What if….

Below Brad Kozlek is framing Chris Long’s quote from Jeff Jarvis’ The Buzz Machine:

I have been arguing that news organizations should reimagine and rebuild themselves as platforms for their communities, enabling people to share what they know and adding journalistic value to that. As such, they should study technology companies.

The responsibilities and opportunities of the platform — BuzzMachine (via cplong)

Interesting to see Chris Long pull out this quote from Jeff Jarvis. I think this fits right in to my line of thought that universities need to develop platforms and not just throw of a bunch of technological odds and ends together to conduct education. I often say that perhaps the New York times, instead of figuring out how to put their paper online, should have been inventing twitter. Same can be said, or will be said, about higher ed.


Now, take that to the next level, what if the students and professors manage and maintain their own platforms and the university aggregates, syndicates, and makes sharing both easy and evident? What would be possible then? What if the curriculum was about building and managing your learning platform on the web?

Update: The more I think about this the more I truly believe it provides an alternative to University’s aping the current zeitgeist of “innovative” tech companies trying to build successful start-up platforms. Education needs to return to the space of teaching people how to conceptualize and build these things rather than get in the business of building and maintaining such a service. The struggle to make sense of this space and but it in some cultural context is the service we provide, we must not forget that!

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7 Responses to What if….

  1. Brian says:

    In very few words you provoke an interesting debate on providing open platforms as a service, or whether it is better to think of the services we can provide for open platforms.

    To peel another layar off the onion, I think you succinctly capture a core attribute of what higher education innovation could be about. Could this be the literacy component? (I hope that doesn’t sound too general or too limiting.) Two very complementary, perhaps overlapping components I would add: authentic learning experiences, and experiences that engage the university with its local community and the wider world. (Lincoln’s Student as Producer is one framework that captures those elements in its mission.)

    I’m hoping to get a conversation started at TRU on this. Do those elements make sense, and would you add anything to them. (If you have thoughts, if it would be easier to talk via another medium, happy to do so…)

  2. Reverend says:

    I love the idea of framing the conceptualization and building as part of the literacy element. I think one of the real issues here is not everyone needs to be a programmer, but eery needs to understand how knowledge is constructed, found, and disseminated algorithmically. The whole idea of Jon Udell’s web thinking would be a crucial intro to that idea of a literacy of the digital world we inhabit (or the one we would want to—which is another part of our mission I believe).

    This actually links to the Lincoln Student as Producer vision in that build classes, syllabi, and curriculum around a local, or web-based resource (like you and JBM did with Murder Madness mayhem), that actually needs attention. The idea of designing things and building things curricularly seems crucial to such a vision, and what better than to start with the web space you inhabit and share through. That’s what feels incomplete about University as service provider, UMW Blogs is an example of this—and while pwoerful—it was always a means to the larger end of allowing everyone to maintain and control their space to the degree they want to. I don’t want to be too preachy about everyone having to do this, but rather everyone being introduced to the basic concepts of how it works and what it means to manage a domain (even if it is mapped on 3 different 3rd party services).

    And the other issue is was the platform what made the community? I think it might have, but Universities can still build a platform of hubs and networks of serendipitous juxtaposition and leave the data to the people. There is a real civil rights vision here to that needs to be explored in terms of who is mining your data and for what reasons. That in many ways will be the battle going forward, and whiel I hold out hope for distributed mesh networks and all that—I still think discussions like this are the first steps. I couldn’t even conceptualize a mesh network or a diaspora personal server if I hadn’t understood how commodity hosting servers work (or don’t work). Once again, this vision of the domain of one’s own has its definite limits, and I could see in 7 more years pushing individualized server spaces and networks that people maintain individually but in turn run the network we all populate. A network that would be freer than what we are chained to now. Funny enough, so much of this thinking is inspired by a couple of days with Grant Potter in NYC. In that seemingly technical malaise their is real metaphoric power to rekindle a sense of empowerment—which I think we can both agree seems less and less a reality when everything becomes a measure of scale and metrics. The idea behind Domain of One’s Own and the whole hardcore freedom network push is it returns the scaling and metric to individuals and communities. It is in direct opposition to the large scale aggregation and mining of personal data by corporate, national, or criminal interests. The model of the MOOC as it is being corporatized currently is the culmination of every vision of wholesale feeding lots for data, stratification, and oppression—Gardner is 100% right, it is the Wal-Martification of Higher Ed and it is a sad, sad thing. But we can fight it!

    Whew, I should stop now…

  3. Luke says:

    It’s a bit of a retreat from where you’ve gone in your comment, but Jarvis loses me with this argument. Journalistic value shouldn’t be added to newly created pathways of information; it should be originated as rigorous craft. Giving the community a voice can and certainly be part of that, but it (as Huff Post and dozens of crappy Patch projects show) drastically increases the noise to signal ratio. I don’t get why the Times should have invented Twitter… I actually think they’ve been doing a bang up job of imagining new modes and models for journalism, not least around their video and visualization experiments. They also are getting better at sharing.

    Of course, I’m completely on board with where you take the argument re: universities. I think it’s interesting that in your op you call this a “return to the space of teaching people how to conceptualize and build these things.” I think it is a return in a sense in that it remembers and reasserts the university as one of the few spaces protected from the vagaries of the market (Herbert Marcuse!), as an institution that possesses the ability to empower not only those who flow through it but those who are nearby. That said, the platforms and their structures and the specific types of access they allow are oh so important and as we all know directly impact what Brian so awesomely calls “the services we can provide for” them.

    I’m also uneasy about “What if the curriculum was about building and managing your learning platform on the web?” That sounds like a co-curriculum to me, which is not to say it’s less important; far from it. I had a conversation with my father last week, and when he was a young academic he was deeply involved in building a residential college that struggled with some of the very same issues that we are struggling through… what is the nature of community in higher ed? How can we create a structure in these four years for students to become inspired and ask and then seek answer questions that are important to them and to society? The residential college experiment has been dramatically altered by technology — faculty whose offices were amidst the students dorms and who played ball and ate and drank with students now are never there. The connections have moved online. But the questions and the core educational mission lives on in a timeless way, and Domain of One’s Own and these conversations about platforms might well be their reincarnation.

  4. Reverend says:

    You’re awesome, and your commentary here goes a long way towards another issue I have been working through as the Domain of One’s Own has been ramping up. We are still using services like UMW Blogs and umw.edu, we are just showing folks how to map, organize, and somewhat maintain their address, and in some cases their applications. I am not sure if this will fracture the UMW Blogs community by breaking with the idea of a single university blogging system (though the original idea was trying to make UMW Blogs as much an aggregator as possible). I want to believe we can figure out syndication and aggregation in such a way to begin to imagine both individualized and system driven sites are a personal choice that doesn’t exclude the some idea of community wither way.

    To go off on a tangent, this is what I like about Tumblr, it pushes you into an aggregation of community work you follow. I wish the dashboard of UMW Blogs would make that same stuff available. A focus on work from people in my classes or others I follow, but still given the space for everyone’s work to be open, discovered, and maintained by them.

    I like the sense you focus on of having the ability to shield the experiments from an idea of market value to see what helps build community online space that doesn’t have vertical integration of identities and services as the holy grail. But more and more with the Domain of One’s Own project I am finding we’re able to keep archives with the hosting services we now operate and provide through MediaTemple. That has enabled us to free up departments from Bluehost, but still manage their work. It has also allowed us to import all blogs to UMW Blogs and map the domains. UMW Blogs is becoming a mapped quilt work of sites that will be updated once on one install. I guess what I am tripping on is that Domain of One’s Own is happening and seems somewhat manageable. Now, the awesome analogy to your dad’s experience makes it that much cooler. How does good community happen now, I want the face-to-face space and I want the dynamism of community on the web as well. I also want students to be a bit nonplussed about being asked to think about this space as part of the curriculum of learning a discipline or experimenting with creating. The moment now speaks to the later, and the art created on it is so conscious of that, this is our juvvy films of the 1950s 😉

  5. Brad Kozlek says:

    Where my thoughts have going lately are revealed by the links in my paragraph that Jim quoted. As education moves online, the digital platform becomes very important. I don’t think a bunch of slapped together components will cut it. University’s need some bespoke tools. Right now I think a digital common area is very important, whether it be an aggregation hub or a centralized service like UMW Blogs, or a new white label tumblr ripoff. We wouldn’t ask students to meet in the mall to have class, or travel to each other’s house.

    Jim mentions in his comment some things that tumblr does that he wishes UMW blogs did, and that is alright. I think there is a big difference from learning from, or even aping, the affordances of tools built by tech companies and actually trying to adopt the the practices of a tech company.

    In terms of building and managing your own learning platform on the web, corporate services (facebook, twitter, tumblr) are going to be a huge part of that. University provided systems and a student’s own systems are also going to be part of it. All of these things will also constantly be changing underfoot – but jumping between them all gracefully, isn’t that what parkour is all about?

  6. Brad Kozlek says:

    Where I think I was on the way to arriving to with my post is that digital platforms are going to be a much bigger differentiator for institutions going forward. They could be systems like those used for the new corporate MOOCs, centralized services for expression and discourse like UMWBlogs, or a complete build your own model like I hear Jim wondering about. The platform affects how education is conducted. The model of throwing up some open source tools for centralized services or asking people to build their own still needs tons of work. The tools need to get way better. What I wonder is if higher ed institutions need to invest in building them.

  7. Pingback: software development as a function of content organizations | Brad Kozlek

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