Sunday, July 28, 2013

Networks: Power With vs Power Over

A long time ago, when I was a university student, I was fascinated by how context can change understanding and perception.  The philosophers, theologians and thought leaders that I studied were all shaped by a particular historical context and in order to fully appreciate their work, I needed to understand their context.

The Network Shapes and Creates

Today I understand that the context has a context; it's the network.  I first became interested in networks after watching Nicholas Christakis talk about the hidden power of networks.  I bought the book and read it twice.  Afterwards, serendipity (actually it was CBC's Nora Young's interviews with Luciano Floridi and David Weinberger) brought me "Too Big to Know" by David Weinberger.  From this book I learned how the network (the web) is actually changing the shape of information, as well as how we interact with it, understand it, curate it and do everything else we need to do with all the terabytes of data that we create everyday.

Finally, I found Albert László-Barabási, the Hungarian physicist who explained in language I could understand the structure of networks and how they create everything from economies, terrorism, neural maps, epidemics, the world wide web and virtually anything you can name. In fact, he maintains that any two web pages are connected by no more than 19 clicks.
See Barrett Lyon's OPTE project for the history of this
amazing image mapping of the internet

 I listened to his book "Linked"  and then went back to Christakis and Weinberger with some of my own ideas about effective school administration, bringing change and reshaping the school culture.

I am convinced, in a visceral way, that school administration can become more effective in leading the change we need when we understand the power of networks.  I presented these ideas at a retreat of the Quebec Association of Independent Schools (QAIS) heads of schools back in April of 2012.
The slide deck below needs to be updated to reflect how my thinking has evolved but still, it offers the bare bones.



Power with vs Power over

The network maps and explains the movement of information, ideas and power.  If we think of power as "power with" instead of "power over" then we can begin to understand how harnessing the network and its hubs is an organic and highly effective way to bring the change we need to our schools.  The change is already happening at the post secondary level.  Ten years ago, MIT began the Open Course Ware movement and today we have MOOCs (massive open online courses) potentially challenging the debilitating financial investments necessary for university degrees.  It is inevitable.  The network will change the secondary schools too and you can participate in this paradigm shift by joining a hub of educators and thinkers who understand that "power with" is the logic of the network, of learning and of this century.

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