15 years of Gardner Writes

Gardner Writes appeared fifteen years ago today.


I’ve told the story in many other places of how I began blogging, inspired by Gene Roche and Bryan Alexander and Mary Donnelly and Brian Lamb and Barbara Ganley and Jon Udell and no doubt some folks I have overlooked in that list (my apologies). There are also stories to tell of how and why my blogging has waxed and waned over the years. Some of those stories are about work, some about stress, some about worry, some about insecurity, some about anger, some about exhaustion. Many of the stories combine all those factors.

Every time I blog, now, I find myself avoiding those stories. And since blogging for me has always been about telling my stories–the stories of my learning, my dreams, my hopes, my work–I find myself avoiding blogging, too.

But none of that will be forever, Deo volente. I don’t yet feel able or willing to tell those stories yet, but I will one day. And I hope the very fact I wanted to contribute another thread, today, to the ragged but still thrilling tapestry of the Web indicates I’m still committed to the project. And I always have the splendidly encouraging example of my friend and colleague and fellow blogger Alan Levine before me. (Now there’s a light that’s never goes out.)

I still think about leadership, and positive change, in higher education and in teaching and learning generally. I still think computers are a fascinating invention, and that networked computing as a platform for communication and collaboration can be extraordinarily effective in our efforts to go up Bateson’s levels of learning together. I’m still enthusiastic about the idea of connected learning. It’s been a thrill and a revelation to work with Wiki Education in my courses and to see the difference it’s made in my students’ work and in their lives as learners. Hypothes.is has become an essential part of the learning ecosystem in every class I craft; I can’t imagine teaching without it. Each of these affordances and ideas is also a movement, a culture, a set of ideals and commitments that for me continue to represent the spirit of Web 2.0 I found all around me in 2004, when I started blogging.

I still require blogging in my classes. I still think that telling the story of one’s learning in a public blog post offers decisive opportunities for the metacognition that’s essential to deeper learning. Some of my greatest joys as a teacher still come from reading the stories of my students’ learning, particularly those blog posts in which they link to, credit, and encourage each other. To watch a class become a community of learners is a deep delight. It’s just about the most hopeful thing there is, in my experience.

I’m working on a book on Doug Engelbart and helping to convene a conversation around his research report cum manifesto Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. I still meet astonishing people whose lives and work humble and inspire me. I’m still traveling around to speak with folks at various conferences and events, and to learn from them. I’m still an English professor, still in love with film and music and poetry. I’m still a Miltonist, with three new essays out in the last fourteen months. There have been some losses over the last several years, some of them very painful. Yet, and still, there remains much good work to attempt.

And Gardner Writes is still here, and I still believe in blogging.

Andrew Sullivan describes some great reasons to continue the work of blogging, reasons that I still find compelling and true:

Blogging is a different animal. It requires letting go; it demands writing something that you may soon revise or regret or be proud of. It’s more like a performance in a broadcast than a writer in a book or newspaper or magazine (which is why, of course, it can also be so exhausting). I have therefore made mistakes along the way that I may not have made in other, more considered forms of writing; I have hurt the feelings of some people I deeply care about; I have said some things I should never have said, as well as things that gain extra force because they were true in the very moment that they happened. All this is part of life – and blogging comes as close to simply living, with all its errors and joys, misunderstandings and emotions, as writing ever will.

Those words appeared over four years ago, in a post that appears, ironically, to have been Sullivan’s penultimate blog post. But the words are still there, as of this writing, just as promised. The link still connects. So there’s that.

And here is this, a little anniversary celebration for the space that opened up a part of me that badly needed the air and sunlight and companionship all those years ago. My thanks to all of you who have been a part of these fifteen years. It’s been harder for me lately to get to the “letting go” that Sullivan aptly describes as a sine qua non. It’s not a complete letting go, of course. I still believe in personal, not private. But a sequence of losses can make one grab onto whatever’s left very, very tightly. Too tightly. My own irony is that I have not held on to the freedom that this blog brought to me, and still brings to me. I have not held on to the letting go, at least not consistently, and not here. It feels like I’ve nearly forgotten about that note, pure and easy, playing so free like a breath rippling by.

Nearly, but not completely. I still hear some music in the distance.

Time to find that merry gypsy and rejoin the caravan.


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Democratic-erosion.com: an Open Pedagogy network


Toward the end of Open Learning ’18, I spotted an article in the Washington Post about a “nationwide college course” about the way democracies decay or erode over time. The Brown University professor who started the course, Rob Blair, began his efforts in the fall of 2017, with three schools in the network. As of this writing, in the spring of 2019, the main course website, democratic-erosion.com, lists thirty-seven schools in the network, three of them outside the United States, as well as one that’s not an institution of higher education, the DC Jail. There’s also an “uncategorized” category, bringing the total categories of participation to thirty-eight. While not all of these participants have contributed to the cross-university blog yet, their presence on the site, and the shared learning resources in the course itself, emphasize the fact that networked learning is at the heart of this ongoing project.

Although the term “open pedagogy” doesn’t appear on the democratic-erosion.com site, I think Dr. Blair’s course and the network built on that foundation certainly deserve to be considered in that light–which is why I immediately contacted him to arrange for an interview.

The interview took place in April, 2018, too late for Open Learning ’18. Nevertheless, while the course network has grown considerably since that time, the course design and the course site are still what they were when I spoke with Rob, so the interview remains relevant (at least in my view). So here, for Open Learning ’19, is our conversation about what I remain convinced is a remarkable example of the value and essential qualities of open pedagogy.


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All sorted and situated for OpenLearning ’19

The third iteration of Open Learning begins next week (March 17) with a focus on Open Access and Open Educational Resources. Week Two (March 24-30) emphasizes Open Pedagogy. Week Three launches Open Learning ’19 into the future with a discussion of Open Professional Development, including the idea of openly networked faculty development that was the initial emphasis for Virginia’s participation in the AAC&U’s Faculty Collaborative project, phase II, led and inspired by Dr. Susan Albertine.

This week, then, is the warm-up week, the orientation week, the week in which new folks have a chance to get themselves sorted and situated: sorted as in “what sorts of things should I be ready to do?” and situated as in situated cognition.

First, getting sorted. Here are the primary ways in which you can co-create (i.e., learn from) this experience.

Blogging. Yes, it can be the hardest, for all sorts of reasons. But I put it first because it’s the sort of participation that can yield the greatest benefits. When you blog, you’re present to your fellow learners (and yourself!) with a depth and breadth that can’t really be achieved with shorter and less essayistic forms of participation. Remember that the word “essay” originally means “an attempt.” An essay is not a term paper. Again, with feeling: an essay is not a term paper. It’s an attempt. And yes, I forget that too, all the time. 🙂

So please consider blogging. And if you decide to blog, please syndicate your blog into the hub site here: http://openlearninghub.net/the-stream/

Tweeting. Yes, Twitter is fraught in all sorts of ways. But for now, at least, it’s also a place where you can share, link, and connect quickly and effectively. Gather ’round our hashtag the way you’d gather around a warm and welcoming campfire: #openlearning19. Be hospitable. Expect hospitality in return. If you’re new to Twitter, you’ll likely be surprised by how quickly your network grows and becomes an indispensable part of your personal and professional development. I’ve been on Twitter since 2007, and while I’m repulsed and overwhelmed and bewildered by much of what lives in the fetid parts of our global lightspeed telecommunications network, in the last few weeks I’ve also been very strongly reminded that extraordinary things are not only possible in that network but more likely than they would be otherwise.

Hypothesis. Here’s where we gather around a text and read it together, making our annotations and weaving them into conversations. So, set up an hypothes.is account, look at the quick-start guide, and maybe practice a little. Shared online annotation, in an atmosphere of hospitality and a commitment to good faith, can reveal more glorious layers of both commonality and diversity within community.

Open Learning ’19, like the two iterations preceding it, generates resources worth consulting long after the event is over. There are interviews and panel discussions archived on YouTube. There are Twitter chats, annotated documents, blog posts, lush forests of learning full of associative trails. But the resources exist because of the networks from which they emerged, and for Open Learning, the network is the deliverable. That’s the situated part, as in situated cognition. For Open Learning to be meaningful, you must situate yourself within the network. That’s the easiest part and the hardest part, too.

Welcome! We look forward to learning with you, and from you.

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Featured Annotator: Claudia Ceraso

Featured Annotator Claudia Ceraso

Over a decade ago, I asked a question on Twitter about English usage.

To my surprise and delight, a teacher responded, one for whom Spanish was her mother tongue. Several tweets and linked blog posts later, that serendipitous encounter had become a key moment in my life, one I never forgot.

You’ll hear that story, and how it relates to the Engelbart Framework Annotation expedition, in this conversation with Featured Annotator Claudia Ceraso. The conversation was the first time we had interacted in real time, indeed the first time we had ever met face-to-face (albeit via a video interface). The conversation was thus a meeting and a reunion, focused and intensified by the work of thinking about Doug Engelbart’s 1962 research report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.

Claudia thinks a great deal about language. Her professional life in Argentina, where she lives, centers on teaching English as a foreign language to native Spanish speakers. I was fascinated by her responses to Engelbart’s thoughts on language and/as technology, and deeply moved by her evident love of language and learning.

Claudia has a teacher’s heart and a poet’s soul. I knew this before we spoke, but it was knowledge about, not personal knowledge of. As I go out on a limb, an activity Claudia recommends, I was just above the level of “saber,” and not yet at the level of “conocere.” (Help, Claudia–am I using these words well?) But I had a strong hunch, perhaps even what Claudia teaches me to think of as an “apperception.” Part of what made talking to Claudia such a special experience for me was discovering how right my hunch was, in ways I had not expected.

As you will hear in the interview, there was also the experience of mutual memory in our conversation. Our memory was of a time when the possibilities Doug Engelbart envisioned for “thought vectors in concept space” had seemed closer than ever, a time when the wave of hope and discovery called “Web 2.0” had not quite crested. A time of more blogs and more magical structures built and dwelled within, and not yet a time in which surveillance capitalism and poisonous polarization did not characterize so much of the online experience as they do today. A time when one might discover the unmet friend, and yearn for more connections.

That time is not over yet, but the building is more arduous, more an act of resistance and willed optimism. My conversation with Claudia Ceraso, centered on Engelbart’s dreams of making the world a better place, demonstrates for me that dreamers are not alone, and that the Internet can still be a true meeting place.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Postscript: as you can see from the Twitter timestamp above, the conference exchange between Claudia and me was in 2007. It was the valedictory session of the much-missed “Seminars on Academic Computing” in Snowmass, Colorado. Another loss to mourn, and at the same time, another moment of persistence that the Web enables.

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Featured Annotator: Howard Rheingold

Portrait of Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold

Our Featured Annotator interview series in the Engelbart Framework Annotation expedition continues with Howard Rheingold, whose work has been tremendously influential on me and many, many others who seek to understand the character and potential of the digital age. Howard’s epic Tools For Thought awakened me to depths in this story that I had only suspected before reading his account. Even more to the point, Howard’s work conveys and catalyzes insight on every page.

In this case, our Featured Annotator brings not only deep insights into Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Frameworkbut also a remarkable personal history with that document and its author. As you will hear, Howard met Doug Engelbart not long after Doug’s Augmentation Research Center had ceased operations at SRI. Over many years and many conversations, Howard got to know Doug well, and he brings to this interview a stirring account of Doug as a human being and, as Howard puts it in Tools for Thought, a lonely long-distance thinker.

I have a head full of words, but I struggle to find the language I would need to describe the extent and importance of Howard’s contributions to the planetary conversation about how to build a better future together. He is merrily, definitely, and defiantly, an intellectual philanthropist.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

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Featured Annotator: Jon Udell

Jon Udell

Part of the Engelbart Framework Annotation event involves what we’re calling “featured annotators.” As Alan Levine and I discussed the event last fall and early this year, we quickly agreed there should be a meta-layer, or perhaps a meta-meta-layer, in which certain annotators would be interviewed for additional thoughts on Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, and especially their thoughts on their own annotations. How did they select the passages they chose to annotate? How did they think about the nature, tone, length, etc. of the passages they annotated? Most generally (most meta), how do they think about the activity of annotating? It seemed not only interesting but pedagogically effective to hear experts musing metacognitively in this way. And it would be an opportunity to expand the annotations multimodally.

We initially thought about doing real-time streams of people annotating, asking them to think aloud (or one might say “narrate their work“) as they did their annotations, but eventually we decided that would be unwieldy and perhaps a little too much like Monty Python’s “Novel Writing With Thomas Hardy” sketch. I bring up this early abandoned idea, though, as a little marker for considering the mix and character of synchronous and asynchronous events in the act of reading and writing. (More to say on that topic sometime.)

Instead of real-time narration, then, we settled on the idea of post-annotation interviews with our featured annotators. I did three of these interviews last week. If all goes according to plan, there will be fourteen of these interviews by the end of this event. (Chaucer didn’t live to finish his storytelling plan; I hope I do.) Today I’m pleased to say that the first of our featured annotator interviews is ready for your viewing.

I’m speaking with Jon Udell, whose work I became aware of shortly after I became aware of Doug Engelbart’s, a kind of temporal rhyme in my own lifestream. I was at lunch with Jerry Slezak, a member of the dream team at the University of Mary Washington, and Jerry mentioned to me a screencast on the topic of Wikipedia and heavy metal umlaut bands. Intrigued, I watched the screencast as soon as I got back to the office, and was thus introduced to the creative world of a deep thinker–a rare and memorable event. Jon has played a major role in this phase of my own intellectual and professional development. I look to him as an exemplar, a mentor, and a friend.

Here’s my conversation with Jon.

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Engelbart Framework Project podcast 2 parts 1 and 2

Image of audio waveform

Week 2 of the Engelbart Framework Annotation Project focuses on two excerpts from Doug Engelbart’s 1962 research report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual FrameworkHere are the audiobook recordings for Week 2.

The first excerpt, Section II parts A and B, is Engelbart’s overview of the H-LAM/T framework he proposed as a way of understanding and thus potentially accelerating the augmentation of human intellect.

This link takes you to the annotation indicating the beginning of this excerpt from the report.

The second excerpt, Section III part A subsection 1-2, discusses one of the primary antecedents for the conceptual framework Engelbart proposes: the 1945 essay “As We May Think,” by Vannevar Bush. In my reading, I’ve tried to differentiate the long quotation from Bush’s essay from the commentary and analysis Engelbart provides on either side of that long quotation. I didn’t want to try to emulate Bush’s Yankee accent–too much of a stunt, and I wouldn’t have done it well in any case–so instead I read the Bush quotation with a more declamatory style, while reading Engelbart’s words in a more ruminative and somewhat more intimate voice. If you get lost, just refer back to the original 1962 document. 🙂

This link takes you to the annotation indicating the beginning of this excerpt from the report.

As always, I hope these readings are helpful. For me, doing these recordings has been quite a revelation at times, for reasons I’ll explore in future blog posts.

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Week 1 of the Framework Annotation event begins today

In the spring of 2004, I read these words for the first time:

We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human “feel for a situation” usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids. 

The words had been written and published forty-two years earlier, in a long research report (really, a monograph) titled Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Frameworkby Douglas Carl Engelbart.

These striking sentences come at the very beginning of the document, at the close of the first paragraph of the introduction. For me, they were the framework for the framework, the compass for an expedition I’ve been on ever since. Whatever one’s take on the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis or the essential structures of thought, whatever one’s vocation–English professor, engineer, mathematician, chemist, history professor, what not?, these words define the scope and character of Engelbart’s primary concern: how to make the intellect-augmenters human beings continually invent for themselves better serve the world of meaning and benign purpose we imagine, respond to, and seek to build.

Engelbart's sketch of elements of an integrated domain

A way of life in an integrated domain.

This week marks the official beginning (Week 1) of an effort to convene and amplify a conversation around this 1962 research report. Alan Levine and I have been working on the design and implementation of this effort for several months. Christina Engelbart, Executive Director of the Doug Engelbart Institute, has contributed wise counsel, great ideas, research support, and steady encouragement. And for the next three weeks, fourteen featured annotators from many lands and walks of life, all busy and all giving of themselves and their time, will contribute their thoughts on the document and their thoughts on their thoughts in conversations that will be recorded and added to the record as a meta-layer of consideration, something I hope Engelbart himself would enjoy as a kind of level “C” activity, augmenting the augmentation so to speak.

Yet this activity is by no means limited to me, or a small circle of collaborators. This activity is an invitation to thinkers of all levels of experience, knowledge, and vocation. The invitation envisions a complex, many-layered conversation that will not obscure the original document, but illuminate it: illuminate its hopes and accomplishments, illuminate its shortcomings and failures, illuminate our shortcomings, failures, hopes, and successes.

As several speakers noted at the Symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the famous “Mother of All Demos,” networked digital computing, at scale, amounts to one of the most powerful and potentially dangerous experiments we have ever performed on ourselves. There can be no doubt, given the events of the last decade, that the experiment has brought both weal and woe to our species and our planet. What’s vitally important to remember, though, is what Engelbart insists on throughout Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework: as a species, humanity is distinctive for precisely these kinds of self-experiments. This is what we do. Agriculture, language, mathematics, architecture, poetry, science, the list goes on. All these inventions, activities, and domains are all intellect-augmenters, experiments involving our own capacity to experiment, to generate counterfactuals, to ask the questions what is good? how can we make the good more widespread? how can we make our intellects that imagine and invent good things more effective at doing so?

Engelbart insisted that effective intellectual augmentation was always realized within a system, and that any intervention intended to accelerate intellectual augmentation must be understood as an intervention in a system. And while at many points the 1962 report emphasizes the individual knowledge worker, there is also the idea of sharing the context of one’s work (an idea Vannevar Bush had also described in “As We May Think”), the foundation of Engelbart’s lifelong view that a crucial way to accelerate intellectual augmentation was to think together more comprehensively and effectively. One might even rewrite Engelbart’s words above to say, “We do not speak of isolated clever individuals with knowledge of particular domains. We refer to a way of life in an integrated society where poets, musicians, dreamers, and visionaries usefully co-exist with engineers, scientists, executives, and governmental leaders.” Make your own list.

(Find a large university, examine its intellectual and curricular structures, and check for useful co-existence.)

Of course there are many things Engelbart does not treat in his treatise. The uncertain future of labor for workers of all kinds. The vast social inequities that governments should and could address, but do not. The widening spirals of lust for power, status, and wealth. Surveillance capitalism. Climate change. You can supply many more of these examples, too. As Engelbart himself warned, if we do not simultaneously work on both the technologies and human flourishing, flourishing that will depend on a shared understanding of what it means to be a flourishing human being, our technologies will certainly run away with us. They will turn malignant and reach a stage where there is no turning back. With the invention of fission and fusion bombs, shadows dense with dread, terror, and despair that hung over 1962 with particular force, Engelbart knew very well that mere invention was not enough. Predictably, and with grim effect, the isolated clever tricks of human ingenuity will always solve one problem in one particular situation at the cost of multiplying problems and unwelcome consequences across wide swaths of planetary experience.

Engelbart thought we could do better. He knew we must try to do better. He thought that networked digital computing could release and channel neural power in the same way that physics had released and channeled nuclear power, but to far more beneficial effect. To me, that sounds like a bet on education, on communication. A bet on human potential. A bet on what Lincoln memorably called “the better angels of our nature.”

For these reasons, and for many others, it seems like a good time to look forward by looking back, a good time to (re)visit Engelbart’s foundational work–not the mouse, not one of his dozens of patents, but a book. A research report emerging from a search for a conceptual framework. We will see what Engelbart got right, and what he got wrong; what he saw, and what he overlooked. We will see Doug Engelbart’s brilliant and unusual effort, made in good faith, to point his own life in the direction of maximum usefulness to the future of humanity.

That’s a calling to keep in mind. A calling to listen for, and answer.

Join us!

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Engelbart Framework Project podcast 1

Graphic of Table of Contents, Week 1 highlighted

Week 1 emphasis for reading and annotating.

It’s a lot to take in. Doug Engelbart’s monumental 1962 research report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework–really a monograph, and indeed a manifesto–is dense with yearning, with ideas, with analysis, and with a kind of moral philosophy devoted to human flourishing in the midst of–because of, in spite of–human invention and ingenuity.

The Engelbart Framework Annotation Project, in this first iteration, emphasizes just three key sections from Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. Week 1 is devoted entirely to the Introduction, parts A and B. I’ve recorded a podcast of this section as an aid to study for those who, like me and apparently quite a few others, enjoy listening to books as well as reading them, and for whom listening means encountering the work while driving, doing the laundry, or a thousand other tasks in which reading would be impossible or at least unadvisable.

I’ll be doing podcasts for all the sections we’re emphasizing in this event. Week 2 comprises two excerpts describing Engelbart’s conceptual framework as well as his transclusion and analysis of key passages from Vannevar Bush’s As We May Think. Week 3 is the longest excerpt, the “Joe” story from Section III, where Engelbart himself believed the “fiction-dialogue” form might help his readers begin to imagine the unimaginable, and in doing so begin to shift toward the paradigms Engelbart believed we should consider and build toward, lest we founder on the shoals of our own blasted ingenuity.

So here’s the reading for Week 1. I hope my oral interpretation is helpful. And I hope you will join us for the annotation event, for as much or as little time as you can devote to it. This is only a beginning. Come let us build together!

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Annotate and Augment: The Engelbart Framework Project

Annotating Engelbart's 1962 Framework

This February, 2019, join us as together we read and annotate three crucial parts of Doug Engelbart’s 1962 research report and manifesto, Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. (New to the document? See “About Augmenting Human Intelllect: A Conceptual Framework, below. To go even deeper, see Christina Engelbart’s invaluable “Field Guide to Doug’s 1962 Framework.”)

Our annotations—responses, questions, conversations—will use the Hypothes.is annotation platform. As described on their website, the hypothe.is annotation platform is free, open source software “based on the annotation standards for digital documents developed by the W3C Web Annotation Working Group.”

Some specifics, including the schedule:

  • We’ll annotate the copy of Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework reprinted on the Engelbart Institute website: http://dougengelbart.org/content/view/138/000/ .
  • While our annotations will be public, we’ll be able to indicate our relationship to Engelbart and his work by tagging our annotations and replies. For example: #SRI (colleagues from the Stanford Research Institute), #ARC (colleagues from the Augmentation Research Center), #NIC (colleagues from the Network Information Center). #PARC (staff at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center), #DEI (Doug Engelbart Institute), #scholar, #student, etc. Multiple tags can be used to indicate multiple relationships, as will often be the case.
  • We welcome thoughtful annotations from all readers. Each week, several featured annotators will describe their annotations, and their relationships with Engelbart and his work, in special video interviews that will be posted to the Framework Project channel on YouTube and aggregated on this site.

Schedule of activities:

Orientation Week, February 4-10, will provide opportunities to experiment with hypothes.is and web annotation, and help readers come up to speed with the platform and the project.

February 11-17 is Week One.  We’ll focus our annotations on Section I A & B, Engelbart’s introduction to the entire report.

February 18-24 is Week Two. This week focuses on a section describing the framework itself, along with Engelbart’s analysis of a similar project outlined in Vannevar Bush’s essay “As We May Think.”

February 25-March 3 is Week Three. We’ll conclude this initial annotation project by looking at a long and very unusual section from the 1962 report that’s often referred to as the “Joe” section. Part Platonic dialogue, part short story, part shop talk, this section imagines “Joe,” an intellectual worker of the future, demonstrating Engelbart’s imagined computing environment to a sympathetic observer who’s also somewhat skeptical and at times more than a little baffled by the futuristic scenario he is “witnessing.”

This event is just the beginning of the Engelbart Framework Project, with more opportunities for learning and conversation to come. For more details about this event, and for resources emerging from the event, see the Framework Project website at framework.thoughtvectors.net. You can also sign up for email updates at the project website. If you have questions, please contact Gardner Campbell: gardner.campbell AT gmail.com (substitute @ for AT). We look forward to your insights!

Heartfelt thanks to colleague and collaborator extraodinare Alan Levine for all his help with project planning and website development, and especially to Christina Engelbart, Executive Director of the Doug Engelbart Institute, for her constant encouragement, inspiration, and support for this and many other projects. 


About Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework

People who have heard of Douglas Carl Engelbart probably know that he invented the computer mouse. They may have heard of the 1968 “Mother Of All Demos” in which Engelbart and his Augmentation Research Center presented an comprehensive, interactive human-computer co-evolutionary environment to an auditorium of astonished engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists, all of whom gave Engelbart and his team a sustained standing ovation for this glimpse of a future we have yet to inhabit fully.

But even those who know the name “Doug Engelbart” may not know the demo before the demo, the research report Engelbart described as “the public debut of a dream”: a nearly 150-page monograph titled Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, published in October, 1962.

This project seeks to bring Engelbart’s 1962 manifesto back into view, and to encourage close, hospitable (though not uncritical) attention to its central ideas and Engelbart’s unusually varied strategies of analysis, argument, and description. The fruit of over a decade of intense reading, thought, and writing,  Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework deserves our full attention, especially at a time when many (perhaps most) computer technologies appear untethered to any philosophy besides the pursuit of maximum profit.

Engelbart’s dream was different. He believed that networked computing could empower collective intelligence, offering humanity a way to address complex problems together. Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework insists that benign, liberatory collective intelligence is not only possible but urgently necessary. And it seeks to demonstrate that an “integrated domain” of human-computer co-evolution was the most powerful means human beings had yet devised to permit their intellectual capabilities to solve problems faster than they invent them.

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