I noticed this weekend that I have been distracted.
As I got involved in the ‘un-course’ Rhizomatic Learning run by Dave Cormier over at P2PU, I have neglected my DS106 life. This stops today. I have chosen this space as my home and community on the web and my cognitive surplus will come here first and only if there is any left will it go to other hashtag classrooms. Depth of learning happens through sustained practice, breadth is all that is acquired by being a MOOC tourist.
So, rather than going elsewhere to write, I am here reflecting on the most interesting conversation I have had on the web this week. I cannot remember how I came across him, but Alastair Creelman wrote a post that made me stop MOOC window shopping and pay attention.
He asks in the first paragraph:
Are we all so busy sharing that we don’t stop to wonder if anyone is listening?
The post moves on to wonder what is happening with all the content we are storing in servers around the world:
We’re all busy filling the world’s servers with information yet only a fraction of it is seen by more than a handful of people, if that. As the mountain of titles rises the chances of anyone reading your efforts diminish.
Alastair then moves on to wonder about ‘dissemination’ and its value:
On top of this there is all the time spent sharing these resources via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Scoopit and many, many more. Here we’re not creating anything new, simply creating echoes of someone else’s content.
of course there are those who think that these echoes are important in this age of abundance and there is a skill in echoing:
information discovery plays such a central role in how we make sense of the world in this new media landscape, then it is a form of creative labor in and of itself
Alastair’s post ends with a plea that we, those of us in distributed educational technology or #DEdTech as Jim Groom likes to call it,
discuss ways of encouraging digital recycling, reducing background noise and maybe choosing not to add new resources unless absolutely necessary. Just as the physical world is producing more products than can be consumed, we’re producing more digital content than can be used.
I think we need to engage with this conversation for its own sake, not from a defensive frame.
An interesting dialogue is evolving on Alastair’s post and it shows that this is a sensitive issue for many – quotes that follow are from the comments on the post – I fear that it touches on the individual ‘right’ some of us feel we have to produce and create content at will. From an educational point of view, the argument seems to be that it is unimportant if content lies unread in the world’s huge data centers,
as ‘the metaphor is often more important than than the reality’ that it will no be read because,
if nothing else curation may give us a sense of our place in universe. Pretty insignificant but pretty essential all the same.
We can dialogue about the ‘essentialness’ of human beings’ place in the universe, but the educational argument here is that we use technology as a tool for self-development and that digital landfills are a price worth paying. The learning justifies the means.
I say it again: I think we need to engage with this conversation for its own sake, not from a defensive frame. Yes, some people believe in their inalianable right create content, much in the same way as others believe that they can keep consuming regardless of the actual landfills. This does not remove the need for a conversation that tackles the negative consequences of us exercises our individual right.
Alastair starts the exploration with this suggestion:
Maybe curation can be expanded to include wise management of resources such as pruning/deleting outdated and irrelevant material. Maybe resources could have a sell-by date after which they simply vanish.
Sell by date for resources! Now, there is an idea worth spreading.
He further adds,
I love to share but when a couple of billion people share every photo, bookmark, idea, greeting, film or whatever we’re saving information that should be ephemeral. Snapchat has the right idea – send a photo that disappears completely after 10 seconds. When the ephemeral becomes permanent…
My last comment before deciding to write this post was,
“All wise thoughts have been thought thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them ourselves.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Of course Goethe never said we must blog, curate and tweet them 🙂
The accumulation of unused resources and the phenomenon echoing other people’s content without deep listening is a side of open education that deserves attention without rationalisation about people’s rights to create content and/or the social/interpersonal impact of having a personal cyberinfrastructure, these are sides of the same coin not mutually exclusive issues.
In blogging about design during Headless 13, I talked about the consequences of us encouraging our students to produce more and more content in the name of creativity. Some took my comments then as a personal attack on their right to produce it rather than social commentary.
“My current reflections are about the unintended global and long term consequences of our virtual habits, your reflections highlight the individual argument about how we benefit from what we own, produce and create. Just as I see the negative consequences of individualistic pursuits in landfills in our physical world, I also fear for our open web as we keep producing, throwing stuff away and engaging with content from a cumulative but non-reflective perspective.”
As we worship at the altar of ‘make art, damn it!’ may we also take time to consider the consequences in the physical of non-reflective consumption. And if you need a reminder of these, please make yourself a cup of tea and take time to watch this heart breaking animation. It was watching this little heart breaking treasure this morning that led to this post.
Sell-by dates for data? Digital Literacies that include a sense of guardianship for what we produce? Questioning our god-given to keep hoarding content just because it is virtual? Let’s keep the ideas coming without changing the conversation to ‘But, we have the right to create!’ We do and, if we stop to reflect, we may see unintended consequences we do not like?