This weekend I attended the Quantified Self conference in Amsterdam. The number of participants was just short of 300 of which 90(!) people were involved in some way in a session. They call this a “carefully curated unconference”: they started by checking out all the registrants and then connecting to them if they look interesting. Fast Moving Targets created some videos about the event. I am always interested in the commercial parties who think they have enough affinity with the topic to sponsor an event. In this case the three major sponsors were BodyMedia, FrieslandCampina, Dreamboard. Intel, Autodesk, 23andMe and Scanadu. Gary Wolf, a very thoughtful and reflective speaker, opened the conference by talking about the Quantified Self as a movement and its three central questions:
- What did you do?
- How did you do it?
- What did you learn?
Mood, Emotion, and Meaning
Jon Cousins from Moodscope (with a funny Twitter pic) and Robin Barooah from Sublime.org talked about mood. Jon started off by talking about the large number of people in our society who have a mental disorder, but it is important to be aware of your mood even if you don’t have mental issues. Emotion is something that changes very fast, whereas temperament changes much slower. Mood sits somewhere in the middle of that. Jon shared his own mood story and how he started to track his own depressive moods. He created a card-based scoring system and had a friend who wanted to see his “scores” daily. This immediately changed his mood for the positive. Moodscope now creates graphs like the following:
and can create Word clouds on the basis of your good and bad days:
Robin then talked about the stress he experienced in 2008, the most painful year of his adult life. He was at a point where he experienced real paranoia. He was aware, but couldn’t control it, very close to being psychotic. He started to meditate to help bring his stress levels down. He used an iPhone app to record his meditation practice. Next, he started to share his mood with a friend through things like Google Calendar and Dropbox. These quickly morphed into journal entries. He found out that the number of meditation minutes per day reflected the number of mood entries per day. He would see it as his ability to connect with the world. It is a signal about his whole life.
QS as a Catalyst for Learning?
I personally hosted this break-out conversation. As I was very busy facilitating I couldn’t really take notes during the session, instead I will share my preparations and questions that I wanted to talk about.
A simple way of describing how “learning” works is as a two-step cyclical process:
- Do something that you have not done before
- Reflect on what happened
Can quantifying yourself speed up this cyclical process? In which ways? Examples? Will you be more or less daring if you can see your past failures/patterns?
I’ve said before that the costs of self-tracking will be so low that not measuring yourself contineously will be considered “irresponsible”.
Will there be a next wave of measing cognitive processes rather than physical aspects? What other things can be measured but attention? What is the modern day version of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve? (1885)
Quite a while back Danny Hillis wrote about Aristotle:
Imagine that this tutor program can get to know you over a long period of time. Like a good teacher, it knows what you already understand and what you are ready to learn. It also knows what types of explanations are most meaningful to you.
Which services already give me insight into what I have studied? Why isn’t Amazon giving me a temporal word cloud? What kind of data could MOOCs deliver?
David Wiley has written the following:
One can easily imagine submitting their usernames for Google Web History, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Blogs, Google Reader, YouTube, etc. IN PLACE OF taking a four hour high stakes exam like the ACT or GRE. Why make a high stakes decision based on a few hundred data points generated in one morning (when you could be sick, distracted, etc.) when you could get 1,000,000 data points generated over three years?
Could certification become automatic and data based? Why?
I have been very interested in the risks and externalities of “datasexualism” in the context of learning?
There are problems with quantifying yourself: forgetting is beneficial (has a natural function, lifelogging is incompatible with true nostalgia), the filter bubble is a real risk (only reading more of the news you’ve read before, positive feedback loops). Most importantly: many things aren’t quantifiable in any sensible way. Morozov write in To Save Everything, Click Here:
Perhaps this is how aesthetics was meant to end, with a bunch of enthusiastic devotees of the Quantified Self movement comparing notes on whether the nudes of Picasso or Degas generate longer erections.
What about equality? Morozov again:
If you are well and well-off, then self-tracking will make things better for you.
These were very short talks with slides moving according to a set schedule. There was somebody who called self-tracking looking in a rearview mirror and told us we needed to start looking forward. He has created an app that helps you get into flow. Another guy showed us Momentoapp which I certainly would have tried if it wasn’t iOS only. We also had people talking about tracking Parkinson syndrome (in cooperation with the Cure Parkinson organization). Somebody pitched AchieveMint (“Life Rewarded”) which allows people to get real-life rewards for activities that you tracking their healthy behaviour and aims to create “a market” for healthy behaviour. From my perspective: yet another thing that doesn’t belong on a market. An Intel UX designer/researcher talked about using biomimicry as a way to present data.
Surprises from 4 years of tracking books read
Rajiv Mehta talked about his four years of tracking reading books. I was interested because I do the same. He used a nice way of graphing created from the covers of the books. He saw that the light junky reading was crowding out the substance only after he started to analyze the list.
This session discussed the different activity trackers that are currently on the market. It was led by Michael Kazarnowicz who has used all these devices (at the same time) for at least ten days. We discussed the pros and cons of the Moves App, the Nike Fuelband, the Fitbit, the Basis, the Bodymedia FIT and the Jawbone UP. Somebody else mentioned ActiveLink which is rebranding of the DirectLife. Michael also quickly showed the LUMOback sensor that helps improve your posture.
To me the interesting thing is what platform will integrate the date of all these trackers. Michael mentioned TicTrac which seems to be worth a look.
All the information that Michael shared is also available on his blog.
The Self in Data
Sara Marie Watson is a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and is interested in what it means to have this data about ourselves. She showed the large dichotomous narrative of “big data is amazing” on the one hand and “oh no, they no so much about you” on the other hand. She has done quantitative research into how the Quantifief Self movement talks about data. Often this talk is about the technical side of things: ease of capture, portability, flexibility, analysis and correlation, scientific methods, legibility and visualization and epistemology.
She wanted to talk about the following questions:
- How is our identity, sense of self tied to our data?
- What are some of our assumptions about what data van do
- What are the metaphors we use to describe how we relate to and use our data?
- What are the limitations of data? What can’t data tell us about ourselves?
- What does it mean to have a digital, numerical representation of ourselves in data?
These questions led to a lot of discussion about multiple selves, whether each device creates a “new self”, how the self is sociologically constructed, the Hawthorne effect (again), numbers as a statement of authority (so giving individuals the ability to say something with authority about yourself) and whether QS isn’t more like art. There were statements like “The macroscope can be seen as the first post-mirror metaphor.” This seemed to be the ultimate session for anthropologists and QS-philosophers who wanted to meet self-tracking hipsters. Fascinating stuff.
One person coined a new piece of jargon: quantifying yourself allows you to disaggregate yourself (a way of quantitative auto-biography), this is necessary because the whole self (the thing that we label with our name) is just too integrated.
QS & Medicine: Caring for Ourselves
Frontiers in self-tracking was a talk about the blurring lines between self-tracking and health by Eri Gentry. She talked about things like Piddle and Ucheck, both urine analysers, or the AliveCor for using your iPhone to create an ECG. She mentioned Max Little who created a 30 second phone call test that can diagnose Parkisons:
And talked about apps for measuring eye sight and hearing loss.
Next was a talk about arterial stiffness, the forgotten factor of in cardiovascular health (“sponsored” by FrieslandCampina?!). Arterial stiffness is a strong independent predictor of heart attack and stroke. The speaker talked about how to measure arterial stiffness and how you can keep your blood vessels in good condition (by for example eating cheese, surprise surprise).
Sara Riggare (“Not patient, but im-patient”) talked about how she optimized her Parkinson’s medication. She gets to spend 1 hour of the year in health care, the 8765 other hours are self-care for her. She says that having a chronic disease means lifelong learning. She experimented on herself by measuring her medicine intake and doing a tapping test on her phone at regular intervals. She then starting “playing” with when she would take her medication. Her methodology needed two different apps and lots of plotting in Excel. This wasn’t easy enough for other Parkinson sufferers to use. She managed to find funding to develop an app that could do this.
Life logging with Memoto
The day finished with a town hall meeting in which we discussed the implications of people wearing life logging devices. A few people wore a Memoto camera (it takes a picture every 30 seconds) for the day. These discussions were mainly about privacy. We tried to talk about how it felt to be recorded. The social norms for these kind of cameras are still in development, but are also in place in some form.
What Makes Data Open?
David Andre talked about self-centered open data. He is a scientist who worked at BodyMedia since 2002 making a lot of body tracking devices. In 2008 he started a hedge fund because he found out that tracking finances is in many ways similar to tracking people. With open data there is a monitoring stack and some key features: play at any level, replace modules and use other’s work, scaffold, build, mix and match and use machine learning and big data. Often there are problems with APIs: no access to the firmware, often you only get post-processed data, the optimization might have caused inconsistencies and often you need to be a business partner to use an API well. Even if we were able to pull all the data together, we will still have something that is analogous to the tower of Babel. The challenges are:
- Different time models or alignments
- Different semantics (e.g. blood test versus weight versus heart-rate versus sleep)
- Vendors change hardware and software
- Doing analysis (Big Data) on the merged data is harder than it seems
We also need to realize that people aren’t just a collection of minutes.
Solutions for a way forward are:
- To have a data model that has meta-data about the data that you are looking at (protocols, timing, version numbers, etc)
- Use derivation trees that show how the raw data is modified
- Use data models that are truly self-centered, we need to enable tools that are as useful for self-centered time series data as spreadsheets were for tabular data
David then joined a panel with Marc Rijnveld (from Rotterdam Community Solutions, providing “tools for self-organization) and Anne Wright (from BodyTrack, a set of open source tools to capture and explore data on activities, environmental and food inputs, and health status over time, now working together with Fluxtream). They had a short discussion about the services that sit in between the user and their multiple devices (products like Singly). Anne mentioned Open mHealth an open software architecture for mobile health integration. There was a good discussion about the business models for vendors to open up their data, how weird it is that timestamps are still an issue in this community and the allure of starting projects to solve all these problems in one go.
Some interesting links
In the Twitter stream and via Dorien Zandbergen I found a few interesting articles about the Quantified Self online:
- Quantifying your Self? Need a human-centered data structure?
- The Woman vs. The Stick: Mindfulness at Quantified Self 2012
- The Quantified Self Movement is not a Kleenex
- Quantified Self as Soft Resistance
Encountering the Unquantified Other
Dorien Zandbergen and Zane Kripe hosted this session which explored the implicit ideologies that quantified selvers have versus the quantified other. Dorien sketched how quantifying ourselves is actually quite a bit older than we often like to think. She asked us a question: to what extend do you feel comfortable to talk about your quantified self practices in each of the following contexts: work, family, friends, public space. We then looked at what people felt when they shared the fact that they quantify themselves and their data. One participant mentioned how uncomfortable he is sharing his sleeping data, even with his family (“you have no right to be grumpy, you have slept for eight hours!”).
I shared my perspective on how when sensors become completely ubiquitous and unobtrusive (in a few years) the perspective will actually shift: you will be irresponsible if you don’t measure yourself continuously. It will be seen as if you don’t care about yourself, basically like not brushing your teeth.
Lightning talks on Sunday
Again a set of lightning talks. I tried to mainly capture the people and the links:
- Anne Wright talked about successful strategies for data aggregation. She works with a system called Fluxtream that can be bring together all kinds of data from different services using connectors (think emails, calendars, activity trackers, image sharing accounts, etc.). This data is then shown on an explorable timeline. There also is FluxtreamCapture iOS app and they are working on creating a spectral view.
- Papadopoulos Homer talked about USEFIL which “aims to address the gap between technological research advances and the practical needs of elderly people by developing advanced but affordable in-home unobtrusive monitoring and web communication solutions [and] intends to use low cost “off-the-shelf” technology to develop immediately applicable services that will assist the elderly in maintaining their independence and daily activities.”
- Carlos Rizo is a fan of mindfulness. He explaines how he sets a password to unlock his phone regularly and embeds behavioural cues in that password: things like: reviewtodo, drinkwater, smilemore, remembertosleep, givethanks, breathnow, micromeditate, etc. Nice idea!
- Matteo Lai works for Empatica who do emotional tracking hard- and software at a personal level and in real time. They are specifically interested in following stress (they developed a stress sensor). They did an experiment where they tracked a whole team rather than invidivuals on their stress levels.
- Nell Watson from Poikos talked about their technology to measure the body in 3D with a smartphone based on two snapshots (from the front and from the side). They are a platform with an SDK, an API and a white-label program. Try out their iOS app that gets your clother measurements: FlixFit. They are actually creating a global anthropological database (see QSU.me.
- Marco Altini works for imec talked about how it isn’t about being fat, but about being fit, so devices should measure fitness and not fatness. He is working on the next generation of trackers that should enable this.
- Eric Jain who works on Zenobase which pulls in data from different sources like the Fitbit, Withings scale or Foursquare. All data is put in automatically as much as possible, so no tedious entry forms. The aim is that it can track anything.
- Stan James had his webcam take pictures of himself every 30 minutes. He did this for a full year and tagged all the pictures manually so that he could see how often he works on his laptop in his bed or how often he works in coffee shops, touches his face or is on the phone. Read more about his Lifeslice project here.
QS Security and Privacy
James Burke started the conversation by mentioning two articles: Hackers Could Access Pacemakers From A Distance And Deliver Deadly Shocks and Fitbit users are unwittingly sharing details of their sex lives with the world. He also mentioned the by now infamous Target example.
We then discussed things like consent and the terms of service of a product. There was one participant in the session who is a diabetic and shares data with the provider of their medicine. She doesn’t like that because she isn’t always the “best patient”. James put up a picture of Google glass and we talked about who owns the data on what that device captures and told us how the NSA is currently recording all communications in the USA which led to a debate about the (false) dichotomy between security and privacy.
We talked about the changed EU Data protection directive with the following key changes:
- A single set of rules on data protection, valid across the EU. Unnecessary administrative requirements, such as notification requirements for companies, will be removed. This will save businesses around €2.3 billion a year.
- Instead of the current obligation of all companies to notify all data protection activities to data protection supervisors – a requirement that has led to unnecessary paperwork and costs businesses €130 million per year, the Regulation provides for increased responsibility and accountability for those processing personal data.
- For example, companies and organisations must notify the national supervisory authority of serious data breaches as soon as possible (if feasible within 24 hours).
- Organisations will only have to deal with a single national data protection authority in the EU country where they have their main establishment. Likewise, people can refer to the data protection authority in their country, even when their data is processed by a company based outside the EU. Wherever consent is required for data to be processed, it is clarified that it has to be given explicitly, rather than assumed.
- People will have easier access to their own data and be able to transfer personal data from one service provider to another more easily (right to data portability). This will improve competition among services.
- A ‘right to be forgotten’ will help people better manage data protection risks online: people will be able to delete their data if there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it.
- EU rules must apply if personal data is handled abroad by companies that are active in the EU market and offer their services to EU citizens.
- Independent national data protection authorities will be strengthened so they can better enforce the EU rules at home. They will be empowered to fine companies that violate EU data protection rules. This can lead to penalties of up to €1 million or up to 2% of the global annual turnover of a company.
- A new Directive will apply general data protection principles and rules for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The rules will apply to both domestic and cross-border transfers of data.
Joshua Kauffman walked into the room and dropped a little bomb: he said he had just patented a Google Glass app that makes use of the public database of images from convicts and allows you to protect your children from pedophiles and might help you in your business interactions. People looked shocked after which he revealed that of course he had not done that, but that the technology is there and that it would be trivial to make. We had a discussion about the sociological implications of technology. We touched on Paul Virillio’s idea that every technological development brings a new accident.
Tracking Subjective States
Dave Marvit showed us a slide about all the body data that can currently be captured by consumer grade devices. All of these are objective states. Ubiqutous continuous monitoring for many of these states is coming very soon. Dave then showed a prototype device that he is involved with that can measure stress levels (mainly on the basis of heartrate variability). They can map a person’s stress level with their GPS data (visualizing your pre-exit stress for example). He suggested we could aggregate subjective data, basically turning people into sensors. What would happen if we equipped all of Tokyo’s subway drivers with a stress sensor? What could it tell us about where the dangerous spot in the subway network are?
One participant in the session mentioned Christian Nold’s Bio Mapping project. Another mentioned how the quantified self movement is all about focusing intention.
Another “subjective” (maybe affective is a better word) state that people might want to track is for example drowsiness. Dave said that he wouldn’t mind it if cars would refuse to drive when somebody is too drowsy to drive.
Natasha Schüll desribed a little bit how casinos are measuring their customers (at slot machines for examples) so they can give them the right stimulus at the right time. She has written a book about the topic titled Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.
Somebody from the BBC mentioned the research projects he is involved with: basically a way to change the programming on the basis of what the TV (and other sensors) know about the people watching it (made us think of George Orwell!).
Life-Logging at Different Speeds
Cathal Gurrin summarized seven years of life logging. He wore a sensecam for seven years. Lifelogging is the automatic multimodal sensing of real world life experience and storing that in an archive. He tried to quantify as much as possible and gathered as much as he could. Lifelogging is very much about looking out. He gathered about 2 million photographs a year, 4 million GPS coordinates, screenshots of the computers he is using, etc. He needed software to process all this data. He noticed that the longer he wore the camera, the more valuable the data became for him. Currently he uses the Autographer. Over the years he learned a few things:
- No manual input please
- We do about 30 different things every day, these can be segmented in different moments automatically
- Lot’s of moments are insignificant, but some are very meaningful
- He doesn’t look at the images, software does (has an impact on privacy)
- The challenge is to extract meaning
- It is possible to design privacy into the systems
- Only 4% of the images are ‘good’, 40% are useless, 56% are for software processing
- People don’t mind the camera, but they do care about the audio
- You get used to it very quickly and stop acting differently after a few days
- There is no control of capture, so it captures embarrasing stuff
- Browsing or simple search is very hard when the data grows, you need advanced search
- The data is used for reflection, recall (validation), retrieval (finding something specific) and reminiscence (e.g. sharing with friends) (the information needs as identified by Microsoft, you always want to remember future intentions)
- It requires a significant investment in software (machine learning on images)
What he wants to do is identify what the person is doing and do this automatically and segment the data in activity types. You can then identify long time trends and activities. They have currently build some real world prototypes. They have created visual diaries, food logs (automatic identification of food), an installation called the colour of life (“seeing your life in one glance” on a colour chart), a thing called “What I’ve Seen” which allow you to find out, based on open source machine vision tools, when you’ve seen that object before (a marketing dream: when did a person see the Heineken logo), device personalities (“a conversation with the coffee machine”). They have now build a platform called Senseseer that unifies these things.
Next up was Buster Benson who is both a QS fanatic and sceptic. He likes to live publicly and sees privacy as a side-effect of not being connected. Check out his public beliefs on Github. He showed us a few of his projects like 750words and Health Month.
He talked to us about his project “8:36pm” which he has done for five years. He takes a photo at 8:36PM every day and captions the photo. He now has about 1785 photos with about 98% coverage. It is about is uncurated self. He is a fan of lifelong projects because they are so impossible.
There were a few sessions I wasn’t able to attend. I would have been interested in the app for good posture created by the people behind the Gokhale method and would have loved to see more about the Human Memome project.
After hearing Stan James talk at lunch I quickly wrote a little bash script that would capture an image of me behind my webcam and timestamp it. I then used cron to run the script every 10 minutes. I’ll leave it running for a little while to see what I can learn from that. For now I’ve mostly learned that my laptop has a very crappy camera (although I managed to fix the discoloration).
Marcel de Leeuwe, Ruud Smeulders and I hosted a Masterclass on Learning Business Models at the Dutch E-learning Event. TU Delft’s Pieter de Vries has written a solid report (in Dutch) about this session: De waarde van Online Learning gezien door de ogen van Board members.
You can find the Dutch slides from the session on SlideShare:
The biggest piece of work that I did for the session was to try and created a typology of learning delivery models. I wanted to stretch people’s minds and make them think creatively about all the different ways that you can implement a learning intervention.
I started by defining five dimensions in which one way of delivering learning can be different from another. Although I define these dimensions as polar states, I do realize that you often have situations that are in between the two poles. The dimensions are as follows (in no particular order):
Facilitated ↔ Self-directed
Many learners ↔ One learner
Integrated in work ↔ Outside of work
Continuous ↔ Beginning and end
Content focused (consume materials) ↔ Activity focused (produce materials)
These binary dimensions give us 32 (2 to the power of 5) different learning delivery possibilities. This frames a broad range of activities as learning: from a magazine subscription (facilitated, one learner, outside of work, continuous and content focused) to team work in a project (self-directed, many learners, integrated in work, beginning and end and activity focused).
Not all possibilities make immediate sense. But with a little bit of thought I came to the following archetypical learning delivery methods (ordered from high to low involvement from the learning and development department):
- Buying external knowledge (high)
- E-learning module of about an hour (high)
- Electronic performance support (high)
- Few days face to face course with a trainer (high)
- Multiweek online facilitated course (high)
- External coach (medium)
- Newsletter (medium)
- Online community of practice (medium)
- “Lunch and learn” session (medium)
- Open learning materials (e.g. a wiki) medium)
- Asking an internal expert (low)
- Master-apprentice relationship (low)
- Stretch assignment (e.g. a trainee programme) (low)
- Teamwork in a project (low)
So here is my assignment for you: First try and map each of these archetypes to the five different dimensions. Then try and think which of these you are already using and which ones you would like to use. Finally, it would be good to try and list your personal preference for these five dimensions. For example: I like (to create) events that are activity focused, have a beginning and an end, involve many learners, are as integrated into the work as possible and fall somewhere in between self-direction and facilitation. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
As this blog is licensed under Creative Commons license, I would more than welcome anybody who would visualize these dimensions and the resulting delivery models.
Just now I attended an event organized by the Club of Amsterdam (“Shaping Your Future in the Knowledge Society”) about the Future of Digital Identity at Info.nl. After getting a badge and being photographed without my consent I could enter.
There were three speakers, below my notes.
Can you be in control of your online identity?
Nowadays we can’t imagine a world without Internet anymore. We use the Internet for Social media, shopping, search engine etc and because of that we share a whole lot of information about ourselves. Once the information is there, it is nearly impossible to get it of the Internet. Is there a way we are able to change this? I think there is hope for all of us!
Hagen’s business is built on the inconvenience of having to identify yourself with paper things to do significant things online (like opening a bank account).
When you buy something in the offline world you aren’t asked a lot of information when you buy (a magazine paid for by cash for example), in the online world you need to share lots of personal details. This is not only inconvenient, but also is a security risk. He thinks these details should be left in a secure place (trusted 3rd parties), like E-Herkenning or NSTIC. They should be the trusted intermediary between you and an online service provider (or merchant). This can only work if these parties are free for the consumer (but they can make money with the data that you are willing to give away), independent and international/global.
IDchecker is only one part of the total puzzle (not an e-identity provider) . They have three main services:
- ID Document verification
- Intelligent Data Capture
- Face recognition (biometrics)
There was some strong criticism from Rop Gongrijp who said that these three things are trivial to forge, meaning that either the consumer doesn’t get what is promised or merchant gets the wrong information. Rop said: “Are you aware that you are potentially creating a worse nightmare than you are solving?” Another person asked why he would centralize information that was decentralized before (“my airline currently doesn’t know what books I buy”). According to Hagen these are issues with the trusted 3rd party e-identity providers and not with his ID checking service.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Living in the Panopticon
Balázs Bodó described his talk as follows:
The story of having a double identity / multiple personas is one of the most basic toposes of human imagination. We don’t need to be Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), or Superman (and Clarke Kent) to realize that most of us have more than one face. One we show in public, one, we prefer to keep private, one, we consciously maintain, another we unwillingly hint at, etc. The Internet makes it hard to compartmentalize these personas, since we all live in the “perfect prison”, in the Panopticon. Will Jeremy Bentham’s dream “Morals reformed — health preserved — industry invigorated — instruction diffused — public burthens lightened — Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock — the gordian knot of the poor-law not cut, but untied — all by a simple idea in Architecture!” will finally be achieved now?
The notion of privacy is culturally determined. Since moving to the Netherlands he has been thinking about how to live in a surveillance society. He doesn’t mean government surveillance, but the surveillance we create for ourselves with our smartphones. The definition between the public and the private has become somewhat blurry. He showed a Facebook graph search query: Family members of people who live in China who like Falun Gong. This is information that we create ourselves.
He asked people why we have such big windows in the Netherlands without curtains. They came back with a few answers:
- Showing off wealth
- Calvinist prescriptions
- Transparency as the casual enforcement of civility
The last of course relates to Bentham’s panopticon and Foucault describing how this type of thinking has completely permeated our everyday lives. Will transparency and reform our society? To more tolerance? Or to better ways of lying and deceiving?
We don’t really seem to care about these questions if we can:
- privatize surveillance
- turns privacy into an (exclusive) commodity
- data mine the networks
- turn the lack of privacy, and the decentralized resources of those observed into shareholder value
But Foucault also said “Where there is power there is resistance.”. There is a re-emergence of an underground (like the enlightenment and pirate publisher and the samizdat in the past) on the Internet. Think of things like Wikileaks, VPN, TOR, etc. According to Bodó we might have people taking advantage of our current privacy state, but in the long run “The technologies of disappearance will create gaps” and will “win”.
Panoptic Dystopia or Citizens’ Utopia?
Annie Machon‘s talk was summarized as::
We are at a crossroads in history: never before have people had such access to information and the ability to communicate with others as the Internet now provides. Conversely, never before have governments, intelligence agencies and corporations had such an ability to track our every move, thought and word, with social media such as Facebook providing access the spies could only dream of 15 years ago. As technology continues to evolve, how do we, as citizens, preserve our basic freedoms?
Machon used to be an MI5 intelligence officer and turned into a whistleblower because she saw many things in there that were wrong and illegal. This turned her and her partner into criminal and they had to go on the run. Having to be careful for many years about her behaviour has led her to think about how it would be to live in a police state.
Her whole talk consisted of terrible examples of how we are heedlessly sliding towards a panoptic distopia, she likes to spread the awareness…
In certain parts of the world this police state is in actual effect already: the American kill list leads to many people being killed in North Africa and the Middle East by drones without the US justifying this from a legal perspective. The Patriot Act has shredded the American constitution according to Machon. Websites with an American TLD like .com, .org or .net can just be taken down without any due process. The most famous case being Kim Dotcom who was illegally spied on by the US in New Zealand and arrested by an FBI swat team. We now even pursue thought crimes. She gave the example of a professor who posted his plan to behead a fake copy of prince William during the prince’s marriage ceremony and was promptly and pre-emptively locked up for 24 hours. The UK is famous for its CCTV cameras (currently there are at least 4 million publicly owned cameras). There are even talking CCTV cameras now that are monitored live. The next step will of course will be drones for crowd control.
Mussolini said that “Fascism is the merger of the corporate with the state” and this is precisely what we are seeing in the West. We need to fight back.
Stephen Shapiro from 27-4 Innovation was plugging his latest book Best Practices Are Stupid – 40 ways to Out-Innovate the Competition at an event I attended today. His focus is on how to speed up or accelerate the rate of innovation.
He started with an exercise where he pretended to measure how fast our brains were. He did this by shouting out different numbers in a very quick fashion. We had to capture those numbers. He would then give us assignments in the middle of it. Like “Write down the name of a genius.” Because we were under such time pressure we had remarkable little differentiation in our answers to these challenges.
Shapiro says that this is because “Expertise is the enemy of innovation”. The more you know about something, the more difficult it is to come up with new and interesting perspectives on it. When we find a solution we tend to stop looking.
He then gave us a little mathematical puzzle that showed that the way you phrase a question has a profound impact on how you work towards a solution. One of his favorite quotes is from Einstein:
If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem.. and one minute finding solutions.
Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow has far more eloquently stated descriptions of Shapiro’s examples of the biases in our thinking.
According to Shapiro asking better questions is at the heart of doing better innovation. You have to frame the question in a way that makes sense. He calls this the Goldilocks principle: the challenge needs to be defined exactly right, meaning not too abstract/broad, but also not too detailed. Or another way of phrasing it:
Ask the right question…
the right way…
to the right people.
This means that you have to move away from generic idea generation tools towards challenge based innovation. The added advantage of that is that you might avoid a common pitfal of crowd-sourcing, something Stephen names “mob-sourcing”.
A quick way to catalyse your thinking is to find someone who has already solved a similar problem. When members of a team are cut from the same cloth… you don’t see many failures, but you don’t see many extraordinary innovations either. Innovation is not invention: it is taking something that already exists from a different domain and adapting it.
Based on my presentation at last year’s E-learning Event I was interviewed by the Tijdschrift voor Coaching about culture and the quantified self. You can read a PDF of the Dutch interview by clicking the image below:
Marcel de Leeuwe and I hosted a session at the E-learning Event on Do-It-Yourself learning (building on what we had done earlier at the Masie conference last year). The slides are available on SlideShare.
We copied one of Mitra’s Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) experiments and gave all the attendees a challenging assignment to be solved by themselves in groups of four while Marcel and I walked out of the room for 20 minutes. This gave us interesting results: the attendees had no problem engaging with the assignment and were hard to stop after 20 minutes of discussion, while Marcel at the same was struggling with letting go (“Can we please check whether they are doing ok? Shouldn’t we tell them they only have 10 minutes left?”). This taught us that it is often our own behaviour as educators that is an inhibitor for people making themselves responsible for their own learning.
Minimally invasive pedagogy (as Mitra calls it) could then be a way to battle the now pervasive learned helplessness.
During the boardroom session at the E-Learning event I worked with Marcel (again) and Ruud Smeulders to deliver a masterclass on Learning Business Models. I’ll publish a full post about that session a little bit later.
In the webinar for En Nu Online we also discussed self-organized (or self-directed) learning. I did a short presentation, explained my rules for a Socratic conversation and then we discussed on the basis of a few questions. One interesting topic we addressed was the balance between providing a safe learning environment while at the same luring the learner into a stretch or into a zone where they are less comfortabe. The webinar has been recorded (there were some technical issues during the start, heroically battled by Sibrenne Wagenaar and Joitske Hulsebosch). You can view the Dutch recording on YouTube:
Earlier this year I visited the Caledonian Academy (part of the Glasgow Caledonian University). Their work focuses solely on technology-enhanced and professional learning. I spent most of a day exploring their delightful areas of research and have now finally found the time to write it all up.
Learning from Incidents
In the project they combined the literature around Safety with the literate on Learning. Learning is usually a blind spot when it comes to “Learning from Incidents”. Most approaches come from safety science which is mainly based on engineering (i.e. ergonomics, human factors). In his research Dane used a “Change Laboratory” method (based on Finnish research). This is a way to analyze problems in which you have as many people from the site as you can together, meet in a set of workshops and present a “mirror” as an external view.
Two models were developed through these workshops: a conceptual framework and a cycle model:
Next to developing these models Dane learned some interesting things:
- Face-saving and blame are important elements: you should be aiming for double-loop learning.
- Currently the approach isn’t changed on the basis of the type of incident: simple, complicated, complex or chaotic (e.g. “best practices” only work for simple problems, not for complex problems). Instead we only look at the level of the hazard.
- Often it is thought that we have learned once we have disseminated. That is like giving students books and saying that they have learned.
- You should allow and encourage people to give feedback during the contextualization phase and these should get “feedback on their feedback”.
He is now working on Learning from Incidents Engage (to be finished in June this year), a toolkit on the basis of his PhD work. It will include a questionnaire (780 respondents), an online model of the cycle, a set of recommendations and a Learning from Incidents engagement session (i.e. how can you run a session that helps with improvement). The toolkit will be online and should grow through use. Other staff working on Learning from Incidents are Allison Littlejohn and Anoush Margaryan.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
Isobel Falconer and Allison Littlejohn talked to me about a few Open Educational Resources (OER) related projects and studies. The OER4Adults investigates the work and learning practices evolving through the use of OERs. It builds on the earlier UKOER which explores the social aspects of open educational and open knowledge practices in the public and private sectors. Other staff working on OER are Lou McGill and Helen Beetman.
They find that increasingly the private sector (commercial publishers) and higher education collaborate around OER and are interested in exploring the ways that lifelong learners make use of these materials. A lot of the OERs are around providing content, but there are also examples of community formation around them. Take for example Community Energy Scotland.
The professional practice around Open Educational Resources is in development. They found that it really makes people think differently when they start to think about openness. There are many issues to explore. For example: is the license important or is it just access that is relevant (making the learning barrier free). How can the student expectation of being lectured (“it is far more efficient if they tell me, rather than me finding it out myself”) be overcome? What are the barriers of the community? How does trust work? How to deal with the conflicting motivations between people and institutions? How to deal with academics who only blog and stop writing articles (and how does that relate to the Research Excellence Framework)?
Work and Learning at the Boundaries of Knowledge
Pia Fontana and Colin Milligan talked to me about a project titled Work and Learning at the Boundaries of Knowledge which aims to surface, describe and systematize the strategies that knowledge workers use to self-regulate the learning they undertake to maintain expertise and support the generation of new knowledge. Other staff working on the project are Anoush Margaryan and Allison Littlejohn.
For Self Regulated Learning (or SRL) they used Zimmerman’s thinking who has a social cognitive perspective on it. Zimmerman says that there are three cyclic phases:
- Forethought phase where goal setting behaviour is important
- Performance or Volitional Control phase (or implementation) where it is about strategies and devoting attention
- Self-Reflection phase where it is important to measure yourself internally or externally
They did research on SRL in the Change 2011 MOOC. They are still analysing the results but will likely have a typology of SRL activities and strategies of knowledge workers when they are done. Collin has already written about some initial findings on his blog.
“Consume, Connect, Contribute, Create”
Most of these miss the important part of goal-setting which is an integral part of the charting methodology.
This post is an assignment for the participants of the “Sociale media voor Leren en Veranderen in Organisaties en Netwerken”-leergang by En Nu Online.
(Click here to get a Google Translated Dutch version of this post).
Last February Sugata Mitra was awarded the TED prize for 2013. The prize money will help him carry out his wish:
My wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together. Help me build the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online. I also invite you, wherever you are, to create your own miniature child-driven learning environments and share your discoveries.
Watch Mitra describe his plans here:
I can’t link to this video without also linking to some of the criticism of his work. Audrey Watters raises some questions about, among other things, the history of schooling as it is told in the video, about (neo-)colonialism and about the commercial interests. Donald Clark lists 7 reasons for doubting Mitra’s success story.
Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE)
According to Mitra you can organize a Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) for children by putting multiple children in a group, adding some broadband Internet and some encouragement and then drop in what he calls “curiosity catalysts”: large, open, difficult and interesting questions for these groups of children to answer. Self-driven learning is also becoming a current topic in professional development. See this post by Jane Hart as one example. We will explore whether Mitra’s thinking can help us in the workplace.
For this assignment please do the following:
- Please download the Mitra SOLE toolkit from the TED website
- Read the toolkit
- Answer the following three questions by posting a comment at the bottom of this blog post:
- What might be the key differences between child-driven learning (self-organized, curious, engaged, social, collaborative, motivated by peer-interest, fueled by adult encouragement and admiration) and the way adults learn?
- What are the skills of a self-learning professional? How can professionals be supported in their self-directed learning?
- What curiosity catalysts can you think of that you could ask your direct colleagues (or customers)? Think of two good questions.
- Find a new web-resource about self-directed learning (or self-organized learning, do-it-yourself learning, new-fashioned learning etc.) and post it as a comment on this blog post. It is “new” when nobody has posted it here before (so be quick!). It would be interesting to know why you chose this resource in particular.
There is no better way to judge how something works then to try it out. Starting from page 9 of the Mitra SOLE toolkit there is a home assignment: create a SOLE for children in your own home.
It would be wonderful if some of you could try this out with a group of children. Of course you will then send your feedback to Mitra and his team, but a comment here on the blog and/or some thoughts during the seminar are well appreciated too.