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Why John Seely Brown Says We Should Look Beyond Creativity to Cultivate Imagination | Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning
"Spotlight: Do I understand correctly that you started professional life as a bookie?

John Seely Brown: It was a good way to make some money. I was really good at mathematics, so I could compute all kinds of things instantaneously. But I realized that mathematics, although super cool, was not necessarily the secret to mastering the universe. It was the beginning of a long transformation in my mind about the shift from being an expert in content to being skilled at reading context.

Reading context? What does that mean?

Think of a movie and then think of changing the music in that movie. The consequences are simply shocking. In fact, for a long time, documentaries weren’t allowed to even have music in them because it changed people’s perception of what the film was about. That’s how propaganda works.

Context is everything, I guess.

Most of our wars have been started by the shaping of context. Remember that image of the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down? Well, the photo was actually cropped. Those were Americans pulling the statue down, not Iraqis. But the cropped photo reinforced this notion that the Iraqis loved us. It reshaped context. Milennials are much better at understanding that context shapes content. They play with this all the time when they remix something. It’s actually an ideal property for a 21st century citizen to have.



I’ve heard you talk about “listening with humility.” Does that tie into these other kinds of intelligence?

This idea of listening with humility is to go beyond what people are saying. It’s being able to listen to what’s not being said. I would claim that listening with humility in this buzzing world is going to get you more information than focusing on what is said. Sometimes you find things out that even the person talking didn’t know. I’ve just been so struck that our whole schooling system is focused on IQ. Street smarts, on the other hand, includes EQ and SQ.

How do you teach social intelligence? In some ways that seems like a harder skill to develop.

You don’t teach these things. You cultivate them.



I’ve heard you talk about a shift in thinking from a race against the machine to a race with the machine. What does that mean?

Here’s an interesting fact: today we can build massively powerful super computers that can beat the world’s best chess players. But then something has happened called freestyle chess. In freestyle chess, you compete against the computer, but you can use anything to win—you can call someone for advice, you can use your own computer, you can get a whole group of people together to play. If you go to one of these tournaments you’ll find something unbelievably shocking. You can take two or three kids who are good at chess—not experts, but good—and they’re using computers—not super computers, but regular computers—and they’re consistently beating both the super computer and the world’s best chess players. So these kids have figured out what they do really well and what their machines do really well, and then, lo and behold, they beat the best machines and the best humans. It is an interesting and highly improvisational collective, so to speak.

Why is this important?

You get a sense of what really matters. A new kind of collaboration. Collaboration with peers but also with machines. How do a small number of peers working with a small number of machines become a creative ensemble?

That’s a paradigm shifting idea.

It’s totally a paradigm shifting idea. We should be getting kids to play with machines and with each other in order to improvise, left, right, and sideways.

Whenever I talk to you, you always make me feel very optimistic. What worries you?

We have interlocking institutional systems that are in place solely to protect the status quo. Peeling those back won’t be easy and we have to find new ways to do it. Take connected learning. Connected learning is saying “How do we move learning from being allocated only in the classroom, and take advantage of all the resources available?”

So in a way it comes back to understanding systems.

Absolutely understanding systems, but also it’s about flipping the edge and the core. With connected learning, you see powerful things start to happen on the edges. And that starts to become seductive to people in the core. You start to have teachers saying, “How come Johny, who’s been sleeping through class, now comes into class full of energy and asking me all kinds of questions?” You don’t bring about major system change by attacking the core. You build up the edges and show what the edge can do. Connected learning to me is a technique to empower the edge and have it become so attractive that the core starts to think more like it. It’s as simple as that. And that’s a pretty damn powerful strategy."
art  creativity  design  education  culture  johnseelybrown  2014  interviews  context  listening  tcsnmy  modeling  content  curiosity  imagination  eq  sq  iq  collaboration  systemsthinking 
january 2014 by robertogreco

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