The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age

Via a post by Michael Roy at the Wesleyan Academic Commons site comes mention of this interesting project that I thought for sure would get a reaction in the edublogging crowd, both for the topic and for its format.

The topic – “How do institutions–social, civic, educational–transform in response to and in order to promote new kinds of learning in the information age?” Rather than take a straight-ahead run at more conventional notions of ‘institutions’ I think they helpfully start by modifying the usual definition towards asking the question “What would it mean to start with a definition that emphasized social networks and the processes of creating those networks?”

The format – apparently a new WordPress blogging plugin (code name Comment Press) which allows commenters to add feedback on a paragraph by paragraph-basis in a form that resembles a conversational thread. Well worth the read. – SWL

Visio version of Scott Wilson’s UML Mashup Stencil

I liked the UML icons that Scott Wilson produced and shared for the OminGraffle tool, but couldn’t use them ‘as is’ because OminGraffle doesn’t exist for the PC. So I asked Scott if he could share the source with me so I might somehow get them into Visio, the tool I most often use to whip up such drawings. He kindly went one better and produced an exported stencil for Visio, out of which I created the same set of mashup shapes for Visio. Just drop it in “My Documents – My Shapes” to be able to use it in Visio. Happy Diagramming! And thanks again Scott! – SWL

Article – “Limits of self-organization: Peer production and ‘laws of quality'”�

So at least 5 weeks ago, First Monday publishes this article by the co-author of The Social Life of Information, Paul Duguid, that asks questions about the oft-asserted transferability of “laws of quality” from open source software projects to the peer production of ‘knowledge’ in sites like Wikipedia, and literally almost no one replies (well at least one well read blogger did)?

Maybe everyone just read this already and went on with their business. But this smells like the fart in the crowded room of social software acolytes that nobody wants to acknowledge (jeez, somebody crack the window already!) Duguid can easily be faulted, as he does himself, for the anecdotal examples, but his article doesn’t read like one from the establishment “enemy” camp trying to argue for the quality of existing authorities, but instead a call for a thoughtful examination of some assumptions that enthusiasts of the peer production of knowledge (and I count myself as one) continue to make but which, if questioned, might actually improve these processes. Not that the examples he cites, like Wikipedia, aren’t always trying to grapple with these issues. Still, the silence is deafening. – SWL

Ulises Ali Mejias on “The Tyranny of Nodes”

The only reason I don’t recommend reading Ulises Ali Mejias’s Ideant is that you may never get back to work, so deep and thought provoking do I find his essays (calling them posts would seem a slight). But if you have the heart, head and time to have followed some of Stephen’s longer posts essays, then you must read these as well. These represent for me the two intellectual views on networks between which I currently vascillate (though careen would likely be the better word).

When Ulises writes in conclusion that while “self-interest might be a functional principle to organize networks … it might not be sustainable as the basis for a social ethics, which requires a degree of selfless engagement” he gives word to a fear that has been nagging me since I first heard Stephen disparage “networks of proximity” and have myself tried to give feeble voice to in posts like this one on Canada day and in conversation with other edubloggers. What I appreciate so much about Ulises’ piece as I read it was that it was not demonizing networks nor underplaying their power, but instead questioning what we lose in adopting them as a governing metaphor (and more, an actual organizing principle).

What I’m left with, though, is the same question I feel in the face of my children’s over-mediatized future, which is not how to make it go away, as I don’t think it ever will, but instead if there are ways in which we can adopt the technologies (and ways of being that we can adopt that aren’t on the network) to help us, if not evade, at least amend, this ‘tyrrany.’ Like I said, careening!!! – SWL