Share Not Educate

January 5, 2010 | 8 Comments

Category: Society, Web

I’ve been noticing that Stumbleupon, the web service that directs participants to interesting sites, has been directing more and more visitors to this site, sometimes more than 100 a day.  For several years, Stumbleupon has been directing some days several hundred visitors to my original evolutionary theory site,  I’ve never been able to quite figure out what Stumbleupon is, and yesterday I drilled down a bit after finally joining the group, telling the application my interests and starting to follow where the site directed me to go.

I soon discovered that the reason my original evolution site, posted in 1998, gets so much Stumbleupon traffic is that it has been both a featured site in the evolution section and a site that receives five stars.  The review section of the site gathered almost 30 comments in almost six years; some of those who commented were confused, but many seemed impressed.  I was astonished that my site received respect.  I’m just so used to feeling invisible.

A recent email from an author whose work I deeply respect, his books having introduced me in the 1970s and 1980s to such concepts as sociobiology and matrifocal society, noted the near impossibility of my being accorded respect or notoriety in academia.  He emphasized that if work does not appear in peer-reviewed journals, it is invisible.  Though he expressed enthusiasm and respect for what I am doing and recommended publishers to approach, he made it clear that if I expected anything but rejection, I’d be fooling myself.

My experience agrees with his advice that to believe or behave as if an amateur could significantly impact academia is a delusional proposition.  Nevertheless, there is a world outside academia, though unique theorizing on biological, human and social evolution occurs almost exclusively on journal pages.

This is a little like dreaming of becoming a commercial airline pilot and flying tens of thousands of people across the planet in the course of a single year.  Academics are able to carry ideas to thousands of colleagues in many countries, pilots of commercial airliners, so to speak.  Airline pilots are required to speak English to fly a plane.  It’s as if I can’t speak that language and so can only fly small, noncommercial aircraft.  I get to take friends and friends of friends to interesting places across the world.  My experience is not curtailed.  But my ability to share the experience is limited to those, like me, that fly planes for free.  This world of the amateur is rich in experience.  But it is a different world from the one traveled by the professionals.  I can go to as many places.  The folks I travel with share my passions.  But we are not pilots by vocation.  Our ability to help others move from place to place is limited.

I am in a somewhat unique position as an evolutionary theorist operating outside academia, often theorizing on the connection between social and biological evolution, while actually engaged in the profession of enhancing the ability of clients and colleagues to achieve communication goals in this new horizontal, barrier-destroying, diverse and transparent world.  I am not a professional evolutionary theorist.  I am a professional web developer, a social media application developer seeking ways for enhanced information access and digitally encouraged relationships to effortlessly transform the social landscape.  In a very strange and interesting way, my life is becoming about the ability of the potentially transformative ideas that I describe to compel transformation through the actual medium that the ideas seek to explain.

I am an evolutionary theorist who describes modern technological communications/social structure transformations as outcomes of very specific biological processes.  It seems congruent with my creative process, my nonacademic station and my reverence for the explosion of the commons that what I create be offered for free, with no copyright and no citation encumbrances creating barriers to the distribution of the ideas.  In other words, I am feeling an attraction to taking the nonidentity paradigm described by my theory, a process that I hypothesize is necessary to an ability to theorize, and giving myself up totally to the web.

If academia is about forming an identity around the respect accorded for work produced, the web is about allying with nonidentity as the individual forms idea alliances with other individuals.  Academia is about the individual.  The web is about the community.  My evolutionary theory is about the power of environment and community to inform evolution.

Two things have propelled my thought in this direction.  One is the respect accorded my work on Stumbleupon, compliments from strangers, nonacademics.  The other thing was respect offered me by an academic whose work I respect, respect that was accompanied by advice to not knock on an academic’s door.

I embrace that advice.  My life’s work is to share, not to educate.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 at 8:39 am and is filed under Society, Web. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
8 Comments so far

  1. Ahmed on November 19, 2015 11:22 pm

    Thanks for posting this. Only 2 tnohms’ post-diagnosis, I am still trying to get my mind around what is really going on here. I told my husband that I am beginning to suspect that the concept of the autism spectrum is like a bunch of ER doctors sitting around wondering about this Broken Bone Syndrome (that’s BBS) they keep seeing. Gosh, they sure see a lot of people in there with a broken leg and a broken arm plus also bruises. Hmm, what if the leg’s not broken? I guess that’s the Not-so-bad BBS. Well, what if the spine has been severed? Oooh well that’s Really really bad BBS. What causes BBS? We don’t know, but we’re pretty sure this is a thing. These folks sure have a lot in common. Only, BBS would be a lot more like ASD if we imagine that the doctors aren’t allowed to talk to the patients or X-Ray them. I still don’t understand everything, but it sure is obvious to me that if the problems that these children are experiencing are coming from a lack of connections in the brain, then their problems will be different depending upon (a) how poor the connections really are; and (b) exactly which portions of the brain are actually affected. Meanwhile, it should be equally obvious (to me; of course I’m a layperson and have no idea what I’m really talking about, so this probably isn’t really obvious to an expert:)) that if a set of behaviors or problems on the outside are caused by problems with brain connections, that there must be hundreds of types of things that could go wrong to mess up those connections. I guess we know that a huge number of these folks have inflammation in the white matter where the connections are supposed to be, but even so there must be lots of different things that could cause that kind of inflammation. Further, surely you could wind up underconnected due to injury or trauma, or maybe that whole under-myelination thing. At the end of the day, I really believe that arguments over DSM criteria is a red herring that distracts from the real issues we need to focus on if we are going to help our particular child: (a) do we think that our child is actually underconnected, and if so can we figure out which connections are problematic? (b) if our child is underconnected, do we have any good ideas how it happened so we can try to do something to make sure it doesn’t worsen? i.e., is this an autoimmune disease? if it is, should we follow an anti-inflammation diet? etc. (c) once we address whatever is preventing the connection (as best we can, which is maybe not at all, although I personally have become a true believer in the fish oil for some children), what sort of activities can we engage in that will help them to continually strengthen their personally problematic connections? Of course I haven’t even read what these DSM people are discussing and I’m sure they are all very smart folks. BUT. Is it really helpful to try to create all these categories? Really? I just think there is no *there*there. Oh, and you may be interested to hear, if you haven’t already, that they have demonstrated (as I understand it, to the satisfaction of conventional medicine, for what that’s worth) that there is a subpopulation of children with ADHD who most certainly mature out of it. These kids’ brains reach peak thickness (or something like that) about 3 years later than everyone else. Whether that’s analogous or not to PDD I don’t know, but I know that attention issues are often a big part of PDD and indeed it is often very difficult even for professionals to tell them apart. Did you know that according to something I read that 50 to 70% of kids with ADHD have some kind of language disorder? Very interesting to me. By the way, I mentioned the Mislabeled Child before, written by these very nice neurologists in Washington (nice enough that they emailed me back!) it is awesome for explaining all the different parts of the brain and how to identify the specific issues and tell them apart (like, e.g., prosody, by the way! multiple pages JUST ON THAT!), and even better, what you can do to help a child with issues in that particular area. But I would still like to really get to the bottom of what PDD is really all about. I wish I could stop time and then spend about a year or two doing nothing but reading and researching this stuff. Your blog REALLY REALLY helps though, because I don’t have time to find all these resources you give us!

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