A Walk to Beautiful

The ABC in Australia shows some remarkable documentaries. I have written about the Merry Makers some time ago. Last weekend the ABC program Four Corners screened A Walk to Beautiful. Shortly after writing my post on dolphins, sharks and dead people I sat down to watch the documentary.

Source: ABC Four Corners’ website

The Four Corner’s website notes that:

It’s been 50 years since an idealistic young Sydney couple, Catherine and Reginald Hamlin, spotted an ad for doctors to go to Africa, then took a punt. Little did they know they were about to make the world a far, far better place.

The program discusses how Catherine Hamlin works with women who have obstetric fistula as a result of obstructed labour. The documentary introduces a number of women amongst the thousands treated at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital each year. All these women “have been ostracised by their husbands and communities. Left untreated, they face a lifetime of shame and rejection.”

The program will be available for a short time on the ABC’s iView. I thought the didactic content of the program was enormously powerful. It put my thinking about networked communities into sharp focus.

What if we exist to help and support each other? Imagine how powerful such a community could be.


On 9 May 2009 the ABC reported the 50th anniversary of Catherine Hamill’s work in Ethiopia. The ABC reported the realisation of Dr Hamill’s dream to have a Midwifery School in Ethiopia.

r248736_1019519 Photo source: ABC

CCK08: Week 4 Faster Than A Turnip?

This week’s CCK08 readings on the History of Networked Learning encouraged me to think about  participation in and commitment to the diffusion of ideas. I enjoyed all three key readings.

I was fascinated by the detailed insights provided by Trebor Scholz in the paper on the Social Web. I tried to avoid deviating from the main text despite the enormous temptation of the myriad hyperlinks. I thought George’s Brief History of Networked Learning made good heuristic use of the five stages although I got sidetracked with the analogy that “When discussing network learning, we find ourselves on a small pinnacle of a large mountain.” For some reason Buzz Lightyear came to mind and I thought rather than being on a mountain we might be in infinite space.

Stephen’s Folk History of the Internet underscored for me the different narrative structures available to us in the CCK08 course. In order to grasp “the stories, trends and fables that characterize the internet experience” I had to indulge in the hyperlinks! I gave myself an hour to pursue a non-linear course through the folk history. I fely uneasy about using a chronological time measure for what is essentially a kairological experience. I did not stay up as late as bradleyshoebottom but like arielion in his post I have a sense of my own learning biography time line through the catalyst of Week 4’s readings.

Whilst preparing this post I tried to find a source for a statement about the rate of diffusion of ideas in agrarian revolutions. My recollection from an economic history course in 1971 was that in England in the agrarian revolution the rate of diffusion of ideas was a mile a year for the planting of turnips. (R M Hartwell?)

Although I did not find a source for the turnip diffusion metric I did find Louis Putterman’s (2006) paper that explored “differences among human societies in the time at which the transition from reliance upon hunting and gathering to reliance upon agriculture took place that led to differences in levels of technological development and social organization.”

Whilst researching a presentation about innovation in ICT in 2000 I found this note:

I discovered this paper by Desmond McNeil (2006) and the abstract notes that:

It appears that the rate of diffusion of ideas is increasing over time; and that the rate, and extent, of diffusion is more rapid when the idea is initiated/promoted in the policy or popular realms than in the academic realm. The most successful ideas are not those that are most analytically rigorous but those that are most malleable, achieving consensus by conveying different meanings to different audiences.

I think that the proposition that “The most successful ideas are not those that are most analytically rigorous but those that are most malleable, achieving consensus by conveying different meanings to different audiences” is a delightful way to contemplate just how fast connected communities are outstripping the turnip!

CCK08: Swimming with dolphins, sharks and dead people

I have been away from the CCK08 discussions for a few days. I have been moving ten cubic metres of decomposed granite in my garden. What would have been an arduous physical task under normal circumstances flew by. There has been so much to think about in the course.

The wonderful paradox for me is that I did not have to be connected to be connected during the granite moving. I spent two days thinking about the richness of the community participating in CCK08.

The first three weeks of the course have been fascinating for me. Each week I have found that the topics and discussions have touched other parts of my learning journey. In the 1970s, for example, I was intrigued by samizdat literature and how self-published and self-distributed ideas impacted on social consciousness. Such literature was (and is) a challenge to cultural hegemony.

I tried to read as much as possible of the shift in atmosphere and focus in Week 3. I started off with this post about Prokofy Neva, revisited Second Thoughts and looked at Pat Parslow’s posts. My Google Alerts brought me Lisa’s delightful post about Networks of Dead People and today Ailsa’ post on iatrogenesis. My WordPress Tag Surfer led me to Jenny Mackness’ post about the structure of the course and Duking it Out – Forum Style. I noticed too Claire Thompson’s post CCK08 Dropout (via OLD).

Just this small selection of posts underscored for me the power of aggregation. Whilst participating in the CCK08 network I am naive enough to think that I am swimming with dolphins whilst recognising there may be chondrichthyes in the water! I tend not to go into the latter’s habitats but realise that they are a vital part of an ecosystem.

Like Ailsa “I try to demonstrate all the qualities needed for setting up an environment whereby personal growth might occur; trust, empathy, unconditional positive regard.” (Italics my emphasis). I concur wholeheartedly with Jenny’s sentiments about “the enormous generosity of spirit shown by Stephen Downes and George Siemens.”  I share unequivocally Lisa’s view that “Filling one’s network with dead people will make it deeper, more sustainable, more holistic and more useful.” (I wonder what Lisa would think about the Rockwood Necropolis in Sydney).

At the end of the final wheelbarrow of earth I found myself savouring Claire’s post and her observation that “I’ve gotten used to the fact that you can’t read everything.”  It seems to me that CCK08 allows the sharing of views about sharks, the dead and dropouts in a convivial space that each participant of the course can select and prioritise. My background in ethnography and case studies has encouraged me to come to terms with the inability to be everywhere and assuaging the guilt of not being there when something really important happens.

We live in a world of ‘documentary reality’. Swimming through this world as if with dolphins makes learning very special!