitely valuable at conception.

Our entire social system is based on beliefs in economics, education, psychology, and science that are without integrity. Our air and water, bodies and minds are polluted because of all these fatal flaws in the system.

Yes, we need a new civilization, and we need people with the courage to live it.

with love,

9 Jan 2002 @ 02:57 by maxtobin : Indeed
I couldn't put it better than Sharie has! Ming the new Civilization is us, and you have a facilitating role that is essential and we can never thank you enough for the vision and courage this exhibits (quite appart from the energy input).Try the 'lonely planet guides' when travelling they are exceptional value.
Together without boundaries or judgement (as opposed to decernment) we will see the phoenix rise from the ashes. Perhaps we can also give thanks to the Chinese for the first Ming dynasty. Time for the new Ming Dynasty?  

28 Apr 2016 @ 21:55 by Katty @ : gRImdjRPosXhX
I think Atlanta is the most traditional Southern City of the bunch. Definitely neither Austin nor Norfolk. Javkioncslle maybe. Just my opinion. After all,Atlanta was the big city in “Gone with the Wind”.  

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