Proverbs 2:6

August 31, 2010

I’m just back from two days at Greenbelt, a Christian arts festival held every year at the Cheltenham race course with about 25,000 attendees.

There was a huge range of talks and two in particular that I went to that I’d like to blog about, one on what technology and social media are doing to society and the second intriguingly entitled “The English Civil War and the Future of the Church of England.”

Today I’ll confine myself to the talk on technology and social media given by John Bell, a member of the Iona Community.

John went through a list of different technologies from Skype to Facebook by way of mobiles phones and texting, and asked whether these things are doing good to real human relationships and society as a whole?

He illustrated each point with a story before asking the concomitant questions. Three examples he gave quite shocked me:

  • One was of a woman arriving home to her husband and young daughter after a new baby had been born. The daughter said she wanted to draw the new family and went away with her crayons and paper. She then showed her finished family portrait to her parents who saw…mum and the baby, dad, the daughter and…the computer! Why the computer? Well, in the daughter’s mind she saw that daddy spent 2.5 hours or more each evening relating (typing, talking, listening) to this device in the living area of the house, this was more time than he spent with her, so clearly it must be part of the family.
  • He compared the tests that a new product would have to go through if it were a food product or a pharmaceutical which can take many years before it were to be accepted into usage compared with the seeming lack of testing of technology which can affect social interaction in society and become ubiquitous so quickly.
  • Young people are also increasingly narcissistic, flaunting false images of self as objects, forever comparing themselves with their peers who are doing the same thing. Fiction as a substitute for reality. I wasn’t making notes fast enough to get a direct quote but he said something like ‘They are an Eleanor Rigby generation, growing up more connected to one another but with this reducing the quality of their human relationships’ where to love and be loved is about accepting each others’ strengths AND weaknesses.

Businesses are subjecting our young people to all these hi-tech products and services without us understanding what the impact might be on them as people. (It also makes me think twice about whether my use of my iMac 27” desktop computer is having a similar effect on me!)

John points to Proverbs 2:6:

For the LORD gives wisdom, 
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Knowledge alone is not enough – the web abounds in knowledge but we require knowledge AND understanding if we are to be wise.

This has helped me to confirm the original excitement when I first saw Dave Snowden present and began to realise the value of tools made to work with how humans really make sense of things – and to help organisations both make sense of and manage better, complex situations. It also reconfirms my intent in using SenseMaker™ and other Cognitive Edge tools to try and work on the level of understanding in organisations in the hope that this will lead to wiser decisions that somehow contribute to the greater good of society.

For more detail of how SenseMaker™ can help in “Making sense of thousands of stories, suggestions or complaints” see Tony Quinlan’s latest blog entry. Tony is the Director of Narrate, where I work as a Project Manager.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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