There is a school of thought out there somewhere to the effect that it's all a competition and that we need to be scoring ourselves and comparing that result with that of others. Just so we count things like (putative) authority, influence or klout. The Facebook Edgerank index is one of this type. Beth Kanter summarizes: "Edgerank is algorithm that determines if content on Facebook shows up on your fans or friends newsfeeds... Edgerank Checker makes it easy to check your score and provides a scale - it also gives you information about the best day of week for acquiring new fans and generating engagement."
One the one hand, some sort of metric probably makes sense as an assessment of integration and effectiveness within a network. On the other hand, the idea of counting things and comparing them seems to me to be missing the point. What is important, it seems to me, is not the number of connections, reblogs, retweets, etc., but rather, the organization of them. Being cited (say) by the other 30 people in your grade 8 classroom is one thing, being cited by 30 grade 8 students around the world something else, and being cited by 30 eminent scientists worldwide something else again. Numbers elevate the mundane into prominence by remaining silent on context.
Summary of and link to a recording of a talk given recently by Etienne Wenger. "I should like to draw the mountains I want to climb. But intentionality is a tricky thing, said Etienne Wenger. We are locked in the struggle …"
Jonathan White, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Alberta, recorded a few podcasts for his students. "Each podcast is meant to answer basic questions that students may have on a given topic and is designed to be used in conjunction with their class notes and textbooks." He recorded them and forgot about them - until the emails started coming in. The podcasts had gone viral. "His Surgery 101 podcasts now average about 1,000 downloads a day, or roughly one every two minutes, from around the globe." Here's the podcast page.
The story continues. "As the out-of-pocket costs of a college education go up faster than incomes, it's pricing low and medium income families out of a college education." Two things need to happen. First, we need to create lower-cost alternatives to traditional college and university. Second, we need to ensure these alternatives receive appropriate recognition, so we are not simply creating a new type of underclass. We have to put an end to the idea that people are 'better' because they went to Harvard, Yale, or whatever. That's not so much a technology issue as a social issue, but it's something technology can (and should) address. See also: Student debt has heavy [rice; and The devaluation of higher learning. And also: Degrees no longer a golden ticket to the middle class.
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