Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Democratizing Innovation

... was a book that I read a few years ago now by Eric Von Hippel. Someone brought up the notion of "democratizing innovation" on Wikiversity the other day which reminded me of how it would make another good reading group, so I've started one for it here: Eric Von Hippel:Democratizing Innovation

Now there's a good chance that I won't be able to participate in this reading group all that much but I like the idea of Reading groups on Wikiversity and I've been involved in creating one before, so I created this one because I think that Reading groups are a great model of a learning project that can work well in the Wikiversity environment. This book appealed to me for such treatment because it may be of some relevance in helping us understand the processes involved in the development of large scale collaborative wikis and, in particular, the development of Wikiversity. I was driven by a desire to establish the reading group in the chance that others over time may find it useful to have structure already in place to discuss this text. This was greatly assisted in this case by the text being freely available in PDF format under a Creative Commons license.

This is one of the features of wiki based Reading groups that I really like, the fact that the group can exist over long periods of time and experience fluctuations in activity but because of the written nature of the discourse it doesn't suffer from the temporality of the face-to-face Reading group which is dependent on synchronous interactions around a specific text. So starting the group now, even though I probably won't actually take it much further at this point, has I think merit in the long term for my own learning process and for Wikiversity.

And this is also what I'm finding particularly interesting lately -- how I'm starting to use Wikiversity as my predominant learning environment, call it a Personal Learning Environment if you have to ... but also possibly in a form that I've not seen discussed in other PLE discourses. The fact that I'm creating projects that I may not at this point have time to participate in immediately, but anticipate that if others do start contributing I will be inspired to participate myself is quite unique I think; it's as if i'm setting myself and others up a space to potentially learn. But I don't consider myself a "teacher, i'm more a technologist, but I am a learner and I want to learn in communities where-ever possible so what better way to facilitate my own learning than by creating a space where a community can form around, in this case, a text?

The other thing is that this is something quite different to what Wikipedia is all about.

While Wikipedia is a great resource for a part of the learning process, it is not so good at being a space for working through the personal or communal process of learning, for journaling, recording, keeping bibliographies, etc and for the kind of free discussion of any idea that comes up. This does happen in Wikipedia, but not really out in the "open" so to speak; mostly these kinds of socratic learning experiences and debates happen in Wikipedia talk pages, where pretty much anything goes, and they are behind the scenes for most readers, and rightly so. Wikipedia is about creating quality encyclopedia articles, not facilitating the spaces where ugly old learning may take place. Ideas in Wikipedia articles need verification, they need sources, written/published sources ... while in Wikiversity, they don't. Ideas, debates and opinions should be out in the open.

I think that Wikiversity may truly be the big sister to it's brother Wikipedia one day and that some of its recent critics will have their words forever quoted from wiki history pages or listservs. I'm working in that direction from now on, from the position of both creating a space for my own individual learning, but also in creating spaces where others can participate along with me, or even without me.

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