Online Social Networks Roundtable with Howard Rheingold

December 11, 2008

First of all, I would like to thank Max Senges and Josep M. Duart as organizators of the roundtable with Howard Rheingold at Open University of Catalonia. Ismael Peña has alredy posted about Rheingold wonderfull talk, but here comes my notes and my reflection.

Roundtable UOC unesco chair on TwitPic

Online Social Networks

  • enable people to co-operate;
  • have always existed, but ICT empower and transform them;
  • are places where communities can growth.

Cultivating Online Communities

  • promote social capital;
  • support Life Long Learning and teaching
  • connect people and build relationship
  • develop a community memory and knowledge sharing

Participatory Media

  • From text based only community to participatory media;
  • Transforms social structures, culture, community, power, wealth ans is characterized by: many to many, consumers/producers, active participation and amplification of network capabilities;
  • Changes literacy.

Online Social Community requires

  • Marketing is the foundation of online community planning.
  • Design Social Architecture.
  • Technological planning.

Watch an eight minute intro screencast of the SMC, created by Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold talk was wonderful, his discourse could be applied to any virtual community. But, in this case, the debate was focused on education and how can we develop online social networks in this field at Open University of Catalonia (UOC), a virtual university with 40,000 students.

On one hand, I think online social networks as a “formal” learning/teaching environment challenge educational, organizational and technological model of my university because it causes a tremendous tension between the need of flexibility   to develop those kind of initiatives and the need of bureaucracy to maintain 40,000 online students within the virtual campus. It just strains all the actors who are involved in the teaching and learning process: teachers, students, managers…

On the other hand, a digital identity is needed to generate online social networks, but how many students or faculty members have develop this digital identity? how many students or faculty members have participatory media literacy?.

Finally, the interaction between this new media landscape based on ICT and the social structure could generate smart mobs, are we ready to take this kind of risk?. I’m ready as well as my institution -I guess- and I’m trying to open the virtual classroom to this new media landscape, it’s fun and most of my students enjoy it too. But as an experiment it has to be evaluated and assessed so… further research is needed each semester. I will present the results here to discuss.