Creative Conversation

This is the subject of Chapter 4 of Prof Pierre Lévy’s book:

This is a fascinating chapter on many counts and I found it easier to read and relate to that Chapter 1. Prof Lévy discusses the role of creative conversation in personal and social knowledge management, personal and collective intelligence and the ways in which knowledge and information will need to be shared, distributed and managed to keep pace with changing times. He writes:

To transform the deluge of information into useful, organized memory carrying knowledge across language barriers, moving with ease through the diversity of cultures, the creative conversation that arises from cyberspace needs a symbolic medium in keeping with its scope. (p135 – the last sentence of the chapter).

The focus of his book is the need for a symbolic medium and a new indexing system to replace current systems such as those based on the ways in which libraries organize information.

There is also a very interesting section in the chapter about strategies for personal knowledge management, but Lévy warns against reifying these, reminding us that these strategies will need to constantly change and evolve.

Particularly interesting for me, given the recent paper which Carmen Tschofen and I worked on ( ) to explore dimensions of individual experience in a connected world, is what Lévy has to say about the relationship between the collective and the individual. He writes that ‘the crowd’ is not stupid; it is essential to our collective intelligence and knowledge, but the individual’s role in collective, creative conversions is not forgotten or underplayed.

The process of collaborative production of shared memory favours individual learning insofar as the individuals involve their personal experience in the conversations (the process of explication is always instructive) and involve the results of the conversations in the reorganization of their personal experiences. (p.122)

Prof Lévy will be speaking to ChangeMooc at 4.00 pm GMT (11.00 am EST) today and I am looking forward to learning more about his work and ideas.

11 thoughts on “Creative Conversation

  1. Mark McGuire February 9, 2012 / 12:31 pm

    Hi, Jenny

    Thanks for the link to your recent article, which provides an excellent overview of Connectivism and raises several key issues that deserve further investigation.

    The individual actor, or learner, and his or her relationship to networks, is particularly interesting. I am reminded of a comment by Stephen Downes, that (to paraphrase, I think from a talk that he gave last year somewhere) “the product of learning is not knowledge, the product of learning is a transformed learner”. This, to me, is a key statement. The learner is transformed as part of the process of interacting with other individuals in the network, with artifacts, and with the structures in which they are organized and circulate. The individual’s transformation is both a cause and an effect of the development and growth of the network (which, according to Downes, also learns and becomes knowledgeable – I’m still getting my head around that one). This questions received assumptions about the degree to which the individual and her or his environment (or network) are separate and independent. Perhaps we can be both individual nomads and also identify as part of a net at the same time (perhaps in different ways).

    The idea of an internalized “openness” suggests that “being open” does not necessarily mean looking outward or externalizing our sense of who (and where) we are. I’m now remembering Rheingold’s discussion of being “mindful” of how we apportion our attention in week 15 of the change11 MOOC. This mindfulness requires a kind of openness that you discuss (“perceiving ongoing experiences accurately”).

    Certainly, one thread that runs through these discussions is how our sense of identity should be (or is likely to be) changed as a result of our use of networks (we make our networks and our networks make us, to remix Churchill). Following a the very individualistic 80s and 90s, many people are now talking about the importance of thinking more in terms of collectives and communities. Howard Gardner, who’s work on multiple intelligence you mentioned, suggests that we that we replace the three Ms: Money, Markets & Me with the three Es: Excellence, Engagement & Ethics, or with W, for “We” ( This is, perhaps, a call for a renewed sense of a traditional community rather than a call to engage in emerging networks, but there do seem to be similarities in the values and philosophies behind both. When George Siemens suggests that we “respect the network” (CCK12 MOOC, week 1 closing comment), I wonder how this relates to the search for community online that have been described by Rheingold (Virtual Communities, 1993) and by many others since.

    I suppose that the kind of associations and identities that may result from our creation of, and participation in, networks is impossible to predict. As Mark Poster suggests, you can only run the program and see what happens.

    Mark McGuire

  2. jennymackness February 10, 2012 / 7:29 am

    Hi Mark – thanks so much for this response to our paper, which is most welcome. I agree that Stephen Downes’ comment is a key statement – and one that I haven’t heard before – so thanks for sharing that.

    It is an interesting paradox that on the one hand we are being urged to drop the ‘Me’ in favour of the ‘We’, but on the other hand (from my persepctive), the ever increasing pressure to be connected to a wide network, makes it more difficult to know who ‘me’ is.

    I am very interested in the effect of connectivity on identity development – and how much ‘space’ away from the network/collective an individual needs for identity development. Our paper was for me a first shot at exploring some of these ideas, but there is still plenty more to think about.

    Thanks again for your interesting and thought-provoking comments.

  3. Mark McGuire February 10, 2012 / 8:14 am

    Yes, identity formation is really important, which is why it is so helpful to have the psychological perspective. I sense that there is tension between the idea that we should give ourself over to, and be subsumed within, a network, and the need to establish, make visible, and perform, our individual identity. The effect of various incentives and feedback on individual behavior online is also interesting. The “where I am” is an integral part of “who I am”, so we need to think about the design of these electronic environments, including the language and metaphors we use (as you’ve pointed out).

    You seem to be a conscientious and thoughtful blogger as well as an author of peer-reviewed academic work. Thanks for engaging in your investigations in the open so others can benefit. I’ll try to follow the progress of your work.


  4. Heli Nurmi February 10, 2012 / 2:40 pm

    I agree with you that Levy’s chapter 4 is easy to read and enjoyable. The content is known and much used in my work life and work community.
    The books Nonaka Ikujiro & Takeuchi Hirotaka.1995
    The knowledge-creating company: how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.
    Wenger Etienne.1999.
    Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity.
    Cambridge University Press.
    – were our favorite and we put those thought in practice.

    The same principles have been discussed in many MOOCs, too. The principles were known in 1990’s and therefore I think that during MOOCs I have learned new techniques, devices – a lot of them, and they need practice of course.
    But creative collaboration is still the same challenge …

  5. Mark McGuire February 10, 2012 / 5:33 pm

    Hi Heli and Jenny

    Re: “The knowledge-creating company”:
    Japanese companies worked out that an organization that was all top-down didn’t work very well, and they developed many innovative management practices to harvest good ideas from the factory floor. They re-structured the lines of communication so the company could “learn” better, and retain and apply the knowledge it built up. They also reconsidered the connections between factories and suppliers to enable a more efficient and responsive system. The way we choose to manage communication (the exchange of ideas) and flow (the exchange of artifacts), has a huge impact on the resulting culture and sense of community, connectedness, empowerment and growth.


  6. jennymackness February 11, 2012 / 12:31 pm

    Hi Heli – it’s interesting that you mention the influence of Etienne Wenger’s work. As I was reading Levy’s first Chapter, Etienne’s work immediately came to mind and I was pleased to see that it was referenced.

    Hi Mark – thanks for your comment. Your comment also reminds me of Etienne’s work on landscapes of practice – particularly when he talks about crossing boundaries of practice and the relationship between vertical (hierarchical top down) accountability of organisations and horizontal accountability of communities of practice within these organisations. You might be interested in a recording of a talk he gave about this which I posted here –

    Thanks to you both for your comments – Jenny

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