Complementary Production and the Village of Hawk Creek

The story of Tom Newman and the Village of Hawk Creek gives a good example of “complementary production” (the kind I was trying to describe here).

There is a man, Tom Newman, in Cleveland, Tennessee who has spent years slowly gathering five frontier log cabins to his property and turning it into a kind of museum:

Over a period of more than 40 years, Newman purchased five log cabins, carefully taking each one apart, moving them to his property and meticulously putting them back together again.

Photo William Wright

Not only is he interested in capturing and preserving the life of colonists on the frontier of Tennessee, Newman said he wants to share a message with today’s youth.

“I want to show young people the skills and the hard work that it took the early settlers to build their house, to build their home,” Newman said. “I took those logs down, moved them in here and put them back up. That’s hard work! But that’s nothing compared to what those pioneers had to live with. I think young people need to know a little bit about that, if they can. This land was built on hard work.”

The default is to think of “schools” as being in charge of schooling students. (In fact we even call them “learners.”) If instead we think of “education of youth,” and not “schooling,” as a multifaceted and community-wide challenge, that will necessarily involve a wide array of actors, then possibilities open up. You will then look for solutions that involve more than just institutions (“schools”) and professionals (“educators” and administrators) and that are likely to involve complementary actions. Hawk Creek is one such part of a community response to the challenge.

Note that Newman is doing this thing because he is interested, but he is importantly connecting with others in the community and he sees it as an educational resource. The people of Cleveland, TN have an educational resource now that they did not have. Institutions called “schools” can now imagine new ways to, potentially, “teach” history.

3 thoughts on “Complementary Production and the Village of Hawk Creek”

  1. I find it so super cool that the man who was my neighbor, who taught me in Sunday School, is the topic of this blog. Complementary production is a step above Ross and Weill’s “coproduction”…likely even more valuable.

  2. I would argue that Ross & Weill’s “coproduction” is really a “serf” system — users are doing a job that is equally doable by a central machine, FOR the central machine. So the SETI screen savers are working FOR SETI. Complementary production, in this way of thinking, takes into account the individual aims of each actor.

    One potential response would be to say that “coproduction” is more possible in engineered systems while complementary production is more likely in organic systems (like communities). But I think complementary production can be engineered as well. This, for instance, of how you would engineer an autonomous, self-driving car traffic system. One way to approach it would be to have everything go through a central point (kind of like FAA air traffic control). But this is not scalable and is unwieldy. Another way to do it is have each car operating autonomously, handshaking with the cars around them to make “mini swarms” of cars and negotiate who does what. The system as a whole ends up working by dint of the many actors (cars) doing their own thing and making their own traffic control decisions. This is not a perfect description but an approximation of the systems I believe are beginning to be envisioned. (A more complete version of my description is given in Neal Stehpenson’s newest novel Seven Eves, as he describes how a swarm of space craft might organize itself so as not to collide with one another.)

  3. This is really cool and I would like to say that on Nov. 5th the village will be open to the public. I was there this last week (because I am the village blacksmith) and he has been busy since august. there is a half finished barn and the logs to build another building. Mr. Newman is very kind and loves the history of the village. he spent 25 min. telling me about each cabin and where they came from. Even the blacksmith shop where I will be working had original 1850’s timbers (so I have to be careful with the fire :) ) I encourage one and all to come to the Nov 5th open house and to MR. Rourke if you are in the area come on down for a good story. look me up I’ll be the blacksmith.

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