Content to Connection

I’m beginning to encounter more articles, concepts, thinkers who see a world similar to the one I see. Connections, connections, connections. For educators, a networked world – versus a world of silos – creates, as Will Richardson states, a very different world. How we design content, how we organize courses, how we engage learners…it all changes.

A few resources exploring similar themes:

Dave Pollard explores “next generation KM” and arrives at the same conclusion I have with connectivism: the move from collection (courses) to connection (networks).

David Weinberger also sees the value of connections: “We don’t need perfect knowledge in an age of knowledge abundance. We just need pretty good knowledge, and that’s something we don’t need perfect gatekeepers for. To the gatekeepers what looks like chaos and the degradation of learning to Netizens looks like an exponential increase in intelligence…Links, not containers: A page is what it points to.”

It’s the relationship: “All KM-enlightened people know that it’s not about document management, but few understand that it’s not about people either. What it’s about is social relationships. Good social tools manage feeds and links, not content.”

8 Responses to “Content to Connection”

  1. corrie says:

    Slowly back away from the ledge….
    It’s not JUST connections. Connections connect things. People. Places.
    “A page is what it points to.” I disagree. There are very few pages of links that interest me. My RSS reader. A google search. Realclearpolitics. Instapundit (and he adds commentary). Technorati. But those links lead not to other pages of links, but to content that interests me. The page-o-links is valuable in that it lets me get at content easily, but what I want is the content, not the link.
    Yes, connections are important. The most memorable keynote I ever saw was James Burke. But connections connect things-of-value. Without those things, the connections are useless.
    Without neurons, a synapse is just empty space.

  2. Connections connect things. Yes.
    But what we remember, what is significant, is the relation between the things.
    Why? Because our perception of the thing changes. We see it in different light, from different angles, in different contexts. But its relation to other things is enduring.
    You see your spouse’s eyes in all manner of circumstances; you could never remember them all. You recognize your spouse because the eyes are always so far apart, above the nose, near the small mole, above the freckles…
    If you depended on recognition of the thing to find your way to the office, you would become lost as soon as the leaves turned colour, the road was repaved, or a house were torn down. But because you can recognize the pattern of related things, even if details change you can still find your way.
    Computers store content. Humans store relations.

  3. corrie says:

    Sometimes the connection is important. Sometimes it’s irrelevant.
    When I’m surfing blogs, I’ll often come across a great tidbit to blog on or furl. But what I furl is NOT the path I took to get there, it’s the thing itself. The next time I want to access a thing, I don’t WANT to retrace the path I took to get there. I just want to jump directly. That’s why the Web’s direct-access URL trumped Gopher’s trees. (Of course, without a search capability or an index, the web was just Archie with pictures.)
    Patterns and connections are NOT the same thing. Yes, we store patterns. Yes, we store connections. They are vitally important. (See Foshay, Silber and Stelnicky’s new text, “Writing Training Materials That Work”)
    But the patterns and the connections themselves aren’t the whole enchilada. They help us to recall content. Indeed, the pattern and the path are themselves content items.
    The URL of your website – the path to it – is a text string. There’s a pattern to it, which helps me remember it (or more accurately, reconstruct it on the fly). I don’t have to remember the whole URL. I remember the pattern (or principle) of a URL’s structure – http://www.something.topleveldomain. I recall the fact that your name is Downes-with-an-e, and that you’re Canadian, so you have the .ca tld. So using those facts, I can construct http://www.downes.ca, which is a path to your writings, which I find of value. I couldn’t care less what the URL itself is. It happens to be simple, so it’s no bother to recall it. Longer URLs I just bookmark or add to bloglines.
    I use the same technique – patterns of facts and principles – to teach bar chords to intermediate guitar students. You don’t have to memorize 1000 chord fingerings, just a handful of basic facts and rules. There are three basic forms. Each has up to four modifications. You can play them anywhere on the neck, and here’s the three things that determine the chord’s name based on the neck position. Learn a handful of facts and principles (patterns) and you can play nearly 1,000 different chords. This isn’t theory – it’s real-world application.
    More examples – the collecting visualizations of the components of Web 2.0 (flickr tag: blogosoposium1, I think), while they describe the relationships between technologies, are themselves things – jpg and gif files. A few years ago I did a terrific Viso diagram as part of an instructional design project. I’d like to include it in my portfolio, but I can’t find a copy of the file.
    There’s something more at stake than just facts and patterns, though. I’m reminded of a brain-damaged fellow who could not recognize faces. While he could see the eyes, nose, mouth, he couldn’t assemble them into a coherent whole that said, “Peggy.” That’s not just pattern-recognition.

  4. Chris L says:

    “When I’m surfing blogs, I’ll often come across a great tidbit to blog on or furl. But what I furl is NOT the path I took to get there, it’s the thing itself. The next time I want to access a thing, I don’t WANT to retrace the path I took to get there. I just want to jump directly.”
    But the value is much more than just the object… the path you traced to get there is valuable, and not just to me. The patterns within those connections, the strong and weak ties, the influences and linking behaviors– all of these points the way to *more* and often *better* resources. That’s the amplifying effect that is new. No one is arguing that the actual content doesn’t matter (I don’t see it anyway), but many ARE arguing that the path you wish to discard in favor of the object matters much more than ever before (and in new ways).
    An object provides information just once, or repetitively. The path of connections that allow one to find and understand that object yields dividends far beyond the single instance.

  5. corrie says:

    Chris,
    “Links, not containers: A page is what it points to.” “…what is significant, is the relation between the things”
    That sounds kind of like “the content is not important” to me.
    Look, I’m not arguing that links aren’t inmportant. There’s often great value in relationships – Amazon’s recommendations and lists, for example.
    But without the things being related, the relationship is meaningless. Non-existent, actually. In our enthusiasm over what these new tools enable (and that’s a very valuable viewpoint) let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  6. Hi – some interesting comments from Corrie, Stephen, and Chris.
    I’ll reply to this in a different post. For now, however, I simply want to clarify what I mean when I use terms:
    Content is a node – it’s a network element. As Corrie notes, content is important. Without it, there is no network.
    Connections – are links to/between/among content. A network without connections is useless as well.
    To bring it into a practical example – the internet is an example of a concept that blends content and connections. We need content on servers in order to communicate. But content has always existed – in libraries, books, magazines, text books, etc. So what does the internet do that’s different? It connects content in a manner to actually create networks. The “space” between nodes is minimized…we can flow smoothly from one node to another (i.e. we can experience and consume greater quantities of content…and in the process, develop our ability to recognize patterns).
    The content itself has limited value without connections…and vice versa. It’s not either/or…it’s both. However, we have a far longer history of generating and creating content…than we have of connecting and forming connections. My current focus on connections is driven by the reality that content has had far higher profile…and we are mistakenly assuming that content is the main thing of value. I’m trying to balance it (in my own head).

  7. Jennifer says:

    “When I’m surfing blogs, I’ll often come across a great tidbit to blog on or furl. But what I furl is NOT the path I took to get there, it’s the thing itself. The next time I want to access a thing, I don’t WANT to retrace the path I took to get there. I just want to jump directly.”
    But the value is much more than just the object… the path you traced to get there is valuable, and not just to me. The patterns within those connections, the strong and weak ties, the influences and linking behaviors– all of these points the way to *more* and often *better* resources. That’s the amplifying effect that is new. No one is arguing that the actual content doesn’t matter (I don’t see it anyway), but many ARE arguing that the path you wish to discard in favor of the object matters much more than ever before (and in new ways).
    An object provides information just once, or repetitively. The path of connections that allow one to find and understand that object yields dividends far beyond the single instance.
    -Jenn (best online mmorpg games)

  8. Jennifer says:

    The URL of your website – the path to it – is a text string. There’s a pattern to it, which helps me remember it (or more accurately, reconstruct it on the fly). I don’t have to remember the whole URL. I remember the pattern (or principle) of a URL’s structure – http://www.something.topleveldomain. I recall the fact that your name is Downes-with-an-e, and that you’re Canadian, so you have the .ca tld. So using those facts, I can construct http://www.downes.ca, which is a path to your writings, which I find of value. I couldn’t care less what the URL itself is. It happens to be simple, so it’s no bother to recall it. Longer URLs I just bookmark or add to bloglines.
    - Jo (free dating services)