Creating meaning in social learning: interpretation

I spent yesterday afternoon in The Hermitage in Amsterdam, a great museum, currently housing an exhibition on Peter the Great, the modernising eighteenth century Russian Tsar. The gallery space is large, well laid out, containing a wide variety of artefacts illustrating Peter’s life and the socio political world that he inhabited: his costume, his woodworking tools, painting of him in life and death, busts and descriptions of his associates and enemies, treasures he collected and ephemera that he touched. The objects, placed together, form a jumble: it’s the role of the curators to give it meaning, to find the narrative, a coherent script.

Like any story, the tale of Peter the Great can be told in many ways: we have the luxury of hindsight and the ability to interpret the artefacts as we choose, supported by the evidence and other contemporary accounts. There is no single ‘truth‘, just layers of subjectivity that we build upon. The trick of curation is balance: a strong enough story to capture the interest, but enough ambiguity to reflect that there are a range of interpretations. Museums to do not present the truth: they present a truth.

Interpretation and meaning

We create meaning within our learning communities, but meaning is always subjective: there are other interpretations

We create meaning every day: exploring new knowledge, interacting with our communities, sharing ideas, creating meaning. The path that we take through the knowledge is the way that we create a narrative, a view of learning that resonates within our worldview, it helps us construct our truth. But our view of the world is always subjective: we only have so much knowledge and experience on which to base it. We are always, to some extent, relying on other people’s interpretation: it’s a house built of cards. Our processes for peer review and research methodologies can give those views some validity, replicability, but our narrative of what something ‘means‘ will always be subjective and open to reinterpretation over time, which is comforting in many ways. It means that meaning will always be relevant for it’s time, an agile construct that we can use to understand things as they apply to us now.

There will always be a range of views about a subject, as different people and different communities create different meanings: it’s like asking what a song is about. It means different things to different people, we each create the meaning in ourselves, in the listening.

So there are multiple narratives around a subject, many different interpretations. This isn’t a bad thing to understand: they always existed, it’s just that in formal learning spaces there wasn’t always space for them. In newer social learning spaces, all of these views can be shared and discussed more easily. Social learning facilitates discussion and the co-creation of meaning. It uses the power of the community to develop and moderate our ideas, to create meaning in the moment.

I’m aware that, before my visit, i knew nothing about Peter the Great. Now i know one story, an interpretation that has been fed to me by the museum. They kept enough ambiguity in the messages to allow for a range of interpretations, indeed, the final panel of the exhibition comprised two contrasting messages, that Peter was the founder of modern Russia, or that he nearly destroyed it. There is space left for me to create relevance for myself.

In our own learning design, we need to consider how meaning is created: do we forge it and hand it out to people or are we engineering in the spaces and communities to allow for it to be built independently. Where are the spaces for discussion, for challenge, where are the facts and where is the conversation?

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Agile, Collaboration, Communication, Community of Practice, Curation, Information, Interpretation, Knowledge, Learning, Meaning, Museum Education, Narrative, Personal Learning Network, Reflection, Semantics, Social Learning, Standardisation, Stories, Worldview and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Creating meaning in social learning: interpretation

  1. Pingback: Creating meaning in social learning: interpreta...

  2. Pingback: The future of books: the evolution of publishing | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  3. Pingback: Command and control, share or narrate? Dilemmas of the Social Age | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  4. Pingback: Centres of learning: books, libraries, enhanced content and learning communities | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  5. Pingback: Bartering for backgammon: creating a shared experience in learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  6. Pingback: Manifesto for the Social Age: A first draft of the narrative | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  7. Pingback: Curation in Social Leadership – a first draft | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  8. Pingback: Who creates the vista? | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  9. Pingback: A note on Curation in Social Leadership | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  10. Pingback: On the fifth day of Christmas Learning: Social Learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  11. Pingback: Sense making in the Social Age | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  12. Pingback: The Age of Digital History | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  13. Pingback: Can we keep social spaces social in a networked world? | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  14. Pingback: How do stories work? | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  15. Pingback: Reflections from mLearnCon: geolocation and exploration | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  16. Pingback: Scaffolded Social Learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  17. Pingback: The Inexorable March in the Quantification of Me | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  18. Pingback: Relating to People | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  19. Pingback: 10 Techniques for Scaffolded Social Learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  20. Pingback: Scaffolded Social Learning in action: exploring competition | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  21. Pingback: Now you see it… Augmented Reality in Learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  22. Pingback: The CEDA Model: checking the vitality of Social Learning communities | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  23. Pingback: Change Curve: The Dynamic Change Process [Part 5] – Narrative | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  24. Pingback: Change Curve: Overcoming the Broadcast model | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  25. Pingback: Curation in Social Leadership [part 1] | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  26. Pingback: #WorkingOutLoud o Social Leadership Storytelling Certification | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.