The Death of ” Digital”.

Santa Cruz California
Santa Cruz California

Words are a powerful vehicle for meaning and understanding,  connected to individual or group perspectives, interpretations,  and connections. The word “Digital” has been part of our vocabulary landscape for a long time.  It was only after reading Nicholas Negroponte’s  book, “Being Digital” in 1995, that I began to be aware of the term and its impact on the world to come, but in 2014, the word “digital”  has now blended itself into the daily fabric of our lives. When we think of the word “digital”, it creates a sense of disconnect from our world and implies that the digital world is a separate part of our reality. However, this is no longer true. Our lives are so embedded within this digital realm that the two have become inseparable. So, I invite us to use a new set of vocabularies to frame this paradigm:  Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms.

Appliances are the consumables that we connect and interact with (laptops, phones, tablets, GPS, and other hardware). These tools have become the default to our connectedness; disposable and with each new version more seamless, simple and integrated.

Utilities frame our day to day interactions. These social medias, networks, email, RSS, professional learning networks and Web 2.0/ 3.0 tools have become the architectural  framework of communication and information for our connected world.

Information flows are the 150,000,000 Blogs posted a year, 5 million tweets per day, 200,000 videos uploaded on YouTube daily, and the petabytes of information created, aggregated, shared, and circulated daily around the earth.

Ethics is the why, how, when, where and who of our digital footprint in today’s world. It is the wide ranging issues from Killer Robots to the impact of a Filter Bubble (where search, news, and information algorithms choreograph what information types we get based on our personal browsing habits). The curation of our online and offline privacy as governments, corporations, and organizations juggle a treasure trove of information created by our respective digital footprints, is the new ethical dilemma we all deal with, as individuals, groups and as societies at large.

Algorithms are the backbone to the intelligent softwares that inhabit the engine of the internet. These are predictive, anticipatory, intelligent and analytical. The are the lifeblood of the internet ecosystems for individuals, governments, corporations, and organizations which then create, develop, build, facilitate, monitor, analyze, synthesize and evaluate our day to day interactions. The algorithms have become the life line to the information flows, ethics, utilities and appliances.

These words are not the definitive list, but reflect a vocabulary we use both from our past and present. They highlight how the “digital” world is ingrained in our daily lives, to the point we often are not even conscious of its presence. This connectedness fueled by our devices and ecosystems now are part of the fabric of our lives, often out of our control, and a non negotiable aspect of our own participation with the day.

A critical understanding of these words and their respective dynamics should be an essential ingredient in School and Organizational curricula. We can no longer think of them as separate entities. We have inherited this reality which now has us connected in ways where opting out becomes the abnormality . These Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms are part of the fabric of our world and impact us as humans both consciously and unconsciously.

This discourse needs be given equal time in all educational settings; imbedded as seamlessly in the curriculum as they are in our lives. A responsibility to highlight the power, richness and cautions that come with tying ourselves to a set of appliances, utilities, information flows, ethics and algorithms that have and will continue to change the fabric of our interactions as humans and organizations.

So how do we do this? The key is that these terms and their meanings are introduced as part of the learning landscape in all units of study. Creating authentic connections between these words and the learning environment will then scaffold a clearer understanding of their real world applications. In our school ecosystems most subjects and curricular areas are using technology, often as a separate tool, or as a side show, but, if it is so seamless and embedded in our day to day lives, then we need to translate this into our learning. One of the first steps is to give ourselves permission to change the way we work with this vocabulary. As we change the vocabulary, and with it the meaning and role of these words, we are engaging in an active learning process connected to the changing world.

To ignore this vocabulary is to short change future generations of their awareness of a world that has become more invisible, seamless and blended both in our conscious and unconscious day.  The death of “digital” is here.

John @beyonddigital.org

 

There is a needle in the haystack, Ground Control.

All of us are engaged daily in the process of looking for information on the Internet, or “searching“. Sometimes, we search for clarification, facts, confirmation, projects, solutions, while other times our searches help us broaden our views, come to terms with a concept, make a plan, find a definition, or cross check a fact. Watch yourself or a friend at your next social function. Someone is bound to pull out their portable digital device (phone, tablet and/or computer) before long to make sure something that was said is correct. They might look up an actor, a city, an album, a song, a title, or an author. This is now part of our daily digital diet: a quick hop onto our device and off into the Internet to “search” for information.

  • 51 million – Number of websites added during the year.
  • 1.2 trillion Number of searches on Google  in 2012.
  • 43,339,547 gigabytes are sent across all mobile phones globally everyday.
  • Humankind in 2007 successfully sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS. That’s equivalent to every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every day.
  • There are 5 million tweets per day enough to fill New York Times for 19 years.
  • Humankind shared 65 exabytes of information through two-way telecommunications in 2007
    That’s the equivalent of every person in the world communicating the contents of six newspapers every day
  • 58 – Number of photos uploaded every second to Instagram.
  • 5 billion – How many times per day the +1 button on Google+ is used
  • 1.3 exabytes – Estimated global mobile data traffic per month in 2012.
  • Bloggers post 900,000 new articles everyday.
  • Over 210 billion emails are sent daily which is more than a whole year worth of letter mail in the USA.
  • Daily around 200 000 videos are uploaded on youtube which will require over 600 years to view them all.

(Source: Economist  The World 2013 and Internet 2012 in numbers by Tech Blog Pingdom and Science Daily: How Much Information Is There in the World? Feb. 11, 2011)

Information grows from Terabyte to Petabyte . As a human race, we cannot actually view, analyze, or keep track of all the information we generate without third party digital tools and softwares. We now defer to sophisticated algorithms and intelligent softwares to store, track, synthesis, analysis, aggregate, and deliver information in amounts we have the time and capacity to digest. And most of us today expect to have this information available non-stop, over multiple devices.

Information overload, information stress, information pollution and information anxiety are part of the narrative of the digital age. With the amount of information increasing at accelerated speeds, we have relinquished any control we once had over its exponential growth. What we need to do is develop strategies, skills and understanding on how to filter, sift, analyze and juggle information, so we feel some level of control.

As we embed ourselves in this vast information landscape and wish to remain critical thinkers, we need to be ready to retool ourselves:

  • Coming to terms with the “Filter Bubble : this is where information is processed and delivered through algorithms based on what our viewing and search habits are, thus filtering information to our perspectives and not providing alternative views and information. The balance of information is vital to building a broad understanding of different views. Nowadays however, through the “Filter Bubble, this balance is being diluted. We need to understand this and be able to counter it as critical thinkers.
  • Developing a strong searching expertise:  We need to understand the capacity of search engine tools, their variables, and limitations so we can refine and sift information in a manner which gives us manageable amounts of results.
  • Be able to Aggregate:  Learn how to leverage news aggregators, real time syndication, social media, micro blogging, and social bookmarking sites.  These tools can help in sorting different formats, cull large amounts of information and deliver it in digestible portions for us to develop new capacities.
  • Engage in Connectivism: A learning theory constructed on the idea we can learn with digital, social and cultural connections, and from this interchange build individual and/or collective capacity to gain knowledge and understanding. Through our social and professional connections create networks of expertise, knowledge, and understanding to support learning. Use the “cognitive surplus” we have available in our social and professional groups to increase our own knowledge so we can create, communicate, produce and share effectively as critical thinkers.
  • Learn, unlearn and relearn: We need to develop the strategies and methodologies that allow us to engage effectively in this process of “learning, unlearning and relearning” daily. In tandem, we need to ensure that everyone has the opportunity, support and resources to do this.

From this point forward, there is not going to be any less information – that is a fact. As the world moves into a state of constant change, and the pace accelerates, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our peers and our communities to make the process of learning, unlearning and relearning permanent. If we do not, we could potentially lose our ability to participate as critical thinkers and control the information landscape we live in.

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

When we stop being human.


Change is a constant, and however we might  forget or passively ignore the fact, it is happening behind our backs, in front of our eyes, above our heads, and at a corner we have not bothered hearing about. For me, the change we have let slide passively with little input apart from buying and always upgrading, is the hunger for digital devices. In the last few years digital devices have  become an integral part of our individual ecosystems, and without them we struggle.

A wonderful piece by the Economist It’s a smart world, explores this concept in the world of smart softwares, and in this years’ World 2013 shares out an important milestone:  “The number of connected devices to the Internet will exceed the number of people on the planet by a factor of 2 in 2013  according to Cisco, By 2020 some 27 billion unique objects will be connected wirelessly to the Internet- Economist  The World 2013

If we currently have more digital devices than human by 2 =  14 billion of these devices are part of our lives.  So if out of the 7 billion humans 2.45 billion have access to the Internet in 2011.  -“The World in 2011: ITC Facts and Figures”, International Telecommunications Unions (ITU), Geneva, 2011.”  How did 2.45 billion + humans suddenly find themselves needing 14 billion devices? Making an unscientific assumption that most digital devices need an Internet connection, but then again it is still a ridiculous amount of devices 2 per human.

The seductive commercialization of the device, and the relentless addictive capacity of its features, available, on: whenever, wherever, whatever!  2.45 billion of us have developed a need for more than one. Try this:  count how many digital devices you have at home. ( Think microwave, digital TV, laptops, tablets, phones, sat-nav, digital radio, game consoles, digital heating system, digital alarm…. and we go on) do give yours a count. Now do you see how many of us are part of the 2.45 billion needing more than one device?

To be honest is it a big deal that we have more digital devices than humans by a factor of 2. On first thought very likely not, but then if we differ, consult, communicate, access, share, update, inform, search, pay, track, publish and connect as part of a daily routine, to the point we are often not aware of it… seamlessly blended within our ecosystems fabric with which we interact, work and live by. Is it, should it be our current norm?

The digital devices are here, embedded in our lives. Have we sat back and collectively, as a conversation piece, wondered how this happened, how did suddenly we need to sleep with a smart-phone by our bed, check email during dinner, while waiting for a bus, on the toilet…. what kind of reflective process have we engaged with colleagues friends and family.  This propensity for the digital device is it a non negotiable of our own ecosystem?Snow Nebusice

Do not get me wrong, I love my digital devices, the convenience, versatility, connectedness, and ease of use, are a huge benefit to my own day.

As Terence McKenna states in the video above as the rate of change accelerates over time, the modalities, ecosystems we live by will change to a point we will not be equipped to synthesis, analysis, engage, understand control, and manage these…. it does sound like science fiction…. “By 2020 some 27 billion unique objects will be connected wirelessly to the Internet- Economist  The World 2013“, but the science fiction is becoming part of our current narrative, and somehow we have let it slip by or have we?

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

What is your digital grid?

As consumers of digital technology do you not get the sense that the pace of change is increasing and impacting us with little time to sit back, watch, take things in, and try to make sense of it all.  Nowadays digital devices and digital environments tend to suddenly show up almost invisible to our awareness and quickly become an integral part of our digital landscape. The consumer acting, to often, as a passive bystander and paying little attention on how this impacts our lives.

Recently I was invited to set up Google Drive and realized this was one more service that I work and live by tied to one flavor of a digital grid. We as consumers of the internet navigate within a variety of digital grids which are the framework of our digital ecosystems. A digital grid is the interface we log into with a username and password that in return provides us with tools, information and services all within the confines of one brand, organization or company.  These digital grids have become essential to our communication, collaboration, creative output, and ability to share information in our professional and personal lives. A digital ecosystem are all the connections, hardware, switches, wires, boxes and components which tie us to the services and tools these digital grids provide. Common digital grids are for example Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft to name a few. Some dominate our digital ecosystems more than others. This market dominance is critical to these organizations and companies managing our digital grids.  This dominance translates into power and control over large groups of users’ information which generates huge incomes and profits for these companies and organizations. The price of this convenience, seamless integration, and menu of powerful tools and services at ones fingertips is being locked into a single organization’s/companies’ digital grid.  Millions if not billions of users like you and me live in these digital grids and cannot function without them.

There is immense motivation for the organizations and companies delivering these services to make the experience more unified, seamless and a one stop shop for all our needs.  In developing these architectures as digital grids the companies and organizations are provided with limitless information, access and control of personal/professional habits, relationships and behaviors of their users. The more diversity of mediums, tools and services delivered, the more users they get, the more information they generate resulting in income and profits. As our digital lives evolve in interacting within a limited number of digital grids out of convenience, ease and habit what is the long term impact to us as individuals?

Looking at the different privacy policies (here paraphrased on this link) of cloud data storage services for individuals for Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive and Dropbox  provides us with significant evidence of the change in ownership of personal/professional intellectual property and information. As our off line lives blend more and more with our online lives, all within a limited digital grid, organizations and companies suddenly have access to all the aspects of our lives.

For many of us the convenience of the digital grid out weighs the reality of having a third party, organizations, and/or companies access, track and own all our personal/professional online information. Unfortunately if one chooses not to work within certain digital grids ones options to interact with other users both professionally and personally becomes quite limited and in some cases even impossible.  Try to disconnect for a week, and not use  your most commonly used digital grid. What would your work week look like, what would your socializing look like, what would your personal and professional communication look like? Yes it is still possible at some level to live outside of the larger digital grids and try to use a mix of different tools unconnected to each other.  For most of us the effort, time, knowledge and logistics would require an immense amount of patience and skill to pull this off. At the end of the day the sheer convenience, seamlessness and variety of services the common digital grids provide us make opting out an impossible task for most of us. This reality has re-framed what personal and professional privacy is in our lives.

So, what digital grid do you live in?

John@https://beyonddigital.org/

The success of failure

I am convinced as educational institutions we do not celebrate and nurture failure enough. Our days are so centered on highlighting success, and drilling into our students and faculty minds, that success is the measure which validates the time and effort we put into each of our days.

Life’s and the world problems are messy, inconsistent, unclear, and more importantly do not come with clear solutions. Sometimes there are no solutions! This is the reality many of us walked into once we left school.  Each of us has built capacity to learn and deal with this differently and the learning occurring in the motion of confronting the problems. Future generations of students will and are heading out of the school gates into this dynamic.

An acquaintance shared with me a perspective a few Venture Capitalist work with before investing into start ups. They look how many times a potential group/organization has failed in trying to start something, and the more failure they have experienced the more likely these Venture Capitalist will invest in them. The premise is that from each failure, there is significant learning that takes place, and as you build on this learning, and fail again, you increase your capacity to deal with the next set of problems. Through this process and engagement you as a group/organization are more likely to succeed with your idea. A key ingredient tied to this premise is the level of tenacity, passion, and belief you engage with as a group/organization in confronting multiple failures and what learning/lesson you build from this to then deal with the next challenge ahead.

A group of students pictured above working with Lego Mindstorms, faced an issue with the version they had installed on their laptops. The Lego Mindstorms software was not fully compatible with the MacOS version running on the laptop.  Lego Mindstorms had not updated some of the drivers to work with more recent version of the Mac OS they where working with. The problem they faced was some functions required you to tap, click multiple times, sometimes it worked and sometime it did not. Their solution  just tap/clicked till it worked, and before long they understood how many taps/clicks they needed for the function to work. This they integrated  into their collective problem solving and moved on. They continued to come across glitches. They adapted each time a set of strategies to work around the failure with one goal in mind to have their robots do some movements and tricks. Even though things took longer, often requiring restarting the computer, or clicking non stop, it became part of their workflow and solution to a messy problem. The passion, tenacity, and collective energy had them, even thought failing quite a lot, over come the problems and learning a little more little by litte to program the Robots to move and do tricks. Their goal and measure of success.

A group of International School students taking part in the European Student Film Festival Challenge came to a roadblock. Partly to the fact that these 6 individuals had never worked together, some where from different schools, different countries and cultures. The dynamics in front of them was pretty much one problem after another, coupled with the pressure of being in a timed challenge. They gradually unpacked things slowly, each step faced with a level of failure, but giving them a better understanding of the other group members potential. The setting for their collaboration was around a set of chairs with a chess set in the middle, which often saw them fiddling with, as an outlet to their nervousness and stress. The only common ingredient they all brought to the group, was each was passionate about Film. Individually they knew they each had a set of skills that could contribute towards their challenge. Surrounded by the discomfort of hesitation, false starts, juggling opinions, different individual needs, unpacking the parameters of the challenge, translating it into something concrete they all could move forward with. 24 hours later below was the result.


Czechmate used with permission from Julien M.  A collaboration and joint production by Begum E., Ema E., Jerome B., Julien M., Lenny M., and Oliver Z winner of the European Student Film Festival Film Challenge Excellence Award.

We should stop and celebrate failure within our groups/organizations more often than we do. Make it part of every learning experience. Invite ourselves to focus on the unique learning which failure can bring to our reflections, ideas, and ability to overcome the messiness of problems we face and will face. If our respective communities spent more time taking apart the failures we experience, look at each moment, see what components are in play, give us opportunities to do things differently than before. This can be the celebration of our collective learning from which we build our successes.

John
http://beyonddigital.org

I did not know Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, or Edgar M. Villchur

Tyne Cot Cemetery (Ypres)- Ieper Belgium

I did not know Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie or Edgar M. Villchur, or the 500,000 soldiers who died in Ypres (Ieper) Belgium in the trenches of  World War 1. Last week on holiday, reflecting on their respective work and passing away, then visiting the In Flanders Fields Museum and Tyne Cot Cemetery outside Ypres (Ieper) Belgium. I felt overwhelmed by the In Flanders Fields Museum and Tyne Cot Cemetery respective testimony. The shear numbers who died and  pointlessness of trench warfare, the leadership, story and narrative that lead to these deaths and suffering was mind boggling.

This visit marked me at many levels, and reminded me, that each of us are impacted by events, histories,relationships and connections, that give us a scaffold to build our own narrative and vision. To me Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, Edgar M. Villchur, and the soldiers of Ypres (Ieper) Belgium put a mark in very different ways on my understanding of the world and contributed towards my own narrative.

Steve Jobs’ desktops, laptops, i devices, , and iTunes has always been part of my personal and professional media life, at work, home, … a fan, and appreciative user. Dennis Ritchie who brought to the digital world, we live and work in daily: C programming language and co-developed the Unix operating system. Edgar M. Villchur’s vision plays a big role in my adult life : the Loudspeaker. He invented an acoustic suspension woofer producing the loudspeaker as many of us have in our homes, car and ears:)

Each had a unique narrative tied to their ideas and vision. Their respective narratives transformed into concrete outcomes that changed the way we function in our world. The narrative built on a passion and a clear belief in the outcome where they wanted to go. Maybe not always clearly defined to others or all planned out in their own heads but this narrative drove the conversations, work,  time, creativity, thoughts, and collaboration that made their ideas a reality.

As for many of us who have a passion for what we do, our narrative and story is constructed through events relationships, collaborations and belief based on experiences. The key to the success of Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie or Edgar M. Villchur,  narratives was they each transformed it into some thing concrete that was operationalized to significantly impact people and change the way we do things.

This transition from idea to reality is the most complicated and challenging aspect of building ones own narrative and ensuring it becomes reality. Ideas can be generated, conceptualized, discussed, debated, and dreamed up.  The delicate process of making an organizational narrative engaging to others so they adopt it as part of their own narrative is in my opinion the true art of visioning.  The key is that there needs to be a strong buy in by all players associated or connected to the narrative even if translated or interpreted through a different lens. To often I witness rich and engaging visions, but so often the operationalization piece is missing. This is due to the  narrative being lost in the translation before it becomes others own narrative in any organization. Without people in an organization internalizing the visionaries narrative within their framework of understanding little will become concrete and have an impact on others . Once you have this common narrative throughout an organization the stage is set for the intricate collaborative mechanism of choreographing and operationalizing a shift that creates change with ever lasting impact. Each of these men did!  Do you have an i in one of your devices, using Unix and listening to it through a set of speakers………..What is your narrative?

John@beyonddigital.org

Where is the “off” switch?

Can we really disconnect from devices, email, social networks, the internet and digital life in general? Being caught up in a cycling trip for me is the easiest way to disconnect from all the rings, tasks, needs, wants, musts and maybe’s we get caught up in our digital life. An element of isolation and the tempo provide a good way to unwind and coach myself to be okay with the disconnection. The daily cycling, in an isolated environment, provides often limited cell reception, rare internet and few digital devices. This experience on the bicycle gives me the opportunity to create head space and day dreaming hours to clear out the mind and fall into a different time span and a grounded feeling. You generate in your head space for nothing.

Yes it is okay, and it feels good. Today it is getting harder and harder to disconnect…or find space for nothing. As we integrate our digital devices and social medias into every aspect of our work and home life we have developed a dependence, which is becoming invisible to our lives.  As new generations adopt this digital world as part of their social fabric, and consciousness, a collective dependency on seamless connectivity is embedded to our day. This level of subconscious dependency creates a new social bargain for the way we connect, disconnect and live our lives online and offline.

For my generation and others prior to the explosion of the internet, we experienced an environment of  limited connectedness, tied to a land line, payphone, letters, fax, face to face, newsgroups, bulletin boards, and then email. Our privacy was shaped within a connection of a friend or two, or small circle of friends/acquaintances. The norms based on word of mouth, hearsay, rumors, reputations forged live in front of  friends/acquaintances or through mediums limited to a small groups of folks for viewing or to interact with. Often it became an issue of our word vs their word. There was no digital footprint and it was harder accessing a paper trail.  This experience has equipped my generation and others with a counter-balance and point of reference of another option to our current non stop connectivity and diminishing privacy.

Today with non stop connectivity and diminishing privacy there is a different reference point for a new generation. A world of online social circles with friends and acquaintances in the hundreds, images, videos, wall updates, tweets, online hangouts all available 24/7 to potential huge audience not only our perceived friends/acquaintances but search engines, companies, governments, and a digital footprint not in our control.

The perception and understanding of privacy and non stop connectivity has changed. For many of today’s online users, there is no point of reference or experience of not having a digital footprint, not being connected 24/7 or understanding privacy in the context of the pre-internet world. A social media openness is the norm of privacy today for a whole set of children and young adults.

This shift can be uncomfortable for some, but is here. This has happened in the background of our awareness to certain degree.  My generations concept of privacy, balance and connectivity is framed with a memory and life experiences without these. Today children and young adults are framing their understanding and experiences based on a new social bargain where connectivity is a non negotiable ingredient to socialization both professional and personal. Connectivity is a must: cell phones to keep Mom and Dad in touch with your whereabouts, educations demands for mobile technology as a mandatory learning platform, commerce, entertainment, goverment and information delivered only online.

As with any changes in life you gain things and you loose things  Privacy and connectivity have changed and will continue to evolve in ways which will be be viewed by some as a paradigm shift, others the norm and for others a necessary evolution of our digital life.

Today the off switch is no more available! Even while we sleep or disconnect for a moment, emails, images, wall postings, and our digital footprints are active, being viewed, shared, forwarded, cataloged, and leaving a permanent digital trail. As individuals and a society we will need to carve and find the spaces to disconnect on our own. This ability to disconnect, find balance, and space for nothing will need to become a learned skill and behavior. For many of our students, with no point of reference to a unconnected world, their is no previous learning or points of reference to build upon.

As a society what does it mean when our digital footprints are available to anyone online, anytime, with any type of devices 24/7? This conversation needs to becoming part of our educators fabric and curriculum in schools. Even if a new generation has not experienced a disconnected world, it is part of our collective historical heritage the many moments when philosophers, artists, musicians, and thinkers  sat with space for nothing so they could create marvels. It is fine by me that there is no more an off switch, but it is not okay to let our students and young adults not have a skill set to be able to disconnect and create a space for nothing. A balance in life is a key, everyone should be exposed to this learning and have the opportunity to be mentored on how to develop this capacity: space for nothing.

John@beyonddigital.org