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Congratulations on making it to the end of 2023! I wish you a restful, reflective, and restorative end-of-year season, however you mark the occasion.
It's been a big year for Grokkist and for me personally, and I'm looking forward to taking some time out for leisure while letting it all sink in.
Here are a few Grokkist highlights in 2023:
- We launched our first two cohort-based courses (Intro to Philosophy for Ecological Action and Find Your Red Thread), with more than 200 people enrolled
- We created our Grokkist Network community site and brought on David as our part-time community manager
- We kicked off our community events program, including social 'grok cafes' hosted by Emily, a second symposium, member-facilitated workshops and lunch-and-learns
- Nathan came on board formally as a co-founder and we had our first in-person Grokkist meetup in New York
- We reupholstered our website and soft-launched our membership tiers (very recently), finding a structure that we hope creates extra value for paid members while allowing us to continue to give away almost everything we do for free in the spirit of public good.
I will remember 2023 as the year Grokkist truly went from 'me' to 'we'. Thank you for being here and coming along for the ride with us.
This is our last newsletter for the year. See you in 2024!
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From the Grokkist Press
Articles, videos, podcasts and other creations
'Tis the gifting season, so it's fitting that my brand new essay is all about gifts of life-changing learning experiences. Read or listen below.
I'm also re-gifting Nathan's musical and philosophical introspections on obsession, OCD and overthinking. Read/listen/watch below.
🎙 27 gifts of life-changing learning and one radical conclusion – an audio essay | S3E9
If you could gift someone a life-changing learning experience, what would it be and why? We discuss the combined wisdom of 27 of my podcast guests and what it means for how we approach the practice of education.
Obsession & Process: How Philosophy Helps Me Deal with OCD
by Nathan Dufour
This essay chronicles my experience with OCD through a philosophical lens, and examines how “Process Philosophy” may offer a means of thinking one’s way out of overthinking.
You can read/listen to this essay and watch the accompanying rap video.
From the Grokkist Network
Events, courses and news from our community
Community updates and highlights
Through our Reimagine Education portal, we like to showcase the efforts of fellow grokkists who are doing interesting, innovative and worthwhile work in education.
See our latest Reimagine Education profile below. If you want one of these, reply to this email or send me a DM for details.
Playtos Miniversity | Reimagine Education Profile
Playtos Miniversity is the world's first Beyond School for children at the age of 10–14, bridging the gap between traditional knowledge-based formal schooling and competency-based learning revolving around three fundamental and far-reaching pillars; life, leadership and entrepreneurship.
Based on the central method of Socratic Dialogues, at Playtos Miniversity learning is facilitated through exploring fundamental questions, stimulating discussions and stories.
In addition, the Playtos pedagogy puts the emphasis on experiential learning through engaging and fun exercises that makes learning more interactive and pattern-agnostic. This is better achieved while enabling the children to enjoy the process with the community and take in information at their own time and pace as it gets synthesized into knowledge and wisdom.
- Catch up on the recording and resources from our recent Lunch and Learn: Strategies for a Circular Economy with Vincent Ayotte
- A roundup of improvements we made to the Grokkist Network in November
Upcoming events and meetups
We are a global community – events listed below are shown in the host's timezone.
🗓️ Tue 12 December | 10.30am–12.30pm PT (view in your timezone)
🆓 Open to all
Facilitated by Emily McGill
Welcome to Grok Café. Our goal is to bring the grokkist community together in an informal and comfortable setting, unearthing connections and interests between participants.
Whether you’re a regular or a first-timer, come along and chill out to share a heart space, info-dump each other's passions, and discover new friends while discussing whatever you want.
Facilitated by Jasmine Samra
Welcome to Ecosophy Café – a relaxed and informal social space for current and past participants of the Intro to Philosophy for Ecological Action course to discuss and connect over shared ecosophical interests.
Theme: Let's grok on hierarchies!
We'll let the conversation flow where it wills, but some guiding questions are below to spark some ideas:
- What is hierarchy? How does it differ from other forms of organization?
- What notions of hierarchy are implicit in the way we discuss ecology and the role of human beings with respect to other beings in the environment? Do these notions clarify or muddy our ecosophical understanding?
- Can hierarchies be just?
- What does an ecocentric, as opposed to an anthropocentric, society look like?
- Where in our lives are hierarchies present? What are our experiences within them?
Further Together Workshop | Pain, Perils and Pitfalls of Promoting One's Work
Facilitated by Danu Poyner and Nathan Dufour
Every grokkist who has their own thing going on is familiar with navigating the pain, perils and pitfalls of promoting their work.
Maybe time spent promoting takes away from time spent creating. Maybe you are tired of being buffeted by the howling and ever-changing winds of social media. Maybe you're overwhelmed by the technological and logistical practicalities of putting your stuff out there. Maybe you've built it but they haven't yet come. Maybe the whole thing simply gives you the ick.
Our Further Together workshop series designed for grokkists who want to experience the joy of pursuing their own quest in the company of a community of practice who are all doing the same.
Bring your frustrations, confusions, pet peeves, wish-it-weren’t-so’s, fears, and musings about marketing and promoting your work. Give them a good airing among friends, then release them to the winds as we help each other move forward in a loving circle of shared support.
Danu and Nathan will present practical wisdom on promotion and content strategy for the creator economy, and everyone is encouraged to bring a potluck resource (e.g. a book, article, video) or a piece of practical wisdom to impart so we all leave feeling richer and lighter than when we arrived.
We updated our Ecosophy Projects Hub with featured student projects from our third cohort of Intro to Philosophy for Ecological Action. Our fourth cohort will kick off in February 2024 - details here.
Our current Find Your Red Thread cohort wraps up next week. I've put a lot of effort into revamping the materials over the course of the year since the first test-run, and am really thrilled with how things have turned out this time and how deeply transformational the overall experience is becoming for all involved. Find Your Red Thread will return for another cohort in early 2024.
Assorted awesome links, just because.
#1 - 52 things unusual things we learned in 2023
Every year, 'reformed journalist' Tom Whitwell posts 52 things he learned this year, a weird and wild assortment of stuff that happened while we weren't paying attention. Examples from this year include: psychedelic cryptography as a way of concealing messages so that only people who’ve taken LSD can receive the messages. Fake belly button temporary tattoos that make it look like you have longer legs have been described as “the most successful invention of 2023". Ukrainian defenders printed out giant 1:1 life-size aerial photographs of damaged airfields. Once the site is repaired, they hang the images over the sites so they look damaged and not worth attacking again.
#2 - A wormhole to fame - inside the viral TikTok machine
Whether you're trying to keep pace with the chaotic nature of the creator economy from the inside, or merely watching on with bemusement, this whirlwind but detailed behind-the-scenes tour will make things clearer while making your head spin. It's told through the story of Ursus Magna, a 20-something talent manager and TikTok whisperer who is on the frontlines of hustling young content creators to fame and virality through his aptly named talent agency, 25/7 Media. Evidently, it's all about influencing the algorithm, not the audience:
The volume of work required to stay in the algorithms’ good graces can certainly be daunting. A 25/7 Media creator named Nixxi, who derives most of her revenue from her OnlyFans subscription fees, told me she is urged to post across multiple platforms every day, and that she uploads three folders’ worth of content to her manager’s server every Sunday so that posts can be scheduled in advance. Another client, an Oregon-based musician who goes by 93feetofsmoke, said that he was aiming to release around 50 solo songs this year and produce as many as 70 for other artists. “You can’t take weekends off,” he told me. “Like, I don’t take the weekends off, ever.”
In this fashion, a lot of people "become successful because of doubt and revenge" and then burn up "after they discover that the fame they crave can’t fix their deeper problems." The whole article is like reading a slowly unfolding car crash.
If you're hungry for book-length sociological treatment of the social media age, you may want to look at Extremely Online, a recently published and well researched (but somewhat surface level if you've been living it) history of online social platforms and creators by Taylor Lorenz. (🙏 Jon B)
#3 - Comedy Wildlife Photography awards
A collection of amusing wildlife photography – exactly what it says on the tin. My personal favourite is the delightfully languid 'paint me like one of your French macaques' picture right at the end.
#4 - The state of play in AI image generation
"In 1999, French cultural theorist Paul Virilio wrote, "When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution..."
If you've taken your eye off generative AI in the past few months, advancements have been swift and staggering on all fronts. This is a good catch-up piece that covers where the technology is at now, with lots of examples, and also the evolving discussion on copyright and public domain, real-world use cases, and implications for those working in visual arts.
#5 - Respecting Tasmania's Giant Trees
An ecologist and filmmaker husband-and-wife team based in Hobart, Australia have created an impressive library of engaging and information-dense content to aid in public education and the conservation of giant trees and their forests.
Efforts include a comprehensive Big Tree Register with stunning photography that aims to "elevate Tasmania’s giant trees into the national cultural consciousness with pride and respect", and a documentary supported by academic research in which they invited a group of 15 professional tree climbers and carbon specialists from across Australia and New Zealand to visit the Huon Valley Grove of Giants and measure how much carbon was stored in the forest. "The goal was to quantify yet again why this forest should not be logged and we won."
A parting thought...
"The deaf don't believe in silence. Silence is the invention of the hearing"
― Ilya Kaminsky
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