September 27, 2013 3 Comments
A story often repeated from a friend’s family: It’s the 1970s. The older son, aged about six, is keen on stories about rockets and astronauts. From the car window he sees a billboard and cries out: “Dad, dad, stop, look: ‘Space to rent’!”
Well, it’s neither outer space nor the space on billboards that this post is concerned with, and it is not something one can get by laying down money. It is the space that gets squeezed when we get swamped with online input as we try to avoid feeling left behind. Spend a little time in a connectivist MOOC or following people on twitter and you’ll probably feel swamped or fragmented or unsure that you can synthesize or keep in mind all the interesting items you are coming across.
The first response is to turn off and tune out. Another approach is to allow yourself a delimited amount of time per day, say 30 minutes, to explore online offerings or sharings and also carve out equal or more time (preferably when you are fresh at the start of the day) to gather your thoughts based on whatever is currently in view or in mind, which may be quite different from what you have to do for your work or project or studies. Such “refractive practice,” in which you give yourself space to “connect, probe, and reflect” (http://wp.me/p1gwfa-sr), makes it less likely that you feel left behind when you don’t follow or respond to every thread that is offered, however worthwhile they seem at first sight.
Eventually or ideally, we would like to go further, for our online interactions to support us in lifelong development that combines—gives integrity to—our personal, professional, and friendship realms. Instead of having to set limits or worry about being left behind, we feel clear about what we are choosing to get involved in and thrive in the involvement. Another way to express this is to say that we are well scaffolded and provide sustainable scaffolding for others (http://wp.me/pPWGi-wJ).
Today I happened to revisit the principles of the Burning Man festivals and their worldwide offshoots: http://bit.ly/15y5Nxf. I haven’t seen a more fully developed view of what I would call scaffolding. But, when I think about this as a model for scaffolding in work and life, I realize that these festivals duck the problem by building emphemerality into the name and the symbol — the giant Man gets Burned at the end, the site is cleaned up so as to leave no trace, and everyone goes home. Some relationships formed at the festivals continue and mini-burners are arranged in local communities, but the festival scaffolding doesn’t have to address the challenge of how one helps people (oneself included) open up or see alternative paths in the complex conjunction of people (and their component strands: body, cogitation, unconscious), community, context, tools and processes, and focus on a product (see http://wp.me/p1gwfa-xv). Are there useful translations to the non-emphemeral that can be made?
Today I started to reread Vivian Paley’s The Girl with the Brown Crayon. There is sustained and open-ended scaffolding going on in the kindergarten classroom she describes. Are there useful translations to the case of working with adults that can be made?