Thursday, December 29, 2016

Rhizo Classroom: Rebooting the Narrative

I've been working on the idea of complex ethics, and I still have more to write, but I want to take a post to reflect on a larger issue. It seems to me that my writing about ethics is part of a larger effort to rethink the way I make sense of the world. I'm trying to rethink how I make meaning, and this has been made clear to me in several posts that I've read lately.

I'll start with a post by Jordan Greenhall in Venessa Miemis' emergent by design blog entitled "Kickstarter for a New Civilization". Greenhall argues for rebooting human civilization, starting with new sensemaking tools and strategies. He notes that while traditional science "has been a powerful sense making apparatus for the past 500 years", it is no longer adequate for the complexity confronting humanity. In a subsequent post, "Constructing the New Narrative", Greenhall identifies narrative as core to developing new sense-making tools for a complex world:
It is clear that in an increasingly complex world where your personal experience can account for only the tiniest sliver of potential experience, it is only through narrative — and its ability to allow individuals to benefit from the experiences of other individuals — that we can hope to collectively make sense of our world and become individually capable of navigating that world successfully.
Unfortunately, too much of our collective narrative, according to Greenhall, has been hijacked by malware. It's time to reboot.

Of course, rebooting narratives is not new, as I am reminded in Bonnie Stewart's post "temporarily embarrassed millionaires", in which she makes an intelligent call to reboot the education narrative, especially adult education, in the style of maritime Canada's Antigonish Movement. I think her call is timely, and I will attend to it to see if there is room for me to contribute. I suspect there will be. In the comments after the post, Bonnie links to Nathan J. Robinson's Current Affairs post "WHY IS “THE DECIMATION OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS” A BAD THING?", in which Robinson explains how we must change the narrative about public education if we are to cope with the changes in US public education that seem forthcoming from a Trump administration. Again, it's time to reboot, and I argue that while a pending Trump administration may heighten our sense of urgency, we've needed to reboot public education for some time.

Of course, in her blog Reflecting Allowed,  Maha Bali has been calling regularly for rebooting the narratives that we live and work by. I could reference any number of Maha's posts, but I'll use the most recent, as of this post. In the post "On Noticing Absence (also #OER17)", Maha argues that absence is an important part of our narratives, a point too often ignored by data analytics, for instance, which are strongly biased toward what is present, not what is absent. We need information theory that accounts for no signal. Then in "On Noticing Absence in Algorithms part 2", she explores her issues with the persistent narrative about computer technology replacing teachers in education. Again, I sense that it's time to reboot our narratives.

So if I have to explain what I'm doing with this series of posts about complex ethics, then I think I am trying to reboot my narrative about how and why I should make choices that perturb the world. Our ethics are one of the ways we make sense of the world, and my ethics need rebooting. I believe the world is complex, not simple, and I need ethics that are complex rather than simple. Most of the ethics that I know are far too simple to meet the needs of this complex world. I thank my online community for clarifying that need for me.

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