“Consciousness”

Christian sends me a message over Slack asks what I think to a tagline for Towards Openness: workshops and conversations for conscious online learning design. Immediately I felt uncertain about using the word ’conscious’. Terms get thrown around and sometimes flippantly. Some terms need contextualisation. Disruption comes to mine here. In day-to-day life disruption has negative connotations, but it has revolutionary-like meaning in Silicon Valley-esque rhetoric. It doesn’t mean that Silicon Valley disruption doesn’t have negative effects, because there usually is somewhere, but that’s another story.

Christian and I decided to take this out of Slack, think about it a bit more and write blog posts (his is here). We would like others to offer their thoughts on the tagline. I’m sure that weeks, months and years down the line our thoughts will change, but it’s always nice to have a reminder of where we have come from.

Conscious. What does it mean? And how easily does it transfer? Often with quick investigations I turn to Wikipedia to see what contributors have made of it. The word originally derived from the Latin “knowing with [others]” but has since evolved into states of awareness. The Wikipedia article is really fascinating, you should have a look through for sure.

I am particularly taken back with the access (A) and phenomenal (P) consciousness (Block, 1998) whereby P-consciousness is raw experience (sensations and emotions) while A-consciousness is the reasoning and introspection of information.

I would suggest that Towards Openness is much more about reasoning and introspection which resonates with A-consciousness. However, I would argue that we should also include our perceptions and emotions into such introspection. Reasoning implies a degree of rationality, but sometimes we don’t have all the information available to us to be rational. Our conversations around privacy, for instance, are often quite emotional. We don’t have solid evidence of the implications of data collection, processing and sharing for students. It doesn’t mean that our conversations are any less valuable.

If Towards Openness is a space where we can share knowledge, experiences and emotions, where we can reflect collectively and think about what we value, and then we apply those values in our teaching then yes, that’s the ‘consciousness of online learning’ I understand.


Ned Block (1998). “On a confusion about a function of consciousness”. In N. Block, O. Flanagan, G. Guzeldere. The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates. MIT Press. pp. 375–415. ISBN 978-0-262-52210-6.

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