Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

12.06.2013

Connecting Seemingly Disparate Fields of Knowledge


Well, I don't know that I actually have an explicit connection in mind, just three articles that have intrigued me in the past couple of days.  Though if I were to see a connection, it would be that: connection.  Underlying all of these is the idea that we ought to be better at connecting with each other.

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I've often asked myself why experts consider the economy unhealthy unless there is new development and construction, why it's not possible to create something good and be happy to maintain.  It seems I'm not the only one.  There is a website (and movement) that calls itself "Post Growth," with the tagline, "Creating global prosperity without economic growth."  Now, saying that, I'm not sure how much personal change I'm ready to immediately undergo to make this happen, but the overall concept intrigues me enough that it will keep nagging at me to work on it.  I discovered the website when someone shared a post from their blog:

Upskilling for Post Growth Futures, Together

After the introduction, it lists areas of knowledge and skills needed by community members to make a post growth society work.  I was especially drawn to this bit from the introductory text:

 . . . I’ve become painfully aware that in some aspects of my life, I’m not very well-equipped to flourish in futures beyond economic growth. In retrospect, my formal schooling gave me a good base in certain skills such as public speaking, writing and analysis, but did nothing to prepare me in other areas of life, such as growing food, relating to animals and building things. I was being prepared for labor specialization, often at the expense of learning practical skills that will matter for us all in years to come. We are now heading into a time when generalists – people who can see the big picture and connect seemingly disparate skills and fields of knowledge – are needed just as much as specialists.

But the rising value of the generalist does not mean we each need to know how to do everything ourselves. Voids in our individual skill-sets are actually critical to building harmonious communities. As Bill Kauth and Zoe Alawan say, “We need each other, and we need to need each other”. Caroline Woolard of the New York City barter platform OurGoods elucidates this concept in sharing that, “When you take a class in a barter system you know the teacher needs you too”. . . .

I've similarly lamented my lack of hands-on, practical skills due to my focus on information skills and academic pursuits.  Though, I'm not entirely helpless, and in my information and academic pursuits I take pride in being a generalist.  The Ph.D. program that most intrigued me when I was considering such possibilities was a local interdisciplinary one that focuses on the connections between different fields of study, so I have a definite appreciation for what is being said here.  But could I survive and thrive in a post growth economy, as described?  That's a good question.

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A while back I wrote two long posts--
a professional manifesto of sorts, in fact--in reaction to Eli Pariser's TED Talk on the concept of "filter bubbles," and much of my "adult" reading focuses on the psychological filters we create for ourselves.  So I'm very excited to see this.  I want it.  And I want others to want it.

How to Burst the "Filter Bubble" that Protects Us from Opposing Views

 . . . Much social research shows that people prefer to receive information that they agree with instead of information that challenges their beliefs. This problem is compounded when social networks recommend content based on what users already like and on what people similar to them also like.

This is the filter bubble—being surrounded only by people you like and content that you agree with.

And the danger is that it can polarise populations creating potentially harmful divisions in society.

Today, Eduardo Graells-Garrido at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona as well as Mounia Lalmas and Daniel Quercia, both at Yahoo Labs, say they’ve hit on a way to burst the filter bubble. Their idea that although people may have opposing views on sensitive topics, they may also share interests in other areas. And they’ve built a recommendation engine that points these kinds of people towards each other based on their own preferences.

The result is that individuals are exposed to a much wider range of opinions, ideas and people than they would otherwise experience. And because this is done using their own interests, they end up being equally satisfied with the results (although not without a period of acclimitisation). “We nudge users to read content from people who may have opposite views, or high view gaps, in those issues, while still being relevant according to their preferences,” say Graells-Garrido and co. . . .

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This is something that has always bugged me, even though I'm sure I've been guilty of it as well.  And, in my experience, unfortunately, some of the worst offenders are (some) teachers and those who work with kids for a living.  It's a big part of why I love Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books, which he describes as being anti-bullying--except, instead of peers, the bullies he wants to expose are the adults.  I've found that if you make the small effort of really paying attention to kids and listening to them--of treating them with understanding and respect--they will respond in kind and be much more likely to rise to your expectations.

Why Aren't We Rude to Grown-ups the Way We Are Rude to Kids?

 . . . In each of these cases, the rudeness occurred in the context of doing something helpful or special for the kids involved. It was all just tokenism. The fake-gold medal, the swimming certificates decorated with smiley-face stickers, the special games for the class, and the extra help with homework were all designed to bolster self-worth, but were all undercut by a lack of basic patience and consideration.

I’ve done these types of things myself all too often. I’m impatient. I’m exasperated. I’m tired. I predict the worst behavior and then react to it before it happens. I’m not saying that the tutor or the teacher or the swimming instructor or the mom are bad people. Hell, there’s a better-than-even chance that they’re kinder, more patient people than I am. Some other guy is probably wrapping up another blog post right now based on something awful he heard me say to my kids. For one reason or another, it just really struck me today, for the first time, that even the most well-behaved kids get talked to this way every single day. Our collective inability to treat kids with basic respect provides one consistent message: you’re irritating and in the way.

I, however, don’t get spoken to the way kids do. People just…don’t shout at me. I honestly don’t remember the last time anyone spoke to me the way I heard literally dozens of kids being spoken to throughout the day in a variety of settings yesterday. Not when I’m at home. Not when I was employed. Not when I’m on the subway. Not when I make mistakes. Not when I’m a bit lazy. Not when I skip out on brushing my teeth before bed. Not when I lean back in my chair. I’m not a particularly intimidating person, but people don’t roll their eyes and grit their teeth and talk to me like it’s all they can manage to just keep from punching me in my big, fat, stupid face.

I also don’t remember the last time I spoke to another adult that way, but I probably raised my voice or spoke impatiently to my kids yesterday. I don’t remember because, honestly, it wouldn’t really stand out as unusual. . . .

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Okay, the pictures aren't connected to anything in any way; I just wanted something visual in the post and happened to take these yesterday during a lunchtime walk.


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