Domains 17 Interview with Jon Udell: “Digital Polarization and a Web of Evidence”

Last Friday the Domains 17 conference committee interviewed Jon Udell live on in anticipation of his presentation at the conference in June. (Still haven’t registered? Here’s the link!) If you have read the bava for any amount of time, it will come as no surprise how excited I am Jon will be presenting on his current work around annotating the web. His work has remained a constant beacon for much of our work at UMW’s DTLT and has followed through at Reclaim Hosting. Back in 2011 he wrote a blog post exploring 7 ways to think like the web, something that Doug Belshaw re-framed for Digital Literacies quite astutely. So, I tried to kick the conversation off there, but as often is the case with anything I do, it did not go as planned. But, that’s all right, because that’s when you surround yourself with smarter and more capable people—not to mention interview them—things have a way of working out better than planned. The conversation, as with Martha Burtis the week before, moved almost immediately to the role of the web in our current political moment, which is probably a solid sign of things to come this June. 

After forcing me to explain myself, Udell jumped into an impassioned discussion of the work he is doing now with Mike Caulfield on the Digital Polarization Initaitive (digipo for short). There are more than a fews gems in this discussion, and listening to Udell articulate the moment in relationship to the underlying technology of the web, while acknowledging its limits, is a lesson in thoughtful reflection on the broader frame for everything we’re doing in ed-tech. I was struck by many things he mentioned, but one that I want to explore in more detail here soon is the idea of an API as essentially a personalized, consistent structure to the data you create on the web. And the idea of understanding how to “think like the web” that undergirds so much of his work over the last two decades is again evidenced in his ability to boil down the acronyms and commodities to ideas and practical pedagogical realities. It’s less than an hour, but more than worth your time.

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