Some notes and thoughts

Some of you might be wondering what happened to the first 3 speakers at Blogtalk Downunder, well the notes are on paper as I did not have my laptop up and running. I will try to document and post soon.

Regular readers might also be wondering when the flood of posts will stop, today as we finish at Blogtalk Downunder this afternoon with a Blogwalk run by Sebastian Fiedler.

Further to this now that I have most of my notes online I plan to review and see if I can pull together some threads from the conference. Some that come to mind immediately are:-

  • Blogs are a collaborative tool
  • Blogs are informal
  • It is more about that you write than what you write about
  • The long tail is alive (depending on your point of view it may or may not need us to survive)
  • It is about the conversation
  • Blogs seem to be bring students back to writing and reading
  • Most need be a blog reader before you become a blog writer

An observation, educators seem to call them “weblogs” while geeks “blogs”, why?

One final note to say thanks to Anne, James, and Adrian for organising the conference.

Panel – Mark Bernstein

What people write on the blog does matter, Mark uses the example of the guy that was murder earlier in the month. The post was not very well written, vocabulary poor, but the meaning is only useful when we understand the context of the post. Aggregation does not give us this ability, or does it?

What sort of stories do blogs want us to tell? We have to remember that conversations should be dispersed in time and society. Overriding theme to transcend credentials, education blogs are swimming against the current thoughts within higher education. PR vs true blogs comes down to authenticity, it is not authenticity as in I am who I am, but it is artistic truth (or maybe I screwed up on this one?).

Panel – Sebastian Fielder

Feels that the attention being paid to A-Listers is becoming obsessive, and they really don’t matter when talking about education. When you start to look for the A-list for a certain market they are not the “traditional” a-list members. (A great comment!) Authorship is a growing theme, do we all need a lawyer? Sebastian is uncomfortable with some of the changes that he sees are going on within other societies outside of Germany. It is not about the tools it is the social practices. Universities are not taking responsibility today to increase the underlying skills of their students. He has an issue that in these types of conferences we focus on the hear and now, not the future, which concerns him.

Panel – Senator Andrew Bartlett

Different perspective due to his role as a politician. He sees blogging as a major mechanism for communication, business, social opportunities. The fundamentals are communication, the connection of people to people. This overall will help us to get to a point where we can all do social good. Be very wary of narrowing the channel and packaging things a particular way (almost back to big media), you need to have diversity.

Senator Bartlett linked the diversity of blogosphere back to ecology and the environment. Anything that increases diversity can help with social good, it also makes it harder to be controlled. Also don’t forget the digital divide, language really literacy within the community. The means does shape the ends.

Panel – Mick Stanic

Not from the education market he is a commercial guy. Interesting 4-5 years ago when he was hiring no one knew about blogging, but the last few people he hired they were hired because they were bloggers. In fact they came through the educational process, specifically at UTS.

Aggregation is a major aspect because it can help you get access to niche content. Now we need to move towards being able to access this content anywhere you want, mobile. In Japan the mobile phone is the internet device not the PC. Mobile phones allow us to integrate the content into our lives. Text, audio and video is all important content but neither will replace the other. Also there is a whole other world that we cannot get access to because of our English language barrier.

Panel – Rebecca Blood

A major theme that has run through the two days is about getting students to blog for life. She look at how many educators were actually walking the talk of using blogs, meaning that if educators are not doing it then how will the students. She mentions a blogger in US who posts content about his course which forces students to visit the blog as blog writers start by being blog readers.

On the long tail Rebecca disagrees with Mark and Katie but she doesn’t think the long tail needs us, but I am not sure I know who she means by the word “us”. Rebecca feels that most people blog because they have something to say, which starts the whole long tail community. Data mining is a major issue because how do we all connect aka “break into the ring” with out it? This goes into a huge discussion on comments and opinions that was had last night at dinner, I will post about that soon and Mike has the audio.

Sebastian Fiedler – Key note

Sebastian says that back in 2003 there was very little work being done in the educational arena, and now compared to today there has been a major amount of work/evolution around the globe. He moved through much of his content at a rapid rate due to time issues so some of this is very patchy.

Radical innovations in education

Assimilation of new technologies

The discouraging lesson that might be drawn is that radical innovation has no chance in education

Can we look at this new media as an opportunity to a renaissance?

Characters of this renaissance:-

  • What was hardware is now software, ie things are up for discussion that previously were not
  • Leap to authorship

When new technology appears the masses usually get pushed into a role of consumer, to move to an author/generator of content usually takes a large about of work. People are slowly moving from a consumer role of content to an author, blogs give us this ability.

Typical stages of development around new technology:- deconstruction, demystification, participatory

Is the internet a story of revolution., assimilation or renaissance? Early days has always had communication as a fundamental factor. The early designers of the web saw this as well. Web 1.0 was static, with content being king but in a mystic approach where the designers had the control. Focus for users as on consumption. Now new tools are being built over the static web through tools like wikis, blogs are a new interface to the same conceptual framework. Collaboration is now in the forefront. We now have decentralisation.

The Open Source movement has been instrumental in the development if the internet today, the openness and freedom where anyone can be an author. Openness of process, content, and purpose, goals and application.

Open Source principles are now seeping into other parts of our culture, which is great:-
DARENet is an idea to have all content being published online.
OpenCola is an open environment to a product, anyone can post modifications to the recipe.

Pekka Himanen looked at the different concepts between open and closed models. A strange concept is most universities are still operating in an environment of the “monastery”, not an open environment. However universities are tyring to use and apply the tools designed for an open environment. Higher education tends to try and assimilate technology into its traditional environment. There typically is no conversational technology within higher education. Sebastian wonders are we really having a renaissance?

Whenever you undertake learning outside of formal education, always involves a conversation so that you learn, you never learn without a full conversation. If you are not an author you are not part of the conversation.

Sebastian’s potential aspects of use of blog from back in 2003:-

  • recording and representing patterns and meanings or actions
  • Reflecting upon the above
  • Reiterating the process of explication and reflection
  • Shifting from a task focus level to a process focused level
  • Construction of a personal vocabulary to converse about the process
  • Intrernalising practise and tools characterised over time

Uses Merlin’s 43Folders as an example of the conversation in his pursuit around GTD. This starts to move us along the path towards citizen science as describe by Rebecca Blood yesterday. Sebastian’s focus on the work by Merlin on 43Folders is was really amazing and how it pulls together so many of the threads that have been discussed. Doing it online helps move the conversation along, others can learn and help out where that have already undertaken what you are trying to archive.

Our current focus is still in the early adapter stage. We seem to be trying to push the tool of blogs versus showing the benefit and having others follow because they can see the value. He also sees educational work is still very much putting a square into a round hole (again for today).

Sebastian sees lots of opportunities for research on blog authoring for learning. Maybe we should look at the how the amateurs are using the technology for learning as opposed to forcing the traditional educators view.

I know a long post, but I could not help it.

Katie Cavanagh

Katie started out lecturing in IT, then digital art and now English literature, she is involved in a project in setting up a blogging environment for all of the art students across Adelaide. Of interest this was her first conference presentation, she did really well. Her Mac would not connect to the projector and so the first half of the presentation had no PowerPoint slides, although towards the end it did get working and the slides were very cool.

She interested in what people do and how they interact in the online world. She also noted that her paper was originally 18,000 and has been compressed into 2,000 and she feels that it reads like this as well.

Printing press brought religion to the masses, she feels that blogs are actually being the masses to the masses. Something that has never happened before in human society, our traditional publishing mechanisms do not allow for this. Blogosphere is a space for marginalised voices. Goes back to some of the previous dicussions on the long tail.

We need lots of readers to ensure that we keep the writers. As we read the long tail we can start to learn about them and hence move society along.

She has studied miscarriages and the group of bloggers who are undertaking this writing and now they are able to openly discuss the issues that they are experiencing. They are trying to redefine the rules of society around the topic. In reading she tried to work out if there was a repeating view from the group of bloggers. The women are writing crisis narratives, for the purpose of healing, however they need to be careful that they are “wallowing” in the situation.

Katie poses an interesting thought, if we can read and learn can the community start to help and we fundamentally change society. She also feels that comments are a very important part of the diary writing, part of the conversation. A really she is starting to cross some into some very serious psychological aspects.

Fundamentally this connection to like minded people is also part of why may people start blogging from all walks of life. The life narrator confronts not one life, but two. There personal view and that others see of them.

A hurdle she has had is trying to “crack the ring”, ie find the ring of writers who are linking to each other. Once you are in you can follow the links and themes. Katie suggests we need to start mapping the internet, similar to Robert Ackland’s research.

Finally Katie goes through the whole idea of the digital archive, then map it with social software and what would things look like, especially if we then used key word searching to look for patterns?