Quote of the moment - By all means email any worthy quotes

    What does a fish know of water in which it swims all its life? What does a man know of nature of which he is an integral part? The ancient answer is: he knows and he knows not. (cited in Saraswati, 1995 (Ed) Man in Nature)

    The more I have learned in life, and I have learned a lot, the less confident I am in what I know. From this, I conclude that adamancy is a sign of ignorance. M. Ferguson 2010- Polymathica

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A scaleable example of technacy

Recently, I had opportunity to use technacy theory to provide a child with a strategy in what is really a quite basic task.

I was helping a child with a school "science" project [here I use the term 'science' loosely]. Afterwards, there was the inevitable mess of cardboard off-cuts, scraps of tape, scissors, rulers pens etc etc etc.  Observing the child as they attempted to, begrudgingly, tidy up their mess, I noted there was no deliberate strategy to make the 'clean-up' as efficient and painless as possible.  In fact, there was a random grabbing and collecting fistfuls of waste (probably no accident given the language of  'waste' and 'mess' could possibly be closely associated in the childs mind).

One of the strengths I appreciated about technacy theory when I first had it explained to me, was that it provided a readily scaleable theory for technology. That is,  it could be applied to deeply complex contexts, but could also be scaled down to ordinary technical activity.

So noting a frustrated and despondent expression at not being able to effectively tidy; and forseeing the liklihood that much of the area would remain untidy;  I covertly explained and briefly modelled that a good strategy (agency) is to tidy (purpose-) up the  'mess' in the area (the context) by organising into 1- tools - make a pile of the equipment in a clear space, and then 2- materials- including waste and unused material could be collected.

These discreet collections of related items could then be calmly and efficiently be dealt with one at a time.

There is perhaps nothing unusual or special about the task of tidying a table, however what could be considered core to educating young minds is to provide appropriate, accurate strategies that work, that help them to develop habits of mind that they can scale-up and adapt and use in multiple contexts.

I guess the alternative would be to list off hundreds of discreet competency standards that need to be demonstrated- don't think we have time for that when there is so much to learn, nor does it necessarily foster the capacity make connections and be adaptable.

A large proportion of theories and policy around technology can be terribly inaccessible to the people who may not be investing in specialised study of the topic [I suggest, most of the population].

Some  fields, namely education, tend to develop and adopt so-called "frameworks" that we could speculate to be an aggregation of random and idiosyncratic mix of ideas but that is a topic for another time.

Largely from philosophy, we find deep and at times convoluted argument in attempt to structure a theoretical idea- perhaps not the best idea if One is hoping to diffuse knowledge more readily to improve human action.  Whilst this is no doubt necessary and essential to knowledge development, a transferable and scaleable theory can provide a fundamental basis for action that is accessible regardless a person's development or area of work.

One might hope that young children are being taught to be technological in a way that is scaleable and transferable.  As the technical and material systems change and the structures and organisation of society adjusts the way things are done, we would hope our children will have the necessary foundations to enable them to adapt more readily and efficiently without the frustration and despondency and disconnecteness that can be experienced when not being able to see the general principles at play in the world around them.

Oh Yes, and in the end the table was tidy.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Natural disasters: Volcanic disruptions though a technacy lens

The recent events surrounding the volcanic eruption in Iceland provide an excellent opportunity to illustrate technacy as a particularly useful way of understanding technological activity. I've been meaning to post something about this since the time it occurred.

Recall- Some of the key developers of the theory articulate that a significant difference between 'technacy' and most other 'theories' of technology is that the Ecology [or environment], is not only seen as an 'impact' issue or an element of technological activity. Technacy declares outright that the ecology forms a fundamental basis for holistically knowing and understanding that an activity is technological; that is, the eco-material has a 'mutually defining' relationship (some colleagues describe it as a co-dependent relationship). If any change occurs in one element, there is a response in the form of a a shift in behaviour in both the agency and technical dimensions.

The Context of application is the point at which the three elements form that co-dependency to achieve the purpose of the activity.

This co-dependency was clearly evident in the wider systemic 'impact' that airborne particles (ash) had on the operation of aircraft as technical systems (Jet engines apparently particularly susceptible), and the agency systems (extensive financial losses and social disruption).

As with any technological system, jet engines are entirely reliant on the context of application providing appropriate ecological parameters that were the basis of successful design. In the case of jet engines, the context of application provides the clean air as eco-material to be modified by the technical system- the Jet engine. Whenever, parameters of one element change, (ash in the air) we can expect the entire system to be affected.

The result in this case, forced pressure upon the technological system to adapt.   People had their travel plans delayed, alternative transportation and accommodation systems had to be employed, business had to suffer financial losses.

Although we cannot prevent "natural" events (yet?), it offers an example of the value of at least considering the eco-material context factors when engaging in technological activity. To do so may yield some interesting insights and assist in preempting potential threats and managing our technology more sustainably.