Happy 2022: Points for systems resonance
To begin with a nod to Janus by looking back before looking forwards at the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year, and to respect the importance of passageways, I will begin with a review before explaining what I mean by systems resonance. I’ll then list passageways charted out by others that I hope will resonate in my thought in 2022, bringing harmony to the complexity. As seeing patterns in complexity also involves a layer of abstraction, my conclusion is abstract.
My 2021 review
Points for systems resonance – definition
Points for systems resonance – models to draw on
My 2021 review
I continue to be fortunate to work at a university dedicated to pedagogical development while respecting the importance of disciplinary history. Working at such a university means that I am able to cater technology-enhanced learning (TEL) to my particular context, relating (local) students, (international) professional practice and tools, and (specific and general) domain knowledge. This requires management skills particularly when it comes to teaching hundreds of students while developing the teaching and tools and researching the content for the more advanced course(s) while writing a book. I focused more on my lower-level course this year – giving it overtime – as it contained the students who lost out by beginning their university career during the pandemic. My book suffered.
I believe in the importance of clearly-defined elementary skills that are then developed later on. In an ideal situation this year, I would have had an assistant for the lower-level course – possibly also for the advanced-level course as well, and finished my book for the latter. There is no book that contains what I would like for humanities students in the interdisciplinary postdigital, knowledge age, when knowledge and ideas are the ultimate source of economic growth. This post will share some of the sources for my ideas on systems of technology and the human need for connections and resonance.
Points for systems resonance – definition
The term ‘systems resonance’ is adapted from an article by Francoise Dartur in Philosophie magazine. She uses the phrase “points of resonance” (points de résonance) to explain how Heidegger was able to deconstruct Western thought by way of Eastern thought. If there were no points of resonance, she writes, we would be incapable of understanding each other, of dialogic exchange. It’s not about whether a tradition stems from the same source and says the same thing but in different languages, or about whether they are incompatible – as if there were nothing common among humankind, she continues, but it matters whether a passageway to other experiences is possible – and whether the tensions of this passageway are emphasized.
In the systems of our increasingly complex postdigital and interdisciplinary culture, we need passageways and points of resonance: points where dialogic possibility opens up at various intersections of the ‘wicked problems’ (Rittel & Webber 1973) that plague us. Areas where dialogue is needed include tech-enhanced polarization (so elementary now as to figure in college coursebook introductions) and the epistemic chamber (Nguyen 2020) of doing our own research. Below are some thinkers, podcasts, and sources I will be drawing on in my work in 2022 to open up passageways for dialogic resonance.Points for systems resonance – models to draw on
- Trevor Hughes and IAPP
- Trevor Hughes, the CEO of the International Association of Privacy Professionals is an inspired leader, which were presented to popular acclaim in his Creative Mornings talk, The Preserve of Privacy. IAPP’s work shows the delicate balance between business-as-usual and a humanist approach. Check out IAPP’s news and podacst. I recommend beginning with the podcast interview with Neil Richards on ‘Why Privacy Matters’.
- Mark Hurst’s Creative Good
- Mark Hurst wrote about Bit Literacy before most educational institutions understood the importance of teaching digital literacy – which, I would argue, is still generally wanting. He hosts the community-based WFMU radio program, also a podcast, Techtonic. I recommend beginning with his interview with Tyson Yunkaporta. He also writes a weekly column, runs a site listing “big tech alternatives” and hosts a forum, all at Creative Good.
- Devine and Rekka’s wiki with living networks
- What haven’t Devine and Rekka done to promote the tech-enhanced good life? A good interview to begin with is a recent one conducted by SourceHut. They host a personal assistant, memex-inspired wiki, xxiivv, which links to everything from minimalist, healthy recipes recipes (no-bloat recipe site here) to their community to an explanation of their practice of permacomputing. Above all, they practice what they preach: their experience in all of the above is documented not just on their wiki and site but in their book about living on a boat practicing it. Their wiki was on GitHub but is now on SourceHut, leaving potential for living, ongoing development. They also host a webring and a search engine.
- Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View
- Azeem Azhar is an “entrepreneur, analyst, strategist, and investor” to quote the Futures Agency. He wrote a nice post on his webcam setup – which made me glad to know that using one’s phone is a legit tech hack, given that I am a teacher who cannot afford extra tech. But I am writing about him for the relatively even-handed approach he takes in his interview on his HBR podcast, Exponential View. I would recommend beginning with his interview with Chad Rigetti on How Quantum Computing Will Change Everything. He has excellent interviews with leaders in and key thinkers on technological advances ranging from Sam Altman to Carl Metz.
- Henry Zhu’s work in open source
- Henry Zhu is the awesome maintainer of Babel. While he has produced some excellent podcasts, culminating in Hope In Source (the link includes his earlier series Maintainers Anonymous), he himself was interviewed by GitHub. My favorite Hope In Source episodes are those he conducted with Maggie Appleton: Digital Disembodiment, Technology As Process, Embodied Knowledge, Embodiment Through Metaphors, Open Source As A Gift Economy.
- Byung-Chul Han’s philosophy
- I have written enough about Bernard Stiegler on this blog, so here I want to focus on a different philosopher. A most excellent gateway to his work is his interview with Art Review, in which he explains his constructive remedy for any technological ills:
Every book of mine ends in a utopian counternarrative. In The Burnout Society I countered I-fatigue, which leads to depression, with Us-fatigue, which brings about community. In The Expulsion of the Other  I contrasted increasing narcissism with the art of listening. Psychopolitics proposes idiotism as a utopian figure against complete interconnectedness and complete surveillance. An idiot is someone who is not networked. In The Agony of Eros  I propose that only Eros is capable of defeating depression. The Scent of Time  articulates an art of lingering. My books analyse the malaises of our society and propose concepts to overcome them. Yes, we must work on new ways of life and new narratives.
- Daniel Gackle’s work on HN
- I maintain that Hacker News is a golden standard of forum communication especially because anyone can join – and it is such a highly visible forum, as opposed to more obscure Discourse forums or Mastadon communities. The guidelines are cogent and inspired, like: “Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that’s easier to criticize. Assume good faith. Eschew flamebait. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.” Other examples of ingenuity include how posters can earn “karma” (which has a different ethical tone than ‘earning badges’ or similar, an interesting “game mechanic” used on some forums) and how posts that are thought to impinge on the guidelines dim out – though can be reconstituted by way of email. If you have run your own forum (here’s my experience), you will appreciate the level of discourse that happens on HN every day from around the world. As part of Y Combinator, it is a forum with a specific context, but this context is also one with pedagogical value and reach.
- Emacs as Design Pattern Learning
- Here, I link to my own EmacsConf2021 talk. Thanks to Sacha Chua’s excellent transcription of the talk, I recommend skimming the transcript rather than watching the 20+ minute talk. It is long because thinking about learning how to learn cannot be a listicle. This is especially true for teachers concerned with the ever-changing task of ‘meeting students where they are’ (I take the phrase from correspondence with a friend with an invention).
Last year, students found it helpful to watch 15-20 minute videos. This year, 10 minute podcasts were requested. Note: this was just the asynchronous segment that compounds the ‘sage on the stage’ component of learning: there were still video conferences and exercises for dialogic exchange and practice.
The skill of re-presenting knowledge in different contexts is needed in a changing world – but this is a higher-level skill and like all skills, it requires practice and good tools. I am so thankful for the digital tool that is Emacs, which augmented my teaching this year.
- Tommy Rivers Puzey’s physical experience
- Once upon a time (until October 2019), I was a long distance runner and wrote some posts for the rad ultra gear small business Orange Mud (collected on this page). Literally running into the distance was curative for me for many, many years. Then, injury struck. I still hope for recovery and still cultivate the endurance mindset. Occasionally, I check in with athletic stars I once tried to emulate. Even if you are not an endurance athlete, I recommend Tommy Rivers Puzey’s interview with Rich Roll. “Rivs”, an amazing athlete (with an amazing wife), was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just as the pandemic was unfolding. He recounts this experience, and his experience (or what he remembers of it) on the respirator. What does he say about hell? The absence of giving love while we can.
The above sources and links range from leaders to digital privacy to healthy recipes to endurance. The “points of resonance” among them may be found in networking among art, artifact, people. Finding points of resonance – like making metaphors – can be found on a level of abstraction. To quote Dastur again by way of conclusion, she writes of the Vedic significance of the image of the cloud – which may also be extended to include the image of the digital cloud.
Knowledge and information is a type of cloud; it too can appear and disappear. This was the topic of a book by philosopher Pierre Hadot. The non-static character of information is also relevant if we think of the problem of information and record keeping on a personal level, such as how it is explained by Alex Schroeder.
Dastur writes that clouds are Indra’s messengers. “Inconsistent, of moving appearance, not especially individualized, at the limit between the material and immaterial, these forces of nature symbolize the transitory course of life because they can change form, dissolve and disappear. In a poem, Baudelaire writes to the ‘stranger’: ‘I love the clouds… the marvelous clouds that pass… over there… over there… the marvelous clouds…’ The importance of the mediating and multiform cloud figures” is related to a timeless and transcultural art, which can be seen if we seek out points for resonance; making sense through difference and complexity.
If the messengers of our lives can appear and disappear, what message do we want to leave for 2022? What “points of resonance” do we wish to accentuate in the systems theory that is implicated in the fourth industrial revolution? What does capital mean if knowledge and ideas are truly the source of economic growth?