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30 MARCH 2014

Canadian MOOC pioneers George Siemens and Stephen Downes

"Dr. Siemens, along with Stephen Downes, senior researcher at the National Research Council, years earlier had launched what is widely recognized as the first MOOC, in 2008. It was a course on learning theory offered through the University of Manitoba where Dr. Siemens then taught."

(Rosanna Tamburri, 12 February 2014, University Affairs)


2008Athabasca UniversityCanada • Complexive Systems Inc • George Siemens • global strategy execution • integrated learning structures • knowledge • learning theory programme • Massive Open Online CoursesMOOCsNational Research Council of Canada • networked technologies • online learningoriginatorsocial media researchStephen Downes • Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute • University of Manitoba


Simon Perkins
12 MAY 2013

Can Histories Be True? Narrativism, Positivism, and the MetaphoricalTurn

"Narrativism, as represented by Hayden White and Frank Ankersmit, can fruitfully be analyzed as an inversion of two brands of positivism. First, narrativist epistemology can be regarded as an inversion of empiricism. Its thesis that narratives function as metaphors which do not possess a cognitive content is built on an empiricist, 'picture view' of knowledge. Moreover, all the non–cognitive aspects attributed as such are dependent on this picture theory of knowledge and a picture theory of representation. Most of the epistemological characteristics that White and Ankersmit attribute to historical narratives therefore share the problems of this picture theory.

The article's second thesis is that the theories of narrative explanation can also fruitfully be analyzed as inversions of positivist covering–law theory. Ankersmit's brand of narrativism is the most radical in this respect because it posits an opposition between narrative and causal modes of comprehension while simultaneously eliminating causality from narrativist historical understanding. White's brand of narrativism is more of a hybrid than is Ankersmit's as far as its theory of explanation is concerned; nevertheless, it can also be fruitfully interpreted as an inversion of covering–law theory, replacing it by an indefinite multitude of explanatory strategies.

Most of the striking characteristics of both White's and Ankersmit's narrativism pre–suppose positivism in these two senses, especially their claim that historical narratives have a metaphorical structure and therefore no truth–value. These claims are had to reconcile with the factual characteristics of debates by historians; this problem can be tracked down to the absence in 'metaphorical' narrativism of a conceptual connection between historical narratives and historical research."

(Chris Lorenz, 1998, Wiley–Blackwell)

Lorenz, C. (1998). "Can Histories Be True? Narrativism, Positivism, and the "MetaphoricalTurn"." History and Theory 37(3): 309–329.


causal modes of comprehensioncausality • cognitive content • conceptual connection • empiricism • emplotment • explanatory strategy • factual characteristics • Frank Ankersmit • Hayden White • historical chronicles • historical narrative • historical narrativeshistorical researchhistorical understandinghistoriesknowledge • metahistory • metanarrativemetaphormetaphoric reference • metaphorical narrativism • metaphorical representation • metaphorical structure • metaphorical turn • narrative explanation • narratives • narrativism • narrativist epistemology • picture theory • picture view of knowledge • positivismrepresentation • storied ways of communicating • storied ways of knowing • truth claims • truth-value


Simon Perkins
23 MARCH 2013

Toward a Theory of Social Practices: A development in culturalist theorizing

"This article works out the main characteristics of 'practice theory', a type of social theory which has been sketched by such authors as Bourdieu, Giddens, Taylor, late Foucault and others. Practice theory is presented as a conceptual alternative to other forms of social and cultural theory, above all to culturalist mentalism, textualism and intersubjectivism. The article shows how practice theory and the three other cultural–theoretical vocabularies differ in their localization of the social and in their conceptualization of the body, mind, things, knowledge, discourse, structure/process and the agent."

(Andreas Reckwitz, 2002)

Andreas Reckwitz (2002). "Toward a Theory of Social Practices: A Development in Culturalist Theorizing", European Journal of Social Theory; Vol.5, No.2; pp. 243–263 DOI: 10.1177/13684310222225432 []


2002 • Andreas Reckwitz • Anthony Giddens • background practices • bodily engagementbodyCharles Taylor • conceptual alternative • conceptualisation • cultural-theoretical vocabularies • culturalist mentalism • culturediscoursediscourse and practice • European Journal of Social Theory • interpersonal interactions • intersubjectivism • knowledge • mental representations • Michel Foucaultmind • mind and body • Pierre Bourdieu • practice theory • shared understandingsocial agency • social and cultural life • social and cultural theory • social theory • textualism • theory of things • things


Simon Perkins
03 JANUARY 2013

The Value of Culture: Two Cultures

"Melvyn Bragg considers the 150–year history of the Two Cultures debate. In 1959 the novelist C.P. Snow delivered a lecture in Cambridge suggesting that intellectual life had become divided into two separate cultures: the arts and the humanities. The lecture is still celebrated for the furore it provoked – but Snow was returning to a battleground almost a century old. Melvyn Bragg visits the old Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, scene of many of modern science's greatest triumphs, to put the Two Cultures debate in its historical context – and Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, reveals the influence the Two Cultures debate had on his development as a scientist."

(Melvyn Bragg, 2013)

"The Value of Culture: Two Cultures", Radio broadcast, Episode 3 of 5, Duration: 42 minutes, First broadcast: Wednesday 02 January 2013, Presenter/Melvyn Bragg, Producer/Thomas Morris for the BBC Radio 4, UK.



1959 • all matters which most concern us • American education • American schools • artistic intellectuals • arts and humanitiesarts education • British education • C P Snow • Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge • Charles Percy Snow • civilisationClassicalclassicscommerce • cultural agenda • cultural high ground • cultureCulture and Anarchydisciplinary protectionism • editorial control • education system • elites • experimental teachingF R Leavis • free thought • German education • German schools • GreekH G Wellshabitshigh culture • illiteracy of scientists • intellectual life • John Tyndall • knowledgeLatin • literary intellectuals • manufacturingmaterialismMatthew ArnoldMelvyn Braggmodern sciencemodern society • Paul Nurse • quality of education • Rede Lecture • reliable official knowledge • Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts Manufactures and Commerce • RSA • schoolingsciencesciences and humanitiesscientific age • scientific culture • scientific education • scientific naturalism • scientific revolution • scientific teaching • scientists • Second Law of Thermodynamics • shared languagesocial class • speaking the same language • stock notions • study of perfection • technological culture • technology • the best which has been thought and said in the world • the classics • The Value of Culture (radio) • Thomas Huxley • traditional culturetwin pillarstwo cultures • Two Cultures debate • two separate cultures


Simon Perkins
02 DECEMBER 2012

Billy Bragg: 'education reforms risk stifling creativity'

"Singer Billy Bragg has warned that the government's education reforms risk stifling creativity and leaving the pop charts the preserve of a well–off public school elite.

Bragg used a lecture in memory of broadcaster John Peel in Salford to criticise education secretary Michael Gove's plans to scrap GCSEs in favour of an English baccalaureate. He also turned his ire on and 'culture–clogging shows' such as Simon Cowell's The X Factor on ITV1.

The singer and leftwing activist said the government's proposed new education system threatened to exclude creative subjects from the core qualifications expected of 16–year–olds.

'At a time of cuts to the education budget, the pressure on schools to dump subjects like music and drama in favour of those that offer high marks in performances tables will only grow,' said Bragg.

He criticised the 'insistence that knowledge is more important than creativity', adding: 'As Albert Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the whole world'.

Bragg, delivering the second annual John Peel Lecture at the Radio Festival on Monday, said: 'Under the English baccalaureate, with its reliance on a single end of course exam, the child with the creative imagination will always lose out to the child with the ability to recall knowledge learned by rote."

(John Plunkett, 12 November 2012, The Guardian)

Billy Bragg "John Peel Lecture", photograph: Andrew Stuart/Radio Festival/PR.



2012Albert Einsteinalgorithmic filtersart schools • Billy Bragg • coalition government • core subjects • creative arts • creative imagination • creative professionscreative subjectscreativitycriticism • culture-clogging • DIY ethicdramaeducation budgeteducation reform • education secretary • English Baccalaureateexamsfreedom of expressionGCSEimaginationITV1John Peel • John Peel Lecture • knowledge • learning by rote • leftwing activistMichael Govemusic • new education system • Notts Unsigned • performance tablesperformativitypolicy agenda • public school elite • Radio Festival • reality television • recall knowledge • rote learningSalford • Simon Cowell • singer • skiffle • Spotify • stifling creativity • X Factor


Simon Perkins

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