13 January 2014 at 09:33 #1989
Reflective Review of Module CS3107
Steve Moffatt (95005269)
When I read our course content for the year, two phrases sent a shiver down my spine: “social media” and “group work”. While the concepts outlined in the course content were of great interest to me- ìn particular, the future of the internet for a standard user (and the question of whether such a user exists), the level to which users want to/ will have to engage with shaping the future of the internet, and the distinction between free and open content (and the attendant intellectual rights implications suggested by that distinction)- all suggested that the base content of the course would be of great interest.
However, as someone who has purposely moved away from social media sites due to concerns around privacy and the practices of user behaviour modelling utilised by such sites, I felt some reluctance to the thought of having to engage once more with Facebook and Twitter, but knew that it would be essential to engage to some extent in order to complete the course successfully.
The use of Online forums
I began the course with a decision: as per the notes on the course introductory page, I needed to decide the level of engagement with which I was comfortable. I quickly ruled out re-joining Facebook, as it was sufficiently arduous to fully leave the site the first time! I quickly settled on setting up a Twitter account for the first time, and followed all of my classmates and the course instructor. I found some articles on tech from around the web (specifically, in the main via reddit.com/r/technology, or mashable.com. These I tagged with our class hashtag, #tcdcs3107, and watched with interest as my classmates did the same.
However, it quickly became clear that the main engagement for the class migrated organically toward the online forums. My own involvement in the forums was very much dependent on my level of interest with the topic at hand at the time. For example, for the free vs open discussion, I got involved because it’s a subject in which I have an interest, and the same with the discussion on user engagement with innovation in an open world.
Relating the Experience to Course Content
I would most closely relate my experience with the course to the course content by pointing to the need for end user engagement with Open Innovation discussed in Week 5. There were definitely several tiers of class involvement in the course, and I think that this can be related back, rather than to a laziness or unwillingness to be involved on those users who contributed less to the content of online debate, to the genuinely different online personae we have all developed. Some people are genuinely (myself included) naturally inclined toward passivity on the web (the “lurker” mentality seen on many aggregator sites), and the course is perhaps skewed toward an active user personality type because of the nature of its construction.
My personal experience was overall positive. I noticed that all of our use of Twitter seemed more as a matter of filling a requirement, with genuine debate and discussion occurring via the forums. This may be due to the fact that several of the class (again, myself included!) were new to Twitter, and it is challenging to be asked to join a debate immediately via a new social media tool. Again, people may wish to be passive in a new medium at the start, to understand proper conduct by example.
I also noticed how my version of the web had shrunk. By viewing links offered by the class moderator and my classmates, I realised that my web usage had shrunk to just five or six websites. This was something of which I was unaware, and something which I am trying to now actively challenge, as the danger of only accessing limited sites for news and social interaction is that a very limited view of the web is taken.
Noticing the shrinking of the web
Finally, my initial fears notwithstanding, our group collaborative piece worked out really well. I was involved in a great team, and we were all really happy with our levels of input and the final work achieved.
In summation, my experience in taking this course was positive. I realised several things about myself, both in terms of my online persona, and how my web usage has narrowed. I think one challenge for the moderator for next year will be to work out how to balance engagement levels with the potentially damaging aspect of “forced interaction”, where users feel that they have to comment in order to achieve course credits. The course content was hugely interesting, and the forums worked particularly well at creating lively discussions.
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