A Paradox of Now, Efficiency, and Creativity: Initial thoughts on #HumanMOOC. Or the very human dichotomies in the nature of technology

I stumbled into #HumanMOOC. Well okay I have been hearing about it for awhile but I had not really planned to participate – so it was not like I just came upon it out of the blue. I saw this tweet that they were kicking things off with a conversation between Matt Crosslin and George Siemens. I got to meet George and Matt at #dlrn15 and find them to both be interesting guys so I tuned in.

It was a Google Hangout On-air and I was happy that it was not an opportunity to participate directly but rather an opportunity to listen.That is – they did not share a join link to the hangout but just a view link.

I had decided on a lingering late Saturday morning/early afternoon; by the time of the hangout I was still in PJs and making some brunch. I really enjoy Matt and George but I didn’t want to talk to them at that moment. I was making eggs, toast, OJ, and coffee – and then eating all of that – as they were talking. (Yes, it was 12:30pm stop judging me).  After the hangout I checked out the #HumanMOOC tag and found a lot of friends there. Many had “missed” the hangout for very human reasons such as grocery shopping and putting up a Christmas tree. Still many lamented that they had “missed” something.

I may have felt like I missed something too if I had not viewed live. Having viewed live, I didn’t think that they missed much. Not that the conversation wasn’t great but just that it was a viewing kind of experience and they recorded it so…

Now is a paradox after all. Here we are living our human lives and coming together to talk about humanizing online learning only to lament over missing some particular now.

I think it is human to crave the now that once was or the now that could be and then forget about the now of now.

Technology is also a paradox. For instance there was conversation in there about how we have not been able to give attention to things like creativity, affect, compassion, emotion, etc. because we have been too busy with our lives and being workers. And then this bit about being on the precipice of a dawning of unprecedented human creativity because we are able to offload some of that busy stuff.

I’m all for that! That sounds great! Can we do that?

The paradox comes in with how do we create that space made for those more fuzzy things? What are we offloading in those things that have been taking up so much time with our work and our lives and such… How is it, again, that we can make time for this great influx of creation? Most often it is here that I see automation in drive toward efficiency.

These efficient uses of technology all at once give technology a bad name and are touted as a way to open doors. They give a bad name in that as they mechanize things we start to wonder what those things really are and question what we are giving over – could it be our thinking, our being, ourselves – that has been mechanized? Are we just becoming robots? At same time… it is that kind of mechanized, efficient, boring, dull work that we wish to automate so that we can give room for creative passions.

It seems to me that creates a power struggle and it makes me wonder if we aren’t just slugging off the work we don’t want to do on someone/thing else? But it’s okay cause it is a machine right? I actually don’t think it is right or wrong. It is just an exchange and like all exchanges we have to weigh what we are getting and what we are losing. Maybe we gain time but we lose experience. If we can turn in the time for an even richer experience then perhaps it’s a good deal. If not then maybe we need to rethink some things.

I think I might be okay with this dualism. I know there was a lot of push back on binary ideas at #dlrn for instance with Mike Caufield’s Gardent and Stream approach. #HumanMOOC adopted these metaphors and it seems that it plays on this split between efficiency and creativity that I am seeing when we discuss the nature of technology. The stream seems rather efficient with it’s fixed pathways and anchored foundations. The garden… well oh gosh what is even in there? It is all over the place and could be anything that anyone dreams up using tools of their choosing – pretty creative.

I wonder if the efficient and creative sides of technology happen to be in a kind of symbiotic relationship where they sort of need one another?  I wonder if they are reflections of the complexities of the creatures who made those technologies? I wonder if trying to separate them is possible and if so what is the point of doing so? It may seem I’m trying to deny the dualism with such questions but it seems wrong to me to deny them or to pretend that they do not exist apart from one another. Can’t we recognize their separateness and still see the relationship between them? Without pulling them apart or denying their uniqueness. Can we accept the paradox?

8 thoughts on “A Paradox of Now, Efficiency, and Creativity: Initial thoughts on #HumanMOOC. Or the very human dichotomies in the nature of technology”

  1. You’ve pulled out some wicked paradoxes: human vs machine, us vs. robotic expediency, our creativity vs efficiencies. The metaphor of garden and stream isn’t an either/or in my thinking, but a need to find our own balancing point on the scale. Even when the scale keeps tipping us one way or the other. It’s the challenge of finding our comfort in knowing where we are within the paradox, while realizing there is no stopping the push/pull.

    Very thoughtful post that challenges my own balancing point – or was it a tipping point?

    1. Thanks for coming by Helen,

      I think it can be an either/or but if you limit it to that then you are missing a big chunk. I think either/or is there but in the minority. It is not only either/or but also both/and … suppose neither/all is in there somewhere too.

  2. For me, it can alternate, sometimes one and sometime the other but is usually both. Gardens need water. If there is no water running through it or seeping up, then the gardener has to haul water. There are many kinds of gardens.

    1. I think you are right about the garden needing water Vanessa. It seems to me that the stream is a part of the garden’s ecosystem… I think there might be some rhizomes growing in there too.

  3. I’ve been wandering through #humanmooc a bit, and I was so interested to find Mike Caulfield’s exploration turned into a course structure. Like you, I don’t really see these as separable. But I certainly think in designing educational experiences we’re searching for metaphors that capture our sense that what users actually do isn’t exactly what we planned, in a really good way.

    Now I’m experimenting more and more with very open designs and finding that it takes a completely different type of teaching, because you’re asking students (and teaching team colleagues) to take so much on trust. So for me one of the pressing questions for humanised instruction is this question of trust. What helps us trust strangers that they won’t just mess with us?

    1. Thanks for coming by Kate,

      I could spin off into a whole other blog post with some of the things you have touched on here… I may just have to do that. But just to spin off on trust just a bit.

      What helps us trust strangers that they won’t just mess with us?

      This may sound crazy but I think that a starting place might be in accepting that people might mess with us… what does it mean for someone to mess with us? I think that there is some power in recognizing our vulnerability and being honest about it to ourselves. Preparing ourselves for that possibility. Trust is built not just gifted or acquired. So, the next thing that comes up is a strong foundation on the benefits and responsibilities of working in the open. Without this, in the light of the fact that people might mess with us, most people would just opt out. I think if someone has a strong understanding of why one would work in the open it can help with efficacy. If, through efficacy, that person works in the open the possibility of building trust is there.

      Oh… and this one is just a little bonus. We can start with ourselves. Don’t mess with others in ways you would not want to be messed with.

  4. I think this brings up a very good point. How much should we allow technology to take control of what we are in charge of? Technology can be a great thing, but it cannot convey the same feelings and emotion that humans are able of, at least not in the same way. Sometimes the most efficient way is not always the best way. I think that’s a lesson that is often learned only the hard way. The time, i believe, is still yet a ways off that man will be replaced by machine completely. Let us take this time to evaluate how much control we feel comfortable giving a possible AI control over educatio .

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