¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 There is an interesting connection between the idea of an “economics of attention” and the idea of a “pedagogy of abundance” is that both are premissed on the problem of abundance and both are concerned with how we create value by winning attention.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 “We’re drowning in it. What we lack is the human attention needed to make sense of it all. It will be easier to find our place … if we think of it as an economics of attention. Attention is the commodity in short supply.”
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 For Lanham, the economics of attention places style over substance, and the “arts and letters”, the disciplines that “study how attention is allocated, how cultural capital is created traded” become central to economic activity. He is optimistic – the arts and humanities are acquiring a central economic role in the way that engineering and related physical technologies did for hard, physical stuff. Of course, in itself this is not very new. Competition for the attention of populations who comprise markets for products or afudiences for ideologies has been a basic phenomenon of our industrial and post-industrial society. That attention itself has become a source of economic value, a commodity, is not a strange notion – for example the history of advertising provides a strong starting point for this analysis – and in the context of an information economy or knowledge society is clearly an important theme to explore.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Education too, and teaching specifically, is about competing for, gaining and holding, human attention. In our posts-inustrial, complex networked universe of data and information this has perhaps become ever more problematic for teachers. Not only do teachers find that they must work harder and faster to keep up with the relevance, currency and freshness of curriculum content so that it may appeal to and be accessible to students of all ages and interests, but the media and the channels through which that content is distributed are becoming more diverse, more efficient, less centralised and only loosely filtered by gatekeeping monopolies. (Note: compare Wells’s World Brain model, still based on an older paradigm of benign experts speaking on behalf of us all).
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The World Wide Web itself is fast becoming an academy without walls or campuses, where content has become supreme. (Note: expand this theme – ubiquitous learning; pervasive learning (Yapp); society is pedagogical (Bernstein)). The sheer abundance of content challenges at least some of important aspects of being a teacher, particularly the collation and re-presentation of content. However, later in this paper I explore ways in which the social organisation of learning may not yet be well supported, that while content is supreme, process is more difficult to put into practice. We may also point to the the legitimising role of established education – the certification of knowledge in a tiered and progressive structure of qualifications and professional – and examine how the abundance of content does not (yet) entirely undermine that key socio-political function.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 “Knowledge was rarer then. A secondhand magazine was an occasion. … Merely to find a mathematics textbook took will and enterprise … Each radio program, each telephone call, each lecture in a local synagogue, each movie at the new Gem theater on Mott Avenue carried the weight of something special. Each book Richard possessed burned itself into his memory…
“Even with the radio era in full swing … knowledge was scarce and therefore dear. It was the same for scientists. The currency of scientific information had not yet been devalued by excess …”
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 In our electronically tethered world (by ‘world’ of course I refer to the affluent nations) such a notion is difficult to imagine, yet it is only just over one generation distant from my own present. It seems extraordinary now, after barely 20 years of the WWW, that even the most arcane facts, ideas, opinions and viewpoints are accessible all but instantly to those parts of the global population connected to the network. Yet only 50-60 years ago finding the containers and sources of whatever knowledge or information we sought required effort, compromise, persistence, and occasionally luck. It was often necessary to make do with what you found.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Compared with the abundance of the World Wide Web, even the age of television now seems a little ponderous and certainly limited in scope. In its own beginnings, as with every other technological evolution of communication and dissemination, it promised its own riches of accessiblity and freedom of expression and through that the possibility of an ultimate solution to the problem of human liberation from many self-inflicted tyrannies of ignorance and misinformation (although that aspiration was treated doubtfully at the outset by many commentators and critics (e.g. McLuhan, 1964; Postman, 1985)).
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 “Once upon a time, the questions of which books, music, experts and experiences you should try were largely answered by circumstance. Which books to read? Which ones can you afford, which ones are on the library’s shelf, which ones are in the shop, which ones can you discover? The pool of experts was limited to people who lived nearby or those to whom your immediate circle could introduce you. Half the problem was solved by default – the cost of seeking out a very rare book almost always exceeded the value you’d get from reading it.”
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 We have moved from a culture where we had to overcome the constraints on action (e.g. it used to be difficult to publish a book, but now it is very easy), and now that information, ideas and artefacts are “one click away”, we are not only overwhelmed by the issue of what to choose but also what to do with all this information. Where action was constrained we relied on fixity of purpose and “quick-hand snatching at opportunity; the new world demands the kind of self-knowledge that comes from quiet, mindul introspection” (ibid).
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 While Doctorow concludes, naturally perhaps, that this world of quick and accessible communicative action is preferable, nevertheless educators need to learn how to use this “new world” in order to make life within it a constructive, creative, productive and happy one. Where once we managed the constraints of scarcity by a fixity of purpose, abundance requires of us a “quiet, mindful introspection” as an antidote to the multiple demands on our attention.
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 In her book Planned Obsolescence Kathleen Fitzpatrick writes about our assumptions, practices and expectations of academic writing and publishing. She too highlights the shift towards abundance of content and the way in which this changes the gatekeeping role of academic publishing:
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 “Print-based publishing operates within an economics of scarcity, … determined largely by the fact that a limited number of pages, journals, and books can be produced; the competition among scholars for those limited resources required pre-publication review, to make sure that the material being published is of sufficient quality as to be worthy of the resources it consumes. Electronic publishing faces no such material scarcity; … the Internet operates within an economics of abundance.” (37)
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Two key reasons for this abundance are the low cost and easy access to publishing in all its forms and the number of users, for abundance is created through use. As Doctorow (2003) argues, it’s because the more we use the WWW the more of it we get:
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 “… the great economic thinkers are all concerned with the management of resources that are scarce. If it’s valuable, it needs to be managed, because the supply of it will dwindle. You need to avert the tragedy of the commons …
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 “Today, with things that can be represented digitally, we have the opposite. In the Napster universe, everyone who downloads a file makes a copy of it available. This isn’t a tragedy of the commons, this is a commons where the sheep shit grass — where the more you graze, the more commons you get.” (My emphasis)
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 A slogan coined by Clay Shirky usefully summarises the changed relationship between authors and audiences . In the pre-Internet era of (relative) scarcity of media we relied on a filter-then-publish model of production, because by and large the costs of publishing were relatively high. Now it has flipped: the Internet (i.e. the WWW) makes possible only one really workable model publish-then-filter. However, the academy is still rooted in the earlier, scarcity model. Even though we have at our disposal a fresh, new system of expression, response and dissemination we still adhere to the old publish-then-filter model – peer-review and refereed journals still sit at the top of the academic credit list.
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 (Note: this is not entirely accurate – the cheap printed pamphlet in 17th and 18th C grealy increased accessiblity to public debate and reduced the role of the then gatekeepers; Penguin expanded the ‘reading franchise’ through widening accessibility to more chepayl produced books – these examples should not be underestimated; ‘scarcity’ is a rather broad brush, is relative to historical conditions and can hide both variation and trends towards reducing scarcity. While the effect of the net is transformational – and perhaps is qualitatively different – this is, in a global context, a somewhat limited effect: three fifths of the world population remain resource poor and large segments of the world population are constrained by censorious government.)
¶ 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 An ‘academic economy’ of content abundance therefore challenges some our received practices and values. The early tensions over the use of Wikipedia are a case in point – resisted strongly in many academic quarters in the early period after its appearance, many academics forbidding its use as a legitimate reference source in student assignment; this persists somewhat thought less strongly as academics have become accustomed to its presence and to the relaxed awareness that while the quality of content in Wikipedia may be mixed it is not without value.
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Nevertheless, even if Wikipedia is now more normalised, there remain many barriers of values and practice to such practical activities as blogging in academic and wider educational uses. Educators do not yet know fully comprehend how to incorporate blogging as a valid academic practice even while we can imagine how it can support and reflect academic interests so as to add quality, legitimacy and value. It cannot be ignored. ‘Blogging’ of course may be too loose a term (focussing as it does on the tool rather than what can be made with the tool) and we should differentiate more finely how blogging relates to the concerns and practices of an academic approach where we need to focus on processes of writing, commenting and publishing.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 In Chapter 8 of Digital Scholar, Martin Weller (2011) discusses the idea of a pedagogy of abundance. In this description teaching methods or styles are most affected by the impact of open digital networking on the production pedagogy and delivery of education. One obvious effect being the sheer volume of potential learning content that is available to teachers and learners. Like Lanham he reminds us that economics is traditionally about the distribution of scarce resources but digital resources are “non-rivalrous”, so there is no scarcity, because no matter how many copies or uses of a digital resource there is still the same amount left for others (NB: cf here he argument about the social limits to growth by Hirsch)
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 So an issue for commerce, and for the academy, is how to make the transition from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance. As Shirky has pointed out the economics of scarcity drive a filter-then-publish approach whereas abundance flips that. Weller points out that even while, e.g. in the case of arts businesses, talent may still be scarce, finding talent has bvcome much easier. Nevertheless this presents us with the problem presneted by Lanham – the scarcity human attention:
“For the consumer the availability of music is instant, the granularity alters, and if the individual uses bit-torrent-type downloads then entire back catalogues are as easily downloaded as one track. This changes the consumers’ relationship to content; their own time and attention b ecome the key scarce resources now.”
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Two kinds of response can be differentiated: abundance and scarcity. Google is a good example of an abundance response. It provides many services and resources free while generating revenue from the advertising it creates and (other objects e.g. Android). Then there are ‘freemium’ models – give away a service but charge for a premium version; you may give away millions of copies but a few will want the extra service. 1% of 1 million is 10000! Or holding a large inventory – e.g. Amazon – and selling small quantities from a large number of items. And of course Weller’s own book!
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 1 DRM however is an example of maintaining a scarcity model. Apple, through its iTunes business model developed a scarcity business although the recent interesting case alleging that Apple conspired to form an ebook price fixing cartel shows how risky this can be. Indeed, scarcity models are paramount in many of the current approaches taken to copyright protection (which I explore elsewhere).
¶ 31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 The university as presently constituted is a type of solution to eh economics of scarcity – giving large numbers of students access to relatively few experts physical resources via libraries. Thus, within this organisation framework a pedagogy of scarcity is practised – a one-to-many model of teaching, of which the lecture is the iconic manifestation. Though this is something of a simplification, nevertheless universities are a product of their time and are based on a pre-digital mode of production and dissemination.
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 However, this is changing. While academic expertise, like artistic talent, may still be relatively rare (though there is an issue hereabout how such a thing is measured), finding it and benefitting from it is now much easier. However, it is one thing to be able to find content but quite another to participate in the critical communities that make such content into a process of learning. And so, even though such participation is also more readily available, have our pedagogical approaches adapted appropriately? In spite of a move away form the ‘scarcity ‘ models of education to one in which the shift of control is towards the learner, has education really changed that much?
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Note too the comments by John Seely Brown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLBK32ZTnUs. Higher education is in short supply. There are far more potential students in the world than there are places for them to go. This article too makes the same sort of point: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/world/europe/16iht-educside16.html. Thus the notion of abundance is a paradoxical one – while content is abundant, in most other respects Higher Education is in short supply! We need to think about different ways to do it.
- ¶ 35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0
- content is free, abundant and if a variety of formats
- sharing is easy and social
- organisation is cheap and generative
- users create content
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 He concludes that this fundamental change in the production of content and our relationship to it poses a challenge to HE (Eric Schmidt: society produces more information in two days than was created from the beginning of human history until 2003). Of course it may be that this challenge is less dramatic than it seems and our established traditions of pedagogy may well be sufficient to meet it with only a few adjustments here and there. After all, this sense of abundance is not new – in modern times it has been stated often by such writers as diverse as HG Wells and da Solla Price (see also this useful discussion http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/578583.html) and more recently Sir John Daniels who argues that HE itself is not abundant. Seely Brown summarises the situation by starting this lecture with the example that (as of 2008) 50% of the world population is < 20 yr old; of that some 30m are qualified for and ready for higher education but there is nowhere for them to go. There is simply not enough provision worldwide and even if they could reach it they couldn’t afford it! To meet this demand, Daniels suggests we would need to build a university a week … which is is simply not possible. So we have to think differently about the problem:
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 “In the current knowledge-driven global economy, higher education systems play major roles in social development and national economic competitiveness. However, they face immense challenges in meeting rising enrolment demands worldwide. Forecasts suggest that current global enrolments of 165 million will grow by a further 98 million by 2025. However, this growth is unlikely to be accompanied by equivalent increases in the human and financial resources available to the higher education sector.” (http://www.col.org/PublicationDocuments/Guidelines_OER_HE.pdf, page 1)
¶ 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 Weller also notes the limiting factor of human attention which is not only limited but no more abundant than it used to be … except perhaps o say that there are more of us on the planet and that the connectivity afforded by the network is itself the source of abundance, that in some sense offsets the limits on human attention; for, whatever topic I may be interested in, I can find something about it very quicky, much quicker than before (remember Feynman’s youth). Nevertheless, placing networked content in the foreground of our pedagogy may be an essential step.
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 1 Learner engages with resources directly. It is “…an integrated set of strategies to promote student centred learning in a mass education context, through a combination of specially designed learning resources and interactive media and technologies.” (Ryan S., 2000 “The Virtual University: The Internet and Resource Based Learning.” Routledge: London)
¶ 45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 My emphasis: note that last clause – the role of academic expertise is to focus more intelligently on the process of aggregation adn interpretation. At HE level, this is what we should be doing (I am reminded here of the Sussex model of teachign desing – small tutorial groups, no lectures, seminars are the largest unit). So in RBL the teacher’s role is to lead on the interpretation.
¶ 46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 Issue: is this tru for all domains? Compare mathematics, engineering, English, history, photography, music, PE. What is the relationship between instruction and discussion? It is not either/or; what we should look at is the way in which the two sides of teaching co-exist and work together – not strive to keep them apart.
¶ 48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 ‘the learning that results from the process of working toward the understanding or resolution of a problem. The problem is encountered first in the learning process’ (Barrows H. and Tamblyn R., 1980 “Problem-Based Learning : An Approach to Medical Education.” Springer New York)
Teaching by presenting an ill-structured or open-ended problem – working in groups – often no definite answer.
¶ 51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Constructivism
” … reality is constructed by the knower based upon mental activity. … What the mind produces are mental models that explain to the knower what he or she has perceived … We all conceive of the external reality somewhat differently, based on our unique set of experiences with the world.” (Jonassen D., 1991 “Objectivism vs Constructivism.” “Educational Technology, Research and Development.” 39 3, 5–13 pp.)Hmmm – this is too metaphysical and too relativist for me!!
Teacher as facilitators – student as reflector working in discursive, group based way to develop interpretations. But constructivism is a loose modle – elements of discovery learning, which itself is not as convincing as it sometimes claimed to be.
¶ 52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Con: web2.0 may enhance the weaknesses of constructivism because too many points of view, too easy to be misled etc.Issue: However, this argument against constructivist approaches simultaneously reinforces the necessity to develop the critical skills involved in “aggregation and interpretation”CoPs
(Ref Wenger; Lave and Wenger)
¶ 53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 The social nature of learning; apprenticeship as a model of learning. Also ‘legitimate peripheral participation’. Weller’s commentary here emphasises the potentila mobility of CoP members, moving from periphery to centre.CoPs have some sort of social structure. For example in open source communities there is a core of developers who look after the project; then come developers who provide various parts to the project – checked and reviewed by the core; then come active users who test and report on the project in practice and finally all those users who jsut use the software.(Crowston K. and Howison J., 2005 “The Social Structure of Free and Open Source Software Development.” “First Monday.” 10 2, Available at http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_2/crowston/index.html 11 February 2011)
¶ 54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 However, while some of these features may have value for HE “…the rather tenuous success factors for generating and sustain an effective community may prove to be a barrier across all subject areas. Whre they thrive … it offers a significant model for motivation and retention” (Weller 76; see Meiszner A., 2010 “The Emergence of Free/Open Courses – Lessons from the Open Source Movement.” The Open University, PhD Thesis Milton Keynes Available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/33852509/The-Emergence-of-Free-Open-Courses-Lessons-fromthe-Open-Source-Movement , 12 February 2011)
¶ 56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 Proposed by George Siemens (see Siemens G., 2005 “Connectivism.” “International Journal of Instructional Technology.” 2 1, Available at http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm 12 February 2010)Premised on the idea of networked knowledge that changes rapidly. Learning takes place within a network where ‘seeing connections’ is a core skill and knowing how to know is more important than what is known; maintaining and maintaining connections is key.
Universal design Learning (?)
(Note: risk = filter failure; managing filtering should be a key pedagogical task. find quote from Shirky on filter failure).
(Note: education should therefore focus on filtering tools – collecting, referencing, tagging, and storing content and pointers to content, which is, incidentally, a complete range of media and artefacts.)Next: filtering – searching – retrieving etc Start with the CIBER stuff…. Also see Blogger post Ped of Abund (3)))=====================
A pedagogy of abundance must address the risk of filter failure. (Shirky: the problem is not information overload but filter failure).
Insert here the CIBER stuff …
¶ 63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 Publishing includes a range of acts. In its simplest form it involves posting some object (text, picture, sound) to a web server from where it can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. While publishing is, more or less, free it is nevertheless important to make decisions about the next or most effective way to publish. Free publishing does not mean, necessarily, arbitrary publishing. But it does mean that you expect an audience, no matter how small or large or an audience that gives you feedback. How will you achieve this? What tools would you use? And how much time should you put in? Is online the default?
¶ 64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 Publishing can include many types of artefact including remixes – e.g. video/photo albums with commentary; sharing a delicious stack. After all, if well edited a stack (is not arbitrary, it is tidy, it is organised etc), can certainly count as an organised item of scholarly work which is visible to a public or semi-public domain of peers and others.
¶ 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 1 In this context too publishing has no gatekeepers. Anyone can publish anything; and anyone can find anything. (There are of couse a number of issues that follow from this statement which are explored in more detail elsewhere – e.g. the net is not completely free of gatekeepers; people are prevented from publishing;
¶ 66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 Publishing Issues: controlling for authenticity (found material may be inaccurate; needs cross-checking – your own publishing may have errors); validity and reliability (sometimes you would rely on the credentials of the source here – whose statistics on poverty do you trust more?). That leads us to issues of objectivity vs bias (we need conscious strategies for evaluating this).
¶ 67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 The diagram shows a circle, a virtuous circle, that illustrates the ‘sheep shit’ theorem of the info-commons. The lines connecting Filter and File to Publishing could be a little more tenuous, allowing for more control over the publishing stage – but a key structural reason why these connections remain strong is that to be useful a computer must be connected to the net, and to be connected to the net means in fact we start publishing about ourselves as soon as we log in, by default (albeit in very small ways at first). So the lines are strong.
¶ 70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 So the pedagogical question arising from this is: Do we know how to guide our students in managing, promoting, nurturing their online work? (Answer: to some extent but not very well).
¶ 71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 Do I really want anyone and everyone to read my work ? How private should my work be? Do I know how to control that? If I want feedback on my work (e.g. in blog comments) do I moderate comments or leave them open? How do I do that? Where are good websites/tools/mailing lists etc. that are relevant to my work? etc.
¶ 73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 FInd: this is principally about searching and retrieving but also about following recommendations and links that are sent in email etc. As the CIBER project made clear, we cannot assume that searching is well understood. What should our students be taught?
¶ 74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 Filter: Finding involves some sort of recording and saving. No point in finding something if not kept. And as soon as we move to the storage stage we cross the filter stage. I Fiiltering is all about your interests, content, and activities. What do we teach our students about filter strength or strictness – too loose you keep too much, too strict you miss something? What do we teach about classifications systems: folder trees (hierarchical) vs tags (heterarchical).
¶ 75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 File: as implied this stage is really coterminous with filtering, because of course in order to record material you have to put it somewhere using some category or placeholder. Filing can be a complex cycle of possible events and includes everything from saving a copy of some file (e.g. PDF publications) on your personal hard disk, to filing a useful bookmark in a delicious stack. What do we teach here about skills and tools? You can save in a database format, a spreadsheet format, a bibliographical format, in a video format, in a text format etc. etc. all in either online or offline modes. Filing is the most hands-on with manipulating files and formats. It is about tag and file.
¶ 80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 Doctorow, Cory. (2010) [Article] The Internet Problem: when an abundance of choice becomes an issue. URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/dec/17/internet-problem-choice-self-publishing/print (Retrieved Feb 2012)
¶ 82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 Fitzpatrick, K., 2011. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, New York: New York University Press. Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Planned-Obsolescence-Publishing-Technology-Academy/dp/0814727883 [Accessed April 4, 2012]. See also blog: http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/ [Accessed April 5, 2012]
¶ 85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 Morozov, Evegny. (2012). [Article] The Death of the Cyberflâneur. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/the-death-of-the-cyberflaneur.html?pagewanted=print. (Retrieved Feb 2012)
¶ 87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 Shirky, C., 2008. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Allen Lane. Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Here-Comes-Everybody-Clay-Shirky/dp/0713999896 [Accessed April 5, 2012].
¶ 88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved from http://www.bloomsburyacademic.com/view/DigitalScholar_9781849666275/book-ba-9781849666275.xml