In Search of Ikigai: Meaning Making as Culture

Meaning making is  not as a cultural process but  culture itself.

flickr photo shared by Vegar S Hansen Photography under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

In fact this lesson just keeps coming back to me. Recently I catch glances of it in how my own perspectives  and worldviews influence the meaning I encode and decode on the world. Yet my eyes were not always open enough to see my own bias.

Over the last few years  I have been involved in many open learning experiences on the Web. We try out new things and learn out loud. It’s what Henry Jenkins has defined as participatory culture and what Mimi Ito has organized around an emerging perspective of connected learning. In my last foray into open learning I joined a bunch of others socially reading of “Participatory Culture in a Networked Era” written by Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito, and danah boyd.

Henry Jenkins early in the first chapter defined participatory culture as:

  • low barriers to expression and engagement
  • strong support for creating andf sharing
  • informal membership
  • sense of belonging, safety, and value
  • degrees of social connections.

Mimi Ito then pushed back a little on the term exclaiming that in all cultures the actor is always participating in some activity to which Jenkins retorted, “different configurations of culture invite or enable different degrees of participation.”

Culture, Worldviews, Comprehension

That got me thinking. Much of chapter one overall was a debate on the role of the individual versus the collective. Early in the first chapter boyd and Jenkins were debating the finer points of Kantian liberalism when Mimi Ito interjected about the influence of our mindsets.  Mimi stated:

This whole issue of opposing the individual to a collective is a uniquely Western pre-occupation that gets in the way of productive social change. As someone who identifies culturally as more Japanese, I never understood why the fulfillment of the collective is thought of as a sacrifice of the individual or individuality.

As I have become much more engaged around the participatory culture of those who want to help others read, write, and participate on the Web I have been exposed to many different perspectives such as Ito’s. In fact Mikko Kontto, who helped us shape the Web Literacy Map, turned me on to the fact that were was no word for argumentative writing in the Finnish language let alone the curriculum.

Here we are in the states and the most critical component of our curriculum, maybe our national identity, doesn’t exist in one of the most lauded school systems in the world. Mainly because it does not exist in the culture.

So through the act of participating I took on a more inclusive mindset. Being exposed to different ontological systems from across the globe makes me a better person. Ans the examples just keep coming

Then later today I was introduced to the term Ikigai. Someone cited and shared the Wikipedia image:


Ikigai-EN-optimized-PNG” by en:User:Nimbosa derived from works by Dennis Bodor (SVG) and Emmy van Deurzen (JPG) –
Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.
Worldviews influence how you view the world.

It hit just as I was looking back on the quote from Ito and connecting it to what Mikko taught me. In many ways open, or at least my path towards open, is a reason for being. Atleast its good enough for now and one heck of a fun ride.

Also published on Medium.

One response on “In Search of Ikigai: Meaning Making as Culture”

  1. Being open to new perspectives, and the realization that our one view of the world is a false assumption, is why reading and connecting and reflecting are so critical to the learning process. We have a richer sense of identity — our own and the world’s — when we can expand the notions embedded in our own cultures. Love this post. Thanks.

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