Thursday, August 07, 2008


Imagine if no-one ever spoke at meetings unless they were certain that they had the definitive, final solution.

Imagine if no-one ever chatted to their friends unless they were absolutely 100% sure of their facts.

Imagine if no-one ever published an academic paper unless they knew that no-one anywhere could find fault with it.

Imagine if no-one ever conducted a workshop unless they knew that they could answer absolutely every question that the attendees might raise.

Imagine if no-one ever presented at a conference unless they knew every last detail about the subject.

Imagine if no documentaries were ever released until every last piece of information had been captured.

Imagine if no-one ever sent an email unless they were sure it was complete and accurate.

Imagine if no-one ever spoke to their colleagues until they had collected every fact on a subject.

What a silent world it would be! What a small handful of people would hold all the knowledge in the world, until, as they died off, eventually no-one knew anything, because no-one shared their incomplete perspectives and the complete perspective was never achieved.


Of course, ridiculous.

So why oh why do we impose these restrictions on collaborative knowledge building, learning, sharing that happens online? Why the moved goalposts? Why the special treatment?


Jason Allen said...

You Social Constructivist Heretic!
I sentance you to 5 more years of spitting into the wind!
Seriously, wasn't it Mother Theresa who once said,
"Do not doubt that ability of a small group of passionate people to change the world...indeed, it may be the only thing that ever has."
Take heart, Karyn. We're all paddling in the canoe behind you.

Anonymous said...

@jammasterjay Thanks for the encouragement, but this one thing is certain - I'm not in the front canoe! I'm not even in the front of my own canoe most of the time!

Harold Jarche said...

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

Anonymous said...

Indeed. It just gets a little wearing sometimes being a part of that small band. But we press on, because we believe we're right.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Karyn!

My father was a craftsman and a perfectionist. Though he was anything but perfect himself, he always strove to reach perfection in everything he did. He once gave me a present of a miniature violin that he'd made specially for me. He had to send it all the way from Scotland to my home in New Zealand and it arrived in perfect condition as you can see from the photograph. It even had an inscription viewable through the sound holes.

One of his many wise sayings was, "The person who never made a mistake never made anything". I agreed with that one. He was a believer in learning from mistakes in order that these could be eliminated.

It was G K Chesterton who is purported to have said, "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." I often thought this way, especially as a boy, so I never really saw eye to eye with my father. He would say, "There's only one way to do anything and that's the right way."

His influence on me was so strong that I strove to succeed in things he knew nothing about and eventually got a PhD through that striving. But I only made him proud. To him it was perfection. But I knew that it was cussedness, though I never let my father know that.

I guess some people always want to get things perfect and, if they can, they will construct a strategy for using criteria in the attempt to attain perfection, however impractical it may turn out to be.

I still like Chesterton’s idea.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Anonymous said...

@blogger I understand, Ken, and the violin is exquisite.

Parental expectations can be quite a heavy burden.

The thing is that cussedness can just as easily drive us in the other direction, too. When I was a child, if I tried really hard at something and no-one encouraged me, I'd say "Sod yer" and never try it again. How's that for extrinsic motivation?

When I got to high school, my Dad placed me under enormous pressure to play (field) hockey, because his sisters had excelled at the sport and he expected me to make at least the provincial, if not the national side. I couldn't face the pressure of living up to those expectations, so I played netball instead. I'm sorry, now, because I think I would have enjoyed hockey and might well have been quite good at it, but I know that I didn't have the maturity in my teens to cope with someone else's disappointment.

My father himself never coped with his own father's disappointment. Nothing he ever did was good enough. Every achievement was met with a story of greater achievement on his Dad's part.

I have heard many times from independent observers how my Dad could have made the springbok rugby side, but he gave up the sport altogether when he was about 20/21. I suspect he bottled out because he couldn't deal with his Dad's disappointment in him if he failed. When he died by his own hand at 57, I think my Dad's own diappointment in himself (he was an alcoholic) reached a nadir. I suspect he took his life to silence that voice that kept reminding him how he had never and would never amount to anything.