"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Beta testing HyLighter: speed learning by integrating all documents?

What if you could glance at a document and see the  overlaps between your thinking and that of many other readers, including the input of smart machines. Would you learn faster, think bigger, and come up with better solutions to problems?  And might such a process support worldwide dissemination of multiple perspectives? This is the dream of genius entrepreneur David Lebow, founder of the startup HyLighter.

In grad school, Lebow set himself the goal of coming up with a new idea for improving education. But after vast research, he realized he was only regurgitating the ideas of others. So he took scissors to his sources and spread clippings across his living room floor, arranging and rearranging ideas to see connections. The result was an "Aha" moment  that led him to write an award winning paper that is still influencing how we teach twenty years later.*

It became Lebow's passion to automate his thinking process so that others could benefit it from it. His initial impulse was to help instill love of learning among young students. But the system he developed may equally serve to track terrorists, solve corporate problems, get loans to 3rd world farmers, harmonize world religions, and turn academics into gleeful pigs in slop.

All the World's Sacred Texts

I met David while he was in the Washington DC area recently to attend Idea Connect. When he told me he was looking for groups to beta test his system, I knew just who to connect him with: my fellow Integral fans at One Spirit Wisdom Integration Circle (OSWIC) who are plumbing the sacred texts of all world religions to find common themes and Integral memes. Indeed it was pigs in slop all the way down when I introduced him to developmental psychologist Barbara Kinney and Pakistani academic Nomi Naeem who works for Brooklyn Public Library while writing a masters thesis on Integral approaches to education. Excited talk of "social sense making" and "curated conversations" hinted at new possibilities for how we learn and work together.

Meaning, Mormons, and Motorcycle Maintenance

Because I used to teach the document commenting system of Adobe Acrobat, I was eager to get a peek at how Hylighter compares. So Lebow gave me a testing account into which I uploaded some Ken Wilber essays and the Sharma-Cook Greuter paper on Polarities and Ego Development. I test drove HyLighter's ability to cross-link documents in the system and on the Web. And within ten minutes I was having that Internet wormhole experience where one delightful stumble-upon leads to another. A Sharma-Cook Greuter reference to too much meaning-making sparked a thought that led me to a book about mythology in Mormonism, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass. Then I was off to a forum for fans of Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where the instructions to new members fascinated me for twenty minutes and  reinforced my belief that Pirsig's work foreshadows Wilber's. I put those links into my comments on the Sharma, Cook Greuter paper. So the question is, will other readers find them to be as titilating as I did?

Possibilities and Work to Do

After numerous readers have placed comments, links, and tags in a document, those items can be assembled into various reports including a "mashup" of comments, links and tags common to many documents. Lebow says HyLighter needs several more months to work out bugs and build a sleeker interface. But it already looks to me like a tool that can greatly enhance how we integrate the vast amounts of data we must swim through to reach the new perspectives we need.

HyLighter screenshot shows on the left  multiple reader comments for each fragment of highlighted text. Comments from many documents can be assembled into a Mashup as illustrated below.

Illustration of a Hylighter Mashup showing reader comments from many documents on selected topics.
Illustrations from Hylighter.com.

Constructivist Values for Instructional Systems Design: Five Principles toward a New Mindset, David Lebow, 1995


Don said...

Hi Teri: I just found your site and really like it a lot. I was looking for something that expanded Jonathan Haidt’s flatland analysis of political views and thought you and your fellow commenter Karl did a really great job (this was a post in 2008, in case you don’t know what I’m referring to:>)). About this post – I think this learning tool looks great, but I am concerned that it leaves out the most essential element – people still will need to train their minds in order to deal with the massive interconnected links this tool will provide. For that, I don’t see any substitute for old-fashioned – dare I say it – thinking! As far as “how to think”, I would have recommended Tibetan Buddhist analytic meditation some years ago, but now that Arthur Zajonc is teaching contemplative inquiry (based both on his study of Buddhist teachings and years of study of Rudolf Steiner, including a stint as the president of the American Anthroposophical Society), I would recommend that anyone who wants to transform education look very closely at his work.

The other text – which since 1976 has been my very favorite, is the Mother’s writings on Education (available for free on the Sri Aurobindo Ashram website). You have to take some time with it. It’s written in very simple language and may seem superficially obvious. But if you take it as an integral whole – bringing together what she refers to as physical, vital, mental, psychic, spiritual and supramental education – I think you’ll find something that has never yet been touched on in any integral writings inspired by Ken Wilber (I say this as someone who ahs studied Ken’s works since the late 1970s and written on them as well. His use of those terms from Sri Aurobindo is almost entirely distorted; the terms have quite different meanings when understood in their original context).

Anyway, just some thoughts. All in all this is a great site, I’m delighted I found it.

Teri Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teri Murphy said...

Don, I appreciate your references to Zajonc and Aurobindo; I'll check those out.

As to your comment about old fashioned "thinking," yes indeed. Lebow claims that Hylighter can do much of the grunt work of assembling data, but it still takes a human to make a usable story from it.

Also thanks for the comment about the Haidt pieces. If somebody could strap him down and force him to read Wilber or Spiral Dynamics, he'd be an even more powerful bridge builder.

David Lebow said...

Don, thanks for the reference to Zajonc.

HyLighter has roots in the learning sciences with an emphasis on constructivist thinking (i.e., more focus on social and emotional aspects of learning and linking new knowledge to what the learner already knows) and theories of expert performance (i.e., emphasis on the development of flexible knowledge for solving novel problems rather than recall).

I quite agree with your observation that there is no substitute for "thinking" and deep engagement with the text and other readers. HyLighter is a scaffold to support users in their sensemaking efforts.