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    Entries in History (2)


    I am learner (by John Connell)

    I am learner.

    Just as no one can see the colours I see, just as no one can hear the music I hear, just as no one can feel what I feel when I hold something in my hand, and just as no one can sense the world as I perceive it around me, no one can teach me. 

    No one can teach me.

    I am learner.

    I am not taught. I learn. I am human and a social animal, so I learn with others. I do learn from others, but what I learn is rarely, if ever, what is taught to me, and rarely, if ever, what others learn at the same time from the same teachers. Often I learn entirely alone.

    I am learner.

    I perceive. I use my senses to know the world around me. I discern patterns. I shape my understanding through metaphor and analogy. I seek to create purpose in my life. Sometimes I conceive purpose where there is none; often I accept others’ conceptions of purpose in life, others’ conceptions of purpose in the universe. 

    I am learner.

    I build a universe in my mind and I live there, a universe that changes constantly as I learn. All people, including the people I love, live alongside me in this constantly shifting universe. I see only glimpses of the lives they lead, because, just as they are players in my world, I am a player in all the universes created by every other person alive. 

    I am learner.

    I connect. I connect with people and ideas in the physical and virtual worlds and discern no boundary between the two worlds. I learn in, across, through, with and from the networks in which I live, work, play and interact. I continually extend my own potential through my connections. I make connections between what I have already learned and what the world chooses to present to me through my own interactions with the world and through the interventions and actions of others.

    I connect therefore I learn. 

    I am learner.

    I am able to recite facts, echo the opinions of others, assume the attitudes of so-called authorities when urged to do so, but I prefer to seek real knowledge of the changing world in which we live, genuine understanding of the realities of the human condition, authentic insight into our intrinsic dependence on one another. My need to know for myself is stronger than my need to recite from or imitate others.

    I am learner.

    I imagine. I reach beyond the reality of my senses and there I build my own dreams and visions; sometimes I welcome others’ wishful thinking and create my own place in their fantasies, accepting the values they place before me, filtering and refining them to fit my universe. Often, by accidents of time and place and birth, I am conditioned by those around me to accept their social, moral, religious and political values. In these circumstances, I still create my own truth but I struggle to do so freely, constrained by the strictures imposed on me by others. 

    I am learner.

    I listen to stories from others; I tell my own stories, to myself, to others; I participate in stories, mine and others’. I determine who I am through a prism of dramas, tales, myths, histories, lies, assumed truths, rituals, games and a complex and intricate narrative that I weave around the realities of my life. I live and learn from the drama of the now and I recall and learn from the narratives woven out of past dramas. 

    I am learner.

    I am not taught. 

    I learn.

    by John Connell - originally posted at


    Vancouver’s Streets

    This is an age of conflict and paranoia brought on to some degree by 9/11 and the wars of the last ten years, but also by a breakdown in our definitions of civility and shared norms. I base this assertion on my own reading of contemporary culture through the artifacts that are being produced and via the social response to those artifacts.

    The Vancouver riots of June 15th are just the tip of the iceberg. At a recent showing of films by Emily Carr University students in animation and film/video, I watched many films of chases, violence and just plain paranoia. Creative students  are the canaries in the mine. They are pointing towards something much more profound, centred on a breakdown in some core beliefs about democracy, change and the general impact that individuals can have on the social contexts they share.


    The Real Vancouver: Graffitti on Walls of the Bay in Downtown Vancouver

    Part of the problem is rooted in a shift in the ways in which politicians in Western democracies exercise their rather precious mandate. In Canada, fewer and fewer people in the 20-40 age group vote. I spend a great deal of time talking to students in my job, and the general response to this evacuation of personal and public responsibility is based on the belief that their voices don’t actually count. This loss of voice does not mean they have nothing to say. Rather, they don’t believe their opinions are understood and have no real sense that their viewpoints will be respected and acted upon. This is an issues that our elected representatives need to be sensitive to and act upon.

    Yet, with social media at their disposal, this age group are able to share their beliefs, argue about their differences and often come to some sense of common purpose within the networks they build. However, translating all of that discussion into action is a major step and not one that is easy or made easier by the conventional feedback processes we have in our society. And, remember, most of what social media provide are discourse based relationships; words and sometimes images are the mediators that both screen and define relationships within networked worlds.

    The Vancouver riots, for all of their sheer stupidity and senseless violence, are an eruption of the real, an explosion of energy because so much of what our mediated cultural spaces create are shared convictions as well as fictions, but reality does not follow a straight line. It certainly has no clear beginning, middle and end. It is unfortunate that violence was seen to be a solution to this conundrum by those who perpetrated it.

    A fAceBook (this is not a typo…but a way of pointing out the contradictions of the term) conversation is not a real conversation, it is somewhere in between real and distant, mediated and connected. Exchanges on Twitter are not equivalent to intense conversations over a cup of coffee between two people gazing at each other’s eyes and intensely watching each other’s body movements. Viewing a hockey game cannot make your favourite players better or even winners. Screaming does not improve the game. Fantasizing about victory is just that, a fantasy. 

    A collective of 100,000 people assembled to exercise their will to win a hockey game. They projected so much of who they were onto the screens that mediated their experiences of the game, that failure and loss cracked the glass windows separating them from controlling the outcome. They then turned on each other and with each act of violence confirmed their need to feel in control of the reality they were in.

    The issue is not whether a minority or majority of people got involved in breaking down the norms that govern our everyday lives. The issue is that some sort of violence is ever present in our society, represented at its apogee by the constant threats we have been living with since 9/11. And remember, it is not only the threats from terrorists but also the threats of environmental catastrophe, depletion of food sources and the crumbling financial and physical infrastructure of Western economies.

    Notwithstanding the many thousands of people who turned up to clean the Vancouver we all love, the riots of the 15th of June must be examined for their deeper origins otherwise we will lose the opportunity to solve their root causes.