Tuesday, 10 November 2015

#DigiWriMo on curation and MOOCs loosing individuality

It seems that there is no structure, without it being the result of curation. Looking at the world wide web, at first there was the content of scientists, the long discussion boards, and lists with scientific knowledge. Then knowledge from other individuals started to seep in, and more people started to put more information on the web. The web got populated by more people than before. I remember my father pointing me towards some compuserve mailing lists (wonderful news clip sharing the 1981 version of an electronic, dial-in newspaper). At a certain point this distributed knowledge seemed to be in need for being structured, or curated so ‘the best’ information could be found more easily. And when you look at online learning now, with the emergence of MOOCs, social media… you can see how information is curated and/or marketed to some extend to make it easier for people to find ‘the best’ (whether that best is paid for or not by algorithm pushing companies).

MOOC from freedom to norm
Whatever this best might be. The same happened with oral stories that turn into print, then into encyclopedias or specialized magazines… and now the curation is happening in the knowledge sphere. So where at first some scattered enthusiasts and experts shared their knowledge and felt free to do so, MOOCs are now sharing specialized knowledge from people related to big knowledge institutes, that have the money and partners to build and disseminate information. We are roped in by the gravity of big societies.

But if everything moves towards curation, then individualism moves towards cooperation and swarm dynamics as well. Which also means that individuals are only good in exploring new areas (not as much impact) and that – in this day and age – only big institutions can be the curation masters (impactful). True, sometimes curation ends up to be used by an individual again, e.g. the visualisation or the histography that Matan Stauber built with Wikipedia running as a feeder in the background of this visualisation http://histography.io/

Can one be an individual?
Where does that leave us as individuals? You see, I have always been told that I should think independently (and I admit I am not that good at it, but I try to be). But maybe the idea of individuality is actually non-existent in the long run? If one of the reoccurring historical dynamics seems to be curation, humankind is much more like a bee hive or amoeba where the individuals only have freedom at the start of a new exploration, but never beyond. Individuals always get pulled back in.

Curation picking up online speed
Once a new type of product, or habit, or knowledge, or technology is formed, with which eager people (early adopters) are going to play. For instance psychology, or medicine… at first it is something some curious people play with. Some of them get good at it (witches, druids to stick with the medicine part). Then it becomes more known and some sort of structuring takes part. Curation is taking up speed. In a connected world we depend on curation, as more content is being produced by more people in parallel amount of times than ever before. As more of us know where the shoulders of giants are situated (giants being the experts in our field/s) and more people Working Out Loud to share what they do and how they do it, it becomes inevitable that more of us stand on those shoulders to reach new heights ourselves. But this increased content creation, also comes at a prize (I think, could be wrong). Suddenly that which gave some of us a sense of freedom (like first mooc being the forerunners of education for all, or internet allowing us to connect freely with all the people in the world) turns into a commodity, a mass product.

Nothing makes us free, we all get reeled back in
This is why I think Higher Education institutes, the Maker Movement, … any new type of seemingly new movement inevitably will be taken over by the curation directed by the norm. Freedom and experimentation is only there for a brief moment. Whether we like it or not, we collectively seem to want to go to a bigger movement… With this in mind, I wonder how diverse diversity can be? How different is the distance between two different people in reality? Maybe none of us can escape this cohesion of the masses?