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it's... fundamentality!

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t h e o r y    f i x i n g
a look at what's wrong with the three rules of reusability
last updated october 26, 1998. 5:30 am.

this week on theory fixing, it's...
fundamentality !

10/23 : 1
(Q) The term information object is just as bad as knowledge object or learning object because "object" seems to carry the implication of a buy-in to Cartesian dualism. I don't buy in to Cartesian dualism, i.e. the assumed subject/object dichotomy causing fights among so-called instructivists/constructivists . I think it is unnatural. So to me, the term "object" has a very bad taste. So does "information," but that's (3).
It can be argued that in order to maximize the reusability of these objects we must engage in the synthetic process of "objectifying" them. If this is the case, perhaps the term object is the best one, because it makes clear exactly what we are doing. Hmmm. It still seems like tacit acceptance of the idea that the 'bifurcation' is the natural state of things.... Yuck.
(A) Put the word that has always been best, 'primedia,' back into the theory, and delete references to 'objects' of any kind, be they learning, knowledge, or information. This will also show more clearly the theoretical heritage of the three rules, with Ted as one of the great-grandparents.

10/23 : 2
(Q) In focusing the rules of reusability, the idea of recombinance has somehow disappeared from the theory. Is there room for a discussion of recombinance in a discussion of the manner in which fundamentality predicts reusability? Does the theory need to be repositioned as focusing on something other than reusability? (Obviously instruction is at the end of all of it, and progression and exaltation are the ends of instruction, but I don't think we should call it the Three Rules of Exaltation.)
(A) I will suggest Recombinance, which encapsules the concept of reusability, but also makes explicit why we want things to be reusable.

10/23 : 3
(Q)The first RoR (Fundamentality) states that the degree of combination of an object predicts the degree of information represented by the object. Well, dandy. So what if it does. The string 110100101011001101 contains information. So does the static in your TV or radio. Is more information present when I am listening to the static on both my TV and radio? Yes.
So we see that the first corollary of RoR one which is posited explicitly in the theory (the amount of information predicts the usefulness of an object for instruction) is not always true. This is bad. What we really care about is the usefulness of an object for instuction, not increasing information. It would seem that we are concerned with increasing meaning. Whether information can actually be meaningless is an arguement (sorry, discussion :) for another time. However, it should be clear that less meaning-full information is not useful to us or other learners.
(A) It would seem more correct to say that by combining objects we increase the amount of context within which each occurs, thereby providing each individual object with greater meaning. (My underlying assumption is that meaning is a function of context. I'll explain in detail if anyone wants me to.) This thinking seems to make the previous thinking appear an "apostate version" of the truth. I don't doubt that this thinking could eventually be viewed as apostate, but for now I'd like to call it "true."



10/26 : 1
(Q) The current definition of Fundamentality (as worked out by Laurie and myself through a painful, lenghty discussion) seems to have become outdated. It was a close enough approximation to be workable, but I believe that Heidegger and Information Theory have given us something closer to the truth. Here is a quote from the write-up of the discussion Laurie and I had, which has been my working definition of Fundamentality:
The fundamental object of fractal-based design theory is inherently informational in nature. It is not inherently instructional in nature, on the contrary, a fundamental object is never inherently, or independently, instructional. A fundamental object is any representation uncombined with any other representation, including another of its own type. It stimulates a single sense, i.e., the visual (a graphic representation) or the auditory (a sound). As technology progresses, a representation in any new medium that stimulates one sense (be it visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, or tactile) could be considered a fundamental object iff (if and only if) it is presented uncombined with any other representation.
(A) Combination may still be the point of action as far as people using the theory are concerned, but as I tried to point out in 10/23 : 3, information is not what we are worried about. Also, the implication that as primedia are combined they somehow become instructional seems absurd. They may become more useful for instructional purposes, but simple combination is not enough to create something instructional.
These are minor points. The real reason I feel a need to rewrite the definition of fundamentality is because I feel that there are times when "combination" in the strictest sense does not accomplish what we are after. In the original paper on Fractal-based Design Theory I argued that primedia must be combined in such a way as to imply relationships between them. Well, this is placing a restriction on combination, saying that only a "certain type" of combination will do.
It has become clear to me that if (1) if we are trying to increase 'meaning' as opposed to information, and (2) if meaning is a function of context, then a fundamental object is not (neccesarily) one which is uncombined with any other, it is an object which has been decontextualized to the greatest degree possible. What we have been refereing to as the manner of building complex objects, i.e., 'combining,' is only one way in which a fundamental object may be contextualized. This contextualization results in greater meaning in the resultant combined object, and hence, more usefulness for instructional purposes.
The converse is also true. Decontextualized objects have less usefulness for instructional purposes. Also, it is difficult to re-contextualize an object which is already placed firmly in a specific context. All of the rules derived from the "combinedness" assumption still hold because combinedness was a special case of contextualization. In other words, what we have in the new definition of fundamentailty is a higher abstraction, or broader generalization. I assume that this is very, very good.

10/26 : 2
(Q) What about this proposal (10/23 : 1) to put the word primedia back into the theory?
(A) The fear that people are going to assume we have "jumped on the bandwagon" and begun using the term object just because "everyone else is doing it" is something which worries me a lot. However, in defining fundamentality as a state of decontextualization, what we are really doing is "objectifying" whatever it is we are talking about. Heidegger would say we are forcing it to become present-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) instead of letting it exist in it's natural state (ready-to-hand / Zuhandenheit). By stripping these things of their context (what naturally occurs without a context?), we are unnaturally making "objects" out of them, and therefore I think would should call them 'objects.' Not because everyone else has, not because we haven't thought about it, but because after closely examining the philosophical foundations of the theory, 'object' is the word that best communicates the meaning we want to communicate.



That's all so far.
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Last modified 2004-06-14 10:12 PM