Education and the social web promise or peril


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Facebook and other social media have been hailed as delivering the promise of a new socially engaged education learning and educational experiences for undergraduate, self-directed and other sectors. A theoretical and historical analysis of these media in the light of earlier media transformations however puts this into question. Specifically, the analysis provided here questions whether social media platforms satisfy a crucial component of learning – fostering the capacity for debate and disagreement. Using mMedia theorist Raymond William's analytical frame that emphasisesis on advertising in his analysis of the content and form of the medium, television, allows us towe weigh the structural conditions of dominant social networking sites as constraints for learning, using his critical analytical frame(?). Williams’ critique focuses on the structural characteristics of sequence, rhythm and flow of television as a cultural form. Our critique proposes information design, architecture and above all algorithm as similar structural characteristics that apply to social networks as a different but related cultural form. We shed new light on media influencing non-commercial television content (as Williams's terms sequence, rhythm and flow account for) by proposing that the operation of commerce in non-commercial Web 2.0 content can be correspondingly accounted for by informational design, architecture and algorithm. Illustrating the ongoing salience of media theory for researchstudying on-line learning, the article updates Williams work while leveraging it in a critical discussion of the suitability of some social media for education.

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Education and the social web promise or peril

  1. 1. Education and the Social Web Promise or Peril? A Media-Historical Analysis N. Friesen & S. Lowe
  2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Definitions, caveats and limitations </li></ul><ul><li>Raymond Williams and the PLE </li></ul><ul><li>New Media Business Models </li></ul><ul><li>Customizing Audiences for Advertisers </li></ul><ul><li>Architecture/Algorithm of Conviviality </li></ul>
  3. 3. Definitions, Caveats, etc. <ul><li>Focus on commercial social media; </li></ul><ul><li>Excludes Wikis as social/collaborative media </li></ul><ul><li>Excludes open source networking (e.g. Elgg, Diaspora, Wordpress) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on collaboration in education </li></ul><ul><li>Excludes the “cyberwarfare” ongoing in North Africa </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why is this important? <ul><li>Facebook: 600 million users; integrated chat, mail and video </li></ul><ul><li>½ of Facebook users are students (2008) </li></ul><ul><li>½ of users are between the ages of 18 & 24 (2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook is: “student space – developmentally and generationally specific” </li></ul><ul><li>“ almost 60 percent of students who use social networking talk about education topics </li></ul><ul><li>more than 50 percent talk specifically about schoolwork” (NSBA, 2007). </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook as a threat to the Web itself </li></ul>
  5. 5. The Personal Learning Environment
  6. 6. Muñoz & Towner, 2009; Siemens, 2006 <ul><li>“ Facebook is a network that connects students with other students, indirectly creating a learning community – a vital component of student education.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Facebook provides instructors opportunities and structures by which students can help and support one another by building their courses atop the community already established by the students themselves” (Muñoz & Towner, 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>“ knowing” itself is seen to be “defined by connections” making “learning primarily a network forming process” (Siemens, 2006) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Raymond Williams <ul><li>“ Countless detailed studies of all kinds of media are guided and informed by his careful and penetrating outlines of a theory of media as a form of cultural production.” (Lister et al, 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>Flow: &quot;the defining characteristic of broadcasting, simultaneously as a technology and as a cultural form&quot; (Williams, 1975, p. 86, 93). </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial TV: “an intrinsic setting of priorities: a partisan indication of real social sources.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ see international news brought courtesy of a toothpaste is not to see separable elements, but the shape of a dominant cultural form.” </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>The product that “the networks sell is the attention of audiences; their primary market is the advertisers themselves” </li></ul><ul><li>The goal was to “assemble the largest and richest possible audiences, for whose attention advertisers will pay the highest rates” (Todd Gitlin, 1980) </li></ul><ul><li>Viewers  medium/form  Advertisers </li></ul><ul><li> $ </li></ul>TV: How it worked?
  9. 9. Google and Facebook: Business models <ul><li>Facebook made appx. US$500 million from advertising in 2009 (Ostrow, 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook was estimated to earn US$1.5 billion from ads in 2010 (Kirkpatrick, 2010). </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook’s market valuation as high as $50 billion </li></ul><ul><li>Google: in 2009, it earned US$24 billion revenue, $6.5 billion profit from its advertising programs (economist 2010).  </li></ul>
  10. 11. Facebook search
  11. 13. Querying a Relational Database
  12. 14. FQL <ul><li>SELECT name FROM user WHERE uid = me() </li></ul><ul><li>parent, mother, father, sibling, child sister, brother, son, daughter </li></ul><ul><li>significant_other_id, relationship_status, political, current location, education_history </li></ul><ul><li>SELECT name, birthday, child, current location, relationship FROM family WHERE uid =&quot;6168308&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>SELECT user_id, education_history, relationship_status FROM like WHERE object_id=&quot;122706168308&quot; </li></ul>
  13. 15. Definition of Audiences as Products <ul><li>This is the real Facebook homepage for its its  real  customers, its privileged “premium users” </li></ul><ul><li>Audience-products can be very precisely defined or targeted by advertisers for them to purchase </li></ul><ul><li>Relationship stays the same; the terms involved defined much, much more precisely </li></ul><ul><li>Viewers  medium/form  Advertisers </li></ul><ul><li> $ </li></ul>
  14. 16. Raymond Williams... “commerical content” <ul><li>The sponsorship of programmes [read: web and feed content] by advertisers has an effect beyond the separable announcement and recommendation of a brand name. It is, as a formula of communication, an intrinsic setting of priorities: a partisan indication of real social sources. see international news brought courtesy of a toothpaste [today: Netflix or HP] is not to see separable elements, but the shape of a dominant cultural form. ( p. 66 ) </li></ul>
  15. 17. Raymond Williams... User-created content <ul><li>The insertion of advertisements in unsponsored programmes [read: user content] is a different formula; it has had, as we shall see, extraordinary effects on television as a sequential experience, and has created quite new visual rhythms . Indeed it is possible to see television of this kind as a sequence in which the advertisements are integral rather than as a program interrupted by advertisements. (p. 66-67; emphasis added) </li></ul>
  16. 18. BUT... <ul><li>the relationship between content and advertising is subtle and insidious </li></ul><ul><li>It is made through sequence, rhythm and flow </li></ul><ul><li>So: Even though Facebook or Google, unlike television, do not control content , the relationship is more nuanced </li></ul><ul><li>informational design , architecture , and algorithm . </li></ul>
  17. 19. Architecture of “Conviviality” <ul><li>expansion of inter-connections between users </li></ul><ul><li>encourages the disclosure of concerns of favourable interest to those already in relation </li></ul><ul><li>facilitates the expression of likes and invitations </li></ul><ul><li>foregrounds every new friendship and connection </li></ul><ul><li>than discretion and selectivity </li></ul><ul><li>Articulating internal dissent and difference, articluating differences </li></ul><ul><li>Expressing dislikes and disinclinations, and the reasons for them </li></ul><ul><li>suppressing news of severance and deletion </li></ul>
  18. 20. Algorithms of Conviviality <ul><li>Registering an absence, observing an omission or being faced with exclusion in general: these are avoided through myriad and careful design decisions: algorithms for selecting likely candidate friends, for identifying friends in need of further connections, and for featuring appropriate items “liked” by others. </li></ul><ul><li>At the same time, any of these calculated processes of selection, identification and foregrounding also necessarily involves exclusion, suppression and elimination of other possibilities. However, these “negative” processes are relegated to the software behind the system, and are not readily accessible to users. </li></ul>
  19. 21. What’s not to Like? <ul><li>Imagine if Facebook users could not only choose to &quot;Like&quot; Coca-Cola, but were also provided the option to &quot;Dislike&quot; the brand. Would Facebook become a more appealing place for brands to spend their marketing budgets and ad dollars ... or a less appealing one? Now imagine that websites could add &quot;Dislike&quot; buttons to their pages. </li></ul>
  20. 22. Separation, Differentiation as important <ul><li>The benefits of this “distributed cognition” are tapped inside the classroom when students work collaboratively on problems or projects, learning from each others’ insights, and clarifying their own thinking through articulation and argument (Vye et al., 1998; quoted in Branson et al, 2000).  </li></ul><ul><li>constructivist models of collaborative knowledge building ( e.g. , Scardamalia and Bereiter, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>communitarian models of collaborative inquiry ( e.g. , Garrison, 2005). </li></ul>
  21. 23. Knowledge construction vs “gossip” <ul><li>e.g., Dewey; Garrison, Anderson, Rourke </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. Lefebvre, The Great Fear of 1789 </li></ul>
  22. 24. In Summary... <ul><li>The architecture, algorithm and design of Facebook and social networks reflects interests of advertisers, not users (or educators) </li></ul><ul><li>What is in the interest of educators is differentiation and articulation vs. connection and conviviality, “liking” and audience-products </li></ul><ul><li>There may be ways of that conviviality can help education, but these have yet to be considered re: social networking. </li></ul>
  23. 25. Conclusion <ul><li>“ You are not Facebook’s customer. You are the product that they sell to their real customers — advertisers. Forget this at your peril” (Greenberg) </li></ul><ul><li>“ This simple reality underlies almost all considerations having to do with these tools, whether we’re talking about the persistence of online resources, the ownership of personal data, or whose interests will be served as these online environments continue to evolve. To use these tools is to reinforce, however indirectly, the ‘advertised life,’ the incursion of commoditization ever deeper into human thought and interaction.” (Lamb & Groom)  </li></ul>
  24. 26. Educational Television <ul><li>“ Unable to bid for the skills and talents of commercial media specialists and masters of the communication process, educational television has [maintained a] dull system of [classroom] pedagogy handed down intact from Rabbinical times. It has been transmitted to viewers without any recognition that many ...find dogfood and soap commercials more attractive and stimulating.” (15, 16). </li></ul>
  25. 27. <ul><li>Mind arose out of existence, as an organ for keeping alive. In reflecting existence, however, it becomes at the same time something else. The existent negates itself as thought upon itself. Such negation is mind's element. </li></ul>