Aesthetics and Community

So to continue this train of thought, I was watching this digital rough cut of an interview with Howard Rheingold. In it Howard makes a few statements about digital communities, groups and nation-states that appeal to me. Particularly this statement:

In fact when I first started travelling about this was erm during a brief period when I worked for Wired Magazine, I had a little wired hat on.  It didn’t matter whether they spoke English or not, there were people who identified more with me than with they’re neighbours, with they’re parents, with they’re peers, erm even though we may not have even spoken the same language, they knew UNIX, they knew Photo Shop, they knew communicating on line.

That resonated with me for a bit. Earlier Howard mentioned his sense of dress as well, and how it can be offputting for some people. Now I don’t want this to come off as a love letter for Howard, I would think that his dress is what made me interested in him. He was confident in himself enough to put himself out there, and that confidence and uniqueness speaks to me as a person. In the same way that Howard’s way of dressing (through his Wired hat or colorful jackets) made an impression on people and acted as an attractor or repellent, the aesthetics of online spaces will do the same thing. So is it important that online spaces be as aesthetically neutral as possible?

No. There is no neutral. Think about color for a moment. White background color has a different context depending on culture – your actions will be unable to alter those cultural reaction. So you have to rely on your own aesthetic choices and make sure they reflect you as much as possible. I think the individual need to express this is what will begin to differentiate institutions from one another. We’re already seeing this in higher education where certain lecturers are the “top free agents”. I’m sure sometime in the future, as online learning becomes more prevalent, we will begin to see the better learning designers, and by that I mean aesthetically and pedagogically, become more important.

Howard makes some mention of what makes a community later on, and in my interpretation it comes down to a like-minded group – some sort of connection occurs between all the parties. It could be worldview, it could be musical tastes. In web design, we recognized that a certain consumer expects a certain level of design. For instance, an opera house website would be rejected if it wasn’t sufficiently “high class”. You wouldn’t see a graffiti font on the opera house website. These groups have an aesthetic identifier as well, it’s an external clue, part of that first impression decision making process.

So thank you Howard for helping me make the connections from this video!

Reflections on Networks and Groups – Week 5

CCK08 – Well, I’ve taken a couple days off to rest my weary brain, and come back to work and still have a pile of things to do. One of the questions (that I haven’t ventured forth) that I have is that if groups behave as one cohesive body (much like an individual) can groups be networked? I suppose the easy answer is yes, that in both the real and virtual worlds that groups act together to leverage legislation, work together to complete game objectives and other acts. The devil’s advocate might say that they are just acting as a larger group – for a common goal. Then the question becomes more about when groups act together do they become a larger group or a network? And if the larger groups goal is accomplished, does this larger group then become splintered to be two smaller groups networked as each group reverts to their original (and different) purposes?

I don’t have neat answers for that. I guess that’s the nature of what we’re doing here.

The second point I’m going back and forth on is information overload – specifically connections overload. I’ve seen quite a few things surfacing (namely at Lisa Lane’s blog, the readings this week, a post from Fake Plastic Fish, a couple of blurbs on TV…) about basic information overload, and how it’s a bad thing. I don’t see it as a bad thing, but as  a good thing. What you take out of the information dump defines who you are, it says a lot about you. Now certainly, you could end up at the bottom of the heap burried under all those bits. More often than not, humans find a way to deal with it (some by going out into the woods and sending letter bombs to academics… not the best way to channel it). I think dealing with all this information you find a way to conceptually handle it and sort out the wheat from the chaff. You have to prioritize. I know, I know not eath shocking. I guess I’ll be able to better understand some of these concepts after the readings this week.