#CCK11 Friday session on CAS and Networks

After listening to last Friday’s Ellumination Session here I found some interesting ideas and concepts discussed there. My comments or addition in italics.

I couldn’t attend the session as it was held at 4:00 am at my end.  So I could only listen

1. Relating to the paper by Peter Fryer, What Are Complex Adaptive Systems

Relate to three body problem on network interactions.

Stephen explained learning as follows:

Refer to this post by Stephen on what networks have in common

2. Stephen: A network isn’t defined by the purpose it serves.  If that is the case, is network purposeful?  Would some networks be defined by the purpose they served?

If a community of practice is a network, then what is the purpose of the community of practice as a network?

3. Dustproduction: three degrees of influence –

Relate to this on wikipedia:

Christakis attracted international media attention in 2007 with the publication in the New England Journal of Medicine of the results of a study in Framingham, MA, which showed that obesity can spread from a person to person, through social networks, much like a virus during an epidemic.[7][8] (Watch the research video here or the TED (conference) talk here.)

Over the next few years, working with a former Harvard graduate student and now Professor at UCSD, James H. Fowler, and a team of researchers in his Harvard Medical School group, Christakis published a series of articles arguing that social networks can transmit not only obesity but also other health states and behaviors, including smoking[9][10], drinking[11] and happiness.[12] In 2008, the Christakis Group at Harvard Medical School was awarded an $11 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the study of networks and neighborhoods. Their work has also been supported by the Pioneer Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

4. Dustproduction: The network is self organizing, a bee hive, there is an emergence of a super-organism, and it exists without the knowledge of the individual.

It does not have to be aware….

But social networks are moving in a way that is gaining a self awareness.  How would this be interpreted in social networks?  Are social networks aware of their of own “purpose”?  May be if there are feedback mechanisms existing in the networks, and that such feedbacks provided are then fed into the input “nodes” then a complex networks will evolve into a complex system.

5. Jenny: Is ecology purposeful?

Stephen: If you’re a systems theorist, you say yes.  If you’re a network theorist, you say no.

Jenny: Purposeful ecology doesn’t sound right to me.

Ecology is not intentional – it just is.

6. Dustproduction: Networks are self organizing.  So there is affordance which provides for emergence.

7. Stephen: You can apply a system to something that is complicated but not something that is complex.

So if learning in a network is complex, does it mean that you can’t apply a system within a network?  Isn’t that the crux of the problem?  Without a system, how would one ensure the learning is ‘PURPOSEFUL’ or at least achieving the goals as set forth under a learning system.  If the response to this is NO, then it limits the use of networks in achieving the pre-determined goals as set forth in an educational setting.  Does it mean that informal networking (or networked learning) would be incompatible with a learning system?  If that is the case, how would learning be effective at a system level?

Still pondering….


6 thoughts on “#CCK11 Friday session on CAS and Networks

  1. Good questions John.

    Wenger says that a CofP has the following 3 dimensions:
    1. Mutual Engagement 2. A joint enterprise 3. A shared repertoire

    I think that a joint enterprise suggests a purpose.

  2. >If that is the case, how would learning be effective at a system level?

    So many questions, and seeming contradictions. I hope you are able to make sense of this, for the rest of us. Is a network a complex adaptive system (CAS)? If so, then I would think a network has some system attributes, and CASs have predictable outcomes. I think it was Dustproduction (is that her real name?) that talked about the predictable outcomes of a CAS.

  3. You are right. Many questions there, as those were the “conversations” left on the chat room. I do make sense of these, only that some needs to be clarified further. You may not know who dustproduction is, but I know who he is. That is predictable.

    Is a CAS predictable? http://www.trojanmice.com/articles/complexadaptivesystems.htm Human is a CAS. Are we predictable? We are complex in nature, especially relating to our interaction with our environment, and in learning with others. You could predict the outcomes with certain degree of accuracy, if the conditions are known, and if you apply certain constraints – positive and negative ones to intervene. However, whether such prediction is accurate or not is questionable, due to the interaction with other agents. You could understand how the system works after the event, but it is not easy to predict, like the weather system.

    You may find this challenging:”Complex Adaptive Systems are a model for thinking about the world around us not a model for predicting what will happen.” http://www.trojanmice.com/articles/complexadaptivesystems.htm

  4. If we were to attempt to understand personal knowledge we would do well to examine two issues that are currently observed but unexplained. One of these issues is how knowing of a particular type of knowledge occurs in “idiot savants,” individuals with am I.Q. so low as to be deemed unable to learn, (“individuals with an I.Q. of about 25 who were unable to read and write”) and yet these individuals are able to demonstrate a particular type of information (“can give volumes of information in one of several subject areas, and /or can accomplish incredible mental…feats in one particular area”). This is writen about in some detail in the book, “Evolution’s End” by Joseph Chilton Pearce. (Field of Intelligence and the Savant Syndrome)
    Similarly, the research of Christakis and Fowler states as a rule, “The Network has a life of its own. Social networks can have properties and functions that are neither controlled nor even perceived by the people within them.” These properties can be understood only by studying the whole group and its structure not by studying isolated individuals. i.e. stampedes and traffic jams. “The Smart Swarm” by Peter Brown makes similar observations about the nature of super organizisms, schools of fish, flocks of birds, a colony of ants. The question is where does the intelligence, in the savant, as well as in these networks come from if it was not learned.? And in the case of the social network, where does it reside, where is the social brain.
    John Miler and Scott Page observe in their book, “Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life”, Though ostensibly simple, the social dynamics responsible for a standing ovation are complex.” but John Miller adds, ” …you could get an audience that loved the performance …and they’re to shy to stand up.”. Unlike honeybees, we humans need more than our instincts to help us work toward a common goal.
    A soon to be published paper by Dr. Paul Stephen Prueitt, “The Social Brain: Stratification Theory as Applied to Neural Architecture enabling a Brain-like function for Social Networks” he states the following, “The concept of a social brain was suggested in the classical book by Minsky. Minsky‘s “Society of Mind” is part of the classical and neural network research literature. In “Society of Mind”, Minsky proposed that community intelligence is a natural outcome of an increase in connective-ness related to modern social realities.” As with the human brain, the socail brain mayl soon gain in increasing awareness of itself.

  5. Hi Theodore,
    Thanks for the rich sharing of valuable insights. In “Society of Mind”, Minsky proposed that community intelligence is a natural outcome of an increase in connective-ness related to modern social realities.” That sounds very interesting. Wonder how such community intelligence would be measured and evaluated. Surely that may be a way to gauge how people as a community would increase its wisdom through the “connective-ness” upon time. This keeps me thinking about the social brain, and how it impact on individuals.

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