Reflections on the Social Age

In a couple of weeks time, i’ll be writing the 750th blog post. We’ve covered a lot of ground. My own thinking has evolved greatly in that time and through this process: a describe the blog now as my ‘first reflective space‘, which is a polite way of saying it’s where my rambling initial thoughts are aired, but it feels productive. I thought i’d just capture some of the ideas that have become sticky in the last year or two, the themes that have emerged.

Reflections on the Social Age

Some of the areas and trends we’ve explored here on the blog

The Social Age is the background to much of my writing and thinking: a broad term to describe the perfect storm of change that we live and work in. Often facilitated and driven by technology, it sees an evolved nature of work, increased dynamism of communities and a great change in how we learn. I’ve documented a shift in our relationship with knowledge: our value increasingly defined less by what we know (pure knowledge), but more by how we create meaning, how we use that knowledge. This impacts greatly on how we learn and organisational stances to value and development.

Culture and Change have been common threads, starting with the publication of ‘Amsterdam Diary: an exploration of learning culture‘, where i explored the co-creation of culture and initial views on change. I’ve since developed that, culminating in the CAIR Model, which looks at pressure on organisational culture and how rifts in trust emerge and cultures fail. I’ve rooted this in the interplay between individual values and the cost of belonging to a community. It’s this friction that leads to formation of sub cultures and, ultimately, environments that permit poor behaviours and fail. Culture and Change are areas that i plan to develop a lot further this year: the notions of co-creation and co-ownership of change fascinate me.

Regular members of this community will be familiar with the NET Model of Social Leadership: a form of leadership for the Social Age. NET is made up of three Dimensions: Narrative, Engagement and Technology and, across these, charts nine components that Social Leaders need to master. I’ve been very pleased with the reception this model has had, and there’s great interest around some key parts, such as Curation, Storytelling and Reputation. Social Leadership is interesting, because the authority is rooted in communities, not in formal hierarchies, so it’s truly a Social Age trait.

Last year i published ‘Mindset for Mobile Learning‘ as a wide ranging journey through theory and practice of developing mobile learning. Technology facilitates: it’s how we use it that will create change and affect performance. So much talk is about features, whilst really it’s the ability of technology to support the ‘sense making‘ function of the Social Age that really counts. Does it make you better? Over the last year, i rarely talk about mobile without linking it to Social Learning: mobile providing access synchronously to our ‘sense making‘ communities. Mobile technology powers the Social Age.

As a nuance, Social Collaborative Technology is a term and area that i’ve written around a lot: technology specifically designed to enable us to maintain wider collections of loose social ties, as well as deeper (but more geographically distributed) strong ties. Effectively, social collaborative technology is removing the geographical boundaries of communities. I see this as one of the most exciting areas of the Social Age, impacting widely on how we live and work. Just about everyone reading this blog will have felt the impacts of social technology over the last few years.

Aligned to (and possibly powered by) this revolution is the emergence of the Socially Responsible Business and a wider acceptance of the importance of this. Value is no longer defined purely by turnover: socially responsible businesses do what’s right beyond what the law dictates. They recognise that some things are just right and others just wrong. Maybe it’s my naturally liberal outlook, but i see this trend spreading. Partly it’s a survival tactic: in the Social Age, where messages are amplified widely and fast, organisations that fail to curate the right image fall hard. But it’s not just about image: it’s about talent magnetism too: only socially responsible businesses are likely to be able to take their pick of talent. It’s certainly a factor, when people feel social pressure about aligning with certain businesses.

Co-Creation is an idea that came out of my work on ‘music in learning‘, the seven elements of co-creation drove a wider conversation about how we come together to make sense of the world. I’ve not yet published the book of music in learning (i’m an inveterate tinkerer), but ‘Learning, Knowledge and Meaning‘ emerged from this work and develops the ideas further. Indeed, the earliest mentions of ‘co-creation‘ in this first reflective space led directly to my thinking around culture and change. This is the great thing about ‘working out loud’, you can view the archaeology of your thought. I think co-creation (and latterly co-ownership) are powerful concepts in learning design.

Which leads to me the last area: learning approaches. Learning methodology is, strangely, the thing that started me down this path, and it’s been a constant companion ever since. I’m intrigued by how we can provide a core structure to learning, irrespective of which channel it’s delivered through. I wrote a full series of articles last year on Learning Methodology and work often in this area. It’s not a set of instructions for building effective learning, more a checklist, providing spaces for setting Context, Demonstrating, Exploration and Reflection, looking at Assessment and providing Footsteps.

It’s a wide landscape we’ve explored in this space: when i started, i worried that i’d be stuck for ideas, but today, when i spend about half my time on writing, i can barely contain the ideas. There’s so much to explore, and it’s a rich experience in good company.

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.
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