Closeness in Blogs and Forums (rw) 01/05/2009

Matthias posted some fascinating thoughts on what I would call the affordances of blogs versus forums:


  • Jenny’s, John’s, and Roy’s survey closed last night, so I can finally post my opinion which was heavily influenced by intensive discussions with them.
  • I won’t talk about learning styles, personal connections/ emotional comfort, and technical choices, because I trust that their results will present interesting findings here (although I do not have any access to any of their results). Rather, I will speculate about a difference which is probably too vague to show in such an early research as theirs: About preferences regarding conceptual connections.
  • While both bloggers and forum lovers on CCK08 value diverse, non-linear, “big picture” style conversations, there might be subtle differences in the type of conceptual connections that both camps feel most comfortable with. This differences affect the “closeness” or “nearness” of the concepts, ideas, and aspects under discussion, both
  • · “spatially” (integrated on the same thread page or close-by discussion thread on the central platform?),
  • · and temporally (diverse but related ideas being discussed in quick succession, with the previous ones still lively in mind when turning to new ones?).
  • The contrasting pattern of less “nearness” manifests itself as links between blogs, by which the bloggers cited the ideas of their peers on their own local blogs, commented them on the peer’s remote blog, or/and used pingbacks to refer to from the remote peer’s ideas back to their own ideas on their local blog. This connection type made for considerably distant, selected, initially weak links, which could, however develop into strong links by repeatedly citing and linking back and forth. The delay of such links was typically 1-3 days.
  • I guess that moodlers have more preference for quick, “rapid-fire” discussion style than bloggers, in contrast to the bloggers’ preference for slow blogging. Similarly, more moodlers than bloggers feel distracted by dispersed, distributed links.
  • I am waiting with great eagerness for Jenny’s, John’s, and Roy’s results on personal connections, because the personal and the conceptual levels of connections are the heart of connectivism. If there should be a similarity or congruency of the respective differences in personal and conceptual connections, this would give reason to further research investigating if there is a cause for similarities beyond the shared metaphor. A first conjecture might point into the direction of early childhood conceptualization of inanimate objects (concepts) as animate ones (i. e. persons).
  • I am also curious about their findings on the technical layer and the learning styles, in addition to the personal and conceptual connection layers, because ideally, these four areas (initially identified by Jenny) might be linked together to a nice round picture.

I love Matthias's analysis of conceptual closeness. I read it as “weak/slow/days” links, deepening and consolidating(blogs), versus “strong/ fast/ hours” links, dissipating or resolving. This might be an oversimplification of his metaphor. But it raises interesting issues and metaphors concerning the resonance between the cognitive and personal. It also raises very interesting issues about ‘thoughts in progress’ and different modes or even genres of conceptual exploration and articulation - the question is, are blogs or forums more or less thoughtful, superficial, ‘cognitive’ (as in ‘cognitivist’), wholistic, efficient (in terms of ‘cognitive outcomes’ etc?

In a draft article on affordances (see the Affordances page on this wiki) I use Reed’s distinction between ‘indicational’ interaction between pre-linguistic infant and parent, on the one hand and ‘propositional’ interaction (later on) on the other hand, to define ‘affordances’ in a way that rejects the dualism between the cognitive and the material. In a sense Reed's indicational interaction is personal, and his 'propositional' interaction is cognitive, but even more interesting, the relationship between infant and parent is established within the indicational affordances - the cognitive ones come later (in time) and are built on the foundation of the indicational ones, not vice versa.