Category Archives: Block 2 – Community culture

TWEET: why people really love technology

I’m gathering together content to present a dystopia versus utopia view of technology for my ‘web essay’¬†and this interview provides some useful views.

Interesting views on social media

In an article on Todd Wasserman suggested that“The switch from desktop to mobile appears to have changed how people behave on social media, or at least, how they define it.” ¬†

Wasserman’s reasoning is a follows “A few years ago, the conventional wisdom was that young people were exhibitionists at heart who had no reservations about sharing their data with the world. Mobile changed that. When you sit down at your computer to write, you might expect your words and actions to be seen by the world. On mobile, though, we’re used to sending messages only to our closest friends and family. Snapchat’s success bolstered that view.”

I can see the logic in this argument but at the same time my own experience suggests that mobile¬†is¬†fast becoming the new desktop.¬† Whereas a few years ago I would have spent a considerable amount of non-work time on a PC, many of the applications that would have required a¬†PC are now available more conveniently on a mobile device. ¬†I don’t spend any less time in front of a screen, if anything my time ‘online’ has probably increased, but more of that time is on mobile devices. ¬†I’m not sure I’m any more, or less, concerned about privacy when using a mobile device or a desktop computer. ¬†However, Wasserman refers primarily to people much younger than me in his article and he does point out that there are differences in which social media platforms particular age groups use. ¬†This article was written a couple of years ago and, in my household at least, I can see evidence that supports his view, with both of my sons switching to messaging apps to communicate with their friends and making much less use of apps such as Facebook over the past couple of years.

What I find interesting in Wasserman’s assumptions and predictions in this article is the suggestion that the tool (mobile versus¬†desktop in this case) influences online behaviour. ¬†This is contrary Kozinets (2010)¬†view that ‘technology does no determine culture’. ¬†Kozinets proposes that ‘they are co-determining, co-constructive forces’,¬†although he goes on to acknowledge that ‘our culture does not entirely control the technologies that we use, either. The way that technology and culture interact is a complex dance, an interweaving and intertwining.’¬†Once again we come back to the point also raised by Bayne who refers to the ‘complex entanglements’ of the social and the technical. ¬†However, if there is reason to believe that the shift to mobile is having an impact on people’s online behaviours this has implications for those of us wishing to use online digital tools for educational purposes.


Wasserman, T (2014) What Facebook Will Look Like by 2024,

Bayne, S. (2014) What‚Äôs the matter with ‚ÄėTechnology Enhanced Learning?’ Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851 (journal article)


Europe will produce the next Facebook within 10 years: Skype co-founder

In this video Niklas Zennstr√∂m (co-founder of Skype) says he‚Äôs confident Europe will have technology firms that rival the likes of Facebook¬†in the next 10 years. ¬†Given his background it’s intriguing to me that his views are not more global, although he does mention in the video that it’s less important where a company chooses to become¬†publicly listed.

I find myself wondering whether the ‘tech world’ will become increasingly global, such that it won’t¬†matter where a company is listed and it won’t matter where their employees are situated either. For example, a¬†UK based company I work closely with on the development of the online learning community I manage (I’m resistant to it being labelled an ‘LMS’), has part of its technical team in Roumania. ¬†This is not outsourcing in the traditional sense, this is an extension of the UK team into another country.

Other than the difficulties sometimes presented by time-zone differences and to a lesser extent cultural differences, I can see no reason why teams cannot be made up of individuals from across the globe, continuing to live in their current location but working together in one common ‘place’ online. ¬†I’m sure CERN must have been doing that for years and looking to the education sector the MOOC model has already established how¬†course groups from diverse locations and¬†cultures can work collaboratively.

TWEET: Adchoices from the advertiser’s perspective

A rather telling quote from the opening of this blogged article reads “The good news for advertisers is that [the Adchoices] icon is fairly small and unobtrusive; most consumers don‚Äôt even notice it.” ¬†However, the closing remarks are more positive from both a consumer and advertiser perspective. ¬†“I‚Äôd love to see Google go the extra mile and offer additional information to advertisers. ¬†Sharing information gleaned from muted ads could be a game changer for PPC advertisers. […] Analyzing the results from this would allow advertisers to understand whether their ads simply aren‚Äôt resonating with their audience, or if they are too repetitive. Armed with this information, they will know when they need to create fresh ads or adjust their ad delivery settings.” ¬†This feels like a good example of how analytics can be used to drive improvements, although it appears in this case that the data isn’t being made available to those who could make the best use of it.

Incidentally, in a moment of pure serendipity, while tweeting the above I noticed a link to follow my nephew’s partner on Twitter – algorithms in action!


Week 7 Lifestream Summary

Last week I was desperately short of time and I’m still catching up with some of the secondary readings and videos from the Community Cultures block, as well as trying to find some time to engage with my fellow student’s end of block artefacts.

The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland

My main take-out from last week was definitely an appreciation for how much can be gained from observing an online community from within and the similarities between this and participant observation in the the ‘real world’ where the “researcher engaged in participant observation tries to learn what life is like for an ‘insider’ while remaining, inevitably, an ‘outsider’.” (Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector‚Äôs Field Guide).

I also spent some time thinking about my work role and the Learning Community I manage, how much I’m the instigator of the ‘cultural norms’ (Kozinets, R.V. 2010) that exist within its discussion forums, how many of these ‘norms’ I’ve created for my own convenience and how much of this is simply an attempt to lead by example.

I was relieved to receive some positive feedback from Jeremy on my ethnography write up, as I was concerned that some of it¬†was wide of the mark in terms of the way it should be presented. ¬† Many description of ethnography call for ‘rich’ or ‘thick’ narrative; telling the story from arrival and first contact to becoming embedded in the community’s culture. ¬†With so little community to comment on this was always going to be a difficult task. ¬†However, I think the finished artefact ticks many of the boxes in this description of ‘How to do ethnography ‘Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing’

“An ethnographic report includes clear and thick description of research methodology, including of people who participated in the study and the experiences and processes observed during the study.” […] “The researchers prejudices and biases are also highlighted.”


Mack, N. et al (2005) Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide, Family Health International

Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‚ÄėUnderstanding Culture Online‚Äô, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online.

De Chesnay, M (2015), Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing, Chapter 5, Springer Publishing Company, LLC

TWEET: Ethnography ‘watch outs’

This definitely struck a chord with me.

These days it seems we distance ourselves from and ‘sanitise’ so much of life. ¬†We package meat and other food in ways that disguises its origins to such an extent that some children have no idea where it comes from. ¬†Society distances itself from mental health issues, ‘perverse’ sexuality and beliefs that do not conform to the norm. ¬†In many parts of the developed world we live our lives behind closed doors, a long way from the close-knit communities of our history.

So, yes, I can see how complete immersion in the culture of a community is essential to really understand it.

That got me thinking about the word immersion and how much more of a visceral and ‘real’ experience baptism by total immersion must be compared to the sanitised and symbolic ritual many Christian churches observe. ¬†To me that feels like a great example of understanding through immersion, in a very literal sense.

Getting an ‘insiders’ view of digital education was one of the reasons I decided to complete this Masters course. ¬†Studying the topics I have has proved useful in my day job, but some of the most useful insights have come from being a distance learning, digital student. ¬†All along I’ve been ‘doing ethnography’ and didn’t know it!

TWEET: Ellen Isaacs Ethnography TED talk

This humorous and well presented talk provides some useful insights into they ways ethnography can improve understanding and identify opportunities.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it”

TWEET: Why MOOCs (still) matter

In this TED talk Anant Agarwal, head of MOOC provider edX, describes education as having ‘calcified’ for the past 500 years. ¬†I’m not sure that’s entirely fair if one considers education in the wider context, from primary school through to post-graduate university study and not forgetting the learning and development that is facilitated by countless commercial and not for profit organisations.

My wife works in a primary school so I see first hand how different the facilities and ways of engaging pupils are to when I was at a similar school over fifty years ago. ¬†Yes there are still the brightly coloured pictures on the walls and familiar pots of paints and crayons, but there’s plenty of technology too. ¬†I wouldn’t say that the technology has shaped the¬†teaching practices in the school though. ¬†What is different is definitely cultural, it’s about the¬†way pupils are encouraged to treat one another and to embrace what life has to offer. ¬†This is summed up in the school’s motto “New day, new possibilities”.

Agarwal also talks about the innate ability of the millennial generation to use technology, a topic I remember debating right back at the start of the IDEL course. ¬†I’m not going to go over that again now, save to say that there’s enough evidence to debunk that theory.

However, contrary to what you might expect from the head of a company offering online education, Agarwal isn’t extolling the virtues of MOOCs as the elixir to cure the ‘calcified’ educations system in this video presentation. ¬†Instead he talks about a blended approach, where online resources are combined with classroom based activities.

Argawal suggests a number of ideas he believes would be effective in helping students learn more effectively:

  • Similar to a¬†TED talk I posted earlier in this blog from Coursera founder Daphne Koller, Argawal promotes ‘active learning’ quoting Craik and Lockhart (1972), who proposed¬†that “Learning and retention is related to depth of mental processing”.
  • Secondly he suggests that ‘self pacing’ is very helpful to learning, for example students being able to pause and rewind virtual lectures.
  • He suggests that¬†‘instant feedback’ is more effective than the traditional format where work is submitted and feedback and grading is received a couple of weeks later when ‘students have forgotten all about it’. ¬†“Instant feedback turns teaching ¬†moments into learning outcomes”
  • Gameification through virtual laboratories
  • Peer learning¬†through discussion forums and Facebook like interactions – learning by teaching

This talk was published in 2013 so it’s no surprise that all of the ideas he suggest above are present in the learning environments offered by many of the businesses I network with on a regular basis, including my own. ¬†Many of these ideas have been implemented for¬†purely pragmatic¬†reasons, to reduce costs and to enable a relatively small number of trainers to meet the needs of a large number of learners. ¬†They also appear to be an effective way of helping large numbers of people learn.