The Triumph of Email

Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, Jan 07, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I had a long and interesting conversation with someone from a technology company on Thursday and he asked me for examples of connectivist-style learning networks in practice. The closest think I could think of was the cMOOC, but on reflection I was able to think of two really good examples: the telephone network, and email. Why? Well, consider how these differ from traditional learning management systems or social networks: each person has their own identify (a number, or email address) and manages their own client (phone, or email reader). They have connections (in a rolodex or contact list). It's mostly peer-to-peer. But a lot of other services have been built around these networks (phone-in shows, mailing lists). And that - if I may be so bold - is what explains the success (and persistence) of email.

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