Social Networks and Information Abundance

When I am in my normal work routine, I get into work, take care of my inbox, check for any new hardcopy correspondence. At that point, I turn to my social network to read and digest what has been happening in the world of psychology and education. I think about what has been written, comment on a few ideas, scoop some of the posts, use Diigo to annotate and save some of the thoughts that strike, and then, about once a week or so, write something on this blog about what has impressed me about where we are going with learning. I don’t think that this is terribly unusual (I hope). What I don’t do much of, any more, is meet with my colleagues to talk about teaching and learning. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a heavy administrative load for a number of years, here at the University. However, in very few of these meetings do we ever really talk about learning. Even in our teaching administration meetings, the focus is almost exclusively on rules, regulations, and one-off cases that need new rules and regulations made up to deal with them.

What this means, is that my discussions about teaching and learning that I used to have with interested colleagues face to face are now almost exclusively carried out on-line over social networks. That doesn’t mean that I never have learning discussions face to face. Occasionally someone from the University community comes by and we sit down and we have a  good chat. It is just that now, we have a situation where all of my new, younger colleagues (the old ones have all drifted off) find themselves too busy, and me too intimidating (I taught several of them as undergraduates), and so we don’t often chat about learning issues.

Clive Thompson wrote about Marissa Mayer’s edict that Yahoo employees  could no longer work at home, because the company needed the creativity that arises from face-to-face, informal contact (water-cooler chat). Clive presents evidence that Marissa is right in thinking that creativity is increased when these informal chats happen. He also presents evidence that when people work on their own (at home maybe), more gets done – productivity increases.

This made me wonder if active social networks count as face-to-face interactions. Does the seek-sense-share world of social networking as a professional provide opportunities for creative juices to flow? If it isn’t as good, is this what is lacking in on-line learning – the informal chatter that can take place among students? I know that my students who work in a blended environment tell me that, once they get immersed in my psychology in education class, they find themselves talking about it to each other and anyone who will listen, virtually non-stop. In order to be fully creative, maybe I need to create a group that just sits around and brainstorms face to face. Maybe Skype…

I don’t know the answer, and are not aware of any research on this, but in our increasingly connected world, this is something we should figure out.


One thought on “Social Networks and Information Abundance

  1. I think we all have online communities with whom we share interests, sometimes niche interests. It would be hard to find such people near us, and even harder to have meaningful interactions with them as often as we do with our online contacts.

    Isn’t it ironic though, that you are surrounded by people who are interested in your field, yet you end up having more discussions on psychology and education online? Thanks for sharing this. Maybe someone out there is reading your blog and will barge into your office tomorrow with tons of interesting discussion starters as a result 😉

    For having worked together with a number of people online, often across continents, I find it natural to continue the conversation in person. Real life meet-ups become one platform for exchanging ideas, along with our work platform and social media.

    Meeting in ‘real life’ does help get acquainted on a more personal level and, to me, nothing can replace that. Skype comes close but it’s still mediated conversation.

    I do see plenty of informal chat going on on social media. I wonder how that’s different from informal chat at the cafeteria or around the water cooler. The codes maybe? The fact that it’s more public?


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