The Wealth of Experience
The reproduciblity of experiments allows scientists to build on each other's objective results. How might we similarly share our personal experience as a public wealth? Is there a way for us to show each other how we have acquired or are acquiring our subjective experience? The Minciu Sodas online laboratory, http://www.ms.lt, serving and organizing independent thinkers, is tackling these questions in developing an online learning environment for the Wales Institute for Community Currencies. In particular, the goal is to help people understand their "money mind" (the various ways they think about money) and design community currencies for themselves that might best reflect and serve their principles. The emphasis on personal grounding of knowledge is especially important in community currency where theoretical positions may be quite removed from practical realities. To what extent are we able to find universal forms for personal outlooks? More than eighty participants of Minciu Sodas have been able to identify a "key concept" in their life which for them encompasses all other values, is the deepest value in their life, and they feel comfortable identifying themselves with. Almost forty have one or more "investigatory question" that they don't know the answer to, but intend to answer, and are interested for others to help them regarding. The key concepts and investigatory questions help people appreciate each other's vantage points and maturity, support each other directly, and recognize whose leadership is relevant where. A subsequent challenge is to foster different modes of self-learning: taking a stand, following through and reflecting. It seems that different types of support is warranted at these different stages, so that, for example, one can test one's principles thoroughly and conclusively without second guessing them. A major difficulty is that people are rarely conscious of the relationships between the modes in their learning process. Even when they can make explicit the principles they live be, they often find it difficult to illustrate their principles, and especially, how living by their principles yields outcomes which reenforce them. Currently, we are working on techniques, such as collection of personal stories and anecdotes, which would help document principles and the outcomes which validate them. The goal is to accumulate first hand material that could be studied to uncover patterns, in the sense of architect Christopher Alexander, that resolve tensions amongst sets of conflicting principles. Taken together, the principles would explain why, the patterns would explain how, and the observed outcomes would explain what we are experiencing. First hand subjective experience validates such knowledge as meaningful for one of us, hence important for all of us. Without such personal validation, many recommendations may be empty, contrived, counterproductive and even harmful. At this point, it is still unclear how to elicit and present personal experience in a format that would make clear how one personally acquired it and how others might likewise.