Sticks and Stones and Snap Judgements

There was a disconcerting (at least for me) response to Stephen Downes’ summary of my post on Wikipedia. While someone else might let it slide, I think I’d like to address it because as I turned it over and over in my head (is it because I’m from, dare I say it, Massachusetts?), I began to realize how little the comments had to do with me, and how much they had to do with the author (which, same others who would’ve let it slide from the beginning would’ve recognized from the get-go). Here’s the comment in its’ entirety, posted by, in my attempt to reflect Stephan’s dry humor, the Anymouse Who Roared:

What is “object centred sociality?” Why do you guys invent word combinations like this? It gives you a kick? A literate feeling? Makes you more knowledgeable? Excludes others? What is it? Why cant you academics and pretenders just S I M P L I F Y!!!???!!! People like you and the others who subscribe to such stuff are responsible for the elitism we see everywhere. Knowledge held captive by groups of people who just cant [sic] explain or let go before charging rent or fees.

Once I got over the personal nature of the comment (“academic” hurt, dude, it hurt), I realized that there are two issues at play here: the use of “jargon” and the nature of snap judgements.

In my “verbal” life — as opposed to my “written” one (I’ve come to realize that this blog provides me with an intellectual outlet that is difficult to obtain without going back to graduate school) — I poke fun of eduspeak and jargon almost as much as the next person (for some laughs, visit the Education Jargon Generator). To be more accurate, I’m no big fan of buzzwords; at least jargon has a definition buried in the Free Dictionary which reads, “The specialized or technical language of a trade, profession, or similar group” (granted, it is 3 of 4). In interactions, there is often an unavoidable need for technical terminology which allow us to draw boundaries within complexity and to describe concepts and ideas. If Anymouse read the entire series of postings and tracked back through the links (which I am assuming Anymouse did not), Anymouse would have garnered, I hope, a fairly full understanding of object-centered sociality. If you consider this “rent or fees,” Anymouse, I am happy to accept payment in full. Which segues into….

….The second issue, that of impatience in the learning process and making snap judgements on little information. Adrian Savage writes a nicely crafted critique of quick thinking. He describes to a simple experiment designed by Guy Claxton which,

…proved rapid thinking prevented people [from] reaching the correct conclusions. Even when forced to wait before giving an answer, those who still got it wrong were found to have used the extra time thinking about unrelated matters. They relied on their immediate conclusion and saw no need to waste more time questioning it. Those who used to time to realize the correct answer, didn’t spend more effort on the problem itself either. But by thinking about the nature of the problem and what its purpose was, they realized they had underestimated its complexity and so to reevaluate their answer.

Some issues, ideas, concepts, thoughts are complex and necessitate deep and thorough thinking. The issues surrounding the use and nature of Wikipedia is one such topic. It cannot — should not — be distilled so far down that it can be groked at a glance.

So as I end this post, I actually feel better about the work I am doing here at Smelly Knowledge. I am fulfilling the stated mission of this blog, to advocate for the idea that,

…the “getting of knowledge,” the quest for understanding, and the formation of learning communities and communities of practice, should be “smelly”: complex, difficult at times, deep, and meaningful.

Sometimes it takes criticism to be reminded of such things. And to Anymouse, I ask that rather than closing off an opportunity for dialogue, let’s continue. I think we have much to learn about the world from each other if we are only open to it. My e-mail address is

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