Yes, there are only 30 million public blogs, the same again in private ones and a tiny proportion of internet users have a Flickr photo-sharing account. But there’s a new blog every minute and many more are reading them and looking at the pictures. These are the early days at the beginning of the renaissance. In fifty years I hope that our kids wonder what all the fuss was about – these tools will be just another part of the daily toolkit, and might even be obsolete.
So why should teachers look up from their textbooks and take note of blogs and podcasts? The reason these social technologies work is because they are social. But they are also changing the way that we socialise.
These technologies cater for a need until now unfulfilled by the on-off yes-no 1-
binary of technology. They are allowing us to socialise in a different way.
Where technology has thus far helped us in a changing world, social software tools are being proactive in helping us work, rest and play the way we want to and not, for the first time, the way that the rest of society wants or expects us to behave. Nowadays, children and teachers have less time to socialise than before and taking breaks from learning is frowned upon.
So where are we getting our social input? The answer: learners are getting our social input on mobile phone messaging, MSN chat, on multiplayer games (World of Warcraft http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/lowbw.html), on blogs (and on leaving comments on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/ : I’ve added this last bit since discovering the friends you can make through a mutual passion for taking pics of Paris).
This digital lifestyle is just what I am living this year as a home and mobile worker. I use MSN (virtual) to ‘chat’ with colleagues over a coffee (not virtual), Skype to phone for free to friends and colleagues around the world I wouldn’t have made / wouldn’t have kept in touch with / wouldn’t have known about, blogs to expand my thinking on hi-tech stuff and not-so-hi-tech stuff, to keep informed of my mother’s life and to keep her informed of mine (there’s nothing worse than having not phoned your mother in a month; blogging removes some of the shame). I use Flickr to store and share my photos with families and friends, as well as to search for like-minded souls who might be of professional benefit for me and my projects, and who I might be able to help out. Flickr and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/) have together helped me branch out my professional reach in no time at all. I even started an ICT Policy Strategy wiki in a totally spontaneous and natural way. This slightly awkward glove actually fits!
For some businesses and entrepreneurs blogging has meant that they no longer need to live in cities to make a living. They don’t need to please people they’re not interested in, either, because they can reduce their costs and do more of what they want to do. Overheads are so low/non-existent that workers are able to pursue what they feel is important: we can ignore things we find boring without losing face. Try ignoring someone in meatspace: not easy. But in a virtual world we can choose to ignore people, not give them our attention. Our attention is worth something. And so is our inattention.
Another thing that blogging has allowed individuals to do is become self- employed to a large extent. “Your people speak to my people” is not required any more. Things can be done for free, where agents would normally not allow that (they want the commission). You can solicit people for a job by leaving a