Where are your communities? Mapping social learning in the real world and the record store

Concerto is one of Amsterdam’s oldest and best record stores. It has rooms for every genre, as well as a sizeable second hand vinyl department, knowledgeable staff and a great cafe. It’s a ten minute walk from where i’m living and, i have to say, it’s superb. Yesterday i left with an old Iron and Wine 12″, an acoustic tribute to George Harrison by Jim James and a ‘sound map of the Netherlands‘, by Solex, an album they’d made by travelling through all 12 provinces, by boat, and recording musicians and sounds as they went. These were all impulse purchases, based on browsing the shop and reaching out into various communities whilst i was there. For fun, today, i’m mapping that network, to see how i learnt whilst i was there.

Social network map

Map of the nine social learning communities, services and spaces i used in my record store learning experience

I started out in the store itself, browsing through the racks until something caught my eye through it’s cover design: Solex, ‘sound map of the Netherlands‘. Interesting. I googled it. I’ve put Google in a diamond, because it’s a service, one that i used for several tasks in this encounter.

The Google results took me to several sites: an official site for the album, several ‘new release‘ sites, several review sites. I visited the official band site, and read a few reviews, so a combination of formal learning (e.g. curated by the artist) and social (reviews and discussions where the content and messaging was created by community). I thought it sounded good, so decided to buy it, but my problem was that the album was on the wall: now, my Dutch is rudimentary, so i used Google translate to find the words for ‘wall‘ and ‘record‘, then a third party site gave me a full phrase to use.

Armed with my new found vocabulary (performance support via mobile learning) i went to the counter and asked for the record. The girl humoured my attempts at Dutch, subsequently pointing out that i’d used the wrong noun for ‘record‘, instead using the verb, ‘to record‘. So feedback to my learning, as well as a mental note to check definitions more closely on translation sites: good, semi formal learning experience.

With my new vinyl and my new friend, i asked what else was new: she pointed out the Iron and Wine re-release, which i also googled and checked out on Twitter (I wanted to check that it wasn’t something i already had in a new cover, sometimes European artwork or re-released singles have different artwork). All good, so that was added to my stash.

In need of coffee, i went to the cafe, where i was able to rehearse more of my Dutch and order a coffee: the cafe is a formal space, curated by the two people who regularly serve there. It has lots of posters and leaflets where members of the musical community drop off promotional material, so i helped myself to a few things to read, hooked onto the free wifi, and settled in. Wikipedia took me to some new leads: the Jim James cover of George Harrisons work, an acoustic album recorded ten years ago. I checked out various sites (accessed via Google) and decided to take that too.

Meanwhile, even before paying, i’d shared a photo of the Iron and Wine album on Facebook, prompting a conversation with Paul who hadn’t seen it either. I was also able to tag several people within that community who are music journalists or experts within my network to ask their opinion. I was able to curate an appropriate conversation.

Finally, with my three records under my arm, i was able to pay, at the same time getting a recommendation to a gig from the girl who had given me the original help.

Ok, so a simple encounter, but full of learning. It’s mobile learning, providing performance support and knowledge. The shop, cafe and gigs are physical spaces, curated by the proprietors: they choose the physical characteristics and information that they broadcast through their website, posters and training. The bands also curate their own websites, whilst wikipedia is curated by the community, as are forums and reviews left by customers. Facebook and Twitter are two of my informal communities (whilst i maintain ‘personal‘ and ‘professional‘ Twitter feeds, most of my musician friends and acts are on my personal one, so i used that).

I accessed information through two sources: my phone and the staff, both present in the physical, but giving me access to new information (or sources of information) and forming the gateways to my learning. The meaning of that knowledge i created myself, moderated by the community.

This is the Social Age, where even a trip to the record store involved me interacting with nine separate communities and spaces. It was the best of mobile learning, seamless, facilitating, instant. The best of social learning: sharing, challenging, supportive, helping me to create meaning, providing access to knowledge, all delivering a seamless community experience.

We have to understand the nature of these interactions in order to build effective and meaningful organisational mobile and social learning interventions: we have to understand how we interact with our communities socially, how we use multiple spaces and multiple communities, how those spaces are curated, where we look for support, for advice, how we use devices and connections to do that.

Try mapping your own encounters on a day by day basis: which spaces are you in, who is in your community? Welcome to the Social Age. Don’t forget your phone. It’s got a great soundtrack.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in 'Just in time' learning, Authority, Collaboration, Community, Connections, Conversation, Curation, Discovery, Edgelands, Formal Spaces, Google, Informal Spaces, Information, Knowledge, Learning, Meaning, Mobile Learning, Music, Personal Learning Network, Sharing, Social Learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Where are your communities? Mapping social learning in the real world and the record store

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