Why We Need to Learn about Learning

We need to learn about learning because never before have we "meddled with it on the scale on which we do today," to borrow Etienne Wenger's words —

For many of us, the concept of learning immediately conjures up images of classrooms, training sessions, teachers, textbooks, homework, and exercises. Yet in our experience, learning is an integral part of our everyday lives. It is part of our participation in our communities and organizations. The problem is not that we do not know this, but rather than we do not have very systematic ways of talking about this familiar experience.

In his book, Wenger focuses on disclosing a new, systematic way of talking about the familiar experience of learning in "communities of practice" by way of finding meaning and identity through "participation". One should probably also think about knowledge networks.


I started reading about Wenger and Communities of Practice when I was still residing in Iran. Unfortunately I couldn't find Wenger's book, however I looked up through library and bookshop catalogues, as the titles that are imported each year are too selective. However, I read a dozen of papers regarding CPs and VCPs, and it sounded unbeatably interesting to me. I'd really like to concentrate on them in my graduate dissertation, however, it requires a practical ground which I'm not sure I'd be able to find in these 6 short remaining months.

Posted by Mahmood on December 09, 2005 at 07:45 AM PST #

I wouldn't be disappointed. You probably need to choose just the right problem. You need to choose some problem that is modest enough to fit your schedule and other constraints but that is also interesting enough for you to dig your "teeth" into it. This will always help deepen your understanding You might consider writing to Wenger, asking him to suggest a suitable problem or some way of identifying one given your constraints -- Good luck -- Masood.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on December 09, 2005 at 08:01 AM PST #

I saw your posts on Chester Barnard and The Functions of The Executive, and I'm starting to get too curious about you, because I have to write a synthesis text about the book for my theory of the organizations course. The other reason of curiousity is that you are working in Sun, in Java team, and God knows I've loved java for a long time. I even started programming in Java (reading Deitel&Deitel and Thinking in Java), but my university programs didn't let me go on. And the last reason is the way you spell your name. You don't use "OU", but "OO", which is exactly the way I write my name. :) I'll appreciate each single hint from you which can help me go through this book (Barnard's of course).

Posted by Mahmood on December 09, 2005 at 08:20 AM PST #

The spelling was not my choice and was made on my passport when I obtained it 28 years ago, and it stuck. I think the actual transliteration should be Masud with a line above the u. There's some specific transliteration technique for Arabic names and words, which you might be able to find if you visit the Near East studies department in your university. As far as Chester Barnard is concerned, his book (The Functions of the Executive) is superb. It was suggested to me be professor Oliver Williamson, during some independent research I did with him. I joined Sun's Java Software organization 9 years ago, during the heady days. I've not been programming as much recently, but what attracted me to Java was its simplicity, type-safety, virtual machine concept and automatic garbage collection. I also did some early studies on my own that proved to me that in the long run, performance would not be an issue for a large class of applications. I would say that of all of these properties of Java, I was most attracted to its type structure, because, perhaps, I was studying Logic & Methodology of Science at Berkeley, and was deeply attracted to logical forms, metamathematics, philosophy of language and mathematics. I then leaned more towards philosophy, was exposed to existentialism and left the university (after 17 years of graduate work and multiple degrees) to join the "real" world. After some years of working in the software industry, I turned to management and organization concepts, because I found them to be of great significance in large organizations such as modern corporations. I soon found that much work had already been done in this area and my MBA work at Berkeley only complemented things and deepened my interest and curiosity. That's where I leave the story . . .

Posted by M. Mortazavi on December 09, 2005 at 08:39 AM PST #

Well, you have to have a hundred years at least! :) I'm just a little curious management student in Paris, which loves Hegel philosophy and Java platform (The commmon features would be exhilarating architecture and invincible robustness). I've just started the adventure by leaving the homeland.

Posted by Mahmood on December 09, 2005 at 08:55 AM PST #

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