CCK08: Reflection on Week 6

Tennis, bisociation, desire lines…and seeding the space

1. Tennis

This morning I played doubles tennis with my wife and kids. I have a tween and a teen, and they are both getting pretty good at the sport. It’s getting harder and harder for my wife and I to “hold our own” against the kids when we play with them. So today I was compelled to really try and place my serves well; to aim for exactly where I wanted the ball to land in the serving box. On my first shot, the ball landed where I had aimed it! “Holy…” I thought to myself, and continued to experiment with the exercise of narrowing my field of vision, my “viewfinder,” if you will, to place my shots with greater precision. It worked quite well, and I was consistently staggered with the results of this simple exercise (even though we lost that particular game).

The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world” by Kurtz and Snowden was important for me, because it demonstrated in turn how introducing the Cynefin “sense making framework” (468) for understanding to a group can potentially alter the mindset of the individuals therein. Radically unfamiliar scenarios were presented to a group of people that was in turn required to try and make sense of the information provided. Because they were operating in a chaotic environment, the group members reacted in ways in which they would otherwise not necessarily react. Consequently, they experimented with new tools, new ways of seeing the world, which they were then able to bring back to their organizations. The extent to which these skills are transferrable may remain questionable, but the exercise in and of itself is intriguing to me, and I can see the benefits of the Cynefin framework in terms of the expansiveness with which the model can be applied.

2. Bisociation

In the authors’ description of complexity science, the authors mention Poincaré, as did George Siemens in this week’s paper on Complexity, Chaos and Emergence.

DIGRESSION: Whoaaa…One hour later…So I go to the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge blog homepage to link to the wiki to find the link to George’s paper referring to Poincaré, end up reading Stephen’s most recent blog post, click on the response to a discussion post link, and then end up linking to the Trolling for Trolls post and reading most of that thread. Talking about spinning off…what was I doing again? Oh yeah! Looking for the link to George’s paper!

Mention of Poincaré reminded me of the book The Act of Creation written by Arthur Koestler, in which Poincaré’s sudden discovery of the resolution to a complex mathematical problem suddenly occurred to him when he was stepping onto a bus:

At the moment when I put my foot on the step the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, that the transformation that I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-euclidean geometry (O’conner, Robertson, para. 20).

Koestler uses the term “bisociation” to describe the act of creative realization:

‘The basic bisociative pattern of the creative synthesis [is] the sudden interlocking of two previously unrelated skills, or matrices of thought.’ The more unusual, the bisociation, the more scope there is for truly creative ideas. Various types of unconscious thinking may be involved, including visual imagery; concrete (sometimes personal) exemplars of abstract ideas; shifting emphasis; reasoning backwards; and generating analogies of diverse kinds. In addition, he emphasized the importance of long apprenticeship and expertise, whether in science or in art (quoted from Boden, 23, para. 4).

I’ve been thinking about throwing Koestler into the mix even previous to the Poincaré reference, because I am interested in how creativity is understood in Connectivist terms. It seems especially appropriate to be bringing this up now, to the extent that chaos, as the term is being used in the context of the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge course, has a bearing on how creative thought processes may be explained. Kurtz and Snowden point out that:

  • Humans are not limited to one identity (464).
  • Humans are limited to acting in accordance with predetermined rules (465)
  • Humans are not limited to acting on local patterns (465)

The authors differentiate between two domains, described as either ordered or un-ordered, and two states that can be found in each: complex states or chaos in the un-ordered domain, and knowable or known states in the ordered domain.

With reference to chaos, the authors mention,

Chaos is also a space we can enter into consciously, to open up new possibilities and to create the conditions for innovation (469).

I would like to see a more specific treatment of creativity in the Connectivist framework. Maybe it’s out there already, and I just haven’t found it…

3. Desire Lines

Kurtz and Snowdon quote “Kostof…in his description of cities:”

…the two primary versions of urban arrangement, the planned and the ‘organic,’ often exist side by side…Most historic towns, and virtually all those of metropolitan size, are puzzles of premeditated and spontaneous segments, variously interlocked or juxtaposed…(466).

This quote reminded me of desire lines, the ‘organic’ paths that are carved into the earth by animals and people. Someone pointed out to me that children often choose to walk in the grass directly beside a sidewalk, given a choice between the pavement and the earth. I have since observed this behaviour time and time again. The wikipedia post suggests, “Many streets in old cities began as desire lines which evolved over the decades or centuries into the modern streets of today.”

I was intrigued to find a link from “desire lines” to “wayfinding,” a term that George Siemens has brought up in the context of this course. Originating in traditional navigation, the term now may also refer to “signage and other graphic communication, clues inherent in the building’s spatial grammar, logical space planning, audible communication, tactile elements, and provision for special-needs users.”

4. Seeding the Space

Every once in a while I am reminded some of the transferable skills that I am fortunate enough to have brought from my teaching experience with kids to project management in the field of distance education course development. The following quote from Kurtz and Snowden was a case in point:

…A group of West Point graduates were asked to manage the playtime of a kindergarten as a final year assignment. The cruel thing is that they were given time to prepare. They planned; they rationally identified objectives; they determined backup and response plans. They then tried to “order” children’s play based on rational design principles, and, in consequence, achieved chaos. They then observed what teachers do. Experienced teachers allow a degree of freedom at the start of the session, then intervene to stabilize desirable patterns and destabilize undesirable ones; and, when they are very clever, they seed the space so that the patterns they want are more likely to emerge [my intalics] (466).




2 Responses to “CCK08: Reflection on Week 6”

  1. Keith Lyons Says:


    Your post is an example of bisociative vision!

    I think creativity lies at the heart of connectivism. I believe it is embodied in its practitioners.

    I came to Koestler via the Hegelian Dialectic! I found ‘The Vision that links Poet, Artist and Scientist’ helped my transition from Hegel to Koestler. I was interested in Poincare’s elegance too.


  2. CCK08: Coming to Know « Clyde Street Says:

    […] teachers and commented on his post. Bits n Bites took me back to Valdis Krebs. Adrian Hill’s post encouraged me to find and read my copy of The Inner Game of Tennis and re-peruse The Act of […]

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