Personally learning network

Déjà vu all over again”

I find that everything said about Personal Learning Networks [PLN] of Personal Learning Environments [PLE] is a fair summary of staying abreast of facilitated communication. But nothing about the communication is new, only the containers. The writers for this week’s readings are preachers, some more strident than others. But communication was the reason behind the internet with sharing and communicating. Listserv threads are still around. They have been used to connect people of similar interests since before there was a WWW. Just as the current crop of new programs Listserv was free until a product emerged to allow users to know nothing of the mechanism of unix while participating in threads of discussion on the topics of their choice. Even the legendary mistakes of facebook, Twitter, and blogging with the inadvertent posting of information of a private nature existed in advance of these new forms.

But beyond the fashionable consumption of new ways of doing things–that’s what makes jobs and keeps people busy day and night–several of these articles are right to stress the needs of a digitally networked discussion, much as we would the face-to-face encounters, if they occur. Rheingold especially is laying out pattern of engagement, emphasizing participatory actions. I’m particularly pleased to see serendipity touted. This has liberal arts written all over it. It’s not about finding the real name of Tiroler Ganger Die Gludstinder whose recording of Allweil Luftig was first played by Mac on the Antique Music Program, and then that program uploaded to the Free Music Archive where Martin Auer, notes the title should read Allweil lustig (“Always Merry”) and the band name is probably Tiroler Sänger (“Tyrolean Singers”), The Glückskinder (“Lucky Fellows”) or in English order The Lucky Fellow Tyrolean Singers. [] But its about the sharing. There are people to follow, and Mac is one of them. One never knows where recordings of Swiss yodeling of the early 20th century may appear.

It was never kind, but “lurking” as a pattern of passive participation, may no longer be tolerated. Similarly due to the rise in gratuitous irrelevant commentary, many places now require log-in and password. This is a pain if only because one must then manage the passwords. But it does cause one to hone the list of sites. As an “old school” surfer (in several respects) I tend to also review the links. Often some are familiar others are broken, but again serendipity abounds. An individual or site may be gone, but an archived version exists.

There is less virtue in trimming the list than might first appear. I find that moving url to a cache is preferable to discarding the contact. Again, serendipitous opportunity to feed someone else a contact may come from a site one no longer follows.

What I value about Rheingold’s list is that his suggestions include not only the getting of information, but the giving of information and the need for restraint. Without visual clues and long association the surly comment is damaging to the relationship in ways that many don’t imagine. Then too, responding to requests for information is important as well.

I’m still trying to imagine how I’ll use this in a teaching condition. Student projects within the major tend to be brief and intense. Rheingold is perhaps an important reading for instructors of classes, such as FSEM, in which molding habits of social interaction can be beneficial across the entire course of an undergraduate education. Still it’s hard to imagine a first-year student who signs up for an FSEM and then maintains the same interest over the span of her undergraduate experience.





  • I would disagree that social networking tools provide nothing new besides a different container. For one thing, these tools democratize the process of communicating; anyone with an internet connection (whether via desktop, laptop, or mobile device) can create their own publication, without waiting for approval from an editor or other official gatekeeper. This allows communities to grow that didn’t exist before, and to have voices and perspectives represented in places where they would be absent otherwise. That, to me, is just one example of a fundamental change these tools represent.

    • You are of course right, even retro attire, or playing music through a Fender tube amp isn’t really like it was before. The past is past. For the sake of this discussion, however, I’ll suggest that the reason that current social messaging appears more democratic is that the jaws of a business model have not yet snapped shut on this form of communication. I had an identical emotional response to earlier web development. The web was liberating, the learning curve of access was low, and instead of talking with one person at a time I could communicate with dozens. In doing public folklore work, I found that Native Peoples, for example Navajos and Hopi were creating direct marketing sites in the late 1990s. The sites had initially been hosted by the Northern New Mexico Community College. This freed the individual artist to directly meet their potential clients and customers without paying a middle (business) person. The artists got more of the money. But access to the internet became constrained by two forces. First, the ever present notion that sites should “dress for success.” That was true for MWC as well. Employing the business model of branding MWC administrators designated dreamweaver as the only software for its webpages (that would represent the college). Kathy D was hired as the Webmaster and became the arbiter of taste, not facilitator of diversity. Schools have become businesses and like businesses monetize every aspect of the experience. Believe it or not you won’t find it so hot, if you don’t have the Do Re Mi.
      The other force (probably among many others) was the control of domain names. It became a marketplace with entrepreneurs buying up names with the hope, or expectation of converting it to cash–some did.
      Personally I hope you are right in your belief that social media will stay more democratic. But for me, it looks like deja vu all over again. But you know, you gain somethings and you lose somethings. HTML 2.0 was an advance not because of the content delivery, but the robustness of the markup. ITunes is a business tool, not a democratic facilitation.

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