Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

Thoughts and deeds

Why I mistrust social without personal

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I fret about this these days:

“Lastly, my heart rolled over at the conversation about online social networking, which was consonant with everything else I’ve been hearing on the subject. I blog and I read an immense amount of ‘user-generated content’ – ideas, entire online arguments, artworks – but must I Facebook under my actual name to be a viable bet for my next employer?  Do we have to wear our lives on our sleeves online, or risk seeming one-dimensional? Is there any room for individuals to be friendly, civil, responsible, cooperative, without demonstrating it in a social network? Can we keep ourselves to ourselves if we want to, or will we discover that we have excluded ourselves because the rules have changed? Disturbed by the idea that I might have to come out behind all my social software aliases, and perform some career-oriented identities. This is not my idea of authentic. I don’t want to use my friends and colleagues as my foil. And what about the personal and professional parts of my digital identity – should I give in to the forces which are pushing them into each other? It reminds me of a commission by the Soviet constructivist artist Rodchenko, a worker’s recreation centre. You could busy yourself in a vast variety of pursuits as long as you weren’t doing them alone.”

There’s an alternative term for ‘social media’: the ‘live web’, and it’s the suggestion of Doc Searls (wondering what Doc is short for), Berkman academic and winner  of the Google / O’Reilly Open Source Award for Best Communicator. He argues, in a nutshell that over-attention to the social web, as things stand, interferes with any efforts to empower individuals natively because currently personal aspects of our online lives are assumed to follow from social aspects, rather than the other way round. This is going to take me some thinking out, from a teaching and learning context. I’m thinking Argyris on organisational learning, and Schon’s reflective practitioner. Double-loop learning involves not merely learning how to do something, but also examining and possibly adapting the premises of the task or question. This would depend on a neutral, adaptable environment. But as Searls points out, online environments are rarely ours; facebook wants to keep me inside it so it can show me adverts; your iPhone can turn itself into a brick if Apple catches you hacking it.

Much more thinking to do. Meanwhile:

“Here’s my other problem with “social media” as it shows up in too many of the 103 million results it currently brings up on Google: as a concept (if not as a practice) it subordinates the personal.

Computers are personal now. So are phones. So, fundamentally, is everything each of us does. It took decades to pry computing out of central control and make it personal. We’re in the middle of doing the same with telephony — and everything else we can do on a hand-held device.

Personal and social go hand-in-hand, but the latter builds on the former.

Today in the digital world we still have very few personal tools that work only for us, are under personal control, are NEA, and are not provided as a grace of some company or other. (If you can only get it from somebody site, it ain’t personal.) That’s why I bring up email, blogging, podcasting and instant messaging. Yes, there are plenty of impersonal services involved in all of them, but those services don’t own the category. We can swap them out. They are, as the economists say, substitutable.

But we’re not looking at the personal frontier because the social one gets all the attention — and the investment money as well.

Markets are built on the individuals we call customers. They’re where the ideas, the conversations, the intentions (to buy, to converse, to relate) and the money all start. Each of us, as individuals, are the natural points of integration of our own data — and of origination about what gets done with it.

Individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture. Starting with the social keeps us from working on empowering individuals natively. That most of the social action is in silos and pipes of hot and/or giant companies slows things down even more. They may look impressive now, but they are a drag on the future.”

The link again.

Via Stephen Downes.


Written by Mira Vogel

November 13, 2009 at 16:34

Posted in social networking

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