Praxis is social ... and techne requires praxis.

Anchor for this item  posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 4:27 pm MST

*I am distracted by this thought: the dominant dynamic in the OpenSource community reflects a line from the New Testament, "To those who have will be given more; from those who have not will be taken even that which they think they have." Because I am poor and without credentials, whatever good I might contribute through discussion in mail-lists and forums is taken up while the meat of my work is ignored ... and I am left poorer for my effort. Who thinks that no self-interest is ever enlightened is merely a cynic; who thinks that self-interest is not usually the driving motive is merely naive.*

I suggest that Simon Buckingham Shum has struck a key note by addressing the fact of how concept mapping breaks salient material out of the temporal mode, i.e. "a way to get conceptual clarity that's hard to recover and maintain with media that privilege temporal structure". That by itself, I suggest, is sufficient to make the distinction between "forum" (with which I would bundle mail-lists") and other forms of presentation, e.g. concept-maps. I would suggest that this contra-distinction is so fundamental that it justifies being described as a "mode", as in "wiki mode" or "document mode" or "discourse mode" / "thread mode".

The reason I'm writing today about the work that I've had to let sit fallow for nearly 3 years is simply this: approaching the project of public discourse is too often constrained by the predominant tool-image, where the operative paradigm is described with reference to the tool rather than to the task ... when all I have is a hammer, I approach every problem as though nail-like. The way to break through that constraint is to be mindful of the intention: is the tool / project an end in itself? Or are the tools we creating means to some end?

It was by seeing the "discussion" project through the lens of "discourse ethics" (Yes, Habermas) that I came to see how the temporal dimension added little except for the transactional dynamics that enable the sophist, the propagandist, the trickster. At best the mechanics of temporal presentation are clumsy (Why oh why do people so often include the whole original message in their replies on email? This communicative gesture signifies nothing fine, or principled, or crafstsman-like.)

I first used concept-mapping in 1975, on material concerning the UN's 7th Special Session; "On The New International Economic Order". I came at that having generated a data-base for the resource library belonging to a public interest research group (using punched cards, not an electronic computing machine). What I realized then, and confirmed on later projects (McKenzie River Pipeline Project; anti-apartheid mobilization; Cruise Missile Deployment and Testing; a couple of federal elections) was that the technique, by its nature, did not remarkably enable discourse. Also, the technique is ethically neutral: it can facilitate deception as well as edification.

It was by applying that conceptualization to John Willinsky's "Public Knowledge Project" that I came to see how a robust document portal would under-cut deception, communicative gestures intended to mis-lead.

That and $1.25 won't even get me a cup of coffee.

Until and unless the aim is recognized as being part of the emancipation project that was so central to the age of enlightenment (Yes I mean rationalism!) we will only have the splendid pass-time of creating brilliant tools, rather than enabling something on the scale of an actualized Glass Bead Game. That's why I describe my "Participatory Deliberation" as a "dialectal discourse portal".

mindful that my words are twisted by my battle against frustration and resentment
wishing you all the best for a new year
I am
with respect

Bernard D. Tremblay (ben)

1. http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ratcliffe/?p=165 - "Getting everyone together to produce solid factual reports and informed analysis is the challenge. Both reporting and analysis are important to journalism, though many people believe "objective fact" is the signature of journalism." and http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ratcliffe/?p=164 - "It seems to me that the telegraphic judgments of bloggers, expressed through the elaborately ritualized act of linking, has become a proxy for actual thinking. Posing nonsensical questions that encourage ranting - journalism vs. blogging or Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux, to name a couple popular tropes - doesn’t do much for the collective or individual consciousness."


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