Emails in communication was: Interesting anomoly ...
Wed, 28 Oct 1998 09:22:40 +1100
Bernard Robertson-Dunn wrote:
> Assuming that I what I wrote was not complete gibberish (it does
> sometimes happen), is the medium of email open to
> miscommunication any more than other media?
Maybe it's not email, it's more insidious than that:
I came across this in NETFUTURE Issue #79
(The whole edition is worth reading for its comments on modern
education and the use of technology.)
WHY INFORMATION IS NOT ENOUGH
Lowell Monke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Letter from Des Moines
October 27, 1998
TALES FROM A HIGH SCHOOL COMPUTER LAB
Recently, one of my students designed and managed a Web page for a
project involving the comparison of cultures from various parts of
the world. This student gathered and categorized hundreds of
messages so that others could reference all contributions easily.
For several months he did just what proponents of "Information Age
Education" say we need to teach our students to do: he organized,
selected, processed and even electronically published information
that was sent to him every day. He did such a good job and was so
proud of his work that we decided he should enter the Web page in a
But the entry form completely baffled him. He spent an hour
pondering and asking me for help with the question, "What is the
value of your project?" With all of his hard work he didn't seem to
have any idea how to express why he had spent so much time
developing this extensive body of information. Finally, I gave in
and told him what I thought the value of his project was but it did
little good. He soon came back, unable to remember the exact words
I had used.
This nice, hard-working young man, who can gather and process
information off the 'Net so well, has nevertheless been failed by
all of us in the educational system. His problem had nothing to do
with technology or information and couldn't be fixed by them. His
problem was lack of
insight, the inability to discover meaning by finding relations
between experiences and ideas. In a truly educational environment
experiences and ideas interact to create knowledge and the insights
that feed the seed of wisdom.
This recalls T. S. Eliot's famous lament, "Where is the wisdom lost
in knowledge? Where is the knowledge lost in information?" (1963,
Still, our infatuation with technology has blinded us to this
discrimination and resulted in data and information being lifted to
exalted status. The promoters of information have inflated its
definition to absurd dimensions (Machlup 1983). John Perry Barlow
example, claims that "Information is an activity. Information is a
life form. Information is a relationship".
As information becomes a "living" entity inhabiting the electronic
grid, once-prized attributes of human life like wisdom and truth --
technology cannot traffic -- have become empty terms almost
embarrassing to utter. "Living in the bureaucracies of information,
we don't venture a claim to that kind of understanding" (Birkerts
1995, 74). Even in education we no longer speak in those terms, and
end up with students who have no idea how to find meaning in the
information they process. As Theodore Roszak has pointed out, "An
excess of information may actually crowd out ideas, leaving the mind
(young minds especially) distracted by sterile, disconnected facts,
lost among the shapeless heaps of data" (1986, 88). The Internet
provides us with nothing so much as an excess of information.
Cleverness is not wisdom.