Anne-Marie ChampoussinCréez votre badge·Uncategorized

“Thumbelina” naked in a world of flows

The “numericus infant” is born.

This is a major scientific discovery for the academic Michel Serres marking a definite evolution of mankind in the 21st century. It marks a break with our cultivated ancestors who « had behind them, a time horizon of a few thousand years, decorated in prehistory, cuneiform tablets, the Jewish Bible, ancient Greek and Latin. »

A world of flows opens today’s young people who « enter a different story.» Their learning path of knowledge is formatted by the media and advertising. They are subject to the influence of a society of the spectacle that is intended to be educational but « uneducated vanity » and told the media the responsibility for teaching listening and capturing the vision through the power of seduction.

The result is an open space of knowledge now available anywhere on the Web and objectified and made virtual is to say, not concentrated as before. Indeed, the former space of concentrations (eg a university lecture hall) was « an area of close proximity, but distributive. » Today, as Michel Serres argues: « I can tell you about my home or elsewhere, and also you will hear me”.

What about the cognitive functions of the student?

« [They] are transformed with the support, argues Michel Serres. The head has mutated [and] totally changes the teaching with new technologies. »

He became a person who « writes differently, faster text with both thumbs, hence the nickname Thumbelina (and Tom Thumb) as Pappy Serres gives as « nicer than the old word, pseudo-scientist, typist ».

But it « remains to invent new links. Evidenced by the recruitment of Facebook, almost equipotent to the world’s population. As a free atom valence,  Thumbelina is naked in a « world of flows ».

« Thumbelina » lives in a « world of flows »

Danah Boyd explains the metaphor of the « world of flows” (that is to say a world where information is everywhere) like the idea of living in the current adding things, eating, redirecting them.  »

Twitter users demonstrate « that sense of feeling to live and breathe with the world around them, aware and connected, adding content in the flow and seizing them at other times. [But] this state is difficult, especially since it is burdened by an overload of information and tools frustrating. »

The transition from broadcast media to the media networks has fundamentally changed the way information flows. The Internet allows everyone to create, distribute and connect its own content and thus to add new players. « The internet technologies dismantling and reforming the structures of distribution [so that] the act of distribution becomes much less important than the act of consumption. » The result is a shift in the locus of power which « is no longer between hands of those who control distribution channels, but those who control the scarce resources of attention, that is to say everyone. »

The digital revolution: myth or reality?

According to Danah Boyd, one must input sweep four common misconceptions about the digital revolution.

First, the Internet is more democratic because « move the economy to that of the distribution of attention is disturbing (…) [and] open access to distribution structures does not mean democratization, especially when the distribution is no longer the organizing function. »

In addition, whereupon people focus their attention depends on a combination of factors that has nothing to do with « what’s best. »

Stimulation is misleading. Indeed, « people consume content that stimulates their minds and their senses. This is not always the « best » or most relevant material that holds their attention, but one that triggers a reaction. »

The risk is to develop a kind of « obesity by consuming the contents that are less beneficial to ourselves or to society as a whole. » This leads to a dependence on gossip as this information brings us closer to people because « when we know something about someone, we feel that they have established a connection with him. But the information ecology in the age of the Internet spiraling out this. If I can follow all the details of the life of Angelina Jolie, this does not mean she knows I exist. »

What sociologists call « parasocial relations »  is « a society where connections would be unequal, » marked by an illusion of proximity relationships.

Sociality is distorted by the tendency to homophily characteristic of a networked world in which people connect to people like themselves, whose views are like them that automatically dismiss those who do not like them.

Thus, information flow does so to reinforce the social divisions that is fundamentally anti-democratic because « democracy is based on shared information structures, but the combination of self-fragmentation and information flow in a network means that we lose the rhetoric common ground allows us to discuss, says Danah Boyd. »

Networked media therefore prevent exceeding the limits of his own world to see beyond, otherness and the possible hardship to other worlds.

In this spirit, via Twitter hashtags force people to address differences in views on some issues but they already describe a use to which all advanced Twitter users do not access.

The fact is that in practice it’s a tiny percentage of people who are inclined to seek opinions and ideas from other cultures than their own and this trend is not xenophilia certainty in the facts as Ethan Zuckerman said.

Finally, the power now is being able to attract the attention, to influence the attention of others and transform information into traffic. Be a node in a network indicates the source of influence.

Furthermore, in a network culture, there is also the power to be the person who delivers content while in the diffusion model, those who controlled the distribution channels were often more profitable than the creators. Therefore, one hypothesis is that if one gets rid of that organization of the distribution, the power back to the creators. But it is clear that those who get the attention of people are still a small privileged minority. There is still a form of distribution that does not pass directly from the creators, but by other intermediate…

Find tools « to eat to understand, [and] produce to be relevant »

The challenge is to innovate through tools that allow people « to get into the flow, to live in structures of information wherever they are, whatever they do. Tools that allow them to take what they need and stay on the periphery, without feeling overwhelmed. « From this point of view, the cure does not add value if the « capacity for abstraction »of the numericus infant is not stressed as the issue of « Internet Transaction » (mentioned in a previous article) problematizes.

ICT for more sociability

The challenge is to overcome the usual polarization technophile – technophobe to understand « how new communicative forms are changing the shape of the social relationship », how they replace the forms of exchange called « authentic ».

Antonio Casilli nuances deterministic discourse on the issue of homophily by pointing out that the Internet can create « zones of better control the positioning of friendship as a social process, sex even geographical environment, social, etc.. » . In support of his argument, he referred to a recent study with Paola Tubaro « with young bloggers Democrats holding a cookie-party in Pasadena that showed at first a strong homophily between participants: they were the same age, came from the same social environment, had the same political interests … Yet their blogs allowed them to open up a space much wider audience.

Practices allowed them to reach segments of the population they would not have been able to meet in a society very compartmentalized, as is that of Southern California.  »

New technologies have propelled « Thumbelina » in the virtual world

« The virtual is as old as time » to Michel Serres and new technologies have accelerated the virtual. « The real novelty is universal access to people with Facebook, the places with GPS and Google Earth, to the knowledge to Wikipedia. Be aware that the planet, humanity, culture are accessible to everyone, regardless huge step forward! We inhabit a new space … New Zealand is here in my iPhone! I am still amazed!  »

The philosopher yielded to the fascination of the subject technology to embrace the theory of anthropological evolution: the numericus infant, « Thumbelina » is a mutant as a result of new technologies that activate other brain regions that books. Her brain has changed and « grumpy old » belonging to « outdated institutions » can retire to their cave books.

Station to the false dilemma

But why should we summarize the use of social media a false dilemma? If a teacher uses social media tools effectively, it does not mean that it should also avoid personal relationships or experiences in the real world. Social media is a tool to be used at many levels, so why is the myth of « all or nothing » still there? Is it because the words themselves (social media) have negative connotations with images that evoke the insane (« geeks ») and superficial consumerism?

Questions may be poorly asked. Instead of focusing on the use of the tool, perhaps the expected change on the part of teachers is to actively develop and grow their own network of professional co-learners around the world. This is more difficult to argue with « You have to use social media » but these tools provide the most efficient and effective means to achieve the goal of being connected.

There is no mystic technological determinism to facilitate learning and knowledge transfer. The real innovation must take place in the creative use that will make educators of social media and sharing their experiences.

Without being a grumpy technology, we can highlight the risk of information overload and therefore of diminishing returns for the use of Twitter, for example as to how much information they can digest at any time. Every teacher has to be potentially learning from his job but not to use social media to share his thoughts do not make it less seriously. Social media does not necessarily lead to greater organizational cohesion. It is not to be comprehensive but if we fail to cooperate with our neighbor, the likelihood is slim that the school a better place.

Moreover, we see that now, in scientific seminars, we exchange not only about « official », but also other via the Internet (the so-called backchanneling) to recreate the forms of communicative authenticity, able to dig tunnels under our reality. We exchanged e-mails, text messages, instant messages, or tweets, which have a strike force emotional, real-time, which may be more important than the more civilized forms of real communication.

To consider social media as a tool for learning and teaching, we can say that there are different types of learning and different levels of intellectual content. While Twitter may be useful for rapid information sharing and conversation, you cannot really use it to make sophisticated literature or deposit records. In addition, some learning will never be social, such as a process of assimilation theories. So there must be a balance between different forms of learning and different types of content.

But the problem is that the generation of « Thumbelina » has not the patience to read long texts and when it tries, it lacks the technical reading and taking notes to respond. Universal access to culture is a digital issue that has also become the source of the gaps in knowledge.

Once we learned to « dinosaurs » (Michel Serres designates the former) that « patience is the mother of virtues, » what are the qualities of « Thumbelina » outside the SMS by his thumbs?

Maybe keep trying to be a human being…

Anne-Marie Champoussin


« TOM THUMB », by Michel Serres, the French Academy, formal sitting ‘The new challenges of education « first Tuesday in March 2011.

« Danah Boyd: The implications of living in a world of flux, » by Hubert Guillaud, 06/01/2010, –

Antonio Casillas: « The web way to reconfigure our society, » August 26, 2011,

« Thumbelina, mutant generation, » Pascale Nivelle, September 3, 2011, at 0:00,

“What are educators, professional obligations to learn from social media channels?”, Scott McLeod on June 21, 2011, 9:57 AM,


3 réflexions au sujet de « “Thumbelina” naked in a world of flows »

  1. Bravo pour votre article.
    De toute façon votre site est vraiment génial et on y trouve énormement de choses.
    Un grand merci de nous faire découvrir cela régulièrement avec le reste de la communauté.

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