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25 October 2008

Social Implications of Social Computing #2


Consumption of media is now happening on the user’s own terms.  I can access what I want when it is convenient for me, and in the media format that I prefer on my preferred device.  This means that the consumer of today has a lot of personal discretion, and this has implications for expectations of learners.  We are moving away from the passive consumption model of my youth and moving towards a demand driven culture.

Anyone who knows a teenager probably already knows about Bit Torrent – people can download their preferred shows and watch them when they want and on their own terms.  In the music space iTunes and LImewire have done the same thing.  No longer do we have to buy the whole album for just one song.  There is bandwidth being chewed up at a great rate to satisfy these demands.

We are wired to deal with smaller groups and wired for small chunks of information.  The fact is that we seem to retain our tribal brains.  And we often seem to work best in small groups – like basketball teams or football teams – who join together with a common purpose.  

This is a critical construct for addressing some of the challenges facing us.    There have been many studies of human working or short term memory and many are familiar with Miller’s idea of the ‘magical number seven’ – being the number of items we can hold in our working memory.  We used to need skills like remembering oral information to keep us safe and transmit important information to others.  

But now this is no longer required as we can just Google the information or phone a friend.  There was even a recent example at PLC school in Sydney where the exams were not merely open book  The students were allowed to use any materials, even mobile phones or the internet.  This is how we would undertake a task in the real world anyway.

Since we are still tribal creatures we are stuck with limits on how many people we can meaningfully interact with.  Many cite the Dunbar number of 150 people as the limit of effective group size.  And we can already see the answer to the question of how we deal with being connected to large groups of people all the time.  We chunk up our larger groups into subgroups based on common interests, habits or physical location.

Ultimately we are social creatures and want to create social networks either online or offline. A good example is Facebook where ordinary people of all ages and with little technical skill are routinely creating affiliation groups.  These online groups are even creating real life relationships – for example the Twitter community in Sydney often meets up physically with most of us having met online originally.  

See also:

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

3 comments:

Katie Harris said...

Nice post!

Two books immediately came to mind that you might like, in case you haven't already come across them/delved in:

1. Brain Rules by John Medina - this one is interesting in terms of the mechanics/implications of how we're wired.

2. Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger (Jeff Kelly and Stephen Collins recommended this one at Web 2.0 Exec Bootcamp). This one is interesting in terms of the transformation of how information is organised (and the implications thereof).

Kate Carruthers said...

thanks Katie, will check them out

IempowerU said...

I agree. In regards to education, I was in the old ways where we had to memorize everything... I excelled because I have a near photographic memory. But, today it doesn't make sense to do this with everything when we can google or wikipedia, or use any other way to get instant access. The focus then changes to one of teaching what the right tools will be and then how to interpret what you find. Not so easy.

In regards to being social creatures, I think that the most important thing to remember in all of this is that we still need one on one interaction... touch, facial expression, body language. I love communicating through words but I can't imagine a life without the real personal connection either.

Thanks for your observations.