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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

The Misuse is the Feature: Cognitive Tech & Action

December 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Technology can be categorized into two distinct categories: “cognitive” and “non-cognitive”. In the “cognitive” camp I place items like Facebook and Twitter, which prompt the user to interact with its features. A user of these sites is asked to share their thoughts. One is capable of sharing every thought, desire and idea on the site and it works to encourage the user to do so. The user must choose the level of interaction and one could very easily (and many often do) over-share or over-interact with the site. One could very easily destroy a reputation by publishing every thought on Facebook. To fully interact with the site means to respond to its prompting to share fully. Every half-thought idea, emotional impulse and desire becomes fodder for its prompting and if shared material for public consumption.

In the other category, which I call “non-cognitive”, I group items like cars, cooking equipment and material we often see as tools. These items do not prompt us for their use. The microwave does not display a text encouraging you to use it and the car doesn’t honk to encourage you to travel. Among these devices is an in-built limitation that leaves the user to determine interaction. Though one can very easily do damage to a reputation with these tools (for example a car driven dangerously) the level of hazard is lower than the items in the “cognitive” tools category because the user is less influenced by the actual technology.

My suggestion is that the “cognitive” tools are dangerous because their development outpaces our psychological ability to understand the correct way to use them. One must learn to use Facebook correctly. This learning includes an increased awareness of the material suitable for public consumption and the boundaries therein. One should not share secrets or security information like passwords, bank codes, etc.. on these mediums. We learn just what to share.

Such learning though is not automatic and many do not develop these skills or choose not to use them. Commenters make rash and vile commentaries on the internet but in public maintain a calm, cool demeanor. Would these commenters act the same if viewing the video in a public theater? The user chooses the level of interaction. Wisdom comes in learning how to use the technology and gaining the skills for correct use. Many will not gain this info or will choose to disregard these skills.

This disregard for proper use is common with all technology. An ancient technology like alcohol or sugar continues to be misused despite centuries of use and consideration. One can incorrectly drive and destroy a home with the technology of fire. This challenge of learning proper use is common to all technologies. The distinction remains; however, with the “cognitive” versus “non-cognitive” technology: prompted by “cognitive” technology we are forced to develop skills in spite of its asking. This technology form doesn’t want us to filter our interactions. Perhaps the evidence of our struggles with this form are in the constant slew of comment boards and “over-sharing” where a user misuses the technology. Cognitive technology is dangerous because it battles our development of skills.

Templates Made for Rude

June 21, 2013 Leave a comment

When offended or placed into a position of heightened emotion we often slip into common forms of speech. Perhaps it is the loss of control in these moments that leave us less cognitively capable, but can we actually apologize. Consider the tirades of exasperation where a person speaks with racist terms. Both disgusted and stunned, some friends may hear these words and think “I never knew she thought like that.” And yet how might we evaluate the accuracy of these statements? Might the moment of emotion with its lack of control allow for some understanding? Can we gift empathy in times of chaos?

While many deny racist or sexist opinions, all people are aware of terms and attitudes related to these attitudes. It does not take a racist to know what a racist statement is. In our ability to identify “bad behavior” we identify ourselves as those aware of the unpure. We’re not as bad by knowing but we’re certainly not pure.

When chaos strikes and an individual reacts there is an opportunity to react. If pressed too hard the individual might react in ways beyond expectation. Human emotions often leave reason behind and give way to actions that birth greater regret and pain. Might we gain a better understanding by observing these figures and their actions? Is the secret racist revealed in her ravings or are we better served by a recognition of emotion’s power. Though we know of evil deeds we try our best to be our best. Weak though we are and as capable of failing as anyone, we can only react to what life presents us with.

Of A Clout

May 16, 2013 Leave a comment

An oft-quoted but poorly associated phrase urges us to “measure society by how it treats its weakest members.” And yet how to consider this term “weakest”? Do we speak of the mentally weak? The physically weak or those unable to conceptualize a concept of “weakness”? Perhaps in our own inability to define “weakness” we expose the very weakness we detest. Too often we frame existence in binary terms: good v. bad, happy v. sad, normal v. abnormal.

Ironically this need to frame things in clearly polar terms exposes our weakness of understanding. Too limited to understand the relativity of situations we narrow thinking to categorization. Groupings aid understanding by providing justifications of discrimination. Item A belongs in Box A. Item B remains a part of B because of feature X, Y, and Z. Making sense out of nonsense is a necessity of existence and yet what of the dangers of such actions? How might such simplification sacrifice progress or worse yet damage progress made?

In working to establish categories for life we extoll a certain clout. We are rulers of domain, framers of our world view and some abstract form of carpenter from which we nail firm a hobby-horse of life. We call this work “perspective”, the uber-personal sense of what is and what will be. Despite our limitations we make a world from what we sense. Didion wrote of stories as necessities from which we frame our existence. “We make sense” from these behaviors and though feel powerful suggest less a greater strength and more an enthusiastic embrace of ignorant indifference.

Vapid Language Void of Meaning

May 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Stock phrases like “Oh my God” exist as paradoxes of communication: simultaneously functioning as communication void of meaning and divorced from the concepts contained within their form. Considered at the pure textual level, “Oh, my God” functions as a query to an almighty figure whose authority and power are on display. The speaker is stunned at some sight or event and is testifying to some unseen, all powerful force that has culled forth some unexpected reaction. Or is it?

Cliches are often defined as over-used expressions now void of meaning. Stripped of emotional power due to overuse, these phrases enter a state of unemotional stasis in a language. We use these phrases but do so without the raw emotional power suggested by their components. The majority of speakers who scream “Oh my God” are not speaking to an almighty power. For the majority of deployments this phrase is equivalent to “Wow” or “No Way!”

The force that makes a phrase popular ultimately leads to its overuse. Once commonly utilized and witnessed the phrase loses its power. We all hear it and yet we don’t. We say it but without the true power its components suggest. Overuse leads to dilution and once completed the reduction of a phrase rapidly converts a once powerful phrase to nothing more than mere sounds.

When we hear “Oh my God” do we actually comprehend what it suggests? Do we recognize its intended meaning or do we automatically dilute our consideration to match diluted status? When heard do we process under the assumption of “he doesn’t mean to appeal to God.” Does anyone hear the phrase and comprehend some sort of blasphemy or actual appeal to supernatural power? Few do because culture has stripped the phrase of meaning. It is void of power and functions less as a vehicle of what its textual ingredients suggest and more the vapid commentary we so often deploy for the mundane and the banal.

What Beautiful Rocks

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Give a child the most beautiful rock. “Break it, save it, draw it or stack it, it’s up to you.” Given these options we see so much- does the child who cracks the rock in half reveal a scientist in development? Does the child who sets to sketching the rock or scribing lines of verse describing its beauty suggest the future artist? Much of how we relate to things of beauty reveal who we are inside. We seek answers to the sources of our wonderment that extend to who we become and what we pursue in life. In essence, many of the skills we use to make sense of the world as children run through adulthood and inform our adult lives.

Wonder is an amazing emotion. At once certainty and confusion, the emotion is a state of an awareness of beauty and yet a recognition that the source of such strong emotion remains unknown. We seek answers to this state in order to make sense of this power and perhaps identify some powerful ingredient. Do we seek to trace these ingredients so we can seek them out in other places? Some seek spirituality in nature and regularly make trips to far-off destinations. Some enjoy food and spend thousands each year in search of a great meal. We experience something once, enjoy it, and make it a point to trace and hunt for it again.

With our reaction to an item of beauty we can learn much about who we are. Do we break the rock? Do we save it for display or seek to trace its core components? In the end we learn we are by how we answer our sense of wonderment. In tracing out our “Wow” we find both threads of who we are and the means by which we work to make sense of our surprises.

Desserts After Dinner

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

What if scholarships were awarded after a student completed schooling? In our current system scholarships come before the student begins his or her academic journey and function as assistance to cover expenses. Though awarded on the basis of “merit”, these awards are dispersed with an assumption of student success. Or, are scholarships awarded simply on the basis of potential? What if this system of awarding potential was different: what if financial awards came after the student performed well?

A system of post-graduate scholarships discards the function of financial assistance. Where the scholarship awarded before beginning school functions to cover costs, this post-graduate system denies this assistance and requires greater demand on other sources. Some may argue this system favors the wealthy, but of the 20 million students who attend school 60% take out loans. Based on these numbers scholarships play a minor role in assisting potential students.

Required to take out more loans, the potential student who functions in a system where scholarships are awarded post-graduation works now to succeed. Working from an understanding that assistance may arrive if he or she performs well function as additional incentive to graduate. With more students attending college, the post-graduate scholarship can function as a motivator for all students.

Beyond the benefits to students the funds of government and private groups are better utilized in a post-graduate scholarship system. Awarding a student before he or she starts school determines merit on the basis of past experience and performance. This assumes quite a bit and given that the college experience will be very different and likely more difficult that previous academic experience the chance for failure is possible. A better system awards students after graduation and after success. The elimination of wasted funds provides more students with assistance and drives each to work harder.

A better system of academic assistance function on the basis of post-graduate status. Students should receive assistance after he or she has graduated. This system eliminates waste for both governments and private groups and provides additional motivation to each student. Driven to succeed for both the diploma and the scholarship, each student can work harder knowing the multiple benefits that stem from college completion may also include financial help. Money earned for effort made- a better way for all.

Proactive Punishment

July 18, 2012 Leave a comment

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky Penn State scandal , some have called for additional punishment of the college. The decision on how to punish Penn State should come from the victim’s of Jerry Sandusky. Based on their perspectives the legal system should design a plan of intervention that guarantees crimes like those committed by Jerry Sandusky cannot happen again. One is best served by considering the purpose of the punishment. What is the goal of punishing Penn State?

If one aims to prevent similar crimes than proactive actions are the only effective means. The best plan would be to require Penn State to create a service for victims of sexual abuse worldwide. Working to assist those who have suffered at the hands of figures similar to Jerry Sandusky, the ideal punishment builds to better solutions.

The best punishment for Penn State provides both victims and perpetrators to move forward in a way that serves the entire public. Additional pain and suffering accomplishes nothing and serves only to out-bully a bully. Work together, make a quality program and transform Penn State’s focus from one of shock and disgust to an active focus on fixing problems.

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