Collective implicit learning and the internet

Morning reading. Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology, 1990 (revised 1999).

Franklin describes how, in a classroom, students are learning some particular thing, but are also picking up social skills “ranging from listening, tolerance, and cooperation to patience, trust, or anger management.” She then tells a story as a metaphor, of people who take a ski lift and then ski downhill — doing something complex and dangerous without having first acquired the skills to manage climbing, falling, getting up again on skis. Presumably by going up a hill on skis, which I didn’t even know was a thing, or, I guess in cross country skiing you are going up and down hills.

Well, anyway, her point is that on the internet or in online collaboration more people are… doing stuff… without having practiced and socialized the skills to do it in a social or maybe a public context. This may be less true than it was in 1990 or 1999. (And, anyway, not SO different from letter writing, though I recall all those “netiquette” guides. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen something like that. Do elementary schools teach internet manners?)

It often strikes me as I listen to my teenagers online in games with their friends, from their early days building things in Minecraft to later games like Overwatch, that they are becoming very skilled in negotiating, planning, and executing their plans in a collaborative way over voice and text chat, combined with whatever layers of drama exist between them. It’s a set of complex skills that they’ll bring into their adult online life. This isn’t that complicated of an idea, but I think of it when I listen to other parents freaking out about “screen time” or the pointlessness of games.

Tangential but I also liked this quote she includes from Fritz Schumacher,

. . .we may derive the three purposes of human work as follows:
First, to provide necessary and useful goods and services.
Second, to enable every one of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts like good stewards.
Third, to do so in service to, and in cooperation with, others, so as to liberate ourselves from our inborn egocentricity.

That’s so interesting! I looked Schumacher up just now, and realized that his book A Guide for the Perplexed is the VERY BOOK that my friend Rose was describing at dinner last night!!!!! WTF!!! It’s like when you first hear a word and then come across it everywhere.

1 thought on “Collective implicit learning and the internet

  1. “I guess in cross country skiing you are going up and down hills” <— absolutely, from my very biased đŸ™‚ viewpoint as an enthusiastic but not expert cross-country skier for 25 years and a coach for 8 years, you earn your descent by making the ascent and learning to go uphill is a key component of cross-country skiing (and it's complicated but not really that difficult to go uphill if you devote enough time to it and don't have pre-existing physical conditions!)

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