Friday, December 10, 2004

Collaborative E-learning & Generative Conversation

In recent posts Paul observed that "conversation, as a generative process, is the prerequisite for all creativity" and "to create new realities, we must create new contexts, new domains of consensus." These ideas resonate with the work I am doing in the area of collaborative e-learning. I am looking at ways online courses and/or learning activities can be designed and facilitated to promote generative conversation in the virtual domain. I am interested in ways the online class itself can serve as a new context for learning by doing-- learning to converse, communicate, solve problems and generate new ideas and solutions.

If others in the Innovation Commons are interested in this approach, I hope you will join me for a real-time dialogue on the ICT Literacy Community (

December 14, at 10-11 AM Pacific Time OR
December 16, at 5-6 PM Pacific Time.

We'll use the Taxonomy for Collaborative E-Learning as a conceptual framework for our discussion.
See for more info.

The Internet as an Innovation Commons

The Internet is often referred to as an innovation commons. Does it function as an innovation commons? Why or why not?

Internet and Artistic Creativity

From Renee Hopkins at IdeaFlow:

"This past Monday the Pew Center for the Internet and American Life released the study Artists, Musicians and the Internet. Media coverage of the study was focused primarily on one finding: Most artists don't view unauthorized swapping of music and movies as a threat to their livelihood, even if many think it should be illegal."

"...artists and musicians have embraced the Internet as a tool that helps them create, as well as helps them promote and sell what they’ve created."

"And, 'artists and musicians are more likely to say that the Internet has made it possible for them to make more money from their art than they are to say it has made it harder to protect their work from piracy or unlawful use.'

Half of the artists and musicians said that copyright regulations benefit purveyors of creative work more than they benefit the original creators."

Read Her Comments

Download the Report

Thursday, December 09, 2004


A consortium is a speacial kind of innovation commons. It has limited memebership and there are strict agreements about how the intellectual property can be used and who owns it. Some like Sematech have been very sucessful. What are the principles that result in a sucessful consortium?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Individual Characteristics

What role does the type of brain functioning, personality or temperament play in an innovation commons?

Open Source

I'm looking for comment here about how Open Source works and why.


Communication between and among people is very complex. There are many channels and nuances. However, for the purpose of innovation, I have found the following simple model useful. It is based on knowledge and values.

If people seeking to communicate have the same knowledge and the same values, communication is very easy. This is what happens between friends. It's comfortable. However, if you really have exactly the same knowledge and values, the transactions carry no real meaning. Nothing new can be created.

If the people have the same knowledge but different values, when communication is attempted, an argument usually results. Operating on the same knowledge with different values results in different interpretation and prioritization of the knowledge. This quite often happens in politics and religion. (And, it may be going on in America right now.)

If people have different knowledge and values, not much communication can take place. If an attempt at communication is made, a lack of understanding results, or at best a misunderstanding occurs.

If people have different knowledge but the same values, a conversation can result. In a conversation, innovation can occur.

Click here to see matrix.

The key strategy in any communication endeavor is to try to move toward a conversation. In the real world, the situation is not as black and white as I have depicted it. People almost always have some shared values or knowledge. The key to creating a conversation is to find some shared values and use these to build a conversation based on the different knowledge.

The more different the knowledge and values are, the higher the potential is for breakthrough innovations. The less different the knowledge and values are, the more likely incremental innovation will result.

For a copy of a presentation on these principles as well as MBTI in communication, click here(PDF).


A market is a type of commons as well, and in some cases may even be considered an "innovation commons".

I have read about mythology, anthropology and history, but I am by no means expert. Over the years I've developed a sense of the development of markets that I want to share. Much of this has been developed through conversations with people, especially my partner, Donna Prestwood. It is not rigorous research, but I do want to share the story I've developed. I've put this Italics, because it is a story, not a history.

During times when our ancient ancestors were hunter/gatherers and lived in tribes, the concept of territory was developed (See I told you it was a story. I started with "once upon a time".) Knowledge of what existed outside the territory was limited. The "other" who lived outside your territory was either enemies or strangers. Both were feared. An incursion into your territory was almost surely to provoke an attack, even if the incursion was not an attack itself.

As the boundaries of the territory became established and known or even marked, the "other" avoided incursion unless intent upon an attack. Paths of travel began to be developed along the boundaries of the territories. The first paths bypassed the territories of the tribes.
Sometime during this development people got the idea of bringing gifts to the boundary of their own territory, to the edge of the known. The gifts were left a s a peace offering. Among some tribes this led to the development of concept of potlatch. The tribes brought gifts to the boundary in a type of asynchronous exchange. Potlatch cultures developed when winning meant giving the better gift. Either as peace offerings or potlatch, the practice did reduce the amount of physical conflicts.

Since strangers passed along these boundaries in transit around the territories, it was only natural that somehow they began to enter into the mix. The resulting development led to the creation of markets along these boundary/paths. And, eventually this led to the concentration of villages around the markets, especially at crossroads.

Early in our development, humans developed the sense of having to bring gifts to the edge of the known. In some cultures this ended up as sacrifices. In others, it was food or precious goods. We carry that tradition on now in the form of gifts brought to the altar of our religion. The altar representing symbolically the boundary between what is known and the unknowable.

As a result, the original concept of a market was that it was held on "sacred" ground; it was safe. The boundary was not a place for war. It was a place of peace. Markets today should be "sacred" in that sense. This may be why we are so incensed when someone violates the trust of the market and cheats, lies, or steals.

In some cultures the concept of exchanging gifts at the borders, (Still celebrated by the way every Friday evening in the fall at Texas high school football games with the students of the two schools exchanging gifts at the 50 yard line before the start of the game. Apparently the gifts don't work to bring peace and hostilities have to be undertaken however ritual the hostilities are.) led to the development of a bartering system. From that came the concept of the development of value for different types of goods. Note that adding strangers into the mix brought different types of goods into the market not indigenous to the tribes.

In what sense is a market an innovation commons? Goods produced or manufactured are the embodiment of knowledge. In the ancient market, an individual skilled in making axes could teach the "other" how to make the ax. But, it's more efficient and rewarding to exchange the ax for other things needed or money. Even if the goods are grown, harvested, hunted or extracted, their presence at the market embodies the application of knowledge. Information was also exchanged at a market as well, in a loose bartering sense.

One of the things that makes a market work is the mechanism of valuing goods and services. Another is the trust and safety. Others? I welcome comments.

Are we now at a point in the development of civilization where an innovation commons would work? If so, what are conditions or principles that would assure its success? What can we learn from successful markets?

What can we learn from e-Bay? I don't know enough about it to comment, so I would welcome other comments. One element of e-Bay I do know about is the rating system. Buyers and sellers rate each other after the transaction. A bad reputation prevents you from further participation in the market.