Joanna Cruz

Student , The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art

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Would you rather be an information producer, propagator, or consumer?

In my Bioelectricity class this week, we talked about the propagation of electrical signals in the body. We learned that sensory cells and neurons act like information "producers." As sensory cells in the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body generate the electric signals that stimulate neurons, "information" is produced by the body! This information is then transmitted in the form of action potentials (or "spikes") along myelinated axons which act as "information propagators" as they efficiently and rapidly distribute these signals. These signals may be received by the dendrites of other neurons which act as receivers, or "consumers" of the action potentials.

Learning this material has inspired me to ask: how can biology inspire us as we disseminate "ideas worth spreading?” or as we consider our roles as information producers, information propagators, or an information consumers? How can we best help propagate worthy and novel ideas?

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    Feb 22 2012: What I find so extraordinary about the times we now live in is that people - ordinary people living their ordinary lives - take on all three roles, as producers, propagators and consumers. We are only now coming out of the consumer dark ages and becoming propagators and producers.

    I consume information about the things that interest me.
    I curate that information for my friends and followers.
    I create information based on my own understanding of that information and pay it forward.

    The more people who enter this positive loop, the faster it spins.
    The more people who take part, the faster the human species learns.
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      Feb 27 2012: David,

      I find your thoughts very interesting, and I definitely agree. Out of curiosity, have you always been taking on all three roles, or this happened through entering this positive loop you discussed? What people made you interested in entering this positive loop?

      I found myself a consumer throughout high school. However, in college I have been surrounded by many people who have taken on all three roles. This has made me join this movement, and it has definitely been beneficial. Through consuming I believe I find the basics of information. However, only through the process of propagation and producing information have I found myself to truly understand information.
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        Feb 28 2012: I definitely agree with both of you. However, I see the “loop” having a specific order depending on the person’s age and educational maturity. For example, until I was about 15 years old, it was difficult for me to envision myself as an information producer. I was primarily an information consumer, and maybe to some extent an information propagator. However, now in college, I’m an amalgamation of all three. I feel like in my courses I am primarily an information consumer, outside of school primarily an information propagator, and while in a lab or doing research projects, primarily an information producer, although all three intertwine. It is interesting how I have evolved through these stages, but I would assume this happens earlier or later depending on the person. Regardless, this is not to say that one of the three is better than the other. As David said, the more people who enter the positive loop, the faster it spins.
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      Feb 28 2012: My sentiments exactly. Well said!
    • Feb 28 2012: I think that, while the effects of reducing the barriers to entry into each of the information processing categories have largely been positive, there is added responsibility associated with each of these roles. The more freely information is available, the greater the need for some sort of prioritization scheme to allow one to get to the relevant information in any reasonable amount of time. This leads, for example. to the problem of so-called "filter bubbles" discussed by Eli Pariser here:
      And also see a talk by TED Fellow Evgeny Morozov on the issues with the internet as an instrument of democratization:
      While, by and large, the effects of increased participation in these fields has overwhelmingly been positive, and I believe that people have risen to the challenge of their roles in the new paradigm (take the general civility and professionalism of Wikipedia articles, for instance), we need to remain conscious of our responsibilities in a world where anyone can be an information propagator or producer.
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    Feb 22 2012: I have thought a lot about whether I'm a producer or consumer. I think that the world is quickly becoming a place where almost everybody spends almost all of their time consuming and not producing -- people are paralyzed by their addiction to bingeing on information, which in many cases is just useless, distractory entertainment. (How many people do you know who spend all of their discriminatory time on facebook, or watching TV or YouTube videos?) There is a place for entertainment, but not when it consumes your whole life and chokes your ability to produce. This trend actually causes me to worry about the future of humanity. I suspect we'll see a future day when humanity separates into two classes, the producers and the consumers. The producers will have all the power. I think this would be a great storyline for a novel...
    • Feb 22 2012: A novel, you say? Sounds like Sci Fi. I am on it! =)

      On a more serious note, I'm also worried about our tendency to consume and propagate, more than produce. How many times have I found myself "reblogging" something on tumblr without adding a thought of my own? How many repeats of horrid memes pass through my news feed every hour on Facebook?
      In today's society, I think too many of us think we don't have enough time to be producers. It's so important for us to be up-to-date on popular things that most of us don't think that the easiest way to be the "first to share" would be to become a producer. We don't think that we can all be artists, or thinkers, or writers. But think of all the time you'll have to learn and practice if you moderate your consumption time on youtube, or facebook or watching TV.
      But I still think there is hope for us. As consumers, we get sick of repetition. We crave new things, and if the producers can't keep up with our cravings, we step into that role. That's what happened with the memes. Meme generators just made it easier for the consumers to be the producers. (The production of memes, mind you, does not give me any hope at all for the future of society.) But I still think we'll retain our ability to swing from consumer/propagator to producer, and back.

      Creativity doesn't die, especially while we still retain our individual perspectives.
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        Feb 24 2012: Thanks so much for your comment!!!!!!

        I agree with you and I think it is so amazing that you ended your comment with hope. As Luke said, we should be wary of the future we are facing because of our lack of production but that should never stop us from hoping and improving. We do have cravings for something other than the mundane and this thirst for more will hopefully spur curiosity.

        I think we need to be more self-aware of our information intake and outputs and make an effort to encourage each other. I find that we become producers when someone challenges us, like on YouTube when our favorite subscription posts contests or when people make suggestions for new recipes to try and ask for feedback. I think asking for advice also could help. The more I write and think about this comment, maybe, the more it seems that production requires a group effort in which we all stimulate production and discussion like with neurons firing. The only way you can measure a signal or response is if multiple neurons within the same area are firing not just one because of all the noise that can distort the a single low amplitude signal.

        And if you do ever end writing that Sci-Fi story, let me know! :)
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        Feb 26 2012: This concern with people retweeting over producing original works has been a concern that many philosophers have been trying to reason for decades. For instance, Foucault wrote “What is an Author?” in 1969. His idea is that an author only exists as a function of the piece of written work. It it neither part of the original producer or consumer’s interpretation of the work. We are never producers of information, we are simply the conduit with which the author expresses information.

        Many may ask, does that mean we cannot produce unique info? It depends on what we consider “information“. Marshall Mcluhan believed that the message is in the medium. I also believe that the message may be affected by the medium with it is travels. A simple example is that through many experimentation, it was concluded that people can read faster if the number of words per line hovered around 3 (like for newspapers). In this case, the medium definitely alters the message as a novel printed with only 3 words per line would drastically affect how the read intakes the words. With this said, one’s decision to reblog, retweet, or pin it to pinterest affects the effective message of the post.

        Then there’s Borge’s “Library of Babel”. In it, Borges suggests that there exists a world where there exists books whose contents consists of words of every length and character combination possible. In this world, people search for books that contains in it, the story of their life. This idea is also similar to the issue with retweeting. We are presented with data and we have the task to filter it.

        Having said all that, I believe that we are information consumers, producers, and propagators. However, we are not knowledge producers. The attainment of knowledge rests solely on our own ability to filter what we consume. Nor do we produce useful information because the attainment of knowledge by others rests solely on their hands. We are only producing more data for them to filter.
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      Feb 22 2012: It is easier than ever though to become a producer or propagator, and a lot of people do. When culture or information was all about watching television, there was a very high barrier to entry if you wanted to become a producer (not to mention propagator).

      But today anyone curates their own Facebook or Twitter feed, which I think is fully comparable (although mostly at a smaller scale) to the curating Chris and Bruno do. So we are all propagators; we may binge on information but we only pass on the best stuff.

      And if you want to start producing, you can just write a blog post about your own understanding of a topic that you have just been reading about, adding information to the global hive mind (the reference had to come sooner or later)
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        Feb 22 2012: I agree that it's easier to create (and remix) and be creative now than probably ever before in the history of mankind. I agree that there is a flourishing of incredible creativity among many people. However, I would also argue that most people's Facebook or Twitter feeds merely give the author the false sense of security and *illusion* that they're creating something valuable. Does the simple expression of a person's opinion and mundane day-to-day moments enrich the world? Certainly. But is it producing something new and inventive and creative? I think that's harder to argue. I think it *is* easy to argue that entire lives are now being wasted, consumed by digital distraction and "conspicuous consumption of information". It's very hard to point to something specific that is actually accomplished or made by endless hours of consumption of media -- and the problem with creation of facebook or twitter content is that, for the most part, you're actually indulging in vicariously living other people's lives, rather than going out and living your own. (See also "FOMO", "FOMO addiction" and "availability heuristic" applied to your mix of posts from your facebook friends...)

        Maybe the issue though is that the time that used to be spent washing clothes in a river and milking cows and gathering mushrooms is now spent on Facebook, so that the net effect is no actual increase or decrease in actual productivity or productive output?
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          Feb 22 2012: Perhaps it is a new thing we have to learn and when people experience that (a) they CAN produce and (b) they ARE ALLOWED to produce then they will grow in how they use the Internet.

          My own experience is that when I started using social media to find information on things that interest me, I didn't necessarily immediately find the best sources. But with time, I learned where the prime sources were, and I adjusted my Google Reader to suit.

          If you read newspapers' online sports pages today then maybe tomorrow you'll start checking out some soccer blogs, because that sport happens to appeal to you. The day after, you may be filtering out the very best ones and then finally, you'll start adding your own information to the network by commenting and blogging yourself.
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        Feb 24 2012: Thanks for your comment!!!

        I don't think it necessarily a new thing we have to learn but something we need to become more comfortable with. Coming from a student's perspective, I think I have become complacent with absorbing all the information I can so I can produce something of significance. I think some people get caught up in that or become uncomfortable with their ability to contribute. I think we need to learn how to transition from consumers to propagators to producers with confidence.
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        Feb 28 2012: The internet can indeed be a great tool for producing and propagating. I think the best example of that is the gaining popularity of open source software thats out there. With hundreds of collaborators, the final product ends up much more powerful than any individual could come up with on their own. By working together as consumer, propagators, and producers, we can truly achieve great things. Take for example the group of gamers who figure out the detailed molecular structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus found in rhesus monkeys by collaboratively playing a game.(
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      Feb 24 2012: Thanks so much for your comment!!!

      I think you make an awesome point and unfortunately, we all fall prey to these addictive tendencies especially myself.

      It is necessary to have a balance between producing and consuming. Being a consumer should inspire propagation and production. The furthest some people are willingly to go is to propagate information or good information as Ashley G says. However, there seems to be huge barriers that many cannot seem to get over in order to produce, one of them being time, as already stated. I think another one is comfort zone. My bioelectricity class has been posting two conversations every week and comfort zone has been a limiting factor in our production. Some are timid to share and produce because they are unfamiliar with participating in this specific discussion medium. Some feel they cannot adequately share because of a lack of knowledge in the field of question. Others have difficulty articulating their ideas or are self-conscious that they cannot contribute to the conversation. I have felt all of these one time or another during the past three weeks but I am becoming more comfortable and attached to my thoughts and comments. Maybe we all need to take the first step, which is also the hardest, because practice enlarges the comfort zone.
  • Feb 23 2012: There is something quite radical about considering that we are passing only information. When our brain receives data, it will simplify it by
    - deleting : some of the information received is forgotten, considered as not important and thus discarded.
    - distortion : some of the information received is modified in order to stick to a more familiar model we know of.
    - generalization : some properties of a part of the information is extended to some other or all the pieces of the data.
    When it comes to manipulating information, our first reflex is to simplify it in a way that it is easier to manipulate for us and us only. Other people might simplify it in other ways. The map is not the reality.

    Simplified information is faster to proceed with for our brains and easier to link to the collection of data our brains already know about. We learn new things by linking them to what we already know or have experienced. Information has no interest if we cannot learn from this, thus linking is essential.
    Context is often more important than raw information.

    Would people rather be producer, propagator or consumer ?
    I would say that people will just answer to the data they receive in their own personal way :
    - producing information if they need something that they don't know of already
    - propagating if they think the idea is worth spreading and added value to their understanding of the world or their lives for example though it might be for social proof purpose.
    - consuming so people can think of the next move in their lives be it adding some salt to their food or applying for a job.

    We all do the three things and choose what to do at the moment given our personal context and experience.
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      Feb 23 2012: Indeed excellent points - and because we are like this as individuals the vast, diverse network that all of humanity makes up becomes a brain. We need to see things from different perspectives, with different eyes and on the basis of different experience, so that we can explore all meanings of information and to bring out every last ounce of potential that is in that information. If we were all the same (like in the consumer dark ages when all we did was eat whatever we were fed by television) then we would be no more together than we are apart. Now, our collective efforts are more than the sum of its parts.
  • Feb 22 2012: I applaud you for transposing the 'bio-electrical concept' into the 'social concept'...not too many people are capable of thinking about translating concepts this way...
    But I have to ask : Why must the roles of information producer, propagator and consumers be defined and separate(d)?
    Wouldn't a 'blending' of these roles be far more effective, in conveying ideas, and possibly a further step towards the quantum level of understanding that we seem to be aiming towards, in our technology?
    • Feb 22 2012: Why the roles be defined?
      They serve the purpose of social organization and it's an enhanced way of useful preconceptions. When asked "who are you?" most say "i am my job" ou "i am what i'm doing at the moment" both in a understandable social role that flows our communication". The real discovery reflects in the way we can expose ourselves as we really are beyond social roles. About preconceptions, the first people had to have a cognitive alert about the savage environment. And we use estereoptypes all the time. Usually in distorted manner.I believe that's why today, many choose to look beyond gender, race and religious beliefs not because they where habit but because we want something more from each individual.
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      Feb 23 2012: As pointed out above, the definitions are simply aides for us to understand what is going on. To individuals the activities blend seamlessly and simply becomes - life.
    • Feb 28 2012: Hello Vince,

      I agree that in an ideal situation, every person would consume, produce, and propagate information. However, in my opinion, today there are a lot more information consumers and propagators than producers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though; perhaps, this is just a natural balance. I recently watched a very interesting TED talk by VS Ramachandran (The neurons that shaped a civilization). He argues that there is a scientific reason for humans’ tendency to consume and propagate information. That is, we’re naturally “programmed” to consume and propagate, but not necessarily to produce. Ramachandran discusses the so-called “mirror” neurons, whose primary function is to allow us to mimic the behavior of others. Perhaps, one day, humans will possess some sort of “production neuron” that will make the production of information as natural as consumption and propagation.
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        Feb 28 2012: I agree with everything you have said Veronica. I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing that the today there are not as many information producers as consumers, as today a single producer can reach an extremely large audience. In fact with technology the way it is, there is no need to learn from anyone but the very best. With platforms like TED and youtube the very best teachers at the top of their fields could reach extremely large audiences.
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      Feb 28 2012: While we perhaps tend to make distinctions between the actions of consuming information, propagating information, and producing information, most people tend to do all of the above to some extent. We may classify ourselves with the action that we most identify with or find the most comfort in, but I believe that as thinking entities, we naturally do all three.

      I think that many actions actually fall under more than one of these categories--or in other words, you often times do two at the same time, out of necessity or otherwise. For example, I think that producing information well takes an extraordinary talent for consuming information. As science and technology become more advanced, fewer and fewer discoveries are made outside of the context of other contemporary discoveries. Consider Einstein, perhaps one of mankind's most popular information producers, a man who is often considered to have been an academic outsider. Although his ideas were original, he was fully aware of the achievements of his contemporaries, and he studied them. In other words, his discoveries did not come out of a vacuum.

      This is just one example. I tend to think, in general, that putting energy into any three of the activities we've been discussing makes you better at the other two.
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        Feb 28 2012: You put it very wonderfully, Andrew. Actions do not usually fall under just one category. In particular, I think that being a good consumer of information is the key step and precedes all the others. If a person does not properly “consume” or understand the information, the thoughts that follow will be spread or explored inefficiently. Something beneficial might come of it, but as I said, the process is not optimized and becomes a hit-or-miss game. As many people mentioned above, jumping into this loop of consuming, propagating/producing is one of the hardest steps but once started, it feeds on itself (much like an action potential).
  • Feb 22 2012: I am of the producing variety. Particularly interesting is that you talk of electrical impulses in the body. Once the impulses take form they become ideas etc and then judged as worthy or unworthy to propagate or consume. But what about as they are in electric impulse form? And how we might produce, generate or consume at This level, Pre-form?

    Anyone else interested in this dialogue?
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      Feb 22 2012: Edy, yes, this is where my thoughts immediately lead. We ARE information, and we are information filters too. This is how we create experience. Our choices about what we filter out, what we incorporate, and what we send, are absolutely significant to the whole.
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        Feb 22 2012: This is quite true - we may think we are more than this, but in fact we are nodes in a network just like the synapses are nodes in a network in our brain. We take in information, process it and output information that become someone else's input. So if we zoom out and look over the millennia and not the minutes, what is really important is what the human network learns, not individual brains.
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          Feb 23 2012: Hey Roy,

          I see what you are saying about the 'whole' being just a 'node.' However, it seems like 'importance' is relative to the reference frame through which we are looking. At the individual level, the decisions we make seem important, as these impact all of the people around us.

          With something like evolution, its hard to consider just one persons' contribution. Evolution occurs over hundreds of thousands of years. At this order of magnitude, it just seems more natural to group humans together. Their actions as a whole seem to be what impact the human race and its direction.

          Importance just seems relative to the group we are examining; I don't think it can be defined universally.
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          Feb 23 2012: Why not allow both the individual and the collective equal importance? Our reality is probably more like a hologram than a heirarchy.
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        Feb 23 2012: So I need to defend my stance that humanity is more important than individuals! :-)

        Roy, I might have corrected your "Mr Bismark" and said "It's actually Dr Bismark". But I consider my own achievements and my own understanding of the world small, random and inconsequential. It is my part in the network as a whole that makes me important.

        I am mortal and I will one day perish. Therefore, I consider myself valuable (to myself at least!) for only the brief period that I can work on this earth - but I consider the evolution and learning of the human race to be eternal and thus more important than myself.

        In the analogy of the human race being a giant brain, or human network, I as an individual, provide only a miniscule proportion of the total computing power and a tiny bit of the total memory. It is more important to the human race that there is diversity than it is to it that one individual, me, is around.

        To the individual, me, being alive is paramount, of course.
      • Feb 24 2012: I see it from a purely vibrational standpoint, before the energy is even interpreted as ideas or information. Then that is what actually gets passed, consumed or originated. The easiest way is to think of the energetic vibration in the body associated w emotional charge. Each emotion is felt at its own unique level.
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          Feb 24 2012: Edy, so you are equating information with a particular pattern of frequencies? My vibrational pattern would then be unique and determined (for example) by my emotional state? I might resonate with one person and not with another.... how much resonance there is between two people would be a measure of how much information flow is happening?

          Sorry! Lots of questions, but I am trying to improve the info flow between us (lol). I feel this is very relevant to the original question "How can we best help propagate worthy and novel ideas?"
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    Feb 22 2012: I'm definitely a maven. If I hear a good idea, then within a week I directly inform another 200 people at least. I'm a I have captive audiences. I also encourage others to tell people their good ideas also, and frequently have sessions where, in class, we share good websites, good places to eat, good books etc.
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    Feb 22 2012: as uninsightful as this answer may be, i think we have to balance all forces, as in biology. we all must be producers of information, as well as propagators of other information and consumers of more information. Its the only way for novel ideas to be understood, reviewed and accepted. we each have our talents where we produce novel information, we have our areas of interest where we propagate, and we have every day life where we consume information. the balance of this in each of us, allows the balance in the population and progression of information and novel ideas. how can we help propagate? i guess the more we consume, the more we are likely to propagate and potentially produce ourselves.
  • Feb 22 2012: As Luke stated before, I often come into thinking whether I'm an information consumer or producer. I guess it does not only matter the volume of information we may conduct, it is very important to be aware of the quality of the information we may receive or produce.

    You wrote about how information is produced and processed in our bodies, but this is a default setting of information transmission. People are even more complex than this organization as we handle information based on each one's set of values.

    I happen to like to think about myself as a FILTER. I analyze information carefully and spread it if I think is valuable info to share with people that may need it.

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      Feb 24 2012: Thanks for your comment!!!!

      Thank you for pointing out our complexity which I completely agree with.

      I love how you describe yourself to be a FILTER. It is similar to a propagator but a more specific classification. I feel the way to handle information not only depends on our set of values but also the situation to which we must apply those values. We may choose to do the opposite of what we normally would. Maybe to make your classification more specific, do you think we are conditional or situational filters?
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    Feb 28 2012: I totally agree with David Bismark's comment. I think in our modern world, we are all producers, propagators and consumers of information. We have very little choice in this matter.
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      Feb 28 2012: I disagree about humans not having a choice in this matter, and I don't think that's what David was getting at. Mentioning "ordinary people" does not imply these people do not have to try hard to be producers, propagators, and consumers of information. I think it takes a great deal of effort to become all three, and once people enter this "positive loop" it becomes easier to stay in this loop. I share similar beliefs as those who posted before me about being an information consumer until a certain point in life. After that point, it becomes easier to propagate and produce.
  • Feb 24 2012: I appreciate the questions Anne, they prompt deeper examination and that is welcomed. So...from vibrations, to emotions, to form ie ideas/ thoughts/ information, that is how I see it. There is a constant flow of life energy in and around all things. The bits that congeal and form into "me" and "you" are impacted by many factors. My personal intention is to understand myself at a vibrational level, then share that with others. So I guess that means bringing an experience of me to you and so on. We can discuss ideas or we can share experiences and become "one" so to speak. The second being so much more powerful and influential. The thing is, we are all doing this all the time, my suggestion is that we become conscious and directly intentional about it. From the one to one to the bigger collective. If i am being asked to align my thinking with a person, it would be with Ghandi's the change you want to see in the world. If you've ever had an experience of being in the presence of joy or love or raw intelligence or or or....then your own vibration is changed to that frequency opening up all potential of possibilities in you as well. So the new vibes in you bring unlimited new thoughts/ideas so exponential leaps are possible rather than from a place where I share only my ideas and you agree and adopt/copy them. Sort of like cloning vs. authentic individuation.

    I like this conversation so keep asking!
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    • Feb 22 2012: I do believe Inspiration is not a reaction. When you have your hand above a flame, the information speed from the fingertip to the brain it's smaller than the time that the arm do a response. So, it's possible to have non-mental reactions? Of course, all the time. Your heart is always pumping, our whole body it's always functioning. Biology and zoology make great effort to explain how everything works. When you talk about inspiration you are entering the real of "self determination" and "conscience". When we sleep, are we conscient? The questions that unveil the definition of inspiration are necessarily in the simbols. If a 10 year student makes something new to her like understanding the diference between a dramatic text and and poetic text cannot that be called inspirational? But if it's wrong in the eyes of the teacher? Which significative differences are whe aware of? Does an elefant can paint? No. Art needs order. Inspiration lies in understanding the domain, manage it and then be able to bring something new and relevant to society. Inspiration is like imagination a superior cognitive process. You can also diferenctiate from improvise in the sense that you only improvise when you are assured of you know.
  • Feb 22 2012: Nobody is ever just one of these things. Joanna, if you haven't come across the field of Knowledge Translation/Knowledge Exchange, you may be interested in doing some research in those areas. Decades ago, Everett Rogers came up with his theory of Diffusion of Innovations, which mapped out how knowledge is disseminated from producers to users (or fails to be disseminated). But it is know acknowledged that this is not a unidirectional phenomenon, and currently knowledge exchange is seen as a cycle, where research makes its way into practice, which generates more feedback that can be the subject of further research (I'm over-simplifying here; you can find knowledge exchange models that explain this in much more detail).
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    Feb 22 2012: Maybe biology is giving us the clue that information is holographic in nature. It is flowing in and out all the time, continually recreating complex systems like the physical body, social order, cyberspace. We are always both absorbing information and transmitting information without being aware of it. As we become more conscious or mindful of the true nature of information and ourselves, we hopefully will realise that every bit of information matters, even the bits we aren't consciously disseminating. For example, I am being happy and feeling connected to humanity as a whole right now, and so perhaps I am changing the hologram of human consciousness indirectly by adding some joy and unity to it....this makes every thought and feeling significant, whether or not it is written and sent over any material media like the internet.
    • Feb 23 2012: I like hearing the positive side of your example, that feeling happy and connected to society somehow 'betters' society, as a whole, somehow,,,
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        Feb 24 2012: vince... see? It works! (grin)
        • Feb 24 2012: I think of the sum of all the information we are exposed to as being more 'quantum', rather than holographic. I realise that word is more apt to describe computers and particle theory these days, but to me, this word seems more appropriate. The separate roles of producer, propagator and consumer somehow don't do justice to the whole experience of living within our consciousness, ecpecially since we interract with the world on so many levels that we are unaware of.
  • Feb 22 2012: My first and longest love in art has been the theater, and I've performed a number of functions within that form. What I've found is that collaboration is not exclusive to the production, but is required within the community around that production. Thus the relationship between consumer, producer, and propagator is intimately intertwined.
    I have been all three of these, sometimes without being entirely aware of a difference between them. I love watching theater (or film, or visiting a gallery, or, or...) and I am often inspired to make theater based on what I see. I will happily evangelize a particular company or show based on my enjoyment, seek to work with them, and continue to patronize their shows. I feel that the now-common ability to create, as an example, video, will create a similar atmosphere in the digital world and that this cycling process of consumption, propagation, and production will become far more common.
    What do we take from biology? Though my own understanding is imperfect, one concept that has resonated is homeostasis, which if I've understood it correctly is the idea that there is a balance (though not necessarily a perfectly even one) between the processes of an organism. There must be a balance in both a single person and in a community between production and consumption, or quality will be sacrificed for quantity, and the true thread of deliberate art will be lost.
  • Feb 22 2012: I have come to similar conclusions while fighting the inspiring phase vs the creation phase of any creative process.

    I find that if I am flooded with inspiration the effects are negative to the creation process. Moderation once again proves the key to a healthy relationship between consumption and production.

    The difference between electricity and this is that electricity accurately adjusts in reel time what it needs to stay current without ever taking too much or too little. We on the other hand have the option of controlling that floodgate. Adding a wild factor to an already fragile process makes for a definite art status result *when successful.

    Thank you for the inspiring comparison.
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      Feb 24 2012: Thanks for the comment!!!!

      I agree that moderation and balance is the key. I am curious as to how inspiration negatively affects your creativity. Is it because you are so caught up in admiration that you cannot produce or that you don't think you can compare?

      And I think your analogies are great, that we have the ability to override moderation which can be disadvantageous.
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    Feb 22 2012: i think the best ideas, the ones that have the biggest impact on people and their societies, deal with issues that many people directly relate to. Take the Occupy movement for example; they stand to make the world fairer to everybody and providing them with the same opportunities (or they stand for something similar, pardon me if I stated this wrongly).
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      Feb 24 2012: Thanks so much for your comment!!!!!

      I completely agree that the best ideas are ones that people can most empathize with but I also think that urgency is an important factor. There are many problems that people can associate with but if it doesn't affect them now or it doesn't have short term consequences the ideas will not be spread or acted upon. The Occupy movement based on the description you gave is something everyone should be involved it but many don't participate because of a lack of urgency of the problems to the masses.
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    Feb 28 2012: When I read this question, I think about Maclolm Gladwell's novel "The Tipping Point." He talks about the Few, the ones who are responsible for the explosion of a fad simply because in their social circles, they are the ones who distribute information to maximize its spread. I think this phenomenon is very interesting in that quite a few amount of people are responsible for spreading such large amounts of information. A propagator of information would be able to not only the source but receiver of information. I think that this would allow a person to be very through and well versed in a variety of different areas. Being a propagator gives you the opportunity to play a large role in comprehending information and then spread it to many others.
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    Feb 28 2012: That there is connection all the way along the process.

    The best ideas seem to be most enthusiastically shared between people that know each other and most effectively (it seems to me) face to face.

    Perhaps, despite ideas now being able to go global so quickly, a message is sometimes best conveyed in the traditional manner..
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    Feb 27 2012: I think we all like being the "consumer" of information (at least I know I do. That is why I spend hours watching TED Talks), but that is a very passive position. In my mind, the most important position here would be the "propagator," the position spreading the information (message). This world is certainly not short of ideas, including plenty of good quality ones. The issue is getting these ideas to "stick." The ability for an idea to propagate relies heavily on peoples' willingness to spread the idea. We need to know what is important to our audience and relate those elements to our ideas. This will adhere our ideas to them. The stronger a link we make, the more likely the ideas will spread.
  • Feb 27 2012: I d rather be a producer, a propagator and a consumer.

    Being only one of the three is in my opinion useless, unhealthy or dangerous.

    For example just sitting all day long in front of a tv is unhealthy. Propagating an idea that you have not produced and that you have not been making researches on, by consuming other people researches is clearly dangerous if you are charismatic. Producing information without feeding yourself from what others have done before is very pretentious and you usually end up doing something that has already been done.

    So to help propagate worthy and novel ideas, we need, in my opinion, to be critical consumers, then, appropriate ourself ethical ideas depending on who you are, what the world is now, and then if we can also modify good ideas to make them better, create variation or turn them in brilliant ideas, that is even greater!
  • Feb 26 2012: "Dissemination" is "wrong-thinking" in this frame of the "digital age". We must unite under an updated construct of how grow as a synergistic culture in which we add to a knowledge core rather than trying to spew out shards of it over masses as we have in the past with "dissemination". What is missing from today's media reality that can make this possible? Answer: a departure from the hegemony of alphanumerics that has defined the World Wide Web and the conventionalization of a "biological" or other metaphorical interface into the frontier called "cyberspace". The Internet/World Wide Web is not "cyberspace" and people don't use it that way. They continue to "disseminate" their messages through a non-broadcast medium in which it is only possible to save files and disseminate e-mails and other linear messages that try to steer people to a file on the net.

    Over the rest of this century we should be knocking ourselves out to push the remnants of the first generation of "web content" off the edge of the "flat Earth" because we have been primitive thinkers and users of a technological whole whose potential is far greater than we have seemed to gauge. Cyberspace is the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey and we the apes making a cacophony of noise trying to figure it it opens up some how and lets us in. Has anyone asked if the monolith is organic? Is it alive? If we can answer that much, we can start growing towards what it is. But if we ask only how we can "disseminate" ideas, we grovel for the bigger bone to knock each other over the head.
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    Feb 25 2012: I don't think there is always a fine line between being an information producer, propagator or consumer. I think that we are constantly propagating information without realizing it, simply through our daily communications with other people. When we produce information, I think it's impossible to share it without also reconsuming it-- because naturally the process spreading information requires reviewing it yourself.

    Teaching, which is a form of information producing and propagating, is necessarily learning teachers must understand a subject from so many aspects to be able to effectively teach to various learning styles.

    We are all information producers due to the internet-- for example google tracks all the moves we make, and our decisions on the internet to search things or look up things is a piece of information that is used to understand what people are looking at, interested in, likely to buy, etc..
  • Feb 25 2012: Those actually might be 2 important factors, I'm not quite sure. Perhaps also the feeling of everything has been done and the confusion of originality vs result vs inspiration what is originality what is copying what becomes a sense of vastness makes you realize timing and impact is much more important and then messes up the whole creative process as you are sidelining 300 000 km/s and not actually creating. the original purity of the idea gets polluted with the curiosity of "have similar things been done before?". Disadvantageous to say the least. :)

    Thank you and I hope this helped a bit? It is very hard to form sentences from these abstract concepts.
  • Feb 25 2012: I love the distinction between producing, consuming and propagating. As others have pointed out, propagating can (and should) involve some sort of filtering and curating.

    One way to deepen this discussion is to look at specific types of information, like scientific research, product designs or news stories. I am particularly interested in news because virtually anyone can be a citizen journalist given the right dose of will and resourcefulness. Should we doing more as individuals to find and broadcast the stories around us?
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      Feb 27 2012: Hi, Jose,
      I like how you thinking about specifying the types of information. For scientific research, I think everyone is a consumer and a propagator but it does not apply to producer. Before becoming a producer, one has to be absorb enough information(being a consumer) and then have some thought of ones own and willing to share(being a propagator) and finally generating products(being a producer). As a student which I see as a consumer, I feel the more information I consume, the harder it is to become a producer given how advanced the technology has become today
      • Feb 27 2012: Science is an interesting case because although true producers need to be experts, as you say, some sciences really benefit for participants who help provide or collect data. For example, biologists will call on citizens to help document local species of ants, bird, etc. Then the cognitive and behavioral sciences depend on volunteers to join experiments. Sometimes people also crowdsource and volunteer their data digitally, as in a study of ALS patients on a health-data website: This trend of increased participation has been branded citizen science:

        The Open Science movement also blurs the line between producers and consumers, because it gives non-experts a chance to contribute nuggets of genuine insight and innovation. So far our two best proofs of concept are the Polymath Project (proving a math theorem on an open blog) and Foldit (citizens playing a video game that identifies protein structures). It will be exciting to see what sort of progress emerges from these types of efforts. More on Open Science from a TEDster:
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    Feb 23 2012: I'm all three; I would not have it any other way.
  • Feb 23 2012: I believe that the informational approach to the creativity and creation in the ordinary world has at least one irrefutable flaw: the informational scheme can erase memory. Starting all over again at a defined clock time. We are also our memories. When you ask "can you have human networks without humans" i believe that was unfunctional. The systems tend to optimization and how "human network" is dealing with climate change, exponential growth of population, i don´t think we have archieved optimal funtioning of some kind. Understanding of our cognitive apparatus is conceive that we live in an ecological environment where we grow together. School is the most important source of knowledge in terms of methodological e scientific reality-knowing. Is the only place where things are "right" and "wrong". Anywhere else the evaluation is mixed and biased. Today the metacognitive understanding of how do we organize and assess our own knowledge, has been shown fertil but still forgets the content and the context of learning. We don't learn always in the same way. The organization of classes in age criteria is useful to someone, but it is it to children? Where is the personal time of learning?. We arrange our strategies as we grow. Piaget conceives an bio-determined explorer. Vygotsky with the Zone of Proximal Development shows that we can be beyond retroactive being proactive with tutor guidance. Is the things that we can do with we learn rather the amount of the school book we can memorize that give meaning to our learning / behavior.
    Creation, innovation and creativity i believe it focus on the way we recognize and understand the significative diferences. A study in talent shows that in 200 teachers of various domains when asked to evaluate the talent of the autors, from 11 works, mixing famous colective art with outsider art (low QI) they couldn't tell the difference and won one of the outsider art works. That show us that everyone can be creative. Thank u all 4 the debate
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    Feb 23 2012: Hi Joanna,
    nice topic!

    I think we all tend to become producer.
    Today, social media transformed everyone into a little producer of data, or a bigger one.

    It reminds me the Zawinski's law about the softwares which said:
    "Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can."
    Fortunately, we wouldn't be replaced ourself, but finally, it is the same concept for people.
    We all tend to become producer progressively after to have been only consumer, then a bit propagator.

    It is like a unspeciation, I mean, we are becoming less dedicated but more global in our social behaviour.
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    Feb 23 2012: I am definitely a consumer. But as an Idea Programmer and Information Architect, I love to produce ideas those are sustainable and implemented to make this world a better place to live in.
  • Feb 23 2012: I like this question very much. If anybody who likes my answer or feels passionately about this question can connect with me on Facebook to.

  • Feb 23 2012: I love to consume. Actually, I explore, consume and communicate. Its a fantastic experience. I tried creating. But I found that the process is very slow in terms of learning and evolving. So, now I consume a lot of variety, propagate/communicate it to diverse minds, and sometimes facilitate creation/production by supervision. I am enjoying this thoroughly.

    The reason I am more comfortable with consumption is probably because I feel fascinated by everything, and thus cannot probably stick to one or two things. Sticking to a thing or two is probably necessary for creation. I find it also easy to propagate/communicate because I remain fascinated by what I consume, and thus remain in the urge to infect others with that fascination.

    I propose here a simple model of the world/society where one third produce/create, one third propagate/communicate, and the remaining third consume/comprehend. This model (division of labor) may be interpreted to be based on complex network/complexity, since we need minimum of three o the other t(A, B & C) nodes to get a "closed" system, and if each node is complementary two, the system would survive (evolve with stability).

    Fanciful thinking, but food for some. :)

    • Feb 27 2012: I think of myself as mainly a consumer. However, I would rather be an information producer and be responsible for amazing discoveries such as that of the related TED talk in which Ed Boyden figures out a way to turn on and off specific neurons to great medical benefit.
      Of course, being only a consumer is not really helpful to humanity in creating new ideas. I think it is a great that you are propagating the information you consume to others while actually enjoying doing so. In fact, you even support information creation by overseeing it. This shows that even if one does not want to be a creator that they can still support producing meaningfully.
  • Feb 23 2012: OMG, i strongly feel this conversation would change my view of social media. Honestly, I got really worrying about my creativity because I do read other people's digital life everyday. Sometimes, I may just look for another "like" button. Sometime, I may just be so bias towards my way of entertainment. Sometimes, I just don't feel doing anything but FACEBOOK...Well, I should just remind myself from now on: it is never too late to learn, so it should never too late to become an active producer, like any TED Speaker. Thanks for having this conversation
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      Feb 23 2012: Perhaps a first, small step is to be a conscious consumer - to make note of the great ideas that you encounter and to stop reading stuff that you realise don't give you anything. That would free up capacity to find new stuff instead.

      This is something I've been going through for the past few years. I've started to be conscious about what I read and when there is something that fits into MY puzzle, that gives ME an insight, I use Evernote to save that information, the blog post or just the idea for later. I also tend to share these things on Facebook and Twitter.
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        Feb 23 2012: David, wonderful comment...especially: " I've started to be conscious about what I read and when there is something that fits into MY puzzle, that gives ME an insight, I use Evernote to save that information,"

        So tell me, because I have been following this conversation for a couple of first instinct was to say I am ALL THREE.......would this be possible?

        I appreciate your insight David. Thanks.
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    Feb 23 2012: We all do all three automatically. It is valuable to consider how purposefully we want to do each. Time and attention constraints suggest that we be strategic in what we consume and also in what we propagate, for example by attending to the quality and usefulness of the content.
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    Feb 22 2012: Producing news depends on the quality of that, it's not simple to produce good news, I think propagating is simplier than that because if I know something that I consider interesting for everybody, it won't cost me nothing to share it. Consumming is important, but (alwalys a "but") we have to distinguish what is fruitful for us and what can we obtain of that news. Good topic. Congratulations.
  • Feb 22 2012: I think all great ideas are memetic and the 'meme' that thrives is the one that exists in a conducive social economic and political situation a society finds itself in. I think that all information producers and propagators are inevitably consumers as well.
  • Feb 22 2012: My english is a little bit rusty, so...

    How can biology inspire us as we disseminate "ideas worth spreading?
    I believe that the biological approach is not the best way to understand the definition of ideas. In psychology, we learned that meaning is something that is learned by behavioral observation, in Bolwby, and by signs/simbols that we choose to be the expressions of our culture. We value money, time, everything. The totems in Freud. This is the facet of the idea. Biology is the realm of biological understanding of nature.

    As we consider our roles as information producers, information propagators, or an information consumers?
    I believe all the roles have a possibility. I believe we understand that we live in a social society in a sense that we choose not live in a monastry in touch with divinity inside or outside of us. We live in a society that relishes in workdays, family bussines, choosing the best knife to prepare the most romantic dinner. It's our behavior that fills the role that society choose to us.

    How can we best help propagate worthy and novel ideas?
    The best way to propagate worthy and novel ideas is to use creativetly technic knowledge in a certain domain, give meaning to the idea and aiming ecologicaly and inclusively in the positive consequences of the idea.

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    Feb 22 2012: i conduce
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      Feb 24 2012: Thanks for the comment!

      What about propagate?