Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Intellectual Capitalism/Cognitive Contributions

I applaud the efforts of George Seimans and Stephen Downes for setting up a new project relating to Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. I have been a beneficiary of the generous contributions of both of these guys to the collective intelligence of the web.

I also recognize that there is a reputational benefit particularly in academic environments, the world of intellectual capitalism. Publications, residual payments, intellectual authority, attention, popularity, tenure, research funding etc. The rich get richer. I guess we all do it, get students to write exam questions, use student projects as teaching materials in subsequent classes, use student successes and failures to fine tune our academic operations. Glaser (1978) called it Theoretical capitalism and remarked how some professors indoctrinate their students to footnote carefully to secure ideational capital. (p9)

Participating in a few courses/projects where the expectation is that the participants add cognitive content in the spirit of collaboration. The one reservation I have is when that cognitive content is used to develop a course or program or certificate which it then sold. I recognize the need to recover costs of operations etc and the perceived need to monitize web operations. But if participants are forced through a paygate in a walled garden (the typical online university course) and then their production is used to improve, develop or market the course without benefit to the producer the whole activity becomes a form of rent-seeking behavior on the part of the institution. This monopolistic behavior restricts innovation and inhibits contribution.

The project I've been involved with is for Doctoral students in a School of Educational Leadership and Change program. Two tenured faculty have mounted an experimental course called Critical Pedagogy: Recreating Social Movements in Immersive Environments. The idea is to study some of the theorists of emancipatory change in education, Friere, Illich and others of the Liberation Theology genre. The course is being conducted using ICT and is anchored in two particular settings, Open Learn and Second Life. There has been some use of the desktop sharing application, WEBEX and the expectation is that all participants will develop a community of learners. The participants in this project are enrolled in Doctoral studies and participation in this project counts towards the credit requirements for course work. Many of the participants including faculty are not particularly adept with using online tools or practices and most of the interaction has fallen back to the default position of regularly scheduled teleconferences.

The project has been funded by a special grant and as it is with in the structure of an accredited University and as such there are necessary requirements that must be met. The presence of this type structure is apparent but the actual requirements have not been shared with the participants. Given that this is a course in Critical Pedagogy I have been inclined to apply that analysis to this project.

Glaser, B. G. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity. Sociology Press Mill Valley, Calif.

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