Open Thinkering


Tag: mindmap

TB871: Engaging with unknowns

Note: this is a post reflecting on one of the modules of my MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice. You can see all of the related posts in this category

After completing readings and activities for the ‘Tools’ stream, we now move into the ‘People’ stream. The first video I watched as part of this was an introductory clip from the BBC TV series Blue Planet 2, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

The being analogy made was between the cold, dark depths of the polar seas, which we might expect to be barren, and our own personal ‘unknowns’. In both cases, although we previously did not know much about them, they are teeming with life.

In terms of my own unknowns (Activity P1.2) if I break it down, I guess it looks something like this:

Ideally, given more time, I would have linked some of these together a bit more. I have a tendency towards looking at the negatives, but there are plenty of potential positives around science and health breakthroughs, for example.

Moving on to Activity P1.3 we’re asked to “examine the feelings that arise when you consciously attend to your world of unknowns” (Open University, 2020). It’s an interesting one, because I’m somewhat comfortable in ambiguity and ‘chaos’ as the wonderful image from my friend Bryan Mathers shows below, the unknowns which are likely to hit me in the second half of my life seem somewhat daunting

 Illustration of an elated person in a checkered green outfit leaping joyfully inside a snow globe with the phrase "COMFORTABLE IN CHAOS" written on the base, accompanied by the "learn with WAO" watermark.
(image CC BY-NC Visual Thinkery for WAO)

For example, I became very aware moving to this new house last month that this would be the place in which both of my kids left home to go to university, and the house in which I will live when I lose both my parents. This made me quite emotional.

But these are known knowns and known unknowns. The ‘unknown unknowns’ are obviously harder to deal with. I live with two chronic health conditions (asthma and migraines) which are well-controlled but could get worse. Someone I know had a cancer diagnosis recently out of the blue. Who knows what might happen to my friends, family, and colleagues?

Although every generation seems to think they live in the midst of unprecedented change, there is a lot of objective evidence to point towards in order to suggest that we’re currently experiencing a lot. For example, even if we just look at the developments in AI, which have come after a major pandemic, after all of the political turmoil, after a global financial crash. Paying appropriate attention to all of this and trying to make sense of it, both rationally and emotionally, can be overwhelming.

On top of this, trying to take an ethical stance is complicated. For example, I made a commitment to stop flying, which my family then talked me out of as they argued persuasively that this would mean that we didn’t get to see some things before they disappeared. What will happen to supply chains? Will my skills continue to be in demand? Will where I live continue to be habitable?

I wouldn’t say these questions keep me up at night, but they’re always there in the background. As someone who, by nature, has a tendency towards general background anxiety, it’s no wonder that it would be somewhat of a stretch to describe me as ‘happy-go-lucky’.


How to focus in the age of distraction. [GRAPHIC]

How to focus in the age of distraction

(click on image for larger version hosted on author’s website)

I came across the above diagram on Google+ recently. Having not posted much about productivity recently, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share something I’ve found really helpful.

What I like about this is that it’s colourful, immediately obvious, and includes some stellar advice! 🙂

The author, Sharon Genovese of Learning Fundamentals, asks for a donation if you’d like to use any of her (awesome) mindmaps.

Speaking in Lolcats: What Literacy Means in teh Digital Era

In 2009, Stephen Downes gave several presentations entitled Speaking in Lolcats. He put forward three theses:

  1. That New Media is a new vocabulary (and therefore people can literally speak in Lolcats)
  2. That languages can be understood analytically through a semantic framework
  3. That 21st century skills are languages (not just content + skills + tools)

Of particular interest are the six elements of ‘literacy in teh digital era’ identified by Downes:

  • Syntax
  • Semantics
  • Pragmatics
  • Cognition
  • Context
  • Change

The talk is just over an hour with another twenty minutes or so of Q&A. Well worth listening to with the slides in front of you. Doug’s mindmap notes are here.