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As we’ve said many times before, our goal with LiNE Zine is to chart for you the “whitespaces” related to learning in the New Economy—the questions, issues, and themes that cut across the traditional ways of thinking as the world changes around us. This issue tries to put its arms around a big and messy whitespace—and one that’s probably still sorting itself out. We’re calling it “Integrating Learning, Working, and Life in the 21st Century,” and if it seems a mouthful and mindful to you, welcome to the club.

The complexity of it all has to do with boundaries and convergences, and indeed the increasing convergence of the convergences themselves. How is anybody supposed to think about that?

Well, we begin by asserting three convergences—three popular blurring of boundaries everyone struggles with. First there is the much talked about “work/life” balance—how to manage one’s personal and familial affairs in an economy that demands massive commitment of time, lots of travel, lots of hard work at any time, any place. As work intrudes into our home lives, inevitably our home lives intrude into work; do they still belong as distinct spheres, and if not, what’s the new model that makes sense of both?

The second boundary is in the heartland of much of what LiNE Zine looks at: learning and work. For years now we’ve been hearing—and preaching—that one can no longer separate doing one’s job and learning how to do it. We live in a world now of continuous learning, ongoing knowledge-based improvement and innovation, and increasing just-in-time skill building. The old boundaries between “working” and “training” are disappearing, and indeed the boundaries between “training” and “learning” are also falling away. As learning becomes more holistically integrated into the workplace, we lack the language to both talk about them as one and also as something separate.

The third boundary and convergence is complementary to both, and raises the stakes of complexity. Call it “lifelong learning”—the idea that learning is now something that goes on beyond going to school and university. The explosion includes adult education, self-help, enrichment courses, knowledge-based hobbies, and avocational pursuits (for example, think of the vast wisdom, these days, of wine-making and drinking, or gardening). This learning has been fueled by an evolving philosophy that knowing more about things is more fulfilling and, indeed, the pleasurable imperative of every human being who can afford to spend time doing it. So time spent on learning, one’s family time, and personal life is also a convergence that we 21st century creatures nourish.

If one were to represent these convergences graphically, it might look like a swirling triangle—work blending over into personal life, learning blending over into work, personal life blending over into learning. It feels like there ought to be some rational syllogism to structure them all, but the interconnected issues and challenges defy rationality or linearity: start any discussion on any of the topics, and you end up with more “swirl” than “triangle.”

Are we headed to lives and workplaces and learning processes that are really all just parts of some new whole? Is the convergence of convergences leading us to something still again different and not yet known? Or is it simply the next phase of living in progressively messier mental spaces? Or will one finally trump the others—e.g., in the new new economy, will learning finally subsume all?

In the web pages that follow, we promise you no simple answers. What we can promise you is a rich set of conversations, discussions, and articles exploring different dimensions of the messy debate. Have a look and let your own experiences add to some convergence of understanding.

Brook Manville

brook@linezine.com

 

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