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Esther Dyson’s ‘Way to Wellville’ Challenge a game changer December 7, 2015

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Bootstrapping Brilliance, Collective IQ, Human Interest.
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Here’s an exciting fresh approach to transforming the health of our communities.

“The Way to Wellville, a national challenge among five communities over five years to make significant, visible and lasting improvement in five measures of health and economic vitality. In the end, we’ll map new paths for entire communities to make changes that result in healthier people and places.”

This challenge effectively shifts the healthcare discussion to actionable, results-driven, community-based wellness initiatives at scale.

At present the US is spending a whopping $3 trillion per year on health care — on average about twice as much per person as other wealthy nations spend — and yet chronic disease, which is largely preventable, continues to worsen and drive costs higher still. Investing in wellness can potentially yield significant savings to society, with savings in direct healthcare costs just the tip of the iceberg. See for example the CDC’s The Cost of Chronic Diseases and Health Risk Behaviors. Among the many benefits of improving health across the board, I would expect to see economic indicators in these Wellville counties begin to reflect increased productivity, improved school performance  (healthy children and children in healthy families show up ready to learn), increased wealth that comes to places deemed desirable locations to invest, live, work, visit, and more.  Reeingineering investments in our nation’s health care using a community-based, collaborative, entrepreneurial, ‘wellness first’ approach is brilliant.


Wellville Founder Esther Dyson

The Way to Wellville is sponsored by Esther Dyson’s non-profit HICCup, which serves as a central support platform for the five chosen counties, and includes Wellville accelerators such as attracting investors and innovation partners to the table, and matching them up with specific initiatives in those counties.

In a future post we’ll take a closer look at the innovation approach driving the transformation.

Learn more

Who are the chosen Five? How does it work? For starters see:

Wellville Website | Short Video | Press release

For more about this unique approach, see:


Announcing Summer MOOC and Engelbart Scholar Award at VCU April 25, 2014

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Engelbart Challenge, Engelbart Scholars, Human Interest.
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Gardner Campbell and Christina Engelbart
Gardner Campbell and Christina Engelbart at VCU

Just returning this week from a wonderful visit with Gardner Campbell and company at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA, to announce the establishment of an Engelbart Scholar Award at VCU in conjunction with an exciting new MOOC on Research Writing and Focused Inquiry (VCU UNIV200). The MOOC is the brainchild of Dr. Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success, and Associate Professor of English.

MOOC participants will learn about how the Internet affords a new medium for collaborative research and research writing through studying the visionary research of pioneers of the Information Age, including including Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, and others, and will be simultaneously prototyping an open collaborative knowledge environment, including tools inspired by said research visionaries, in which to conduct and capture their creative inquiry. Whereas the typical MOOC is offered in a beamed lecture format, Gardner’s MOOC centers around the students’ engagement and participation as ‘fellow travelers’ on the frontier, forging what he calls ‘trails of wonder, rigorously explored’. So he calls it a cMOOC, for ‘connectivist’ MOOC, where the course venue is a shared blogging, commenting and tweeting space.

Course Website: www.thoughtvectors.net
Follow #ThoughtVectors and @ThoughtVectors
on Twitter to watch it all unfold

The Engelbart Scholar Award will be presented to two qualified VCU students enrolled in the MOOC to include registration in the course and an opportunity of an Internship with the Doug Engelbart Institute.

I especially love Gardner’s description of the course: “The course will be offered for credit for enrolled VCU students and will be open to participation by anyone in the world […] The topic? Well, on the books here the course is a sophomore-level course in research writing: UNIV 200 Inquiry and the Craft of Argument. We’re doing a fully online version that has an official designation as a DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT PILOT and what we hope is the intriguing alternate name of “Living the Dream: Digital Investigation and Unfettered Minds.” The “dream” is the one (are the ones) outlined by Vannevar Bush (“As We May Think“), J. C. R. Licklider (“Man-Computer Symbiosis“), Doug Engelbart (“Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework“), Ted Nelson (“Computer Lib / Dream Machines“), and Alan Kay/Adele Goldberg (“Personal Dynamic Media“). Our goal is to awaken students to these powerful dreams, to invite their engagement with research in the digital age along the lines suggested by these dreams, and empower them to imagine, design, and build inquiry projects that will serve them well both in the academy and beyond.”

Note that UNIV200 has been part of the core curriculum at VCU. Now students have the option of taking it in this unique cMOOC format.

Christina Engelbart with Gardner's MOOC team
Session with MOOC team

I am so thrilled and honored to be participating with the extended design team for the cMOOC, and proud to be offering the Engelbart Scholar Award in conjunction with the course. See selected photos http://on.fb.me/1nQ4Ygb.


Christina (center) with VCU Engelbart Scholar Awardees Will and Anisa

Christina (center) with 2014 Engelbart Scholar Awardees Will and Anisa

Oct 2015
Our first two Engelbart Scholar Award recipients got the grand tour over spring break – see blog and short video Engelbart Scholars tour with Doug Engelbart Institute. The Internet Society wrote a stunning feature article on the Thought Vectors experiment as a case example of Doug Engelbart’s enduring legacy: Internet Pioneer’s Greatest Contribution May Not Be Technological.

Gardner and team are repeating the cMOOC this fall, this time experimenting with the course format – of the six sections offered, two sections will be held entirely online, two will meet weekly in classrooms and participate online, and two will be some hybrid. This year’s Engelbart Scholar Award winners have been announced – congratulations to Ayah Oweis and Marina Green!
July 2014
The course launched June 10th, 2014, and the two winners of the Engelbart Scholar Award were announced — Congratulations to Anisa Kannen and Will Sullivan, our very first Engelbart Scholar Award recipients. Exciting times ahead!

A week later Gardner and team presented their pilot project MOOC at the New Media Consortium Summer Conference in June 2014, joined remotely by Christina Engelbart and Will Sullivan, one of our first Engelbart Scholar Award winners. Watch their joint presentation at NMC2014.

By way of welcoming participants in the course, Gardner posted
Our Summer cMOOC: Living the Dreams.

See also press coverage

Internet Pioneer’s Greatest Contribution May Not Be Technological
nternet Society feature article
Spring 2015

VCU ventures into online educational phenomenon,
Richmond Times-Dispatch
October 2, 2014

Connectivist MOOC helps students embrace digital media
VCU Public Affairs,
September 19, 2014

VCU embraces online courses
Richmond Times-Dispatch
October 2014

How these rural initiatives in Uganda are already meeting the Engelbart Challenge December 13, 2013

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Engelbart Challenge, Human Interest.
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By guest contributor Patricia Seybold, Founder & CEO of Patricia Seybold Group, author of Customers.com, The Customer Revolution, and Outside Innovation.

How Uganda Rural Development Training Programme (
URDT) and the African Rural University (ARUare already meeting the Engelbart Challenge 

Twenty-five years ago, an innovative experiment was launched in western Uganda: to co-evolve a set of transformational techniques with impoverished people living in rural, under-developed areas—tools that empower people to create a vision of what they want in their lives and to work together to achieve that vision. Now, twenty-five years later, tens of thousands of people are teaching one another how to “Awaken the Sleeping Genius in Each of Us” as they improve the quality of their lives and the prosperity of their homes and their communities.

Video: Overview of URDT’s Unique Approach to Rural Development

One part of URDT’s “secret sauce” is to teach school girls to become change agents in their families and in their communities. This “low tech” example uses the brilliant minds of enterprising young girls to ignite the brilliant minds of their family members. These families prosper, and, in turn, teach others in their communities how to replicate their success, they then all move on to community-scale projects—building schools, water sources, roads, and farming co-ops.

Video: Safira’s Story—How a 13-year old girl empowered her family to move from poverty to middle class prosperity

To spread the power of this creative visionary approach to community development, many of these girls graduate from the URDT Girls School and become students at the African Rural University. There, they join other young women from across Africa to be trained as Rural Transformation Agents.

Video: Grace Biira—Why I am studying at the African Rural University

When they graduate, they are offered jobs in rural sub-counties—each young woman is now chartered to ignite the creativity and aspirations of people in scores of rural villages. Among their duties: identify and support additional school girls and their families to become role models creating systemic change in each village. Help villagers create and achieve visions for their communities.

Video: Resty’s Internship in the Field

How URDT Embodies the Principles of Improving Collective IQ

A. We teach children and adults how to create a vision of the goals they want to achieve, and how to use the structural tension between their current reality and their vision to generate actions that enable them to realize their goals. Students and their families apply these techniques in the students’ “back home projects” each school term. Students teach their parents new techniques to use each semester, and are graded on how well their families learn and do using this “Two-Generation” approach to education (kids teaching their parents and siblings).

B. We use systems thinking, participatory action planning, and collective reflection to continuously improve how quickly and how well people on campus and in the communities are able to achieve their goals. This is a daily practice, involving the entire student body, faculty and staff for an hour at the start of each day.

C. We are constantly identifying new opportunities for collective co-evolution. For example, school girls’ parents decided to form a savings co-operative to grant micro-loans for farming projects. Then farmers decided to improve the profits from organic farming by planting higher value crops. Then they decided to build agricultural processing plants to create higher-value food, like milled flour and animal feed. These locally-generated initiatives are replicated across the network of participating families and communities.

1. How do we Engage Our Innovators?

We start with the school children. We teach first school girls, now both girls and boys, how to use the creative process and the visionary approach. We also arm them with practical know-how in sanitation, nutrition, organic farming and business entrepreneurship.

The children teach their parents and their siblings—both first hand, and by writing and performing plays in the communities, and by broadcasting on the community radio.

These families who now have a creative, visionary orientation towards life inspire and teach others in their communities. Many start small businesses and hire and train others.

The school children and families are supported by the teachers and staff at URDT. The leaders in each village, district, and county become enrolled in the creative, visionary process through participatory action workshops. The community radio is used to supplement and reinforce the hands on training the interns provide and to mobilize community members.

The African Rural University student interns and graduates identify, train and support innovators in the rural communities they’re deployed in. They work with community members to identify needs, and to plan and execute community-driven projects to address those needs. They also train and support the leaders at each level of government.

These interns and graduates support one another and they are supported by the staff of URDT. The community members support one another and join together in a variety of community projects.

2. How Do We Leverage Our Collective IQ?

The University graduates who work in the field as “Epicenter Managers” and the secondary school children who work with their families on school breaks all report back what they are learning and what challenges they’re seeing.

Students, interns, faculty, and graduates write and share reports, create video documentaries, establish a baseline for each family and document the improvements in household income, health, nutrition, and education.

The educational institutions on the URDT campus use the learnings from all the field work that is taking place to study what works and what needs improvement. For example, the University students engaged in participatory research with groups of women in several villages about land rights. Who owned the land they were farming? What kind of ownership was it (there are 4 different kinds of land ownership)? Who inherits the land? What can you do to gain title to the land you are farming?  How can you ensure that you will retain title to the land when your spouse dies?  These village women—many of them illiterate—learned about their own properties and took the steps required to gain title to the land they were farming. This land rights participatory education program was so successful that it is now being developed into curriculum for secondary schools throughout Uganda.

3. How Do We Focus on Core Capabilities?

The goals of the people we serve are to improve their health, income, and quality of life.

We provide them the tools to envision and to achieve these goals by teaching them how to master the creative process to achieve what they want in their lives.

We also teach them the skills they need to improve sanitation, nutrition, farming productivity, carpentry, mechanics, solar technology, and many other trades and crafts, and we teach them how to start and run a profitable business.

The new vocabulary they use is related to having a creative orientation. They talk about creating and achieving a vision. They talk about engaging their family members in planning. They refer to obstacles as their “current reality.” They identify local resources they can mobilize to achieve their goals.

Their world view is very holistic. They have all become “systems thinkers.” They see the interconnectedness between sanitation and good nutrition and health. They discuss the need to improve the quality of their roads in order to increase commerce and gain access to better education and healthcare.

4.  Push the Frontier: How are we accelerating our human/tools co-evolution & understanding how quickly we can evolve?

By replicating the same practices from the school child to the family unit, to the community, to the sub-county, we are creating a recursive ripple effect. That’s why we call our employed university graduates—our Rural Transformation Specialists—Epicenter Managers. Each one is at the epicenter of a new set of waves of co-evolution and co-development.

Many of the people in the communities that are engaging with URDT and ARU and its students and graduates are wholeheartedly adopting the principles of the creative orientation towards their own lives. They have moved from resignation and apathy to being engaged creators of their own destinies. They are working across tribal and gender boundaries on common, shared projects. In addition to the pilot projects that are undertaken each year in 240 families (the families of the Girls’ School students) over a five to six year period, we also have two or three projects going in each village in which there is an intern or an ARU graduate. In addition to these projects, which have been stimulated by URDT/ARU students and graduates, many local people and village leaders are undertaking their own projects to improve some aspect of the community infrastructure (roads, schools, clinics) or of the local economy (savings societies, marketplaces, value-added production).

We can and do support and amplify the co-evolution through outreach, through radio programming, by interviewing and documenting success stories, by holding community meetings, and by bringing experts from all over the world to study what is happening in this corner of Uganda.

5. How Do We Walk Our Talk?

We excel in practicing what we preach. We are constantly coming up with new ideas for new ways to improve sustainable livelihoods in rural communities. For example, we provide training for urban youth on how to thrive in the rural communities they migrated from—how to engage in profitable agriculture and to build local sustainable businesses so they can remain in the countryside, rather than working in an overcrowded, congested urban setting.

We are embarking on a “green campus” program to take our current organic farm and sustainable energy practices to the next level as we continue to evolve and improve our campus.

Re: “What ever happened to Augmenting Human Intellect” November 30, 2013

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Technology.
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Here is a must-see webinar from O’Reilly Webcast:

Whatever Happened to “Augmenting Human Intellect”?
Presented by Scott Murray November 20 2013
Exploring the fundamental role of data visualization in a palatable form to human perception 

Murray does an excellent job outlining  Doug Engelbart’s seminal work, really nails the essence of his vision with great visuals (of course), and discusses how it might inform or inspire the field of data visualization. He also covers the contributions of Vannevar Bush and Charles Babbage.

Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2011 March 1, 2011

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Archives, Collective IQ, Historic, Human Interest.

Last week the Internet Archive hosted the second annual conference on Personal Digital Archiving February 24-25, 2011:

From family photographs and personal papers to health and financial information, vital personal records are becoming digital. Creation and capture of new digital information has become a part of the daily routine for hundreds of millions of people. But what are the long-term prospects for this data? The combination of new capture devices (more than 1 billion camera phones will be sold in 2010) with the move from older forms of media is reshaping both our personal and collective memories. The size and complexity of personal collections growing, these collections are spread across different media (including film and paper!), and the lines between personal and professional, published and unpublished are being redrawn.

For individuals, institutions, investors, entrepreneurs, and funding agencies thinking about how best to address these issues, Personal Digital Archiving 2011 will include a variety of examples that may be replicated, and will clarify the technical, social, economic questions around personal archiving.

In my presentation, Learnings from a Life’s Work: The Doug Engelbart Archives,” I touched on my father’s life’s work, experiences archiving that work, and how it  informs the future of tools and practices for capturing, integrating, developing, evolving and re-using our individual and collective repositories, in both our work lives and our family lives.

For more on Doug Engelbart’s work and archives, as well as current initiatives of the Doug Engelbart Institute, see:

For more information on Personal Digital Archiving 2011 see:

Conference archives are up:
Main Portal | Videos of Speaker Sessions | Conference Photos |

My talk:
Presentation Video | Slidedeck

For Gardner’s New Media Seminar September 23, 2010

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Historic.
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Thanks again to Gardner Campbell and gang  for including me in his groundbreaking seminar “Awakening the Digital Imagination: A Networked Faculty Seminar” for today’s discussion based on Doug Engelbart’s 1962 seminal report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework as a jumping off point.

The assignment for today was to read the report (abridged) in the New Media Reader textbook, which includes a fabulous 2-page intro to the article, and Janet Murray’s delightful preface Inventing the Medium.

See especially Doug’s Introduction andConclusions.

Gardner blogged an account of our session in The Arts of Augmentation.

As promised, here is my follow-up of links I referenced, and links I would have liked to have referenced.

Gardner kicked off the discussion with the final clip from 1968 Mother of All Demos where Doug acknowledges his family seated in the audience.

Re: my experience of my father’s 1968 Mother of All Demos
FYI I covered this in more detail, with more on what it was like having him for a dad, in my talk at the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1968 demo, with a sprinkling of family photos

Re: my blog on the “wibble wobble” method or
How Doug Engelbart taught kids to ride a bike (without training wheels)

Re: the Doug Engelbart Archive Collections
See the MouseSite Archive for his 1960 proposal to fund his Conceptual Framework and his 1962 letter to Vannevar Bush. See also our Archives portal page for links to archival videos, photos, papers, etc.

Re: Engelbart’s relationship with Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think”
See the Influence on Doug Engelbart section of the 1995 MIT/Brown Tribute to Vannevar Bush portal page.

Re: the NMC as “poster child” for Bootstrapping Innovation and Collective IQ
See Bootstrapping Innovation in Action: NMC and ~ learn more ~

Tips for blogging about Doug Engelbart and his work
You can instantly copy/paste a link directly to most any snippet of information anywhere in our dougengelbart.org website by simply right-clicking on the nearest “purple number” in the right margin to Copy Link Location. This is along the lines of the “serial numbers” Doug described in this week’s reading. Most of our web pages also include a table of contents in the left margin to make it easier to find stuff.
So for example, the two Engelbart readings for this class:

While perusing Conclusions section of the 1962 report, I copied out the following quote pasted below, then went back and right-clicked on it’s purple number to Copy Link and pasted that below with the quote, and then added the italics, quotation marks and attribution:

“First any possibility for improving the effective utilization of
the intellectual power of society’s problem solvers
warrants the most serious consideration.
This is because man’s problem-solving capability represents
possibly the most important resource possessed by a society.”

— Doug Engelbart 1962
Source: http://dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-3906.html#6b

Just think how wonderful it would be if, anywhere on the internet (blogs, wiki, email, word processor), you could reference any snippet you see by simply right-clicking on the desired item and choosing “Copy Link Location” from the menu as I did, or “Quote this text”, and it would copy the snippet, in quotes, with author and date, with the link pointing directly to that item in the source document? This is just one of the many unfulfilled potentials of new, maleable, permeable, unbounded media he was envisioning.

For examples of student projects about Doug Engelbart’s work
See our Student Showcase, inspired by none other than Gardner Campbell :)

Once again, I was honored to participate in this class discussion, and in this marvelous experiment of a walk-your-talk network of distributed faculty seminars. My appreciation extends to the NMC for all their efforts in making this “expedition” possible.



Christina Engelbart
Executive Director
The Doug Engelbart Institute

Celebrating 65 Years of “As We May Think” August 1, 2010

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Archives, Collective IQ, Historic.
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Photo of VB

Vannevar Bush

This past month, July 2010, marked the 65th anniversary of the seminal article “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush — first published in the Atlantic Monthly, in July 1945. Through this article, Bush directly and indirectly influenced the great pioneers of the information age that followed — pioneers such as Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee.

A special symposium was held in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bush’s article — the  MIT/Brown Vannevar Bush Symposium organized by Andy van Dam. Over the course of two days, a dozen distinguished speakers reflected on Bush’s life, vision, inspiration and impact, examined what had been accomplished since, and revealed what remained to be done.

Watch the Video! Lucky for us, the Symposium was videotaped, and the complete footage of that event is now available to view online at the Internet Archive as part of the Doug Engelbart Archive —  visit the Vannevar Bush Symposium Video page at the Doug Engelbart Institute website for details.

See also Simon Harper’s insightful blogpost ‘As We May Think’ at 65 « Thinking Out Loud….

More on getting beyond paper and linear media May 17, 2010

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ.

Inspired by a recent blog by Mark Miller Getting beyond paper and linear media, May 6, 2010, here is some additional context from Doug Engelbart’s thinking.

In fact, you can find deep thinking on this theme as early as 1962 in his seminal report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework (see esp. section II.C.4).

Doug Engelbart was convinced from the beginning that the incredible power of the human mind has been seriously under served and limited by the ways we’ve evolved to express ourselves — by our very language, and even more so by the technologies we developed throughout history for recording and making available what’s in our mind – stone tablets, scrolls, printed paper, etc. The opportunity he saw for computers was to bring us much more advanced ways to conceptualize, express, capture, store, access, and broadly share and exchange, and otherwise leverage our thinking capacity. If you want to dramatically improve how we work together to solve important problems — i.e. to boost our collective IQ, which was Doug’s goal from the start — this idea would be a great starting point in considering how computers could be harnessed to really help with that.

So for example, if I were to make the suggestion “think of your car”, you would have an instant view in your mind of your car, “now picture the interior, front seat, dash board, what’s inside your glove compartment” your mind just bombs around the information you have stored away at any level of detail, in any combination, from any vantage point, depending on what you’re thinking about at a given moment. Our minds can also make instantaneous connections between different pieces of information, sparking brand new ideas.

Pages that you scroll through don’t offer this agility. Search engines offer a bit more help, although (1) search hits typically point you to the top of a page or file, rather than directly to the piece of information you are searching on, so after you click on the link you then need to Find or Scroll your way down through the (in this moment) extraneous stuff to finally arrive at what the search engine found potentially relevant, and (2) there are typically multiple hits, and sorting through them is laborious. If the author thought ahead to put anchor points at the places which in future someone might want to link to, that could help.

Connecting information in our information spaces provides further challenges. First, there are barriers between information spaces. Second, once I find the info I’m looking for, I can’t save or share a link directly to it for the same reason the search engines can’t, so I’m generally limited to creating a link to the top of a file with pointers on how to get to the specific info. Note that I thoughtfully inserted the anchor name #Pages on the preceding paragraph, so you can send someone this link https://collectiveiq.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/more-on-getting-beyond-paper-and-linear-media/#Pages directly to that paragraph. However, it would be hard for you to know that, it’s hard to find that out on your own unless you can View Source and painstakingly read through the HTML code.

One thing that could really help would be for our tools to provide more granular addressability for us. Spreadsheet applications do this — every cell in every spreadsheet is uniquely addressable. Documents should offer the same granularity. You’ll find a crude example in Doug’s 1962 paper cited above with its “purple numbers” in the right margins; clicking on a purple number will “jump” you to that paragraph, right-clicking on it allows you to Copy Link Location directly to that paragraph to paste elsewhere (see Doug Engelbart Institute’s About Our Website).

Over the years Doug identified a set of key functional and architectural elements like granular addressability that are crucial for advancing how computers can really begin to augment rather than automate or otherwise bypass the untapped potential of our individual and collective intellect. See About an Open Hyperdocument System (OHS) for highlights and links to more detail.

Note that beyond our language and tools, the way we interface to our work can be greatly limiting our untapped potential. This interface goes beyond the usual concerns of human-computer interface (HCI — the interface to our tools), to encompass the interface to our entire work environment — i.e. to tools we use as well as the facilities, work practices, processes, methodologies, customs, attitudes, etc. invoked when we engage with each other and our information. See Doug’s paper Improving Our Ability to Improve, 2003 (esp. page 11 beginning “Another critical focus area”).

Needless to say, directions in mainstream computing since Doug’s 1968 “Mother of All Demos” were largely disappointing to Doug and his like-minded colleagues — the advent of personal computers with no provision for networking or shared knowledge spaces, office automation (why would you automate how you used to work?), desktop publishing and WYSIWYG (easy to learn is great, as long as it doesn’t also mean funneling advanced users into lowest common denominator “what you see is ALL you get” paper-based paradigms).

So what’s missing in today’s information technology? A fundamental paradigm shift. I am reminded of the Einstein quote “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

For more on Doug’s vision as well as what he and his research team implemented, see the Doug Engelbart Institute website http://dougengelbart.org.

Dreams About How The World Could Be February 6, 2010

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Human Interest.
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By guest author Gardner Campbell

NMC Fellow Dr. Douglas EngelbartCommemorating the presentation of the NMC Fellows Award to Doug Engelbart at the NMC Summer Conference. This piece excerpted for our Guest Author Series with permission from “NMC 2009 Closing Plenary: Dreams About How The World Could Be, by Gardner Campbell June 17, 2009.

The sense of expectancy, of sheer possibility generated at a meeting like this make me so hopeful that we can be a force for positive change, that we can reach the transformative moment. That we can bootstrap ourselves into a better world.

Just ahead of me on a darkened stage left sits Doug Engelbart, a thinker and human being whose vision has shaped more of our information age than any other single person’s. There sits a man who has inspired me as much as John Milton has. (That’s saying something–I call my friends to bear me witness.)

“Always, the goal was to enable us to identify, harness, and raise our collective IQ […] to prepare us for the dangers, questions, and opportunities we would encounter as [a] civilization.”

Now Larry Johnson has begun the tribute to Doug Engelbart. His testimony moves me deeply.

He plays excerpts from a videotaped interview he did with Doug about ten years ago. As always, the clarity and poetry of Doug’s vision take my breath away.

I’ve got to stop typing now.

The rest here is from memory, as I was too overcome with emotion on that morning to write another word as the tributes rang out.

Lev Gonick, VP for Information Technology Services at Case Western Reserve University, and Kristina Woolsey, NMC Fellow and head of Woolsey & Associates, lead Doug onto the stage. The room is instantly on its feet, applauding and cheering.

How many times does one get to thank, face to face, the inventor and visionary who has made a new vocation possible? For the work we do is a vocation, a calling, and we hear the voice of that calling through the stubborn insistence of this man’s efforts.

As we continue, quite rightly, to identify and even to rail against what’s breaking and broken in our schools, it is good also to see and remember what school at its best can be, and is: a means of augmenting human intellect, a place for bootstrapping, a place for hearts and minds to work and play together. School’s not the only place that happens. But it can happen there, and I want to help make it happen there–to preserve the fragile magic that rests upon a flawed but vital infrastructure.

In 1962, Doug Engelbart, the father of interactive computing, published a seminal essay called “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” The essay impressed one J.C.R. Licklider, the father of the Internet, who set Doug up with a research lab that would help bring the information age into being.

Doug was called many names during his years leading the Augmentation Research Center. Some were flattering, but many were not. He was thought by many to be (not to put too fine a point upon it) off his rocker. One early colleague warned him quite explicitly not to share his vision with anyone else lest he be fired or completely marginalized. This we know from the awed testimony of his colleagues’ speeches at last December’s celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Mother of All Demos. Those colleagues testified to the awe they continue to feel of Doug and his achievements. They are awed by Doug’s persistence, awed by how wrong his critics were, awed to know and to have worked with someone who despite “the loneliness of the long-distance thinker,” as Howard Rheingold so aptly put it in Tools for Thought, fought through the isolation and misunderstanding and, yes, at times even antagonism and hostility, to keep his vision alive and aloft.

The ovation continues as Lev and Kristina and Doug settle into their chairs at center stage. Finally, the applause subsides, and Lev and Kristina begin to speak. They speak of Doug’s accomplishments. They recall what it was like to discover Doug’s writings, many years into their own careers, and to read their futures in the work of his heart, hands, and mind. Lev and Kristina help us understand the scale and significance of Doug’s vision. They look at him with affection, with respect. With wonder.

Several times Doug covers his face in genuine humility. Can he be the person they’re describing? Certainly he did not do his work alone. But of all the great seers and doers of the nascent information age, Doug’s achievement is the most singular, the most to be driven by a single imagination. And yet his imagination was never the point.

Always, the goal was to enable us to identify, harness, and raise our collective IQ. The idea was to augment human intellects one by one, but by means of a fine tracing of mental and spiritual connections from which would emerge a true “capability infrastructure” to prepare us for the dangers, questions, and opportunities we would encounter as civilization continues to develop and evolve.

Doug thought at scale. He understood that a car is not simply a faster tricycle. He had faith that an augmented intellect, joined to millions of other augmented intellects, could clarify individual thought even as it empowered vast new modes of thinking, new modes of complex understanding that could grasp intricately meaningful symbols as quickly and comprehensively as we can recognize a loved one’s face.

For Doug, computers are the tools we have invented in our quest for a new language, even a meta-language. A manner of speaking that can move us through the enmiring complexities of our shared lives and dreams, and thus help us to use those complex lives and dreams wisely instead of being their puppets or victims.

Lev has spoken; Kristina has spoken. Now it’s Doug’s turn.

Doug accepts his NMC Fellows Award with these words:

Well this is, you know, a trite thing to say, “I’m overwhelmed,” but I sit here just feeling overwhelmed. You know, I wasn’t doing all of those things in order to sit here and get something like this. It’s been so many years … and I still have dreams about how the world could be … anyway, I appreciate this very much, so thank you, thank you.

Tribute to Doug Engelbart

Afterward, these photographs:

NMC Fellows

The four NMC Fellows: (l-r) Ted Kahn, Doug Engelbart, Kristina Woolsey, Carl Berger.

Christina and Doug Engelbart

Christina Engelbart, Director of the Doug Engelbart Institute, and her father, Doug Engelbart

Christina and Doug Engelbart

A family triumph

About the Author: Guest author Gardner Campbell, Baylor Professor and New Media Consortium (NMC) Board Member, has an uncanny sense of articulating with poetic sincerity the very core of Doug’s vision and passion. This piece was excerpted from Gardner’s Blog entry “NMC 2009 Closing Plenary: Dreams About How The World Could Be” posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 at 11:41 am. His honors course From Memex to YouTube: An Introduction to New Media Studies was the inspiration for the Doug Engelbart Institute establishing its Student Showcase. Search for “engelbart” on Gardner’s blog for more great articles about Doug and our work.

A Tribute on this Anniversary December 9, 2009

Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Historic.
Tags: , ,

Today marks the 41st anniversary of what is now known as the Mother of All Demos. On  December 9th, 1968 at 3:45pm PT, my father Doug Engelbart and his research team at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) used the 90 minutes allotted for his speech at the Fall Joint Computer Conference to demonstrate their work live. This demo is now famous for dazzling the crowd with a whole new paradigm for computing,  sparking the personal and interactive computing revolutions, the information age, etc. See selected footage of the demo on the SRI Mother of All Demos page.

In spite of the ensuing explosion of technology, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of the vision my father was unveiling for accelerating efforts to augment human potential to solve the challenging problems we increasingly face in our lives, our communities, our organizations, our societies, our governments, and our planet. It’s this vision at the crux of all his dazzling innovative breakthroughs that is the most powerful and seminal of all his innovations.

This blog is dedicated to you, dad, and your half century of brilliant work, and to the furtherance of your vision in ways that will match or even exceed your wildest dreams, to elevate the global Collective IQ to the highest levels achievable.

With love,

For story and background, video footage, panel discussions of original participants, and more, see also on our website:


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