Dear Dr. Englebart (with apologies)…

With apologies for my earlier, quite reactive and emotional, letter…  The group discussion started with me just as frustrated as I had been while trying to wade through your article.  But ended with me giving you a great deal more consideration – and credit.  Not that I understood the content of your writings any better.  But I was quite intrigued to consider what motivated them…

It all started with a question about “worry”…  “What was Dr. Englebart’s worry?” they asked…  What did you hope for? What was your hope for human beings?  “Competence” was my answer…  and suddenly my head was swimming around in self-determination theory.  You may have cloaked yourself in studies and exploration of circuits and electrical impulses and machines – but you were a psychologist.  A motivation theorist.  A came across Self-Determination Theory (SDT) years ago in my quest to unearth some grounded psychological and behavioral research to support meaningful content around the elusive topic of “motivation” for a professional development workshop I was revamping.

 Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985b; Ryan & Deci, 2000) has proposed that individuals have three innate, psychological needs. These are the need for competence , which concerns succeeding at optimally challenging tasks and being able to attain desired outcomes (e.g., Skinner, 1995; White, 1959); the need for autonomy , which concerns experiencing choice and feeling like the initiator of one’s own actions (deCharms, 1968; Deci, 1975); and the need for relatedness , which concerns establishing a sense of mutual respect and reliance with others (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Harlow, 1958).   – Exerpted from “Intrinsic Need Satisfaction: A Motivational Basis of Performance and Well-Being in Two Work Settings: Paul P. Baard, Edward L. Deci, and Richard M. Ryan, 2004

NOW I have something through which I can relate to you – in fact, to see a brilliance in your quest.  I still don’t understand all of the technical aspect of what you were exploring and proposing… but I think I have a glimpse into the “why.”  I think you were on a quest to enhance human beings’ ability to satisfy these three universal needs, and to be self-determinant about it.  In what ways can we leverage technology to support satisfying our needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness?  THAT is the question…

Thanks, also, to all of my fellow seminar participants for unwittingly opening a door through which I could happily wander into more purposeful and meaningful consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Me