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H807 – Applying information ecology (A13.2)

May 4, 2011

The Monticello site provides an example how technologies can be developed  to provide engaging approaches to learning.

We are now asked, bearing Nardi and O’Day’s theory of information ecology in mind, to explore the Monticello website and identify how we could potentially map the metaphor to elements present within the Monticello environment and to identify the learning affordances that we perceive when applying the information ecologies metaphor to this site.

The course material points out that ‘during your tour you may encounter a variety of interactive opportunities, which may

  • be targeted at a wide range of users (diversity)
  • be locally dependent (locality)
  • require input and assistance of specialist teams of staff/experts to develop (co-evolution)
  • relate to very specific subject matter, be outcome-based and require specific types of resource management (keystone species)

Just as reminder, Nardi and O’Day (1999) defined information ecologies as a system of people, practices, values and technologies in a particular local enviroment.

The discussion in our tutor forum is intersting, although we experience some diversity in our information ecology (i.e. tutor forum), using Nardi and O’Day’s (1999) terms, regarding the usability and applicability of this theory. I am somehow in the middle between those claiming they know how to apply the theory and those who experience problems. I definitely have problems to fit the Montichello page into the H807 matrix, week 13 provided by the OU.

Here is my attempt to apply the information ecology to the Monticello website.

Diversity: I guess the Monticello page is visited by students and teachers, but also by families and those who are interested in Jefferson’s domestic life, house or gardens.

Locality: I interpreted locality more in terms of physical locality instead of specialised types of knowledge as suggested in the matrix.

Co-evolution: This website definitely required a collaborative skills set, and considering the new interactive maps and technology I assume that the this website developed and changed over time.

Keystone species: The subject matter definitely did not change, though I assume that parts of the technology changed (e.g. interactive maps), whereas some technology – info text boxes or videos could be considered as keystone species

I agree with one student who claims that she missed the possibility for a dialogue, an element that both authors actually emphasise to discuss important issues to think aloud so others can hear the thinking. The page offers no interactivity, no communication possibilities like forum or chat with others. Like my fellow student points out it is more a presentation or a Web 1.0 website, but it does not display much features of a Web 2.0 site. No RSS feeds, no room for comments, for creation or co-creation, sharing something. Nothing much can be said about the values – first sight it seems they place much emphasis on the physical presence, on what you see, but the Zen notion mentioned in the chapter 6, the space between these things, that what makes the website useful, is quite hidden. But probably we should not apply to much how questions, but ask more why questions, thus find out more about the motivations, objectives and values, instead of focusing on logistics and tactics.

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