What do Gartners Top 10 Tech Trends for 2015 really mean?

I thought I’d put a different spin on the typical tech reporting. Computerworld published a post yesterday as Gartner lays out its top 10 tech trends for 2015 today. In it Gartner analyst David Cearley put forward the company’s Top 10 Tech Trends for 2015 at the firm’s annual Symposium/ITxpo.

So what do these mean for corporations and tech companies?

  1. Computing Everywhere = Surveillance Everywhere – yep once computing is everywhere so to is the mechanism to monitor and surveil you. Everywhere. You. Go.
  2. The Internet of Things = Sensors Everywhere – but if there’s anywhere we can’t put a computer, we’ll put a sensor. So we’ll know where you are and what you’re doing – no matter what.
  3. 3D printing = Plastic Toys – yep you’ll be able to put your logo on pointless plastic toys. 3D Printing might be the future of manufacturing (in about a decade), but in the meantime make some branded useless plastic crap.
  4. Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics = Um… what it says – Every application is analysing you apparently. So not only are you being tracked, but monitored too! Just so someone can sell your data to an advertiser via their “free” app.
  5. Context Rich Systems = In Your Face Sales – after you’ve been analysed we’ll know everything about you so just imagine how good our ads are going to be! You might as well just hand over your bank details so we can direct debit your accounts.
  6. Smart Machines = Losing your jobs to Robots – We’re working hard to replace squishy demanding humans with machines.
  7. Cloud and Client Computing = Everything in an environment of control – it’s really hard to surveil you when you distribute data across multiple machines, hard drives etc, so make it more convenient and do it all in an environment we already control.
  8. Software Defined Applications and Infrastructure = We don’t need IT – and don’t worry IT guys, you won’t get replaced by a stupid robot – it’ll be an algorithm instead. Seriously don’t worry as software is always running fully optimised and is totally stable – what could go wrong?
  9. Web-Scale IT = Buzzword bingo – we don’t know exactly what we’re talking about here, but it’s always good to have some buzzwords on one of these lists. So this is where we can say stuff like “risk-embracing culture” and “collaborative alignments”. It’s todays “synergy”.
  10. Security = Pay for surveillance – and while we skim off every usable bit of data and on sell to to advertisers you should definitely pay us so you can tell the boss “everything is secure”.

Now I’m sure Gartner wasn’t trying to be malevolent, but sometimes you’ve got to think…

A Lost Pony

@seriouspony is no more, and it makes me really sad.  

My experience of @seriouspony borders on the profound and I’m extraordinarily happy for having that experience in my life. I would not have thought it possible to deliver any wisdom that would change your perspective or your outlook and force you to rethink your entire mindset in 140 characters – until I encountered @seriouspony. I’m extraordinarily grateful for being able to interact a couple of times in that weird space between technology, learning, education and experience. She’s enabled me to experience the ocean while living in a fish bowl

I wish @seriouspony all the best. I hope she’ll return one day and as I’m grateful she littered our feeds with majestic Icelandic ponies and gallons of insight. 

There’s no blame here – the decisions she’s been forced to make (more than once) are unimaginable – but I am sad and mad at the Internet. Sad that it can be used to shut someone down and force them out rather than empower them. Mad that it can be used with such malice and enhanced the powers of those seeking to do damage. It’s wrong and it needs to change.

For starters Social Networks have a duty of care. Free speech is a nice ideal, but not at the expense of safety. The cost of free speech shouldn’t be somebody’s silence. What constitutes safety isn’t rocket science. When any social media is being used as a vehicle for threats of rape, death and violence – that’s not a good thing. Threats are not “free of speech” and they don’t promote safety – they force people to flee. Instead of working on an algorithm to improve advertising how about you concentrate on making your environment somewhere people actually want to be. You can think of it purely as a business decision – no one wants to feel unsafe and you will loose customers if they do, impacting on those remaining and your monetary potential. Quick lesson: that’s really shit UX. 

But more importantly is we have to have a real conversation about this idea of “free speech”.  

It’s not free speech if there’s a cost involved. It’s not your right to say anything you please – you’ve missed the fucking point if you think that – it’s the right to say things without the expense of silence, alienation, violence, intimidation and fear. As I said before:

The cost of free speech shouldn’t be somebody’s silence

LMS Week: The Ring & My Hat

OK I couldn’t resist the opportunity to comment on this growing thread of posts. I got CC’d into a tweet

and the more I though about it the longer it got… and turned into this post.

The Ring

Thankfully Brian Lamb put this amazing list and summary together.

My Hat

For most organisations the LMS had come to be the online environment. Not part of the broader world wide web, but the institutions own mini version of it. For the right kinds of reasons the LMS has been driven by administrators and vendors into becoming a closed system.

Rather than being the devils work the LMS is the result of good intentions – trying to increase access to online education in an equitable fashion and at scale. It’s evolved through the process of institutions seeking out scalable online solutions (scalable being the operative word). This search has been driven by a desire to create equity across the institution and bridge a significant technical divide and, as [Kate](https://twitter.com/KateMfD/ points out, build a tool to provide some quality assurance.

What I’d suggest though is that this QA has only ever applied to opportunity and access – not the experience of actually using the system. This had led to administrators choosing, and vendors offering, an LMS based around a feature list rather than the quality of the experience. Yes it has a wiki, by no means a good one, but a wiki none the less. I don’t think you can really blame vendors for this, they’re simply responding to their customers. You also can’t really fight the logic of administrators either as the importance and level of investment in the LMS has grown, decision making about it have risen up the hierarchy. A lot rests on these decisions so there’s an imperative to play it safe.

This is where I see we are now:

  • Vendors who are stuck in a vicious “feature list” cycle that’s almost impossible to break without loosing customers and money.
  • Administrators who are too far removed from the experience of using the LMS and lack the required technical knowledge to understand such a complex system, but are in charge of pretty significant business decisions. Playing it safe and going with a feature list as their primary guide is the smart thing to do in this situation – for their career and their institution – but it’s also the only thing they can actually base a decision on.

Those who are entrusted with those choices and responsible for the accompanying funds you play it safe. And the circle is complete.

However, the LMS isn’t the whole story. At the same time there is an upswell of DIYers, indie hackers, edupunks and bricoleurs who are operating edtech outside the LMS. They’re piecing together an alternative to the closed system by embracing openness. This mode of operation is so profoundly different to the status quo they’ve managed to spawn entirely new concepts for education such as MOOCs and an OER university. They are the avant-garde of edtech, pioneering new and exciting possibilities, and their approach has a focus on the quality of experience rather than institutional opportunity and access.

It’s in this concept of “quality” and the related assurances where tension lies and poses some important questions. There are trade offs and compromises required to balance experience with scalable quality.

Should institutions quality assure the opportunity and access to an online environment across their degree programs or on the quality of that experience and sacrifice consistency and stability?

The reality is that quality assurance has less to do with the binary of technology (LMS vs other) and almost entirely with the people using the technology. My overall experience is that Academic staff just aren’t well versed enough to tackle the broader digital and online space. The LMS provides a closed but relatively safe space for staff & students and one that can guarantees a minimum of opportunity and access. It does this by providing a tool that can be used to assess, manage and oversee what’s being offered. To me the LMS has always seemed like something that provides an academic with a way to get online, but something that you would grow out of eventually. It’s the equivalent of training wheels for the “real” web. Yet the LMS in limits this growth by being cut off from the web. Staff never learn to use a real wiki – just the one that lives in the LMS. They don’t learn about blogging platforms – just the blogging tool. They are never exposed to the real web and so begin to fear it, re-enforcing the safe status of the LMS. This starts with the decisions of the institution, then actions of the staff which directly affects students in terms of the tools, technologies and practices they’re exposed to.

Dealing with the lack of technical prowess and digital literacies in academic staff is much harder and more expensive problem and it’s this – not the LMS – that needs to be addressed. The LMS isn’t inherently evil, I’d actually suggest it’s often the least evil choice an institution could inflict. What makes it bad is that for most institutions it’s the only choice for doing anything online. The web isn’t a part of how learning and teaching works in most institutions. Citing the web is still frowned upon, actually using it means you’re actively breaking the rules.

The fact is that there are only a few good online teachers who are able to craft and wield technology well enough to effectively create and deliver the type of experience they want and address issues around scalability and equity. There can only be one Jim Groom ;-).

We need to empower our staff and students – to show them whats possible but also to give them the literacy and language to articulate their needs and desires so they can offer the best experiences. They shouldn’t have to build the technology – but they need to be able to tell those that do what it is they really want.

It’s in this space though there is so much potential! The avant-grade gives us a tangible vision of the kinds of experiences possible and the alternative technologies available. This is vital because it provides a way for people to begin to articulate the kinds of experiences they too would like to create. They can point and say “I want that” rather than delve in to the technical details. (I’m thinking of Mike Caulfield’s work on Smallest Federated Wiki – technically difficult to explain, easier to show). Bringing the qualities of opportunity and access to the kinds of experiences the avant-garde are demonstrating is where we should be heading. There is no technology binary we need to choose from – to LMS or not to LMS – get them working together. There’s enough space to coexist and learn from one another.

The LMS is still relevant and it could actually form a pivotal component because, whether we like it or not, management is still part of modern education. What the LMS needs to do is to become porous. The experience of learning can simply pass through it. In many ways it needs to be of and for the web – not the “black box” we are used to. Part of this is on vendors to produce products that allow this to happen, the other is on institutions and administrators to recognise their role in this and part of this is on staff to join the conversation and articulate their needs.

There’s opportunities for symbiosis and collaboration between the avant-garde and the LMS. In a modern institution quality assurance actually requires they work together rather than go it alone.

Competency vs Time

A quick comment on the concept of competency that Stephen Downes makes note of:

We don’t have any courses, and we don’t have any credit hours, but we have 120 competencies, and you can master those as fast as you like, or as slow. The thing that we don’t care very much about is time. And that is such a fundamental reversal of the basic structure of higher education.

The sentence I’ve emphasised is something I have issue with – we don’t care about time. Who’s time don’t they care about? The students. They can take as looong as they like, why would they care, it’s not their time and it’s not their expense. I think framing competency based education like has an air of contempt for the student and the value of their time. I think in some cases it sets some students up to fail as it re-enforces feelings of inadequacy and being dumb. I’d also suggest that this mindset affects the learning design. Why would you build complex constructivist activities when you don’t care about time? Why would you remove endless readings when you don’t care about time?  Design is as much about what you remove as it is about what you add. I think this mindset could instil a behaviourist approach to design where primacy is given to recall and simple pedagogy of reading and quizzing.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with competency – it’s a far better standard for education to align itself to than time. Just don’t compare the two.

The “Older Academic” Trope

I was asked today about the wording I used in a tweet last night

Firstly I agree with Kate’s article 100% – older academics are not the problem. The zombie question of whether unproductive older academics are refusing to make way for the next generation being asked in this post frustratingly masks fundamental problems in the structure, function and measurement of higher education.

What I was commenting by adding “a narrative that emphasises the erosion of soul” wasn’t at all about academics, but the unfolding narrative around universities and higher education around the world. A narrative focused on trying to turn a cultural institution into an economic one. This narrative has led to concepts like productivity and efficiency driving the discussion around how education should adapt to significant cultural changes rather than quality and benefit. This focus on “produfficiency” has allowed governments around the world to defund education over the past couple of decades, while drastically pushing larger enrolments and to then have the audacity to cry about falling standards, literacy and employability. It feels like a conspiracy or at least policy that at its heart is being driven by a neoliberal agenda.

What has happened during this debate is the development of certain tropes that aid the “produfficiency” agenda. One of the most common and convenient is that of “older academic” who is pretty easy to assign characteristics:

  • stuck in the past
  • out of touch
  • can’t use technology
  • don’t contribute
  • have outdated wisdom
  • past their use by date

… and in general are unproductive members of an imaginary elite. In fact here’s a great list of TV Tropes around elders they could borrow from. Tropes build on our own stereotyped and overgeneralised experiences – so there’s alway a nugget of truth in there. But using tropes and playing into them has the effect of allowing the debate to be de-personalised and de-humanised which assists produfficiency by reducing and abstracting real people, actual human beings, into a column on a ledger.

When I made the comment about the “erosion of the soul” it was a about the simple fact that educations contribution to society is the development of knowledge, and knowledge = people. Without people education shifts from being a cultural activity and one that embodies the soul of its community, to something that simply performs an economic function, transactional and ineffectual.

By debating the tropes and feeding the trolls we become distracted from the real issues that are manifest in education – increasing casualisation, insecurity and debt – which point to significant and fundamental problems with how education is measured, funded and recognised.

Update: from twitter just this afternoon these are the kinds of issues that warrant discussion – Student Debt Linked to Worse Health and Less Wealth and Most university undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers

Update 2: According to Pearson the proper term isn’t produfficiency but “efficaciousness”. Apologies.

Update 3:  Or this becomes reality for more students

or an industry develops to exploit a generation of young people for profit.

This is great reporting from Jon Oliver:

Balance is an Illusion

This is another one of those posts that I’ve been trying to write for some time. It’s quite philosophical but it’s about something that I, and many others, have been trying to come to terms with for quite a while – Balance.

It’s been inspired by some of the posts from Maha Bali, Kate Bowles and Nick Drengenberg.


For many of us balance has become a pervasive goal in our lives. We talk about it in our work, family, social and personal lives. It is a quest to find that perfect point of equilibrium, where each is given equal weight and we can finally feel whole. The problem is balance is a state so infinitesimal, so fleeting and ephemeral that it is more like a mirage than an object. It is a haze in the distance, the refraction of light and ego on our world around us. An Illusion.

It’s not that balance cannot be achieved, it can, but its fleeting and momentary. Never permanent or pervasive before it’s washed away by the eternal ebb & flow of time and life. Yet we tend to devote so much energy, effort and sacrifice to achieve this momentary sense of balance it seems wasteful and foolish. In turn this quest tends to makes us so profoundly unhappy because despite investing so much of ourselves it so rarely occurs.

The quest for balance plays along with this very human concern of being in control – to create a level playing field on which to live our lives. The natural state of the universe however isn’t balance – its flux. The eternal shift from end to end and one extreme to another. It is the natural state, balance is merely a blip along the way. It seems strange to lust for balance when our innate human strength is the ability to adapt to this flux – to embody and absorb it – which has led to us flourishing as a species. We can move between the seasons, between drought and flood, peace and war, life and death. We can try to disrupt, impede and interfere along the way, but The Flux is the natural state and it will always triumph.

Flux is the natural state where as the point of equilibrium rests on the edge of a razor, balanced on the edge of a razor. If we chase balance to give meaning and happiness to our lives, even if we achieve it, it is only for the briefest, briefest of moments – only seconds or even minutes out of an entire lifetime. Instead, we need to accept that the Flux is the natural state, it is where we live our lives so instead we need to look for our priorities at that particular point in time, adjust to those and seek happiness there.

The quest for balance seems like an attempt to divorce ourselves from the natural state, to try and impose control, but it does’t work. Our lives are based on shifting priorities, thats the flux we live. There are different priorities at the different stages of our lives, on different days of the week and different hours of the day.

Our priorities will always be shifting focus – from family to career to social – and we need to accept that as natural. There will be conflict but there will always be opportunities for happiness if you look for it. The aim should not be to seek out equilibrium as some kind of saviour, but to try and adapt to cope better with the flux – to thrive and survive. Its not that balance isn’t achievable, it is merely a way-point and when you live in the flux those moments of balance become far more lucid and memorable.

Spiritual people, monks, priests and nuns often demonstrate a profound sense of balance but at what cost? They often have to make great sacrifices to attain this balance – family, social connections, human interactions and physical well being. This balance hardly seems real and is so tightly stretched that it will break at any moment and let the flux back in – say by trying to live in the “real world”.

To find happiness we need to embrace the flux and embrace the unknown, the unexpected, the shifts and the changes. We need to take joy in our points of focus day to day, moment to moment. We can learn that we can change priorities from work, to family, to social and personal as we need to and not feel guilt, but instead feel joy.

We shouldn’t feel guilt and shame for not living balanced lives, we don’t need it and we should be able to make peace with that.

Reclaim & Rethink

I’ve previously given a quick overview of my planned (and in progress) Reclaim Project. One of the reasons for embarking on this was playing with the concept of digital identity.

In a caffeine inspired ideas session a couple of months ago I was trying to think through the idea of the “self” in a digital sense. I came back to the notes I made yesterday after reading Audrey Watters’ post about the Reclaim Hackathon (something that I soooo want to be a part of next time – virtual attendance on the cards?) where she brings up the concept of the “Templated Self”.

Like Audrey I think the concepts of identity and self are extremely important for education. It’s something I believe that the whole sector (K-12 through Higher Ed) has traditionally struggled with. The rise of the EdTech phenomenon has massively impacted on the ability for staff and students to exhibit and leverage these concepts. EdTech has bought with it increased centralisation and removal of diversity, and the ability for it to exist, in favour of overly complex monolithic systems. They come with all the bells and whistles yet my experience is they do little to support the individual, in fact they go out of their way to remove the individual from the operation. This “joke” from David Wiley’s recent post sums that experience:

Q: What would happen if Facebook worked like Blackboard?

A: Every 15 weeks Facebook would delete all your photos and status updates and unfriend all your friends.

EdTech currently seems more interested in data points, analytics and the idea of “personalisation” while it simultaneously exhibits every behaviour and action to remove the notion of anyone being a person from the system.

So it’s with those thoughts that I decided to dip back into the ideas that prompted me into the whole Reclaim space and explore/explain a little more….

We are complex beings and the idea of the self is something philosophers have explored for centuries. So some of my initial thinking has been about how do you come to represent that complexity in a digital space?

In my opinion the first mistake that most make is to start with the idea of the self as a singularity. You cannot hope to represent the self with a single solution – no matter how smart or complex. While it’s nice to believe that there’s such a thing as our “true self” but it doesn’t exist as an entity. Instead our existence is represented by a multitude of expressions, each dependant and reactive to how we interact within different contexts. Each of us are multiple expressions of a single being, each defined by the different context and relationship we find ourselves in.

For example: the me in that turns up to the office is not the same me that exists at home with my family. I act, behave and do different things – defined by the context and relationship I have with that particular space/place/person/role. There’s a difference in the way we are with our lovers compared to when we are with our boss, yet are we not the same person?

We create personas which are still “us”, they just express only a portion of who we are, in effect operating to conceal us as a whole.

After coming to this point I started digging around the old filing cabinet and headed back to psych 101. This concept started to align with Jung’s idea of the persona as a “kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual”. Now I don’t want to get all psychoanalytical and explore what that “true nature” is – just that there is a concept of a true nature – a self – behind the persona. What interests me in particular the shape and form that self can be expressed through a digital medium.

Jung called this self the anima/animus (male/female). This underlying unconscious mind helped balance and maintain the persona… and it’s this idea that drew me into phrasing and conceptualising my reclaim project. I don’t want to turn this into a Jungian thing – it’s just the terminology I found that suited what I was trying to explain

Reclaim is about retaking control – not just of my personas – but taking back ownership of my animae**. It’s about liberating that underlying, hidden and difficult concept of my self. I’m not just reclaiming ownership data – I’m reclaiming how I am able to express myself. I am attempting to define my digital animae, the infrastructure and underlying foundations that I can build and define my personas.

When it comes to my Reclaim Project this means in practice is that I am not going to build a single site for all my stuff to go into. Rather the way I’ve conceptualised this is to use WordPress Multisite and other services I can connect to through APIs. In many ways this technology stack resembles the way we as individuals contract our personas. They allow us to create multiple faces while sharing a common root. Elements can be shared or compartmentalised. The look and interface can be consistent or customised. Functional can match the environment and purpose. In this way I am able to build a more complex self without trying to find a single super-system that in effect becomes a single point of failure. I

This is how I am mapping out my Reclaim project – as multiple and discreet functions that map back to a single domain – www.timklapdor.me. The landing page that’s currently there lays out some of the existing “channels” I use to express my digital self (and ones that I will continue to use for the time being). The ability for WordPress Multisite to create many custom sites and services is evident in the first site I’ve set up Miscellanea. This will become my curation tool for all the various stuff I research and find on the web. It becomes a library space for future reference and dissemination.

I am just beginning this process, but it feels right. It’s rare that you get that feeling working with technology where everything changes so rapidly. Yet I there’s a sense of pride in taking on this work. If I don’t take back ownership of my own self, who, what and how will others define me?

** I’m going to use the term Animae to remove some of the sexual/gender connotations that Jung implied. It’s a bastardisation of the term I know but Anime already refers to awesome Japanese comics :-)

The Network & Me

This post is the script I wrote up for a presentation I record as part of CSU’s Think Pieces project for 2014. The aim is to create a series of presentation that explore different aspects of the theme “Towards the future CSU graduate”. I’ve embedded the video below but you can also view the slides on Slideshare. The time for these is limited so I know I’ve glossed over a few details throughout – but feel free to comment below if you have any questions or ideas.

The Network

I want to start this think piece discussing some of the concepts and beliefs that frame our understanding of networks.

The emergence of commercial enterprises operating online social networks has created a notion that networks are an entity unto themselves. They’ve given life to this idea that networks are things that can be created, manipulated, bought and sold. But that’s not really the truth.

The Network is an Expression

A network isn’t a thing – it’s an expression of individual nodes, how they interact with each other and the relationships they develop.

Maps Rather than Places

They are more like maps than places. They exist as ephemeral expressions of the bonds and ties that we, as individuals choose to express, but they lack a tangible existence. It’s because of this that a network cannot be directly controlled or manipulated – it can only react and respond – in the same way that a map has no effect on the geological patterns or landmarks, it simply displays them. There is no power to control the network as a whole because power is distributed and contained within the nodes themselves.

Networks aren’t things we build – they map the connections we create.

Networks are about relationships and interaction and it’s for this reason that they are vitally important. They provide a way to externally express and conceptualise complex relationships in a way that we can understand and learn. In a network each individual is important, but what makes them powerful is in improving the ability for each individual to connect with others.

Connectivism

Networks are an interesting way of framing concepts. Siemens and Downes have done this with learning through the theory of Connectivism. But Networks provide us with a flexible way to develop understanding which is transferable to other areas – including the role and practice of institutions like CSU.

Meaning

What we do as an institution is create connections, and connections create meaning.

The Medium

The creation, formation and sustainability of a network relies on a medium to facilitate the connections between individuals. It also needs to support and propagate the relationships between them.

Medium ≠ Technology

The medium isn’t explicitly about the technology, but the structure and support needed to facilitate the functions of the network. Traditional mediums has been the institutions and organisations that societies established – like universities and community groups.

The Medium Is

A medium provides a way for individuals to

  • create & share
  • participate in dialogue
  • facilitate experiences

It is through these functions that interaction occurs and relationships are established.

Networks are not new

Networks are not new, but the reason they have grown in prominence is that digital technology enhances the essential functions of a medium.

  • Create/Share = abundance
  • Dialogue with others = complexification
  • Facilitate experiences = enlargement/expansion

– Siemens

Technology has increased the abundance, complexity and expansion of networks. It has created the opportunity for new mediums to develop while at the same time challenging those of the past.

Beyond the Physical

Digital technology enables networks to exist without geographical and physical constraints. It enables better networks – ones that are bigger, broader and more diverse but more significantly – faster – reacting and responding in real time and without delay. They use consumer grade technology so we’re not reliant on access to the most sophisticated infrastructure or systems. The mediation of networks through digital tools has allowed the simplification of complex interactions and bridge some of the most significant challenges of our physical world.

Logistical Freedom

The technology of today has allowed networks to evolve quickly. They are now free from many of the logistical challenges of the past where they were required them to build the infrastructure and bear those costs.

The Personal Network

These limitations which restricted the growth and spread of networks are gone, and it has allowed the networks of today to become tailored and personalised to suit the individual rather than having to be scaled to cover costs. Despite their complexity, they can be created, developed and managed by the individual, with little to no external intervention. We now have an environment where we can create networks to suit our own goals and aims. We can base them on our personal and professional interests, research topics, issues we wish to discuss or to improve our engagement with our broader communities.

Connecting the Campus

For those of us living and working in regional Australia, networks enable the world to come to us, and us to it. For those working in specialised roles and areas of research this is vital. It provides a way to overcome one of the big advantages that metropolitan universities have had -

Geography’s Effect

As larger populations that can maintain better networks of specialists. Today’s networks are no longer constrained by location so the effect of geography is diminished significantly.

The Digital Divide

The technology to achieve these aims is available today and it provides everyone with the opportunity to connect – If we allow ourselves and if we use the medium. The problem for many staff and students is that the medium is no longer the traditions and institutions we know – it’s digital. Digital is still an unknown, a medium where we don’t feel entirely comfortable, and it’s why digital literacies are vital, not just for our graduates but for our staff too. Digitally enhanced and enabled networks are increasingly the natural state of affairs, not because they are new but because they are faster, bigger, more diverse and more personal.

The Digital Self

What is important to remember is that networks are maps, not places. You can’t go to a network, you have to engage with others and become part of it. You have to establish yourself as a node, and this means getting online and using the tools that enable you to connect. It’s in this way that we create networks that are strong and robust but also fluid and changing. What matters is not the medium but the nodes themselves and how well they can connect to each other.

Social Systems

It’s not about systems or tools like Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn – it is about finding a Self that can be expressed in a digital space. In this way digital literacy is not about learning a specific skill but becoming fluent in our ability to interact in a new medium – finding ourselves and how we can articulate and express that self.

The Self Aware Node

What is needed is to go beyond a mere avatar that represents the real you. It’s more like a persona – you’re not role-playing or assuming an identity,

In Digital form

You are that identity – this is you in a digital form. If you want to build better networks, you need to have better nodes. Nodes that are self aware and able to connect and relate in a digital space. The challenge we face is how we develop those literacies and that awareness.

… and me?

The title of this presentation was the network and me – so what about me?

I work in a niche area and have a niche set of skills. Living and working in Wagga has often felt like being a fish, living in a bowl while dreaming of the ocean. But over the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to go out and establish and develop my digital self.

Blog + Twitter + Yammer

I created a blog, got on Twitter and started to use Yammer to develop multiple networks to engage professionally. They provided me with a platform for expressing and sharing my thoughts, communicating with those working in similar fields around the world and it’s acted as an incubator for ideas. What has come out of this process have been real connections, conversations and opportunities.

Real Opportunities

Instead of feeling trapped in a bubble, I now feel like I am part of something bigger. It’s not virtual or fake – even through it’s mediated through digital technology. It’s engaging with real people in real things. It goes beyond simply broadcasting – it’s about creating opportunities to interact and create more connections.

The Effect

Right now

  • I have a readership located right around the world.
  • A network of professionals that spans the oceans & disciplines feeding me information
  • My work is escaping the bubble and has now started to be re-blogged, quoted and referenced.
  • What’s really satisfying is seeing what I’ve created and shared stimulating others to create and share.

Connected

Today I don’t feel like an isolated node, but part of a intricate, rich and rewarding network.

The Network and Me

And that’s the story of the Network and Me.

Thanks

Network Ideas:

These think pieces are a challenge to get everything into such a short timeframe. If you’d like to know more here’s some reading and further ideas on the topic:

The Information Age to the Networked Age: Are You Network Literate?

The Mostly Unread World of Academic Papers/

What is Connectivism?

Thoughts on Connectivism

Connectivism as Learning Theory

Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation

The Self Aware Node

Literacy and the Digital Self

Digital Literacy: Interaction as Language

From Natives & Immigrants to Visitors & Residents

Images

My Reclaim Project

This weekend I’ve really begun to embark on a personal project that seeks to reclaim my digital content and presence in an attempt to establish an authentic “Digital Self”. I’ve spoken about this idea of the Digital Self a couple of times now but it’s something I believe in, and something I have to practice in order to preach. So why would you want to do this? Well I’m going to turn you over to Audrey Watters & Kin Lane to explain. They cover pretty much everything I would but in a way more interesting way (there’s even a few swears :-0 )and you get to look at that killer beard that Kin is sporting :)

So what does this whole process include? Well it’s pretty basic, but it is somewhat complex to lay the groundwork. The way I’ve approached it is:

  • Getting some server space over at Reclaim Hosting.
  • Getting your domain name sorted (you get a free one with your Reclaim plan but I had a couple of others floating around that needed consolidation).
  • Mapping out the services and components that I currently use.
  • Mapping out the services and components I want to use.

That’s what I’ve been worked on so far. Over the weekend, while battling with flu and toddler tantrums, I managed to start the next stage which is to begin to build and design my space to start migrating stuff to the server.

At the moment that looks like this:

  • A HTML landing page at timklapdor.me where I’m putting links to all my current online spaces and places that I plan on keeping. Anything that needs migrating will go there once it’s done. Just modified one of the great templates from HTML5 Up
  • I installed WordPress Multisite on timklapdor.me where I’ll be setting up a number of sites for different and specific purposes. This will give me some flexibility to change and migrate over time, and also not lump everything into a single mega site. I like the idea of this way of working and centrally managing WordPress means that plugin and theme deployment is simpler and easy. The great thing about cPanel and Installatron is that I can easily install a myriad of other software too – wikis etc – to suit whatever else I might need or want down the line.
  • I’ve set up one such site to take over all my curated bits and pieces from the web – Miscellanea. It’s using the ExpressCurate WordPress Theme & Plugin to provide the functionality and it comes with a Chrome Plugin so that the process can be quick and painless.
  • I have had a play with Digital Ocean as a cloud based server infrastructure for all this but to be honest it’s still a bit new for me. I can see a place for it, but am thinking I might use that as a Lab space – somewhere I can quickly spool up something to test on – anything running Node.js especially. At $5 a month it’s pretty good value.

The plan from here is to slowly work through developing solutions for:
– A Blog and moving from wordpress.com
– Quotes to collect all those wisdom – similar to this over on WorryDream.com
– MicroBlog that will be a I/O for twitter – so that I have my own copy of everything I tweet (good and bad)
– And a richer personal Profile that includes: Resume, Portfolio, Badges, Publications and Presentations.

To augment my domain I still plan on utilising online services such as:
Dropbox – easy, interoperable and an offsite backup.
iTunes Match – my music backup in the cloud.
Evernote – I’m too far in at this point, and I still enjoy the experience – but I want Markdown support :(
iCloud Drive – I’m still looking for a good backup solution for my Aperture library, and integration in next iOS will be a good thing for simplicity.

And to round things off I’m hoping to shift my use of other services to function merely as external publishers. So it means keeping an active profile – but looking at POSSE as a model to remain connected to Twitter, Google+, Flickr and Facebook.

It will be a bit of an ongoing project, but one I’m actually looking forward to tackling. I have a lot of debris scattered around the web after more than a decade so it’s a good opportunity to clean it up and give what I want to keep a bit of polish. I’m also enjoying doing some of the simpler things – like designing a bit of a logo and visual conceptual for myself. The banner image from timklapdor.me is something I spent some time on over the weekend. I loved getting back into Illustrator and playing, creating and experimenting visually. I think I’ve got something I actually like – which for any designer is often the hardest thing! – and it will be able to work across pretty much every application I can think of. It also has flexibility built-in – meaning I can change colours and images to suit what I’m trying to do. Should be fun!

design ideas

Personalisation without People

I just finished reading Audrey Watters’ wrap up of blog posts debating “personalized learning”. I’ve read a couple of these already (not all) but what I find interesting in this debate is, as Audrey suggests, the ideology at play. What the debate highlights for me is the effort that some people will go to maintain their power and a sense of control. It’s an ideology that thinks that it’s worth the effort to come up with ever more complex maps, data capture points and elaborate algorithms to anticipate learner behaviour, rather than just asking. Let’s spend millions of dollars on making learning more opaque while harder to access and understand. It’s an ideology that insists on making education more complex, more expensive, more incomprehensible than it all ready is so that they can maintain power and control.

You know what would make learning more personalised? Choice.

You know what would make choosing easier? Empowerment.

You know what would make empowerment occur? Understanding.

You know what would make understanding easier? Explanation.

How about we think about learners as people – intelligent people – rather than data points? How can you have a debate about personalisation without giving people a voice? Surely empowered people can be a empowered learners and personalisation simply becomes the default position?

As Charlie Brooker clearly observes in his post on the recent Facebook experiment “the more personalised any online service appears to be, the less it thinks of you as a person”.