Saturday, October 11, 2008

CCK08 - week 5 – Connectives and Collectives: Distinctions between networks and groups

Groups Vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues - Stephen Downes
That Group Feeling - Stephen Downes
Downes Interview: Groups and Networks (here's the image from the video)
Group and Network (presentation, George Siemens)
Other useful resources for this week:

Notes from readings:
Groups Vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues - Stephen Downes
groups require unity and networks require diversity. Groups require coherence, networks require autonomy and so on.

Networks offers that path that isn't the individual and isn't the group, doesn't force you to choose between the individual and the group.

a group is a collection of entities or members according to their nature or their feature or their properties or whatever, their essential nature, maybe, their accidental nature, maybe, whatever, but according to their nature. What defines a group is the quality the members possess in common and then the number of members in that group. Groups are about nature, they're about quality, they're about mass. They're about number.

A network, by contrast, is an association, I use that word very precisely, an association of entities or members where this association is facilitated or created by a set of connections between those entities. …. A connection is merely some conduit along which a signal can run. … What defines a network is the nature and the extent of this connectivity. The nature and the extent to which these individuals are connected together.

A group, in other words, is like a school, a school of thought or a school of fish or a class, a class of entity, a class of animals, a class in a genus and a species.

"Education and authentic learning," he writes, "like freedom, is wrapped up with the notion of responsibility and accountability. We need to learn in groups because that's where we form our identities." True or false? "Not in some vast, chaotic network where there's no responsibility, no authenticity." (Stanley Frielick, kirjoitti 27.9.2006 kello 12:35)

A network is like an ecosystem where there is no requirement that all the entities be the same, where the nature of the entity isn't specifically relevant, where the number of entities isn't specifically relevant.

Can we have order, responsibility, identity, all of that good stuff, inside an ecosystem?

Networks are almost defined by the opposite, defined by their diversity. A network thrives on diversity.

Internet technology that encourages diversity rather than conformity includes things like personal home pages or these days, blogs.

Groups require coordination. They require a leadership or a leader.

A group is defined by its values. …. Networks, by contrast, require autonomy.

Interaction in a network isn't about leaders and followers. It's about, as I say here, a mutual exchange of value.

And you think about the technology now that encourages autonomy rather than conformance. E-portfolios is being touted as this sort of technology.

Networks are open. Networks require that all entities in the network be able to both send and receive.

Copyright, trademarks, proprietary software, all of these things are barriers for the communication of thought and ideas.

Groups are distributive - money, information, power, everything flows from the center, an authority, and it's distributed through the members.

Networks are distributed. In a network, there is no locus of knowledge. There is no place that knowledge and money and all of that flow from.

But can groups be an entity within a network?

That Group Feeling - Stephen Downes
groups are based on passion while networks are based on reason. Groups meet our need to belong and to survive, while networks meet our need to connect and learn and to know.

When we look at learning, therefore, and when we ask which model should prevail, the group model or the network model, we are asking fundamentally what the role of our educational system should be. Should it be to foster an emotional attachment to a group, be it a nation, religion, or system of wealth distribution?

There is no shortage of people wanting schooling to fulfill not only a learning but also a socialization function. …. teaching becomes less a matter of cognitive function and more a matter of indoctrination.

when the fostering of allegiance to a group becomes a major, or primary, function of education, then the traditional agenda, thought of as learning, is left behind.

We can no longer afford dogmatic tribalism. …. But in matters affecting economics and finance, environment, government and nations, we can no longer afford group-based tribalism.

where we, as a society, would prefer reason to prevail over emotions, we should prefer to organize ourselves as networks rather than as groups.

I want groups to continue to exist. I want that feeling of unrestrainedly shouting “Hort! Hort! Hort!” in a suburban field, of forming a bond with a group of friends, of feeling the strength and support of my community and my family. But not at any cost. Not at the cost groups, unrestrained, can inflict on the outcast. Not at the cost that indoctrination, practiced as a theory of learning, can inflict on a society and on a planet. Not at the cost the tribe mentality, as exercised in the schoolyard, can inflict on an individual.

Do we create an indoctrinated learning environment in our schools to control and concur – adopted from our tribual/feudualistic backgrounds or to easily manage the large scale formalization of our education systems. Worker ants vs independent thinkers.

Would improved and flexible funding models and improved teacher training/professional development enable us to create networked learning models?

The Lesotho ‘cattle-boys’ who didn’t want to be coaxed into a formal classroom environment, which we make them more ‘civilised’.

Control (groups) vs Anarchy (networks)

Downes Interview: Groups and Networks (here's the image from the video)
Online learning focuses on ‘groups’

Groups – unity, co-ordination, closed/boundary between members & non-members, leader – television, radio, books – broadcast media – content static and delivered – intranet/portal – standards, LMS – copyright – podcasts, technorati – results in a power law – an unequal distribution of knowledge, wealth – distinguishing the rich and poor – exclusivity and control

Networks – diversity, autonomy, open and no walls, bridges rather than walls, based on the connections between the members – talking, telephone, not broadcast, more person to person – personal home page – self directed learning systems (e-portfolios) – creative commons – connective and creates conversations – social networks – organic world – prevents the rich from getting richer – more of an equal say/power

Group and Network (presentation, George Siemens)
Groups are a type of network – impossible to compare the two
Collectivity – doing things together – distributed nature of knowledge – trust required –
Working together as a group is completely different from networks and individuals
Need to consider ‘human nature’ - Individual identity important – the desire to have ‘recognition’ of our actions
Collective intelligence – recognition of ‘the self’
Concepts are partly held ‘externally’ through an ‘artefact’ ie a book/article using a ‘language’
Socially formed – language, symbols, customs, culture, technology – conceptually held –
“The intelligences … are distributed … across minds, persons, and the symbolic and physical environments” Roy Pea
Collectives/Groups – as we start to integrate our ideas/concepts with others – important protection of our selves which needs to be retained
The self is not created through socialization it is shaped and expressed through socialization (negotiation/conversations)
Connectives – mosaic self autonomy
Collectives – subsumption of self (melting pot) – needs a coercion to the norm –
Working with others is a vital skill, whilst retaining ‘self’ – autonomy of individuals
Innovation is deviation – when people see things in a similar way there is little ‘innovation’ – need to encourage deviation –
Freedom vs control – multiplicity of networks required – high innovation – free/open structure required – time pressures to create outputs – control required
“Intense connectivity can homogenize the pool … high cohesiveness can lead to the sharing of common rather than novel information” Uzzi, Spiro (2005)
Networks are the underlying structure in any type of a situation ie individuals (new ideas, novel concepts, weak ties) or groups (normalizing, strong ties)
Complexity – self organisation vs managed
Challenge for educators : preserve unique values of connectives (individuals) and collectives (groups)

Innovation = individuals
Conformity = groups

Working as a part of a team vs autonomous agents

Collectives, Networks and Groups in Social Software for E-Learning - Terry Anderson and John Dron
that there are actually three distinct entities that are involved in activities supported through the use of social software: the group, the network and the collective

We suggest that the level of granularity is specified by a cluster of variables including the number of users, formal leadership, degree of familiarity of users with each other, perceived responsibility to the ‘Many’ and the privacy afforded to the users.

Our classification begins with the often tightly formed and usually temporally bound entity known as the group or, in many corporate settings, as the team. From here we move to discussion of the network, a more fluid form of social entity in which members join, create and remove themselves through informal and semi-formal connections. Finally we discuss the collective, the highest form of social granularity in which members participate for individual benefit, but their activities are harvested to generate the ‘wisdom of crowds’.

Collectives are aggregations, sets formed of the actions of individuals who primarily see themselves as neither a part of a group nor connected through a network. … Notable collective behaviours include the formation of tag clouds, the ordering of results in Google, recommendations of collaborative filters or social navigation in various social systems based on prior use, evaluation or other stigmergic indicators. …. collective systems do not require a commitment to the Many.

Bradley Horowitz (2006) estimates that 1% of users are creators or instigators of interaction. A further 10% are synthesizers or commentators who respond to invitation and prompting by creators. The remaining 89% are consumers but who still value to the collective through their tracked consumption.

Table 1 - forms of communication in social software – page 4
Table 2 - uses of social software for learning – page 5
Figure 1 - social view of e-learning – page 6

7 Habits of Highly Connected People - Stephen Downes
1. Be reactive - if publishing your own stuff comes at the expense of reading and commenting on other people's stuff, that's not so great.

Posting, after all, isn't about airing your own views. It's about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content and yours.

2. Go With The Flow - When connecting online, it is more important to find the places to which you can add value rather than pursue a particular goal or objective.

3. Connection Comes First - the idea of replacing your online connecting with busy-work is mistaken.

4. Share - The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return.

5. RTFM - "Read The Fine Manual" - it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others.

6. Cooperate - To cooperate, it is necessary to know the protocols. Protocols exist in all facets of online communications, from the technologies that connect software (like TCP/IP and HTML) to the ways people talk with each other (like netiquette and emoticons).

7. Be Yourself - it's a recognition that your online life encompasses the many different facets of your life, and that it is important that these facets are all represented and work together.

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