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Posts Tagged ‘social networks’

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in  Facebook makes a provocative statement in a report by New Scientist. He says:

I believe that the computer age culminated in the internet, the internet culminated in social networks, and that we’ll have to look extremely far afield for what is next…My view is that the last wave of innovation is social networks, and that after that you have to go back to the science fiction of the 1950s for what’s next.

That’s interesting. He is not negating other possible histories that advances in social networking may spawn, just that an innovation as momentous may not happen anytime soon. Not quite what Kurzweil would say, though, when he talks about singularity (“there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality”).

Realization that the network is a crucial dimension and the accompanying technology shifts that enabled (and will continue to enhance and enable)  the impact of this realization, has been the key driver for this innovation. Perhaps the realization that we will enter “an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today” may birth new histories. Perhaps other ideas and realizations may negate Thiel’s assertions too.

I would be optimistic. The reasons are many. I think we have barely scratched the surface of the implications of the network across multiple disciplines. Much will be discovered on the way as networks evolve. And that will spawn many specializations, many new opportunities for cross disciplinary research and development.

Personalization could be one of those areas, with the network and singularity concepts contributing immensely to its evolution. For instance, in learning, if I could get exactly what I need, in the way I need and when I need to help me learn by some complex of systems, that would be effective personalization.

I would go so far as to state that this innovation is not the end, rather it is one of the first enablers towards a larger, much more fundamental change. And that change is not too distant or “far afield”.

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I came across an interesting set of concepts that quite predate the Learning 2.0 proclamation. Building upon Lave and Wenger’s communities of practice, Brown and Duguid developed the concept of Network of Practice. Ranging from communities of practice to electronic or virtual communities, and differentiated from formal work teams, it focuses on how individuals come together to learn and collaborate in the context of their daily practice or tasks.

Defining networks as a set of individuals that are connected together in a social relationship (strong or weak ties) and practice representing the common area of focus or substrate that links the individuals together, the network of practice is differentiated from other types of networks such as photo sharing insofar as this kind of a network is based on a practice area where individuals engage in a conversation to ask and share in order to perform at their work.

Networks of Practice (NoPs) include communities of practice (where ties are strong and face to face interaction is predominant) at one end of the spectrum, to electronic networks of practice (typically virtual/electronic communities brought together by weak ties) at the other end.

NoPs differ from formal work teams primarily in the way they are structured and by their control mechanisms. They also differ in terms of their size (they can get very large) and by restrictions on membership. I think, most importantly, they are differentiated by the expectations about participation from members.

I also found Eva Schiffer’s blog taking about an interesting activity that she coordinated. The activity was to take a community and map out the networks that the members formed in pursuance of their practice. Also, I found an interesting read also at Building new social machines.

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