Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto

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  • Mind the assumptions: assess uncertainty and sensitivity as their role in predictions is substantially larger that originally asserted
  • Mind the hubris: complexity can be the enemy of relevance; there is a trade-off between the usefulness of a model and the breadth it tries to capture; complexity is too often seen as an end in itself. Instead, the goal must be finding the optimum balance with error
  • Mind the framing: match purpose and context; no one model can serve all purposes; modellers know that the choice of tools will influence, and could even determine, the outcome of the analysis, so the technique is never neutral; shared approaches to assessing quality need to be accompanied by a shared commitment to transparency. Examples of terms that promise uncontested precision include: ‘cost–benefit’, ‘expected utility’, ‘decision theory’, ‘life-cycle assessment’, ‘ecosystem services’, and ‘evidence-based policy’. Yet all presuppose a set of values about what matters — sustainability for some, productivity or profitability for others; the best way to keep models from hiding their assumptions, including political leanings, is a set of social norms. These should cover how to produce a model, assess its uncertainty and communicate the results. International guidelines for this have been drawn up for several disciplines. They demand that processes involve stakeholders, accommodate multiple views and promote transparency, replication and analysis of sensitivity and uncertainty. Whenever a model is used for a new application with fresh stakeholders, it must be validated and verified anew.
  • Mind the consequences: quantification can backfire. Excessive regard for producing numbers can push a discipline away from being roughly right towards being precisely wrong; once a number takes centre-stage with a crisp narrative, other possible explanations and estimates can disappear from view. This might invite complacency, and the politicization of quantification, as other options are marginalized; opacity about uncertainty damages trust (…) Full explanations are crucial.
  • Mind the unknowns: acknowledge ignorance; communicating what is not known is at least as important as communicating what is known; Experts should have the courage to respond that “there is no number-answer to your question.”

Mathematical models are a great way to explore questions. They are also a dangerous way to assert answers. Asking models for certainty or consensus is more a sign of the difficulties in making controversial decisions than it is a solution, and can invite ritualistic use of quantification. Models’ assumptions and limitations must be appraised openly and honestly. Process and ethics matter as much as intellectual prowess. It follows, in our view, that good modelling cannot be done by modellers alone. It is a social activity. The French movement of statactivistes has shown how numbers can be fought with numbers, such as in the quantification of poverty and inequalities (…) We are calling not for an end to quantification, nor for apolitical models, but for full and frank disclosure. Following these five points will help to preserve mathematical modelling as a valuable tool. Each contributes to the overarching goal of billboarding the strengths and limits of model outputs. Ignore the five, and model predictions become Trojan horses for unstated interests and values. Model responsibly.

Saltelli, A. et al., (2020). Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto, article available here

VUCA

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Complexity is one of four challenges expressed in the acronym VUCA — Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity (…) VUCA has largely been adopted in the business world to refer to challenges which traditional leadership models find difficult to address (…) it requires different skills, structures, modus operandi, mindsets and organisational principles from those currently taught and practised (…) current leadership approaches are counter-productive, even harmful, to working with uncertainty and complexity. In trying to gain control of complexities, in trying to get a grip, our management methods are actually making things worse (…) the cumulative effect of applying the wrong management practices to complexity has exacerbated the challenges of VUCA (…) (complexity management) can only be achieved by including and integrating the perspectives of all the people affected (…) wide-scale conversations in the form of what he (Stacey) called “reflexive inquiry” (…) VUCA skills include: interpersonal skills (e.g. active listening), perspective coordination skills (complementarity), contextual thinking skills (shifting perspectives according to context) and collaboration skills (inclusive decision-making) (…) VUCA requires the integration and fusion of different perspectives, and not alpha heroes with all the ‘right’ answers (…)  What we should learn, instead, is how to respond to complex problems from a vantage point of not knowing, probingly approaching inquiry with an empty mind and humility; likewise we need to learn how to integrate seemingly polar opposite perspectives collaboratively (…) Some of the ways suggested to learn these VUCA skills include design thinking and practicing Sociocracy. We should take note, however, that one cannot learn integration skills by oneself, these have to be practised and refined in groups. We therefore need to create more Communities of Practice where people can hone these new skills (…) Uhl-Bien defines complexity as ‘rich interconnectivity’. Interconnecting parts become complex when the parts interacting actually influence and change each other (…) what complexity calls for are deeper conversations that matter

Full article by François Knuchel available here

THE SECOND GLOBALIZATION DEBATE, An interview with Antony Giddens (29/01/2000)

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(…) Globalization is not primarily economic. It’s not solely driven by the global marketplace. It’s actually about what we’re doing now. The driving force of the new globalization is the communications revolution (…) one mustn’t think of these things as solely driven by technology, and one mustn’t ever imagine that technology drives itself, and one mustn’t imagine particularly that technology is unilinear — that the future will always be more of the same as the present. History moves dialectically; it takes us by surprise. The future is not linear. You will get many different kinds of reactions to these technologies, some of them hostile, some of them producing new technologies, many of them unpredicted (…) I still write about risk because it’s deeply, deeply involved with technological transformation, obviously. What’s happened in our lifetime is a transformation from one type of risk environment to another (…) It’s only when you have a future-oriented world that you need the notion of risk, because the notion of risk is a confrontation with the future, essentially. It’s about future time and the management of future time. What’s happening now is that we live in the most future-oriented society that has ever existed (…) What we have to deal with is a very, very interesting thing, which is very crucial to scientific innovation, which is exploring the edge between the positive and negative sides of risk (…) Now, when scientific innovations happen they impact on our lives very directly (…) tradition and custom, and nature itself, no longer structure our lives like they used to do (…) Now we know that whenever you drink a cup of coffee or you stick to water as you’re doing there, you’re calculating risk there (…)  You can’t just turn to experts to give you an authoritative opinion in many situations, particularly in innovations, because they disagree. Therefore, you must have both a public debate and political and legal decision-making about these things. This is particularly true when different people say completely the opposite things, even though both seem to be equally eminent scientists. I’m not saying that in the end they wouldn’t find some agreement, because they might after years of research, but you have to deal with it now, plainly (…) You must restrict the role of the market in human life, and you must try and create a form of political thinking which is no longer half-theory. 

by John Brockman

Full article available here

ACSA-EAAE Conference Presentation

Re conceptualizing the role of tutors in research-based pedagogy: the tutor(s) as the curriculum

The paper presents the efforts made to experiment with the pedagogical framework and the operational model of a postgraduate urban design studio based on the reconceptualization of the role of tutors. In the model examined here, the curriculum was devised as an open and evolving network of the tutors’ resources and affiliated researchers from within or outside the setting of the academy. This mosaic consisted of different individual research and design practices that are problem-focused and context-specific, communicated directly to students by the very people responsible for their conception and development. Learners were required to investigate the instrumentality of these practices according to their own personal pursuits; to make their own networks of connections, and were even encouraged to create their own personal schemata of design research. In fact, the second major shift of the rethink lay in recognizing learner autonomy and diversity, thus establishing a new operational framework for the two to prosper. An amalgam of interconnected learning spaces provided the conditions necessary for all these networks to co-exist and interact. The paper describes the different aspects of the tutors’ involvement and contributions in the design and implementation of this model, as they assumed a number of roles, but most importantly, as they became learners themselves.

The Problem of Expertise in Knowledge Societies

https://www.amazon.ca/Death-Expertise-Campaign-Established-Knowledge/dp/0190469412

Great article on the development of the perception of expertise by Reiner Grundmann

The pool of knowledgeable citizens has increased enormously between the 1960s and today. Many more people are highly educated and earn their money as ‘knowledge workers’ (Brint 2001). At the same time, as traditional ties have been loosened, people cannot rely on received wisdom and traditional ways of life. They have to make decisions about their lives themselves. This trend towards individualisation and risk decisions has been well described by Beck (1992), Giddens (1991) and others. This means that individuals are seeking expertise, and may find it being offered by non-certified experts (…) The laboratory as the site of knowledge creation, and the scientific institute which signals competence of the researcher and thus makes her a ‘certified expert’ is not the only source of expert knowledge, and it is arguably not the most important one when it comes to political decision-making

The Problem of Expertise in Knowledge Societies, Reiner Grundmann

Full article available here

Information Intake Vs. Information Embodiment

https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/information-intake-vs-information-embodiment-2ee1dd111ebb?fbclid=IwAR2dWf2LJDzGR2Nway4YCpVypkVYpWa8Qz7aHdvjn4eXxoHXMiWxUFdFzkw

This is one type of learning: the intake of information (…) if the intake of information ends with the intake of information, then it is incomplete. There is another form of learning that doesn’t need discovered, only recovered (…) That Intake must lead to embodiment (…) We only honor a life if we leave different than when we walked in. The only way to truly honor a life is to be changed by it (…) you take in the plethora of information being deposited everywhere you look by everything and everyone you look at (again, undisguising the world), but then you lean into it. You distill it, you parse it, you connect with the “thing” — the gift, the image, the story, the root that arches through what you are learning — and you take it in so as to shape you. You honor that gift that is now seen via knowledge, but then you allow yourself to be changed by it.

Information Intake Vs. Information Embodiment
What will you do with what you learn?

Although I’m not so sure about the tone and the narrative, I like the idea of knowledge creation as the embodiment of information. I am not as sure as to if this is life’s purpose (be changed), I just think this is the only way of deciding at each instant who we want to be and how to get there.

“The idea of becoming is essential,” says philosopher and humanist, Rosi Braidotti

http://lab.cccb.org/en/rosi-braidotti-what-is-necessary-is-a-radical-transformation-following-the-bases-of-feminism-anti-racism-and-anti-fascism/?fbclid=IwAR0rtdRjRuTnXEiLGaDNR6mKmPYgfMFl3f8nHGjidbjDh1IvE7r6unB_-mQ

We need to open up the meaning of the identity concept towards relations with a multiplicity, with others. Through opposition to the idea of identity as something completely closed, already formed, and static. We are subjects under construction, we are always becoming something (…)  we are now going through a very complicated political era (…) Theorists are seen as speculators and their task as useless, while we let fake news and alternative facts to spread. The reputation of academics is very poor during periods of populism. We need to stop these attacks on universities, academics and experts. We need to develop a culture of respect for knowledge (…) I believe that revolution today is a fascist concept. I believe that the people calling for revolution are from the extreme right (…) I believe that at present a more preferable option is active activism, a collective commitment to creating affirmative values, rather than joining what seems to me to be a fascist restoration of the notion of revolution (…) I prefer the concept of affirmation. I propose to create affirmative values and to work together. In other words, we need to discuss the problems together (…) What is necessary is a radical transformation, following the bases of feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism. An in-depth transformation around the types of subject that we are. And that can only happen collectively, by redefining the type of world that ours is becoming. That is the plan.

http://lab.cccb.org/en/rosi-braidotti-what-is-necessary-is-a-radical-transformation-following-the-bases-of-feminism-anti-racism-and-anti-fascism/?fbclid=IwAR0rtdRjRuTnXEiLGaDNR6mKmPYgfMFl3f8nHGjidbjDh1IvE7r6unB_-mQ

Student resistance to curriculum changes

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Sometimes, when we talk about learner independence, active learning or agency, we forget that this is not always for granted. Student consensus can not be considered a given. Trying out new things in a course (changing formats, layouts or mediums) produces changes that can be met with resistance and suspicion and it usually takes time until the cohort is convinced that what you are doing is actually working for them.

Student-Centered Learning and Student Buy-In article in Inside Higher Ed shows the results of curriculum change in a Biology course over a period of four years in relation to student satisfaction and acceptance. Pre- and post- course surveys show that student resistance decreased over the years and while grades did not change, the students’ perception of their gains has.

I remember that when we first introduced networked practices in an undergraduate design studio, students were terrified of the idea that their preliminary research and drawings would be published online for everyone to see. When talking about this, some expressed the fear that their ideas would loose their originality or that by the end of the semester everyone would converge to a single design idea/concept. Of course, none of this happened: in fact, it was quite revealing to see how diverse the research approaches and their respective representations actually were from a very early stage in the design process.

But there is also another interesting aspect in this article: the very fact that there was no single teacher but 13 of them. Now, I think this severely enhances the idea of a learning community. It’s not just about changing the format, it is about how you do it. By opening up the curriculum to more researchers and more teachers and by presenting the students with a course that is founded on a collaborative effort you ultimately denounce the idea of the expert and what comes along with that. And it is not by chance that grades have nothing to do with this. The very act of learning and being part of a learning community luckily can never fall into the hands of assessment.

Revolutionary Learning

The influence of a non-dialectical reading of Marx under conditions of patriarchy and racism continues to produce substantial errors in scholarship, including: the inability to understand class and labour power as relations and processes; a causal and deterministic articulation of consciousness and praxis as external relations; culturalist and identity-based approaches to ‘difference’ that cannot illuminate inter-constitutive social relations; confusion over the relationality between colonialism, fundamentalisms, imperialism and neoliberalism within capitalism; and the continued marginalization of feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholarship within the academy (…) we also contend that critical education theory cannot commit itself to, nor move forward with, a revolutionary project without profound attention to the social relations of difference – that is, gender, race, ability, sexuality – and the exploration of these as inter-constitutive relations both with and within capitalism and its expansion through colonialism and imperialism

Revolutionary Learning: Introduction: Revolutionary Feminist Praxis, epub edition

I just started reading it and I am already loving it. Thought I’d share this with you.

Existential Intelligence

9-types-of-intelligence-infographic

Existential intelligence is the ability to use intuition, thought and meta-cognition to ask (and answer) deep questions about human existence (…) An element of existential intelligence, is recognizing and understand our interconnectedness with the world around us and the universe at large (…) being able to perceive the bigger picture or in other words, to conceive our lives and every-day actions in the context of the grand cosmic arena (…) It involves acknowledging our place in the cosmos and stepping back and contemplating our purpose in the grand scheme of things (…)

One of the most important components of effective 21st-century teaching, is recognizing the different forms of intelligences and catering to the unique abilities of all students. Howard Gardner, a pioneer of this perspective, differentiates intelligence into distinct ‘modalities’, as opposed to a single general ability. These include: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. Based on two decades of brain research, the theory suggests that we all have all these intelligences in varying degrees (…) not many students are empowered to realize that their above-average athletic (bodily-kinesthetic) or social abilities (interpersonal), are an extension of their intelligence. In recent years, Gardner has introduced a ninth, and possibly most significant, form of “smarts” referred to as “existential” intelligence. It is also referred to by others as “cosmic” or “spiritual” intelligence.

when we demonstrate that we can have an influence on the world by observing it, what are the implications of it on our “objective” reality?

 

Full article available here / Image available here