Tag Archives: adult learning

The Library Is Open

featuring 24,014,408 books
(including 1,251,822 with full-text)

[as of April 27, 2010]

One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty, but achievable, goal.

To build it, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a wiki interface, and people who are willing to contribute their time, effort to building the catalog.

To date, we have gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions, with more on the way.

We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can’t do it alone! This is an Open project – the software is open, the data is open, the documentation is open, and we welcome your knowledge and effort. If you see a typo, or want to write a widget, that would be super.

Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and has been funded in part by a grant from the California State Library and the Kahle/Austin Foundation. About Us

Terrific blog too.

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Field Eight – Opening Day

You can make out Matt’s magic bat leaning up against the back-stop to good ol’ field 8.

Opening day of Free Play Softball, April 18th, ‘the first Sunday after tax day!’

Since 1986, I vaguely recall. Have I been playing with the Free Play crew since, hmmm, 2000? If so: ten years and counting.

Alas, it was cold, it was drizzling and worse, and only five blokes showed up. And, I had to pass all the equipment on because I have a work commitment next week.

Still, we batted around a bit and it seems my undercut and uncanny ability to swing away at crappy pitches has survived the winter, intact. This, nevertheless, makes me very happy.

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The 10% Problem

The Pareto Principle, commonly known as the 80-20 rule, first figured into my own thinking several years before someone hipped me to the origins of a conception I was using. In truth, I had developed its bastard child, also a regulation of the vital few, I called–at the time–the 10% problem. The context was artist development in the music industry and the application was as a device to thoughtfully put reverse pressure on a musician’s tendency to spend time convincing naysayers. What I saw was artists spending more time trying to market to naysayers than they spent either pullng fence sitters in, or turning their believers into evangelists. Also, it seemed at the time what promoted this was their sense everybody was supposed to be a fan and that those who weren’t yet fans were thought to be ripe targets. But, the naysayers were hardly low hanging fruit and so I offered the suggestion that they should be ignored.

Several years later a colleague on the only management team I’ve ever been a member of hipped me to The Pareto Rule in the aftermath of my attempt to apply the 10% problem to the company’s marketing philosophy. In this instance, I was advocating more product testing because it seemed to me the company was wasting resources based in the assumption that 90% of the new products would always appeal to 100% of their customers.

Since then I’ve employed variations of the 80-20 (or 90-10) principle to all sorts of situations. My innovation is with respect to transformative learning: roughly, spend a figurative 10% of your time doing wild experiments, and doing so irrespective of so-called conventional wisdom. Here, in a sense, one pays attention to the outlying possibilities.

This has led me to reflect upon how the concept of the vital few may be consequential for perspectives about systems. This follows from a hypothesis about systems, (or about how in effect the world works,) that goes like this, what aspects of the system are hidden when it is presumed seeing the entire system in fact sees only 90%?
(90%, or, whatever is the presumptive portion said perspective views.

This comes back to the genesis of the 10% Problem because often the conventional wisdom, or habitual perspective, holds its conclusions about the system to be the inevitable product of seeing/understanding the system in the purportedly correct, (read into this also: normative, ‘as commonly understood,’) way. Whereas, my supposition holds that any incomplete perspective allows for, at least, inclusion of what’s absent, and, audaciously, allows for novelty–especially novel ways for viewing and analyzing the system at hand.

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Jump in’

Obviously #64 of 64 Ways to Beat the Blues, a book of cartoons by Yolanda Nave. (Amazon)

Had the pleasure of participating in a Hunting & Gathering session with a very close friend, and veteran of squareONE learning‘s experiential tool processes. This unfolded on the birthday of original squareONE partner, and mentor to us both, Judith Buerkel. (Judith passed from this world in 2007.) It was exploration fit to Judith’s charge to fully dive into the open-ended learning any moment provides.

It was great fun. I’ll have something to say about some of what came ‘up,’ soon.

Yolanda Nave’s cartoon is a real good one, as far as fitting into my model of the teaching cartoon. It was a serendipitous find of the hunt.

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Serendip @Bryn Mawr

While I was wrestling with a problem of terminology* with respect to key definitions with respect to my concocting a Transformative Anthropology, I happened upon Serendip at Bryn Mawr College.

Here’s a few captures from this marvelous site and project.

SERENDIPITY (from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd Edition)
The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

[From the characters in the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, from Persian Sarandip, Sri Lanka, from Arabic Sarandib]

Word history: We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for coining the word serendipity. In one of his 3,000 or more letters, on which his literary reputation rests, and specifically in a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that “this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word.” Perhaps the word itself came to him by serendipity. Walpole formed the world on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of a “silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip; as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of … One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for comes under this description) was of my Lard Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Claredon’s, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table.”

From its birth in 1994, Serendip has been committed to exploring and creating “less wrong” ways of making sense of the world. Itself an exploration into the potentials of relatively undirected evolutionary systems in which chance plays a significant role, Serendip necessarily changes over time. Hence what was originally a major Serendip section on “complexity” has become in 2008 one on “complexity and emergence.” This change mirrors wider changes in alternative intellectual perspectives: an increasing awareness that making sense of complexity requires not only an acknowledgment of its existence and the development of tools to analyze it but also an appreciation an important historical dimension. Complexity increasingly seems to be not “designed” but rather to emerge over time from from a relatively undirected evolutionary process beginning with simpler entities. (src)

*The term I use to title the central concept of Transformative Anthropology is strategic serendipity. Strategic serendipity: in the context of individual human development, a chance event that comes to completely alter the course of a person’s development. Among the many kinds of change such an event impacts, the common kinds result in changes in: key relationships; career; location; interests. (see notes)

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Quest to Learn

[excerpt] she won’t know if the school prepares kids for real-world success until the first class graduates. But Quest has already proved itself in one area: The kids love it. “It’s fun,” says student Nadine Clements. Her least favorite part of school? “Dismissal.”

A New School Teaches Students Through Videogames. A school uses videogame-based lessons to teach a new generation of kids
By Susannah F. Locke; Popsci January 7, 2009


The Quest to Learn school opened last September in Manhattan, welcoming the first class of sixth-graders who will learn almost entirely through videogame-inspired activities, an educational strategy geared to keep kids engaged and prepare them for high-tech careers.

This year’s 72-student class is split into four groups that rotate through five courses during the day: Codeworlds (math/English), Being, Space and Place (social studies/English), The Way Things Work (math/science), Sports for the Mind (game design), and Wellness (health/PE). Instead of slogging through problem sets, students learn collaboratively in group projects that require an understanding of subjects in the New York State curriculum. The school’s model draws on 30 years of research showing that people learn best when they’re in a social context that puts new knowledge to use.

The Quest To Learn School: “Quest to Learn is a school for digital kids. It is a community where students learn to see the world as composed of many different kinds of systems. It is a place to play, invent, grow, and explore.”

I’m going to bet, and do so with confidence, that the uncited research folds in the following, “People learn best when the learning is shaped to be, for the learner, intrinsically rewarding.

For adults, I would put it this way:

adults learn when they’re able to test their experiential knowledge and then to use it

Implicit in this formulation–and perhaps applicable to young learners–is the intrinsic benefit provided by active learning, via which a learner is supported in their putting their own discoveries to concrete tests. This intrinsic benefit is named: fun. The added benefit is that accountability itself becomes an easeful aspect of the ecology of learning. Against which the grim banking theory of education is likely to, at the end of the school day, have students praying for the bell, and, dismissal.

In her book, Magic Trees of the Mind, Dr. Marian Diamond, neuroscientist at the University of California/Berkeley, describes the characteristics of an enriched environment that:

Includes a steady source of positive emotional support

Provides a nutritious diet with enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories

Stimulates all the senses (but not necessarily all at once!)

Has an atmosphere free of undue pressure and stress but suffused with a degree of pleasurable intensity

Presents a series of novel challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the child at his or her stage of development

Allows for social interaction for a significant percentage of activities

Promotes the development of a broad range of skills and interests that are mental, physical, aesthetic, social, and emotional

Gives the child an opportunity to choose many of his or her own activities

Gives the child a chance to assess the results of his or her efforts and to modify them

Offers an enjoyable atmosphere that promotes exploration and the fun of learning

Above all, allows the child to be an active participant rather than a passive observer.

A daring hypothesis holds that younger learners are not dramatically constituted to be different than the adult learners each will grow to be. I’m reminded of Malcolm Knowles.

Knowles (1980) came from a humanistic orientation and believed that self-actualization was the prime objective of adult learning, and the mission of educators was to assist adult learners to develop and achieve their full potential as emotional, psychological, and intellectual beings. Knowles made four assumptions about adults as learners: (1) Adults tend to be more self-directed as a result of their maturity, (2) Adults possess personal histories which defines their identities and serve as a resource of experiential learning upon which new learnings can be applied, (3) Motivation in adults is directed to more socially relevant learning, and (4) Adult learners have interest in immediate application for problem-solving. (src)


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Gray Swans?

One way to while-away the time during my short commute, and, errands, is to listen to unabridged audiobooks. If the experience proves worthwhile as a moment of learning, I’m next compelled to work against my learning style (aural-kinesthetic) and read the verbal-visual edition, so-to-speak.

Now I’m driving through Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s The Black Swan. It provides a gripping journey for a Jamesian fallibilist such as myself. Also, Taleb’s so-called skeptical empiricism circles around my own current central concern that is also strongly skeptical about, as Taleb terms it, narrativity.  The interesting difference is I’m looking at ubiquitous hidden chance events, (in ordinary human development,) whereas Taleb deals with rare hidden chance eventsin large-scale domains. I too am similarly fascinated by how linear narratives clothe non-linear events as a matter of post-hoc rationalization, but, again the domain I’m interested in is different than those of Taleb.

There is a funny moment in the book where Taleb blows off a causal assertion about this domain I’m interested in. I’ll return to this after I finish the book.

As a collector of dichotomies, the following is of great interest. Via Nassim Nicholas Taleb, purloined from his notes page at the web site for his book Fooled By Randomness. (Excellent review of The Black Swan by Dan Hill @cityofsound)

116- Fooled by Rationalism; Lecturing Birds How to Fly [From Tinkering]

The greatest problem in knowledge is the “lecturing birds how to fly” effect.

Let us call it the error of rationalism. In Fat Tony’s language, it would be what makes us the suckers of all suckers. Consider two types of knowledge. The first type is not exactly “knowledge”; its ambiguous character prevents us from calling it exactly knowledge. It a way of doing thing that we cannot really express in clear language, but that we do nevertheless, and do well. The second type is more like what we call “knowledge”; it is what you acquire in school, can get grades for, can codify, what can be explainable, academizable, rationalizable, formalizable, theoretizable, codifiable, Sovietizable, bureaucratizable, Harvardifiable, provable, etc.

To make things simple, just look at the second type of knowledge as something so stripped of ambiguity that an autistic person (a high functioning autistic person, that is) can easily understand it.

The error of rationalism is, simply, overestimating the role and necessity of the second type, the academic knowledge, in human affairs. It is a severe error because not only much of our knowledge is not explainable, academizable, rationalizable, formalizable, theoretizable, codifiable, Sovietizable, bureaucratizable, Harvardifiable, etc., but, further, that such knowledge plays such a minor life that it is not even funny.
We are very likely to believe that skills and ideas that we actually acquired by doing, or that came naturally to us (as we already knew by our innate biological instinct) came from books, ideas, and reasoning. We get blinded by it; there may even be something in our brains that makes us suckers for the point. Let us see how.





Know how

Know what

Fat Tony wisdom, Aristotelian phronesis

Aristotelian logic

Implicit , Tacit


Nondemonstrative knowledge

Demonstrative knowledge



Experiential knowledge

Epistemic base


Propositional knowledge




Directed research


Targeted activity







Tinkering, stochastic tinkering

Directed search

Epilogism (Menodotus of Nicomedia and the school of empirical medicine)

Inductive knowledge

Historia a sensate cognitio

Causative historiography



Austrian economics

Neoclassical economics

Bottom up libertarianism

Central Planner

Spirit of the Law

Letter of the Law



Brooklyn, Amioun

Cambridge, MA, and UK

Accident, trial and error






Ecological uncertainty, not tractable in textbook

Ludic probability, statistics textbooks



Parallel processing

Serial processing


On-model, model based

Side effect of a drug

National Institute of Health




My intentionally idiosyncratic interpretation of Taleb’s usage of the term ludic, is: it names the error found when people believe that their management of known simple fixed probabilities is identical to management of complex dynamic uncertainty. The latter is, of course, impossible to actually manage.

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Space, The Final Frontier

(click for large windowbox version)

If I reflect upon phenomenologists about town…well, there aren’t many of us. Anyhowsa, Frank M. Mills is one of the few. In the past few days, he’s melded his family of web media locations into emptyspaces. This will make it easier to keep track* of Frank.

I’ve done a little walkin’ and talkin’ with Frank years ago. With Frank, if you walk down–say, Virginia Street (above) in Lakewood–he’ll stop and talk with people and stop and contemplate and, otherwise go about it as if the real deal isn’t between points A and B. Great fella with which to get lost in space.

…since KW has gone off grid, I better look him up. Frank and KW are the only flâneurs I’ve ever met.

* or sniff his trail

“Better to follow the perfume, than the tracks.” (Shams)

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The Kids of Summer

Thanks to Alice for snapping this shot from September 6. Age range: roughly 16 to 66.

We started our Free Play pick-up softball league in April on the first Sunday after tax day. We’ll play until it becomes too insane to play. This usually means sometime in November, several Sundays after it is merely insane to play.

In a month we’ll hit the third anniversary of the Sunday when I lost a ball in the late fall sun and caught it with my nose. This turned out to be the $6,000 catch, as far as the medical assessment went. This is meaningful this year because I found my old confidence in left field only to lose it on my worst fielding day ever a month ago. As Walt said to me, “Snake bit, eh?”

This year has been interesting for several reasons. First, from May through the end of July, as a result of an email notification experiment, the game attracted between 24 and 30 players. Everybody gets to play–as long as he or she has reached the age of 11–so, as the person who divides the mob into two, the resulting line-ups were obviously long, with eleven fielders, and as many as four people rotating in every inning.

I wondered out loud with Alice and Dave, what this meant for the ethos of the game. It was clear at the time that the game’s remarkable consensual process of accommodation was coming under some pressure from players, including myself, who weren’t 100% dedicated to an experiment morphed to include a substantial degradation in playing time and plate appearances.

Dave, on the other hand, simply told me, “Hey, after July 4th, the turn out will fall back to normal.” Well, it did, but the email announcements were halted too!

Among several developments, two more stand out. Two new players, Mark Jr. and Mark Sr. have come out and delighted the old timers with their consistent and crafty play. Mark Jr. is both a golden glover and a tricky, tactical hit-to-any field batter. He was part of a paradigmatic moment last week, when he drove a swinging bunt fifteen feet down the line and made it safely to first. Except, he was called back for crafting a “bunt-like” hit, where the rule is no bunting. But, it wasn’t a bunt.

He protested to me that “It isn’t fair to make up a new rule in the middle of a game.”

I told him, “It’s fair if you look at it a different way. But, it’s also the kind of game where an unfair rule gets conjured when it serves a bigger purpose.”

It took me a few seasons to embrace how situational rulings emerge in ‘free play!’

The other really notable development is the blossoming of Cat. He’s 16, perhaps? Wiry. He’s been playing off and on for five years. After a big growth spurt, he’s truly arrived with a beautiful swing, rapidly improving fielding instincts in left field, and, well, he’s always been quick as a cat.

It was sometime in mid May he launched a ball about 300 feet and about 100 feet behind where I was stationed in left field. (After nine years patrolling left, I’d guess it was a top five blast.) There’s no fence, so you turn and fetch the home run ball. Fluke? No, several at bats later he hit one 50 feet beyond my more prudent–but not prudent enough–position. He hit it about 275 feet.

Stand back, Cat’s at bat!

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A Programming Problem

In today’s New York Times, in the magazine, Paul Krugman asks, How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? In the article he recounts how it happened that the world’s finest experts in macroeconomics were unable to adapt their models and, in doing so, develop better models able to predict the housing market implosion.

In my earlier post, the Second Order position vis a vis belief was explored. There are many ways to describe a Second Order belief. One way says: such a belief is a knee jerk reaction. Another option says: such a belief automatically follows from a specific predisposition. Enter an internalized model of any kind into the fundamentals of a predisposition, then where there is Second Order belief derived from the model, it follows inevitably from the model.

In other words, the model, in effect, programs the belief. Idealized programs very often generate idealized, absolute beliefs about the model.


But the self-described New Keynesian economists weren’t immune to the charms of rational individuals and perfect markets. They tried to keep their deviations from neoclassical orthodoxy as limited as possible.
But there was something else going on: a general belief that bubbles just don’t happen. What’s striking, when you reread Greenspan’s assurances, is that they weren’t based on evidence — they were based on the a priori assertion that there simply can’t be a bubble in housing.
In short, the belief in efficient financial markets blinded many if not most economists to the emergence of the biggest financial bubble in history.

What would you say about a model purported to model macroeconomic actuality, where total belief in the model itself causes the model user to be blinded to particular actualities? What would you say about the nature of total belief in any blinded model. Apparently, best and brightest economic experts can come to be irrationally exhuberant about their own models.
Continue reading


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Transformative Anthropology III – Gas Stop

I had the good fortune to reacquaint myself this week with a friend from 40 years ago. After explaining my research into the fragile contingencies underlying life changing events, she offered a terrific example, and, additionally brought a new term into my thinking on these matters.

She told me about meeting a future employer at a gas station, on the occasion when both had stopped at the same station, you know, for gas! The thing is: a stranger approaches her, recognizes her because she had taken note of her reputation in some public notice or the like, and strikes up a conversation.

What followed, eventually, was a job offer. And, what followed from taking the job were all sorts of other events that, in concrete respects, stand on the foundation of her changing jobs.

What would have happened had the soon-to-be new employer and employee not stopped in the gas station at the same moment? No one can say, but it’s as if such a speculation is about an alternative universe, rather than the universe in which this life altering and happenstance event took place.

My friend called the event, random. “Random” hadn’t occurred to me as a qualifier. It’s a good term because it strips away something of the various evaluative adjectives which follow from a random event turning out to be positive or negative.

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What the Wind Blows

Reflexive Orders of Awareness – A Schema

Some examples should suffice to unpack the notion of reflexive orders.

First Order awareness is automatic, and not directed. If you ever have driven a car and noted at some point that you ‘were on automatic,’ and then been amazed at this lack of consciousness about being a driver, you’re recalling what it feels like to be on automatic, in, as-it-were, First Order awareness. “I barely remember consciously driving to work today! I was thinking about something else, pre-occupied.”

Second Order awareness adds to this awareness of what you are doing. A good example is learning how to ride a bike, where–at the beginning–the new rider has to consciously turn against the tilt out of balance. This is conscious attention paid to what you are doing. This awareness has a very narrow focus. It’s not optional.

Third Order awareness adds to this additional modes for awareness. In the example of driving, this means what else you might do, be aware of, while driving. I term this choice heuristic to reflect how multiple modes are balanced by knowing their prior dynamic via experience. Acquired rules of thumb facilitate this balancing act. For example, some drivers figure out how to have cell phone conversations while driving, and balance attention to this with attention to driving.

Fourth Order awareness adds to this an ability to choose modes of awareness by virtue of having made a prior coherent differentiation of available modes and their effective differential application. The difference between Third/Fourth Order phases is a matter of degree, yet the hallmark of Fourth Order is this critical differentiation. This would acknowledge, for example, that driving while phoning incurs a probalistic downside.

Fourth Order awareness basically means: being able to match awareness with optimal requirements for effective deployment of awareness. And, do this from a coherent ensemble of choices for being aware. And, be able to explain what one does to both differentiate and select.

Finally, to complete this model, (or schema,) there are mediating and liminal phases between the orders. There is a good example of this. Emotional intelligence, itself a repertoire for meeting the goal requirements of an interpersonal interaction, exists at the beginning of conscious development of one’s own intelligent responsiveness. At the beginning it exists as a choice-heuristic. Later this develops into choice-differentiated; thus moves choice from being the result of a rule of thumb to being the result of very particular, and in some ways formal, differentiation of optimal choice. Such a choice is made from a coherent ensemble, i.e. repertoire.

Yet, this move is sometimes articulated in a fuzzy move between Third and Fourth Order. One feature is common to Fourth order awareness. It instantiates motivation to search out more effective and possibly optimal modes of awareness. In other words, there is a gain to be realized in expanding one’s ensemble of choices. So, one is not satisfied with only the repertoire of “rules of thumb.”

This can be further understood, when stretched between the entire First-to-Fourth range, as making the move from automatic, knee-jerk responses to responses forged from being able to make a conscious selection from a repertoire of possible responses. Given this sense, the move from Third Order to Fourth Order selection procedures reflects a substantial enhancement and individuation of critical consciousness.

Again, differentiation and individuation imply here the ability to explain why one choice is superior to some other choice.

We’ll move next, in a follow-up post, to examples and applications in both negative and positive terms, and we’ll use the current environment of political discourse to do so.

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Transformative Anthropology II.

A handful of questions one can direct to a subject or to their self are easily enabled to drill into the fragile web of contingencies that are structurally necessary to human development.

1. What brought you to live where you currently live?

2. What brought you to work in the field you currently work in?

3. What was the circumstance via which you met your current partner?

4. What brought you to your current central interest, (or avocation, or hobby, or passion?)

There are, of course, many such questions like these four.

In conducting an inquiry along these lines, what I have found is that the narrative offered in response contains propositions about features of a necessary founding circumstance Those propositions tell of required features.

For example, I met my future wife at a party in September of 1993. For this to happen, I had to be in Cleveland and be invited to the party. I had to know the party-givers, and, they had to be in Cleveland too. So did my future wife. There are enough implicit features in these three sentences to make clear the obvious point: my meeting my wife rests on a web of contingencies that encompass many lives, and in turn this rests on many requisites, rests on many prior requirements.

It is striking to me that it would be the normal sense of a person narrating a development such as this one, that those requirements are not strongly “felt” by the narrator. However, in facilitating a subject’s re-collection of these necessary requirements, the process has always evoked an intense insight.

Ha! “I never looked at life that way!”

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Transformative Anthropology I.

I’m going to try here to rope in a few colleagues to respond in public–here–to something I’ve been playing around with off and on for four years. To set this up, here is an edited version of an email I sent to a friend in February.

I have a very important intellectual inquiry to address to you.

Here’s the context. In 2005 I trained ‘street anthropologists’ to conduct informal inquiries about why members of their community had landed in that community. It was framed for me as a Boas-like drill down and the results were given by respondents as simple phenomenological answers. Since the goal was more to learn from the process of inquiry than to generate research for other uses, the debrief was as much about what it was like to experience the act of asking and listening.

However, something became obvious when we debriefed the survey. It was this: almost everybody surveyed ended up living in the community due to a priori features of their personal circumstance prior to their relocating to this community. These features turn out to be extremely fragile. Which is to say: that the features are each contingent on other fragile features.

So: the features are both necessary and also contingent upon other necessary features. What necessarily promoted the decision to relocate fanned out into very fragile webs of necessary “prior” conditions. Had one of those conditions been slightly different, the decision would have been different and the respondant would have ended up locating somewhere else.

I’ll give an example I have used to illustrate this. In 1974 I was working in a record store in my hometown of Cleveland and on a June afternoon a robber stuck the store up, marched me into the backroom, had me lay down, and shot me in the back. I was not badly wounded, but the bullet struck me two inches from my spine. A month later I decided to move (the hell) away from my hometown and took a bus to Vermont. Being shot allowed me to re-rationalize my–at the time–confused sense of where I was going in my life.

In Vermont, over time, I met my wife-to-be, developed my ‘karass’ and met lifelong friends, read through shelves of books while working at desk in the back of a book store, had remarkable encounters, met important influences, had wild once-in-a-lifetime experiences like staying up all night with John Cage (who became very close to my then wife,) and on and on. My intellectual preoccupations became diversified in ways I attribute to the flux of bohemian, new age, post-professional, outsider, academic, circumstances I encountered.

So, the upshot is: in what way was the robber a key mover for setting me on this unplanned vector?

Alternately, if he had not walked into the store on that afternoon, and done so based on his own contingencies, everything goes in a different direction. Literally, nothing that came after would have ever unfolded.

I have amplified this weird conjunction and necessary “generativity” of bullet and 19 year old hippie, by thinking out loud in front of workshop participants,

“Would I–today–wish for this robber not to have come into the store, and into my life?”


Armed with this insight, in a second round of surveys we asked questions aimed to evoke identification of the subject’s own necessary contingencies. The question: What brught you to Lakewood? Later, in my own one-on-one inquiries, it has turned out that all sorts of developmental ‘moves’ rest upon all sorts of fragile happenstance.

Several further insights: it’s apparent that we are not hard wired to view our own identity in these terms at all. I have not once made an inquiry to discover that the fragility of necessary conditions had already occurred as an insight of the subject.

Secondly, I have been asked “So why is this important?” To which I have replied, that understanding the fragility of what were/are necessary conditions, may offer us the opportunity to experience more accurately the reality of that which underpins our development in one direction, but not another. And, there’s lots more that could be said about what is the value of recognizing the ‘fragility of it all.’

As an aside, when Malcolm Gladwell published Outliers, his recent book about the conditions which underpin success, I wondered if he would remark on the fragility factor. He does not, and refers to conditions simply in terms of ‘because ofs’ without ever assessing how fragile they are.

My questions is this:

Where is this fragility previously recognized by those who have reflected upon the structure of necessary conditions underneath human development?

(added note; August 2009)

I’ve stepped around how this could be considered in abstract terms or in “spiritualizing” terms. I’ve searched high and low for any commentary that addresses this in pragmatic and developmental terms. The reason I’ve gone in this direction is because I find the intersection of the objective-structural web of contingency, with, the possible import of these true features being well known by the subject, to be a pragmatic instance.

By pragmatic I mean in someway understandable by the subject, (in contemplating their own developmental contingencies,) as a truth, or verity.

Incidentally, this brings to my mind a pragmatic autopoiesis about the deep nature of human development; and given to this are random constitutive-generative “facts.”

I did find an august philosopher, Nicholas Rescher, who wrote a book, Luck: The Brilliant Randomness Of Everyday Life, that, surprisingly, qualifies everyday randomness brilliantly without qualifying the web of contingency.

Go figure!

Now I’m going to turn the loving screws to some friends a bit and learn more. What say you?

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Groups & the Development of Consciousness

My colleague and friend Robert has asked in a comment to Sustainability, Systems Awareness & Eros,

“However saying that, I don’t know if the “group” consciousness actually manages to effect a real conscious change in both individuals and in groups. Are these things of the moment?”

Let’s just speak of a simple hypothesis: that a group is possibly a medium for an individual to increase their awareness. There are, in this, several things we’ll need to test the hypothesis.

One, we’ll need a developmental framework that can support both the proof of the hypothesis and its falsification.

Two, given this framework, we’ll need to employ explicit criteria to make a determination about both how to test and next evaluate the results of the test. And, finally we’ll need to grapple and grip with how to interpret the evaluation.

There’s a crucial distinction I’d like to introduce. A hypothesis of this sort is concerned with the development of consciousness of an individual within a group due to the unique opportunities for this development a group may instantiate. Yet this potential for development is not proposed as a positive result of group consciousness, but, rather, is the result of people bringing their personal consciousness to the medium of a group. In noting this, all I suggesting is that consciousness is only a property of individuals; that it would be very hard to characterize what is meant by group consciousness in any normative sense.

As it has come about–in modern psychology–short of defining a framework, there are concrete terms for characterizing the development of consciousness in the medium of a group. For example, these are some of the developments afforded by groups: better teamwork, closer coordination, acceptance of and mitigation of narcissistic and infantile needs, enhanced problem analysis and problem solving, better skills for discernment and differentiation, support for withdrawal of projections, etc.. and on and on.

Also, groups make possible at times the submission of self-oriented egoic impulses to higher orders of awareness, including facilitating recognition and ownership of the shadow. So it is, to use one broad developmental mode, that an individual in a group may leverage the means for increasing their emotional intelligence.


I believe all sorts of artistic teams in music and dance and theatre brings lots of unique developmental potential into being. These provide excellent examples, but so do all sorts of other common groups. One such group would be–at their best–the formal or informal classroom.

Of course, my sense here presumes that consciousness itself is not a mountain to be climbed, but instead operationalizes real world capabilities. In short, to become more able at anything poses a developmental increase.

The only move toward spiritualization, would be to suppose that all such developmental increases are qualities of higher consciousness given a timeworn notion of spiritual development–when those better capabilities do no harm.

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In this excerpt from my film “Zrareet ! ” my mother-in-law explains how to train a Moroccan husband with a great sense of humor. They have been married for over 60 years.

wifechadly Youtube channel

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Sitting at the local coffee shop, waiting for a business partner to arrive so that we could discuss a project, I decided to kill time by opening my laptop to check my email. In my email was a post from a friend and in his email was a link to a youtube video of a Congolese musician.

A few minutes into the video, I feel a gentle tap on my shoulder. A stranger interrupts me to ask about the video I’m watching and listening to on ear buds. This person saw the video playing on my screen from their spot at an adjacent table.
As it turns out the stranger is interested in the african dancers that are part of the video. Inviting the stranger to join me, I share a replay of the video with her.

We strike up a conversation. It ranges over our shared interest in music and the arts. After telling her I have collected a wide variety of music resources over many years, she mentions that she is an artist for whom music and dance is a key source of inspiration. We set up a future engagement to audition media resources and to continue getting to know each other. Perhaps we will become friends.

In fact, a friendship develops and it eventually alters the course of both of our lives. There will come a time when both the once-a-stranger, and myself, having become colleagues and having undertaken together and separately further life changing projects, travels, and learning, realize almost all of what unfolded was contingent upon the pivot provided by the original encounter in the coffee shop.

What would you, the researcher have to know to determine what was necessary to have happened in the lives of both parties to this encounter in the coffee shop prior to its occurrence, so as to guarantee its occurrence?
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The Rhythm River pages are up at squareONE. I made a quickee montage to promote this latest tool; albeit the development unfolded over twenty years.

[flashvideo filename=http://squareone-learning.com/video/RhythmRiver2.flv /]

Music is Kayyam, from my 2002 recording In Khorasan. It can be streamed in its entirety over at nogutsnoglory studios, at the bottom of the world hed music page.

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The first beta test of videographing a squareONE tool process. I recorded demonstrations of Grab Bag and Play of Opposites. Thanks to my brother and his camera. (I’ve got my eye on a Canon HV20 to be purchased after the first of the year. I’ll also use it to tape a new tool I’m developing that uses an interview process and is oriented around conversational learning.
[flashvideo filename=http://squareone-learning.com/video/Opposites_demo.flv /]
A single take…

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I was dumping audio from my Zoom H4 digital recorder, and, lo-and-behold, there was an environmental recording on it etched from placing my backpack with the recorder in it next to the chain link backstop on the Freeplay softball diamond. I blogged in November about that endeavor.

What’s neat is how the recording captures lots of aural evidence that supports the hypothesis of the Kolb’s paper. This is expected, yet the reduction of the life world of the softball game for the sake of research is one thing, with its data set drawn from interviews and recollected impressions, whereas the capture of the aural environs is altogether more directly related to the real time life world!

(This reminded me that ethnographic documentation is drawn from the more robust “multi-sensorial” analog direct experience of the participant-observer.)

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