Reading Response & Interest-Driven Scholarship: “What is Web 2.0” by Tim O’Reilly

Required & Recommended Readings:

Thinking about our readings this week, I’m struck by the recurring thought that, in sense, we’re no longer individuals. What really surprises me though is that I’m not as freaked out by that thought as I imagined I would be.

Growing up, the thought of losing individuality to become part of a larger common voice filled me with images of the Borg from Star Trek. The reality is very different. I’m part of a common voice but still have an individual voice that can be heard if you listen hard enough.

In this week’s readings for ILT5340 and in my personal explorations on the subject, I’ve had a chance to examine how this growing movement of participative, collectively-sourced learning is shaping how I’m learning and will teach in the future.

Gone are the days when authors and professors tell us how to approach a text or idea. Now, we students (and teachers) can look at a text or idea from their own individual approach and discuss what each of us see within the text from our viewpoint. Our histories and perspectives are now valuable as a lens for others to read through where they were previously considered a drawback.

It makes sense to me. No student or teacher is a blank slate and they certainly aren’t created from a standard, one size fits all mold. Understanding where the student and the teacher is coming from will help me have a better understanding of how I respond to both. I don’t have to agree with them and I don’t have to fully understand them either. I just need to know and react to the idea that we’re coming from different spaces and need to find a common ground where learning can take place.

This learning can’t just be me or another teacher just standing at the front of a room or on a webcast pontificating. Students crave the chance to participate in their own learning. This participation not only make the learning more valuable to the learner, it also embraces the participative nature of the world that they live in, both in person and online. If consumers abandoned early online providers and companies for not giving them the freedom to determine their online experience, why should students put up with teachers who won’t give them the opportunity to determine what their learning experiences will be?

After reading Lankshear and Knobel (2007) Ch1: Sampling the “New” in New Literacies, I wanted to understand how these ideas corresponded to the technology driving them. These technologies are driving changes in how we learn, communicate, and interact with the world that is increasingly following these same patterns of participation, collaboration, and customization in learning, industry, science, etc. Learning, like Web 2.0, is about building a landscape collectively where user can build, discover, experiment, participate, speak, argue, explore, and build networks that continue the process.

Think about it. We’re all sitting on that collective porch that Alan Levine described in Open is the Porch Light Being On (and More), getting to know one another as we finish building the rest of the house. We each have our own room that is built differently than all the other rooms in the house but they all fit together in a sometimes not-so cohesive design but it works. We’re getting to know one another piece by piece so we can make the rooms fit together, but we’ve got plenty of time to get it right.

Interest-Driven Scholarship:

After reading a little bit about how Web 2.0 is driving the evolution of literacies in our reading of Lankshear & Knobel, I was curious to learn more about the technologies involved and how different they are from the technologies that emerged at the dawn of the internet. Why did some technologies fail and how were some existing technologies and platforms able to reinvent themselves?

After reading the article, the reasons behind the failure of what were some of the original frontrunners of the Web were pretty obvious. These web platforms and technologies were driven by a traditional, centralized mentality that was designed to primarily drive web users to a preconceived destination rather than allow users to discover or build the destination for themselves. In relation to traditional technology use of the time, it made sense. The fundamental difference was that for the first time, users had a space that had no limitations of what they could build once they understood how to build in the space. Once they learned that they didn’t need to buy the pre-fabricated space and way of interacting, users abandoned it.

This freedom to self-determine how you or I or any user is going to use the Web is fundamental to the technology powering Web 2.0. Instead of waiting for a company to fix or merge technologies, individual users can work independently or collectively to “swarm” a solution that the community benefits form.

This freedom to self-determine content and the technologies that allow bloggers to network with each other and the Web at large has opened up the voices of billions of users to speak about and share their lives in new ways. This freedom also allows readers to peer into the lives and thoughts of others in a way that was previously unavailable. This sort of open-access life has revealed a variety and scope that is redefining how society views itself. Taboos are breaking and people have become more aware of the large and small differences that were previously hidden from polite society and these differences are revealing a fascinating world of quirkiness and eccentricity that is revealing that there is no such thing as “normal.”



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