Sunday, July 05, 2009



What is User Generated Content (UGC)?
User Generated Content “refers to various kinds of media content, publicly available, that are produced by end-users.”

It has been made possible by the profusion of technological applications that make the production and distribution of content to a wide audience within the reach of anyone with access to a mobile phone, digital camera or the Internet.

Clay Shirky writes eloquently on the impact this has had on society in general in Here Comes Everybody. (Andrew Keen presents a somewhat opposite view in the Cult of the Amateur.)


This widespread availability of media and text production tools has important implications for facilitators of online communities, and some of these implications are yet to surface.
What is clear is that where not so long ago an online community (or online course) could be housed within a single chosen space (e.g. an LMS like Moodle), it is now quite possible that members of a class or community publish content (blogs, podcasts, wikis, photos, videos) to a number of different Internet sites.
From this point on online educators and facilitators will need to accept that their class or community members may already have a scattered digital presence across the Internet, and be flexible enough to allow that content to be a legitimate part of how people present themselves online to their class or community.
Community or class activity online is no longer confined to a single ‘controllable’ space that tended to be instructor-centric. The new approach acknowledges that an individual operates in other environments they have chosen themselves and that better suit their needs.
This is not to say there is no place for a central space that is the class or community home, but its centrality and degree of importance may be tempered by the attachment and ownership that individuals may feel towards their own chosen spaces.
Web 2.0
This user generated content phenomenon is part of what is known as Web2.0, or the read/write web – the web that we all contribute to and that is a more interactive environment where we all have ownership and the ability to create and modify Internet content.

Can you teach Web 2.0?

The discrete skills of how to blog, podcast, upload photos and videos etc can be taught. For someone to truly know what it is like to be an active participant in this kind of connected world however is a much more complex process. My own belief is that this is best achieved by active immersion in the world of UGC . This is the only way someone can experience the realisation that the world has changed to a place where much of the way we access and process content has altered, and that the production and evaluation of content is no longer the domain of trained experts in their field, but the domain of us all, of everyone.
Facilitating a class or community implies a central role of the person facilitating. Though the role of facilitator (or moderator) is somewhat different to that of teacher (the term teacher has been replaced by facilitator in the online environment for good reason), there is some lingering legacy that a facilitator teaches the members of the class or community. That may still be true, but it should be within the context of a community or group facilitating each others’ learning. Learning in a community of practice (on or off line) is a group activity.

Possible Discussion Topics

1) What do you see are the challenges for online communities in the Web 2.0 world? Are there advantages that we can exploit? How does the role of the facilitator change in this new environment?
2) Is it a case of ‘collective wisdom’ or the ‘stupidity of the masses’? Where do you sit?