Social learning in the formal space. Combining technology with desire.

We tend to be highly engaged with social media in social spaces. They have a narrative, stream of consciousness feeling to them, often more reportage than considered opinion. The act of authoring and creation is every bit as important as the act of consumption and reading (or sometimes more so). For many people, the size of the audience is irrelevant, the means is the end in itself.

There’s certainly no assessment at the end and the driver is internal, not external forces. In some ways, you can measure ‘success’ by looking at the pattern and nature of associations, something that Klout or PeerIndex are starting to do, generating in the process a new thing to obsess about. How’s my social score this week?

Seeing as mine languishes somewhere around that of an unpopular tax inspector, this is one particular social fix i can live without. For now anyway.

Whilst i may like to feel that the success of social media is due to the fact that they inhabit the informal space, and that any attempt by businesses to subsume them into the formal will simply kill off everything that works, i don’t actually believe that this is the case. The motivators and drivers that coerce me to fixate on whatever the latest favourite is in the informal space (MySpace is back in fashion this week), can probably be used to engage with me in the formal one. I am probably more predictable than i’d like to believe.

The challenge for businesses looking to engage in the social space is to do something worthwhile. Learning tasks need to be defined; not in terms of specific learning objectives necessarily, but rather in terms of how the ‘social’ fits in. The worst applications will be the ones where the ‘social’ layer is simply an add on, where you are effectively just asking people to access materials through a social channel.

Social is instinctively about community, about forging links and building bonds. Applications in the world of learning need to reflect this. We need to combine the technology that facilitates learning with a learning design that relies on social interaction. We need to help create the desire to engage and ensure that the technology facilitates that engagement. In other words, don’t try to make the space formal!

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Engagement, Formal Spaces, Informal Spaces, Instructional Design, Learning Design, Learning Technology, Social Learning, Social Media and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Social learning in the formal space. Combining technology with desire.

  1. Interesting post. As I’m endeavouring to learn through the Open University and can fully identify with the importance of social interaction with my peers as part of my learning – particularly important as I live in Inverness and have discovered that attendance at tutorials for my next course will require a 300 mile plus trip. It’s interesting to see how other students combat this as I understand the value of being engaged with other students as a way of boosting my learning and affirming new knowledge and understanding. Thanks for your post.


  2. mjdaniel says:

    I will most certainly use this quote: “Seeing as mine languishes somewhere around that of an unpopular tax inspector, this is one particular social fix i can live without. For now anyway.”


  3. This is my biggest worry….that I am not sure how to do the social space thing. I personally think I would never spend much time on Facebook. I never have before and i think I would have by now if there was any real appeal for me……..though as with all things that you don’t really get you do worry that perhaps its you and you are missing something.

    However I would normally be quite happy to forgo the delights of revisiting old aquaintances, dodgy former girlfriends and other hoi pollloi who have just pressed the find people you know button when they signed up and leave it in the bin of untapped delights along with Strictly Come Dancing, Star Wars and KFC bargain buckets.

    In the case of Facebook however I worry that I can’t. I run a website I see others using social media. I read all the time that I need to add social media to “my mix”. I can’t seem to come across anyone in business who isn’t twittering or FB ing. I read books by media experts and internet gurus explaining how the new Harry Potter went viral with just one hundred careful FB placements etc etc On another project we have all importantly added a string of tags and icons to the signatures at the bottom of our emails to show that we are “oh so social”. None of these will ever be used of course but instead will languish unloved, unwanted and unclicked, just like the brand logo jpegs that accompany so many corporate emails (to what purpose I have never really discovered). We thrill when someone “likes” our site and obsess when they don’t.

    These search engine optimizers are full of what you should be doing…..until you ask to look at the metrics and other site statistics that tell you what is really happening…or frequently not happening.

    So do I, or at least my business need FB?………….I don’t know. My worry is that which Julian alluded to – that I might see it merely as a way of stepping stone people on to my website proper. Well of course that is my intention….. but am I really going to do the social space thing properly and engage or is the temptation to simply talk at people, to think of it as a glorified advertisement.

    I used to work at The Body Shop and am reminded of one of Anita Roddicks quotes – ” we advertised for employees but people turned up”. I think this is the definer for FB and business (or learning); can we suspend our ego enough and stay our hand at trying to sell something and find a new place to be where we engage. But………what if people ask us to do stuff………..what if we don’t like them……….what if they start a really dull conversation……what if they’re not from England…….how much time will it take?

    So I’ve just started an FB page for my site. Rather enjoyed setting it up. All fine at the moment as its just me talking to myself

    • julianstodd says:

      This is all very true, and something that many people are wrestling with. The analogy i use with people is to talk about building a village. Like Poundbury. You can build all the houses you like, put in parks, shops, quaint village greens and a church. You can even decide the demographic mix of social housing, retirement and young couples and price accordingly. But none of this creates a community. Community is what i say when i bump into my neighbour in the morning. Community is about how people interact and the success or dysfunction of the community depends on the interactions. You can build the space, but people build the community.

  4. Pingback: The role of ritual and why to avoid too much structure in learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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