We Rep [Ideas]

Introducing Asymmetric Literacy 02

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Background: Literacy was once considered as the ability to sign your name and read the bible in Latin. Times have changed. There are now a multiplicity of literacies relating to all aspects of life- presenting copious amounts of choices, opportunities and potential outcomes.

What new literacies are likely to emerge from the conditions present in today’s context?
How does literacy impact one’s ability to access and participate meaningfully in socio-cultural-economic systems?
What is the role of new literacies in the knowledge/experience age?
What can we learn from so-called pre-literate contexts?

1) Literacy = Empowerment
2) Literacy = Imagination Potential
3) Lifestyle = Literacy
4) Imagination = Empowerment

Note: We view system ecologies as networks of dilemmas presenting multiple choices-possibilities and potential outcomes.


US Army War College credo, describes the qualities of our present context as being volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). One might suggest that this context has long existed and is more of a tradition rather than a trend. Meaning that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity within our systems and our environments has, for the most part, been the inspirational source and medium enabling for the emergence of literacy, imagination, innovation and change.

It is not our technologies but our literacies and their resulting imaginations that enable us to compete, achieve and survive.

It is beyond question that we do come to know many things indirectly, and that there appears to be an admixture of the indirect in every acquisition of knowledge. – J.M. Bochenski The Methods of Contemporary Thought

Literacy is a transformative “tool.” Literacies empower both the means and capacities required to identify and transform choices and opportunities in our environment into outcomes. Each literacy provides its own means of access and understanding through its own forms of knowledge acquisition and expression. Historically, literacies have emerged and evolved alongside social, cultural and technological change. The pace of this change is increasing, as are its implications on all aspects of human socio-cultural-economic achievement. The speed and ease with which we can now move from concept to percept has “catalyzed” the need for increased imagination and new forms of creative thinking around process and purpose.

An asymmetric approach to literacy would encourage development and refinement of unorthodox forms of knowledge acquisition and expression, in contrast and relative to, the symmetrical contexts of the learner/practitioner. Asymmetric literacy is acceptance and traversal of possibility beyond defined, practiced or codified limitations; in the ability to exploit and affect the most potential from the least characteristics latent or manifest within a system; and in promoting the ability to shape one’s own system of possibility and context rather than being shaped by another’s.

This form of literacy might emerge from a self-awareness and lifestyle that increasing one’s access to original experiences which people have had no prior contact or exposure. These experiences often result in obtaining new knowledge in turn augmenting one’s “scope of awareness and interpretation. It is assumed that the metaphors presented within these original experiences would help to fill in and bridge the gaps left over from symmetrical states of being and build a more complete and robust palette for the imagination. The goal of which would be to extend the breadth and depth of empowerment in individuals and organizations.

Conversely asymmetric literacy might focus on better understanding the characteristics and meanings of symmetries, patterns, codified limitations, traditions and conventions, whereby the asymmetrically literate would develop a careful appreciation for structure, harmony and balance in light of contributing and extending new benefits to the greatest amount of people.

How do we increase the capacity for individuals and organizations to identify- test and explore the conditions and possible experiences we wish to elicit from this atypical resource?


What does it enhance?
Scope of possibility; empowerment
What does it obsolesce?
Symmetric Literacy; Perceived limitations
What does it retrieve?
Choice and Opportunity
What does is flip into?
Symmetric Literacy


Written by rthomas

November 27, 2009 at 6:48 pm

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