Learning, Digital & Education from Oliver Quinlan.
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This week: Complexity, Analysing Memes, and Reading Outside your Comfort Zone


Carl Gombrich on how we see complexity

Carl really made me think this week with this concise tweetstorm. 

"The world is gradually dividing in those who see the world as a complex place and those who can't or simply don't see it that way."

I feel resonance with both side of this, although I'd firmly place myself in the first group ordinarily. Maybe my inclination to concretely put myself in one of two bounded groups suggests I am more suitable for the latter though...

American Chopper Memes

Internet memes seem to know no bounds. On the face of it they often seem superficial, but there are sophisticated discourses and styles that develop within them, sometimes to the point that anyone outside of the culture in which they were created can struggle to understand them (as Doug Belshaw goes into in his TEDx talk). Given the genesis of many of them, that was probably the point. Yet certain memes end up transcending this and going mainstream. The latest seems to be the 'American Chopper' meme, where text is placed on a series of frames from a 2010 US reality show about a father and son motorcycle business. This seems an odd format to viral in 2018, given its age in this fast moving culture. But it seems to bring something that others don't..

Matthew Ygelsias says:
"by forcing the meme author to sympathetically engage with both sides of an argument, it manages to disrupt some of the most dysfunctional elements of online discourse."

It's so powerful, it can even be used to critique it's own form. 

And like all the best memes, it goes more meta... and it goes even more meta....

In Defense of Design Thinking, Which Is Terrible

It's easy online to read a whole lot of content from the fields you 'belong' in or feel comfortable in, but sometimes I really enjoy reading a long article intended for an audience I have very little to do with. This critique from a design conference considers the response of the design community to 'design thinking'; represented here as a movement to democratise design and make it accessible to those who are not professional designers. The democratisation of a field is an interesting topic, and I found something about reading this one about a field I wouldn't identify as part of really got me thinking about some of the big questions related to it. 

Given that I work in creating informal computing education opportunities to young people, it would be easy to assume democratisation was ingrained and not an issue. However, some of the themes in this article did resonate with me, and made me think that wherever you have professionalisation of a field you have similar issues around professional territory developing and people behaving in perverse ways to defend it. That's not a concrete criticism of computing education, just a musing that even in education we should watch out for such trends!

Try tracking down a talk from a professional conference in a field you don't know - it can really make you think. Failing that, read this article, it's a good one.
... and finally...
Thanks for reading.
Until next week,


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