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Factors that led to the creation of the Web

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A neurobiologist would argue that all manifestations of human inventiveness stem from our ability to think in metaphors and therefore to be able to see beyond our current reality. The authors and thinkers who have imagined and tried to create a library of everything, an index of everything, a microfiche or computer of evrything are many: H G Wells and Douglas Adam, Vanevar Bush, Thomas Bodley …. Regarding the issue of the origins or history of the Web’s inception it is a complex and massive human story, indeed, like the roots of a growing tree as a mirror to what is going on above the ground, it has the potential to fill many volumes and to occupy many minds. Perspective is everything – education, culture, personal experience, personality and academic discipline – each would offer a different perspective. Pressing on with a biological metaphor perhaps like the origins of life on earth we can nonetheless start from a specific moment – the equivalent of those first cells that began to split and evolve?

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Web Networks – from the micro to the macro

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We are each unique – our brains make us so. At the microlevel the network in our heads is then tickled out into the the Web in, at first. the simplest of ways. Our first post, our first comment is that first baby-step. Unlike our firsf steps though, online everything we do is saved, is monitored, is shared. It takes on a life of its own. Multiplied billions of times now many millions of us have learnt to crawl, then walk, then run online. As we are virtual we can split into many versions or parts of ourselves too – the professional and private the immediate split, but then into hobby groups and as here, a study group. The network of networks is a living thing that mathematics can help to weight and categorize, even to visualise, but crucially – the point made here, humanising the maths requires the insight of someone asking questions, seeking to interpret what it taking place. I see currents in a digital ocean that transpires into a cloud that then precipitates digital artefacts in a myriad of other places. Others, like Yrjo Engegstrom, see the growing tendrils of a funghi. Either way it is fascinating to condense, simplify and sharing the thinking.

What will the impact be of the Web on education? How is knowledge sharing and learning changing?

Fig. 1. Father and daughter

From four or five months after conception with the formation of the brain, to the moment of brain death we have the capacity to learn, subconsciously as well as consciously.

Whether through interlopers before birth, in infancy and early childhood, or through family and carers in our last moment, days, weeks, months or years. At both ends of life the Web through a myriad of ways can advise, suggest and inform, and so educate, like never before. While for all the time in between as sponges, participants and students we can access, interact, interpose and interject in an environment where everything that is known and has been understood is presented to us. The interface between person and this Web of knowledge is a fascinating one that deserves close study for its potentially profound impact on what we as humans can do as people and collectively:  Individually through, by, with and surfing the established and privileged formal and formal conveyor belt of education through nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary centres of learning. Individually, also through expanding opportunities globally to learn unfettered by such formal education where such established opportunities don’t exist unless hindered through poverty and politics or a lack of communications infrastructure (a robust broadband connection to the Web). And individually and collectively alongside or beyond whatever formal education is provided or exploited by finger tapping into close and expanded networks of people, materials, ideas and activities

Open learning comes of age.

By seeking to peg answers to the role the Web is starting to play, at one end to the very first opportunity, at the micro-biological level to form a thought and at the other end to those micro-seconds at the end of life once the brain ceases to function – and everything else in between, requires an understandings neuroscience and an answer to the question ‘what is going on in there?’ How do we learn?

From an anthropological perspective why and how do we learn?

Where can we identify the origins of knowledge sharing and its role in the survival and domination of homo sapiens? And from our migration from the savannas of Eastern Africa to every nook and cranny of Earth, on land and sea, what recognised societal behaviours are playing out online? And are these behaviours mimicked or to a lesser extent transmogrified, warped or elevated by the scope, scale and speed of being connected to so much in such variety?

A history of learning is required.

From our innate conscious and subconscious capacity to learn from our immediate family and community how has formal education formed right the way through adding reading, writing and numeracy as a foundation to subject choices and specialisms, so momentarily expanded in secondary education into the single subjects studied at undergraduate level and the niche within a niche at Masters and doctoral levels. And what role has and will formal and informal learning continue to have, at work and play if increasing numbers of people globally have a school or university in their pockets, courtesy of a smartphone or tablet and a connection to the Web?

The global village Marshall McLuhan described is now, for the person connected to the Web, the global digital fireplace.

It has that ability to gather people around. Where though are its limits? With how many people can we develop and maintain a relationship? Once again, how can an understanding of social networks on the ground inform us about those that form on the Web? Multiplicity reins for some, flitting between a variety of groups while others have their niche interests indulged, celebrated and reinforced. Is there an identifiable geography of such hubs small and large and if visualised what does this tell us? Are the ways we can now learn new or old?

In relation to one aspect of education – medicine – how are we informed and how do we respond as patients and clinicians?

The journey starts at conception with the mixing of DNA and ends once the last electrochemical spark has fired. How, in relation to medicine does the quality (or lack of), scale and variety of information available on the Web inform and impact upon our ideas and actions the length of this lifetime’s journey At one end, parents making decisions regarding having children, then knowledge of pregnancy and foetal development. While at the other end, a child takes part in the decision-making process with clinicians and potentially the patient – to ‘call it a day’. Both the patient or person, as participant and the clinicians as interlocutors have, potentially, the same level of information at their fingertips courtesy of the Web.

How is this relationship and the outcomes altered where the patient will know more about their own health and a good deal about a clinician’s specialism?

The relationship between the doctor and patient, like others, courtesy of the connectivity and capacity of the Web, has changed – transmogrified, melted and flipped all at the same time. It is no longer them and us, though it can be – rather, as in education and other fields, it can be highly personalized and close.

Can clinicians be many things to many people?

Can any or only some of us cope with such multiplicity? A psychologist may say some will and some won’t, some have the nature for it, others not. Ditto in education. Trained to lead a classroom in a domain of their own, can a teacher take on multiple roles aimed at responding to the unique as well as the common traits of each of their students? While in tertiary education should and can academics continue to be, or expected to be undertake research as well as teach? Where teaching might be more akin to broadcasting, and the classroom or tutorial takes place asynchronously and online as well as live and face-to-face.

Disaggregation equals change.

In relation to one aspect of education in medicine and one kind of problem, what role might the Web play to support patients so that they can make an informed decision regarding the taking of potentially life saving, if not simply life improving, medications? Having understood the complexity of reasons why having been prescribed a preventer medication, for example, to reduce or even eliminate the risk of a serious asthma attack, what is going on where a patient elects, sometimes belligerently, not to take the medication. Others are forgetful, some misinformed, for others it is the cost, or the palaver of ordering, collecting and paying for repeat prescriptions. Information alone isn’t enough, but given the capacity of the web to brief a person on an individual basis, where they are online, what can be done to improve adherence, save lives and enhance the quality of life?

My hypothesis is that a patient can be assisted by an artificial companion of some kind, that is responsive to the person’s vicissitudes while metaphorically sitting on that person’s shoulder i.e. in the ‘Cloud’ and on their smartphone, tablet, headset, laptop or whatever other assistive interface will exist between us and the Web.

 

Fig. 2. Where it ends … more or less

At a parent’s side when they die is a profound experience. The breathing stopped and a trillion memories drained away. To what degree will this no longer be the case when a life logged digitally becomes a life in part preserved?

 

How blogging is going all TV

I call it the coming of ‘WikiTVia;’ the tipping point where we view and listen to wikipedia. This will engage, persuade, educate and entertain audiences the way reading can never do (however many links you have).

Jakob Nielsen and his team, as well as academics, are stripping the blogosphere bare to understand how it works.

Birds of a Feather: How personality influences blog writing and reading.

It ain’t like you imagine.

Those who generate content are a fraction of total users, 1% is the figure Nielsen gives. This 1% generate content beyond the ken of lesser mortals; you may say they are obsessive about it. Nielsen cites the Amazon book reviewer who wrote 1,275 reviews in one year (is that all). I liken these people to what advertisers call ‘champions.’ The key influencers of a cohort or group, early adopters, who innovate first and do so with conviction and passion.

Nielsen eleaborates on this and calls it 90-9-1.

Taking this into the realm of video my intuition supposes that these ‘Golden Boys & Girls’ of content generation will be and are the same people who will have a Flip camera in their pocket (or simply use their phone) to capture or generate orignial content then upload. Content generated on a theme, from a premise, that has some link or basis in its text form will generate an explosive interest in the subject matter beyond its original audience. Video has this power to engage, to persuade, to intrigue and interest the viewer.

Rich content enriches minds.

VJs ?

Like DJs they have a following.

Though the content should be king, not its author.

Me?

I’m this 1%.

The mistake risk takers make is to take too few risks

The dot com or e-learning mistake is to have only one ball in the air.

Like Cirque du Soleil they should juggle a dozen items, who even notices if one drops to the ground and breaks, there’s enough going on to amaze.

TV production companies, docs and drama, film companies too, have to have many ideas in development if any are to succeed; when will web producers take the same approach?

28 projects on the go I understand is the figure

I’ve got four ideas, so seven other people with four ideas each and we’re in business as imagicians.

This is the e-century, the 21st century things are different, very different indeed.

This is the e-century, the 21st century things are different, very different indeed.It has taken me a decade to get round to thinking this.

In 1999 one of my very first blogs was also the basis of a workshop I gave to ABB Communications Managers on ‘How to write for the web.’

My title was, ‘There’s nothing’s New about New Media.’

In one respect I was right, writing comes in many forms and writing online needs to tailor itself less to the online experience than to the space, time, audience, purpose, just as you would write each of the following in a different way:

• Letter to your mum.

• Christmas Shopping list.

• Footnote to a speech a colleague is giving.

• To camera presenter.

• Voice over presenter.

• Technical ‘how to’.

• Writer’s journal.

• Stream of consciousness on the state of your relationship.

• Dream analysis.

• Geography essay.

• Agitated response to the local planning department who are knocking down the houses opposite to widen the road into a dual-carriageway.

• Threaded discussion on a pop stars dress-sense.

• Notes to a lawyer regarding your step-mother’s claim on your late father’s estate.

  • Notes from a report you’ve read.
  • The first draft of an essay your are writing.
  • The transcript of a council meeting.
  • A short story.
  • An obituary.
  • A commercial selling yoghurt drinks
  • A campaign message from a politician

Keep adding.

Parameters help.

is a writer’s trick. Twitter shouldn’t be the only place to deny the freedom to pontificate in this way without any intention of editing.

Though I’ve slipped up occasionally my rule in OU Land has been 250 words for a threaded discussion, 500 words in the blog and anything more either break the blog up into separate entries, offer it as an attachment or link away to a different site.

1000 words min per entry was a rule some of use early bloggers agreed to in 2002 to cut out those who would put in a line, twenty times a day, to get their page numbers up.

My longest single entry ran to over 10,000 words, written as I travelled 800 miles by train and ferry across Southern England, the English Channel and France 😦

Guaranteed to stop any reader on the second paragraph.

Though it works broken into 30 pages with illustrations.

So in this respect it worked, all I posted was an early draft. Had I been a co-author I would not have needed to do anything else. And my notes would have been better off in a wiki.

Put everything that has been written, and everything that is going to be written, or expressed in the spoken or written word and put it in the e-blender. This is the web for the first decade. Now add photos and music. This is the last decade. Now add everything else, all moving images, video, every film, every corporate training film, anything and everything anyone ever records, or films, or has transferred or will transfer from film, or tape to a digital format.

Put it in this blender and leave the lid off. If you’ve ever blended the partially cooked ingredients for leek and potato soup you know what is going to happen.

Now look around your kitchen.

This is the web for the insider’s point of view. There’ll be some tastey bits – stuck to the ceiling, if you can reach them.

Now do the same with a vast blender in the middle of the Albert Hall.

Splat

Or should I be kinder, and imagine the 21st web to be like visiting the Planetarium armed with my own laser so that I can interact.

The mind boggles; mine does, relentlessly.

I liked being reminded of what ‘stickiness’ is – nothing more complex than ‘loyalty’ and ‘engagement.’

The Bottom Line on Thursday night had guests Alex Cheetle, Jasmine Montgomery and Robin White.

They were poked by Evan Davies and consequently shot out words as if from a submachine gun on the topics of new media (social networking largelly) in advertising and marketing and the role of optimism in business.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/v1rg1/

These are people who pitch for business all the time.

They aren’t just at ease with the terminology, but are evangelists. Not being an Opera buff I can’t immediately think which one, but these four leaping in and out of each other’s conversation felt at time like a scene from an opera. It had might as well have been in German.

Having listened over twice and taken extensive notes certain phrases and ideas are coming through.

I liked being reminded of what ‘stickiness’ is – nothing more complex than ‘loyalty’ and ‘engagement.’

I am always interested to tag a few more ideas onto my understanding of ‘branding,’ as I am convinced this will be the deciding factor for most people choosing a product or service. Which is why and how the likes of Google and Facebook continue to dominate, while familiar ‘sexy’ brands like Adobe may muscle into creative industries education in an even bigger way by offering e-portfolios.

Can we as students reach the stage where we can talk with such enthusiasm and as lucidly about ‘e-learning,’ and as its the current topic, about ‘e-portoflios’ in particular?

Access is not generational

A data visualization of Wikipedia as part of t...

A data visualization of Wikipedia as part of the World Wide Web, demonstrating hyperlinks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Access is not generational, there are clearly people from across the demographic and from every geographical niche on the planet that are engaging with IT with the ‘virtual revolution’ of the Internet & fulfilling so many dreams.

It is apt that we think of it as a net, as in the ‘Internet’ or we think of it as a web, as in ‘the world wide web’ – as we do, because nets and webs are full of holes. These holes occur everywhere, the retired Canadian civil servant who has no typing skills, so no computer and no internet; the teenager single-mother in a war torn village whose only priority is life itself; lack of money, lack of assistance, lack of broadband Internet access, let alone dial-up, a ‘shadow’ that means you have no mobile access, you’re at sea, in prison, in a prison of your own making: the list is as long as the number of holes you can imagine in a net or web wrapped around a globe.

The language of the web a decade ago was English, while fifteen years ago it was HTML; just as ten years before that the language of computers was DOS (or to my mind dross) – impenetrable geek-speak written for mathematicians who forget that they had to communicate to the outside world in English. And once these challenges to uptake were overcome, for a long time since the language of the Internet was in the English language.

The bias and the historical influences of hundreds of years of conquest & colonialism echo across this i.e.o.Universe.

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