The empty page

Twenty million things to do*, and the blank page stretches out like a prairie. For a long time I opted for silence, and, in the end, found myself twittering comments in the blogs of others – sputtering, Catherine-wheel conversations. Now, when I have finally decided to sit down, my collection of weathered posts and sagebrush ideas,  so carefully saved,  seems like no more  a well-worn path, the grass trampled and muddy…

Enough… today I read this article at First Monday “Education and the Social Web: Connective learning and the commercial imperative” by Norm Friesen. It raises important questions about the educational use of the most popular social networking tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, or digg. Not just the old chestnuts about privacy (all our data etc.) but more about the way the informational design of these sites, which has commercial objectives, militates against learning, because it aims to reduce division, and eliminate conflict. Learning as process requires debate, and disssonance. Mere connections,  Friesen suggests, are insufficient and perhaps, as an objective, even misleading.

Friesen ends:

“The advertising, tracking and analysis functions of commercial social media present, as Raymond Williams says, “a formula of communication, an intrinsic setting of priorities”. The difference separating these priorities from those of education is clear in terms of the form of social networks, if not also in some aspects of its culture and content. It only remains to be seen whether this dynamic renders commercial social networking services as fully unsupportive of educational ends as commercial television has long been.”

Perhaps it was never possible to engage with the agendas of commercial TV in the classroom. A critical response to the agendas of Facebook and others is perhaps still possible, perhaps even a responsibility, of any educator.

(*with apologies to Lowell George)

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