The key thing, `I feel, is a valid distinction for the quality of 'living-ness' that one is after.

It's not, after all, merely a matter of the 'virtual' or 'real', as is sometimes made out. 

On 3 Jan 2011, at 23:08, russell_c wrote:

Yes, it would be good to have a rating system to 'endorse' suitable products/services.

On Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 7:04 AM, Roger Duck <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I think the distinction you draw between "always on" and "always available" is a critical one for those (parents and teachers especially) who agonise about how to "manage children's screen time". There is so much on line activity which seems to be about "escaping" into an alternative "virtual" reality that's almost entirely divorced from, rather than enriching for, "real life" (at least it seems that way for we digital immigrants). Your email makes me think that an interesting class of tools might be those which somehow encourage "thought and reflection" as to their role in the "living" of the user.
Roger D

On 3 Jan 2011, at 11:18, Roger Harnden wrote:

I spring this posting on the cybcom forum, and it might well appear out of context, irrelevant or simply incomprehensible. It emerges from a long and fruutifu discussion on Listserve (Stafford Beer) on the topic of Thomas Friedman's book 'The World is Flat'. Friedman (and his thesis)  generates much debate of an ideological quality, and consequent energy fuelled further discussion. But I was recently introduced to Cybcom (of whose members I certainly know a few individuals from over the years and presently), and felt it might be relevant for this forum as well as Listserve ucd-Stafford Beer.

Anyway, this early New Year, I was just listening to an interview with Susan Maushart about her new book 'The Winter of our Disconnect'. The book recounts her decision as a single mum to cut herself and her three late teenage children off from technology for six months (it might have been less). I listened to some extracts, and it appears a fascinating experience and is really well written.

I felt it had bearing on debate around Friedman's the 'world is flat', because for me it clarified a hitherto 'blind spot' confusion on my part. The confusion was between 'connected' as never without; and 'connected' as always available. To repeat, much discussion (including my own) has failed to make a distinction between these two things. I bring this to cybcom because think the whole Web thing and its implications can perhaps be understood very richly with the aid of cybernetic, second order cybernetic, biology of cognition and constructivist 'spectacles' (Yes, I know there may well be several different types of spectacles involved!).

In referring fondly to aspects of Friedman's thesis, I talk of an enabling network system. Using these words presently, I am simply talking of a technological infrastructure, an infrastructure to do with the ubiquitous availability of web connectivity. Listening to Susan Maushart - her experience was that after the initial violent resistance, the whole family (including herself and her 'love affair' with her iPod) came to see their gadgets as potential to do things they wanted to do......... whereas before, they had all done much of their living - without any thought or reflection - via the gadgets. The 'living' and gadgets had folded into one another, with all the pernicious consequences that Luc Hoebeke frequently refers to. After the time without the technology (and gadgets) there appeared (was brought forth) a separation between technology and the family's (this is a difficult word in this context but I think readers will understand) 'real' or 'human' livingness.

And I believe that when we look back historically, we can see this as typical of the cusp of an intellectual or conceptual revolution - of a paradigm shift (in Kuhn's sense). Until the new paradigm is victorious, an enormous amount of energy is to do with convoluted but genuine and well-intended discussion concerning the status of the emerged 'tools (or findings) rather than with their domain of application. And then, over time, discussion and implementation as the paradigm matures, the new tools fade in their novelty into a background infrastructure for a somewhat different (NOT better or worse) quality of human activity. This comes out very clearly on reading Don Norman's reflections on embedded computing ('The Invisible Computer').

I think we are on a cusp as regards the Web.......and the 'toolness' has not yet clarified. But we can maybe, if we make the effort, discern the type of tools (and qualities of human activities)  that might emerge and flourish in this emerging paradigm, and which will in turn (circularity and recursion) embody the peculiar quality of it for future generations.

We ourselves, of course, are part of the observing system we are finding ourselves constituting (for better or worse depending on our personal and cultural circumstances)........but we can nudge ourselves into a vantage over regards this emerging 'system', as what Maturana has called 'solo observers'.

All the best everyone for the New Year.


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