Today I attended the Mesh 07 Conference and for me the most interesting (philosophically intense) session was the one titled "Digital Blinders - Are We an Inch Wide and a Mile Deep?" with a panel consisting of Mark Schneider, Nora Young and Mark Federman.
To be honest, I had no clue what this would be about. As I sat down I noticed a cartoon backdrop depicting 3 teenagers slouched on a couch surfing the web and commenting on sensational pictures of Britney Spears. The tag line said "The Death of the Newspapers"
We were quickly informed that this session was to discuss whether the abundance of information has caused us to be passive, lazy consumers of mass content lacking depth of understanding? It was kicked off by an excerpt from Al Gore's recent book, "Assault on Reason" in which Gore expresses anger over the media's single focus on salacious topics such as Paris Hilton, OJ Simpson, Laci Peterson, etc... while the US quietly made catastrophic errors in judgment about the environment, and the war on Iraq.
Of the many points discussed, the one concept that made me really think was whether the allowance of self-organized social communities actually drove collaboration further apart? The reasoning is that people are more apt to look for websites, communities, articles that support their disposition on certain topics rather than counter arguments to their pre-conceived ideas.
As communities of like minded people form, it reinforces their positions and causes an "us versus them" divide. Mark Federman, pointed to our Western education system that reinforces the zero-sum assumption in the way they teach children then you are either "right" or that you are "wrong". You can not have two right answers.
After the session, I chatted with some peers and discussed the implications to a company. Here are a four concepts from that discussion.
1. Focus on creating integrated forums that offer multi-perspectives instead of separate forums dedicated to specific interests.
2. Provide access to multi-source of information for multiple perspectives.
3. Focus on improving critical thinking and the ability to process multiple arguments and identify strength of arguments.
4. Accept the concept of emergent understanding and that it is ok to NOT have an immediate position.
Looking forward to tomorrow's session.