December 19, 2006

Dave Weinberger@LeWeb3 and LTS's Connected Magazine

320543248_83bcedf26b_m As I was waiting for my massage at work today I spotted that Dave Weinberger had written in Connected 16, available as a PDF (with 'active links', it says), pp28-29. It's a very live webby edition with a retort of the Toxic Childhood thesis from me and an insight into what we are doing with gaming for learning from Derek. Enjoy a read before the hols kick in.

Last week at LeWeb3 Dave not only spoke superbly on Blogging for Democracy but also provided welcoming and entertaining company for breakfast and cheese-laden lunch throughout the conference (he toddled over having overheard Jonas and I getting loud and enthusiastic about MMORPGs and learning and scandal and stuff).

His LeWeb3 Blogging for Democracy talk was an ideal compliment to the article I spotted this morning, the article being based on the "what is knowledge nowadays" theses in Everything is Miscellaneous (you can hear the mp3 of the talk) which I blogged about at the time.

He used the Howard Dean election story to get us started, as an example of how the hierarchy of communications had, by this point, been thrown onto its head. The politician and the PR/marketing gurus were no longer in charge of a message which they could massage, but partners in creating messages with the voters - their 'users', if you will. Dean got hat. By embracing this reversal of hierarchy (and really believing in it, not thinking they could play it) Dean was more in touch than any of his competitors. He went from bottom of the pile to a real Democratic contender for the presidency.

Cut to the way some 'democracy engines' operate. Newspapers and government websites for example. The net works on the principle of links, those little blue underlined fragments of generosity, where one person gives attention to another - "leave my site, go and see them; no really, I don't want you to stay here; this person has something far more worthwhile to say on the matter".

But that doesn't count for most Government and mainstream media sites. What they have to say, it would appear, is more important than what any blogger might produce. Weinberger's own example is from the New York Times. Other than ads, there are only four links on the homepage example we are shown, and they point to other pages in the NYTimes website. Taking a look at some random pages of our own Government sponsored websites we're much the same, except for the MFLE where we have made an effort and written in our policies to constantly link out of the site (we get far more traffic in return, too).

The next time someone says "bloggers are just an introverted bunch of egos who don't care what other people think": think again. Bloggers are the most generous around, if they are worth anything. Your average blog post links to several different individuals. Some of the richest posts - like this one, he said self-referetially - link to fifty or more.

The thing here is that the owners of information these days no longer have the right to be the owners of its distribution. Users can and do now sort information on the way out of the information silo rather than experts attempting to sort a growing mass on the way in - why should I choose which bloggers to include in a list of educational bloggers when you can do it yourself to your tastes?

At the end of the day today's advancement is not going to be through knowing loads of stuff - loads of stuff can be found on demand on the net using wikipedia and the many many other tools out there. What is important is finding information quickly, making these links between information, learning to synthesise, as Dan Pink advocates in A Whole New Mind, and then sharing that as a next step on from the raw product.

If we permit ourselves to do it - 'we' being bloggers, teachers, government organisations, learning organisations, businesses, individuals - we can create a meaningful infrastructure of links - an infrastructure of meaning. It can grow from us if organisations who think they know better stop and think before trying to impose taxonomies that force information onto one shelf at a time. The whole 'net neutrality' debate in US politics is a back hander as elites attempt to "make the internet better". It's quite telling, in fact, that today the Wikipedia entry for net neutrality is headed by the message: "the neutrality of this article is disputed". Who decides?

People are ready to get information on the shelf we want it to be on. Keeping those reins on us is only serving a false lesson - let us get out onto that road.

Thanks to Heiko for the top image


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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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