Tag Archives: web 2.0

Web 2.0 and actor network theory

Web 2.0 has emerged as a label for the culmination of incremental developments in software and network technologies over the last twenty years or so that focus on user-generated content and interaction around that content. Whether Web 2.0 represents a paradigm shift in the World Wide Web or the outcomes of various incremental changes remains a point of contention that may be being repeated with the labelling of the semantic web as Web 3.0. Either way, Depauw (2008) makes the case that ANT is an appropriate approach to the study of Web 2.0 phenomena. For example, social software has been described as employing Web 2.0 technologies in “digital social networks” that support interactions between “social entities” (Kieslinger & Hofer 2007, p7). McAfee (2009) discusses what he terms “emergent social software platforms (ESSPs)” (2009, p69) within which content and interactions are made visible and permanent, and the structure and organisation of content and community develops over time and through interaction. McAfee (2009, p73) then defines the term “Enterprise 2.0” as the use of ESSPs by organisations to assist those organisations to be more effective. McAfee’s ESSPs suggest a perspective on social software technologies that sees such technologies as either intermediaries within fairly stable and “unproblematised” organisational networks, or as mediators that assist in the stabilisation of those networks by making permanent and visible that network as an organisational entity.

Others suggest that Web 2.0 technologies undermine distinctions between information producers, distributors and consumers, so making networks inherently less stable (Androutsopoulos 2008; Pata 2009). Within this understanding, it becomes problematic to see them as simply assisting in organisational goal achievement. This study will focus on what may be perceived as a less stable network of a Twitter based chat event and then will seek to engage with other more stable spaces of interaction such as blogs. Both such ESSPs provide data that is mainly but not exclusively text based.

Texts provide a focus on online content but such technical artefacts also act as intermediaries that coordinate networks, suggesting that the target platforms can be seen as intermediary non-human actors (Depauw 2008). The interactional bases of these social software platforms generate and reinforce the practices of social networks, so contributing to the durability of those network effects (Waldron 2010) – the sociality of such environments (Young 2006) underpins and normalises practices of digital interactions. In discussing activities in wider Web 2.0 environments, Bruns and Humphreys (2007) suggest that knowledge and content artefacts are constantly being developed and refined through social interactions and so are dynamic and fluid rather than static and solid. Furthermore, Pachler & Daly (2009) point to Web 2.0 in learning contexts in terms of “narrative trails” (p7) of social and individual sense-making activities. Narrative trails such as the tagging of virtual spaces and flows are part of the emergent and user-centric organising of ESSPs including Twitter and blogs.

Tagging in the context of folksonomies make visible patterns of interactions (Alexander 2006) between actors as “taggers” and actants as data objects that may include both the main text and the tags used to describe and classify that text. From an ANT perspective, tagging and metadata (data about data) provides an important mediating effect on network evolution in social digital learning environments. This notion of metadata linking networks and flows of people, artefacts and traces of activities through social technologies provides a basis for a common ecological metaphor of Web 2.0 learning environments (Siemens 2006; Brown 2002; Pata 2009). The emphasis on metadata can also be found in the emerging label of “activity streams” (Boyd 2010). In both cases, the effects of tagging and metadata as being used to identify specific spaces, flows and content as well as being potentially mobilised to direct those flows is recognised.

In summary, existing literatures suggest that what is currently labelled as Web 2.0 in general but more specifically Twitter and related social platforms is an appropriate and “rich” site for a research perspective based on the sociology of translation, ANT.

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE review. 41 (2): 32-44.Available at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf
Last accessed: 16 February 2011
Androutsopoulos, J. (2008) Potentials and Limitations of Discourse-Centred Online Ethnology. language@internet, vol 5. Available at: http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1610/index_html/?searchterm=None
Last accessed: 22 November 2010
Boyd, D. (2010) Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 5 (September/October), 26–36
Brown, J. S. (2002). Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age. Available at: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_edu/seelybrown/seelybrown.html
Last accessed: 20 April 2010
Bruns, A. and Humphreys, S. (2007) Building collaborative capacities in learners: the M/cyclopedia project revisited. In Proceedings of the 2007 International Symposium on Wikis, WikiSym. Available at: http://snurb.info/node/753
Last accessed: 25 May 2010
Depauw, J. (2008a). Web 2.0 under the Actor-Network Theory point-of-view: Conceptualization and definitions analysis. Dans Proceedings of Politics: Web 2.0 – An international Conference. Royal Holloway University of London: New Political Communication Unit. Availlable: http://newpolcom.rhul.ac.uk/politics-web-2-0-conference/.
Kieslinger, B. & Hofer, M. (2007) Case study on social software use in distributed working environments. ProLearn, 22 May
McAfee, A. (2009) Enterprise 2.0: new collaborative tools for your organization’s toughest challenges. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press
Pachler N. & Daly C. (2009) Narrative and learning with Web 2.0 technologies: towards a research agenda. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 25, 6–18.
Pata, K. (2009) Revising the framework of knowledge ecologies: how activity patterns define learning spaces? in N.Lambropoulos & M. Romero (Eds.) Educational Social Software for Context-Aware Learning: Collaborative Methods & Human Interaction. Information Science Reference. Hershey. New York, 2009, 241-267
Siemens, G. (2006) Knowing knowledge. Available at: http://www.knowingknowledge.com/2006/10/knowing_knowledge_pdf_files.php
Last accessed: 11 November 2009
Waldron, R. (2010) ANT – a natural theory for ICT teachers. 8 March. Available at: http://russellwaldron.edublogs.org/2010/03/08/ant-a-natural-theory-for-ict-teachers/
Last accessed: 23 November 2010

e-learning market

Clive Shepherd has highlighted the e-learning centre report on the market for e-learning in UK and Europe. A free summary is available here. As Clive’s post points out, the UK market is expected to grow by 4.76% to £472m in 2010 – slower growth but a bigger market than France or Germany. As a sort of comparison, Datamonitor recently identified the UK market for consulting services at averaging 7% between 2010 – 2014 and growth in the UK economy as a whole being around the 2% mark. Yet a recent report from Boston Consulting Group on e-commerce in the UK is interesting in that it finds that:

The U.K. Internet economy contributed £100 billion in 2009, representing 7.2 percent of U.K. GDP—more than construction, transport, or utilities.

and also predicts a 10% growth rate per annum up to 10% of GDP by 2015. So how well is the e-learning industry really doing?

A few other things to note on the report summary is the positioning of different facets of e-learning in relation to one another. In particular, that web 2.0/ e-learning 2.0 is placed (I think – but tell me if I’m wrong) on the broadcasting side of a continuum with learning at the other end while VLEs are placed more towards the learning end. This typology seems strange given the interactional nature at the heart of web 2.0 while VLEs, in my experience, tend to be used as course management systems, file repositories, etc. This highlights the difficulty of defining the e-learning industry. What software or SaaS should be included and, more importantly, excluded. Should Twitter or WordPress or Drupal be included on the basis that a lot of learning occurs through these tools that were not formally designed for learning purposes. While analysing the size of the formal e-learning sector as represented by VLEs, course management systems and formal learning content creators is a useful exercise, this is a very different proposition from mapping the economy of e-learning activities as a whole, eg, across the value chain. So it is possible, and possibly desirable, to see the “industry” as defined by formal providers declining while the scale and scope of e-learning activities continues to grow.

More monkeys with typewriters

I completed Jemima Gibbon‘s book Monkeys with Typewriters just before Christmas. As I mentioned in my comments on the first chapter here, I enjoyed the span of sources drawn on such as Arie de Geus and his book, The Living Company to de Moivre on distribution curves to Charles Darwin. As such, I found the “novelistic approach” of the book a powerful way of making-sense at different levels of social media at work and so is a useful companion to Andrew McAfee‘s book on Enterprise 2.0. What also comes through very strongly through the six chapters is the diversity and warmth of relations between people facilitated by but not limited to social software. Technology may enable and extend relationships but does not replace more traditional notions of friendships, acquaintances and collegiality – the limitations of an fb ‘friend’ are well understood.
The chapter titles: ‘co-creation’; ‘learning’; ‘openess’; ‘passion’; ‘listening’ and ‘generosity’ reflect the importance of attitude and ethos in really gaining the benefits of social media and, to some extend, the culture of the organisations that understand the potential in the medium. The Tuttle Club is an obvious hero here – and team Tuttle pointing the way to how alternative organsiation forms are more feasible on the back of social media.
A good and timely book.

Monkeys with typewriters

I’ve received mt copy of Monkeys with Typewriters by Jemima Gibbons. The book launch event has a good write-up here.

I’ve only read the first chapter so far but find the writing style really engaging – I could have stayed up and read a whole lot more …. What I particularly appreciated was the discussion of the drivers for web 2.0/ enterprise 2.0 adoption being based in notions of the learning organisation and particularly de Geusliving company book. I think this is the key potential for web2.0 as enabling those adaptive and autopietic organisations to become a realisable possibility. I also believe that the potential for autopeosis is far greater than realised – not just for small organisations/ teams, etc… but only for some. What often gets missed from many of these discussions is the requirement for more regulated, ‘boring’ and routinised work proactices and organisations to enable the more free-form organisational formats to operate. The cafes need to be open (and supplied), IT infrastructure support, snail mail needs to work blah, blah. So this 2.0 stuff is perhaps mainly applicable for those ‘higher value’ knowledge based occupations, etc. reinforcing occupational/ social divides and creating new ones. Will being an office working a sign of lower status compared to being able to say “I work anywhere”.

Anyway, this is an interesting book – inspiring in only its first chapter (motivated me to get blogging again).

informality 2.0

A very interesting post from Dan Pontefract on the integration of corporate learning and development and enterprise 2.0 in to learnerprise 2.0. Obviously, the concept needs further development but makes a useful point that too much L&D provision is focused on formalised learning and this is exacerbated in the context of much e-learning which relies on linear learning pathways decontextualised from the work situation where it (might) be applied. I think this may be part of the issue in relation to the VLE is dead debate, whereby the nature of VLEs steers towards formal learning that is institutionally bound but other web 2.0 type approaches, such as PLEs emphasise informal learning but also can migrate with the learner. Most of my on-line learning activities take place within Netvibes and have been integral to how I’ve approached my personal professional development in three different and demanding jobs. Of course, this is not new and is being done in some companies (see the presentation here, especially slide 114 onwards)

Edgeless everything

The UK think tank Demos has recently published a report on the state of higher education in the UK, “the edgeless university“. In particular the report points to technology as a driver of change and as [part of] the solution for edgeless universities that are:

“no longer contained within the campus, nor within the physically defined space of a particular institution … This is driven by people finding new ways to access and use ideas and knowledge, by new networks of learning and innovation and by collaborative networks that span institutions and businesses.”

As Christopher Barnatt in a recent article suggests (International Journal of Management Education, 2009), the impacts of such change can be seen in students demands for multi-modal delivery, the availability of open learning resources (Open University or iTunesU, and in academic self-branding as well as requiring an institutional and professional mash-up mentality to emerge.

Of course, the implications are not simply ‘outward’ facing but may have profound implications for how universities organise and staff themselves – and so transform what might be meant by a university as an institution. As a recent article Zeitz (2009 International Journal of HRM 20/2) stated in the context of wider environmental (social, economic, etc.) change: “It is argued that networked organizations provide the requisite flexibility and innovation by making making extensive use of external companies and independent workers as suppliers and partners”. So a mash-up mentality extends from a multi-modal delivery of learning to more flexible, fluid and multi-modal approaches to knowledge production all occuring in an edgeless institution as network. The technology is here but as ever its a question of institutions supporting the changes in practices required.

In some ways, the issue comes to a head in the debates around the future of the VLE as discussed by @timbuckteeth here. In terms of both this discussion and other developments such the open learning initiatives, the adoption of personal learning environments as well others mentioned in a recent article from Fast Company the obvious tension is less with technological futures or pedagogical considerations both rather with the blend of notions of knowledge as possession and a managerial urge for control and a particular view of the value proposition of HE which is in part about its brand and position – certainly to its ‘stakeholder’. Maybe the way forward is as suggested by Dan Stucke here where small parts are loosely coupled but clearly branded (as in easy to find!).

Informal learning & Web 2.0

Interesting to see a number of reports pulling together increasing recognition of informal workplace learning [it was always the most common way of learning at work – unless you had ceased to think] along with increased authorised/ unauthorised use of Web2.0 applications for learning. See for example, here and here. Although, for me its a pity that the second post is illustrated by someone looking at Facebook ….

Finally, Capuccino U has been updated which is an good read on informal learning [learning in general really] challenging the mental maps of many working in the formalised learning/ education arena – I work in a university but lets not mentioned that …

web 2.0 [links]

A new report has been published by the CIPD on web 2.0 in organisations/ enterprise 2.0 – the download is available here (at least to members anyway). The research is largely empirical and coming from a management innovation slant (as the researchers are from the Management Lab at London Business School). No surprises in the findings – more lip service than delivery, innovative potential of the technology undermined by managerial preoccupation with command and control, organisations still operate on one-way communication flows (broadcast not dialogue). It will be interesting to see how this research will ‘fit’ with the more qualitative (and larger scale) research on HR and web 2.0 by Graeme Martin, aso commissioned by the CIPD.

Learning about web 2.0 for the learning professional

Have signed up for a leanring event on social media for learning as detailed here. No at all sure what to expect and am a bit concerned that I’ll sustain a contribution for 6 weeks or so but am hopeful. Anyway, it looks good, interesting people involved and I get a bit of experience on Ning as well.

I will post on how I’m finding it … kick off is monday 29 September.

Enterprise 2.0 – it shouldn’t be about the technology

A nice post here from Stephen Dale about web 2.0 as the “blinding light of Web 2.0 hype seems to be obscuring the fact that the most important aspect in building any community (of interest or practice or whatever) is the people and NOT the technology. Though I do appear to be an increasingly isolated voice on this point.” I think this applies as strongly – and probably more so – to organisations and the whole momentum around enterprise 2.0. As I’ve argued before, the valua proposition of enterprise 2.0 is the impact on organisational culture (learning-centric, non-hierarchical, outward focused, collaborative, etc…. ) and not the technology itself.

(Of course, I can also be accused of taking all the positive potentials of organisations and labelling them E2.0 but that is probably a separate issues!)