Thinking aloud - to Andrius Kalikauskas and David Pinto - at the turn of the year
- Hi David and Andrius (this is long - no need to read it all - I just needed to write it! - I'll add some headings to help you skim over it.)
Greetings and intro
Seasons greetings–and looking back at 2010 and forward to 2011. David–if you were here we could be having one of our chaotic, wide ranging conversations, full of unexpected connections and new insights–which is exactly what I could do with at the turn of the year.
Andrius–if you were still directing and cultivating Minciu Sodas–that precious “Orchard of Thoughts”–you would be cross pollinating the ideas growing in the different parts of the Orchard–and you would be nudging us all to “think aloud” about our questions, and endeavours and values.
However, as it is, I am here with pen and paper scribbling some thoughts to myself – or to you – (as I travel through London on the tube) with the idea of “talking” to you.
So – the “rules” of talking to you… simple… talk “as if to myself”– no explanations, no background – no structure… no planning… just disconnected fragments, that may or may not connect up later.
We have a shared history and overlapping interests that, if I mention things we've touched on before, you will have some background already–and if it's new stuff–well, maybe it won't interest you at all, or, if it does interest you, you can get back to me.
Pattern language–seems to be featuring a lot–including Franz' workshop in January, and a couple of patterns plus a case story that I am being” shepherded” on for probable inclusion in a book that some of my academic contacts are editing. I'm hopeful that if I get my head around pattern language it will give me a structure for taking the anecdotal (the stuff I know about through practical experience and observation) and sharing it in other contexts (by distilling the essence of “the problem” that is the anecdote illustrates). Maybe pattern language will provide a bridge across the culture gap - as I see it - between academic research and grassroots practical work.
I was at ICTD 2010
I was at ICTD 2010 earlier this month. I hoped that would help to close the gap. In a way it did - in that I think I understand the gap better now - but as a result I think I felt less optimistic about closing the gap at the end of ICTD2010 than I did at the beginning. By the time it finished I was feeling that the only way to close the gap would be to see if I could register for a higher degree, a research degree of some kind, related to the kind of ICTD questions that interest me. It seems to me there are some huge bodies of theoretical knowledge that would help me in my practical work if only I knew better what they are. Maybe I need to stop and think more about what those areas of knowledge are so I can start to seek them out.
Maybe I am too cross disciplinary
Maybe my problem is that I am too cross disciplinary. My main focus isn't “development”. It isn't ICT for development (or ICT "in" development or whatever preposition seems the best fit). My focus isn't even as "narrow" as ICT in education and development in–and it certainly isn't as narrow as “the technology and some impact that it has on some area of education or development". I think I would need to find a faculty of “socio tech” -all the stuff that I'm interested in which is related to groups, cross-cultural collaboration, the dynamics of online work, the new roles and relationships that are emerging, working at a distance, the “reality” of virtual spaces, the evolving “cultures of the cloud" ... I'm not sure where that belongs, academically, maybe its informatics. I guess I also want elements of philosophy, social history, economics, political history, earth sciences… hmm… the list could go on.
Building practical skills
I also need to build my practical skills. I rely on words too much.… and words are too much of a straitjacket… especially written words. You know that I can't use spoken words without the help of ludicrously extravagant gestures - and I often can't begin to explain things and explore new ideas unless I have loads of scrap paper - for squiggles and arrows and spaces and overlaps and to see how things come together and mix and flow and separate and generally relate to each other. I need multi media skills.
Students were interested in grass-roots connections
Back to ICT D 2010. Various students were interested in Dadamac grass-roots connections, and the possibility of visiting Fantsuam. Maybe that is where we need to start. Person-to-person. Young people visiting and getting interested. Very practical. Very focused on their interests. (Not expecting them to be interested in learning what I've learnt. Why should they be? Why should anyone be? We're all on our own learning journeys.) At least if they visit then, when they “study the literature” they will be able to compare it with their own African experiences and ask themselves “but how would this apply in and around somewhere like Fantsuam?”. When they read policy statements, and stories of pilot studies, and appeals for donations, they will have some way of comparing the hype with reality. Maybe then, when they get into positions of influence, there will be hope of more “win-win collaborations” between academia and practice - and policy-making that is influenced by a wider view and better communication with a wide variety of people. Perhaps I just have to be more patient and give the students experiences which will help them to ask questions that (from our viewpoint) do have more relevance, and where the answers might “make a difference" (which is what so many say that they want to do). Maybe I can start building bridges between some students and the team at Fantsuam – maybe set up an e-mail group – or would they prefer Facebook (I hate it, but ICT D 2010 was there) - or some other online space.
Various overlapping interests
I was encouraged by various overlapping interests I found at ICTD2010 –such as “open development”, “emergence” and “climate change”–also there was mention of the importance of gender issues and disability–two things very dear to the heart of John Dada and his team at Fantsuam. End of my journey home – Hmm - I've not got far on thinking through ICTD 2010–nevermind 2010 itself–or 2011 - but some thoughts are clearer.
Bye for now
Next I'll try the voice input software I've got – seasons greetings and things – bye for now.