My Blogworld as a Social Cell

Sitting here in the Charlotte Airport, a conversation from the Duke CE Roundtable returned to me, as I plan for this week’s presentations about the Read/Write Web. Again, most of the attendees of that event were corporate educators with a handful of higher ed folks and me. Several of the corporate folks were struggling with ways of using technology to provide professional development, and someone said, “These people will not join one more portal!”

At this statement, it suddenly occured to me an important difference between between the traditional web (can’t help but smile at that)
and web2.0. Online communities, as powerful as they are for facilitating collaboration and knowledge building, suffer one important limitation. They have borders. Portals are often designed as closed environments with walls that prevent outsiders from coming in. Even the original collaborative tool, the mailing list (listserv), is a closed environment in that there is a gatekeeper who has to let you in, even if it is a software-based subscription.

The Blogsphere does not have this limitation. As we write and read blogs, subscribe via RSS to the blogs we want to pay attention to, read and respond to their postings, and have our postings and comments responded to, what forms is a social cell of idea exchange and building and personality sharing. Factor in the social bookmarks, and news feeds, and we find ourselves in side of a rich social community of people who have similar interests, or interests and perspectives that we find valuable to our goals.

Significantly different from portals and mailing lists is the fact that that cell forms almost organically. Back in December 2005, I subscribed (my first use of RSS) to three webloggers — people who I knew could help me to understand this new information environment. They talked about the ideas of other bloggers, with links to their sites, and I added new people to my aggregator. After a while some of them dropped of, and others were added as they got mentioned in my readings. My aggregator does not merely grow, it undulates ;-). It gets larger then it shrinks. It intersects with other peoples cells for a while as their ideas help me do my job, and then we disconnect, and my cell heads out into other directions.

Right now, it is fairly small, because I have so little time to read. But when I get a couple of these programming jobs out of the way, I have two or three topics that I will go to Technorati with, find people who are talking about them, and then grow my network — and learn.

Bottom line is that my online network is now organic. It evolves as my needs change, and how I process the ideas inside of my cell, affects other people and how their cells evolve.

Does this make any sense?

12 thoughts on “My Blogworld as a Social Cell”

  1. So how does this relate, if at all, to the use of CMS? I know many are drawn to the use of Moodle, Blackboard, to “house” their learning. Do you see a conflict with the use of CMS or do they server distinct purposes? I’m still trying to understand the relationship between the blog and CMS.

  2. Dean, this is a good question. I’m struggling with both the idea of community as David is writing about here as well as the fact that some communities, I think, need to be private. I think this is where I’m going to go hunting for a thesis idea. I’m looking forward to your ideas — and I think there’s a post brewing in my head about your question.

  3. I only have a couple of minutes, but I do see a distinction between the organic social cell that I describe and the CMS such as Moodle. Moodle is more of a structure class learning tool. It has a leader, typically, who has curriculum, expectations, and procedures. It is highly interactive and collaborative where, when done right, students are doing as much teaching as the teacher is. Now a Moodle (or Blackboard or whatever) like most technology inventions, can be remixed into other types of functions. It’s never limited to just one definition.

    The social cell that I describe is more of a personal learning tool, or environment. It is my personal classroom that I continually reshape based on what I’m doing, and what I need to learning in order to accomplish what I’m doing. For education, I would encourage teachers to form personal social learning cells in order to continue to develop teaching skills, and knowledge about the changing world of their content area.

    I’m not satisfied with the term “social cell”, and somebody has probably are ready coined a more adequate name. A lot of this has already be described by George Siemens in his .

  4. I am glad you pointed out that university and college learning management systems are closed systems. What unintended message is this telling learners? I would like to think higher education has the ability to break out of this silo mentality, but since they are working with a captive audience and there is money to be made, I don’t expect any real change anytime soon.

    The social cell as a personal learning tool intrigues me. I have been doing a lot of reading in the area of personalization of learning and I find your thoughts on the matter intriguing. The term “social cell” does have a bitter association with terrorist cell, so I agree, another term might be more appropriate.

    Keep undulating!

  5. I just love it when a professional discussion and a blog just tie in so amazingly, especially when they come from opposite sides of the world. I have decided to blog on this idea of blogging V CMS and how they could both be used. You can read about it here. Look forward to comments….

    I would say blogging is very quickly becoming a way that I can control my learning and mold my learning experiences the way I want to. I engages me because I learn only what I am interested in or what I know I need to learn.

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