Digital Competences (V). Howard Rheingold: Participatory Media and Participatory Pedagogy

Notes from the course Competencias digitales: conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes para la Sociedad Red (Digital competences: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the Network Society), organized by the CUIMPB, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 16th and 17h, 2009. More notes on this event: competencias_digitales_cuimpb_2009.

Participatory Media and Participatory Pedagogy
Howard Rheingold

It’s better to talk about literacy (or literacies) than skills, are skills are bound to the individual, and literacies have a social component: skill + community. There’s a social component to knowledge tied to the new media we’re witnessing.

For instance, we can buy a book online, but the fact that you can not only access the “objective” information that it’s online about the book, but also the opinions of others, this enriches the information. And the consumer more and more needs a context, a frame. And this frame heavily relies on reputation.

Thus, education also needs a context, a frame. Again — and especially in education — it is about reputation, and about the social factor.

Tools like Friendfeed just do that, letting people to follow people and know what they do. With social bookmarking and the help of tags, searching is more clever. You can browse several platforms following a tag. Searching through tags is a way of exploring another one’s knowledge database, see their rationale and, most specially, the collective rationale behind a specific thing, a specific concept, a specific tag.

All in all, these are several and alternative ways of storing, sharing and retrieving knowledge. And the good thing is that you can combine these several platforms.


Ismael Peña-López: how big can the trusted network be? A: It depends on granularity and how much you trust who. You have to learn how to build your own filtering practices, how to attach different degrees of trust to people or platforms or feeds or tags. Indeed, you can have several networks you trust differently, depending on their composition. And the skills required to manage digital technologies can be learnt and developed.

Ismael Peña-López: where to begin with, for the newcomer, in network building? A: In a near future, family — parents — should encourage and train their kids to build their online identities and their own network, whatever it is and whatever the topic. It is likely, though, that at this stage it’s easier to begin with professional networks. In the end, it’s about creating trust around some interests one might have. To begin to create your network of trust, you should observe and find who’s building attractive knowledge.

Carlos Albaladejo: social media and communities of trust, is it for digerati? has it gone mainstream without anyone noticing? A: I don’t think it’s about digerati at all. The production of online content has boosted in the last years. Of course, there still is a lot of people unconnected or not wanting to connect at all. But the number of smartphones is climbing up, and these are phones intended to lots of uses beyond voice. On the other hand, and for the same reason, the digital divide is (in general terms) no more about access to technology, but about people being skilled enough to use it. So there is an increasing divide between the people that can use (and use) these technologies and those who don’t. We’re most likely seeing social media e.g. for political engagement in its early stages, but the trend seems to be that adoption will increase in quality and quantity.

Q: how will educational institutions use social media for education? A: Institutions are always slow in adopting new technology and, especially, new methodologies. We should begin to educate parents. And educate in what is accurate (information) and what is false. But we have to rethink about the whole educational process.

Q: how do we deal with information overload? A: We have to train our attention. Information overload is an information problem, but also an attention problem, and our attention — just like any other skill — needs to be trained, to learn what to do with the information that keeps coming, to learn what information needs to be managed immediately and which one can be just overridden. And along with training attention, we have to build attention filters.

More information


Course on Digital Competences (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “Digital Competences (V). Howard Rheingold: Participatory Media and Participatory Pedagogy” In ICTlogy, #70, July 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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