Post modern feedback

"Content is feedback". Content developers and instructors misunderstand "giving feedback and learning from feedback" because "content is not feedback" in their world. Content developers and instructors can only give feedback after an evaluation to objectively identify the condition of their subject. Pretest and post-test results occur on either side of delivering content. Content developers and instructors are modernist and behind the times.

Content developers would be fired from a job in a game development company. Content developers would be kicked off the team writing TV shows or film scripts. Content developers would be helpless in a gathering that is developing of an open community, a Web 2.0 business or a viral marketing campaign.

When a gamer has no idea what to do next in unfamiliar territory something happens in the game that helps, hints or guides the next experiment. Games that handle the gap with formal instruction don't sell. When the audience does not understand a protagonist's motives or hesitation, other characters get into conversations or conflicts that reveal what was missing. Stories that "crawl on the fat belly of exposition" (Robert McKee) don't sell. When members of a new community act confused or disoriented, dialogue ensues to support, comfort and listen. Communities that tell the members what to think, how to act or the rules to follow --then fall apart.

Content is feedback. We learn more from how were taught, pictured and related to -- than what we're taught. We get louder signals from where the instructor is coming from than what is being delivered. We take personally what is meant to be taken as impersonal information. Subjectivity overrules objectivity. Post modernism is here. Content delivery sucks.

Four people are instructed: "The sky is blue". It's assumed to be an objective fact delivered as informative content.

  1. Joe takes the content as rejection. The feedback he takes from it is "I'm an idiot", "I missed out on this", "I don't have what it takes to get this on my own". Joe feels dismissed, isolated and shot down by being told "The sky is blue".

  2. Jill takes the content as criticism. The feedback gives her an argument with her thinking the sky is gray when cloudy, black at night, pink at sunrise and purple at sunset. Jill will try harder to conform with the "true blue" answer in the future.

  3. Jack takes the content as a complication. The feedback gives him a way to relate to the instructor and to pursue further dialogue. Jack is developing an understanding of the instructor, the teaching methods, the basis for evaluation and the framing of the learner, as well as integrating the material. Jack is a gamer, post modern critic, and reflective learner.

  4. Jane takes the content as the instructor's very subjective story. The feedback gives her a way to anticipate surprise, welcome the mysterious developments in the instructor's character and watch the reciprocal storylines play out over time. Jane is living her story, changing every day and enjoying the ride.
Modernist feedback imposes a narrative about "objectively identified gaps" in knowledge skills or abilities. This narrative dismisses the receivers' inherent freedom to take the feedback subjectively, to reflect it back on the deliverer and to contextualize the content as "command and control" or "disenfranchisement". Post modern feedback expects the receivers' subjectivity to overrule objectivity, to play with different meanings and contextualize it as "unfolding stories". We learn more from feedback than instruction.

Thanks to Wendy Wickham, Valerie Bock and Tony Karrer for reciprocating with Leave a clean corpse and Preparing for changing opportunities.

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