My lifestream blog is a good example of how participatory and algorithmic cultures can shape education today. Within these two dimensions, my learning experience felt very authentic, stress-free and natural. Unlike some more traditional forms of education, crafting a lifestream blog suggests freedom, creativity and personalization. However, learning with technology has many nuances that are not on the surface.
It can be argued that my lifestream blog is a blueprint of participatory culture ‘with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship’(H. Jenkins). Thus, my blog aggregates interactions with other EDC students, random people on the Net as well as my digital artefacts and web content I engaged with.
It is noteworthy that I often found my peers’ posts more relevant than mine, that’s why I spent a lot of time reading their blogs. Maybe, it was because their algorithms were ‘better trained’ due to my peers’ location or occupation. Like for most of my peers, Twitter turned out to be the most popular network for me. Not only did it guarantee some feedback on my posts, but it also enabled me to follow ed tech gurus and learn from them. Importantly, a lifestream blog was also a means of communication with my course tutor and a record of my learning journey.
Before week seven, I saw myself as the one and only creator of my blog even though some of its content was co-constructed with the community. However, in block three I started to realize that automated non-human agents were also shaping my WordPress space. Google search that sorted and prioritized data for me obviously showed some things and concealed others. For instance, western publishers and speakers produced most of the content I encountered.
The notoriously famous for their commercial agenda Youtube and Ted Talks were among the top recommender systems I used. Presumably, the materials they offered were either pushed up by corporations or by other web users or by personalization algorithms. As J. Knox puts it, ‘because these systems enmesh automated, individual, and communal decision-making in highly complex, and usually hidden ways, the results cannot easily be reduced to the intentional agency of one human person (whether user or programmer), or non-human algorithm’. Hence, it would be fair to speak about ‘shared’ agency and ‘shared’ authorship (student-tutor-algorithms-community) in relation to my blog.
Interestingly, ‘digital nudging’ is a two-way street. Whilst various algorithms push me towards definite choices, my own ‘learning is learned by machine learners’(Knox et al, p.35). In other words, I was also teaching the algorithms during my explorations and could observe how their predictions became more accurate within time. This fact demonstrates the ‘co-constitutive relations between human and non-human in education’ (Knox, p.1).
Today I am planning to ‘cut the cord’ and disconnect all my accounts from the lifestream blog, thus losing my share of agency in the future of this learning space and granting it all to the Web.
Knox, J. 2015. Algorithmic Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.)
Knox, J., Williamson, B. & Bayne, S. 2020. Machine behaviourism: future visions of ‘learnification’ and ‘datafication’ across humans and digital technologies, Learning, Media and Technology, 45:1, 31-45, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1623251
Kulowiec, G. 2015. I’ve been thinking…It is time to revisit Jenkins’ Participatory Culture. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/@gkulowiec/ive-been-thinking-it-is-time-to-revisit-jenkins-participatory-culture-d375ebd34e94