Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Wikis and the means of production

Now I'm no Marxist, but I am interested in concepts that impact on civil society and the ways in which it is democratised or opened-up. In Marxian terms these include ownership of the means of production, the labour theory of value and, as David Prychitko has noted, alienation from labour and society:

"Marx condemned capitalism as a system that alienates the masses. His reasoning was as follows: Although workers produce things for the market, market forces control things; workers do not. People are required to work for capitalists who have full control over the means of production and maintain power in the workplace. Work, he said, becomes degrading, monotonous, and suitable for machines rather than free, creative people."

The key concepts here that connect into our views of civil society include: control of products and ways of producing them; engaging work; and creativity. These concepts also align with developmntal views of citizen participation, and these are important to me as they are a framework for thinking about Web 2.0 developments. What does it mean to use Web 2.0 in your work? What are your politics of Web 2.0?

A few of us went to a valuable case study discussion of wikis in the classroom, lead by Marija Cubric of the University of Hertforshire Business School. Some of the key points she raised were impacted by the clear pedagogic and epistemologic focus of her wiki - its place in the curriculum, the tasks that built it, and the products of the students' labour were explicitly communicated to its users. Marija highlighted:
  • the importance of Vygotsky and social development;

  • the links between wiki-based tasks, Bloom's taxonomy of educational competencies, and the scaffolded learning opportunities that they support;

  • the critical importance of feedback in the system and for individuals;

  • student outcomes in terms of "motivation", "fun", "quality of contributions", "increased in-class interactions";

  • raised student expectations for this type of learning opportunity; and

  • the impact on assessment [peer, group, weightings etc.] and of increased contact-time.
Marija's talk was not political, but it made me think about issues I've already raised about belonging within a gamer-culture, and what it means to belong to a "community". It also made me think about ownership of the means of production, or the wiki, and its products, which in Web 2.0 environments ought to lie with the producers.

1 comment:

Steve Mackenzie said...

For our older viewers if i reply 'lily the pink' they may get the connection. For the others i shall explain my comment a bit further.

Ownership is fine, but in an educational setting for learners that are new to the technology and the subject there needs to be a scaffold. Maria did touch upon this in by indicating the need for basic ground rules for participation in the wiki, with some appropriate instructional guidance for particular learning activities.

A group of new learners could flounder in a sea of helplessness if there is no scaffold.

Attentive tutor support, clear guidelines, peer support from more experienced colleagues are ways to scaffold.

Groups need direction and focus, otherwise they drift aimlessly.

When a group have evolved to a certain level of competence in both technology and subject knoweldge then they will be better placed to organize and own their wiki(s).

At the core of a group, should be members that care about the overriding aim and purpose of the group. In an educational setting initially this will be the tutor. After some time, when community bonding has developed and a common purpose agreed students will be better placed to own their wiki(s)