Monday, March 5, 2007

Quick Recap

So I wanted to get a post in before we started another module; we've already been through three and we only have Mel's thoughts here at the moment.

I learned a lot from this module. The idea of every complex thing being a system with stocks, flows, feedback and delay is simple and powerful. It feels like one of those ideas that has a huge number of levels of understanding one can reach about it (like, for example, a derivative). At a simple level it's Gill's ever-present bathtub analogy. But the water analogy can't handle the multitude of inputs involved in real-world systems like oil exploration or even something small like Olin. The other big lesson from this module was about working. All of us spent a huge amount of time coming up with a model that we felt could represent everything we wanted a simple model to represent about Olin. At the end of a grueling paper-writing process, I believe we came up with and had a basic understanding of a model that did just that; however, our ability to convey that knowledge was terrifically bad. We ended up having little time to write and even less time to edit; it was a disaster. Oh well. That'll teach us to keep on having our little thinking sessions instead of getting tangible work done.

This module was really intellectually stimulating. Our discussions in class were fantastic. The readings were interesting and provided us with both the vocabulary and background to have intelligent discussion, but it was really the discussions that I found compelling. The only times I would leave the conference room were when I had class immediately afterwards. Reluctantly. There's something fantastically refreshing about hearing views that you do not normally have accessible. The most impressive views from my standpoint were our ladies'. Mel, Chandra and Zhenya pointed out a number of times when they felt they were treated differently because of their gender. There are societal expectations. They are rooted so deeply that I doubt a reasonably quick change is plausible; one experiment showed that when people were shown pictures of men and women and asked to estimate heights the males would show up as being taller than females of the same height. So much cool stuff! Anyways, the autobiographies and then our 'what if...' autobiographies were all incredibly interesting.

Information Literacy
The thing I got most out of this class was a single phrase. This is that information literacy is about "moving information along the spectrum to knowledge." This insight taps into the fact that we are rapidly reaching a state were information is nearly infinite. We, as mere humans, cannot possibly keep up with the increase in information generation. We must be adaptive and we must constantly learn.

Anyhow, I'm really excited about the upcoming communications module... after all Raymond already had some cool ideas in this realm even before we talked with him.

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