by Stephen Downes
Feb 26, 2016
Jenny Mackness offers her thoughts on week one of my Personal Learning MOOC. I started the MOOC with a very gentle and gradual introduction, partially because I think it's easier for participants, and partially because I'm still learning what the OpenEdX tool can (and mostly can't) do.
This week's off-topic link for fun week-end reading talks about what might be called 'Underground Twitter', in other words, all those peculiar Twitter things that can be really off-putting to new users, things like weird Twitter or sea-lioning. Mike Caulfield writes, "It reminds me that Twitter, despite its problems, is truly a *community* whereas Facebook is a piece of software. Twitter has a cultural learning curve and Facebook doesn’t, but that’s mostly because Facebook has little culture to speak of." But that's both Twitter's strength and its weakness. Sure, it's great to have community (and in-jokes, and jargon, musical and a community song). But it's limiting, it's a barrier to outsiders, and it makes it unattractive. Caulfield says "the answer to the question 'Why is Twitter so culturally complex?' is that it’s the wrong question. It’s Facebook that is the weird thing here, a community that doesn’t develop an overall culture overtime." But Caulfield is wrong. Useful software doesn't develop cliques. It just doesn't.
So here's a question for you: is a dog a certain type of object that has a certain set of properties? Or is a dog some object that has, among other properties, the property of 'being a dog'? In other words: do we know what properties a thing has if we know what type of thing the thing is? Or do know what type of thing we have if we know what properties the thing has? A lot hangs on this question. The former is the cornerstone of object oriented program. The latter? It's not so clear; whoever heard of a dataset without any semantics? Well, me, for one.
There's a history to this argument. We can think of the two views as 'semantic' and 'post-semantic', or 'structural' and 'post-structural'. Perhaps 'Saussurian' and 'Lacancian'. But in the end, it means I'm very sympathetic to reasoning like this: "The main target of (object-oriented-ontology) is to supplement modern science with a premodern ontology which describes the 'inner life' of things." In other words, if we continue to build our data structures according to the semantics of the pre-technological era, we will not be able to meet the demands of a technological society. When you predefine your objects, you 'lock in' certain concepts that my be wrong or out-moded, and you've left yourself no way to articulate a world beyond those. Via Alex Reid.
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