I’ve been writing everyday for almost a decade now, and the process itself has given me a far greater insight into how ideas form, evolve, and either stick or dissolve. The writing itself is not an objective, observer, part of that process, but rather it is centrally active in it. Writing codifies ideas into imperfect words and phrases, which lock together to tell stories, which writhe and change over time.
It leaves me feeling something like the circus ringmaster at times: I look around and can sense different narrative threads in different stages of completion, some of which I fully understand, many of which represent just the stages of early comprehension. Some of which are folly.
Starting this year, I find myself looping three distinct threads into final stories: the work on Learning Science, the Guidebook on the Social Age, and the work on ‘Domain to Dynamic’, which charts the birth of the Socially Dynamic Organisation. All three of these will be complete and published in Q1, and each will represent a solid step forward in my published body of work. Which is not to say that the represent they end of thinking: indeed, knowledge and understanding is really the study of false summits. Each of these pieces of work is imperfect, fragmented, and doubtless in small or large part wrong. But each feels ready to have a story told.
I have found the use of the Social Age Guidebook format to be valuable in this respect: the blog represents my first degree of reflection (which is to say, not very reflective at all!): it’s conversational and rapidly evolutionary, and as part of #WorkingOutLoud it acts as the central repository of ideas, or to put it another way, the bucket into which scraps of thoughts are tossed and discarded. Full books represents the maps: of necessity they present at least a semi coherent and confident narrative, so in that sense you could call them a third degree of reflection (one to blog, one to research and write, and one to tie it into a book structure). The Guidebooks are neither one nor the other: they are longer form than a blog, shorter than a book, and hence less daunting to write.
They are also, deliberately and by design, more evolutionary than a book (which can only iterate through Editions. The Guidebooks, by contrast, can iterate through print runs or digital upload, far faster.
I guess that writing is a journey, and like many journeys, it is a process of discovery: some of what you discover is held in the view that surrounds you, and the way that view changes over time, whilst the other discovery is the way in which you are changed by the journey itself. Everything is a balance: we are a system, both shaped by, and influential within, our landscape of curiosity.
In The News
Storytelling on Demand
The big tech Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas is always a hotbed of new ideas, but one of the more surprising newcomers is the launch of a media service that is Netflix like’, but which limits productions to a length of ten minutes. Stuffed with celebrity backers, the time limit was not enough to catch my interest, but rather the way that they are marketing their ‘turnstyle’ technology.
The premise is that you can dynamically move your phone or tablet from portrait to landscape, and the video is reframed in that format. Not resized, but actually reframed, so you can see a different perspective: this is actively used in their productions, which range from episodic films, to drama. So at times you may need to change perspective to... er... change perspective. Which all feels like a Marshall McLuhan lecture.
Still, in a world of pervasive video, I found it a refreshing new storytelling tool, and will watch with interest how it evolves: technologies such as Netflix’s interactive videos have remained niche curiosities, but you never know.
Research for the Big Data and AI module of the Modern Learning Programme, which I will be writing in March, reminded me of this, a story of early ‘computers’, and how an ability to understand and manage data is big business.
The ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority is interesting as an example of the evolution of dominant narratives: under new rules, they can ban an advert that reinforces gender stereotypes, and this one was deemed to do so.
It’s a clear example of the relationship between legislation, dominant cultural norms, and the evolution of a narrative.
My first writing of 2020 was to share a new model, the Community Star: it’s a very simple tool to help one reflect on how we interact within our Communities, and to shape that activity over the course of a number of weeks.
I really like these short and grounded tools - they are in many ways imperfect, but designed to let you ‘graffiti’ or evolve them to your own vocabulary over time.
Games in Learning
The second half of the week was taken up with illustrating and writing for the ‘Games in Learning’ module of the Modern Learning Capability Programme. It was 2015 when I last published work around games and gamification, and I have tried to evolve that work here.
Centrally I am differentiating between ‘game dynamics’, and ‘game mechanics’, but I change the language I use to describe those two things.
#WorkingOutLoud on the Certifications
We enter 2020 with two global resellers in place for the Certifications, so I am excited to see how they take off at greater scale.
These are important, because the ability to work with focussed groups around core areas of the Social Age tends to challenge my own thinking, and assist me in evolving my ideas fast. There is some truth that teaching is a great way of building understanding, but probably an even better way to discover your own limitations.
What I'm thinking about
I took two weeks off for Christmas, which was extremely welcome, particularly as I was able to go largely offline: Siri was happy to inform me that my screen time was down 50% on my iPhone, and over 70% on my iPad, which I feel was good for my sanity.
So last Sunday I was gearing up for a grand launch into 2020, which was almost immediately scuppered by River becoming ill: at eight months old, I find myself marvelling at how fast he is growing, and just how much he loves to interact. We play all sorts of games: clapping together, pushing a ball to each other, even waggling our tongues at each other. I often look at him and see him turning into a complete little person. Until he was ill, when I could only see him as a baby: it’s his first time being properly ill, and we have spent a few nights just sitting up with him, listless and crying.
It’s only a cold, but in some ways I find it has been the strongest direct sign to me that I am now a parent: over the last year there are times when we have been tired, or stressed, but as he has been ill I found all that falling away. The absolute focus on looking after him when he is distressed, no matter what the time, or how tired we are, is a timely reminder that we are, at heart, entirely social and familial in our behaviour, and that almost every aspect of our biology and psychology is geared up to those moments.