They’re not talking to us

… and while I’m picking nits off Martin’s last post, he says of Bertrand Russell:

But, the whole 2.0, user generated content world would delight him I think.

This reminded me of something I read the other day from the excellent Clay Shirky, arguing that the concept of “user-generated content” isn’t that helpful:

We misinterpret these seemingly inane posts, because we’re so unused to seeing material in public that isn’t for the public. The people posting messages to one another, on social networking services and weblogs and media sharing sites, are creating a different kind of material, and doing a different kind of communicating, than the publishers of newspapers and magazines are.

Most user-generated material is actually personal communication in a public forum. Because of this personal address, it makes no more sense to label this content than it would to call a phone call with your mother “family-generated content.” A good deal of user-generated content isn’t actually “content” at all, at least not in the sense of material designed for an audience.

Why would people post this drivel then?

It’s simple. They’re not talking to us.

Which, I think, we educators could do with bearing in mind more often. Especially as we tread in to areas that students think are their space.

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.

2 thoughts on “They’re not talking to us”

  1. I don’t think this is disagreeing with me Doug. I wasn’t saying the output had to be good – Russell would be pleased that people were engaging in the creative process, regardless of the quality of the output.
    And on your previous post – I think he would be dismayed because the getting sozzled/watching reality TV use of leisure time would confirm some of the critics he faced who said if the poor didn’t work they’d only get drunk. But you’re right, he’d probably be more dismayed about education. And he’d be a big social:learn fan I bet!

  2. No, I don’t think we’re disagreeing either – exploring the nuances perhaps 🙂

    (Thought that’s not necessarily a safe activity, it seems – look where it’s got Rowan Williams!)

    I do like Clay’s point that calling it ‘user-generated content’ is misleading, since it’s not really ‘content’, it’s conversation. Even stuff like lolcats is to a large extent a community talking to itself. (Having tried to explain that to outsiders, it just doesn’t work – I think you have to be there.)

    Calling it content, I’m starting to think, leads you to think of it as stuff that can be packaged up and repurposed and passed on without regard to the original context. Which it isn’t. It’s not like, say, a well-constructed learning object. Calling a conversation or a discussion as ‘content’ gets you far too close to a broadcast model – which translates so easily in educational terms to a transmission model. And I’m sure we entirely agree that’s not a good thing.

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