One for the hippie hub

You better think (think)
Think about what you’re trying to do to me
Think (think, think)
Let your mind go, let yourself be free

Think by Aretha Franklin and Ted White

Our “flower child hub director, Gardner” sent a nice message reminding me to do some OpenLearning17 blogging, so here goes.

When I went back to look at Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” a few days ago, I was happy to see a few annotations from some former ds106ers, from when I tried to get them on the annotation train. We also used the article back when we did The Internet Course, and I did a primitive Cmap breakdown of some of my thoughts and reactions to it.

One of the things that struck me about it was Bush’s background. He founded defense contractor behemoth Raytheon, headed the Office of Scientific Research and Development during WWII, and was instrumental in the creation of the National Science Foundation. He was pretty much the embodiment of the military-industrial complex in his day. But as windham notes in annotation, Bush’s “humanitarian optimism” inspired both the essay and the many minds behind the development of the Internet.

He recognized that there is something more important than the money to be made – humanity over profit. I imagine that might have been obvious in the wake of WWII, but it has long since been forgotten in military-industrial complex, and it no longer seems to matter to the powers that be in information technology. The Web was meant to connect people, in Berners-Lee’s view, rather than to disrupt them. A way to let your mind grow and let yourself be free.

People walking around everyday
Playing games, taking score
Trying to make other people lose their minds
Ah, be careful you don’t lose yours, oh

It can be hard to maintain that sense of humanitarian optimism in this age of disruption, creative destruction, and weaponized information. When I looked up the lyrics to Aretha’s song, the third line above stood out to me – the definition of gaslighting. That’s quite the opposite of informing, isn’t it? The tool that Bush envisioned and humankind built is not being used to connect people, or to organize information, or to help us think better, but quite the opposite. This has to do with the social, political, economic and technological environment we have created and the way information is generated and distributed within it.

If we work to understand the hows and whys of information creation and flow, what I would call information literacy, then presumably we will be better able to review our shady present. That would elevate my spirit. Until then, there’s always Aretha:

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