(written last year after ever interesting talks with John Smith on “CoPs and finances”. See also yestereday’s post.)
Cops and Web:
How Web2.0 trends influence learning communities.
Web 2.0 is not merely the next step in technology, it contributes / is the embodiment of deeper changes in society, some even speak of a transformation of interaction and organization of professional practice. Current trends on the Internet have changed the way we socialize and is changing the way we work.
Some key words that illustrate the changes going on:
wisdom of the crowds
the long tail
publish then filter
third order organization
user created content
This paper reflects on the consequences for communities of practice and social learning.
Some current Trends
1. New services based on information/communication
Dramatic drop of costs of ICT (server space, memory, user hardware, bandwidth etc), combined with improved access and usability have transformed information and communication from scarce to abundant products. Control over sources of information or channels of communication are no longer the privilege of few, and hardly worth paying for. Industries or services with business models that are based on granting access to information or communication, are struggling to reinvent themselves.
Media, music and entertainment industries, travel, business, copyrights, learning: all are affected.
Eg the music industry: their product, musical tracks, has become free or almost free, their business is moving to merchandise, events.
2. Community hype
Social interaction and networking, thanks to Internet, has greatly increased its span; geographically and thematically. People trace and track others who share the same interest, and interact with them even if they are on the other side of the earth. ´The long tail´ principle ensures that even the person interested in a very specific niche theme can find or attract a group of likeminded others.
People flock together, for shorter or longer times, – online and often, eventually also in real life. The resulting `flocks´ of people who have an interest for a certain theme in common, have some characteristics of communities. In a fragmented media landscape, marketeers recognized the value of such communities; communities are called the new markets.
The organizational form community, before almost exclusively the domain of not-for-profit and learning sectors, is hyped and hijacked by business, by brands, by social networking applications.
Some of the ´new´ communities become communities of practice but very often, learning is not the objective of these “new” communities. The hype is both an opportunity and a threat for our domain of communities of practice.
3. Fuzz and flux
More than before, the constellations in which people flock together are changing constellations. For web2.0 tools open-ness, porousness, compatibility with other uses, are determinants for success. Nowadays people flow in and out of multiple communities; they move organically in, across and out, forming their personal network along the way. Boundaries are becoming more and more fuzzy. Groups are porous, flux and change is a permanent state. The professional and personal, formal and informal increasingly get intertwined.
4. The suffocating ethos of “free”
The ethos of “free” on the Web is strong, including for communities. Free is never free but rather there is a three-way-payment structure (sponsor-service provider-user), e.g. throught advertising or charity funding. Three way relations are often problematic because: -accountability is harder to ensure; -communication is more complex; -relations are unequal; -paternalistic behaviour is a real risk.
So implications of web2.0 for CoPs include: Easier formation and communication, but intense competition and “hype” of the term community. Trend towards outward orientedness, fuzz and flux, in an increasingly interconnected and networked world. Collective ADHD, so net effect is that the transaction cost of organizing is at least as high as before web2.0.
Or is this too dark a conclusion?