Meet Leo and his life in the adventurous tech-intensive society IN>D:Valley. His family and neighbourhood, his school, and his creative mind. The first episode will be published soon in the form of a 360 degrees comics, a format that is an adventure in itself.
Studies of Erasmus hands by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543)
During the Renaissance, academics and students walked between the growing number of universities. This roving academic life still existed to some extent in the 19th century, as the author Karl Kullberg testifies in a travelogue from Europe 1842 (only available in Swedish). There he encounters, among other things, some English students along his path. In their search for knowledge and engaging learning environments of their choice. As the centuries passed, however, this goal and perspective were gradually abandoned. It was a transformation from learning as a personal educational journey to an education based on the requirements of the nation of birth. Especially from the second half of the 19th century and onwards, the goal was to build national state hegemony from a collective knowledge base.
This unit, the nation-state, which in the 20th century developed into war machines, both against other nations and against its own population. Later this unit also became welfare producers, which developed its own ideology. In this spirit, the equation of education over the past 150 years has been that the national state has identified different needs and then localized its educational resources to meet these demands. Now we live in an age when the pendulum is swinging back where the equation of the 21st century consists of a return to the boundless mobility of the Renaissance, and a journey of education for the student’s personal and social development. This is shown, among other things, by a study from the British Council. However, besides the similarities of the renaissance, the borderless mobility today has another dimension, namely learning and skills development in the digital world.
1. Increasing student mobility across national borders
2. The existence of new models for global collaborations in higher education
3. Patterns in research results and its growing internationalization
4. Commercial research activities.
The results show the rapid growth of internationally mobile students with an increase from 800 000 in the mid-1970s to over 3.5 million in 2009. This trend is expected to strengthen further in the coming years. In addition, this trend includes the fact that the Nobel Prize has been won more often by researchers working in a country other than the one in which they were born. For example, more than 60% of the winners in 2010 and 2011 had studied and/or conducted research outside the country in which they were born. It is clear that new environments provide new perspectives and ideas to achieve the greatest innovations for the benefit of humanity. This is also one of the pillars that Alfred Nobel thought the prize should support. And in this spirit, the new version of the Republic of Scholars is now gradually taking shape.
Return of Erasmus
In the short story collection Gränsfarare that will be published in English in August or September 2020 with the title Bordertraveller Stories one of the short stories is titled “The Night Butterfly”. Here the reader meets Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Renaissance man, and his correspondence with Martin Luther, the disillusioned revolutionary. And the subsequent development that ultimately brought down the renaissance with the outcome that Europe once again was overshadowed by the claims of demagogues. Today, even the short story turns into the present day, the spirit of Erasmus has returned and this man lends his name to one of the European Union’s student exchange programmes established in 1987. That’s about when the foundation of the new borderless scholar’s republic began to be built.
The Renaissance humanism and academic vagabonds are also one of the main sources of inspiration for the birth of the Bordertraveller series. More interesting books, both from then and now, will enrich this series in the future.
“Let your work be in tune with your purpose,” Leonardo Da Vinci wrote.
This can be seen as obvious, but in practice, it should nevertheless be seen as a guide, an objective. This is what the theory of reflexivity among other things proclaims. A theory based on the real circumstances of participating people. Creativity is in this perspective the bridge over which one crosses the river of uncertainty.
In a transformative time, creativity is the very bridge that leads to the new and away from the old. One can borrow the terminology from George Soros’ theory of reflexivity, which he describes in detail in the book “The Alchemy of Finance“. The concept of the theory is basically quite simple and can be transferred to as well as economic and social contexts, or rather it brings them together. Where, on the one hand, the participants try to understand reality and, on the other, try to achieve their aims. Nevertheless, these two functions affect each other and that is what Soros calls reflexivity. It can be seen as a “feedback loop” between participants’ understanding and reality.
Because the participants’ understanding is incomplete, not least in transformative times and environments like the one we now live in. This causes the participants’ actions to achieve unconscious consequences. Because they act not in their own interest, but on their own view of their own interest. The gap between reality and the incomplete interpretation of it creates uncertainty that participants try to bridge with creativity. It can be said a lot about reflexivity and its usefulness, and it is described in “The Alchemy of Finance” by George Soros.
Step-by-step bridges of creativity
A completely different form of creativity bridge is described in the book Learning Design in Practice for Everybody in the form of 6iModellen. This is a model that focuses on guiding creative projects of all forms. To optimize the result so that it is as far as possible consistent with the purpose. The model is developed based on the author’s many years of experience in implementing various forms of creative projects and Leonardo Da Vinci’s sixteen design codes. In addition to the six stages or stations contained in the model, Da Vinci’s general advice is something to consider in order to reduce uncertainty. He writes: “The painter has the whole universe in his mind and hand. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
The author Amos Oz describes his childhood as an atmosphere of Tolstoy’s philosophy and a daily conflict, and from this, his writing was born. The city he grew up in was at that time one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with German, Armenian and Jewish quarters, a Greek and an American colony, as well as the Arab neighborhoods. Oz describes it as loosely composed districts during his childhood in the 1940s where tensions existed but no violence. The city where the author grew up was Jerusalem to which his parents in the 1930s managed to escape from Nazism and other Jewish persecution that ravaged Europe. In the ever-present book “How to Cure a Fanatic”, Amos Oz delivers a recipe for a cure for fanatics.
“Uniformity and conformism, the desire to belong somewhere and the desire to get everyone else to do it too, may well be the most widespread if not the most dangerous form of fanaticism.”
If you then add personal cult, totalitarian ideology, and/or religious fundamentalism to this stinking brown soup then you have some of fanaticism’s main ingredients.
Oz delivers in the book, a cure to vaccinate against fanaticism. However, it is nevertheless a slow-acting medicine consisting of using humor and imagination. Because those ingredients have the ability to open up boundaries and minds and operates on several levels in direct contrast to fanaticism. The literature here can be a source, although it can also be used in the opposite direction as propaganda writing for nationalist self-glorification and other extremism, Amos Oz writes:
“Shakespeare can be very helpful. Any form of extremism and fanaticism, every uncompromising crusade ends with Shakespeare either in tragedy or comedy. The fanatic is never happier or more satisfied at the end, he is either dead or he has become a joke. It’s a good vaccination.”
In the short story “Warrior” in the short story collection “Bordertraveller Stories” that will be published after summer 2020 (available in Swedish, book title “Gränsfarare”) the reader finds new perspectives on Amos Oz’s cure for fanaticism. It contains, to quote from the short story: “All the beautiful nuances of life accompanied by the black night of war.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is the beginning of Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of two Cities” from 1859. This masterpiece came out in the same year as the philosophical reflection “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill which had such a profound impact on the further development of society. Where Mill describes a vision for a prosperous humanistic social development based on the individual. Dickens focuses on the problem that where many see opportunities, others only find risks. In such a perspective, the degree of well-being is very unequally distributed. Because when fear is the driving force, you like to turn your back on the future and all too often look back to the colourable security of nostalgia. An ambition that all too often tends to end up in one of history’s darkest rooms.
Charles Dickens’ beginning of “A Tale of Two Cities” is truly a timeless masterpiece, and could be a reflection from our own time:
It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way—
in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
All this in a world where all research shows that the world’s population is generally getting better and better. And that development has really taken significant leaps forward. At the same time, there are those who want to push technology, environmental, social and other development forward at an ever-faster speed without putting people at the heart of the development. The author Karl Kullberg describes the same phenomenon from his 19th century perspective with the following words in his travelogue from Europe in 1842 (the book is only available in Swedish):
The general spirit of societal fermentation, which is undergoing Europe at this moment, increasingly is gaining air, for it is in the nature of things that the aspirations of an entire zeitgeist should be opposed either by those who are in the gateway and cry out for the rottenness of time, nor by those “third parties”, these amphibians, who want all and cannot do anything.
Dickens, Mill and Kullberg identified these problems in a progressive transformation and also found the starting point for the solution. Today, this management method is called Design Thinking. More about this method can be read in the book “Learning Design in Practice for Everybody“.
Mark Twain’s authorship is timeless as the words weigh heavy and find new nourishment through decades and centuries. For example, the short story collection Gränsfarare (in Swedish) and with the translated title Bordertraveller stories that will be published in August 2020, which is the starting point for this blog, begins with words from his inspiring pen. Below Mark Twain’s essay “How to tell a story” is published in a complete version.
The Humorous Story an American Development.–Its difference from Comic and Witty Stories.
I do not claim that I can tell a story as it ought to be told. I only claim to know how a story ought to be told, for I have been almost daily in the company of the most expert story-tellers for many years.
There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind–the humorous. I will talk mainly about that one. The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter.
The humorous story may be spun out to great length and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular, but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst.
The humorous story is strictly a work of art–high and delicate art–and only an artist can tell it, but no art is necessary for telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The art of telling a humorous story–understand, I mean by word of mouth, not print–was created in America, and has remained at home.
The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it, but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when he gets through. And sometimes, if he has had good success, he is so glad and happy that he will repeat the “nub” of it and glance around from face to face, collecting applause, and then repeat it again. It is a pathetic thing to see.
Very often, of course, the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it. Then the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way, with the pretence that he does not know it is a nub.
Artemus Ward used that trick a good deal; then when the belated audience presently caught the joke he would look up with innocent surprise as if wondering what they had found to laugh at. Dan Setchell used it before him, Nye and Riley and others use it today.
But the teller of the comic story does not slur the nub; he shouts it at you–every time. And when he prints it, in England, France, Germany, and Italy, he italicizes it, puts some whooping exclamation-points after it, and sometimes explains it in a parenthesis. All of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life.
Science fiction is a bridge to visionary possibilities, to explore possible futures. It also helps to see our own existing society from a new perspective where science is the driving force of the story. For Science Fiction is not just about future space flight to other planets and solar systems. It’s fiction based on science where not even the sky is the limit of the possible. To use Professor Richard Dawkins’ words:
“I like science fiction. But not all science fiction. I like science fiction, which contains a scientific lesson, for example – when the science fiction book changes one thing but leaves the rest of the science intact and examines the consequences of this. It’s actually very valuable.”
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg provides an additional perspective with the following words:
“Remember, that science fiction has always served as a first warning to think about things that can happen. It’s easier for a reader ship or audience to receive warnings from sci-fi without the feeling that we’re preaching to them. All the science fiction film that I’ve ever seen, anyone who’s worth their weight in celluloid, warns us of things that finally come true.”
The author Jean M. Auel gives a third perspective:
“Science Fiction is not just about future space flight to other planets, it’s fiction based on science and I use it as the basis for my fiction, but it’s science of prehistory – paleontology and archaeology – rather than astronomy and physics.”
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