The Experience of Crowds

I came across this insightful little video created by Will Richardson to illustrate how social networking and web 2.0 tools have changed the way that current events stories break , become aggregated and refined using tools such as, in this case, twitter and flickr:

The News According to Twitter

“Playing around with here but also trying to capture what I think is an interesting shift in the way we learn about, gather and share news these days.”

The shift that Richardson identifies here has interesting and immediate implications for education, as well. We have already witnessed the emerging impact of The Wisdom of Crowds philosophy and its insistence on the development of sophisticated collaborative and critical thinking aptitudes. The shift here has more to do with the “experience of crowds”, if you will – multiple perspectives dialoging in real time to create a shared narrative of an event that is swiftly disseminated, even as the event itself continues to unfold and updates or revisions are being made to the emerging narrative.

The Experience of Crowds

The “Experience of Crowds” demands a further shift towards the increasingly imperative development of highly refined and rigorous skills in the area of synthesis.  Wrapped up in the unfolding events as narrated across a multitude of 1st person perspectives – eye witness accounts captured digitally – consumers must be open to accepting and digesting revision in real-time.

The skills and aptitudes required are, in my estimation, not novel to my students, for whom this shift might be, at best, unsurprising, considering their immersion within a world where their experiences have always been mediated and captured digitally.  It is, however, an important shift within myself as an educator, in order to ensure that I provide a learning environment that challenges my students to refine their synthesizing and critical thinking talents.  The old media literacy question “what is this text really saying to me?” proliferates and includes questions such as “What perspectives are emerging as this text unfolds?”, “How does the emergent nature of this text manipulate my understanding?”  and, to be sure, “What part of this text am I creating?”