After my latest lecture (at UC Davis) in my yearlong book tour for NowYou See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn , someone asked me how I thought Steve Jobs would "pitch" and "brand" my book. It took me a while to think through that answer, and I admit I looked at The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs before I thought about my one-sentence summary of a complex book that advocates a new way of seeing the world. (Uh-oh, that is already sounding Jobsian).
Here goes: The message of Now You See It is that you should re-learn your self, before you 'Broadcast Yourself'.
Too pithy? Too Zen?
What I mean by this is, if YouTube enjoins us to reverse the traditional top-down, hierarchical model of broadcasting so that, instead, we "broadcast ourself," don't we need a preliminary first-step, looking inward at who "we" are, thinking about what brought "us" to this place, before we then can broadcast ourselves in a new, interesting way? Otherwise, don't we just use a new technology to replicate old roles?
That's pretty deep for an aphorism, I admit. Okay, maybe "Relearn Your Self, then Broadcast Yourself" is too koan-like.
So how about this (about 25 words too long for Jobs): We need to stop and rethink the patterns of learning and work that have been institutionalized for the last 150 years and that we have assimilated as our own standards for achievement and productivity in order to be able to utilize the full potential of the amazing new modes of communication and interaction presented to us by the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Right now, we're getting everything a little lopsided and backwards because we keep thinking of "technology" as something "new" without realizing that, in fact, just about everything we have done for the last 100+ years is highly technologized. Frederick Winslow Taylor systematized what he called "scientific labor management," and then, by 1920, that system had been extended quite successfully to education. I call this "scientific learning management." The IQ test, the multiple choice test, the separation of ideas into discrete disciplines, the divorcing of theory from practice, the separation of the "two cultures" of art and humanities on one side and science and technology on the other, and the increasing emphasis on "standardization" instead of high, intellectual, innovative standards are all part of scientifici learning management.
We forget that. So then you have some oddly shortsighted inversions. Here's one. Rudolf Steiner's phiiosophy becomes the basis for the integrated method of learning of the Waldorf schools explicitly as a reaction against the hierarchical, industrial model of "scientific labor/learning management." Then, in the NY Times series on "Grading the Digital Schools," we learn that the Chief Technology Officer of eBay sends his child to a Waldorf School where kids learn by doing. But, but, but . . .
If Steiner were alive today would he send his kids to a Waldorf school? Or would he think that, if they learned Scratch, if they actually learned code by writing more and more complex code and watching what results their own code could produce in the world (an incredibly integrative and accretive learning process) they would exactly, now, for this era, be learning the world that they will inherit by doing. In the industrial era where production and consumption are separated, Steiner was teaching kids how to be producers and to learn by their own creative, innovative, integrated productions. But now, in a world where technology is not a thing but a process (if you do it well), what exactly would Steiner himself say? Is keeping the child of eBay away from learning HTML consigning that child to being a passive consumer for a lifetime???
Now back to the Jobsian pity answer to "what Now You See It is about": Relearn Your Self, then Broadcast Yourself. You are not going to be a great and creative contributor to the World Wide Web unless you first hit the pause button to re-examine a century's worth of assumptions about Your Self that you inherited from the Industrial Age that worked hard to shape you into a consumer, not a producer. That's what Rudolf Steiner would have said in 1919. But in 2011, ironically, you make yourself a creative contributor not by eschewing computers but by learning the computer code that, in a Broadcast Yourself world, actually gives you the tools you need to be able to Broadcast Yourself intelligently, imaginatively, creatively, in a way that (theoretically!) might put you in contact with others who share your vision and who, together, might create some collective future worth inhabiting. That's the idealism of the Waldorf schools, and its not so far from the idealism of the World Wide Web. But as long as you think of technology as something done to you, not something you have the power to create, you will never realize that potential.
Given Steiner's philosophy, for example, I could imagine him being part of a MOOC (a Massively Multiplayer Online Course): where people learn from one another for free, in an open platform online, where anyone who wants to join in, can. Very Waldorf. Not just "technology" but a new way of thinking together (or, as we say at HASTAC: learning the future together). Check this MOOC explanatory video out and you'll practically here the Waldorfian utopianism about learning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW3gMGqcZQc
Now, by comparison, here's the link to Times essay. As with the others in this series, it is a serious and very interesting conversation. Matt Richtel is bringing us lots of object lessons for thought about digital learning but, sadly, this article, as with some of the previous, doesn't go far enough in really exploring the implications of some of its key words and phrases, such as "technology" and "learning by doing": http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silico...) And here's a link to yet another of my responses to an essay in this series, "Stagnant Future, Stagnant Tests": http://hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2011/09/04/stagnant-future-stagna... (you'll see the pattern here: in this one, too, I say that part of the issue is too simplistic a thinking of "then" and "now," as if either the past or the present is clearcut or as if we can measure the present without also taking the measure of the past that we have inherited.)
What this current New York Times piece on the Waldorf Schools leaves out, as in so many analyses of the "Grading the Digital School," is that the pen and machine-made paper are both technologies, very important ones that transformed the world in the last Information Age, that of mass-printing that made books available (by the end of the 18th century) to the common person for the first time in human history. Libraries and mandatory, compulsory public schooling were both institutional responses to the new freedom to be able to read books without the mediation of the preacher or the politician. So much of what we have inherited as "truths" about learning are really about learning in the industrial age.
Now, in an age where we have the ability to think a thought, blog that thought (as I am doing now), publish that thought, tweet and facebook that thought, we have to relearn who we are and think of what principles we need to instil about "self-governance" (in Steiner's philosophy) for a Broadcast Yourself era.
Re-Learning a Self means thinking through all of the assumptions, metrics, institutions, and principles that, from infancy on, our culture in our historical moment has paid attention to and which we, in turn, attend to. Once we understand who we are in this more complex way, than we will more fully accept the challenge of a Broadcsast Yourself era. It's a long process. It's called education.
NOW YOU SEE IT
Cathy N. Davidson is co-founder of HASTAC, and author of The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions for a Digital Age (with HASTAC co-founder David Theo Goldberg), and Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press). NOTE: The views expressed in NOW YOU SEE IT are solely those of the author and not of any institution or organization. For more information, visit www.nowyouseeit.net or order on Amazon.com by clicking on the book below. To find out Cathy Davidson's book tour schedule, visit www.nowyouseeit.net/appearances