OLPC, ANT, and breakthroughs for Dadamac and me

The most important breakthrough last week was the "Aha!" moment that happened when I was reading "A travelogue of 100 laptops". It gave me an insight into why I can't easily answer the question "What to you do?" (See A PhD Thesis About OLPC Asks: What are we doing? What are we bringing? and the comment at 10.54am on March 9th.)

I now have a theoretical framework to justify how I go about things. Honestly, it's not simply a personality disorder when I confuse and annoy people by jumping between anecdotes and the big picture. It isn't that I have no focus when I go scampering off wherever there is "energy" and activity somewhere amongst my contacts. It's actually a recognised approach to research.

Hmm, yes, research. If I call it reseach then that explains my interest in what I learn though my practical projects, and the patterns that I look for, and the way I fit them all into an analytical framework. It's why I'm most comfortable describing myself as a student rather than a social innovator. I've often said my practical work is best thought of as my "field studies". Now, thanks to the OLPC thesis I can "go academic" in my own defence and start quoting Actor Network Theory (ANT).

PhD thesis about OLPCstudy on One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). I read it beacuse it was about OLPC in Nigeria. I was delighted when it also gave me insight into why I struggle to answer the question "What do you do?". The study is a
PhD Thesis About OLPC Asks: What are we doing? What are we bringing? - See more at: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/academia/a_phd_thesis_about_olpc_asks...
PhD Thesis About OLPC Asks: What are we doing? What are we bringing? - See more at: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/academia/a_phd_thesis_about_olpc_asks...
PhD Thesis About OLPC Asks: What are we doing? What are we bringing? - See more at: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/academia/a_phd_thesis_about_olpc_asks...
PhD Thesis About OLPC Asks: What are we doing? What are we bringing? - See more at: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/academia/a_phd_thesis_about_olpc_asks...

These are some of the quotes I might find handy (from the section on p70-p73 about Implications for time, space and other such scales)

 "In every actor-network there is a myriad of possible temporalities to be laid down ... Temporalities help make order ... Similarly, actor-networks do not expand in any conventional way.... With ANT, there is no global beyond the local and, vice versa, no place self-contained enough to be local... actor-networks do not fluctuate between micro, meso or macro. They extend through relations which intensify at some points while thin out at others"

In other words, in "my world" it's natural to intermingle local-and-global, to zoom between tiny detail and big picture perspectives, and to follow information and activity flows through relationships. It's also okay to look back later and draw out a story line that has a sensible begining, middle and end, even though it was all part of a more complicated emergent happening at the time. So, in the context of ANT, I'm not as crazy and chaotic as it sometimes seems.

More about last week

Riding on my happy new level of confidence (confidence in the logic of my various interlinked "learning and doing" activities) I'll share some personal highlights of the past week.

Dadamac Foundation website and first video.

Much is going on regarding planning and strategy for Dadamac Foundation, but until now nothing has been visible. Friday marked an exciting first step. There is now a fledgling Dadamac Foundation website - www.dadamac.org - with a video of John Dada which illustrates the mission to help changemakers make change in Africa.

I need to separate this Dadamac Foundation area of my work from other things and give a clear message about its practical purpose and value in order to attract support - hence the new website, and the energy I've putting into developing Dadamac Foundation since its 2013 AGM.

If Dadamac Foundation attracts resources it will be possible for the organisation to build on what I learned working with, and for, John Dada (with help from Nikki Fishman and Andy Broomfield from 2008-2012). Dadamac Foundation will "help changemakers to make change in Africa". I want to help to launch it, see it thriving, and then move to the sidelines, to reflect and look at the emerging patterns and information flows.

Monday - First speakers confirmed

Last Monday the first three speakers were confirmed for our GlobalNet21 (GN21) and Africa "Speakers Corner" event. This group connects with Dadamac Foundation and is another way for changemakers to become visible and to share their knowledge and experiences. Because it has a face-to-face London element and can attract members of the diaspora we can do some things more quickly in the GlobalNet21 and Africa group than we can through the online work. 

Some of the GN21 and Africa "core group" have already sampled First Thursday meetings - the natural first online connecting point with other people in my network in Africa and elsewhere .

GN21 as a learning space

I'm not only interested in the content of the GN21 and Africa sessions. I'm also interested in what it can teach me about effective 21st century approaches to learning. I hope to grow this group as a "learning and doing group", and will explore ways to "tap into the wisdom in the room". This ties in with earlier work I did to explore GN21 as a learning space, and the lessons I learned through failing to sustain people's interest in that study group.

Regular online things

Regular events in the week were the Dadamac UK-Nigeria online weekly team meeting on Tuesday, and the monthly online open meeting "First Thursday".

A rich combination

The fruits of years of regular work in these online spaces will feed into how we'll work in Dadamac Foundation. The people involved and the knowledge they have shared give Dadamac Foundation much to use. Imagine combining that with the GlobalNet21 Africa group, and adding collaborations with other groups that I connect with but have yet to draw in.

My vision is a vehicle for positive disruptive change, where central development decisions are increasingly informed by local needs and practical realities.

An unexpected email

On Saturday there was an unexpected email from Mr Timothy (the late Peter Oyawale's Uncle Timothy). It came via Fola. Mr Timothy has been a kind and caring friend to me, since my earliest days in Ago-Are, and he was one of the key people behind the continuation of Peter's work there. It's several years now since we last met face-to-face. Mr Timothy is a practical man, a farmer and a mechanic, a man who is active in his community, not tied to a computer screen, so his email was unexpected.

Mr Timothy has heard about First Thursday from Fola and hopes to join the conversation next month. As far as I know, connectivity is still not easy where he lives. Certainly Fola and other contacts in Nigeria often have to abandon efforts to join First Thurday because of connectivity issues. I hope Mr Timothy will be able to make it.

When Dadamac Foundation is established we'll work with community champions like Fola and Mr Timothy, and help them to overcome the connectivity challenges that they face.

Public service launchpad at Impact Hub Westminster

My recent involvement as a public service (ps) launchpad scholar at Impact Hub Westminster (HubW) has taught me some unexpected lessons. I've found tremendous overlap between what I know of community development projects in rural Nigeria and what I'm learning about community development in London. The details are different but the "actors" as Actor Netwrok Theory might put it, are familiar.

Last Friday at Mix at Six (an informal weekly event at HubW) I was glad to have an opportunity to reflect, with one of the organisers, on some of the lessons we've learned through pslaunchpad.

Other opportunities to reflect

My practical work and and theoretical studies cover various aspects of 21st century lifestyles, learing and livelihoods, with "field studies" ranging from rural Africa, to central London. This makes it a bit of a challenge to find people who are sufficiently genuinely interested to get involved in my thinking.

Last week was special for its connection with two "thinking partners" - Andrius Kulikasukas and Mark Roest.

Andrius Kulikauskase

My week included a quick Sype chat with Andrius Kulikauskus (in Lithuania). He's helping me to think through some of the issues I'm interested in. He's got me to express my interest in terms of a question (not a very well crafted one yet) and he's given me four steps to help me get a better one. It's a clever strategy:

1) Make a list of the assumptions inherent in your question (try for 10
or 20)
2) Order them in terms of which are most pertinent to you, Pamela
3) try to isolate the most pertinent one
4) and design a question which engages that pertinence

Andrius, with his interest and encouragement, has been a source of support for many years. His philosophy and his related behaviour have been strong influences on my approaches to online communities, collaboration and information sharing.

He's just published his book - The Truth (Illustrated): From Relative to Absolute (it will be available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IU69Z3Y or freely as a pdf file at http://www.selflearners.net/wiki/Truth/Book The book is totally Andrius, uncompromisingly Andrius - which in itself is "very Andrius". By co-incidence, when he came on skype I was reading (and looking at) the pdf version of the book and had alread seen over 100 pages. I was enjoying it, with its mix of words, photos and Andrius' drawings.

Andrius wanted feedback and I was telling him how I wanted to read his work in a format where I could interact as if I had coloured chalks or ribbons in my hand. Then I could track the flow of my thoughts and feelings with flows of colours as I read what he'd written. I could bind the colours close to the text when I agreed or was emotionally engaged, and when I felt distanced then the threads of colour would be flow or leap away from the pages reflecting that is a dynamic visual way.

I was very engaged with every page, perhaps because I already know Andrius well and the pages are a mix of what I know of him and what is new to me. If I had the colour interface  then I'd like to revisit the pages with other colours at other times. I'd like to retrack my responses. I'll be interested to discover if what he writes later alters my responses to what is written at the beginning.

I also wanted the pages on cards - so I could shuffle them around and re-arrange them to my own satisfaction.

I'm gad we're in contact again and sharing our thoughts. I've been busy with practicalites recently and I haven't been following many of Andrius posts, although I've dipped in now and again for a sample of his news and thinking. Since we first met Andrius has always given me space to think, encouraged my thinking and questioning and also challenged me. I feel that he helps to "stop my head from exploding".

Mark Roest

Mark Roest (USA) has also offered me a thinking haven. That was during First Thursday - near the end of the sesssion. Mark is a long time member of the First Thursday Group. He's interested in systems, Buckminster Fuller's ideas, and the wider picture.

I had mentioned my current need for opportunities for reflection as I've been too involved in essential practicalites and administration during the past year or so. I was also discouraged by the achievments of all the social entrepreneurs whose work has impacted tens of thousands of people, while I've only ever worked with a few. Mark responded by taking our conversation to a different level in a way that immediately lifted my spirits. He said:

I focus in on systems to make it work at scale and you focus on human factors necessary for it to work at any scale, large or small.

If you have access to larger patterns, and you do, then you can bring the value of that to the smaller group. If you pioneer that, your experience serves as a guide for users of the larger system.

That is the pattern of complementarity. It's called fractal, in chaos theory. small reflects large.

You live their exploration. in your work and in what you see as valuable..

That gave me a totally new, and very encouraging, perpsective. Mark has offered to continue our conversation separately from First Thursday.

Looking back

So - it was a productive working week.

There were good connections with people (including other helpful suggestions people made and work people did which I would have liked to mention). Practical work started to become visible. There was the breakthrough of theoretical scaffolding to help me believe that, even if I struggle to explain what I do, it isn't crazy to be doing it.