Filtering and Synthesising Information and Ideas
CoCreative Learning starts with information which comes from a variety of sources which form an ecology of news, information, ideas and analysis. We need a diverse range of trusted groups and individuals to source, analyse and compare information and ideas to filter relevant material in the form of recommended articles, books, blogs, academic papers, podcasts, videos and original documents. These materials are then re-shared during discussions in weekly meetings, via digital media and in conversation with other groups and individuals with whom group participants interact – an ecology of alternative thinking, news and analysis. The aim is to build overlapping circles of trust to analyse, filter and re-share what is most relevant with the wider co-creative learning community.
During discussion, information is held up for critical examination, which often brings to light corroborating or relevant, related references; some of these additional references are released back into this alternative ecology of information. The ecology comprises groups and people across the spectrum of humanity; diversity of interlocutors is key. Only from the weight of evidence provided by comparative study of many sources, can we hope to reach a shared understanding. Issues and events need to be discussed and examined in the context of prior analysis, to challenge or verify earlier conclusions, thus refining and expanding the previous understanding.
Receiving, comparing, aggregating, analysing and disseminating information is the bulk of the CoCreative Learning process and is the foundation on which to build a robust Model of the political economy. Where possible, we need to reference original source documents. Co-Creative Learning relies on publicly available information and analysis to co-create a plausible model and narrative for the political economy.
This constant, iterative activity, of review and discussion of primary and secondary research, undertaken by others, builds into a comprehensive model of the political economy.
While video and podcasts are invaluable sources of information and analysis, they are drawing on the written word and selective reading can give false impressions of what was actually written. Other people’s interpretations can be useful but if their framing of information is biased, the only reliable source is the written material itself. It can also be much quicker to “skim” an article or book than watch a whole video or listen to a complete podcast to glean gems of important information, even if you watch/listen at double speed. SpeedReading is an invaluable skill and worth learning; it’s not difficult, but takes practice.
group@ Email List
Following your first meeting, start to explore and circulate information relevant to the current focus of your discussions. Initially straightforward email, cc’ing all members of your group, will suffice but when you’re ready, a group mailing list is more efficient and effective. Your group@ email list is for communication within your core group to share information you may not feel is sufficiently robust for wider circulation (using your group blog which will grow a much larger audience). The “core” group@ email list is for those directly involved with your CoCreative Learning group.
Your group blog is how you share information with your CoCreative Learning community and anyone else who comes across it through other channels. You don’t need to write “War and Peace” but just post the links with a brief context and description. In time, you may feel compelled to write more. Encouraging people to comment will encourage wider dialogue and sharing of information.
Within a group of seven members, each could do a weekly blog. Or perhaps two or three people are happy to take responsibility to agree a rota.
When writing a blog, remember that you are acting as a filter and interpreter of all the information your group has distilled to that point in time. Understanding changes, as more information emerges, consequently it’s best to reserve judgement on issues and events until you’ve produced your first Snapshot (see below) of the political economy. Keep the CoCreative Learning Principles uppermost in your mind.
Another useful skill, if you use a PC rather than a phone, is touch typing. Just learn the basic principles and practice. It will slow you down at first but if you persevere, you’ll quickly overtake your previous typing speed and accuracy.
Developing the Model
MindMaps are an incredibly powerful resource and vital to developing your analysis. Habitual use of MindMaps inculcates a pictorial or diagrammatic view of the world which can be easily translated into a visual map or model of the political economy. It doesn’t require computer skills, just a notebook, pencil and eraser.
Buy a bound, unlined note book on which to create your MindMaps; this will be an invaluable reference of recorded information and discussion points to create powerful articles and presentations using the same MindMap techniques. After a while, you won’t need to think about creating a Model for the political economy, it will leap out at you from the pages of your CoCreative Learning notebook. As you fill one notebook after another, there is the clear audit trail of your learning and the unfolding of your understanding. It is the measure of your co-created progress, reflecting the richness of the diversity of voices with whom you interact.
On the first page of your notebook, write your Co-Creative Learning group name (Identity) in a circle or ellipse. Note the biggest question(s) you have in your mind on this page by recording it (them) in two or three significant words within ellipses around the centre with lines drawn to them. Thereafter, when you watch a video, listen to a presentation, discussion or read articles, academic papers or books, record the salient points of each, in subsequent pages, in the form of MindMaps. When you want to present ideas, drawing on the information in your notebook, create a MindMap of your article or presentation. Sometimes, you may want to create a MindMap because an idea occurs to you and needs recording.
There are many ways of creating mind maps and preferences vary; experiment but simple is best.
You’re only looking to record the most important information, questions and ideas. Our minds absorb much more information than we realise but the problems arise when trying to recall or communicate it. The big ideas, facts and questions you record on your MindMaps will trigger the mechanisms in your brain to retrieve additional information, as you need it. As you use MindMaps, you will find you learn quicker and communicate better.
Thinking in pictures helps us see the relationships between issues and events, usually obscured in dense prose or by partial, misleading disclosure. Your Model will show how you’ve connected seemingly disconnected events, issues, institutions and structures to describe the political economy – it is a simple form of SystemsThinking. Familiarity with SystemsThinking is useful but only worth pursuing in depth if it interests you.
Below are the MindMaps used to conceive and co-create this Wiki:
Warning: Don’t copy what other people do, unless you find it works for you. People’s minds work differently and the key thing is to do what works for you. Some may prefer symbols or simple pictures; use whatever helps you retrieve information from a few major trigger words or symbols, in the most efficient way.
As the Model develops, occasional snapshots of the work-in-progress are essential to verify the model; to contextualise events and issues; and to share with others. Incorporating references (links) helps others undertake their own research and feeds an alternative ecology of research and analysis which, in turn, feeds back into your CoCreative Learning.
These snapshots can be a presentation or article that you’ve written which encapsulates your research and analysis to date, incorporating your latest Model of the political economy based on your MindMaps. If you prefer other media, snapshots can be in the form of a video or podcast. You can point others to your latest snapshot so they can understand your work and how you see the world.
Critical Thinking’s latest snapshot is available on their website; if you’ve not created your first snapshot, it is fine to use Critical Thinking’s website to find sources of information but it is probably best not to explore their final analysis in depth, until you’ve produced your own first snapshot. Thereafter, by all means feel free to compare or even challenge Critical Thinking’s analysis. The causes and deficiencies of groupthink are referred to in Starting your co-creative learning group. CoCreative Learning is premised on abandoning all preconceptions and beliefs and operating autonomously but interdependently with your CoCreative Learning community. Start with a clean sheet.
These methods, described above, are the essential first steps to co-creating a global learning community built on human relationships. A distributed network or ecology of CoCreative Learning.
While co-creative learning is best conducted on a scale which fosters close relationships (in small groups), digital media enable such groups to co-create a distributed network (global community) of “circles of trust” to supercharge learning and develop understanding within a wider context. Below is an illustration of overlapping learning groups co-creating a co-creative learning ecosystem, which can be replicated and integrated through CoCreative Learning.
NB. S.O.L.E. is the self-organised learning centre at Newcastle University; Debian is a popular, free, open source software distribution based on Linux co-created by the Debian community. Free University evolved from Occupy London’s Tent City University and gave birth to Critical Thinking.
It is the co-creative filtering and synthesis of relevant information from diverse sources which is so powerful.
A daily/weekly group blog/newsletter is used to highlight articles, papers, books, videos, podcasts, other blogs etc. for discussions around issues and ideas in contention while putting them into the context of the most recent snapshot of your analysis. Have a look at other blogs to decide what platform to use. WordPress is popular but there are others. In addition to the daily blog, you should provide information about your group on your website and invite others to join in or share relevant information.
Beyond these two essential prerequisites (website and blog) are various other social media platforms which can be usefully deployed to enhance or accelerate learning. Before proceeding with social media, establish your group and start the Process because your understanding of, and approach to, social media will change as you learn.
Major digital platforms
Major digital platforms are censoring and distorting information and communication: Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon etc. are all participating and so, they are to be treated with circumspection both as sources of information and platforms to share information.
Until you understand the Pros and Cons of social media, steer clear.
Circles of trust must be built on human relationships, honesty and integrity. An essential Principle of CoCreative Learning is wholeness – which means full disclosure. Twitter and the like don’t advertise their more sinister activities which are cloaked in marketing and PR Newspeak.
Thinking and Making
Practical work such as co-creating art or an event takes thinking in different directions. Co-creative learning can align with and benefit other activities. It can be integrated into work, community activities and activism
The CoCreative Learning logo was designed in collaboration with Maggie of TechStretch, co-created by drawing on CriticalThinking’s exploration of ancient knowledge and inspired by Miranda Lundy’s Sacred Geometry. In the book, she shows how to create nature’s shapes using compasses, ruler and pencil. The Introduction ends with this: Just above the entrance to Plato’s academy was a sign: “Let none ignorant of geometry enter here.” Let’s do some research.
If you want to get into computer graphics, rather than use pencil, compasses and ruler, watch this tutorial from Nick Saporito on how to construct a vector bird logo with circles that fit the golden ratio, using Inkscape (free, open source software).
The CoCreative Learning Process may appear alien and undisciplined compared to what most people are used to; however, we need to understand that our current mode of learning has evolved to limit understanding and creativity.