The network is the solution

Our future needs to be focused on learning, not instruction. The key to a flourishing civilization in the network era is sense-making. We have to move from what David Warlick describes as individualized instruction to personalized learning. In the latter, “Literacy becomes a wide range of evolving information skills developed around the activities of learning – the ability to acquire knowledge and skills through the resourceful and responsible utilization of information.” Self-instruction, the basis of personal knowledge mastery, is a necessity in effective peer-to-peer networks, as networks are how we will govern ourselves more and more. David Ronfeldt articulates this with his TIMN [Tribes-Institutions-Markets-Networks] framework.

TIMN has long maintained that, beyond today’s common claims that government or market is the solution, we are entering a new era in which it will be said that the network is the solution (e.g., here and here). Aging contentions that turning to “the government” or “the market” is the way to address particular public-policy issues will eventually give way to innovative ideas that “the network” is the optimal solution.

We all need to understand how to become contributing members of networks, for work and for life. This should be the primary focus of all education.

“Reed’s Law” posits that value in networks increases exponentially as interactions move from a broadcasting model that offers “best content” (in which value is described by n, the number of consumers) to a network of peer-to-peer transactions (where the network’s value is based on “most members” and mathematically described by n2).  But by far the most valuable networks are based on those that facilitate group affiliations, Reed concluded. – David Bollier

Without sense-making skills, the citizenry cannot understand complex issues, such as individual privacy versus national security. These issues require networked, human intelligence, not broadcast sound bites nor ‘learning objects’.

Sensemaking should drive policy. Policy drives decisions. Decisions, of course, need to be informed. If the People don’t know what makes their world go ‘round, the folks on the Hill sure won’t. Globalized governments can’t. – What the Snowden Case Teaches Us

As David Bollier concludes, “Legitimate authority is ultimately vested in a community’s ongoing, evolving social life, and not in ritualistic forms of citizenship.” Should not education move beyond ritualistic forms of subjects, classes, and certifications and toward ongoing, evolving social learning? How else will we be able to deal with the complexities of this networked, connected sphere that we inhabit?

Jon Husband writes that we are all in this together:

The interconnected Information Age is beginning to show us that we’re all linked together – and that the whole system matters.

This principle applies to organizations, to networks of customers, suppliers, employees and communities, to our societies and to the planet.

New language for this principle is popping up everywhere – knowledge networks, intranets, communities of practice, systems thinking, swarming, social software, social networks, tipping points.

Awareness is the key.  Maintain an “open focus”.

Being aware of yourself, others and the effects of your actions and ways of being in relation to others is a fundamental requirement in these conditions.

Note: This post was written in order to put a number of ideas together into an initial narrative, mostly for myself. To me, it makes sense, as I have read and tried to unpack the many linked articles. For the casual reader, this may not be so clear. – Harold

4 Responses to “The network is the solution”

  1. Tony Reeves

    Maybe I’m not a casual reader Harold, but what you’re saying certainly makes sense to me. I had the opportunity to meet with the educational Programme Managers of Google and Hewlett-Packard last week to discuss the skills that 21st Century graduates need. Their responses included skills such as Global Fluency (being able to work effectively with different cultures across different time zones), Global Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Collaboration, Knowledge Management, Community Management and Connected Leadership.

    If these are the skills that business is looking for it’s not surprising that HIgher Education is perceived as being behind the curve. My feeling is that there is a clear need to embed the teaching of these 21st Century skills in Higher Ed programmes to create graduates who are more network literate – I’ve added more thoughts on my blog.

    Thank you for your ongoing work on PKM, it’s greatly helping inform my thinking about Faculty development in my institution.

    • Harold

      Thanks Christian, and I’m glad this post wasn’t as fuzzy as I thought it might be, Tony.

  2. Dave

    Scott McNealy and SUN would be proud of your post title, and likely of Mr. Ronfeldt’s TIMN framework. It also appears social networking / social media proved out many of Ronfeldt’s claims. Education must evolve within a society, or the society declines. Not sure its evolved much in the past half-century though…


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