Tag Archives: media

Weekly Reflection: Changes We’re Missing

As someone who spent much of the 90s writing about technological revolution, I was thinking about how that revolution was just the tip of the iceberg. So much attention was focused on that while all the structures of our society and how we think were being reconfigured.

I began to think about the ideas of the scientist Ilya Prigogine who many may remember was cited in Margaret J. Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science: Learning About Organization from an Orderly Universe (1992, Berrett-Koehler). I pulled out my copy and read that while it makes sense to stabilize machines and structures as a way to prevent deterioration, living systems (organizations) need non-equilibrium to change and grow because they exchange energy with their environments. Prigogine said living systems are “dissipative structures.” As Wheatley, t explains it, they “dissipate their energy in order to recreate themselves into new forms of organizations” (88).

In ecosystems, for example, external fluctuations in the environment exert great pressure on the system and the system uses its energy very inefficiently, but “as the ecosystem matures, it develops an internal stability, a resiliency to the environment that, in turn, creates conditions that support more efficient use of energy and protection from environmental demands”(92).

Wheatley applies these ideas to organizations. In the factory model, she says, “managers watched for departures from the norm so they could “make corrections and preserve the system at its current levels of activity”(78). Systems that are organized around core competencies but open to information from outside are less vulnerable to environmental disturbances. Their more fluid structure ultimately leads to an internal stability. As expressed by one scientist she quotes (Jantsch), “the more freedom in self-organization, the more order.”

On other words, there is much more happening in education than a change in tools. Trying to impose the old factory model using new tools will not work. Openness, creativity and freedom to innovate are the system of learning that is being born as the old system of education dies.

Weekly Reflection: Defining Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a process that we use to arrive at a better understanding of what is true in situations that extend beyond verifying simple facts. The subject might be an artistic or literary work. It can be an assertion or claim made by a specific individual, such as a politician, activist, journalist, author, or teacher. Or it can be a whole philosophy, school of thought, or system.

When we use critical thinking, we observe, compare, contrast, and analyze. We interpret using our own knowledge and imagination (often supplemented by the knowledge or ideas of experts). Then we evaluate against accepted criteria to arrive at a claim about the qualities of the subject.

“Critical” is often interpreted as looking for and pointing out what’s wrong with someone’s actions or words. However, “critical” should be a neutral word. The enemies of critical thinking (other than laziness) are our assumptions, biases, and loyalties, as well as our self-interest.

Additional information on critical thinking.

Fake News vs Real News: A Simplistic Comparison

I think we all know by now that the content found on the Facebook platform is a mix of real and fake news, but we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking in black and white terms. Otherwise, we will start categorizing news we disagree with as fake. Here is how I would categorize the information we see every day online:

Straight News. Accounts of completely verifiable events and statements. Journalists gather facts and evidence from first-hand observation of events and reliable sources. In writing their stories, they strive to present information with adherence to the ethical principles and traditional practices of responsible journalism, which places a premium on fairness, accuracy, and objectivity. Fact-checkers and editors provide further quality control. After publication, reputable media outlets are accountable for any errors that are revealed.

In-Depth Journalism. Articles in which principled writers take a position and make a strong case for that position after thorough and objective research. They follow journalistic and ethical principles, as well as the rules of logic and rhetoric. Their research includes careful examination of all principal documents in the public record (e.g., laws or pending legislation, existing regulations, relevant court decisions, relevant correspondence, speeches and statements), interviews with knowledgeable sources that credibly represent all parties, and thorough examination of opposing viewpoints. They do background reading and interviews to ensure that key facts are surrounded by a relevant “bigger picture.”

Public Relations & Advocacy Communications. Information that often imitates journalistic forms and style but is designed to shape public opinion about an organization or group and the causes, positions, or products it represents. PR professionals study their target audience and craft messaging that will persuade them toward desired beliefs or actions. PR and communications professionals typically strive to portray their subjects in the best possible light without making overtly false claims or omitting key facts. Readers realize the bias when they’re looking at company literature or op eds written by a CEO. But sometimes it’s not apparent what interests are behind the content. Exxon or Dow, for example, may sponsor a documentary about Alaska that has nothing to do with their oil pipelines and disposal of chemical waste. But the subtle message is that they are environmentalists who would not do harm. Moreover, journalists may get story ideas from press releases and use material from a company as background in their stories. Often, due to budgetary reasons, news organizations rely too heavily on media releases or inside sources.

Junk news. Sensational, often misleading headlines followed by shallow, poorly sourced content that echoes the emotions and prejudices of targeted groups without adding anything new to what is already reported elsewhere. Its purpose is to generate ad revenues, often for junk products. The information in junk news is not fake, but its production typically bypasses the quality controls that exist in reputable newsrooms. To produce junk news, the “writers” selectively assemble facts and quotes from reputable news sources, but they often ignore important context, opposing evidence, and background that would weaken the grand narrative that the targeted audience chooses to believe.

Propaganda. Content in which language, structure, and facts have been purposely manipulated to mislead, sway, divert attention, obscure truth, and/or cloud judgment. Typically, its purpose is to serve the interests of those holding or seeking power by promoting (propagating) an alternative to the predominant narrative. Not all propaganda is patently false. More often, propagandists present accurate facts but cite sources and select details that make the preconceived claims seem more logical, well-supported, and emotionally compelling than they are. They may use words, forms, images, and music that underscore the effect they are seeking. In short, propagandists persuade an audience to reach a conclusion based on emotion, psychological manipulation, or faulty reasoning rather than relevant evidence.

Fake news. Fabricated stories with little or no basis in facts that are represented as news. Fake news stories may be used as clickbait to build traffic for ads or for disinformation purposes. Fake news often can be disproven simply by googling claims of fact, using a trusted fact checking publication, and thinking about the reliability of sources. Many people don’t take those steps, however.

iPresence: Artistry, Artifact, Artifice

By Deborah Vrabel

In the last post for Rich iPresence, I talked about similarities between iPresence and what we might call “real human presence”–when we or our organizations are with the audience both physically and mentally, both giving and commanding attention.

Still, we need to stay aware that our iPresence is a virtual human presence existing in a virtual reality. It doesn’t happen the same way life happens. We create it out of the stuff of who we are and what we do. It is a combination of artistry, artifact, and artifice.

Artifice. When I talk about “artifice,” I don’t mean setting out to deceive other people by creating content that is patently false, as in “catfishing” on Facebook or creating deceptive pop-up windows. By artifice, I mean purposefully playing the games that sustain the illusion of the Web as more than a technology. Most of us accept the premise of making believe that this virtual commons is really a place where real communities gather. Then we promptly forget and never accept the need to do the work of community or sometimes even observe the rules and courtesies of community.

Rich iPresence means conveying awareness that we are placing our lives, our ideas, our opinions, our work “someplace” and that doing so matters. It asks: Where does my content belong?

Artifact. While iPresence as “artifice” focuses on where we are placing our content–what kind of context we are entering and producing online, “artifact” refers to the trail of individual pieces of textual and visual information we place online. Everything posted online by individuals, whether original or something recycled, becomes a cultural and historical artifact.

Rich iPresence is more than feeding the companies and industries that have the computing power to analyze trends and patterns for commercial purposes and providing free content to the aggregators. It means we think about the message we want these artifacts to convey–both individually and collectively. It means the pieces we place online have unity and coherence. It asks: How long and hard would someone need to work before gaining reasonably accurate picture of me and/or my organization as an online presence? Are we handing them a well-executed scrapbook or a hodgepodge of loosely connected snapshots? Will exploring our organization’s online presence be like a well-organized tour of a historical site or more like picking through old items in a thrift shop hoping to find something unique or valuable?

Artistry. While artifacts carry knowledge and convey history, “artistry” provides original ideas and a glimpse of soul.

Rich iPresence asserts that the “content” we produce through human thought and inquiry must be more valuable than the widgets and images and design elements we use to frame it. It means thinking about not only clearing a path for people to follow but also making meaning. It asks: Does my digital opus illuminate the purpose and meaning of my experiences, passions, contributions, and qualities? Are we populating web pages or living up to the vision of a global village?

The Value of Program Documentation

By Deborah Vrabel

Documentation is a coherent record of your organization’s most important, meaningful activities, methods, and outcomes. It shows—through text, images, recordings, and artifacts—that a program or project is active, exciting, and fruitful.

It also is an effective but underutilized strategy for improving program sustainability.

Well-planned and executed documentation offers five benefits that all lead to stronger, more sustainable programs:

  1. Increases visibility
  2. Builds relationships
  3. Strengthens implementation
  4. Enriches evaluation
  5. Expands funding opportunities

Effective documentation helps you tell a coherent story that highlights the most important activities and features of a project or program. Building this story does not have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming if you:

  • Use your imagination.
  • Develop and implement a simple, realistic documentation plan.
  • Follow and regularly revisit the plan.
  • Promote awareness, involvement, and resourcefulness.