If you live in the UK, the London Riots are dominating the news. Having written about them yesterday, i was keen to steer back into more familiar learning territory today, but the sheer scale and movement in the online world has drawn me back. Something fascinating is going on in the virtual communities, and it’s happening at a pace that’s amazing.
There is a thirst for information and engagement with information that’s filling just about every discussion space and social media environment. But it’s not just existing spaces that are being filled. New ones are emerging around the topic.
Take Scoop.IT, a new curation tool that allows you to gather and present multiple sources of information. Florian Seriex has created this site (http://www.scoop.it/t/riots-in-london) in record time, and generated high levels of traffic. Can you imagine how we’ve got to this place? Where someone can generate a collection of sources in such a short space of time, where they can promote and link it through other social media channels, and where users can interact and feedback on content, all within the space of literally a few hours? Anyone who thought that traditional publishing models still stand has been left far behind. The barriers to publication are virtually gone.
Even dedicated websites like this one (http://220.127.116.11/Riot_Clean_Up.html) have sprung up and garnered huge followings overnight, with multiple references from mainstream media.
The creativity and speed of emergence of these sites is driven by a thirst for knowledge and a desire to engage. It’s not the software alone that’s delivered it, no more than it’s Blackberry’s instant messenger service that delivered the riots in the first place, but it’s a combination of a highly motivated set of producers, a highly hungry audience, and a set of technology that facilitates production and publication in record time.
It’s rare to get such a confluence of circumstances, but when you do, things move fast.
What can we learn from this? Well, one lesson is that, in online learning spaces, the walls are movable. If you are opening a shop in a shopping centre, you’re limited by the size of the unit, but in the online space, there’s always room to move the walls. If existing spaces don’t cater for what the population want, someone will move to create a space that does.
This has always been true, for sites like MySpace, who have seen their population decimated by Facebook as their relevance or usability falls behind, but it’s equally true of any virtual learning environments that we may create, or of any community of practice. Any notion of permanence is illusory: only be staying relevant and dynamically responsive can such a community persist.