Thursday, December 15, 2005


I saw this quote in one of my readings that I thought I would share with everyone for my last post specifically for Social Software Affordances at Teachers College, Columbia University ....

"To be sure, it is for the sake of special needs and interests that men unite in economic associations or blood fraternities, in cult societies or robber bands. But above and beyond their special content, all these associations are accompanied by a feeling for, by a satisfaction in, the very fact that one associated with others and that the solitariness of the individual is resolved into togetherness, a union with others".
- George Simmel

This union enables us to do things that we could not do as well alone, isolated in a world of one.

With this in mind, below is my one sentance answers (long as they may be) to questions posed in the beginning of the course.

  • What is "social" about social software?
    Social software allows one to connect to others with similar interests, concerns, commonalities and needs.
  • How is the notion of community being redefined by social software?
    Community is no longer bound by the physical proximity of members to each other.
  • What aspects of our humanity stand to gain or suffer as a result of our use of and reliance on social software?
    Social software in itself is just a tool. It’s power is providing a vehicle to understand and appreciate the interconnectiveness of the world, allowing us to connect and aggregate people and information to create personal meaning and identity.
  • How is social agency shared between humans and (computer) code in social software?
    Computer code can enable networks to form in a space (i.e. Ebay) where as it is the actions of humans that create place and community within that space.
  • What are the social repercussions of unequal access to social software?
    Unequal access defines the “haves” and “have nots” causing a division of inequality and opportunity for individual growth and development, excluding a number of people from our network that could provide important insight, experience and contribution.
  • What are the pedagogical implications of social software for education?
    Social software enables us to create communities of practice to promote both formal and informal learning which involves making constant connections, seeking patterns and aligning our thoughts and actions with those of others to construct meaning.
  • Can social software be an effective tool for individual and social change?
    Social software provides an opportunity to communicate, debate and exchange information, thereby promoting critical thought and analysis necessary to produce change, both personal and global.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Contributing to the Whole

We assume that people will want to contribute or be a part of a community of practice, especially in a knowledge based institution such as higher education. After all, we see the benefits and the value, what's their problem? Don't they share our passion to contribute?

Brimming with enthusiasm and a number of handouts, I bravely faced the rest of my Instructional Design group today to present RSS feeds and social bookmarking. The RSS portion of the presentation was well received but the social bookmarking, well, that was a different story. Share resources, establishing a network of rich web sites and online articles, ummmm, I maybe not ... why should they share, they found the site.

In George Siemens book, "Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age", he states that knowledge development is a cycle, moving from personal to network to organization, allowing the individual to stay current in their field. Personal knowledge is just a network of sorts, which feeds into an organizational network though our work and contributions, which then cycles back to the individual. He goes on to say that connectivism allows us to create our own personal learning network made of connections to people and information.

However, there needs to be common value and willingness to be a part of a network. In a course setting such as this class at Columbia, we are all explorers in our field, willing to experience different online environments, software tools and learning communities. Perhaps we take our own community of like-minded individuals for granted. Isn't that what social software is about? It enables us to find more "people like us". There are some personal blogs that I now follow religiously, savoring and appreciating the conversations, contributions and debates. I'm not sure I would have ever met these fascinating individuals f-2-f yet they are now part of my knowledge network.

Well, it will be interesting to see who actually contributes and takes advantage of sharing resources through social bookmarking in our group. Tomorrow, a few us are getting together to propose a tagging scheme that the group can use to share. Perhaps we can sway those that are unsure of the benefits to join our own community of practice .... or maybe they just don't have the mindset. :-(

Monday, December 05, 2005

Meaningful Community

Ulises commented, in reference to my last post …
“Well, I agree that there is a lot of meaningless noise out there, but one person's noise in another person's meaningful community. The question is: Is social software facilitating the formation of communities according to one's interests, or is the process of community building just as serendipitous as always? “

In looking at this question, I recall a point that Paul Dourish was making in the book Where the Action Is. In Chapter 3, he talked about the difference between “space” and “place”. It can be said that social software is enabling “space” but I would argue that it is the actions of the users that builds the community or “place”.

Dourish goes on to say that the concept of “place” is relative to “community of practice” also mentioned by Etiennne Wenger in Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Wenger makes a distinction between a community of practice and a club of friends or a network of connections between people.

A community of practice has an identity. It is formed by a group of people that share something in common such as a group of artists looking for a new form of expression or a group of concerned citizens working for improvement in their neighborhood. This is different than a network of friends where you could belong to a network and not know it, or neighbors who live in close proximity but do not connect with each other. Social software in enabling networks to form but I believe their power is facilitating communities of practice.

In my post regarding women seeking an intellectual community, I believe they are seeking a “place”, not just a “space”. They are looking for ways to exchange information with others, engage in discussions and help each other. Not being able to meet at work, they seek to connect through safe, secure cyber environments where they can learn from sharing interesting insights and stories.

Hope I’m making some sense here ….did I answer the question or just confuse myself?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Women in Online Communities

For my last couple of posts for this semester, I am going to look at the role online communities play for women (over the age of 35). Two of my coworkers are teaching undergraduate online courses this semester and we have had some interesting conversations regarding "nontraditional" female student participation in the discussion boards. Online classes for many older female students offer the only practical possibility of completing an undergraduate degree. Because of family responsibilities and often distance, the discussion boards in these classes also offer these women an opportunity to interact with others and be part of a intellectual community in a non-threatening atmosphere. However, I started to wonder if there were digital online communities that might provide the same functions once their online course was over.

One of the articles in the Community in the Digital Age book, Gender and the Commodification of Community" caught my eye. This article talkes about the transition of ( now and from being online community focused to providing a market for advertisers and merchants. Once a community becomes a purchasable item, it is like any other commodity and it loses it meaning as a social entity. I started looking at the site, evaluating it in regards to providing a community that nontraditional female students could use.

I have to agree with Karen Gustafson, author of Women and Everyday Uses of the Internet: Agency and Identify, that iVillage reinforces the traditional women's role as a consumer, mother and wife. A cross between the "Good Housekeeping" and "Cosmopolitan" models, I couldn't find a shred of intelligent women's commentary. Chats and bulletin boards including topics such as "walking for fitness", how men viewed women's bodies and choosing bed linens.

Isn't there an intelligent online women's community out there? The search as begun ...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

An Invitation

Update on my IE project ...

This week in my Barriers blog at we invited two of our students that have been working with us in Assistive Technologies, to make a comment under a post regarding their experience with technology on campus this first semester. TJ and Pricilla, terrific and inspiring students, are visually impaired.

Today, we had a demostration of the Columbia Literature Text - Workbench by Professor Richard Sacks of Columbia University. This project was being offered as a possible model for materials to support those teaching the Signature Courses at Seton Hall in particular, as well as those teaching other core courses. However interesting, shortly into the demo, we realized that this tool was totally not accessible to students with disabilities because of the number of frames used in the interface, use of pdfs and text presented in image format ... awareness!

On December 7, I am presenting a workshop to the Instructional Design Team on the use of Assistive Technologies and how we, as a team, can make our content more assessible to all students in the Seton Hall learning community.

Making progress ....

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Link to Individual Entrepreneurship Blog

Individual Project Blog .... Barriers

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More Examples of Wiki's in Education

I found a great web resource that for some reason I can't tag so I wanted to share it with everyone in the class. It is a class in writing for blogs and wikis at Bemidji State University.

I believe the class syllabus is being updated for Spring 2006 but there are tons of linked articles. Check out all the subpages. I think it is facinating that someone is offering a writing class for blogs and wikis.

An update on Donna Gaffney's blog that I mentioned in my last post. The blog had to be taken down based on a very interesting development. Because Donna and other Seton Hall Nursing students were actually "working" for FEMA, all commentary and photographs regarding their work in The Gulf had to be approved by FEMA Public Relations. The blog had actually been picked up by a National Nursing listserv, distributed to hundreds of Nursing members based on it's interest to the profession. Oh my ... we never thought. Talk about networking!