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Summer Conference 2002

Left to right: Mark Surman, Mark Baumgartner, Doug Hull and John O'Leary

Session Seven – Internet Intercourse: Where Do You Live?
MARK BAUMGARTNER, B.Sc., BPHE, Medical Student, UWO Class of 2003; Founder, (bio)
DOUG HULL, Senior Director, Public Access/Learning Networks (bio)
JOHN O’LEARY, President, Frontier College (bio)

MARK SURMAN, President, The Commons Group (bio)


Mark Surman

I’m going to start by sort of setting things up…first of all I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Mark Surman and what I do in the world is help people, especially people who are trying to make the world better, tap into the powerful social networks that are the Internet. And what that means in a practical way is that I have a little company called the Commons Group and we do things like helping Internet activists in Eastern Europe get their technology out to non-profits, finance their work, we help individual organizations use technology, the Internet in particular, more strategically, and we’ve founded and participated in a lot of Internet projects that I’m very proud of, including a website called which is probably the most-used Canadian political commentary website, with about a million and half paid views and seventy thousand readers a month.

And that’s what I do and that’s why I’m here, that’s what excites me. I’m also somebody who lives in a city, I live in downtown Toronto in High Park, I love cities and it’s something which is very close to me, even though I work mostly in a virtual world, in my bedroom. So my job this morning is to sort of set up a little bit what we’re talking about this morning when we talk about online community, and give these guys a little bit of something to go from, and do the primer, I guess.

But before I do the primer I want to digress a little bit, I want to talk about utopia first. I want to talk [audience interjection] pardon? Toronto, yes, utopia, well, that’s what I heard before I moved there. No, I’m talking about something much, much more utopian, the promised land or nirvana, the promised land of technology.

If people think back, I don’t know if they remember the mid-90s, it was kind of, I don’t know, I was a little bit whacked out at the time because of all the euphoria around technology, it was a time where media, governments, business, were very excited about the utopian potential of technology,. It was a year after the first web browser had been invented, and you see here, Time magazine was saying "the future is wow,’ in the summer of 95, and if you got inside the magazine, I went back and looked at it this summer, it was hilarious, they’re talking about smart cars that were the year 2000 were going to be driving us around so we could read as we drove to Couchiching, and the magic cell phones that would turn water into wine, and my favourite thing in this was robot athletes, if you couldn’t find someone to play tennis with at Couchiching you could check out a robot and they would play with you.

And you know, this kind of fetish and excitement about the magical transformative power of technology was very much in the air at that time. Wired magazine was emerging at the time as the great cheerleader of these things; in their first issue they said that the Internet is only paralleled, is only beaten by, the discovery of fire. Such a powerful transformative thing. And the Globe and Mail and other Canadian publications were talking about the Internet as the most important thing since the Industrial Revolution So this was big, big shit [audience laughter], but we didn’t get utopia. Well, here we are. We didn’t get utopia, we got stock market crashes, huge cost overruns for software projects, and most importantly, ubiquitous porn. If you ever thought you had a problem with the corner store, the Internet has made it much worse.

And you know, what was all the hype about? Well, there was something that the hype was about, there was something real, the reason we got so euphoric wasn’t because there was nothing in the Internet, but you know, we were just looking in the wrong places, and getting a little too excited a little too quickly.

And I think one of the first places we were looking was now, to expect that as a technology emerged, that immediately some great social transformation would happen. There’s a great quote from a British researcher which says, "As with all new technologies, society exaggerated the short-term benefits of the Internet and underestimated the long-term benefits." There’s something there, but to have expected that it would immediately transform us, as was the rhetoric of the mid-90s, was just foolish. But it’s not surprising foolishness, because it’s what we do every time we have a new electric communications technology. If you go back and look historically, the same thing is true of electricity, where people were predicting in scientific journals, the equivalent of Wired of their day, that electricity would eliminate the need for politics because it would get rid of injustice and economic inequity, so we would just all be able to kick back once electricity had rolled out across North America. Similar predictions came with cable television in the 70s and other electric technology. We get kind of turned on by this stuff and think it’s going to happen now, and we’re going to you know, let’s get moving.

But there is something there, again it’s where we look. There’s another place we look incorrectly, and that’s really something which is indicative of what was in the mid-90s, and that’s to look to the hardware. The first issue of Radical Software, which was a great video activist magazine of the early 70s, started with the line, "As problem solvers we are a nation of hardware freaks." And that’s, I think, very typical and very deeply ingrained in who we are, and in the mid-90s we thought if we get this Internet on everyone’s desk, the world is going to be3 a better place. We’ve just got to get the wires out there, we’ve just got to get the computers, and clearly that didn’t happen, the world is maybe a better place in some ways, and maybe a worse place in others, but there was no magical transformation. But again, I still think there is a kernel of something good there that drove that utopian energy. And the question is, what was it, what’s still there that we can tap into?

And or me, it’s people power. It’s the fact that the Internet is a bubbling swamp of human interaction, a dynamic social ecosystem. The internet really is about connections b/w people; it’s a lot like cities in that way, in that the infrastructure is important, we need engineers to build water pipes and bridges and so forth, but what makes them hum, what makes them not dead pieces of concrete in the desert, is human interaction, is the organic emergence of a business culture along a retail strip in a small neighbourhood. It’s those things that make it exciting, that draw us to them, that keep us there, and that encourage us to put that same energy back into cities. And the Internet at its best is exactly that: it’s those social relationships that couldn’t’ happen w/o the infrastructure, but that allow people really to focus on each other. It’s those social relationships which really makes the internet hum, makes it special, and is what we have to tap into in the next 20, 60, 100, 200, 1000 years as we think about what it can do for us usefully.

So that’s something I want people to think about as we go through this, is, I‘m not talking about infrastructure when I talk about the Internet, when we talk about online community. I think some of my colleagues will, but even those who are talking about infrastructure will agree it’s those social relationships that make it valuable and interesting.

So just briefly, I want to talk about what’s the scope of online community, when we throw out here and talk about online community, what are some of the things that we’re talking about?

So obviously one of the things we’re talking about is talking. When people think about internet community the often think about discussion boards, and this one is a discussion board called Babble, and it’s a discussion board of Rabble, and it’s an incredibly active place where people come and talk about politics, and the thing that is amazing about Babble, and I guess about other discussion boards, is the home it gives to people who really feel isolated and want to find kinship. I think back to being a teenager in Kenora in the mid 1980s and I was the local punk-rock kid, and the local peace activist, and really there was only one of both of those [audience laughter], and so my sense of community was flipping through tattered copies of Maximum Rock n’ Roll and the Canadian Peace Alliance newsletter. I didn’t have a lot of peers, I had some adult peers who were interested in the peace movement, that’s how we started our anti-cruise group that had about 6 people, and when I look at that now, if I had been in that situation with this, my life would’ve been a very different thing, and I think for the better. There’s a story in Babble, where there’s a kid in Sudbury who I think was living a life very similar to my teenage years, where he’s very politically engaged, sort of left-learning, he’s read a lot of political philosophy since he was 10 years old, and he just doesn’t have any peers. But he’s found them here, to the point that it’s been a launching pad for real world social relationships. He became involved in the NPI, the alternative NDP movement, came down to the convention for that, he’s got a lot of friends who really now are his peers and are giving him somewhere to go with his passion. And you know, that’s a tremendous difference, and I think for all the bad things that may happen in online discussions, that’s a very positive story and it’s a story that can be told over and over again.

But online community is not just talking, and that’s usually where people limit it, it’s certainly also playing and probably it’s even more playing. There’s a phenomenon that has emerged in the last 5 years over the Internet called massively multiplayer games, and so here’s one called Ultima Online, and Ultima Online is basically Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t know if people know what Dungeons and Dragons is, but you pretend you’re some kind of medieval character, and you run around trying to create social relationships and alliances and so on and so forth. And with things like Ultima Online, you have hundreds of thousands, literally hundreds of thousands, of kids, adults I guess too, playing these games together, living out these narrative fantasies. And I guess on the one side you could think of these things as very sad, and the children are not outside playing in the backyard, [they’re in] in the basement and all the pallor is forming on their face. But on the other hand, you could say they’re actually there writing their own stores and not sitting there listening to Hollywood crap. You know, the narrative is not Shakespeare in Ultima, but the kids are writing the stories for themselves, and they’re stories which are written collaboratively, and they’re living them. And so in their world mass media narrative is changing, and they’re the authors. And so again, I think that’s a very impressive and interesting transformation in how we move forward as a society, and it affects our cities.

Certainly sharing fits into the idea of online community, and for people who are tapped into it at all or maybe read things like Linux in the newspaper, the idea of giving things away, the idea of what I call the global potlatch, is very engrained into Internet culture and the sort of geek culture of the Internet. And it’s gotten so far that that geek culture has pushed up into the mainstream. So here’s SAP which is a big evil software company that sells human resources software and financial management software, and they actually have this section on their site which we’re in here called the SAP DB community, and they give away their database as something they call open source. So they give away their database software. And the reason they do it is because open source software, which is one sharing model on the Internet, is a way for people to leverage the expertise of others; it’s almost like peer review in an academic sense, but other people will go out and fix your software after peer reviewing it, and add new modules to it and so on and so forth. And people have found that kind of sharing to be incredibly helpful for things that aren’t of direct economic benefit to them. So in the case of this piece of software SAP gives away, it’s not their main product so they have other people taking it for free and then fixing it for them for free.

Another key piece of what I would include in the scope of this social networks of the online world is trust. Trust is something which is incredibly important to the functioning of our physical communities, and if it wasn’t there, if there weren’t ways to measure trust, the Internet wouldn’t work as a social network. Ebay is a great example, and people usually think it’s crass because they think of it as a crappy garage sale, but eBay has this tremendous problem, which is how to you create trust amongst hundreds of thousands, millions of people around the world who are going to send money to each other on an individual transaction level. And they have very good systems of ratings, and kind of nuance and communicating about the trustworthiness of individual buyers and sellers that make that possible and make it almost like shopping on your local main street, in that there’s nuance there than you can use to pick up on who you want to buy from and who you want to sell to.

Certainly knowledge and the sharing of knowledge and knowing together is something I would see in the realm of online community and very useful. The example I have here just quickly, it’s a bit difficult to explain quickly, is a Canadian company called Open Cola, and they have a piece of software which does something called collaborative filtering, and what that means is, you can tap into the minds of your peers to see what they think [is] relevant. So if I wanted every morning to open the Globe and Mail through Open Cola, I could say, give me the articles that at least 50% of the people who went to the future indecipherable conference read today. And by setting that tolerance I already have a filter applied that somehow quickly applies my peers’ experience onto the information I’m looking for and helps me find relevant information more quickly.

And I guess the last, and not certainly exhaustive, point in terms of what would fall within online community as engagement, and I think that the idea of using the Internet and the social relationships of the Internet to do community engagement, political organizing, is a huge and emerging field. This is the Greenpeace cyberactivist community and it’s got some cool things, like the redesign Exxon’s logo campaign, where you can upload your own redesign of Exxon’s logo, and all kinds of political postcard sending. And you know, it’s fun stuff, it’s not mind-blowing or powerful stuff yet, but I think given the social energy and potential that’s there in the Internet, that this whole idea of online political engagement through the Internet is going to be huge, and people are just experimenting and playing with it at this stage.

So, that’s some fodder for what might fall in the scope of what we’re going to talk about here on the panel this morning, how does it relate to cities? Well, the way we want to relate it back to cities is to observe quickly three things that we’ve kind of felt bubbling up in the last 3 days and try to kind of talk about how the Internet and online communities connect back into that intersect, make these things worse [or] make them better, and the three things we’re going to work from are inclusion, which I think clearly has come up as a theme: economic inclusion, and exclusion, geographic inclusion, cultural inclusion, and I think the Internet definitely relates to that, has an impact on that, and we’ll talk about ways in which that happens, for better or for worse.

Engagement is definitely something we’re going to explore a little bit more. And I think that the thing that I would throw out there in terms of the Internet and engagement is, for me a lot of what people see as apathy is not apathy, but it’s a feeling that there’s no reason to participate and that it’s futile, and I think we got some of that from Christine May the other day; and that honest dialogue and the feeling that you’re being listened to is something that can bring people in, and I think the internet has a role to play in that, and hopefully we’ll explore that a little bit more.

And the last piece we’re going to talk about is innovation, not necessarily in a whiz-bang Nortel kind of way, but in the sense that we need to innovate, do things differently, not just in what we sell but how we work and how we relate to each other, especially in a globalized world. I mean, I live a really lovely life, I think, where I have this great physical geographic urban community and work with small groups of people I trust and love, in cities around the world. And to get to that spot has taken tremendous innovation and change and learning and self-criticism and criticism of peers in how I work. And so it’s not just the innovation in, you know, we’re going to sell this new product. It’s in order to take advantage of and get the benefits of how cities are changing and how the internet and the global culture is changing, we need to live and work a little bit differently, and find out how to get the best out of these things. And as we move down the scale from airplane to bicycle we also need to pick innovation and pick technology which is appropriate, because it’s not always the whiz-bang thing that works. And so those are the 3 themes that we want to go in, and the last thing I want to do is give my vote for quote of the weekend, which is Christine’s quote, "The real challenge is to make politics — and I would say cities as well — as exciting as shopping and protesting." And I would add to that, as exciting as online gaming.

So, that’s to me what we’ve got to do to make things hum, to get the world we all want to create. So that is my intro to my great colleagues, they’re going to go and rip off these ideas and then we’re going to let you guys talk, and there you go. Thanks very much.

John O’Leary

Good morning, my name’s John O’Leary, and I’m a teacher, and I’m going to speak, I think most specifically to the themes of inclusion and engagement, and what I want to do is challenge everyone here to consider in your life and whatever city you come from, to connect with those people in your community who are excluded, and to connect with them through the power of something we’ve been hearing a lot about through the last 3 days, to connect with them through the power of ideas and imagination and curiosity and learning and knowledge.

As an example, I’m from Frontier College and I want to talk about a project we’re developing in Toronto called The City As a Classroom. The City As a Classroom, as some of you may remember, is a wonderful book written by McLuhan in the early 70s, and today I think it’s fairly generally accepted, but in those days when I was starting teaching, it wasn’t as readily accepted or understood. And the concept was simply that children and all of us don’t just learn sitting at a desk in a classroom. We’re learning constantly in the home, and for this morning’s presentation I want to talk about where we’re learning in the community and how technology and the internet, and as I describe it, geeks, gamelords, nerds, wizards and gatemasters, people like Mark and Mark and Doug [audience laughter], how we can mobilize their creativity and their ingenuity to break down barriers. And what we’re doing at Frontier College is organizing after school enrichment programs for children and teens living in poverty, and adults, although there’s a focus right now on children and teens. The sites used are not the classroom, the sites used are the offices and incredibly rich spaces of the high-tech sector, and the mentor-tutors are geeks and nerds like my colleagues behind me here. Now, one thing all of you will know, especially I know there are teachers in the room, is it’s Sunday morning, most of you were up partying late last night, so our group [has] prizes, we have prizes to give out to people who ask questions who are very attentive. The first prize I want to give to Christine, because she’s come from so far, and to welcome her, and we’re giving you an ice-cream coupon for here [applause and laughter]. So we have prizes, so keep that in mind.

I feel really welcome here in Couchiching, not just because I have friends and colleagues who are here, and not just because I came here first as a high school student in 1966 myself, but because Couchiching is part of a great tradition in our country that Frontier College is also a part of. And that tradition is that knowledge and education can and must be available to all citizens, to all citizens, not just to an elite few, and not just to those who have access to education and university. We have a great website,, and I won’t take a lot of time, this is just a fact sheet about what we do. It was founded in 1899 at Queen’s — does anyone here go to Queen’s? I hate Queen’s, so you’re not getting a prize. I just like to know — no, no prize because Queen’s wouldn’t accept me in 1970, I’ve never forgiven them. But as president of Frontier College, I have to acknowledge, and the students who are here from university and high school, I think should be very proud, and should know, and I as president of Frontier College want to help them know, that there is an organization that goes back over 100 years, founded by students to fight poverty and isolation through the power of knowledge and ideas. And one hundred years ago we recruited university students to go to logging camps and mining towns and rail gangs, and today, we recruit mostly university students across Canada and in every province and territory, to go to these environments, to go cities, where most people live, and these are contemporary frontiers. This is my home, this is downtown Toronto, where I live. It could be a snapshot of Edinburgh; it could be a snapshot of Dublin, of Delhi, of Saskatoon, of Austin. And what I want to point out that I think is obvious is the juxtaposition in the city of, this is, some of you will know, this is Regent Park, and Moss Park, this is Alexander Park, this is the downtown core, the Spadina-King nexus that Barbara Hall was talking about where you’ve got this incredible concentration of high-tech companies, young, entrepreneurial, well-educated, brilliant people who are building and creating the new economy, 5 minutes or 2 minutes away from people living in poverty and isolation. And the idea of The City [As] the Classroom is to close that gap, is to take advantage of this juxtaposition by bringing those two solitudes together.

My observation as an educator is that many of the people in this new economy deal in imagination, creativity, innovation and problem solving. That’s what good teaching is about, that’s what good teaching is about [sic]. They also operate in these downtown core areas where many of our grandparents, as a friend of mine says, built things that at the end of the day if you dropped it, it hurt your foot. Well now, all those warehouses and factories are O’Leary Communications and Surman Software, and it’s interesting, just as an observation. So why don’t we bring those things together, and go to these companies and say, give us space, they have these extraordinarily cool environments in the downtown area where some of you where, my nerd and geek colleagues up here work, places like that. They have these people, they have these incredibly, mostly younger, energetic, ingenious, unconventional people, they all wear black, and little glasses, their hair is all different colours, and their body piercings are incredible, but they work in a world, they live in a world of ideas and knowledge and problem-solving. So let’s recruit that space, those people, and their equipment — I disagree, Mark and I disagree, there is a digital divide, it’s called the poverty wall, and the people, the children growing up in those communities do not have equal access to books and libraries, never mind new technologies. And then we at Frontier College will do what we’ve been doing for 103 years. I’ll train dysfunctional geeks like these people how to connect and teach with a 13 year old or a 15 year old who thinks she’s dumb and stupid and can’t learn.

And it’s very simple, and it’s not particularly original, it’s called mentoring. We’re not the only people doing it. They meet once or twice a week for two or three hours, as I say they meet at the offices. Their learning is student-centred. What is it that children themselves are interested in and want to learn? How can we encourage in them a love of learning, an enthusiasm for learning, and use the community — again, this idea, in our cities, not just Toronto, all of our cities, in St. John’s Newfoundland we have a group of students from biochemistry who every Saturday morning they get up, go to the university, loot the lab and go to a neighbourhood called Rabbit Town, where they do a little science thing. Every Saturday morning, this has been going on for four or five years. So use the dense urban space in support of knowledge and learning.

Focuses on academic mentoring: our goal is to ensure that all the children growing up in these communities successfully complete high school. And we know, it’s been studied to death, that mentoring does contribute to that goal. It’s not the answer, it’s not the only thing that’s required, but it does make a difference.

We have four sites in place, we have four sites in place [sic], we are connecting people who not normally meet, meaningful relationships over time, it’s not an event and then you disappear. The mentors and the children meet on a regular basis. Sustainable, great use of urban space, and again this idea of breaking down and connecting — there was a presentation the other night about the Somali community in Toronto, we’re doing a lot of work with that community, where there’s a tremendous encouragement in the families for school success among those children, and we’re working with the parents, and the children, in a number of sites around the city.

Now how does it connect through the Internet and technology? The children themselves are very attracted to these spaces and to these people and to this content. It’s not necessarily the focus of the learning — I visit these sites and participate in them, and sometimes you’ll go over and people will be playing chess, or they’re be talking together, there’s a lot of social interaction that also goes on. One of the most interesting ones that we’re starting this fall is at MuchMusic. MuchMusic, some of you know, is the video channel, and it’s part of ChumCITY in downtown Toronto, and we’ve been using it for events and tutor training for a number of years but starting in September a group of children from those communities I was talking about will be going there, twice a week I hope, for after-school enrichment and tutoring. Many of these children are A students. It’s not true that all so-called inner city kids are failing at school. Many of them are A students, they don’t need someone to teach them to read, or the basics — some do, and of course we provide that. But many of them need that extra enrichment and that higher-order enrichment and learning, and that’s how you get to McGill and U of T and Queen’s and places like that.

And he other thing, in terms of, I’m not a great fan of contemporary life — that’s another topic, you know the technology, but I love these environments, if I can just take a minute, ChumCITY is an example. You know, many teachers my age, you look at MuchMusic, it’s the end of western civilization, it’s all this videos and all this music we don’t understand, and all these images we don’t like, that children are very, it’s their world, they love it, and it’s also full, it’s very language-rich. It’s very poetical-rich; it’s very historic-rich, if you can read it. The thing about that environment is, you go out that door and down the hall, and you’re in Bravo!, the arts channel, and there’s a symphony or a string quartet setting up from the Toronto Symphony. It’s in the same building. Out the door, down the hall, Space: the Imagination Station. It’s all part of this extraordinary rich urban environment, and there are places like that throughout the city.

And also in terms of the Internet, I was ment/tutoring a young boy in this program last year, Dalton, and he didn’t have a computer at home, very very intelligent, very keen on this program, and he came in just before the holiday break in December, Christmas break, with a notebook, and he wanted to go on the internet and look up Tupac Shakur, the website of Tupac Shakur. Some of you will know, Tupac was a rap singer, he was killed a number of years ago, he’s very popular still today. So we go on the net and we’re looking at — I’m sitting there you know, typing like this, trying to get the website and all this, and anyway you get on the net, and Dalton’s sitting here looking at this website about his hero, Tupac. And he sees Tupac spent time in prison, which he hadn’t known, and I didn’t’ know. So he’s writing this down. What did Tupac do in prison? He was there for 3 years. He spent all his time in the library. What were the books he read? This is Dalton reading this, you know…the Bible. He’s writing this all down. The next title: The Prince, by Machiavelli. So this 14 year old, so-called inner city kid turns to me and says, "What’s that?" So there we are, having a discussion about Renaissance philosophy, and the Internet, and Tupac, I want to put together a presentation called, somehow, you know, The Prince and Tupac, or Machiavelli and the Kid, or something like that, because that’s how the community can support and connect with children and teens and adults who are excluded, using the power of knowledge and ideas and using the wonderful space of our cities. And if I can do that, people like this can certainly do that, and in terms of this program, our challenge is, it’s too small, there are too few sites, we want to develop it across Canada, and I hope, ultimately, in connection with other cities around the world, because I know there are other things like this going on. So my final point is, the people we’ve been talking about this weekend, who are marginalized or excluded, who are living in poverty, who are dispossessed, don’t need us to feel sorry for them, they don’t need us to worry about them, and they don’t need us to be afraid of them. What they need is to be included in the community, and a very powerful way to do that is to sit down at a table with those people, engage them, teach them, and learn with them. Thank you.

Doug Hull

Hi, my name’s Doug Hull, I’m with an organization called Canary, which runs the national high-speed network for innovation and research across Canada, for education as well. And I’m formerly with the federal government, where I helped to implement the national connectivity program through things like SchoolNet and LibraryNet, etc.

What I’d like to do is just draw a few themes together, because I think I’ve heard a lot on just listening on the stage today that’s very relevant, so I’ll drop off some of the stuff I had and talk about some of the stuff I’ve heard. The theme, I take it, for the Couchiching Institute this year is globalization, and that’s a very, very important issue that’s troubling large parts of the world, cities amongst those. They have to figure out how they’re going to compete in a more globalized, powerful, open world marketplace which, if you don’t compete on a day-to-day basis, can tend to hollow you out very quickly. Hollow out your city, hollow out your country, your region, etc. Canadian cities have to figure out, and the government of Canada, and the provincial governments, how they’re going to help position Canadian communities. When we make choices, strategic policy choices, resources flow from those, and those resources and those choices have very significant downstream implications, so it’s very important we think about this stuff and get it right, because when you make a decision like that, there’s really no going back: you’ve made it, now you have to live with it.

One of the issues that’s being debated in Ottawa, or has been debated in Ottawa the last couple of years, is do we put more emphasis on mega-cities, or our mega-cities, small by world comparison, and really help them position them in the global marketplace, which may mean we have to draw resources from other things. We may not have enough money to put support programs in place regionally across the country, or we might not be able to do things that are wide-open for all communities to participate in. We may not have resources to put into people that are on the other side of various divides, whether it’s digital or economic or literacy, etc. Do we really concentrate our resources, go forward with the winners, and hope to be able to stay pace, or do we have a more equitable society?

My view is it would be a big mistake, particularly in the area of information technology, to do anything other than have an equitable approach, and I’d like to explain the reason why. I’d also like to give you a caveat, which is that in mega-cities of any sort, Canada or elsewhere in the world, scale brings its own problems, and they’re very significant problems, so infra-structure-wise, things break down at a large level. So there’s no question that if we’re supporting cities and we want them to be competitive, we need to back them up with appropriate support for infrastructure purposes. Barrie doesn’t have the same congestion problem that Mississauga does, and anyone can observe that, and even people in Barrie will understand the need to make sure that the traffic system works in Mississauga more efficiently than necessarily here.

But in the information technology area, actually, major cities are best positioned in terms of telecommunications. There’s really no question bout whether you can get broadband access in Toronto or Ottawa, etc., it’s there; you may not be able to entirely afford it, but the system is there. Now, why would mega-cities need small communities and regions and those on the other side of the digital divide to be part of the information technology nexus, and why would that help them to support their role and competitiveness internationally? Well, the simple thing is that those places bring benefit to the exercise, okay? Small communities, rural communities, even remote regions, and people who are economically left out, or literacy left-out, or digitally left-out or culturally left-out, represent very important skills, and actually John touched on a number of those. First all, those people are part of the marketplace, and we want to be in the marketplace globally and sell high value-added knowledge-based services, we need to capture market, and lever off that market to go after bigger markets, and the most important market we have is our local market, okay, our local regional, national marketplaces. So we need to develop services that suit the needs here, and if you’re only targeting a few, a smaller percentage of those populations that are concentrated in urban areas, and you’re not dealing with the whole marketplace, then you’re losing an opportunity to position yourself. Secondly, we need skills. If we’re going to build knowledge-based services that are competitive in the world, we need large volumes of skills, and Canada faces enormous challenges there, more than most other developed countries, because our population is aging so much. So we need to reach out and connect those schools and universities and non-profit organizations to develop the skill sets that we can harvest, not just in urban areas but in any enterprise, whether it’s public or private, across the country. So to leave out large portions of the population diminishes us. We don’t know where the next leaders in information technology innovation are going to come from, or in any other kind of innovation for that matter.

A third area is applications. Applications are built in response to a challenge. The information highway is nothing, it’s just wires, it’s just investment, unless it has applications that connect a powerful technology to a useful activity. And applications generate productivity and innovation. We need to find places where problems are being identified, where there are insurmountable problems that only a new tool like information technology can resolve, and that problem, as much as we might think it’s unique, in fact it’s not unique, it’s happening all over the world, any particular problem. So what we’ve developed is, we’ve early addressed a problem and we’ve developed a solution which now has an international marketplace. We don’t know where that market is, happily information technology can allow us to deliver those knowledge-based, internet-based applications globally. So, those are at least 3 reasons, skills, markets, and problems, if you like, or applications, where smaller parts of the country, or poorer parts of the country, or peiop0le that are socially disadvantaged — how do we learn literacy? How do we develop mentoring techniques? How do we have digital inclusion, or social inclusion, in downtown Toronto, okay? Those are techniques that can be used globally. They better position Canada to compete globally, than to simply go after some of the things that other countries have done, focus on the hardware and the products, and the services, etc. Those are not the kinds of areas where Canada can compete best.

There’s another very important reason, which is that Canada itself, not just its cities, but Canada itself is in a race globally to figure out how it’s going to position, whether we’re going to be able to sustain our standard of living. We’re a country based on an open, democratic system, which puts a great deal of emphasis on equity. Well, leaving large parts of the country out, with the idea that the few centres that are left are going to be the ones that are going to compete, that rubs the wrong way. Politically, in the long term it’s not sustainable. Just ask yourself the question, okay, so if we were going to focus our resources on three cities, or on mega-cities, the ones that we want to compete, how many would that involve? Would it just be Toronto? Because for international standards, in terms of large cities, there is only one city in Canada that even ranks in the top 100, and that is Toronto. So we leave Vancouver and Montreal out? Or if we take those three, we leave Calgary and Ottawa out? And how far down the list is Simcoe, and what happens here? Now let me give you, once you’re on that slippery slope, it’s a very difficult slope to be on. On the other hand, take another approach: one of the most exciting applications of broadband networking innovation in Canada is actually in Simcoe, it’s not Toronto. Toronto is struggling in the area of broadband development, but the Simcoe County access network is one of the most vibrant in the country, and it’s shown that a small community, and the surrounding small communities, can get together and put in place very innovative approaches for extending information technology out to all the public institutions and businesses and municipal offices in the country. And that model that’s being used, not just in Simcoe County but in other parts of the country, we’re transporting that model to other countries right now.

I’m doing some work in Jordan. Now just to give you an example of where Jordan fits on the world scale, it’s about the size of Manitoba, it has the population of Toronto, has an annual income of about $1200 — that might be American, it’s certainly not Canadian — so that’s where they stand in the scheme of things, way way down the totem pole. What they don’t have is they don’t have resources at all, they have nothing. There’s more water, there’s more arable land just from my drive from Toronto to here than all of Jordan has. And yet, with their back to the wall, they have to sustain the livelihood of their population, so they want to develop knowledge-based products. They put a lot of emphasis on education, and they realize that information technology allows them to tap that educational strength, and move it to global marketplaces. But what they don’t have is networks, okay? So they’re taking a new approach to public access network, and a community-owned, customer-owned network, broadband network, and they’re putting that in place. We’re helping them do that by transporting models, like the Simcoe network and the Laval network and various others, to show them what they can do if they take the collaborative, and cooperative, and in fact the theme that Mark had mentioned today, inclusion, engagement and innovation, if they take an approach that puts the emphasis on those factors, they can actually leapfrog up the system. So in fact Jordan has made a decision to become of the top ten information technology countries in the world, in terms of e-readiness, within three or four years. Sounds crazy, they’re in 47th place now. However, we’re designing for them a broad-band network which will connect all their schools, their libraries, their municipal systems across the country, and that will all be in place by, and that will include all communities, and all schools, and all public access points, in Jordan. They plan to have that ready by the end of 2004. If they do, and we, as experts in this tele [sic], and other experts worldwide, think that they can, they’ll have beat Canada by probably 5 or 6 years. Now once you connect your people to access points, and you’ve got your centers of innovation going, guess what markets they’re going to penetrating? They’re going to be penetrating our marketplaces, okay? They already have an open free trade agreement with the United States — for all intents and purposes, Jordan looks like an American state. We don’t look like an American state — we look close to being like an American state, but we have borders in the way. They don’t. They have, when they’re exporting their knowledge, it’s going to be online, and it’s going to be borderless. Now, there are things we need to learn about how we move forward in Canada, on big choices about how do we prepare ourselves for a more global age, and they’re not almost to embrace globalization, it’s to look at it skeptically and to figure out how we win and how we make globalization wo5rk better for us. And to retain and reinforce the values we have in Canada. So, I think this is a very important theme you’ve been talking about, wish I could have been here for more of it. It does come back I think to some of the things on the panel today. When you solve the problem of how you engage — I’ve forgotten your friend, Dalton, was it? — and you get him included, you’ve solved the problem. You’ve solved it in microspect, okay. Now, how do you take that solution, or how do you take a number of solutions, and do that comprehensively, covering all communities, all citizens in the country? But you’ve sort of figured out a solution for one particular individual, there’s only 30 million more solutions needed to make that happen, right? So, anyway, I’d like to stop, I’m very interested in the next presentation, so thanks.

[Recording begins mid-sentence — I think it’s Mark Baumgartner]

Mark Baumgartner

…but if only, only if we let it evolve freely in the functional spirit in which it was originally intended.

So, if we look now at globalization it’s really just a concept, a term coined to replace the idea of the Cold War, where two opposing poles of power influenced and essentially divided up the world between themselves. In globalization we are all poles of power, and the intricacy that comes out of that is what is exciting about globalization.

Cities are perhaps the element of this talk whose subtleties and complexities elude me the most. I’m from the country. I like to visit Toronto but I have no desire to live there and I don’t feel inferior to those who do. Part of what excites me about the Internet is the ability to create and connect to those friends and communities that sustain me and still be able to see the stars at night. I can say, however, that my first idea for the Internet was how amazingly it could link city services and resources and their citizens, and I would be willing to make a bet that more than a few of you have bookmarked on your favourite lists.

The Internet is one of those vehicles perpetuating globalization. So, how do we tie all this together? In my mind, cities must now compete with virtual communities and global causes for the time and energy of their citizens. It’s not that people aren’t involved — it’s that they’re involved in something else. I get the sense that some of you characterize the youth who spend all their time watching MuchMusic, as John put it, to many of the cultural anti-christ, or downloading MP3’s as indifferent. Heaven forbid maybe you caught your daughter downloading porn, or reading the Koran, or subscribing to an Aryan Nations newsletter, or chatting to some biker who just rolled into town. We rapidly get the sense as parents that we are no longer in control of our children’s exposure, and we would like to be. You think we are spending more time online with our virtual friends than outside playing hockey like proper Canadians. You bemoan the loss of classic literature, high culture, manners and history; start to talk to us about our 30-second attention span, though, and we drift off almost instantaneously. Big surprise: you became your parents. You know what? This is the way we learn now. Information is like electricity to us: we just plug in and go. We actually assume we have the right to freely access quality information on whatever might cross our mind, catch our fancy, and we’re usually right.

So what if we have access to all this information? If now, better than ever before, we are finally able to understand the urgency of your call to arms, why don’t we turn out and vote in greater numbers? Why do we not seem to care? The answer is youth are too smart to waste their time on old ways of navigating change, especially when the choices boil down to the equivalent of Coke or Pepsi. Until we stop being preoccupied with self-perpetuating rather than flexible social structures, the majority of youth will choose to create their own networks, and find their own outlets for expression.

This is exactly the wake-up call politics need. We have stopped consulting the bureaucrats and began to take actions as individuals. The Internet leads us to cut through the red tape, fundamentally though, we still love to get our hands dirty. Look at the impressive complexity of protest groups coordinating in sync with the movements of the WTO and the G8 around the globe.

A few personal examples are even closer to my heart. Last year my friend Danielle and I wanted to give students across the country a means of commemorating the anniversary of December 6 Montreal massacre, and provide the vehicle for the discussion about violence against women. We put together our presentation, uploaded it to the web, and put out the word. Across the country, on December 6, medical students across the country came together to talk about the issue. When my friend was tragically killed, people on all five continents scattered rose petals from the highest peaks they could find. Jody Williams, in 1997, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to the international ban on land mines, heavily against the opposition of the big 5 powers. How did she do it? E-mail.

If I’m honest, though, there are those 5 beautiful parks surrounding my house, and I still spend most of my summer indoors on my computer. This is becoming more and more common. Silicon Valley, home of the highest number per capita of millionaires, is one of the ugliest places in the world, because everyone is so busy living inside their heads that they don’t bother with the simple timeless luxuries of mowing their lawn and planting a garden. The United Way chapters actually had to shut down in Silicon Valley because of such pitiful contributions. There is a danger that us doing our own thing, we become, we get the sense that this is enough. Deep down, we will always yearn for those interpersonal interactions, the stimulation of physical proximity, the spirited discussion over dinner and a fine bottle of wine, that tangible focused energy described yesterday that comes from a room full of passionate people participating. Sure, I get out less than I should because all of the time I spent online, anchored to the Internet, but I have not forgotten the divine pleasures of nature.

Disaffected and disillusioned, as we may seem, we crave good leadership. As a business, if you want to play in the digital arena, leave your ego at the door, because we will always find ways to separate the song from the compact disc, the message from the media, no matter how much money you spend trying to lock it down. Instead, focus your energies on enabling technologies and services. The small business owner print shop who on the spur of the moment was able to produce custom colour business cards for me beat out Staples in price, time and service.

As governments, don’t sell us out. Protect and develop the digital rights of the individual. We are already at a stage where digital representations of ourselves in the forms of credit ratings, insurance records, as well as our browsing habits and shopping patterns exist in databases around the world. You will be lobbied by big companies with lots of money to spend on your campaign to pass legislation that either halts the natural development of the medium, or retains market dominance, or supports new monopolies.

As powerful corporations struggling to maintain control — sigh — or actually, Mr. Hull, the digital backbone that you are creating, this pipeline, is [a] crucial element, as crucial as the railways and roads that linked our cities to our generation.

The idea of cities as a classroom that John talked about: as individuals, when your child or friend puts forth what is clearly a crazy idea, eliminate the "that’s impossible" reflex, stop yourself from instantly finding the holes and predestined failures of the idea, try to follow their chain of logic, ask them how, challenge them with the opportunity to try, not on computer simulations or mini-cases, but in the communities, in our cities.

Grant us ownership of a problem and we will launch into it with all our energies, and devise ingenious solutions in less time and with more positive impact than could ever be achieved from out-sourced million dollar consulting contracts. Embrace the process, irregardless of the outcomes. Failure has just as much if not more to teach us than success. Teach us to teach and then humble yourselves to learn from us. In talking with many of you, and in keeping true to this reoccurring theme of how do we engage each other, what are the applications that are necessary to solve the problems, I thought I wanted to create a practical demonstration. So, Saturday morning before the conference started, I went and registered various domain names, mainly My challenge to you is to make it yours. I want to show you one of these ideas and as we expressed, there are millions of these ideas floating around there, just waiting to be given the chance to breathe, to be given the opportunity to work, and I want to challenge you to look at what is possible and to see how it can further excel your cause, your fight, and your struggle.

Policypulse is going to be based on the concept of dynamic feedback libraries, something I came up with as an undergraduate thesis, at Queen’s University, funny enough. The idea is all of the discussion that takes place on the Internet, what is missing from the spontaneous bulletin boards, chat rooms, is the ability to organize that information into ways that become useful to those trying to go back and make the policy decisions. Therefore, we need to attach significance to the data. Here, I’m going to show you how this can be done by anyone in this room, in roughly ten minutes if they know what they’re talking about.

To prepare for this talk, I thought I would put out a series of questions about the issues that we’d be discussing today, so that I could more justifiably come and represent my generation. Put it out last week, sent it out to a few hundred people, got maybe 15 responses, but there is a critical mass that must be achieved for this idea to take off, and I’m hoping you can bring that to it. In essence, you create your question, post them, and then they become available online as a series of discussions, but focused discussions, with the difficult questions highlighted and available for people to respond to. This is an example: people were invited to come and put their ideas, and these are the results. In one week…as I dial in…actually, I have a static copy that I’ll just show you. All you technology [sounds like: "naysilists"] are still required to remain silent. Here you go: let’s look at some of the answers, some of the deep intelligence that people provide if they’re just given the chance. I’ll focus on one quote which I think captures the spirit of this discussion the best.

"On globalization, there are two distinct opposing forces, both advanced in actualization of a global culture and identity. Corporate globalization: social perspective based firmly on capitalistic cultures that treat both products and designs, including genes, ideas, styles and thoughts, as proprietary commodities. It is the dominant form of globalization but remains plagued by monopolies, worker exploitation and fraudulent practices. Ethics and moralities are also treated as commodities. It is the world of the G8, the dot-net, stock exchange and government, especially at a national level. Social globalization is the world of Linux, of freeware, discussion boards, dot-org, etc. Support for free flow of thought and ideas across national and social boundaries, and ideally, economic boundaries. These competing faces of globalization must be at balance to optimize the human experience, in general and in a global environment."

That’s just one example of tons of deep, deep insight that people, walking around the street, if you just bother to ask them and provide them the forum will provide you.

I’m going to close with a quote that I think is very appropriate to the potential of all this Internet technology for our cities. "We’ve realized the first part of the web dream, the availability of the information. There is a second part to that dream, dependent on the web being so generally used that it becomes a realistic mirror, or in fact a primary embodiment of the ways in which we work and play and socialize. That was that one state of our interactions was online [sic]…once the state of our interactions was online we could then use computers to help us analyse it, make sense of what we were doing, where we individually fit in, and how we can better work together." Thank you.


Thank you to all the panelists so far, and to you guys for staying awake in the dark. It’s very good on a Sunday morning. Now, don’t go for the break yet, because I just want to say about the break, we’re going to try to keep it short, because we really do want to engage people in this, so we’re going to ring the bell in exactly seven minutes and then hold an experiment. And the experiment is, everybody is responsible for pushing everybody else back into the room. You know, like negotiating, not physically pushing them. So, everybody go and when you hear the bell, grab the person next to you and bring them in and get them in because we’re starting in ten minutes sharp.

Mark Surman

And we’re going to go to questions. We remind you that we have prizes, and we’re going to be giving them out to questions that we like. We even have a book to give out to our favourite question at the end of the morning. So let’s go. Susan….


I have a question to ask but it’s probably not the kind of question you thought you’d be answering. Now, with a lot of things changing into virtual, and it’s not meant to be a criticism, but like for instance with my business, which is a bricks and mortar business, pays $50,000 per year in property taxes to the city of Toronto, which helps the city run and maintains the infrastructure. In the past you had a lot of bank branches that paid very high taxes and that helped keep the city going, but a lot of it’s gone virtual now so the city doesn’t get that kind of taxes anymore. You have all these home-based offices now where people might do the same kind of sales that I do but basically pay nothing. So how do we make sure that virtual-based businesses pay their fair share of municipal taxes and really help pay the freight on what everyone else is enjoying. Like right now, I feel as though, it’s good and I’m not criticizing, the Internet is great, etc., etc., but they’re not carrying their fair share of the load. So speaking as very socially responsible people, how you think you guys should be taxed so you carry your fair share of the load, municipally?

Mark Baumgartner

If you tax it, it will die or move somewhere else.


Yeah, but that’s the same you could say with my businesses, people died and closed down and are we supposed to carry more of the load. So, I think you have to be more creative than that, sorry.

Doug Hull

Well, I’m not sure that it’s one answer. Basically, there are large numbers of relatively high-technology ventures in the country paying all sorts of municipal and, you know, property and income taxes, because that knowledge-based economy, not just the Internet portion of it, has grown dramatically and it’s added a lot of value to the Canadian tax base, not just to the Canadian economy.


The city doesn’t get it, though.

Doug Hull

Pardon me?


The city doesn’t get it. In its form….

Doug Hull

Well, you should talk to the city of Ottawa, because it gets a lot of taxes from Nortel and JDS and all these other guys that have square footage that they have to actually build and manage and employ people in. There are, no question, that when people migrate out of one location to another location the tax base shifts, or when they move to a micro-business from an established environment there’s tax implications. But generally I don’t think, I’m not a tax expert and I’ve certainly never worked for Revenue Canada, but I don’t think the federal government’s ever had a concern about a loss of taxation coming from the knowledge-based economy. Quite the other way around. We were hoping that this was going to add a lot of economic value, a lot of additional output, and we would get our fair share of the tax sometime.


Well, I agree it does. I think in the macro sense I totally agree with you, but I’m talking about the micro sense, for the city I think there’s a problem there as things shift virtual and so stuff that used to be easy to grab because it was bricks and mortar and property taxes and sort of easy to get, when it shifts virtual, or let’s say Amazon starts sending books in that used to be sold at a bookstore that paid property taxes or whatever, the city actually is losing, and so yet you’ve still got the same costs in the city. So it’s just something to think about.

Doug Hull

But just one clarification. It doesn’t mean that in bookselling overall, for example, that total tax revenues haven’t gone down. What I think your real concern is, is the economic, a certain portion of that economic activity has shifted elsewhere. It’s not in the bookstore on the corner of whatever, it’s now coming in from some distant site by messenger system, okay, and so what we really have to be concerned about is, where is the stuff shifting, you know? It might be shifting out of Toronto but coming to Orillia, that’s some concern. It might be shifting out of Toronto and coming to Seattle, and that’s more of a concern. How do you position yourself so that stuff shifts to you?


Well, should cities be taxing telephone lines, something they never did before because they didn’t have to, but because that’s the way that can get back a little bit. I’m not saying heavy taxes, but some little something that’ll replace the tax that was lost from the bricks and mortar because of the shift to the virtual. Anyhow.

Mark Surman

Susan, you get a definite prize, you’re such a smarty and you ask the right questions.

Hanns Skoutajan

My name is Hans Skoutajan. And I’m from Queen’s, and I like Kingston better than Simcoe; we’ve got prisons. I’ve got an Imax, so I’m not completely out of the Internet, but I guess what really, in spite of all that I’ve heard, in spite of some of the arguments I had outside here, I’m still terribly afraid that we get so overwhelmed with the massive, the uh, technology that is growing exponentially that we are so taken up with this technology, it kind of reminds me of the days where we had ham radios, where people in Canada got in contact with somebody in New Zealand or some other remote place, and all they could tell each other was, the power of their transmitter, you know, so I’m really very much afraid. My son teaches computers as well as language studies at a private school, and he is trying very hard to get his kids to become critical thinkers, and at the same time he’s also introducing them into the Internet and knowledge-based technology, and he finds that he’s running a very, very hard role you know, because they’re so taken up with all the technology that is out there, that somehow, to keep up with it…when I go on the Internet, you know I look at my own credentials, and it’s very easy, there are only 3 in Canada, but when I look at somebody else’s name I get 17 thousand references, you know, and I’m just overwhelmed. I can’t find that — I can find mine very, very easily; it’s not much on the Internet anyway about my name. However, that’s my question, is how in earth with this fantastic growth in technology, growing exponentially, can we maintain a critical mind?

Mark Surman

I think there’s dozens of answers to that, I can give a little bit of mine and let the rest of the panel…Certainly the point you raise about the focus on the technology and the ham radio operators is exactly the point I’m making in terms of the focus on technology and whiz-bang gadgets, is, you know, people have to get beyond that for it to be useful, and it really didn’t happen with ham radio but it certainly has happened with the Internet. You can find people to connect with on virtually anything, and you can find a ton of crap, you can find more crap than not crap, but you can also find a lot of great stuff, once you develop the skills to do it.

And I think that’s the other side for critical thinking, is that critical thinking skills change, our tools for critical thinking change, the foundations are still there but certainly you talked about 70,000 references, you know, if you search for John’s name, or for somebody’s name who’s more common, you know, it’s difficult to sort through the information and what we need is tools that can help us do that. One of those tools is online community in the sense of the collaborative filtering stuff I’ve been talking about in terms of being able to build on each other’s references and trust base as a way to filter information and get though that 70,000 records. So, there’s a lot of stuff. And certainly, when I look at the sort of open-source free software movement and that whole culture of the Internet, which really I think is one of the great things that’s come out of the first ten years of the Internet is, man, are those people critical thinkers. Like, if you want to compare that to the academic peer review system in terms of having their ideas kicked around by others, and if you’re bullshitting you’re going to hear about it, it’s miles ahead and faster and that’s why people are able to pull quality out of a system like that. Again, there’s a lot of crap too. So there are pockets of new ways of thinking about critical thinking that are emerging, and learning from those is, I think, incredibly important.

Other people on the panel?

John O’Leary

This really interests me, and I think, like any new environment, or potentially hostile or scary environment, you need a guide, we all need guides, and I often use that metaphor, again as a city person, as a city warrior as I was calling Dian last night, someone who — you know, I work for a national organization, we still work in a lot of small communities across Canada, and sometimes we’ll have people who’ll come to Montreal or Toronto for the first time, and it can be, oh, it’s frightening, overwhelming, scary, frightening…I’ll show them, I’ll show you, Toronto, you know, I can navigate the environment. So for me, again, as a teacher, to navigate this world that people like Mark and Doug and Mark are building and creating, I mean, it’s not going to. I mean, it’s there, you know, I meant what I said, these three people, who are very comfortable and understand that environment, can be excellent guides in terms of discernment, critical thinking, is that true? You know, asking questions, all those kinds of things. And that’s where the mentoring, guiding relationship comes from, it’s not a new or original approach but I find it works very effectively in the example I was talking about, where you can someone like Mark here with someone who’s, maybe an adult who doesn’t read well but who wants to get on the Internet and help their children, that sort of thing, well, give me Mark for a weekend in terms of helping him, in terms of some basic approaches to adult education, then put Mark with that adult refugee at a laptop and watch what happens. And so I think that kind of interaction is one way, I mean, it’s one way that we can solve that dilemma.


Doug Hull

Actually, I think your point is a very valid concern. But from the little I know about the Internet and stuff like this, what I would say is, you should rest assured that progress is being made. [Laughter] The reason I say that is because the education system is very concerned about students at all levels, even up to university level, being simply exposed to vast quantities of information, not having the tools to analyse it and determine its credibility and its strength and the process by which that knowledge was created. Um, certainly at the K-12 level, as never before, teachers are looking at, the Internet’s an inescapable fact, kids can’t even function in a lot of cases now without access to that world of resources, but they have to be shown that not all that information is valid, so you have organizations like the Media Awareness Network that helps teachers ensure kids can sort out advertising from fact, and other tools that teachers are using to sort of build those critical thinking skills. Now, one has to sort of compare with when I went to school. When I went to school, I dealt with perceived wisdom. It was in textbooks, and it was the knowledge the teacher had, and I never had a chance to criticize it. So did I develop critical thinking skills? Well, the education system actually tried to almost drum those out of you, it was an exercise of memorization or understanding cause, but you weren’t there to go back and actually plum the depths of that stuff. Now that’s possible, and the student can walk out of a classroom at 3:00 and have ten different views on a particular theme, many of which will be from valid sources. And there are lots of examples of students that, not just university and high school, but even at elementary school, coming back to the teacher and simply saying, well, I checked out what you said yesterday. I understand it better now because I’ve worked on the Internet and etc., and there are some points you’ve made that are valid but there are some neat questions I’ve got, and how did this happen? And that forces the teacher to do a little bit more homework in some cases. Good teachers embrace that. There are other teachers that feel challenged by it. And that’s one of the reasons that the Internet is being seen as a, you know, they’re not really sure that this is the kind of thing that they want to expose in all the classrooms, etc. Part of it is a valid concern, part of it is, we’re just more comfortable doing what we did.

Mark Surman

Quick from Mark, and then the next question.

Mark Baumgartner

All right, a practical example about how the solution will kind of present itself. replaced Yahoo. How? By finding the solution to kind of adding a measure of value to the jumble of information that was out there. How? They calculated the number of references to the pages that were made and extrapolated, if everyone’s referencing this source on this subject, then it must be one of the primary sources. As a result, medical students used to spend maybe 50, 60% of their time trying to read books in libraries. I have classmates who haven’t been in a library in years. They just get the information off of the web and it’s good information. They know how to get it.


This is a pragmatic extension of the last question, and someone like Mark, you would probably view this as the rant of the old guys. But I just want to ask you about, for example, e-mail, a really day-to-day application of our connectivity today. I think there’s probably a lot of people in the room like me who get possibly up to 1 or 200 emails a day, and so the cognitive process in getting through them is extremely low-grade. You basically, it becomes a survival technique, where you plow through them, you have to get information out and receive information, even if it’s referring you to websites, you have no pleasure in visiting them and you certainly don’t contemplate them. So, what I find is, on Friday for example, if I can work from home, I take a malign pleasure in turning my computer off and not responding to anyone’s emails, in spite of the complaints I get on Monday, but it actually allows me to go to the parks next door, and think, and maybe sit down and write something that really is much higher-grade, and what I could recommend as solutions or outside the box thinking, whatever you want to call it. Which, in fact, is the antithesis of connectivity; it’s real connectivity to nature and to what’s happening around me that allows me to think. So, you know we refer to computer geeks for a reason, it’s because sometimes we actually feel they’re somewhat dispossessed, and aren’t connected to reality, and that’s why they’re geeks, in fact. And so I’m wondering, do you fear for, that there might be a whole new type of evolution taking place where we get people who are so disconnected from reality that they’re connected as hell, but in an extremely artificial manner.

Mark Surman

I’m going to say something quickly and then I’ll let you go first. Which is that, I think that turning the computer off or ignoring the email, which is exactly what I do, you know I go to the café if I need to write or think or read stuff, is exactly what the connectivity’s for. It’s a distancing technology that allows us to deal with higher volumes of information then prioritize it and see what’s important and what’s not. And, you know, there’s nothing wrong with closing your office door or going out and writing in the café, in the physical world, turning your laptop off is the same. You know, I actually think that the tools are there to do exactly what you’re talking about, certainly there is a deluge of email and better software for filtering it and doing exactly that prioritization is needed, but you know it’s not about always being accessible. I think that’s a misperception and people who use it well or people who feel very accessible and use the technology to filter out what doesn’t matter [sic]. Mark?

M. Baumgartner

All right, I couldn’t write any of my talk that I just gave on my computer. I basically had to go outside under the apple tree where I grew up and kind of camp out and absorb all the information that’ s kind of been thrown at me when I am online. And I think that’s the process young people are just becoming more and more comfortable with. And there’s a huge learning curve to it, but just like television, just like anything, once you kind of explore that learning curve and get your fill, you’re ready to move on. You don’t disavow everything else.


Doug or John, or do you want to move on?

John O’Leary

Just I think, and it’s not just Frontier College that’s doing it, but deliberately make connections. Again, using the environment of the city, where you have this juxtaposition, and I mean, I think most of us live in cities, it’s literally true. You know, you have the geeks up there in their lofts, and then you have Seaton House shelter for the homeless, the biggest shelter for homeless in the country, ten minutes away. So deliberately bring people together. And often, I think the biggest impact of that kind of, is the social engagement. The technology is there, but what matters is the content. What matters is the content, the ideas. The fact that Dalton got to learn about Machiavelli on an Internet doesn’t matter from my point of view, it doesn’t matter. What matters is him being curious about the world and having broader experience, whether that comes from a book, a conversation, the Internet, as a teacher I don’t care. But as a teacher I think I need to make those deliberate connections and just say, this guy’s a geek and can’t have anything to do with the learning process [sic]. Engage people.

Doug Hull

I mean, everybody has to have their own coping mechanism. I feel as if I just wandered out of the desert, I wanted a glass of water and somebody handed me a fire hose. You know, just, blast, you know. And the problem is how do you cope? And everybody has to have a coping mechanism. I don’t think the Internet world has provided us with any real tools. They provided us with tools to allow more people and information to reach us, and not with a lot of tools in which we can determine what we want to receive and how we want to waste less time receiving stuff we don’t want and focus more time on getting to what we do want. And I think the solution to that ultimately comes down to what I call context management, being able to build your own context, and have the system sort of filter out large amounts of what is interesting, and might even be important, but it’s not necessarily for me in doing the core things that I want to be able to focus on.

Maureen Shaw

Maureen Shaw, Industrial Accident Prevention Assoc. I want to pick up on a few things but Gordon started the conversation which wasn’t where I was going to go, but sort of on the stress that all of this creates on all of us. I’m one of those people, like many of us in this room, who get one, two and sometimes more, hundred emails each and every day of the week. I’m also a member of the National Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health, and one of the things we did a year ago was put out a thing on the Internet that says, twelve gifts that you can give to your employees for Christmas, and one of them was to create an email-free day. Now, employees thought this was a wonderful idea and they were patting me on the back and saying great leadership and that kind of thing, and then I started getting phone calls from some of my own board members who are involved in big corporations and they said, "How could you do this? Do you realize how much money that’s going to cost us if those employees aren’t picking up their emails and doing the work that results as a result of them getting these emails?" And so we’ve lost, in my view, the sort of point of technology, which is to be a tool. And talked about, I don’t get many tools off the Internet is a tool [sic]. And the minute we forget that we’re still in command of the universe as human beings, and this stuff is to enrich and to enable what we do to be able to do it better, to bring together communities, to bring together cities, and in my business, and my previous incarnation I was with a federal crown corporation called the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, who were ground-breaking in using technology to get workplace health and safety information that’s global in nature into local workplaces. And the first customers for the cd-roms that were developed back in 1986 — this long before the 1995 kind of Internet stuff — was in Sri Lanka, they bought 6 cd-roms, because they’re one of the countries that was starting to grow, that needed to respond to the changing international environment. They didn’t have time to come up to speed that way that we have over the last 150 years, they don’t have time to do the canary in the birdcage stuff, they have to come up to speed so they can compete in this globalized community. So as a tool, it isn’t replacing libraries and books, Doug, but it is certainly helping these organizations, these countries, to be able to get up to speed much faster. And that’s a tool, it’s not a takeover, and there’s been, and if we remember that it’s only an enabler, that it is a tool, then the coming together of groups like this, it will help to make what we do here richer.

Mark Surman

I mean, I would just say here, I’m not going to comment, I think that’s exactly the point, is that it’s about what we do with the tool. And does anyone else on the panel want to..?

Mark Baumgartner

Maybe just to quickly say that part of what is scary about what is happening is the amount of competition that it’s putting us up against, because now all the people who have been at a disadvantage and haven’t enjoyed the kind of comforts that we have, are seeing this as their ticket to try and get to the top. And all of a sudden, we’re competing against everyone else. Libraries are adapting, they’re not replaced, you’re absolutely right, they‘re the most crucial point, er, kind of institution to making sense of all the information, and their skills are essential. But it’s forcing us to keep on changing and adapting and it’s destabilizing.

Doug Hull

Anybody else….? I’ll give you a story of my 19-year old, who in his own room downstairs has two computers on his desk and a server that runs his website, which pulls in some money for him and stuff like that. And he doesn’t study in his room, okay, he needs a quiet place, so he goes to the library, okay? He’s got all the resources on the Internet there, but he needs to get out of the high-pressure environment that is his own bedroom. [laughter] Well, actually, that actually, is that unusual? The point is that the generation that’s coming up now is standing in front of that fire hose. They didn’t know that there was ever a garden hose, it’s just a big fire hose, and they need a quiet environment. And to some extent, in cocooning, they’re making their own little quiet environment a very hectic environment, and they’re coping with this in various ways, and that’s very important. The world isn’t going to be like the past, the world’s going to be like this multiplied by ten, and so how to cope is going to be a significant portion of how one gets along in life, and those are very important issues that we’re wrestling with now, but we’ll figure out the answers to them, and the world will want to know what those answers are.

Maka Thapar

I’m Mala, and my question is addressed to John. John, as a teacher I fully agree and appreciate with what you are doing. The first part is that there is a definite requirement, which you are trying to fulfill with these study groups, homework groups, mentoring groups. It also fills an emotional vacuum in the lives of many children and youngsters who come from broken families and we are addressing that need at a level which is not very apparent, but it is there, and that’s wonderful, that’s really great. Now, second part of the question is, you were turned away from Queen’s, and I sympathize with you and with many, many other people and my whole focus has been, that why should a student that is so keen on studying be turned away because he got X marks, in X grade, in X year, which means that they’re really kind of limiting him to that period of time and there has been no growth ever since. And also, it’s a very partial view of judging a person’s caliber, which may blossom at a later stage. So to my mind, if we can do something about not segmenting people intellectually, whether we lobby with the universities or whether we form lobby groups. Also, put the students who say, look, I’m not here just because I get a 60% and not a 90%. And this is a worldwide problem; it’s not limited to Canada. Most of the immigrants from India and Asia who come here don’t get admissions into universities where the cutout is 90%, and so it’s really pathetic and I wish we could lobby for something like that, have a lobby group.

John O’Leary

This question really interests me, and not just because of my experience with Queen’s, and I really have great affection for Queen’s, we have one of the strongest chapters there, and the founder went there and everything else. But it’s interesting, again, the connection between Couchiching, the Y, Frontier College, the Workers’ Education Association, the Antigonish Movement, Teleuniversite a Quebec. There’s a great tradition in our country, and in other countries, of making knowledge available and accessible to all citizens, and there’s also opposition to that view. Frontier College, the idea, this is 100 years ago, is not just to teach loggers to read and write. It was to take science, and philosophy, and literature and ideas to working people in every part of Canada. Many educators and policy-makers at the time supported Frontier College, most didn’t, and it almost fell apart in the mid-30s because a group of educators said, they’re trivializing education, because if everyone can have a B.A., what does that mean for me here at UofT? You know? That view, I’ve heard it, it’s common now. There was a very odious book written 2 or 3 years ago by several university professors, I can’t remember the title of it, but it said, there’s too many dumb kids in university. They can’t read, they can’t write, there’s all these B level universities, which a phrase you see often in the Globe and Mail, second tier universities. And I think that this is a debate that is coming, in terms of access to education, that there are educators and policy-makers, I don’t hear them saying in forums like this, but I hear them in meetings that I go to, saying, "Mr. Leary, you’ve got to be kidding. You’re talking about making these kind of programs available to domestic workers, and to hotel and, you know, that just doesn’t make sense." And so I think it’s an old view, it’s not a new battle, but I’ve never understand how making access to education somehow diminishes…doesn’t mean we’re all going to get into med school, doesn’t mean you’re going to lower standards, it doesn’t mean necessarily that. But I think it does mean that most, someone like Doug would know more, most successful even economies around the world are those where knowledge and access is available to large numbers of people. So, I think it’s going to be a continuing debate.

Doug Hull

I have just one point there, which is that, I think very much that the pendulum has swung towards the access issue. Not, by the way, diminishing the excellence issue. Universities, centers of learning, have generally been expensive enterprises to establish. They have bricks and mortar, Queen’s, expensive to build that kind of campus. Now, if you can open up access to those electronically, and you can teach many more of the world’s population, or impart the knowledge, without the additional bricks and mortar. And universities have seen this, and are moving in this direction, some very much more aggressively than others. But they have to all have a position in the marketplace. You know, a rose isn’t a rose isn’t a rose. They look like universities to us, but to them, they look like Queen’s and Waterloo, etc., and they have their own business strategies. And they’re also in the market globally, competing in the global marketplace. Other universities are coming up quickly. The British Open University is one of the world’s major universities, and it’s being done, you know, through a whole bunch of non-traditional means, etc. So, I think actually the issue of access is a very, very important issue, it’s coming on strong, the world is going to be trained whether Canadians who do it or not, and we would be really well-positioned to exploit our expertise in training, not just Canadians but in training the world.

Mark Surman

Hmm. Mark, do you have anything or do you want to go on?

Mark Baumgartner

A very quick point, as well. It’s a very key, I think, question, and I think part of the solution is overcoming our own snobbery, because if we look at ourselves as inclusive and liberal as we tend to be, we’re easily going to capture ourselves kind of looking down on someone else’s idea, and putting it down. And the beauty about globalization, if there is a beauty about it, because there’s lot of ugliness about it, I have no problem with that, is that it provides the space for that to happen. It’s not, you know, there are X number of seats at a university, there are, the information is on the web, and as it’s organized into different ways of learning, as people learn how they learn best, they go and they get it.

Mark Surman

Okay, last two questions and then I think we’re going to wrap up.

Danielle Martin

My name’s Danielle Martin and I’m a student…

Mark Surman

No, three questions.

Danielle Martin

Hmm? Oh, I’m a student activist, I guess, and a classmate of Mark’s. I just want to say quickly in defense of the critical appraisal skills of my generation and then I’m going to ask about the digital divide, because I was asked to ask about the digital divide. [laughter] If you go to and type in George Bush and hit enter…

[recording ends here]

[tape 2 commences]

...George Bush campaign, and the miracles of what W. has done for the United States, but you will also get 5000 sites that are entirely comprised of people’s opinions about George Bush, and people making fun of what he said yesterday, and people taking issue with his policies, and people discussing back and forth the relative merits of his approach to terrorism. I mean, you name it, it is on the Internet. I think that the Internet has the potential, and it is not very far out of our grasp, to be really the rebirth of citizenship and debate. In my generation, I really believe that that is true. And people do not — it is actually exhausting how much people criticize each other over the Internet. It goes on and on ad nauseam, and you can’t say anything at all anymore without somebody disagreeing with you on the Internet, so I think in that sense, if anything, the next generation is going to have to move out of this cycle of constantly critically appraising ourselves and others, and into other modes, other ways of existing. In terms of the question of the generation gap, and the generational digital divide, which I think is separate from the very important economic digital divide that also does exist, I do think that there is a perception out there that "young people these days" are apathetic, and sit at home in our basements, and look at porn at the Internet, that we aren’t engaged as citizens, that we don’t vote — and it is probably the same age-old thing that your parents thought of you and that you thought of them, but that perception is out there, and my question to the panel is: rather than always criticizing people who don’t know how to use the technology, and people who choose to — type like this — and be afraid of it, what is the responsibility of my generation, of me and my friends, to go out there and reassure the people who are now running our systems that we are not just going to let it all run down the tubes and replace everybody with machines — that we do have some sense of engagement and responsibility and engagement, and how can we reassure them, when we only know how to communicate through these technological avenues that the former generations can’t necessarily relate to? So what should we be doing to close that gap?

Mark Surman

I think the first thing you should do is exactly what Mark is doing this morning, and what you did by giving that speech, which is to say that we are not apathetic; we are not engaged and this is how to engage us or connect with us. I think the huge opportunity in terms of revitalizing politics in this country and in a lot of countries is that message getting out and there being a connection across generation, because there is hugely thinking, critical, engaged youth, and whether it is the Internet, whether it is raves or whether it is other kinds of alternative networks, but up to an older and older age — I think that’s the one thing that has changed — are really kind of dropping out and saying: the mainstream political system, the social services system, are not the ways in which I am going to fix the world. As people who are of a generation that really has kind of dropped out in those ways, the thing to do is say: "We still want to change the world, but we think that the ways that people are trying to do it are irrelevant and ineffective; this is what we are doing. Can we get together?" And I think that if that message can get across, then there is the opportunity for a huge rebirth of civic participation, because there is a great, not just pent-up energy, but energy that is actually going somewhere, amongst youth. And for me, that actually speaks to what the real digital divide is, that I think. Because there is an economic one, but is just about poverty and economics; it is not about computers. You have those gaps with or without computers. And people will get the technology, the hardware, into their hands eventually because people are trying to sell them stuff through it. But it is the skills to use the technology to communicate, and then to figure out how that turns into engagement and empowerment which is the big gap. And the big thing which is at issue, and potentially could be lost — I mean, people like AOL Time-Warner luckily are doing poorly in the stock market, but their interest is not to leave the Internet as a space for civic engagement, it is to turn it into a way to pump out pap Hollywood content. It has happened before. The history of radio was that it was a citizen medium used by churches and labour unions to talk to each other and organize, and David Sardov came along and ripped the transmitter out of the radios and started selling them so he could sell soap to people. It could happen to the Internet. I think the risk is as much that that engagement disappears, and that the ability to use it as a medium for communicating by smaller and smaller people, that that disappears: that is a much bigger risk than that we have too much engagement and people talking on the Internet.

Doug Hull

I’d like to answer that in two or three ways. Number one — you said: "What do we do about it?" I would say, worry less about trying to explain yourself to the older generation. They were young once, and they understand. Understand that they were young once. Just ignore it, because, eventually, in a few years, your generation is going to inherit all the levers of power anyway, so why are you worried about convincing the old fogies? Second thing is, just two little anecdotes that really changed the way I look at things a little while ago. One is that I just watched a very interesting interview last week, with Bill Moyer interviewing Ralph Nader, who for me, both those guys are very symbolic: one was in the Kennedy administration, but a fresh thinker, and the other, Nader, a preeminent environmentalist. And so Moyer says to Ralph Nader: in this globalization world, when you have been the pillar of the anti-corporate approach, what do you think we ought to do? What would you do? And he said, "Bring power closer to the people." Governments have a duty, when the world is concentrating power, democratic governments in particular have a duty to move power from their points of concentration, you know, Washington or Ottawa or wherever, to the community, to the people. Give them more of a role. That is the thing that is going to stabilize the world. It was a comment that Mark found on his Web site: there are two kinds of globalization, social globalization and corporate globalization. And of course there are, and we are never going to eliminate the former. It is a matter of balance. We have to balance things. And the problem is they are out of balance. So governments have a responsibility to rewrite the balance. The second thing I’d like to mention is that when I was in Jordan, I was meeting with people in the US embassy. And Jordan is a very strategically positioned place, and security issues are a big deal and stuff like this. And I was trying to show them: the way the Jordanians are going, putting the Internet into the hands of everybody: this is going to be very interesting, and it is going to stabilize the democracy even more because young people are going to get onto that tool. They are going to figure out ways of doing things in productive ways, and they won’t be as disenfranchised. And the three people I was talking to were all exactly like me, only anti-Vietnam war was in their background; half of them were probably draft dodgers. And they said: "Well, you know, if we had had the Internet, during the days of the anti-Vietnam war, boy, would we have made a difference." And they are worried about what the Jordanians might do. But it twigged to them right away: that tool is the way to rewrite the balance. And don’t worry about convincing other people. Just do it. And find it locally. The solution is in Frontier College, or the solution is the Simcoe Network. You don’t have to elect a jury to Ottawa. You just do it locally, because there are other people doing it locally all over the place. Seize control through nefarious means and figure out how to add to the balance of the free flow of information. That is the way to do it.

John O’Leary

I am a real believer in common cause, and common causes. I really want to compliment the organizers of Couchiching for making the effort, as they did — they brought me as a high school student here: it was a very formative experience — there are youth delegates who are here, and I think we can find common cause, and not have to explain one another through the media or through some mediator, but by sitting in engagement, and that can be done, absolutely, through neighborhood activities. Again, that picture I showed of the city: these opportunities for engagements and connections and working together. We have a math thing going on at U of T campus over the summer, and most of the volunteers are university students, but there is a number of — someone used the phrase yesterday, "soulless bankers" — retired business people who are very good with numbers and math, and they show up, and the kids show up, and the university people show up, and some have their baseball caps on backwards, and some have suits on. Who cares? Let’s sit down and do math. It is this common engagement that happens. So I think that is one way to deal with it. Mark, do you have anything?

Mark Baumgartner

I’ll try to be very quick. I think, in answer to your question, our job, as the people who are all over this technology and love it, is to make it more transparent, so that it is not a matter of you trying to make the buttons click in the right successive order, but it can act more intuitively. I think I am going to disagree with Doug’s point that we should let the older generation just sit this one out because the whole beauty and potential of the Internet is to stop the cycling of the same old mistakes: you know, the wheel goes round and we all kind of go through the patterns of history, and learn from each other, and make the connections between different groups, different generations, and highlight the real missing elements to our supposed solutions, and bring those to the forefront. As a practical point: ask your kids. Like everyone has being saying: ask your kids to show you. Engage them. You benefit from the engagement; they benefit from the opportunity you are giving them.

Mark Surman

I think we have a question... Are there two questions waiting, or one?

I was just going to say, Mr. Chairman, I believe that Zaria wishes to have the last word, and I will take the penultimate short question.

This is directed to the orange-shirted mock [?]. You are about to emerge into a very strong profession, and I believe it is said that most people these days get their medical information from the Internet. As an emerging young doctor, how do you feel about that, with respect to your profession?


It makes our job a lot harder. All of a sudden we have to be accountable. We can’t just tell people: "Well, take this pill and you will be better."

"Well, I heard this has a drug interaction with this vitamin that I am taking."

"Can you give me a minute?"

I think that is exactly it: critical thinking skills is the shift in emphasis. You go to the McMaster kind of philosophy that is percolating throughout all sorts of education. It is no longer "memorize this set of facts because they worked for us." Go and find your own connections, and know how to get the information when you need it. And I think that is a good thing. It is harder, and that is kind of a common theme of globalization: it makes us need to work a lot harder, and it increases the stress levels, and as has been said, you need to find your own escape, but it give you the opportunity to do that yourself, and it makes people more accountable. And I think that if we listen to each other, then we will learn a lot.

Mark Surman

The ultimate word.

Zaria Shaw

Hi. I was accepted at Queen’s.

Mark Surman

Are they sponsoring this talk? That phrase gets me into a lot of trouble; I’ve got to be careful.

Zaria Shaw

I guess my issue is that — my first question is, whether, if we are presented with a scientific law, for example, Moore’s Law, does that necessarily mean that if human progression cannot take place at the same pace, should we buy into the fact that, as you said Mark: "well, this is the way it’s going to be in the future, so we are just going to have to accept that"? Secondly, I kind of like the fact — I don’t know if knowledge is so much what you know on the spot, as opposed to what you have been able to retain and accumulate and use wisely. And I kind of like the fact that the same doctor delivered all four of the children in my family, and that I hand-wrote him a retirement note last week. The relationship was not so much based on "you should stay healthy because I am going to intimidate or put the fear of death into you" but it was a negotiation, a series of meeting that went on within a family context. I have used the Internet since 1995 for my research purposes, and it has enabled me to live an incredibly diverse lifestyle, with a lot of opportunities. But, I see projects like the one in Jordan, that have social dynamics and interaction useful for communities. Apart from that, I think that one has to be very careful with the use of technology, and I will refer to my authority on this, which is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which says that if you do use a piece of technology, that what you should start to do in terms of developing your technical capacity and critical thinking, is learn the way in which to actually put that technology together, and that might slow down the pace at which you are just able to use, unimpeded technological opportunities. So, just a comment on that, if anyone has one.


I would just like to make two comments. I think it was a very valid point, or very valid points. First of all, there is the old chicken and the egg issue, which I would turn around to say: which came first, know-how or technology? Technology is simply embodied know-how. It is simply mass-produced know-how. What is really important is the original know-how, the know-how that has not been embodied, or can’t be embodied, and that is really much more important to the world’s development than mass-produced old technology, which is old know-how. The second thing is that the Internet is simply a source of information that can be constructed in a way that answers a question. What’s important is the question, not the information? We need to focus on really — in this age when everything seems to be crashing down because of the pace of things and the huge volume of information we now have — life is really quite simple: it is made up of questions, not answers. Really, the key thing is to know what are the right questions to ask, not where to get the answer to an ill-conceived question. So going out and actually sitting under the tree and thinking a lot about the question is really the important issue. Once you have thought a lot about the question, the Internet is a great tool to find the possible sources for an answer, or at least what the answers used to be, what the old embodied know-how used to be. It doesn’t really tell you even what the new know-how should be. The laws, effectively, are simply what the great minds think about as the embodied know-how, but they are a really poor guide to the future.

John O’Leary

Just a reflection on knowledge. At Frontier College, we have about 6000 active volunteers across the country, and it is a great privilege for me: I get to travel and meet many of them. When we train people to teach others, whether it is an adult or a child, an inmate in a prison, a homeless person, there is often a fear, and the fear is: I am not a teacher; I am not an educator; I won’t know how to teach math, I won’t know how to teach grammar; I’ll make a mistake. And I always say that one of the best things you can say to someone learning with is, if they ask you a question, you say: "I don’t know. Let’s find out. Let’s find out together." You don’t have to know the dates of the second Réal Rebellion; you have to know how to know. That’s what tutoring and mentoring can do. And the technology; you know: this is technology, this is technology, and this is technology; I think we often get frightened and carried away. We use technology as humans, but as I said, I think what matters in good teaching and inspiring people and connecting people through the power of their ideas and their knowledge, has a lot to do with that social interaction, that social connection, whether it is a parent, a teacher, a community volunteer. And then you judiciously use the technology that happens to be available. I am sorry that Roger isn’t here to talk about aboriginal ways of learning: storytelling, memorization, repetition; it is such a rich milieu. And I find, as a teacher, as much as I am personally uncomfortable with new technology — I don’t understand it, whatever — it excites me as an educator because I see learners getting excited about it. So...

Mark Baumgartner

That is, I think, one of the juiciest questions I have ever been asked, and I would have to say that I am going to take it away, think about it, and then you can look up the answer on "policy probe" [?]

Mark Surman

I am just going to respond as a bit of a last word, and definitely you get a prize for using Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in the question. I think that probably may get the top prize. It is certainly something that has inspired me a lot as well, in thinking about technology in the last 15 years of doing so, which has always obsessed me. And that is the reason why, for me, I have always been more interested, when I was doing video, in teaching activists how to make their own documentary than teaching them PR skills, or in teaching people how to make their own Web pages than in teaching them how to search the Internet. I think being inside the technology and learning how to use it is incredibly powerful, and it gives you that space to make it your own, to give it its own rhythm, and that is what is exciting about the message of that book, and what is exciting about what some people are doing with Internet technology. But the thing is, in that book, as in the Internet, as in a lot of other things, you are riding on the side roads looking at the people on the freeways. And most people don’t choose to be there on the side roads with you. And I guess for me, why I try to stay at that simple, appropriate technology level in an environment where people are moving at a very, very high speed with the same types of technologies I am interested in, is that, I think that by doing that, by practicing that approach to technology, it is much more inside it, much more grounded, much more about the people than the tool. You can, through that practice, show people the value of being on the side roads. And I think there is actually more of a chance with the Internet, and with appropriate use of the Internet than there is with motorcycles to bring people off the freeway just through our actions, and I think that is what we should be doing with it.

Anyway, thank you, guys. Great audience for people who are trying to get out of here and pack. Thank you very much to the panel. And thank you to Couchiching.