Martin’s Weblog

The Harlem Shake: The Network Event horizon

The Harlem Shake signals a new era and a new type of “mass” production

Traditional “modern” economics, culture, media and identity have been shaped and expressed within a framework of industrialisal standardised mass production and consumption – we see this everywhere from fashion, dance, music, politics, food and education – it has become pervasive – it has become culture.

However, the Internet changes everything. With so many people so well connected anyone who is connected can be heard globally and contribute – ideas travel quicker and faster than ever before. In “Apocalypse: The Network Event Horizon” I describe how the Internet has let “the Genie is out of the bottle  and “Too Big To Know” , Ruining Everything and helping a “generation to find its voice. We are approaching a point of no return – a network Event horizon – a Web Squared Technium where scale, scope and the self-reinforcing social and technology power laws of a technology mediated connectivist memetic (Cemetic) culture generate a cambrian explosion of diversity, uncertainty and non-linear emergent viral exponential change.”

Gangnum style represented a cross over point – it was a traditionally produced official product which people connected, copied – it was heavily choreographed and eminnetly reproduceable . Cross over was represented by its viral spread through the Internet and the way it was remixed in throusands of parodies and different contexts.

Harlem Shake is the cross over – there is no official video, instead there is a simple framework for people to make there own video. In the Harlem Shake we have a signal of a new type of “mass” production and consumption. Instead of a standard item being manufactured and consumed on scale we have differentiated and unique items being manufactured and consumed on scope. Harlem shake represents a shift from the old economies of scale to a new economy of scope.

Harlem shake signals the “Network Event horizon” a shift to a cemetic long-tailmaker – hacker economy of scope, creativity, non-linear, differentiated and personalised peer production and consumption.

It will be interesting to see how politics, economics, education, media and identity play out as the network event horizon approaches.


February 17, 2013 Posted by | culture, education, IT and society, media, social media, society | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Media – a Bleeding Edge in Education

While social media is a cutting edge on the web it is a bleeding edge in education. This blog examines why this is such an issue now, interprets responses within a change-anxiety paradigm and suggests a way forward.

The application of technology in teaching and learning is as old as technology, teaching and learning – as is the tension  caused between teacher and learner. Perhaps the most famous example is from round 370 BC in Plato’s Phaedrus where Socrates argues that reading and writing would undermine knowledge that “writing would erode memory” and that “reading would mislead students to think that they had knowledge, when they only had data”. Socrates championed dialogue in teaching and learning – arguing that the written word locks down this process – no matter how many times you ask text a question it always responds with the same answer.  Socrates’ ideas about text epitomise the way technology can affect relationships in society as well as the relationship between teacher and learner throughout history.

In 1455 the Gutenberg Press revolutionised not only the production of text but the world around it. “As in the case of many inventions, there was immediate opposition. The new printing system was seen as something that would undermine the existing political and religious order” – Henry VII instituted mandatory censorship and the printing of Lutheran ideas is regarded as a major factor in thousands of people leaving the Catholic church during the protestant reformation. While allowing mass distribution of ideas the printing press mass industrialised Socrates’ concerns about push -> consume as a model of teaching, learning and communication – a model that has been institutionalised throughout the 2nd millennium, reaching its logical conclusion in late 20th century mass media.

Today social media is revolutionising communications as significantly as writing and printing did in the past. Social media introduces dialogue to text and mediated communications, it democratises communication and like pushing against an open door this is one reason why it has become so popular so quickly with people rather than institutions.

Social media is becoming integrated with the web. For example Microsoft and Facebook have announced an on-line version of Microsoft Office for Facebook; websites can use Facebook Connect to add social interaction to their Websites and social media provides interactive back channels to events and traditional mass media.

Social media is becoming integrated with identity – in mediating both traditional and digital relationships. From “keeping in touch”; arranging meetings; sharing media and interacting, social media is becoming integrated with many people’s lives – especially young people.

The integration of social media with the web and people’s identity creates a new context for web access within institutions and especially so in education – full of young people developing their identities and so used to “web life”.
Social media has placed a new context in which traditional IT suites/computer classrooms operate – the context can be interpreted within a change-anxiety paradigm with such responses as avoidance, management, assimilation and accommodation.


Avoidance is a common initial anxiety response to change, uncertainty and loss of control – coping mechanisms may result in blocking out unwanted contexts while seeking comfort in the safe and familiar. Blocking Social media can be very difficult, counter productive and even dysfunctional.

While it may be possible to place a direct block on a site like there are many ways to indirectly access directly blocked sites or just use interfaces on other sites including mainstream sites such as Netvibes, Yahoo and iGoogle – is it then necessary to block “mainstream” sites?

Blocking access creates an “arms race” as students look for ways around the filters (it’s easy enough to Google suggestions) or simply switch to alternative sites that are not yet blocked. Starting this arms race can be counter productive in terms of reputation as it is the students who usually win.

Social media is so integrated with the web and with identity that avoiding it may be dysfunctional. In social media is a cutting edge on the web I describe how social media plays an increasingly important role in education, business, politics, work, media, news etc and that to block social media cuts out a significant amount of modern life – should education be isolating itself from mainstream culture? Mizuko Ito et al provide a well researched argument on the importance of social media access in relation to identity and  especially for Disadvantaged students who do not have Internet at home – “When kids lack access to the Internet at home, and public libraries and schools block sites that are central to their social communication, they are doubly handicapped in their efforts to participate in common culture and sociability”. In learning, experience is better than avoidance and in terms of safety Ofstead advise that “Pupils given a greater degree of freedom to surf the internet at school are less vulnerable to online dangers in the long-term”


Change-anxiety may be met with rationalisation and an attempt to manage responses – if social media activity is considered as a classroom behavioural issue then it can be managed with classroom behavioural management – the same techniques used to manage talking, passing notes, throwing paper and other student distraction and inattention behaviours.


“A problem is an opportunity” – rather than avoid or manage find ways to turn a problem to advantage – make use of it. Consider the philosophy of the martial art Aikido “an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury” by “blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on”. Social media is integrated with the web and with our learners lives – educational “Aikido” seeks ways to assimilate and blend social media with learning – there are plenty of examples – here are just a few: 100 ways to use Facebook in the classroomFacebook for ESOL classesTwitter in the classroomEffective use of Social Media Part 1: Twitter in the classroomtweaching with TwitterUsing Facebook to help students pass EnglishEmbracing the Twitter ClassroomUsing Social media to improve retention13 Enlightening Case Studies of Social Media in the Classroom;Learning science with social mediaSocial Media and the 21st Century Classroom.


Systems and behaviours adjust to their environment (through avoidance, management to assimilation) but where the environment changes dramatically then systems and behaviours need to do more than just adjust – they need to change. The current model of education and the classroom is an assimilation of industrial age contexts that is maladjusted to information age contexts. Computers with Internet access are an incredibly powerful information and communication technology – imagine placing them onto the desks of a 1960s classroom – yet this is what we do in our “IT suites”, no wonder there is culture shock. Our IT classrooms are like steampunk scenarios where worlds collide – culture-technology-time mashups of information scarcity and information abundance in the same place – no wonder there are problems. The IT classroom steampunk paradigm difference is stressing the education system and those who  teach and learn within it. It is time for education to accommodate to the culture and technology of the information age – to shift paradigm and change.

The resurrection of Socrates in the classroom

The Internet, Web 2.0 and social media have shifted the information gateway from teacher to learner; changed the relationship between them and redefined the role of education and the classroom. Rather than being a source of information the classroom can become a source of knowledge and understanding –  a return full circle through 2,000 years to Socrates and dialogue in teaching and learning. Today it is expensive in terms of time, money and energy to bring people together in a classroom – we should use classroom opportunities to provide value unique to that situation.

What I am arguing is that the style of IT classrooms of the last 20 years are now dysfunctional and that this dysfunction is the bleeding edge.  I am proposing a shift away from “traditional” IT classrooms and to develop classrooms for interaction, debate and dialogue. More of learning can take place outside the classroom – activities such as research, preparation, writing and programming can be done elsewhere and may be more effectively done elsewhere.

The big challenge for the education system is to accommodate to the its changing technical and cultural context and by so doing support our teachers and learners – I hope to explore this in future blogs.

May 3, 2010 Posted by | education, IT and education, social media | 2 Comments

Social media: A Cutting Edge On The Web

“The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people” (Tim Berners-Lee).  Social media is pretty much what Tim Berners-Lee envisaged for the web when he started his early development work. The original web 1.0 was an analogue of traditional publishing media which provided the opportunity for people to read on-line – this was familiar, easily understood and accommodated. Web 2.0 provides the opportunity for people to write as well as to read on-line – this is less familiar and has not been so well understood or accommodated. Social media takes Web 2.0 even further by predicating itself on people’s contributions, interaction and participation – the consequences are even less well understood or accommodated than Web 2.0.

Simply in terms of numbers social media is is important. Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users; Terrestrial TV took 13 years to reach 50 million users; the internet took four years to reach 50 million people. Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months! Facebook has been growing at over 100% year on year; in February 2010  it had a “population” of 400 million active users (25% of all web users) – if it were a nation it would be the third largest on earth. 67% of Internet users use social networking, its ahead of email use and accounts for 10% of all time spent on-line.  Wikipedia has more than 13 million articles in more than 260 different languages and would be 1043 volumes if printed. Youtube serves 1 billion views a day.

Social media is shaping the way we communicate and access information. Social media provide new public and private places to meet and interact – the importance of which are now being recognised by all areas of society from politics, business, work, media, communities to education.

In Politics: Obama’s use of social media in the US presidential election is well known as are the applications while in government from the Whitehouse Youtube channel through to presence on twitterFacebookMyspaceFlickr etc he could be decribed as the first wired president. Access to social media is important for access to politics and the world of politics.

In Business The importance of social media is recognised  both externally and internally. IBM, for example, use social media on a very large scale in a decentralised mode both internally and externally. Dell, for example, provide a “case study on how a company has successfully integrated social media into its marketing communications, and culture“. Social media provide an essential medium to develop and expand business – levelling the playing filed and allowing small business to access resources only massive corporations could in the past. Access to social media is important for access to business and the world of business.

In Recruitment and Work: Social media search has become commonplace in staff recruitment and for people to find jobs for example use of LinkedinFacebook and twitter. Even MI6 have been using Facebook in recruitment. Access to social media is important for access to work and the world of work.

In News: Social media has become an integrated and vital factor in news.  Professional use of user generated content is recognised and  BBC news journalists have been told to use social media as a primary source of information. Twitter, for example, has played a vital role in reporting events after the Iranian electionThe Mumbai attacks,  The Hudson Bay crash. Access to social media is important for access to news and the world of news.

In Media: Social media has become an important media “channel”. Youtube, for example, is becoming an integral part of mainstream media on-demand delivery – hosting content from 60 partners, including Channel 4 and the BBC. Live performances are being streamed via social media U2 on Youtube and the Foo Fighters on Facebook. Social media is helping to evolve the way media is produced and consumed. The Youtube orchestra and the work of media remix-mashup artists show how social media are evolving media. TV and radio shows often either have an official twitter presence such as BBC Question time and Radio 4 today or have unofficial presence that adds a new dimension such as for the Eurovision song contest or an unexpected consequence as in the case of 2009 Xfactor. Access to social media is important for access to media and the world of media.

In communities: local groups, councils, governments and organisations use social media to provide information and to interact. Many UK oocal councils use twitter,  Emergency departments,  Governments and Councils use social media for emergency and health and disease communication. Councils are urged to stop thinking about their own web sites as the limit of their engagement” and make greater use of social media. Access to social media is important for access to communities.

In Identity. One of the major factors in identity is that of social interaction and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that social media is playing a major part defining on-line identity and will do so even more in the future. Original forms of identity might be described as Identity 1.0 – website and institutionally centric – typically we need to enter unique identification into each system we want to interact with. A currently developing form of identity could be referred to as Identity 2.0 – user centric – where we can enter a common identification into the various systems we interact with. The promising current development with identity 2.0 this is with OpenID for identification OAuth for authorisation and their combination. Many major systems have become OpenID+OAuth providers (e.g. GoogleYahooMicrosoft) and many allow its use to provide access. Social media (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter) also offer Identity 2.0 – both in terms of identity construction through social interaction but also for access to third part resources.Twitter, for example, is an OpenID+OAuth provider and this is my preferred method of accessing websites. Facebook can act as an OpenID rely and have also developed their own widely used social identity system called Facebook Connect while Google has been developing Opensocial as methods of providing access to and adding social features to third party websites. Access to social media is important for access to identity and to interact and access a great many resources.

In Education: Learning is about interaction with information, people and activities as is social media. Youtube, for example, gives access to an unprecedented wealth of learning material accessible from the Youtube Edu channel are videos from world class universities and experts such as MITUCLAStanfordHarvard, the Open University and UNSW, as well as a wealth of socially generated material on all manner of subjects from relativity through to how to change a tap washer and how to change a car tyre. Wikipedia is of course a well used socially created source of information but also has its socially created content at Wikiversity.There are also some very  interesting learning activities and resources available such as the 140 university on twitter. While many Educational institutes use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to engage students beforeduring and after courses. Access to social media is important for access to education and the world of education.

Social media is increasingly integrated with the web and with our lives and its going to become more so. Major websites are adding social features and many of these are connected back to social media identities. Social media is being integrated with common applications, for example even Outlook is going to get social media features, Gmail has social media with BuzzYahoo provides full access to Facebook and Google has integrated social media in search results. Social media will play a big part in the future in terms of information generation and management. Google CEO Eric Schmidt envisions a radically changed internet “dominated by social media content” – “It’s because of this fundamental shift towards user-generated information that people will listen more to other people than to traditional sources”. Louise Gray builds on the ideas of Chris Messina and describes how “The social Web changes the entire process of content discovery. Instead of portals, we are relying on mortals. Our trusted friends and experts bring us the best content from around the Web to us directly, via FacebookTwitterFriendFeed, and even that old tool… e-mail.” The idea is that social media will provide much of the access and content and that the “human filters” of social media will provide much of the capability to help us manage. Dion Hinchcliffe describes how social media are making the “classic web” obsolete and Jeremiah Owyang looks further ahead predicts 5 eras of social media and describes just how important and integrated social media may become over the next decade.

February 20, 2010 Posted by | culture, education, IT and education, IT and society, media, social media, society | 1 Comment