Interview with Multiple Intelligences genius Howard Gardner and co-author Katie Davis discussing how apps are creating an Apps generation
Part 1 of 2, of the Transcript of the radio
interview Multiple Intelligences Genius Howard Gardner--
Are Apps Producing an App Generation?
Interview Guests: Howard Gardner and Katie
authors of The
App Generation; How Today's Youth Navigate Identity,
Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World
Gardner is a rock star-- to hundreds of thousands of teachers,
to psychologists and to me, because of his development of the
Multiple Intelligences theory. Dr. Gardner is Hobbs
Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School
of Education and senior director of Harvard Project Zero, an
educational research group. He is renowned as father of the theory
of multiple intelligences.
Davis is assistant professor, University of Washington
Information School, where she studies the role of digital media
technologies in adolescents' lives.
Interview transcript- Part 1
R.K.: Welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show,
WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township New Jersey reaching metro
Philly and South Jersey, available online through iTunes or at
Opednews.com/podcasts, with an "s."
My guests tonight are Dr. Howard Gardner and Katie
Davis. They're the authors of The App Generation: How Today's
Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital
Word. Howard Gardner is a rock star to hundreds of thousand
of teachers, to psychologists, and me, because of his development
of the Multiple Intelligences Theory. See Dr. Gardner is
Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate
School of Education and senior director of Harvard Project Zero, an
educational research group.
Katie Davis is assistant professor University of
Washington Information School where she teaches the role of Digital
Media Technologies in Adolescent's Lives. Thank you so much
for being here.
H.G.: Thank you.
K.D.: Thank you.
R.K.: Now, Bottom Up Radio is based on the idea that
we're in a transition from a Top Down to a Bottom Up world that is
affecting us in all aspects of our lives: our culture, our
politics, even the way people's brains work. So when I saw
this new book of yours I was very excited about it and one of
my goals is to have you frame some of your ideas in a Bottom Up --
Top Down approach if that's possible.
Another goal is to discuss your Theory of Multiple
Intelligences, which is what drew me to your book, Apps
Generation. So I'd like you to start out talking a little bit
about Multiple Intelligences, and what the concept is, what new
ideas you've had about it, and then we'll jump in to the Apps
Generation and spend most of our time talking about that. Can
you begin with that?
H.G.: Sure. I'm by training a psychologist and
literally thirty years ago I published a book about multiple
intelligences called Frames of Mind, and as a psychologist I was
critiquing the notion that there's just a single continuum of smart
to average to dumb and if a person is smart in one thing he or she
should be smart in everything and if they're not smart in one thing
they're going to be dumb in everything, and the Theory of Multiple
Intelligences claims that human beings have several rather
independent forms of thinking.
When we talk about intelligence we usually mean
people who do well in school and that's fine but it's certain kind
of intelligences, it doesn't predict who is going to be good in the
workplace, who is going to be entrepreneurial, who is going to be
artistic, who is going to be mechanical, etcetera. That idea
has become pretty well known in education now; Dan Goldman's work
in emotional intelligence is very close to my own interest in
interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, work and learning
styles -- I don't particularly like that term but is also
recognition that kids learn in different ways and the teachers
should be attuned to those ways.
I developed these ideas long before I was thinking
about the digital media but once the web developed and then web 2.0
and then increasingly small devices, pads and smart phones and so
on, I realized that this is a boon to multiple intelligence's kind
of thinking because if you just have a teacher and a text book that
really limits the modes of delivery and the extent to which
you can individualize, but now anybody who sayd there's only one
way to teach algebra or only one way to teach Spanish would be seen
as being ludicrous because we know we can present things
graphically, we can present them artistically, we can do it in more
hands-on kinds of ways, using social networks, mashing things and
so on, so, even though MI theory was developed in a pre-digital
era, it's very compatible with Katie and my interests and how kids
might be deeply affected by living in an app-rich environment.
R.K.: Okay, and last question about multiple
intelligences before we jump in to the book, what, how many
different kinds of intelligences are there now and what are your
newest thoughts that have emerged in recent years in terms of the
H.G.: Sure. Initially I listed seven
intelligences and these were based on a lot of research ranging
from historical and anthropological investigations to what we knew
about the nervous system, and even a bit about the behavior
genetics, thirty years ago and that list I can just give you is
linguistic intelligence, logical intelligence, musical
intelligence, spacial intelligence, bodily intelligence, and two
kinds of humanly related intelligence, inter-understanding of
others, and intra-understanding of yourself.
Since then I've officially anointed another
intelligence which I call the naturalist intelligence, that's the
capacity to make significant distinctions in the world of nature
between one plant and another, one animal and another, one cloud
configuration and so on, and I've talked more speculatively about
an existential intelligence which I call the intelligence of big
questions like, "what's it all about?" "why are we here?" "what is
death?" "what is love?" and what I call pedagogical intelligence
which means not simply knowing how to do something well or how to
understand it well but how to teach it to other people who may not
have that skill or knowledge.
But speaking honestly I am no longer in the
intelligence branding business so to me it's important to say that
people have different kinds of minds, they have different
strengths, and my list is a good, opening list; but I don't claim
to be doing benchtop research on that anymore.
R.K.: Okay, so can each of you tell me a story that
exemplifies the message of your book? I really believe that
stories tap in to reaching people in ways that just discussion or
just the words don't do it. So can you start with a
H.G.: Katie, why don't you start with a story?
Maybe one we begin the book with or something like that.
K.D.: Sure, absolutely. So, in our book,
The App Generation, we have a sort of running dialogue that
permeates the book and it's a dialogue amongst three generations so
it's Howard, myself, and my little sister Molly who is quite a bit
younger than I am, as she likes to point out she is seventeen, I'm
thirty four, and Howard is a little bit older than that so
throughout the book, Molly -
R.K.: Can you say how old you are, Howard?
H.G.: Yes, I'm now seventy, I was two years younger
when we actually recorded that conversation so I was sixty
K.D.: Right and so throughout the book we sort of
reflect on the way each of us has come of age with the technologies
of our time and when we were talking with Molly she told us a story
about some classmates in her school, in high school -- she has
since moved on to college -- but there was a practice at her school
of the senior high school girls going on Facebook and "marrying"
the freshman boys. Now these were the popular senior girls
marrying the up and coming star athletes among the freshman boys,
and often, and this was done very symbolically, so often times
these girls in real life were dating the senior boys who were on
the same sports teams as the freshman boys they were marrying.
And Howard and I were taken aback by this practice
and this story, because it was totally foreign to us and we were
trying to figure out what's going on here, so we had Molly kind of
unpack it for us a little bit and we realized this practice really
touched on three key themes that run through our books and our
research over the last six years, and those are what we call the
Three I's, of identity, intimacy, and imagination which are three
areas of experience which are particularly salient for young people
as they grow up. But we looked at this story and we thought
wow, you know? There's a lot of interesting things going with
respect to how these young people are presenting themselves.
The identities, as married symbolically on Facebook,
that we could use to talk about identity and what that looks like
in a digital world. Of course relationships, this was not a
true intimate relationship that they were displaying but an act of
some sort of relationship, a marker of peer group affiliation that
is a practice, the way young people mark their peer affiliations
online is very deliberate, very symbolic, so we saw evidence of
that in this practice. Finally, imagination and creativity,
you know this is all about a symbolic, creative act so it allowed
us to explore what does creative expression look like in this new
R.K.: And you refer to it in the book as an act of
public performance which I think is an important part of the
identity aspect of what you've described.
K.D.: Absolutely. So that's one theme which
really emerged quite strongly when we were looking at identity,
that so much of young people's identities are very much public and
performances. They're very performative and you can really
see this in the emergence of "selfies" that kids take with smart
phones and constant status updates and profile "likes", all of this
sort of converges to really underscore this performative aspect of
identity and truly kind of see one's identity as a brand that you
have to manage and cultivate carefully and present as fully formed
Which means that all of your attention and focus on
this outward exterior and this brand that you are cultivating,
comes at the cost of focusing inward on your inner life and your
thoughts and really exploring deeply your own feelings and who you
R.K.: Okay. Howard, how about a story from you?
H.G.: [laughs] Well I want to just talk about
something that kind of shook me up and made me realize how
different it is to grow up today than it was half a century ago and
that is that, nowadays, many kids have never gotten lost. Not
only have they got a device that gets carried with them that has
many different kinds of maps and routes as they can pull up,
but many of them have parents who are monitoring where they are and
who can get in touch with them at all times.
We have this phrase of "helicopter parents" and again
doing a contrast with my generation we used to go away to college
or go abroad, and you might contact your parents once a week or
once a month; my mother, who is now one hundred and two still says
when I'm on the phone, "I have to get off now it's getting too
expensive", this is not something we think about very much
So I realize that not only do many kids not have the
sensation of getting lost or being distanced, but that this is also
a metaphor for how many kids nowadays think about their lives so
Katie and I came up with this notion of the super app, an app is
basically a convenient way to get something done online, it's an
application, you want to know where to go and eat or how to get
somewhere, or you want to check on the status of something or
somebody, but the tendency now is to see your life as a set of
apps., one after another. You have to go to a certain school,
take certain courses, have certain majors, have certain
internships, and then when you graduate school you have to get a
certain kind of job and maybe it's okay to do Teach for America for
two years before you get that job but basically then you want to go
and get a well paid job in New York or San Francisco or some other
city, and of course life doesn't work out that way.
You can't plan your whole life, at least not yet, but
if you've always thought that your life was planned and if as Katie
and I discovered after interviewing literally over a hundred adults
who work with kids, kids are very risk averse, that is they don't
want to stick their neck out unless they're told it's okay to do
so, they can be in for a very demoralizing experience when the
super app doesn't work out, when the job doesn't work out, when the
internship doesn't work out or, to be a little parochial, when you
post something which would be better not posted and that comes to
dog you even years afterwards.
So this notion that just as the individual app is
quick and efficient and gets you where you want to go, if you think
about life like this, this can be very risky in the sense that if
you've never faced risk, when finally, something doesn't work out,
you really don't know what to do, so this whole thing was quite a
shock to me.
R.K.: Okay, so I want to throw a quote at you from a
talk you gave at an RSA forum in England recently and then a brief
quote from your book and then we're going to get more in depth on
So you said that, in a question and answer session
that the " the digital explosion/revolution is as disruptive as the
invention of writing and the invention of print" and "the
disruption in education, which I never thought would happen, has
happened and is different." That was what you said in the
comments, in the discussion section. Then you wrote in your
book near the end, "the birth of writing did not destroy human
memory though it probably brought to the fore different forms of
memory for different purposes, the birth of printing did not
destroy beautifully wrought graphic works, nor did it undermine all
hierarchically organized religions."
You go on to say "for every major medium of
communication that began as the product of human imagination one
can tell a story of how mega-corporations eventually came to
dominate the media and to determine how human beings interacted
with them." A little further on you say, "we must also
acknowledge the possibility of powers even greater than those
associated with mega-corporations and powerful political entities."
That made me think about a recent conference I
attended organized by a Russian '.com' millionaire in his early
thirties who wants to live forever and he brought together people
who have the technology to make it happen. One of them is
Theodore Berger, he's at the University of Southern California,
L.A., and he has invented a working hippocampal prosthesis which he
has also characterized as a cognitive prosthesis. Have you
heard about this idea?
H.G.: I missed the key word, did you say hippocampal
or did I make that up?
R.K.: Yes, the hippocampal -
H.G.:That's the part of the brain which is involved
with encoding long term memories.
R.K.: Yes, and what they've done with rats and
they're soon going to be doing it with monkeys, is they've
made a working digital piece of hardware that supplements the
brain. Now, I bring this up because it kind of goes where the
ultimate app might go, which is very scary to me. And I think it
kind of suggests, in a way, what some of your concerns that this
will replace people doing things for themselves. So, I'm kind
of just throwing that in there because that's where apps could end
up really -
H.G.: Well, let me take initial stab at this
and then Katie, you can be thinking of the best answer to this
congeries of questions. First of all, I appreciate the fact that
you listened both to the talk I gave in London a couple weeks ago,
and also read the book.
There's a certain tension between those two platforms
and then bringing in this, we would call it immortality research
beginning with rats but ending with us, because those are really
the biggest questions that we both started with when we said
how is the digital world changing us, and then at the end of the
book where we talk about whether this is really going to be a
significant new chapter in human nature, in human relations?
And speaking for myself, I don't think I would have spent the time
on this unless I really thought that it might be and the big
difference between the invention of writing and the invention of
printing is it took centuries to work those things out, but we live
in the time of Moore's Law where everything happens very very
quickly and so what used to happen over decades or even centuries
is now happening in a very short period of time.
On the specific points that you've made, there's a
tension between what we now call the End of Big, namely that so
much stuff is being done in a much more local, what you're calling
Bottom Up kind of way, but at the same time, the tremendous power
of a few mega-corporations. And you may know that, but the readers
may have not heard about this yet, David Eggers new book called The
Circle, in which he basically brings this to the ultimate
conclusion where there is one huge company called The Circle which
basically controls every aspect of life, and people like it! It's
kind of like the super-app has been installed and people like it.
That's very different ending from 1984 which was
definitely put forth as a distopian book, I think the difference
here is that The Circle is much more member-friendly, if you will,
and people are induced to think that they really want everything
done by apps, and that any kind of secrecy or privacy is just a bad
kind of thing.
I actually think it's good to have novels like this,
if The Circle is a novel which paints this picture, but my own
thought is that we're not nearly there yet and these efforts to
record everything or to be immortal are, we might say they're
fountain of youth or kind of golden fountain kinds of dreams.
Not one that I can see in a world where we have nuclear weapons and
climate change and nine billion people. That seems to me to
be unrealistic and yet I think it's good to have those warning
signs. But Katie, can you take it from there?
K.D.: Sure. I would add that we're not there
yet but it's important to think about where we're headed and we
open up our final chapter with a quote form Alfred North Whitehead,
the philosopher who observes that civilization advances by
extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking
about them and Howard was the one who found this quote and related
it to our book and at first that sounds like a good thing, the more
we can outsource and automate our tasks the better, right?
That makes life a lot easier. But if you take
that to it's logical conclusion, all of the sudden we've given up a
whole lot of our agency and I think there's a danger if we are
outsourcing all of our decisions, all of our actions, and
experiences to apps, and having them dictate our course of life for
us, then we're giving up a lot of agency. Of course we're not
there yet but we see evidence of moving in that direction.
H.G.: Katie, maybe you -
R.K.: Just now you used the word "agency", can you
describe what that means? Because I think it's a really
important concept in terms of this book.
K.D.: Sure. I have been thinking a lot about
this lately because, like many people I rely when I'm looking for a
restaurant either in my neighborhood or when I'm visiting a new
place, I rely on Yelp to give me suggestions, and if I'm trying to
find my way I use Google maps, and it's hard to say that that is
not a good thing. It makes my decision-making process a lot
easier and I don't really have to think about where I'm going ahead
of time, I just sort of allow Google to take me there in the
moment. So it sounds good, but what am I giving up?
Am I losing part of my decision-making capacity and
my agency to chart my own path because of course Yelp is not going
to give me all of the restaurants in my area so it's sort of
framing my experience in a very specific way, and if I'm not
thinking about that, then all of the sudden if I add apps like
that, one on top of the other, my whole experience of my life
is being framed in a particular way that I haven't really chosen
H.G.: Katie, do you want to say something about App
Dependence and App Enablement because I think that it may
H.G.: - convey the difference between Yelp as a
friend and Yelp as a dictator. *Chuckles*
K.D.: Yes, yes and a major tension that we've
identified in our book, is this distinction that we have identified
as one between App Enabling and App Dependence and if we can use
technology, and apps in particular, as springboards or entry points
into our experiences, and then know when to put them away and chart
our own path, that is an example of using apps and more broadly the
technology of today in an enabling way, just to get us going.
But if we become dependent and reliant on apps to
make our decisions for us, if we look to them first before we look
inside ourselves in terms of showing us where we should be going,
what sorts of experiences we should be having, who we should be
interacting with, then we say that's using apps and technology in
an app dependent way. So there's that distinction where one
is more agential, and the other one you're giving up your agency.
H.G.: Also if I could just add here if you go to any
kind of a site for suggestions about what to do, the assumption
ought to be that you're getting things straight from the people who
use the site but we now know there's an enormous amount of
manipulation that goes on, some of it trying to cater to your
taste, but others people just sending lots of stuff in. I mean, our
book has just been available on Amazon for a brief period of time
and there are just a couple of reviews there and as far as I know
these are genuine reviews; on the other hand I recently got a note
from a colleague's spouse sent to hundreds of people saying please
rate this book favorably because it's very important, and that's
fairly amateurish but you know, if you have a lot of disposable
income it's probably quite easy to manipulate those ratings and
then you're dependent not only on the app but on knowing that it
has been manipulated. And that's kind of frightening to me.
R.K.: Absolutely. Katie mentioned Yelp and I
use Yelp a lot but what I've learned is if you just typed in search
for a restaurant nearby, you don't get them in order of which ones
are the closest, they could miles away and it could be number one
and I think it's because they sell advertising.
It's just like if you go to Google and do a search,
the first couple ones are paid results and then the rest of the
results come afterwards. So what I've learned with Yelp in
particular is I have to go in to the filtering settings and say "I
want this in order of distance from where I am" and I think there
are a lot of apps like that, you really don't even know.
Part of the matter of holding on to our agency with
apps is understanding how apps work and controlling the apps even,
but I do go way beyond that and you do go in to talking about the
Three I's, let's go there with that. Katie?
Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.
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