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Different social networks

danah boyd tackles a much needed discussion – different types of social networks. Network language has been integrated into society. This is partly due to the experience many people have now had with linking, connected, and sharing information through social media. Simple network terms long tales, power laws, strong/weak ties, etc. are thrown around rather casually. Because living is fundamentally about networking and connecting, a sense of understanding exists in the use of terms, but I think they are often misunderstood. Or, they are used to bluntly. Within education, I’ve been arguing for the development of more nuanced use of language in discussing learning networks. Most conference attendees have by now seen the conference social map – a map that draws attention to how attendees are connected…but provides very limited value. The question for me is not “how are people connected?” but rather “what are the implications of people being connected in a certain way?”. In a classroom, for example, I’d like to know how student interaction influences learning. Frequency of contact isn’t that important to me. But the implication of an interaction is. But we have limited language (and very little discussion that I’ve seen to date) addressing a more nuanced view of networks. danah’s post is a start in this regard…but much more is needed before networks move from understanding novelty of form to understanding implications of form.

One Comment

  1. roy wrote:

    Your shift from connection to interaction to quality of interaction is key. In networked learning the important thing is not which link/ page/ connection is open, but which mind is open and engaged with which other mind/s.

    One way of understanding the implications of the novelty of form, particularly of integrated digital neworks, is by looking at the affordances they make possible. To start with, they allow people to create new spaces, and reconfigure some of the fundamentals about the divisions and borders of public/private space and individual/ social space. Sociologically, this changes everything.

    Secondly, the affordances of autonomy are transformed: the possibilities for self-organisation, and self-initiated interaction, virtual/ avatar/ anonymous/ interaction, speed, range, and diversity.

    In complexity terms the conceptual attractor for all this is “adaptation”, i.e. intergrated digital networks (or digital ecologies) enable people to create and adapt (and ‘learn’?) within these networks in substantially new ways – as individuals, members of communities, avatars, etc, etc.

    It’s not the connections that make a difference, or the aggregation of connections, it’s the fun, organization and quality of the networks.

    But affordances inevitably bring about ecological shifts. The fun clearly gets out of hand very easily, with ‘sexting’ for instance. And the tasks of organisation and self-organisation, particularly of mult-tasking, dynamic, weak links, although it feels completely ‘natural’ to some of us, is a burden, or at the very least a long and rather painful learning curve for others.

    The dialectic of self-organised learning has progressed far enough to make the downside visible, and I for one had never previously asked whether “we all want to be self-organised learners” until I recently heard a reseach report about a blind software students who managed her learning very comfortably (with a host of technical and human aids), but really struggled with managing all the people (7 of them) and resources. Its and extreme case, but a useful one.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 4:54 am | Permalink