Digital spaces in a networked culture?

Last week on twitter, and after a very long conversation with that Dave Cormier I posed the question “What would a learning space look like if you designed it in networked culture, where identity is more important than role?” I started thinking that the way to answer this may be by using scenario planning, designing some different scenarios and looking at what kind of spaces would work in each of the quadrants. Then on Sunday morning Doug Parkin tweeted a link to an article in the Harvard Business Review by John Boudreau

The article looked at 5 forces for change in the workplace:

  • Social and organizational reconfiguration.
  • All-inclusive global talent market.
  • A truly connected world.
  • Exponential technology change.
  • Human-automation collaboration.

They used these forces to design 4 quadrants along two axis Technological Empowerment and Democratization of Work. The top right of the quadrants (at max tech empowerment and democratization) was referred to as Uber Empowered. I don’t fully agree with their conclusions, or indeed the 5 forces listed. But I was struck by this extract from that quadrant’s description:

“… New work and technology models include on-demand artificial intelligence, extreme personalization, and secure and accessible cloud-based work repositories. These repositories will reside outside any single employer and provide a searchable location where work and workers can be identified and matched using a common lexicon. They will contain worker capabilities and qualifications, organization work requirements, constantly updated work histories, knowledge and learning sources, and reward systems…”

So I started thinking about the original question “What would a learning space look like if you designed it in networked culture, where identity is more important than role?” The uber empowered workspace describes a set of attributes that would certainly benefit a worker that had a developed identity, it refers to “tours of duty” and “gigs” and “freelancing” and the underpinning technology is personal and personalised, and leveraging the most out of analytics and big data.

I started wondering how much of this we already have for academic staff, scholars are no longer tied to desks and offices, and more and more we see ad hoc collaborations in many areas of teaching and research. Already with the use of technology, work and productivity platforms (such Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft 365 etc), social media platforms and an individual’s ability to publish instantly we have (or are at least moving toward) a networked culture. As we implement big data and analytics across the academy many academics will be able to use this to better demonstrate and quantify their work, in both teaching and research, and where appropriate public engagement. (Whether we see this as a good thing or not is another debate.)

I asked about a learning space within a networked culture, perhaps this is the wrong framing, as it centres the discussion around the student’s journey. But the reality is that we are inviting students into an existing networked culture, both in physical (the institutional estate) and virtual. We want students to adopt the attributes of scholarship. Why not consider instead of the learning space, an academic space, a space that all staff and students can use and interact, for research, for learning and for learning and professional support? Where students can see the effective use of the virtual space by established academics and model that behaviour, and where staff can interact with the ideas and perhaps new behaviours of students?

Beyond that, what if instead of basing that academic space in one institution, we based it in 10 or 100? What if the space was a community resource that wasn’t just for staff, and students during their course but was there for alumni? A space that as well as being steeped in academia, also leveraged the skills of alumni, bringing in innovation and helping to inspire students?

I don’t know what this space should look like, but with adoption of new practices, the prevalence of big data and the ability to use it in a variety of ways, we should be thinking critically about what the digital space (and how it integrates with physical) looks like.

 

One thought on “Digital spaces in a networked culture?

  1. Much of this vision applies to intangibles which can be truly digitised. Laboratory sciences and facilities-heavy subjects don’t fit so easily into this model.

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