...context is king

In yesterday's post I made the statement that the internet is better as a creative space than it is as a repository. Let me clarify this statement. Much of pre-social web based content was difficult to edit or change. Web 1.0 - sometimes referred to as the 'sticky web'- was largely controlled by webmasters and corporations, and was used mainly as a broadcast channel to promote ideas and products. The advent of Web 2.0 type participatory tools and services such as social media and social networks, voting and filtering tools and personalised spaces, provided users with the ability to be directly involved in the creation of web content. Media sharing sites such as Flickr, YouTube and a variety of podcasting services offered users the capability to go beyond the repository mentality of earlier web iterations, to host their own TV and radio channels, blogs enabled them to publish their own newspapers. The web had become a place where people could generally create and share their ideas on a global stage.

The concept of digital repository - collections of useful artefacts that are aggregated together online in an accessible form - is a good one, but the idea loses traction if users cannot interact with the content and hold relevant conversations about it. Increasingly, users also want to repurpose and remix content they find, something which the old style repositories did not allow. The introduction of copyright workarounds such as Creative Commons have given web users the capability to use content in new and creative ways, thereby extending the capabilities, reach and scalability of the content beyond the original intentions of its creator.

As I argued yesterday however, content is no longer the driving force of the web, and should not be viewed in isolation. The context within which the content is situated should also be focused upon as an important component of any analysis of web based learning activity. Content can have two completely different meanings (or functions) if seen in two different contexts. Writing about assessment methods on a teacher discussion site would probably be well received, and users would no doubt engage with any ensuing conversations. Posting the same article up on a site frequented by accountants would be stupid. Unless of course the assessment you were talking about was tax assessment.

I was joking yesterday when I tweeted that my post 'Content is a tyrant' had received over 500 hits in just a few hours, and perhaps the reason was because I used a pretty picture. I was of course being ironic, because it's debatable whether the picture is content or context. For me, the images featured in my blogposts are better seen as contextual, in that they frame the content and provide additional meaning. Photographs are indeed content, but in this setting, they serve as signposts and illustrations to situate the content. We also need to be aware that the value of such content, any content, is subjective and can be interpreted any way the reader wishes.

More to follow on these thoughts in a future post...

Image from Fotopedia (can you see what it is yet?)


Creative Commons Licence
...context is king by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

Brian Kelly said…
Thanks for this post, Steve.

I've previously suggested that "Communications is king" (if the network goes down people say "I can't access my email" and not "I can't access the VLE or the OPAC".

I then realised that "Community is king" - communication channels are no use if you've no-one to chat with.

But maybe that's part of the context.

Or maybe the view that "Content/Communications/Community/Context" is king (queen, jack, ace) is just a way of stimulating debate and we really feel that all 52 cards in the pack are equally valid in their own way (although such bland views simply inhibit the debate.

Hmm, maybe Consensus should be king :-)?
Brian Kelly said…
Thanks for this post, Steve.

I've previously suggested that "Communications is king" (if the network goes down people say "I can't access my email" and not "I can't access the VLE or the OPAC".

I then realised that "Community is king" - communication channels are no use if you've no-one to chat with.

But maybe that's part of the context.

Or maybe the view that "Content/Communications/Community/Context" is king (queen, jack, ace) is just a way of stimulating debate and we really feel that all 52 cards in the pack are equally valid in their own way (although such bland views simply inhibit the debate.

Hmm, maybe Consensus should be king :-)?
Steve Wheeler said…
Very thought provoking Brian - thank you. I would argue that community is a part of the context, because it is often the community that promotes/demotes content and contextualises it as 'must read' or 'best avoided'. We have the technology.

This also applies to consensus which derives from community engagement and negotiation of meaning. I hope to be able to articulate these ideas clearly during my keynote at NAACE this week in Leicester.

Thanks again for your contribution.
Juan Domingo said…
Como siempre he comentado el aprendiz, el usuario es el rey, y naturalmente que es contexto, pero tambien contenido (marca)http://www.educacionyculturaaz.com/entrevistas/el-usuario-alumno-pasa-a-ser-el-nuevo-rey/ , y no puede ser de otra manera, estamos enn especie de renacimiento del renacimiento, pero con Tecnologías insetrtadas en nosotros mismos....@juandoming
Steve Wheeler said…
@Juan: Estoy de acuerdo en que el usuario es el rey, pero en esta situación, la comunidad se convierte en rey, ya que decide lo que es un valor bueno y lo malo en su contenido. Disculpe mi español!

Gracias amigo!

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