Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
April 1, 2003

So What is Knowledge Management Anyway? Another (the second in a series of twelve) short article for LearnScope. In this article I draw from last month's discussion of what we know about information and wade into murkier waters: knowledge management. By Stephen Downes, LearnScope, April 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Are Corporations to Blame? Shouldn't environmentalists and social activists spend more time thinking about how they spend their own dollars and their own time rather than blaming corporations for the evils of the world? This is the question post by Stephen Talbott in this week's NetFutures. But this attitude relies on a caricature of the environmental and social justice movements, and worse, on a deep misunderstanding of modern industrial economics. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, April 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head Though international conflict is causing most of us to pay more attention to the world's traditional superpower than we might like, the voices speaking out against this conflict are not the product of any single nation, but rather, of a "second superpower" characterized by the "will of the people" in a global social movement. Now I've attracted glares in the boardroom when I've talked about the connections between a learning object economy and the voices of the people protesting in the streets of Seattle. But you know what? It doesn't matter. Because, first, if you don't see the connection then you don't understand the new economy, the new culture, at all. And second, because I know that when I speak, even in such rarified climes, about our common objectives, "a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights," I know that I speak not with my own voice but with the voices of a hundred million people. Thus empowered, I can do anything. Anything at all. By James F. Moore, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, March 31, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

21st Century Renaissance If you haven't read any of Douglas Rushkoff's work yet, you should. This item is a disappointly short taste. But the full flavour of the Rushkoff universe is there. We are, he argues, in the throes of a new renaissance, one which completely changes the rules. "Think of it from a video game player's perspective. It's as if the first renaissance gave the gamer access to the cheat codes, so she can move about as she wants. The next renaissance gave her access to the programming language of the game." Compare this to the second superpower link immediately above: two parts of the same elephant. By Douglas Rushkoff, The Feature, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-Learning is Dead Jay Cross reacts in his blog to the changing of the name of E-Learning Magazine to the uninspiring title Learning and Training Innovations. Instead, "We will stress the business value of implementing new and blended techniques and technologies for training, development, collaboration, and HR," says the publisher. But I prefer George Siemens's take: "over the next year/two, organizations will fall over themselves promoting the "business value" of elearning - terms like metrics, ROI, strategies, solutions, innovations will abound... In reality, the industrial model is largely out of date...and anything built on it is outdated before it begins..." Quite right. By Jay Cross, Internet Time, March 31, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Is There a Future for Online Ed? With the recent collapse of Fathom and Harcourt Higher Education, people are beginning to ask this question, and the answer is assumed to be "no." But that's not the whole story, notes the author, as some universities are making e-learning work. So what makes the difference? According to the author, "Reputation, then, is king, and is more than merely brand name and image." But that goes hand in hand with embracing a corporate culture. "While universities often strive for access, quality, research excellence, service, and teaching for teaching’s sake, a corporation is driven by financial considerations first and then other values to the extent that they are compatible with financial success." Well. Do you think striving for the bottom line might affect how universities work? By Jack M. Wilson, University Business, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Academic Values and the Lure of Profit Though the one paragraph in this article about online learning looks like it was added a an afterthought, the author's main point remains valid and applicable here as well. Universities' efforts to commercialize, argues the author, through such means as sports teams and research patents, have generally been unsuccessful. Moreover, the drive to commercialize has led universities to compromise their values, academically and otherwise. I think the author should have used a real case, rather than a fictitious account from a Le Carré novel, to dramatize the way corporate partnerships can corrupt research. Real cases certainly exist. But talking about them probably raises the fear of litigation. By Derek Bok, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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