Relating to the sort of networks which are more resistant to cascade phenomena and are more sustainable, I would like to refer to this by Alan here on Connectivist Theory: “The particular virtue suggested by Stephen is that a distributed network may be more resistant to “cascade” phenomena” How would a distributed network be practised under our education system? Under our current education system (especially in Australia) where user choice could lead to competition, and thus fostering the Darwinian evolutionary concept of: “Those fittest and most adaptive to environment would survive”, every institution would need to ensure that their system aligns with the vision and missions it sets out. Would distributed networks be achievable within these institutions?
Here is an example illustrating the fundamental challenges within institutions.
In this Darwinism, Design and Public Education, there was a significant debate between science and intelligent design.
What was the outcome? Science wins? If we were to discuss these in social networks, what happens?
Here on Peer review
The Discovery Institute lists five chapters as “Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design, although Mark Isaak of the talk.origins Archive notes that “Anthologies and conference proceedings do not have well-defined peer review standards” and that “reviewers are themselves ardent supporters of intelligent design. The purpose of peer review is to expose errors, weaknesses, and significant omissions in fact and argument. That purpose is not served if the reviewers are uncritical”.
There is support for the idea that people learn better by collaborating rather than competing. While not an absolute and dependent on context, it is a reasonable assertion within the higher education context. With universities competing, there is greater focus on “commercial in-confidence” than on openness. The problem is that in competing for students, focus of institutions can stray from being “about the students and their learning journey and quality” to the less noble “how can we recruit and retain as many students as possible?”
This is part of the story, though it could be up to individuals to perceive whether learning is at the top of the agenda in HE. When it comes to the basic structure of educational institutions, isn’t it based on a hierarchical system? It is a standard model where “the networks of star, hub and distributive structure” are built in and are aggregated under a formal organisational structure or superimposed in an education network, if more than one institutions are involved, where authority, accountability and responsibilities are attached to each office bearers (directors, administrators, professors, educators, librarians, technologists, etc.). Here the lines of communication and network are subject to stringent risk management and control. Most of the planning would start from the top with vision and mission statements, followed by strategic and operational plans, with due considerations to any risks that may arise.
So, with such a structure in mind, how would cascading of virus attached to information be a problem? All the viruses are already scanned and destroyed before they are passed down the hierarchical system.
Under a formal system, if people wants to network with another network, they need to be aware of certain protocols which must be observed. This brings us back to the power and authority which are the focus of formal structure and organisation, and thus any “memes” and virus that are associated with or transmitted in social networks would inherently affect the operation of institutions.
Relating to the role of education providers, here by Infed, Ivan Illich: deschooling, conviviality and the possibilities for informal education and lifelong learning
Learning becomes a commodity, ‘and like any commodity that is marketed, it becomes scarce’ (Illich 1975: 73). Furthermore, and echoing Marx, Ivan Illich notes the way in which such scarcity is obscured by the different forms that education takes. This is a similar critique to that mounted by Fromm (1979) of the tendency in modern industrial societies to orient toward a ‘having mode’ – where people focus upon, and organize around the possession of material objects. They, thus, approach learning as a form of acquisition. Knowledge become a possession to be exploited rather than an aspect of being in the world.
So, how should knowledge be created and shared in this digital era? How would we leverage social media/networks in networked learning? How to ensure that such knowledge and information shared via social networks are conducive to learning for the educators and learners? With an abundance of information and “knowledge” in the web and social media, would social networks be viable for public education?
Here in this are social networks viruses?
Christakis and Fowler contend that once you understand that emotions and behaviors can be transmitted by contagion, and that the context or environment shapes the transmission, leaders can harness the power of the social network in organizations by deliberately designing teams to optimize the social networks of everyone on it. They say that social networks and the behaviors, feelings and traits they transmit are always present and always functioning, whether organizations are aware of this or not. If they’re transmitting good things they could be making the organization stronger and more profitable, and creating a culture where people are happier; or if the social networks are dysfunctional or transmitting negative behaviors, feelings and traits ,this could damage or destroy the organization and create a culture of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Sounds convincing to me. Would that explain why the cascading effect of “virus” spreading is dangerous in even the most innovative institutions in the world? Social networks could add value, but could also be highly disruptive when it comes to the technology it brings along.