Blog for the course offered at Teachers College, Columbia University during Fall 2005

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Issue Entrepreneurship: proposal feedback

As promised, what follows is a review of the IE proposals submitted so far. My goal is to help you move to the next stage in conceptualizing your project by giving you some feedback, and at times challenging your assumptions. I hope this is also useful for the rest of you who have not submitted proposals yet.

Anthony: I find your issue selection, knowledge accessibility, a very pertinent one. Your proposed approach, the building of a Distributed Community Bookshelf, might be a bit more on the software development side than what I had envisioned for the assignment, but if you can pull it off, then go for it!

I agree that the strongest aspect of a DCB is not managing the allocation of resources, but the allocation of knowledge. For example, I am currently struggling with Gilles Deleuze's Difference and Repetition. What I would like a DCB to do is not just to tell me who has the booked checked out from the library, but who is a resource (i.e., has some understanding) about that book. If I could go talk to that (those) student(s) or professor(s) about the book, it would help me tremendously. Now, because I am in Ithaca and not near the TC library, if I can find some people in my area that would be even better. I thought you have been posting a couple of links to systems that already do similar things, so maybe you already have some ideas.

I have two main concerns about your project. First, will you have enough time to build such a system during the semester? And second: how do you intend to show that you have used social software to 'make a difference' at a global level? Keep working on this. I think the DCB can be a great resource.

Mariana: I think focusing on something of importance to the CU student community would be a good strategy, as long as you can find something that is also of concern to the global community at large (which shouldn't be a problem, I think). The question is: What issue, exactly? You need to choose something and then start thinking about how to use social software to promote that issue. Maybe a good place to start is to look at organizations on campus and see what internet or social software resources they are already using.

Marion: You've done a great job of selecting an issue, researching it, and identifying the potential for using social software to promote that issue locally and globally (disclaimer: Marion met with me to discuss her ideas). As far as where to start, I would suggest you already have! By blogging about the issue, you have claimed a little piece of cyberspace to promote it. Search engines will list your blog when people do searches on Extell, gentrification, etc. You could now start linking on your blog to other resources and other blogs. Soon, they will start to do the same and link to yours, specially if you continue to post research, opinion, and other valuable resources. This means that you are using social software socially (!), and becoming part of a local and global community [Note: Marion and I discussed whether she should start a new blog for this project. My own advice was to use her class blog, which will now reflect her multiple interests and give visitors a more complete picture of who she is.] As far as using other social software to help West Siders for Responsible Development or other organizations, I will let your classmates suggest some ideas. Good start!

I think the goals of your project are very well defined, and I'm glad that Agre has been such a helpful tool in conceptualizing the rationale for your project.

I think maybe part of the reason why student participation has been low is because they do not feel connected to other people interested in the same issue. If they knew people were reading their blog, would they feel more motivated to blog? Of course, to get people to read your blog means that you have to read theirs! Students need to find blogs of people interested in similar issues, and start posting comments, linking to them, etc.

Another reason for low participation could be that your blog is 'too communal.' Although collective blogs are useful, individual blogs can be more powerful vehicles of expression. Think how different this class would be if we were all contributing to just one blog. As I told Heidi in a comment recently: "Blogs allow for a more constant formation of identity and the creation of a more personal space: their look and feel reflects the personality of the author, and all the author's content is collected in one place (as opposed to being dispersed across a discussion board), which gives a sense of ownership and responsibility." I think people can contribute to group blogs once they get a sense of what it is like to blog as an individual. And of course, sometimes it just helps to require that students contribute to their blogs, but don't tell anyone I said that. Seriously, participation needs to be integrated into the curriculum.

So while your rationale is clear, I think you still need to think about the specifics of how you are going to use social software to promote proactive citizenship though the use of visual media (which, if I understand correctly, is your issue, correct?). I can see your plans for the local level (i.e., use of the class blog), but what about the global level? I think answering that question will actually give you ideas for increasing participation. Has looking at the other projects been useful?

UPDATE: Just shared a link to that is right up your alley!


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