CCK12 – Week 3 – It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know.

I’ve only been peripherally involved in the fourth offering of Connectivism and Connective Knowledge – the course hasn’t evolved that much (at a cursory glance) and I must admit, the centralized discussion boards really helped with my engagement in the community. Of course, I don’t really know any of the participants, which is frankly my fault. So because I don’t know anyone, is there a sense of lost community with this offering of CCK? Perhaps. It certainly has a motivational effect on me – I’m not particularly motivated to read (or re-read) because I don’t think I have anything to add that I would’ve the last time (CCK08 Version of Networked Learning) – however through my experience with informal learning, you have to have good sources who are willing to ask good questions for this to work.

That process is very much trial and error, finding people seeing who they follow, following them for a while… all the pieces are based on networks and loose connections to each other. Howard Rheingold talks about this process, and the thing that strikes me about it is that it is entirely iterative, which is something I first came across in playing in bands. We’d write things, then build on them, then take them apart and re-work a different bit, always evolving, until the three or four of us feel it’s ready. Even then, it could mutate when played in front of an audience… The next time iterative development came through my life was in the process of software design. It’s interesting how much further iterative approaches have come in the last decade, and lets face it, an iterative approach makes sense in education. ┬áThe personal learning network (PLN, an acronym I don’t particularly like, mainly that I learn from everyone and everything, I shouldn’t have to make it explicit), is also iterative in how you feed it and how your network feeds you.

Usability and Images

Been thinking about online communities a lot the last few days – specifically thinking about what makes a successful community, and the aesthetics of the online environment that the community flourishes in. Take Facebook – probably the most successful online community website going. Now, one can argue that Facebook’s design aesthetic is to get out of the way of the community’s relationships… but perhaps it’s not the design aesthetic at all. Maybe the aesthetic is irrelevant when the content is overwhelmingly useful to the end user. Previously, I and many other web designers had tried to ensure that if, as a designer, you wanted to build a website that encouraged community, that pictures of people should be there to enhance the connection users have to the site and to each other. Yesterday in a meeting I suggested that one “had to have pictures of people” in the header of a website, in that it helped humanize the experience. My hypothesis is that without those pictures, the experience becomes too sterile. The counter argument a colleague brought up was that a 2-D representation of a person does not mean that people feel more at home or in a community.

Then why do designers use pictures of people so often as a short cut to engage people? Is it because it’s easy and a cue to users that people (of a certain stripe) are welcome here? Anyone have any studies that have looked at images of people and the user’s effect?