Posted by: crudbasher | May 27, 2011

Deconstructing Disaggregation – Part 2

Yesterday I talked a bit about a video I watched on TED. The message of the video was that sources of information we are getting online are filtering out what they think we don’t want to see. I agree this is happening but am not convinced it is a bad thing as long as they are clear they are doing it.

This lead to a deep discussion about disaggregation. I keep coming back to this idea of the Internet as a disaggregator.  Many people would say that the Internet is a fantastic way to bringing people together, and that’s true. The missing part of that in the process of forging these new relationships, old ones are being disassembled. To see this effect, let me illustrate with a YouTube video I had posted a few months back.

This video from 1947 shows the very labor intensive process to make a book. If you step back from the process though, what it is really showing you is how to get your ideas to a large group of people.

The people involved in that video are as follows:

  • Writer
  • Typesetter
  • Page Composer
  • Page Framer
  • Copper Page Operator
  • Wax Page Dipper
  • Plate Cutter
  • Ready Man
  • Printing Press Operator
  • Page Cutter
  • Folding Machine Operator
  • Trimmers
  • Binders

That makes the book. For distribution, add these people:

  • Truck drivers to get it to a warehouse
  • Workers in the warehouse
  • Truck drivers to get it to the store
  • Sales people.

The last person we should include of course, is the actual reader! This intricate process happens in a lot of industries, such as newspapers, and the music industry. However, consider the bigger picture. This process is for the distribution of ideas, not books. The blog you are reading can do that. In fact it can deliver a personalized experience. Therefore we don’t need all those parts today do we? For this blog we can disaggregate that process and just keep the parts we need.

So here’s who we need involved now:

  • Writer
  • Reader

That’s what the Internet has wrought.

So how does this all fit with Education? 

Finally we can move on to education. Education also is about the distribution of ideas isn’t it? You can also create a long list of the people involved in the process. The scary part is, the list is even longer today than it was in 1947!

But how many people do you actually need for learning? Only 2.

  • Teacher
  • Student

Everything else is overhead devoted to getting those two people in the same place at the same time. But with online learning you don’t even have to do that! Once physicality is taken out of the equation, you can lose just about every part of the massive school machine.

You can apply this thinking to other parts of the school process too. For example, degrees are aggregations of learning. There are many problems with them though. For example, they don’t tell you what the student actually knows and to what level of skill. They are designed to work for a hypothetical students, not for each student individually.

Once you start taking classes online, you can disaggregate degrees too. Break them apart and build your own course of study with teachers from around the world. You can find the best teachers, not just in an absolute sense, but the best for you.

Don’t get hung up on the organizations we have used to aggregate resources to deliver these products. Instead, step back and think about the fundamental relationships that are occurring. These are the ones that will survive in their most pure form. Everything else will be disaggregated, the fat will be stripped away, and what remains will be personalized and incorporated into our daily lives.

This is the Stormfront of change that is rapidly approaching.

Coming Storm (cc) ~jjjohn~


  1. […] Update: Part 2! […]

  2. Great writing, Andrew! I am the reader….

    • Heh hi Karlene, thanks for stopping by!

  3. “Once physicality is taken out of the equation, you can lose just about every part of the massive school machine.” The only two that are left are teacher and student and they can truly move independently of the system.

    I agree that our purpose is for the “distribution of ideas” and that we, as educators, can accomplish that purpose standing alone, or should I say standing apart from the massive system. And as students, we have the power to choose the best educator for us as individuals.

    The fundamental relationships are the ones that drive me each day. Even though I’m not now in the classroom my teacher heart is tuned to those lifelong learners around me and I share, as I always have, my opinions, knowledge, and expertise.

    • I hear you Jen! It seems like we are entering a period where many things will shift, but the relationship between a teacher and a student will remain.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  4. […] Deconstructing Disaggregation – Part 1 Part 2 […]

  5. […] creating systems to link authors directly with readers. I first noted this several years ago in Deconstructing Disaggregation – Part 2. Here are some of my […]

  6. […] reader. There has to be no middleman. This is Disaggregation. In fact I wrote about just this in Deconstructing Disaggregation Part 2 a few years […]

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