Guy Van Belle on 31 Oct 2000 13:04:53 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> learning and networks


Mr. Hopkins is setting out on a very slippery path. In a way the whole
description + critique is only partially relevant, acknowledging the fact
that we are not in 1990 today but - that is what my computer says - 2000. 

What do I mean by this? 
1. after more than 10 years of constructivism in education, you can hardly
maintain that there is no "learning-by-doing" happening on a large scale,
same goes for multimedia in education, and even for the abundance of
network + computing activities in education nowadays
2. cultural organisations have mostly set up educational activities
because of policy pressures, and to prove the social validity of
non-quantifiable things like art + culture, and the aim has always been to
continue organising cultural productions and not to improve learning,
knowledge and communication
3. literacy debates since the '80s have moved into an impasse - parallell
to the sad post-modernist babble in the '90s: the purpose of setting up
the discussions was a very right-winged conservative political agenda that
probably succeeded in opposing the more experimental movements in art,
culture and education, and this opposition is still continuing
4. the institutionalisation and capitalisation of the whole western
educational and cultural field (these 2 fields add up to almost av. 60-70%
of the national return, including wages, investments, private and
governmental funding, ...)
has led to a much sharper division between learning within institutions
and informal learning youngsters are stting up outside these institutions:
in alternative networks (home, among friends, clubs, ...); the continuing
institutional attack on this informal learning in order to get control
over content and finances is alarmingly increasing over the last years,
and is now even a hot academic and political item, only to get an even
larger economical spread, and handy enough it brings us back to point 3
(that is where they all do drugs and have sex, no? and they should be
learning multimedia tsk tsk tsk...) and point 2 as well ... Big Brother
Europa is looking for ways to sneak in ... 

Ah!, and is really the metaphore of printed vs. electronic media still
viable? I don't think so! The whole text-based instruction my still be on
the surface but then over the last years, when I read this bullshit, next
thing is that there is something about expensive high-speed networks
between big money cities following....

> cultural networks focus single-mindedly on fiscal and structural 
> issues, there is a real danger that their long-term vitality may be
> jeopardized
Maybe Mr. Hopkins has been for too long in too large projects, overfunded
and set up out of the blue. My experience is that in the (real) field lots
of small projects are done by small groups, without funding and without
attempting to get (inter)national coverage. Of course, if you first build
an organisational structure, and then want to keep this alive by doing
projects, my idea is that this is the old odd capitalist way, tested out
in the post-colonial era in order to keep most of the 2% of development
aid within the country - and identical to precisely the critique that has
been formulated in Mr. Hopkins' text... 

> Modernist education models are not at all adequate or 
> even desirable when mapped into the flat social structure of a 
> network
hoho, this is a scam! John Dewey was he a modernist? or Vygotsky and
OK then, thy actually were more aware of what transformation and natural
learning than Mr. Hopkins, esp. good old Vygotsky - he said a lot about
socio-cultural models and networks and learning, and made Piaget formulate
corrections on his own theories. 
Even further in the text, what is being suggested reflects a rather
inadequate image of what education nowadays is dealing with. Innovation
and learning has been concentrating for half a century precisely on what
Mr. Hopkins claims to be absent! Back to your schoolbooks, Mr. Hopkins,
and you will see how different they are from these nowadays...

Now, I do understand that each item is rather complex to dive into, and
would demand a larger description, but it is Mr. Hopkins who started this
quick and dirty job with describing general truths in too few paragraphs!
So, similar to Mr. Hopkins I think that there are fundamental things that
are wrong with educational and cultural institutions/organisations. But
the difference is that I don't want to belong to the sort of people that
fight water with even more water. 
What I am saying is... 
Mr. Hopkins is very suspect when he calls for a challenge and response
like: "in the coming months they formulate new ways that they can share
the collective knowledge and wisdom they have gained". This recalls the
former literacy debates. And certainly, who-ever tries to do this, is
contributing to the further institutionalisation of what informal
educational and artistic networks are doing. 

Maybe I wouldn't be far from the truth to suspect the participants in this
to line up for their brand new jobs: funded by the pan-nationalistic
european state maybe? And maybe a european cultural backbone needs to
prove its ethics by acquiring educational credibility prior to


ps. this is not a personal attack on 
Mr. Hopkins (only), only on the ideas
expressed in the text underneath... 

On Mon, 30 Oct 2000, John Hopkins wrote:

> Following is an article to be published in the upcoming issue of 
> x-change from Riga's re-lab...
> ________________________________________________________
> "learning and networks"
> by John Hopkins
> "What our age needs is communicative intellect.  For intellect to be 
> communicative, it must be active, practical, engaged.  In a culture 
> of the simulacrum, the site of communicative engagement is electronic 
> media. In the mediatrix, praxis precedes theory, which always arrives 
> too late.  The communicative intellect forgets the theory of 
> communicative praxis in order to create a practice of communication."
> -- Taylor and Saarinen
> "For communication to have meaning it must have a life. It must 
> transcend "you and me" and become "us". If I truly communicate, I see 
> in you a life that is not me and partake of it. And you see and 
> partake of me. In a small way we then grow out of our old selves and 
> become something new. To have this kind of sharing I cannot enter 
> into a  conversation clutching myself. I must enter it with loose 
> boundaries, I must give myself to the relationship, and be willing to 
> be what grows out of it..."
> -- Hugh Prather
> "People will speak,  They will not speak in order to convince, or to 
> drown the noise of silence.  They will speak because it will be easy 
> to do so, and because life will surge from their mouths together with 
> the words.  Everything will be filled with life.  There will no 
> longer be room for anything dead or unintelligible."
> -- Jean-Marie LeClezio
> This brief essay, addressing concepts of learning within networks, is 
> a follow-up to the introduction of the neoscenes occupation project** 
> that appeared in the last issue of in 1999. 
> It is encouraging to note a growing awareness within the ECB, BIN, 
> NICE and other cultural networks regarding the critical importance of 
> education.  There is much work yet to be done, however.  The present 
> focus of attention within cultural organizations seems to be on 
> fund-raising efforts and the associated (often short-term) practical 
> challenges to survival.  Of course, these are very important tasks 
> for assembling viable systems, and, to be sure, issues of funding and 
> political presence are critical to the existence of physically 
> localized organizations -- this brief essay is not meant to be a 
> critique of the realities of existence!  But at the same time, if 
> cultural networks focus single-mindedly on fiscal and structural 
> issues, there is a real danger that their long-term vitality may be 
> jeopardized.
> The open engagement of the local and remote communities in organic 
> and transformative learning is a key for the long-term viability of a 
> network.  The stimulation of positive conditions for personal and 
> collective growth should be a primary concern for network 
> participants.  Modernist education models are not at all adequate or 
> even desirable when mapped into the flat social structure of a 
> network.  It is, in fact, the rise of global networks that offer us 
> the opportunity to transform the entire contemporary nature of 
> education and its relationship with learning. 
> Based on anecdotal and first-hand evidence gathered in educational 
> systems across the developed world, it appears that academic 
> education is becoming more and more irrelevant despite its dominant 
> institutional position within local and national social structures.  
> A core factor for this disengagement is the reliance of educational 
> systems on the format (and associated ideology) of the printed book 
> and associated patterns of mediated rote "learning."
> Observe a child in his/her natural routine of living, and you will 
> see the operation of a primary process of human learning.  Children 
> learn intuitively by observing and imitating actions or acting 
> spontaneously in connection to their immediate environment.  They do 
> not learn by being told what to do or by reading what the doing is 
> like.  The negative refrain "do as I say, not as I do" guiltily 
> echoes in many a parent's head when confronted by the true reality of 
> the learning process.
> This aspect of individual development only highlights the weakness of 
> text-based instruction -- a system that often relies on regurgitation 
> of previously condensed and simplified information as supplied by 
> textbooks.  The rise of modern industrial society and the rise of a 
> mass education system follow parallel evolutionary paths that are 
> more or less detached from the day-to-day needs and experiences of 
> the individual. To illustrate the trajectory, one need only consider 
> the field of engineering.  As one pillar supporting the agenda of 
> global industrial development, engineering holds as its grail the 
> efficient use of time and materials.  The modernist concept of 
> education focuses on a similar goal of efficiency in the use of the 
> knowledge, information, and the student - "learning" to be allotted 
> in measured portions (curricula), not too much, not too little -- so 
> that the student becomes skilled enough to produce within the needs 
> of the production matrix, but not too knowledgeable to become aware 
> of the explicit imbalances of the overall system.  Many teachers are 
> conscious of this built-in paradox, but are powerless to implement 
> systemic changes that would be required to "fix" the current state of 
> things.  The massive social transformation from an Industrial to 
> Information Society is proceeding in such a way that most educational 
> institutions are not able to re-tool themselves in any but surficial 
> ways (for example,  the distance learning fiasco).
> What are the solutions?  How can education, and the broader concept 
> of learning be redefined and expanded so that it embraces vital 
> cultural and social "do-ing" as a source of energy?  How can 
> energized alternatives be implemented? Even taken on a surficial and 
> pragmatic level, this challenge is crucial to face.  For example, if 
> we consider the development of an informed population having a 
> empowering level of media literacy, the learning experience must 
> focus on experiences that lie almost wholly outside of the realm of 
> traditional text-based education.  This implies the creation of an 
> altogether new paradigm, not a simple methodological shift.
> To a skilled and sensitive teacher, this is an perhaps an obvious 
> sentiment to be acted upon in the traditional classroom whenever 
> possible.  The question is, where are the skilled teachers who 
> understand the implications of the contemporary information society?  
> I think they are be found among the many active practitioners within 
> our networks!  What then are the best strategies for extending the 
> fruits of their wisdom that are collectively represented within 
> cultural networks?
> The first step is to establish a healthy network.  This is a dynamic, 
> time-consuming, lively, and more or less intuitive process that 
> relies of a multiplicity of sustained dialogues between individual 
> nodes.  A strong network made up of local cultural/community 
> initiatives becomes the locus for significant creative activities. As 
> this space or situation becomes vitally active, it automatically 
> becomes the site of learning.  It would be wrong, however, to assume 
> that any networked situation is an optimized opportunity for 
> learning.  There is always the option to raise the intensity level of 
> collaborative learning through careful facilitation and focusing of 
> attention.  This is where our experienced practitioners should enter 
> the scene, at the moment when the opportunities for sharing knowledge 
> arise.  This process of dynamic "full disclosure" of personal 
> experience is a powerful flux of energy that initiates and sustains 
> dialogue like no other single act.  This energy directly feeds back 
> into the network to keep it healthy.
> It is important to acknowledge that there are already significant 
> learning activities happening in network spaces, and this is not a 
> call to codify or otherwise regulate those situations.  It is only a 
> call to activate the self-awareness that sharing energies within 
> these complex situations is fundamental to the propagation of 
> wisdom.  And in a world where fashions and paradigms change with the 
> electronic winds of media, a little long-term wisdom can do a lot to 
> strengthen and extend the community structures we are seeking to 
> build through these networks.
> A particular strength of creative learning situations that operate 
> within distributed networks is that they have the possibility of 
> escaping at least some of the oppressive effects imposed by local 
> hierarchies.  Most local controlling hierarchies (for example, an 
> academy administration, or a bureaucratic cultural funding body) have 
> little appreciation or even basic knowledge of the development of 
> networked environments. They may even have an active phobia of any 
> technological implementations, naively directed at the digital 
> object.  This fear is justified in the sense that open network 
> platforms have and will continue to contain complex evolutionary 
> sites of social interaction which threaten the status quo.  The 
> negative and homophobic expression of these fears appears to be 
> strengthening in many "open societies."  It is not a coincidence that 
> traditional models of education rely on fear to accomplish their 
> goals!  At the same moment as these negative forces are mobilizing, 
> we have an incredible opportunity to activate local and distributed 
> communities to create situations where real learning evolves.  The 
> structures of fear and ignorance across the social landscape can be 
> slowly transformed into enlightened and inspiring community.
> I will close this essay with a challenge directed to the cultural 
> networks that are engaged in the struggle to use technology as a 
> creative platform for social, cultural, and individual change: that 
> in the coming months they formulate new ways that they can share the 
> collective knowledge and wisdom they have gained.  With a thoughtful 
> open-platform of dialogue and action in this area, the long-term 
> vitality of these networks and their presence as a significant 
> feature of the cultural landscape will be guaranteed.
> Thanks to all of you who are so thoughtfully engaged out there on the 
> network, it has been my pleasure to discuss some of these issues with 
> you over the past year!
> John Hopkins, Helsinki 30.09.2000
> _________________________________________________________
> information: <>
> **neoscenes occupation at is creating an 
> autonomous network of culturally active people with a dynamic agenda.
> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
> #  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
> #  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
> #  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
> #  archive: contact:

Nettime-bold mailing list