Neural networks - micro image of what happens on societal levels
One of the points I made during the presentation centered on extending the occurrence within our minds (i.e. how our minds form networks and understandings). From what we currently understand about neurology, our brain stores different elements in different parts of the brain. As an example, when I walk through a garden, the smells, sites, sensations, and experiences are stored in different parts of my brain. No one area of my mind stores the entire experience. Instead, the brain, through a process of binding (which is still not very well understood), pulls together the various experiences, couples them with emotions and reactions and creates a "whole" of the experience. The steady flow of data is not processed like a computer...but rather matched and analyzed (or perhaps not even analyzed - more like integrated) for meaning.
This process is very much like what we do with learning on a macro level in our daily lives. We take the many different elements that we encounter and explore them for meaning in the process of creating a whole (we bind the numerous individual elements into a comprehensive (though transitory) representation of what the world looks like). When we are learning in a formal environment, we follow the same routine. New data and information is presented, contextually represented, and integrated with existing networks of understanding. When concepts in conflict with existing viewpoints are presented, we hold them in balance until one concept sufficiently out-weighs the other (I addressed this notion - in contrast with cognitive dissonance - in my article Learning as Network Creation). The entire process is one of extracting (or assigning) meaning based on distributed elements. The creation of meaning is in itself (this gets a bit weird) a node on the network that holds the existing nodes that comprise the "meaning" (meaning is a representation of the network at a particular time…as new nodes (people or content) are added to the network, the meaning changes). Or as I've said before, I am a node on my own network. Meaning-derivation (binding a whole from small pieces) is a rich ongoing process, influenced by the endless stream of activity, news, information, and knowledge.