Convergence Theory?

I am struck by the convergences in my life (usually I am talking about emergence)–never before have I found myself nodding my head quite so vigorously when my older brother, who works as Director of Organizing and research for CSEA, speaks about his work in California, for example. And I don’t mean to imply that Michael and I do not see eye-to-eye on the issues confronting our culture and our world. Not at all. Indeed, I just gave a toast at his fiftieth birthday party crediting him with much of my political-consciousness education and for the gift of a passionate relationship with Ireland among other essential parts of my life. But before now I have always admired his work rather than felt I could contribute to it in any way–I listened but rarely if ever advised –he, trying to change the whole world by working to change the political realities of wherever he is–California, in particular. What could I, writer and college teacher, possibly have to tell him the ultimate do-er?

But during this brief weekend family celebration in Maine we just had, he started talking about the work he’s doing in leadership training with the union, how he has to help the natural leaders in every locale truly lead by not just getting their people to the polls but to run for office themselves. Why shouldn’t they take an active role in government. He showed me books–among them James MacGregor Burns’ Academy of Leadership and his Transforming Leadership. I found myself thinking–yup, blogs, Michael and digital storytelling, these tools, these modes of communicating, expressing, chronicling and connecting, could help in this essential work of unseating a rogue governor and an even worse president. Getting these leaders together in the workshop and then providing them with the means of staying in contact with one another as they move into this work, makes sense to me. And I don’t think I’m getting carried away…

All weekend I found myself turning to one family member or another, and saying, “You should really think about how digital stories [or blogging] might serve you in this work”. It was uncanny. And not a little unsettling. This medium is taking off all around us in ways no one could have anticipated. It’s glorious and inspiring and makes me think that we have a chance to make a difference in the world, to make sure that everyone has equal access to the power of stories and publishing tools and communication opportunities.

Think about how many people have viewed Jib Jab’s Bush/Kerry “This Land”? (thanks, Patti) My students could put something like this together and have some five million hits to their blog. Okay, so that puts us back to to Steven Johnson and Emergence . The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts…

Yet another example of how efficacy is the underpinning of all of this work. Yup. Im still hammering away at the convergence of emergence, efficacy and collective intelligence. I know that Héctor Vila would say it all returns to old Emerson, and I don’t doubt that he is right, but I love the fact that through emails from teachers, conversations with activist brothers and educational-software researcher sisters-in-law, symposium encounters with IT people and young software developers–all quite new to me– my understanding of the work I am undertaking in my own classes is really beginning to take shape.