Connection not protection

Beyond Distance is leaving our known shores for a brand new expedition. We are in the process of setting up the ‘The Learning Futures Academy’. One of its wings will be a new distance learning course in the Future for Learning. One feather in the programme will be the idea of learning from what gone before…hindsight leading to insight, and then of course to FORESIGHT.
Maybe over the summer you’ll have the chance to visit London, where like many cities all over the world, some historical figure’s past residence is noted by a blue plaque on the wall. Steven Johnson’s article in the 2009 summer RSA journal (A meeting of minds) points out however, that the Really Important places were London’s coffee shops, especially around 1650 to 1800. During the Enlightenment the coffee houses were the Internet of the day where within the ‘bizz-buzz’ whole new industries were invented as the idea seeds from many different professions cross fertilized and blossomed into critically important ideas. You don’t think so? Look it up! For starters how about the restoration of Charles II, Lloyds, Newton’s theory of gravity, the South Sea Bubble.
So what are the insight from the London coffee houses that help us at the end of the 1st decade of the 21st Century, who have the greatest opportunity to network, probably almost as equally caffeine fuelled? Well…no idea happen in a vacuum, open circulation of ideas and experiments, (they were compulsive sharers, withholding information for personal gain was unimaginable), Influence was critical (from the Latin root ‘to flow into’).
In the way that the London Coffee houses provided a bridge from the European Dark Ages through to the start of the Industrial Age, so I think we too should move forward their spirit through to the Cyber Age. We’re making some great steps with our Web 2.0 applications and with Open Educational Resources. Perhaps the Foresight is: Connection not protection .
Gilly Salmon

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