Archive for March, 2009


Team as my tool

March 31, 2009

Last spring we run in Tallinn University an international course ‘eLearning’ in the frames of the IST 6th Framework project iCamp ( One of the students’ weekly tasks was to write reflections of their individual and group-work.

We aimed to investigate the occurrence of self-direction in these reflective postings and developed a categorization scheme with Sonja Merisalo, a master student of Tallinn University.

An elaborated Activity system framework provided a model to illustrate self-direction categories.


The most interesting in this model is that it enables to see three types of mediators of action (‘tools’) that individuals use to achieve their objectives:

- material tools, services and resources (any kind of social software for example)
- self-direction as a cognitive tool
- team as a tool

The first type of tools is following Vygotsky’s (1978) account of mediation by tools, which is also including words as sign-tools.
For the second type of tools, Wegerif (2007) has suggested it’s not just the use of explicit reasoning but the ability to change one’s mind and see things from a new perspective, that is essential for learning.
Second and third type of tools also follow Bakhtin’s (1986) account of mediation by the voices and perspectives of others (dialogic).

In a book chapter Knowledge Media Tools to Foster Social Learning (Okada et al. 2009) wrote:

The boundary between subjects is not therefore a demarcation line, or an external link between self and other, but an inclusive ‘space’ within which self and other mutually construct and re-construct each other

This becomes also apparent from the figure in which self as a tool and team as a tool have the moving, perceptional borderline.

Another interesting thought is that several kinds of ruptured situations become visible. Ruptured situations are usually assumed to be the triggers of self-reflection.

We used the categories to analyze the weekly progress of students, and statistical analyses demonstrated that the categorization system has a very good internal logic… so now we are quite enthusiastic of writing these data.

One more idea is to demonstrate how the perception of your learning environment and tools (here i mean all three types of ‘tools’) is changing when learning in social settings, and designing something in teamwork.

I imagine the course as some kind of timeline-pipe for learning in which the flow of initiating the use of certain types of ‘tools’ fluctuates and is regulated by the availability of some types of ruptured situations that the learners notice in the environment. The ruptured situations trigger and constrain the use of ‘tools’, the use of these ‘tools’ puts more attention on noticing and creating the ruptured situations.


Anyway, if i find time i try to formulate it better.

Bakhtin, M.M. (1986/1978). Speech genres and other late essays. In C. Emerson & M. Holquist (Eds.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Wegerif, R. B. (2007). Dialogic, Education and Technology: Expanding the Space of Learning. New York: Springer-Verlag.


Narrative ecology course ending and restarting

March 23, 2009

From end of January until mid March we I and Anatole-Pierre Fuksas run a course “Ecology of Narratives”.

This course was composed as a design experiment aiming to try out what happens with narratives and what we perceive in hybrid ecologies.

Course ‘window’ in the ‘Ecology of Narratives blog’ gives some overview, what happened.

We will run the short version of the course again between April 27th and May, 5th, because we will have visitors from ITIN, (IT Institute – Cergy Pontoise – France).

Course info is HERE

This time we have lectures and seminars of the updated theory part and the start of the design experiment on 27th of April. Between 27.04-4.05 we write narratives intensively, simultaneous with French students’ explorations of Estonia.
The final day is 5th of May when the experiment data are finalized.
Participants are not constrained locatively with where they write narratives.

I hope it will be same much of fun as the ending course.


‘Narrative ecology’ tag-space

March 22, 2009

Tomorrow is the last day of the Narrative ecology course.

I have explored a bit my own data from the blog.

I have written three stories:
- ‘an ecology story’ is about my perceptions related to theory of narrative ecology;
- ‘an invasion story’ is about natural world invading as artifacts; and
- ‘ sustainable message story’ is about messages that are recycled on artifacts.

Here is the tag-space of my stories. There are still some problems with this exploration tool, but i think it really extracted the three stories.


Another way to look at the tag data at dendrogram shows also three clasters, so actually i WAS writing three stories.


Roots of ecological psychology I

March 10, 2009

Yesterday we started to revise some concepts of ecology to be useful in our learning context. So i had to come back an look at some theory books.

Harry Heft writes in Ecological Psychology in Context

Heft (2001): There is a dynamic realm of thoroughly natural, co-evolved entities functioning in a web of environmental interdependencies. The structural and functional properties of natural entities, and the interdependencies they share, reflect their ongoing mutual history. This view underlines an ecological perspective.

The founder of ecological psychology is William James (1842-1910). He was among the first generation of psychologists to introduce evolutionary perspective into psychological theorizing. His philosophy of radical empirism can be employed as a philosophical foundation to ecological psychology.

James identified pure experience as the ground of all knowing. Pure experience embedded as it is in a person-environment relation is poised to be dynamically differentiated. The defining characteristic of knowing is selectivity.

Immediate experience consists of things and relations. Knowing is an activity that traces out lines of potential structure in immediate experience, structure is not imposed on experience.

The knower appears from the outset in relation to the thing known. The knower and object known each become realized as different constellations of relations themselves coexisting ultimatively in a ground of pure experience.

Experience is unitary, but at the same time, it can simultaneously be part of two constellations of relations, that is, a part of two distinguishable contexts. The object known and the knower are each embedded in contexts of relations that have their own distinguishable structures.

Selection of structure in experience involves following a set of relations in experience. Relations in experience are “transitional experiences which the world supplies” (James, 1912/1976, p. 14). The lines of structure selected out by the knowing function are not imposed on the thing known, but are identified and discovered in it.

Three basic claims characterize James’s philosophy:
- only those things that can be identified or discovered in experience are to be included in one’s philosophical system.
- the relations between things, conjuctive, as well as disjunctive, are just as much matters of direct particular experience.
- the world itself possesses an inherent discoverable structure.

In radical empirism, knowing refers to a functional relation in experience between the knower and an object known.

Perceiving is ongoing, continuous, unbroken and multimodal. The continuity of perceptual flux is punctuated by boundaries that gradually flow one into the next. “Boundaries” is misleading, suggesting an edge that is rigid and impermeable. Better put, there are transitions in perceptual experience, which are overflowed by what they separate and whose parts compenetrate and diffuse into its neighbours.

Perceiving is a direct, unmediated, selective discovery of structure in immediate experience.
Perceiving is an action that entails selection of a flow of immediate experience out of the potential ground that is pure experience.

Thinking or conceiving entails selecting and fixing particular parts of this perceptual flow. Through this process, concepts are carved out of immediate perceptual experience at a remove from action and are abstracted from it. The system of concepts is selected out of the perceptual flow. “Concepts extracted from the perceptual flow, ” verbally fixed and coupled together (let us) know what is in the wind for us and get ready to react in time (james, 1912/1976, p. 47).

Forming concepts and beliefs is something complex biological creatures do in order to be better in touch with the flow of experience, rather than uncovering fixed and transcendent universal truths. It is a natural process of complex animals attempting to function adapatively in relation to changing environment-person relations.


Timespace, what else

March 6, 2009

I have been running with some students an experiment of hybrid narratives.

We have been writing personal narratives and collaborating in the non-determined manner, presumably we have simulated something swarm-like.

Now we are in the phase of collecting data and looking ideas for analysing what we experienced. There are many ways. Today i came to one of my old blog posting about time-space, which seems to visualize what i always imagine as the activity and meaning paths within one ecology.

Here is the idea of personal time-space from a paper.


I think what is possible to do on the basis of our dataset is to show something similar. I am still thinking how to put on one figure places, experienced entities and their transformations.

Let’s imagine places are real locative spots from where i collected content.
In the next layer (Brightkite) this content did a permutation. In the more next layer (in Flickr) it changed one more time. And in Blog as well.

Instead of time, i could use the quantity of impressions or objects from this spot.

And i think i also need something for distinguishing my favourite categories of objects, either by meaning, activity, narrative or so.

For example my favourites may be trees, birds, shadows. Or some particular tags that i use distinguish my categories.

It is still not clear how i will visualise it…
My data are currently in excel format.

If i could map more than one person into this space, i could see something similar to ant-road in our little narrative ecology swarm.


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