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Children learn best when engaged in the living world not on screens | Aeon Essays
"As a parent, it is obvious that children learn more when they engage their entire body in a meaningful experience than when they sit at a computer. If you doubt this, just observe children watching an activity on a screen and then doing the same activity for themselves. They are much more engaged riding a horse than watching a video about it, playing a sport with their whole bodies rather than a simulated version of it in an online game.

Today, however, many powerful people are pushing for children to spend more time in front of computer screens, not less. Philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have contributed millions of dollars to ‘personal learning’, a term that describes children working by themselves on computers, and Laurene Powell Jobs has bankrolled the XQ Super School project to use technology to ‘transcend the confines of traditional teaching methodologies’. Policymakers such as the US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos call personalised learning ‘one of the most promising developments in K-12 education’, and Rhode Island has announced a statewide personalised learning push for all public school students. Think tanks such as the Brookings Institution recommend that Latin-American countries build ‘massive e-learning hubs that reach millions’. School administrators tout the advantages of giving all students, including those at kindergarten, personal computers.

Many adults appreciate the power of computers and the internet, and think that children should have access to them as soon as possible. Yet screen learning displaces other, more tactile ways to discover the world. Human beings learn with their eyes, yes, but also their ears, nose, mouth, skin, heart, hands, feet. The more time kids spend on computers, the less time they have to go on field trips, build model airplanes, have recess, hold a book in their hands, or talk with teachers and friends. In the 21st century, schools should not get with the times, as it were, and place children on computers for even more of their days. Instead, schools should provide children with rich experiences that engage their entire bodies.

To better understand why so many people embrace screen learning, we can turn to a classic of 20th-century French philosophy: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (1945).

According to Merleau-Ponty, European philosophy has long prioritised ‘seeing’ over ‘doing’ as a path to understanding. Plato, René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant: each, in different ways, posits a gap between the mind and the world, the subject and the object, the thinking self and physical things. Philosophers take for granted that the mind sees things from a distance. When Descartes announced ‘I think therefore I am’, he was positing a fundamental gulf between the thinking self and the physical body. Despite the novelty of digital media, Merleau-Ponty would contend that Western thought has long assumed that the mind, not the body, is the site of thinking and learning.

According to Merleau-Ponty, however, ‘consciousness is originally not an “I think that”, but rather an “I can”’. In other words, human thinking emerges out of lived experience, and what we can do with our bodies profoundly shapes what philosophers think or scientists discover. ‘The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived world,’ he wrote. Phenomenology of Perception aimed to help readers better appreciate the connection between the lived world and consciousness.

Philosophers are in the habit of saying that we ‘have’ a body. But as Merleau-Ponty points out: ‘I am not in front of my body, I am in my body, or rather I am my body.’ This simple correction carries important implications about learning. What does it mean to say that I am my body?

The mind is not somehow outside of time and space. Instead, the body thinks, feels, desires, hurts, has a history, and looks ahead. Merleau-Ponty invented the term ‘intentional arc’ to describe how consciousness connects ‘our past, our future, our human milieu, our physical situation, our ideological situation, and our moral situation’. He makes readers attend to the countless aspects of the world that permeate our thinking.

Merleau-Ponty challenges us to stop believing that the human mind transcends the rest of nature. Humans are thinking animals whose thinking is always infused with our animality. As the cognitive scientist Alan Jasanoff explains in a recent Aeon essay, it is even misleading to idealise the brain independent of the rest of the viscera. The learning process happens when an embodied mind ‘gears’ into the world.

Take the example of dancing. From a Cartesian perspective, the mind moves the body like a puppeteer pulls strings to move a puppet. To learn to dance, in this paradigm, a person needs to memorise a sequence of steps. For Merleau-Ponty, on the contrary, the way to learn to dance is to move one’s physical body in space: ‘in order for the new dance to integrate particular elements of general motricity, it must first have received, so to speak, a motor consecration.’ The mind does not reflect and make a conscious decision before the body moves; the body ‘catches’ the movement.

Philosophers have long attributed a spectatorial stance to the mind, when in fact the body participates in the world. It is common sense that the head is the ‘seat of thought’, but ‘the principal regions of my body are consecrated to actions’, and the ‘parts of my body participate in their value’. People learn, think and value with every part of their bodies, and our bodies know things that we can never fully articulate in words.

Surely, one could reply, this might be true for physical activities such as dancing but does not apply to all intellectual pursuits. Merleau-Ponty would respond: ‘The body is our general means of having a world.’ Everything we learn, think or know emanates from our body. It is by walking through a meadow, hiking beside a river, and boating down a lake that we are able to appreciate the science of geography. It is by talking with other people and learning their stories that we can appreciate literature. Buying food for our family infuses us with a conviction that we need to learn mathematics. We cannot always trace the route from experience to knowledge, from a childhood activity to adult insight. But there is no way for us to learn that bypasses the body: ‘the body is our anchorage in a world’.

Merleau-Ponty would not be surprised if people showed him students learning on a screen. Students can project themselves into the world that they see on a screen, just as many people are capable of thinking abstractly. As long as children have had some exposure to the world and other people, they should be able to make some sense of what they see on screens.

Still, Merleau-Ponty gives us reasons to resist the trend towards computer-based education. Proponents of personalised learning point to the advantages of having kids on computers for much of the school day, including students working at their own pace to meet learning objectives. However, from a phenomenological perspective, it is not clear why students will want to do this for very long when the experience is so removed from their flesh-and-blood lives. Teachers and parents will have to use incentives, threats and medication to make children sit at computers for long stretches of time when children want to run, play, paint, eat, sing, compete and laugh. To put it bluntly: advocates of screen learning sometimes seem to forget that children are young animals that want to move in the world, not watch it from a distance."
children  learning  nature  bodies  education  schools  howwelearn  2018  nicholastampio  howwethink  mauricemerleau-ponty  1945  plato  descartes  johnlocke  kant  davidhume  perception  screens  digital  technology  senses  personalization  sfsh  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  body 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Minecraft Generation - The New York Times
"Seth Frey, a postdoctoral fellow in computational social science at Dartmouth College, has studied the behavior of thousands of youths on Minecraft servers, and he argues that their interactions are, essentially, teaching civic literacy. “You’ve got these kids, and they’re creating these worlds, and they think they’re just playing a game, but they have to solve some of the hardest problems facing humanity,” Frey says. “They have to solve the tragedy of the commons.” What’s more, they’re often anonymous teenagers who, studies suggest, are almost 90 percent male (online play attracts far fewer girls and women than single-­player mode). That makes them “what I like to think of as possibly the worst human beings around,” Frey adds, only half-­jokingly. “So this shouldn’t work. And the fact that this works is astonishing.”

Frey is an admirer of Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize-­winning political economist who analyzed the often-­unexpected ways that everyday people govern themselves and manage resources. He sees a reflection of her work in Minecraft: Running a server becomes a crash course in how to compromise, balance one another’s demands and resolve conflict.

Three years ago, the public library in Darien, Conn., decided to host its own Minecraft server. To play, kids must acquire a library card. More than 900 kids have signed up, according to John Blyberg, the library’s assistant director for innovation and user experience. “The kids are really a community,” he told me. To prevent conflict, the library installed plug-ins that give players a chunk of land in the game that only they can access, unless they explicitly allow someone else to do so. Even so, conflict arises. “I’ll get a call saying, ‘This is Dasher80, and someone has come in and destroyed my house,’ ” Blyberg says. Sometimes library administrators will step in to adjudicate the dispute. But this is increasingly rare, Blyberg says. “Generally, the self-­governing takes over. I’ll log in, and there’ll be 10 or 15 messages, and it’ll start with, ‘So-and-so stole this,’ and each message is more of this,” he says. “And at the end, it’ll be: ‘It’s O.K., we worked it out! Disregard this message!’ ”

Several parents and academics I interviewed think Minecraft servers offer children a crucial “third place” to mature, where they can gather together outside the scrutiny and authority at home and school. Kids have been using social networks like Instagram or Snapchat as a digital third place for some time, but Minecraft imposes different social demands, because kids have to figure out how to respect one another’s virtual space and how to collaborate on real projects.

“We’re increasingly constraining youth’s ability to move through the world around them,” says Barry Joseph, the associate director for digital learning at the American Museum of Natural History. Joseph is in his 40s. When he was young, he and his friends roamed the neighborhood unattended, where they learned to manage themselves socially. Today’s fearful parents often restrict their children’s wanderings, Joseph notes (himself included, he adds). Minecraft serves as a new free-­ranging realm.

Joseph’s son, Akiva, is 9, and before and after school he and his school friend Eliana will meet on a Minecraft server to talk and play. His son, Joseph says, is “at home but still getting to be with a friend using technology, going to a place where they get to use pickaxes and they get to use shovels and they get to do that kind of building. I wonder how much Minecraft is meeting that need — that need that all children have.” In some respects, Minecraft can be as much social network as game.

Just as Minecraft propels kids to master Photoshop or video-­editing, server life often requires kids to acquire complex technical skills. One 13-year-old girl I interviewed, Lea, was a regular on a server called Total Freedom but became annoyed that its administrators weren’t clamping down on griefing. So she asked if she could become an administrator, and the owners said yes.

For a few months, Lea worked as a kind of cop on that beat. A software tool called “command spy” let her observe records of what players had done in the game; she teleported miscreants to a sort of virtual “time out” zone. She was eventually promoted to the next rank — “telnet admin,” which allowed her to log directly into the server via telnet, a command-­line tool often used by professionals to manage servers. Being deeply involved in the social world of Minecraft turned Lea into something rather like a professional systems administrator. “I’m supposed to take charge of anybody who’s breaking the rules,” she told me at the time.

Not everyone has found the online world of Minecraft so hospitable. One afternoon while visiting the offices of Mouse, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan that runs high-tech programs for kids, I spoke with Tori. She’s a quiet, dry-­witted 17-year-old who has been playing Minecraft for two years, mostly in single-­player mode; a recent castle-­building competition with her younger sister prompted some bickering after Tori won. But when she decided to try an online server one day, other players — after discovering she was a girl — spelled out “BITCH” in blocks.

She hasn’t gone back. A group of friends sitting with her in the Mouse offices, all boys, shook their heads in sympathy; they’ve seen this behavior “everywhere,” one said. I have been unable to find solid statistics on how frequently harassment happens in Minecraft. In the broader world of online games, though, there is more evidence: An academic study of online players of Halo, a shoot-’em-up game, found that women were harassed twice as often as men, and in an unscientific poll of 874 self-­described online gamers, 63 percent of women reported “sex-­based taunting, harassment or threats.” Parents are sometimes more fretful than the players; a few told me they didn’t let their daughters play online. Not all girls experience harassment in Minecraft, of course — Lea, for one, told me it has never happened to her — and it is easy to play online without disclosing your gender, age or name. In-game avatars can even be animals.

How long will Minecraft’s popularity endure? It depends very much on Microsoft’s stewardship of the game. Company executives have thus far kept a reasonably light hand on the game; they have left major decisions about the game’s development to Mojang and let the team remain in Sweden. But you can imagine how the game’s rich grass-roots culture might fray. Microsoft could, for example, try to broaden the game’s appeal by making it more user-­friendly — which might attenuate its rich tradition of information-­sharing among fans, who enjoy the opacity and mystery. Or a future update could tilt the game in a direction kids don’t like. (The introduction of a new style of combat this spring led to lively debate on forums — some enjoyed the new layer of strategy; others thought it made Minecraft too much like a typical hack-and-slash game.) Or an altogether new game could emerge, out-­Minecrafting Minecraft.

But for now, its grip is strong. And some are trying to strengthen it further by making it more accessible to lower-­income children. Mimi Ito has found that the kids who acquire real-world skills from the game — learning logic, administering servers, making YouTube channels — tend to be upper middle class. Their parents and after-­school programs help them shift from playing with virtual blocks to, say, writing code. So educators have begun trying to do something similar, bringing Minecraft into the classroom to create lessons on everything from math to history. Many libraries are installing Minecraft on their computers."
2016  clivethompson  education  videogames  games  minecraft  digitalculture  gaming  mimiito  robinsloan  coding  computationalthinking  stem  programming  commandline  ianbogost  walterbenjamin  children  learning  resilience  colinfanning  toys  lego  wood  friedrichfroebel  johnlocke  rebeccamir  mariamontessori  montessori  carltheodorsorensen  guilds  mentoring  mentorship  sloyd  denmark  construction  building  woodcrafting  woodcraft  adventureplaygrounds  material  logic  basic  mojang  microsoft  markuspersson  notch  modding  photoshop  texturepacks  elinorostrom  collaboration  sethfrey  civics  youtube  networkedlearning  digitalliteracy  hacking  computers  screentime  creativity  howwelearn  computing  froebel 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Poly-Technic
[via: https://twitter.com/KatePahl/status/518992037740568576 ]

"The Poly-Technic is the collaborative arts practice of Steve Pool and Kate Genever. It is grown from a set of key principles, is not buildings based, geographically specific or funding reliant. It aims to provide a melting pot for ideas, exploring how knowledge is found in places and people as well as books and the internet. The ambition is to bring people together to think around the intersection between art, places, research and in doing so build what we call a “Generative Space”.

Our Manifesto includes ideas such as: Conflict can be generative, Stuff comes from stuff, Abandon what you think you know and It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes. The Poly-Technic is an idea which can change shape while maintaining it’s form and works across disciplines with the aim of developing and promoting the idea of Wider World Artists [WWA]. We offer a mentoring service and have to date offered opportunities such as bursaries, a summer school, residencies and a commissions scheme."

[See also: http://kategenever-stevepool.blogspot.co.uk/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/news/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/publications/ ]

["How to learn from people"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-R_S83EY84 ]

[Manifesto
http://poly-technic.co.uk/manifesto-2/ ]

"Abandon what you think you know: It’s not easy to gradually let go of well developed expertise, at the Poly-Technic we suggest that it’s best to abandon it all in one go. Disciplinary boundaries can only be collapsed when we stop holding onto disciplinary knowledge.

It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes: We are not afraid to part with or transform ideas into something new. Polytechnic projects are always “In-Process”.

Trust in the process: Trust yourself and trust in others, trust you will be surprised, trust you will be interested, trust in the future. Trust and belief depend on optimism; without which we are lost.

Meaning is negotiated: The author died in 1967, his children carry on trying to make sense of just about everything.

Conflict can be generative: Work hard to learn the difference between good conflict and bad conflict. But like cholesterol its difficult to know the difference between the good and the bad until it’s too late.

Stuff comes from stuff: trying, helping, working, making, talking – new ideas come from doing.

Make through thinking: the opposite of ‘stuff comes from stuff’, but its still active, its rigorous thinking

Be playful – improvise: Play games, play serious games – Nabeel Hamdi

Craft your practice: We could have said follow your line. The line is not to be broken, it is not marked on a short or long term strategic plan it flows from your feet and hands and entwines us with the world.

Feel your way: The artist’s business is to feel, although he may think a little sometimes… when he has nothing better to do. (John Ruskin)

Question everything: through deep reflection.

It is ambition enough to be employed as an under labourer in clearing ground a little, and removing some rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge. [John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 1689.] As such we hope to beat a path through the nettles to a light dappled clearing in the woods and have a nice cup of tea.

Kate Genever and Steve Pool. 2012"
poly-technic  art  stevepool  kategenever  glvo  rolisoen  learning  howwelearn  trickster  knowledge  conflict  manifestos  play  unknowing  notknowing  interdisciplinary  antdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject  process  meaning  making  howwework  thinking  ideas  practice  johnruskin  feeling  reflection  questioning  questionasking  skepticism  ambition  johnlocke  optimism  askingquestions 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Empires Revolution of the Present - marclafia
"The film and online project brings together international philosophers, scientists and artists to give description and analysis to the contemporary moment as defined by computational tools and networks.

It states that networks are not new and have been forever with us in the evolution of our cities, trade, communications and sciences, in our relations as businesses and nation states, in the circulation of money, food, arms and our shared ecology.

Yet something has deeply changed in our experience of time, work, community, the global. Empires looks deeply to unravel how we speak to the realities of the individual and the notion of the public and public 'good' in this new world at the confluence of money, cities, computation, politics and science."

[Film website: http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org/ ]

[Trailer: https://vimeo.com/34852940 ]
[First cut (2:45:05): https://vimeo.com/32734201 ]

[YouTube (1:21:47): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaTw5epW_QI ]

"Join the conversation at http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org

Summary: The hope was that network technology would bring us together, create a "global village," make our political desires more coherent. But what's happened is that our desires have become distributed, exploded into images and over screens our eyes relentlessly drop to view.

REVOLUTION OF THE PRESENT examines the strange effects — on cities, economies, people — of what we might call accelerated capitalism. Set against a visually striking array of sounds and images, 15 international thinkers speak to the complexity and oddity of this contemporary moment as they discuss what is and what can be.

Documentary Synopsis:
Humanity seems to be stuck in the perpetual now that is our networked world. More countries are witnessing people taking to the streets in search of answers. Revolution of the Present, the film, features interviews with thought leaders designed to give meaning to our present and precarious condition. This historic journey allows us to us re-think our presumptions and narratives about the individual and society, the local and global, our politics and technology. This documentary analyzes why the opportunity to augment the scope of human action has become so atomized and diminished. Revolution of the Present is an invitation to join the conversation and help contribute to our collective understanding.

As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, 'we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global, which is healthy.' One could say that our film raises more questions than it answers, but this is our goal. Asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to do to understand the present, and to move forward from it with a healthy skepticism.

Revolution of the Present is structured as an engaging dinner conversation, there is no narrator telling you what to think, it is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation, it is an invitation to sit at the table and join an in depth conversation about our diverse and plural world."

[See also: http://hilariousbookbinder.blogspot.com/2014/09/rethinking-internet-networks-capitalism.html ]

[Previously:
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:ec1d3463d74b
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:9f60604ec3b3 ]
marclafia  networks  philosophy  politics  science  money  cities  scale  economics  capitalism  2014  kazysvarnelis  communication  communications  business  work  labor  psychology  greglindsay  saskiasassen  urban  urbanism  freedom  freewill  howardbloom  juanenríquez  michaelhardt  anthonypagden  danielisenberg  johnhenryclippinger  joséfernández  johannaschiller  douglasrushkoff  manueldelanda  floriancrammer  issaclubb  nataliejeremijenko  wendychun  geertlovink  nishantshah  internet  online  web  danielcoffeen  michaelchichi  jamesdelbourgo  sashasakhar  pedromartínez  miguelfernándezpauldocherty  alexandergalloway  craigfeldman  irenarogovsky  matthewrogers  globalization  networkedculture  networkculture  history  change  nationstates  citystates  sovreignty  empire  power  control  antonionegri  geopolitics  systems  systemsthinking  changemaking  meaningmaking  revolution  paradigmshifts  johnlocke  bourgeoisie  consumption  middleclass  class  democracy  modernity  modernism  government  governence  karlmarx  centralization  socialism  planning  urbanplanning  grass 
october 2014 by robertogreco
How New York Pay Phones Became Guerrilla Libraries - Arts & Lifestyle - The Atlantic Cities
"John Locke thinks people should read more. So in the past few months, the Columbia architecture grad has slipped around Manhattan with a sack of books and custom-made shelves, converting old pay phones into pop-up libraries."
guerillalearning  guerillalibraries  payphones  booksharing  books  pop-uplibraries  popup  pop-ups  art  johnlocke  architecture  libraries  nyc 
february 2012 by robertogreco
City Walks and Tactile Experience
"This paper is an attempt to develop categories of the pedestrian’s tactile and kinaesthetic experience of the city. The beginning emphasizes the haptic qualities of surfaces and textures, which can be “palpated” visually or experienced by walking. Also the lived city is three-dimensional; its corporeal depth is discussed here in relation to the invisible sewers, protuberant profiles, and the formal diversity of roofscapes. A central role is ascribed in the present analysis to the formal similarities between the representation of the city by walking through it and the representation of the tactile form of objects. Additional aspects of the “tactile” experience of the city in a broad sense concern the feeling of their rhythms and the exposure to weather conditions. Finally, several aspects of contingency converge in the visible age of architectural works, which record traces of individual and collective histories."
urban  walking  urbanism  cities  tacticalurbanism  materiality  textures  sufaces  porosity  roofscapes  movement  pulse  rhythm  experiential  time  touch  patina  history  atemporality  MădălinaDiaconu  weather  plato  johnlocke  hobbes  vitruvius  sensation  contact 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: The Lily: Evolution, Play and the Power of a Free Society eBook: Daniel Cloud: Kindle Store
"Why does a free society work so well? Are civil and political rights really indispensible for full modernity? Must we be free because we're prescient or because we're blind? The book is intended as a contribution to the genre that includes Mill's "On Liberty," Locke's "Second Treatise of Government" and Popper's "Open Society and its Enemies.""
books  toread  play  freedom  freesociety  society  evolution  johnlocke  karlpopper  johnstuartmill  opensociety  government  modernity  rights 
july 2011 by robertogreco
KNOTS: the architecture of problems « LEBBEUS WOODS
"we should not let the lack of a ready answer be a reason to avoid asking a question. Indeed, the only questions worth asking are those for which we do not already have an answer. In this seminar we will not shy away from looking at the most daunting problems.

The approach we will take is based on a way of breaking down—analyzing—problems in terms of three components of every problem we as architects confront: the spatial, the social, and the philosophical. Certainly there are other possible categories we could employ, but I have chosen these based on my experiences and also to work well within the structure of our seminar and its time-frame. The following presentation is an example of how the three chosen categories work in attempting to formulate a particularly intractable ‘knot’ confronting us today: the problem of slums:"
architecture  problemsolving  slums  lebbeuswoods  philosophy  theory  infrastructure  knots  mcescher  stanleykubrick  theshining  cities  poverty  riodejaneiro  sãopaulo  social  society  mumbai  nyc  singapore  manila  design  community  gatedcommunities  wealth  disparity  thomashobbes  human  johnlocke  magnacarta  history  declarationofindependence  capitalism  socialism  adamsmith  socialmobility  communism  karlmarx  marxism  friedrichengels  aynrand  objectivism 
october 2010 by robertogreco
stevenberlinjohnson.com: The Glass Box And The Commonplace Book [If you are looking at this, you are looking at my commonpace book—Delicious.]
"“commonplacing,”...transcribing interesting/inspirational passages from reading, assembling personalized encyclopedia of quotes...central tension btwn order & chaos, btwn desire for methodical arrangement, & desire for surprising new links of association...rereading of commonplace book becomes new kind of revelation...holds promise that some long-forgotten hunch will connect in new way w/some emerging obsession...words could be copied, re-arranged, put to surprising new uses in surprising new contexts. By stitching together passages written by multiple authors, w/out explicit permission/consultation, new awareness could take shape...connective power of web is stronger than filtering...partisan blogs usually 1 click away from opposites...[in] print or f2f groups [leap to] opposing point of view...rarer...reason web works wonderfully...leads us...to common places, not glass boxes...journalists, educators, publishers, software devs, & readers—keep those connections alive."
hunches  stevenjohnson  ipad  books  print  web  google  search  connections  commonplacebooks  johnlocke  thomasjefferson  notetaking  quotations  quotecollections  cv  howwework  connectivism  recursion  history  creativity  copyright  context  connectivity  hypertext  internet  journalism  language  literature  media  reading  writing  technology  research  2010  drm  education  learning  patterns  patternrecognition  revelation 
may 2010 by robertogreco

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