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Virtual University - Fort Ord Proposal: Friday, December 02, 1994
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"At the moment someone "stutters or flutters" in the flow of their learning or participating a doorway to a great opportunity opens up. To the person stuttering, the stutter represents the most important kind of internal process feedback (its how the baby learns to walk). To those persons and organizations who benefit by resourcing people's learning and participating (at school or work or in politics) having access to what is causing people to stutter, in intimate relation to what it is they are providing or resourcing or suggesting, is the key to cost effectively optimizing the service or product being provided. Creating a distributed dialogue processing system that can interface one another face to face or across the "line" can widen this doorway for everyone."
I would like to propose an experimental model for an altogether new "kind" of university one that could be nested within the "new" university being developed at Ford Ord. In addition to the proposal sketch that follows I believe I can deliver Arthur Anderson, Pacific Bell, and Egghead Software as learning and possibly funding partners (more on this point when we meet).
The model I want to propose is both Virtual and Actual. (Similar to Pacific Bell who created "infotel" to co-perform its normal business activities, to learn into relevant "best practices" and to creatively explore ways of breaking through to a new paradigm of business. A project that, free from responsibilities for, or entrainment by, the inertia of the way things are done, is now heartily enroute to generating the next "kind" of phone company).
The model has a series of organizing principles that revolve around two primary intentions: 1) to model a new kind of mutually learning oriented university 2) to model a new kind of dialogically distributed constituency and experiment with an alternative to representational politics as we now understand it. Here are some highlights:
Turn the whole idea of a university inside out (coperUnicus). Instead of being fundamentally organized around teaching and deg/Cree-ing - it is fundamentally organized around facilitating learning. By this I don't mean "band wagon" lip service to being superficially "learner-centric" - rather a sophisticated organizational and technological heuristic serving a dialogue rich culture that is focused on continuously improving its faculty's and technology's capacity to resource the real-time learning needs of its subscribing/attending learners.
To "reengineer" the process of a university as if its "customers" are learners who are "buying" the means to:
a) master their own capacity to learn - who recognize that the most important (generally leveragable) "subject" is how consciously self-extending they are of their personal capacity to "interface" and "learn" (generally).
b) develop their knowledge, facility, competency and mastery but not necessarily in order to obtain orthodox degrees or certificates.
c) order the unfolding of their education in relation to what is authentically (to them - in the moment and overall in their lives) emerging as "needs" and imperatives in their learning. (dialogically interfaced, "coached" and "resourced", but generally self-directed)
To develop an "ethic of interface" and a covenant of mutual learning
a) helps learners learn to dis-ambiguate and articulate what is most authentically necessary for sustaining the thrust of their own optimal learning (as it is happening) and to use this process as their primary "compass" and "orientation" to learning and interfacing.
b) provides everyone involved (faculty and learners) the technological means to efficiently express their needs, further dis-ambiguate them in the field of the resources unfolding before them, and to either have their needs met or contribute to the "feedback" dialogue that informs how resource allocations are prioritized towards meeting the overall actual needs of the university's constituency.
To develop and model a virtual political process that radically redefines a representative as one whose is responsible for refining the fidelity of their representation by having an ongoing ever more extended and inclusive person to person, real-time and technologically distributed, dialogue with their constituents.
I believe that human beings are born learning oriented and that the core process of our deepest learning is a psycho-energetic dis-ambiguation process oriented towards extending the dimensions of our presence. This is how babies develop so miraculously and, until we tacitly learn to ignore this process, this is how we learn everything (though even then how we do learn is ultimately driven by this process - its just so poorly mediated by the habits we have tacitly accumulated to learn through that it inefficiently dissipates the energy of our core capacities for learning).
I want to help develop an approach to education that enables people to dis/cover and sustain the learning orientation they were born with and to develop it consciously into their own "inner interface" to learning about anything. I think this is the most minimally presumptuous "intervening facilitation" we can do for individuals and for society and, also, that it is the most generally relevant (economically and humanistically) as well.
I believe that just about any person could learn anything if they were motivated and if the people and materials resourcing their learning could unfold themselves dialogically in relation to the person's - as they actually happen - arising learning/meaning needs.
There have been two primary arguments to my position 1) "you can't trust learners to know what they need" and 2) responding to people in the frequency range of their actual needs is not practical.
As to the first response I feel that if we are not fundamentally oriented to creating environments in and through which individuals learn to become consciously and distinctively dis-amiguating of their own authentic needs (trusting though ever refining of their compass of meaningfulness) we are implicitly teaching them that something else is more relevant to their learning and consequently to distrust the core process of themselves (with all the other consequences to who and how they are in-selved). We must develop an educational environment that demonstrates that this can be changed.
As to the second response it is practical and techno-organizationally possible to develop a distributed dialogue processing system that can interface people to people and people to information in a cost-effective way and in a way that can enable the whole system to evolve towards making what I am describing as common place as paperback books. I have developed the exhibits that can prove this point. I not only believe this is possible I think learning to employ and extend state of the art distance, distributed and dialogical learning "mediation" systems will create a new kind of infrastructure through which what we mean by "participating" in the political process will also undergo a radical reframe.
Background: Politics - notes
I believe a new form of politics will emerge. It will not emerge out of today's governmental system. It will emerge (initially in parallel) through a Virtual Nation (one forming today on the Internet and other large networks)
Its signature difference will be the level of participation possible (granularity and frequency). Its foundational assumption that radically changing the quality of participation possible will effect the dialogue in ways reframing and rehashing issues can no longer address.
The greater the level of participation possible (granularity and frequency) the less political "representation" required - the greater the need for education regarding participation (both how to and substantively about what)
This new relationship will be mediated by technology and technology always effects who uses it - the alphabet effect is a case - voter apathy is a case - not only are we "what we eat" - we become what we use - technology not only effects how humans do things it effects how humans internally relate to and process meanings.
Just as our current governmental systems are a form of technology - a crude form in which the issues of voting (in terms of the range of choice and the frequency of choosing) and representation and lawmaking and executing all reflect a distributed people mediation system (one designed for a kind of representation that was technically possible over 200 years ago [horseback and walking]) a new form of technologically mediating a political body of people is both possible and (as the recent election demonstrates) needed today.
As it is inevitable such a system will form it behooves us to consider its implications for both body politic and the ecology of the bodies & minds who will use it.
In essence I think that the underlying ETHIC of INTERFACE of such a system will be the "COMMON SENSE" and BILL OF RIGHTS of the next generation of government. In addition to the distributed and virtual political constituencies possible "on-line" I propose and think it critical that we establish an experimental virtual space in a common local space: Fort Ord. That we create a community within a community capable of testing out the tools and processes of a new kind of democracy and do it in a learning environment suited to that purpose
The Virtual University and Virtual Nation are the same thing.
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