October 18, 2005

Geeky names put off those who matter

This is based on an old article lurking in my Bloglines account, which came out as a result of a market research survey on new technologies that found how few people know what blogging is - and mistaken it for dogging. This is despite the news that the blogosphere is doubling every five months.

At the Podcasting Roundtable at this year's SETT Learning Festival I aired the view that the names given to technologies - blogging, podcasting, RSS - leave the vast majority of people bamboozled. As a confirmed techy I do remember feeling uncomfortable with the terms blog, podcast and RSS when I first heard of them, even if I use all three on a daily basis now. It's taken me three years to be completely at ease with it all, having borken my way through the jargon to discover what is, in effect, fairly simple-to-use technology.

Are we just increasing the digital divide by exclusing vast numbers of people who are put off at the first hurdle: the jargon hurdle? Or should people learn the names as much as how to use the technology as part of their education in information literacy?

I honestly believe in the latter, but can't seem to see a way to democratise blogging and podcasting further - and quicker - in the education community in Scotland until I can help people over the yuk factor these terms seem to inspire.

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Have you any IDEA how long it took for terms such as "grade referenced criteria" (GRC) to trip effortlessly off the tongue? Give the profession .. oh, another 5 years .... And I still don't know what RSS stands for, BTW, and haven't got it to work yet!

hi Ewan,
Anything we talk about needs to be named. Trouble with blog and podcast is that they sound infantile. But we are stuck with them.
RSS sounds ok, I prefer Really Simple Syndication to Rich Site Summary, as it sounds simpler.
Maybe the first step is to learn the word Wikipedia as that will explain all the others.

I also think we should give things their proper name - as a French teacher I have educated kids to talk about sentence parts using the right terminology. Funny how that adults sometimes take longer to get the terms than the kids. ;-)

Agree that the names for these things are pretty terrible, but we stopped using Greek and Latin for new inventions a while back, alas.

Nonetheless, don't assume that people *don't* know what these terms are: Guardian research among people aged 14-21 - your pupils, in other words - shows that they not only have huge awareness of these technologies, but that a significant number are using them every day.

http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,16559,1586891,00.html

Some people are genuinely ignorant of new technologies, and should be guided into this new world. Others are deliberately ignorant of it, because they dismiss it as geeky and so beneath their attention. It's a form of snobbery, and a particularly British form of snobbery - often the same people would be horrified to be accused of being unaware of the arts, or celeb culture. It deserves to be treated with contempt.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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