There is a lot of (very useful) talk about social learning - I guess to match up with 'social software'.

The question is, though, what's this 'social', and where is it based?

1. Social knowledge, or learning, or interaction?
“Social learning” is a very useful term. However, it is not the knowledge, or the learning that is social, it is far more fundamental than that: it's the semiotics, and language itself that is social. The ambiguity and paradox of parole - what is spoken, (as opposed to langue – the ‘residual’ system of differences and connections, as in written text) is what is fundamental.

Parole includes both conventional language and slang, and double entendre, and metaphor, and everything in-between, and is based in the fundamental Schroedinger’s cat-box of arbitrary-and-conventional, and digital-and-analogue paradoxes of speech. Its this deliciously unstable articulation which is the foundation of the social, and learning, and knowledge, and jokes, and invention, and the Barthesian sense of jouissance.

Its also the foundation of the individual/community paradox of the social, and its why Latour insists on a continuous need to ‘reconstruct the social’, and why natural science cannot be written in the first person.

2. Social constructivism
Whilst it is true that we have to construct agreement in order to communicate and learn, Barthes reminds us that the basis for this is that "every use becomes a sign of itself" - and that includes uses in speech and writing, but also in material action. And whatever agreement we construct around the use of things and signs, it has to navigate its way around the arbitrary-and-conventional cat-box of language (above), and the tensions between the often contradictory demands of cultural-historical v. scientific epistemologies and sense making. This includes the tension between the embodied engagement of cultural-historical discourse (in the Foucauldian sense) and the blind market space, or discourse, of objective science.

The cultural-historical, or narrative discourse could be seen as engagement with people, with all the messiness and reflexive complexity that goes with it, as opposed to the blind market space, which is stripped ‘free’ of people and space: its just the abstract interaction with numbers on paper – science and money - to caricature it.

Or to put it another way, it’s the tension between abstract epistemological learning and ontologically grounded learning/growth, both of which are sense-making activities, despite the fact that they comprise, and result in, completely different modes of knowing and knowledge.

3. Food for future thought ...
We might even take this line of thought a bit further, to complete the picture, and explore a possible ...

Three Modes of Learning
each of which has its own disciplines:

Epistemological = blind market space discourse.
Structure = quantitative: meta-semiotics, rigorous consensus: science, money, bureaucracy, representative politics.
Modes/disciplines: abstraction (from time, space, subjectivity), formal learning, formal learning.

Ontological = embodied engagement in cultural-historical discourse. (Which has its own epistemology, just to confuse matters)
Structure = qualitative: narrative and culture
Modes/disciplines: time, sequence, place, solidarity, community, inclusion/exclusion

Transcendental = mindfulness engagement in a holistic ontology
Structure: prayer, meditation, communion, ritual
Modes/disciplines: selfless action

Cross posted to here ...