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Custom Mediascaping

“I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”      — Woodrow Wilson

I love working in my yard.  While it is obviously the work of an amateur, over the years the landscape is being transformed into my private work of art, scattered with personal preferences of flowers, plantings, trees, and sculptured with stone – ‘designed’ to provide visual interest throughout the year.  While I consulted a landscape specialist to get a ‘big idea’ for the masterplan, the pieces and parts that make up the actual garden design are a compilation of magazine photos, on-line research, seeing plantings and pairings that I like in other people’s landscapes, trial and error, maturation over time, and gut purchases.  I’ve also had to customize based on sun exposure throughout the yard and the various animals (or should I say vermin) that enjoy my garden for reasons other than its beauty.

So when Michael Wesch, in the video Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, suggested that YouTube is part of the ‘integrated mediascape,’ the parallels of a PLE to a landscape became all too clear.  I was fascinated by many aspects of this video, particularly the student study using participant observation.  Great insights.  However, it wasn’t the study that led me to the further exploration I’ve been doing all week.  It was Wesch’s discussion of the idea of Networked Individualism proposed by Barry Wellman.

I watched Wellman’s lecture, Connected Lives, and read his companion paper, Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism.  In his work, Wellman talks about the change in which people and institutions are connected brought on by the Internet.  He uses terms that had me quite curious.

Wellman says, “This is a time for individuals and their networks, and not for groups.  The proliferation of computer-supported social networks fosters changes in ‘network capital’: how people contact, interact, and obtain resources from each other.”  He introduced me to the term ‘glocalization’ meaning ‘the combination of intense local and extensive global interaction.’  Glocalized networks, unlike communities of the past, operate independent of their surroundings; yet, because of computer communications networks people and places are socially connected like never before, and the links are constantly changing.  This is the essence of ‘networked individualism.’

How is Wellman’s work relevant to adult learning?

Rob Jacobs of The Professional Networked Learning Collaborative quoted Wellman “Each person operates his networks to obtain information, collaboration, orders, support, sociability, and a sense of belonging.”  The Professional Networked Learning Collaborative (PNLC) uses Wellman’s theory of connected lives as its premise – “as the individual educator has become networked, so too must the Professional Learning Community; and when a PLC becomes networked, it becomes something different” – the PNLC.  Jacobs says ‘the essence of the PNLC is that the ‘who’ of potential members and collaborators is increased exponentially because of individual members networking through collaborative technology platforms, the ‘what’.”  Then he introduces (via Howard Rheingold) another curious term – ‘the presence of those who are absent’ meaning that physical presence is no longer necessary to be ‘present’ because of our networks.  This practical example makes the Connected Lives theory practical and applicable in my mind.

So, back to YouTube.  Michael Wesch states that “the “most viewed” videos on the prominent pages of YouTube may not be important, interesting, or intellectually stimulating, but social bookmarking services, memediggers, and social networks often bring the rich, stimulating, and politically important content we want to see right onto our desktops.”  To me, this is the essence of ‘the presence of those who are absent.’  Even better, YouTube videos provide the visual imagery that creates a closer sense of ‘presence’ than mere words.  After viewing the Wellman lecture, for example, students commented on it by creating and posting a YouTube video.  In each video, the students summarized the main points they took away from the lecture and posed additional questions to Wellman.  These will never make the ‘most viewed’ list, but demonstrate an effective use of this media as part of the mediascape masterplan for learning – both reflection for the student and feedback for the instructor.

This is the playlist of those videos for review:  Responses to Connected Lives

While a custom landscape can transform, improve value, beautify, create interest, and invite, it also works with existing natural elements, echoing the rhythmic character of land, expresses a relationship between yard and home, and reflects the owner’s individuality and diversity. Can a custom mediascape (aka Personal Learning Environment) do the same? A custom landscape requires a careful planning and a willingness to try new ideas, but also a willingness to change as conditions change.  Does a custom mediascape require the same?

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2 Responses to “Custom Mediascaping”

  1. nice article 🙂

  2. Thank you for yout thoughtful comments, and the links that it is leading me to.


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