Approaching the limits of our understanding

Joi Ito posted about the cognitive limits of organizations at the MIT Media Lab blog. Ito posts a thought provoking slide by Cesar Hidalgo. The slide shows the interaction between the total stock of information in the world and time/history. Human beings, as civilization has evolved, have grown the total stock of information in the world and over time have reached various cognitive limits. It’s not hard to reach the cognitive limit of the individual.

Organizations and Long-Term Design

I just want to juxtapose two recent readings by Charlie Stross and Timothy Burke on organizations and institutions. Burke sets up the problem as the key issue of the twenty-first century. but it really seems to me that the political problem of the 21st Century is not a problem of markets or capitalism, not of the state, not of ideologies or religions, but of institutions and organizations. Loosely speaking, what doesn’t work about government as a whole is also what doesn’t work about a local religious charity.

The New Networking

From an article on networking by John Seely Brown and John Hagel III at HBR. In the classical networking approach, the game is about presenting yourself in the most favorable light possible while flattering the other person into giving you their contact information. This approach quickly degenerates into a manipulative exchange where the real identities of both parties rapidly recede into the background, replaced by carefully staged presentations of an artificial self.

Glenda Eoyang at Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum

Glenda Eoyang from the Human Systems Dynamics Institute presented at the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum yesterday. She gave a polished presentation on complexity and human systems. She started by distinguishing two perceptions of time: linear and pragmatic. Linear time is what we usually envision time to be - a straight line from the past into the future. There are a lot of problems with this view and we spent some time talking about them as a group.

Anchors for the Learning Community

One of the topics that has been at the top of my mind over the last few months of summer has been learning communities. Universities, colleges, and schools play a very important part in education, but they shouldn’t be the only game in town. So I ask myself, what would a true learning community look like? Here are some existing institutions that have inspired me and might be useful as seeds for supporting learning communities.

The Evolution of Groups

To the small number of people who might be reading this. I apologize for my loss of control on Thursday. Sometimes there’s just too much stupidity to avoid, despite however much I try. I think abandoning television helps a lot. If I’d been watching Fox or CNN instead of listening to the radio two days ago I would’ve blown a gasket. So I return to some more questions I have about group formation and dynamics.

A rough stab at an "interest web"

Knowledge maps are one of those knowledge management tools that seems perfect in theory but often ends up as a disappointment or a failure. The idea is to collect all of the experience and skills in an organization into a single map, which can be an online database, a directory, or some other repository. In most maps people rate themselves on the skills they posses. The maps usually take the form of a matrix or table listing skills along one dimension and people along the other.

Open Source and Anarchism

I love this title by Michael Truscello, The Architecture of Information: Open Source Software and Tactical Poststructuralist Anarchism. (culled via wood s lot). This is another essay I have yet to peruse, but the skimming is interesting. Most of the text seems to focus on Eric Raymonds’ famous Cathedral and the Bazaar essay. One of the parallels drawn between Truscello is the similarity between Cathedral and Brooks’ Mythical Man-Month. In part this links back to my previous post about language design.