Prof Pierre Levy: The IEML Philosophy

Prof Pierre Lévy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
Holder of the Canada Research Chair in Collective Intelligence University of Ottawa, is the speaker this week in Change Mooc.

This is part of his introduction:

The human species can be defined by its special ability to manipulate symbols. Each great augmentation in this ability has brought enormous economic, social, political, religious, epistemological, educational (and so on) changes.

I think that there has been only 4 of these big changes. The first one is related to the invention of writing, when symbols became permament and reified. The second one corresponds to the invention of the alphabet, indian numerals and other small groups of symbols able to represent “almost everything” by combination. The third one is the invention of the printing press and the subsequent invention of electronic mass media. In this case, the symbols were reproduced and transmitted by industrial machines. We are currently at the beginning of a fourth big anthropological change, because the symbols can now be transformed by massively distributed automata in the digital medium.

My main hypothesis is that we still did not have invented the symbolic systems and cultural institutions fitting the new digital medium. So my research in the past 15 years has been devoted to the invention of a symbolic system able to exploit the computational power, the capacity of memory and the ubiquity of the digital medium.

Prof Levy has posted a PPT on the wiki  set up by George Siemens

I hope he will talk to this as it looks fascinating; I haven’t attended all the ChangeMooc weeks, but is this the only one that gives us a historical overview of change and a projection into the future? It’s that word ‘Control’ for where we are now, i.e. living in a world of surveillance etc. that grabs my attention and I look forward to hearing more about what he has to say about it.

I have started to read the first chapter of his book – THE SEMANTIC SPHERE COMPUTATION, COGNITION AND THE INFORMATION ECONOMY Volume 1 – which was published last year, and have to say that I am out of my depth. But it is so interesting to read the autobiographical section in which he describes how he has arrived at his current ideas.

What struck me is that this is a perfect example of ‘slow learning’. What Levy describes is years of work and the slow incremental development of ideas.

What also struck me is how broad is his range of interests – he has a cross-disciplinary approach, having studied cosmology, cybernetics, human sciences, economics, mathematics, molecular biology, philosophy, history, cognitive science, computer science and linguistics – and there’s probably more that I have missed.  This is a sure example of how we need to embrace diversity.

I have yet to read another two chapters of his book – but I am intrigued as to how he will approach the diverse changemooc group who will be attending Wednesday’s synchronous presentation (11.00 am EST, 4.00 pm GMT).

I need to read more – and understand more – but at the moment I am thinking about:

  • Knowledge management – how best to tap into the tacit knowledge of an organization, group, community etc?
  • Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome concept in relation to Prof Lévy’s work
  • Intellectual mastery of digital data flows – what does that mean for the ‘man in the street’ – or is all this just for the intellectual elite.

4 thoughts on “Prof Pierre Levy: The IEML Philosophy

  1. veronica February 7, 2012 / 6:13 pm

    Thanks for your post, it led me to read many things and helped me to create links that I wouldn`t have done without your input. For example, the concept of rhizome and its implications on learning or data processing.
    I teach biology and computer science. I feel that mental models using images taken from the genetics and other biological disciplines, are extremely attractive and propose alternatives that help to interpret our reality.

    Thanks again! -sorry my english 😦

  2. jennymackness February 8, 2012 / 7:59 am

    Thank you Veronica for taking the time to comment here. Glad my post was useful. I still have to get my head round it all 🙂 Jenny

  3. Heli Nurmi February 9, 2012 / 1:44 pm

    You are a good facilitator in CCK11 – here I can follow all important happenings in the course. Thanks.

    I have read the autobiography of Levy and it is great – knowledge has roots and I agree that he seems to know all sciences and their histories. It is fine to admire a living person, I like it. It was great to meet him in the Elluminate session yesterday and in the FB-group.

  4. jennymackness February 10, 2012 / 7:12 am

    Hi Heli – thank you for your comment. I found Chapter 4 easier to read than Chapter 1 – and I haven’t got round to reading Chapter 7 yet. Jenny

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