Monthly Archives: June 2005

agalmia again

Chris Anderson of The Long Tail comments on six months of blog activity:

Even today I am still amazed and thrilled at how rewarding it is to give away my time, ideas and research here, because I get back so much more in return. The power of the gift economy is truly remarkable, and we’ve just begun to see all the places it can work.


Skeins of wriggling co-incidences: here I am reading Charles Stross’s just-released Accelerando and I come upon the word ‘agalmic’ [“Manfred is an agalmic entrepreneur, a specialist in giving good ideas away for free to people who can do things with them”] and it rings no bells… so quickly to Google, natch, and one of the pages I happen upon is that of D. Tinker, “a retired biochemist living in the Annapolis valley, Nova Scotia…”, and he has this lovely summary:

Why do people contribute time, energy and money to something that cannot possibly bring them material rewards? Good question. Here’s a short essay [by Robert Levin] that explores this kind of activity, for which the author coined the term “Agalmic” enterprises.

…and so I have a word for a phenomenon I’m conscious of being a bit player in myself.

Many quote Steve Jobs’ commencement address

given at Stanford last weekend, and it’s certainly one of the more useful and memorable exhortations to graduates. The paragraph that really resonates for me is right near the end:

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

The Whole Earth ideals and mindspace have been building blocks for my own life, and the parallel to Google is apt: what Gardner Campbell calls “real school” seems to me to be something we carry around in our own minds, and draw upon in all dealings with others –students, colleagues, acquaintances. The task that matters is continuing to educate ourselves.

Magnificently constructive Udell post

I’m always glad to see another Jon Udell post come up in my RSS feeds, though some of them are beyond me. Today’s Wikipedia and the social construction of knowledge is an especially graceful bit of teaching, reminding us that Wikipedia’s “radical transparency” is really a better mousetrap:

Some knowledge is purely factual, but much is socially constructed and therefore inevitably prone to bias and dispute. Wikipedia’s greatest innovation is arguably the framework it provides to mediate the social construction of knowledge, advocate for neutrality, accommodate dispute, and offer a path to its negotiated resolution.

Udell also points us to a list of disputed topics and a list of previously controversial issues. I’d love to see (and so I suppose should make myself…) a screencast of the podcast revision contretemps, but beyond the soap opera dimensions of that food fight lurk some really interesting ideas about the uses of the wiki medium.
Addendum: prods the clever to automate: “I’d love to see a tool for animating Wikipedia history for a given entry or block of text…”

Thinking about making better use of this medium…

A thought about tagging, one that’s been niggling for a while: when I first encountered, I happily forged tags to suit myself, in my own idiosyncratic style (bloggery, culturewars, cyberia, geekery, memery, metastuff, musics, knowledge_web, to name a few tags that have caught a lot of items), thus insuring that I wouldn’t be contributing to tag clouds, since I was using terminology that nobody else was using. I set myself up to be an isolate, with the implicit notion that it’s desirable to do things in unique/idiosyncratic ways. That’s a stance I’ve occupied in many other realms: not many others play mandocello, few kick against the pricks of conventional “assessment”, being an anthropologist allows one to do whatever and it counts… call it all ‘personal style’. Anyhow, in the context of social software, my strategies are pretty anti-social. Goes back to Third Grade: (“content to play with like-minded others…”). Thus, my blogging activities, like my logfile activities, have very small audiences, often just the one…

I ought to be thinking and writing more systematically in these realms, and ought to be joining conversations that I lurk on the fringes of. That’s never been comfortable for me, as a matter of style. Even this commentary is intended for… well, whom? Principally myself, though I’m happy enough for anybody to read it, if they happen upon it via some serendipitous clickage of links. I wonder if there aren’t legions of people out there who do the same thing?

But where does this page belong? It’s part of the slipstream of reading and thinking, and it’s developing in the context of some processes of redefining what I do or might do… so it should be linked to Endgame, I guess.

Here’s an example of the utility of the social: technorati ‘reboot7’ actually gathers together postings that collectively inform one another… instant Community. I see that technorati ‘memery’ does link to one of my uses, likewise technorati ‘metastuff’, so the stigmergic trails are there…

And here’s Spike Hall saying “No common tag rules means problems, even dysfunctionality”. A posting well worth revisiting, and yet another example of the nowness of blogspace. Here’s just what I was thinking about, reflected in what somebody I sort of know was saying just yesterday, brought to me via Edu_RSS…

“I suppose I am the notes I’m taking…

That’s one way to think about real school.”
sez Gardner Campbell, in a post describing a breakfast conversation at Frye Institute. Indeed, this sort of talk is just what real education is all about. It’s stimulating in that it makes the hearer want to know more about what passes into the ears. The wonder of this medium is that the rest of us get to participate vicariously. And THAT’s real school.