Understanding contributive research

Bernard Steigler is a famous French philosopher. He is the head of the Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation (IRI) in France. The main themes of his works are mainly digitalisation, technology and knowledge, among others. On April 28th, students of the Advanced Masters in Digital Business Strategy had the honor to welcome Bernard Steigler at Grenoble Ecole de Management. He gave a speech about contributive research and collaboration in which he discussed different approaches of knowledge through history generation and industries. Bernard Steigler developed a new note taking platform for this collaborative research that he’s working on. In this article, we will explain to you the main points Stiegler covered in his course, where he combined philosophy and digital in a very interesting way. It is a new way of looking at things that is very enriching in my opinion.


What is contributive research?

So Bernard started explaining what is contributive research, a concept he is closely working on.

The first thing he did was to start recording his lecture. Then, he asked everyone to take notes and time references. Why? Because they would be using them to participate in the exercise that consists of using his LDT (ligne du temps, or timeline in english) note taking platform. The aim of this exercise is to understand what is contributive research, and what it is used for.

With digital technologies, students are able to share and compare their notes following a certain protocol.

Some might question the objectives of using such a platform? Using ligne du temps, the note taking platform Stiegler works on, allows students to develop new approach of the course: an approach that they are creating themselves. It is as if they are producing the course. Students become exactly like movie producers, editing, choosing and creating something.

To achieve this, one must go through the process of selection.


What is the process of selection?

There is what we call a process of retention in everything we see and hear. There are three types of retention: primary, secondary and tertiary. Let’s briefty go through each type to understand more.

The primary retention is the first contact one has with the information retained. However, words disappear when new ones are said. This is why there is what we call the secondary retention. This one is deeper than the first type Stiegler describes. In other words, secondary retention it is a selection of the primary retention. And this takes us back to the selection process, that is different from one person to the other. We do not have the same secondary retention, because we do not share exactly the same life, experience or memories. Each one of us has a different dimension of mind, of spirit and of science.

Some might see this difference as a good thing, because difference is enriching.

But others see this as a problem: when there are different interpretations of the same thing, it leads to a disagreement. Stiegler gave the example of a pilot and the air traffic control. Do you imagine the disasters this disagreement would cause? This is exactly why protocols exist !

Digital created a new type of tertiary retention. For example, on the platform Bernard Stiegler uses for his exercise, one can use an algorithm to analyze others’ notes, using color codes.

The surprising and interesting part of note taking is the part we don’t understand. The troubling sentences and ideas.

The question of knowledge and evolution

The question of knowledge is intergenerational. People transfer knowledge from one generation to the other. How does this transfer of knowledge happen in a digital world? There are different points of views, different scenarios that could be analyzed to answer this question. It is interesting to cover this point because the disruption that is happening today is an acceleration of knowledge.

First, a new trend has been growing lately : MOOCs. Is this method a good one, is it effective? Is it efficient? There’s a large debate on this issue.

There is also the case of the new generation. Children are given technological devices at a very early age. It is not surprising today to see a one year old holding an iPad. Is this a good thing to do? Or is it dangerous? Here too, there are different views. This question should be answered rationally: the brain of babies that are using digital devices should be studies and analyzed. One cannot simply answer by yes or no.

There’s a school that believes that digital technology destroys memory. Well, if you think about it, how many phone numbers do you know by heart? Not so many, since they are all saved in your smartphone. This is a dangerous phenomenon because humans are becoming dependent on technology.

Proletarianisation, or the loss of memory

By always relying on technology instead of our brains, some are worried of the result: the loss of memory. If we go back in time, this is exactly what happened to factory workers working with steam machines. They used to do the same moves over and over again, without using their brains, their intelligence or their memory because machines were there to do this: these workers lost their knowledge.

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin: the ambassador of repetitive moves

Grammatisation and digital

Let’s start by explaining the concept of grammatisation. It is the description and the discretization of human behavior (language, gestures etc.) that allows them to be reproduced. Basically, it is an externalization of the tertiary retention that we talked about previously in this article. In other words, the process of grammatisation is an analytical faculty for understanding different behaviors.

There are different types of grammatisation processes. Frederic Taylor used videos to record and analyze employees’ gestures. Before that, Aristotle claimed that it is possible to analyze the language into analytic categories.

Today with the digital wave, we also have this grammatisation process. It affects big data and data economy. So, it is used to understand data management and analytics. With this ‘digital stage’ of grammatisation, individuals are using computers to analyze a huge amount of data and produce analytics.

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Mia Tawile

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