Tim O’Reilly’s recent commencement address at the UC Berkeley School of Information has been widely cited, and I’m not sure that all of it really resonates, but there are a couple of phrases and ideas that are especially relevant and worth noting. And since he wasn’t just talking to a group of educators, these points are worth remembering when bringing this discussion to a wider audience.
First is the idea that this is a turning point not just in technology:
In my remarks today, I hope to elaborate on this idea of turning points. Not only are you at a turning point in your lives, we are at a turning point in the technology industry, and perhaps even in the history of the world. Most of you probably know that I’ve been evangelizing an idea that I call Web 2.0, the idea that the internet is on the verge of replacing the personal computer as the dominant computing platform. And as you know, platform shifts are times of enormous disruption and enormous opportunity.
I think that bears remembering, that despite the very messy, difficult period that we’re entering here, there is also a real opportunity to make some much needed changes in the classroom. We need to keep focusing on how best to do that, but the good news here is that we’re advocating for rethinking education at the same time as others are talking about rethinking journalism and business and politics because of the same changes. I think it might be easier to frame our discussions in that context.
O’Reilly also discusses the importance now of the network:
The internet as platform is the sum of all connected computers and devices. True internet applications can be thought of as “software above the level of a single device,” applications that run not on any individual computer but on the network that connects them. Ultimately, the network ties together all those devices into a single vast computer.The applications that succeed on that new computer platform are those that understand deeply what it means to be network applications. It’s as simple as this: the secret of success in the networked era is to create or leverage network effects.
And then later…
But even more important than their enthusiasm, the users of successful internet applications supply their intelligence. A true Web 2.0 application is one that gets better the more people use it. Google gets smarter every time someone makes a link on the web. Google gets smarter every time someone makes a search. It gets smarter every time someone clicks on an ad. And it immediately acts on that information to improve the experience for everyone else. It’s for this reason that I argue that the real heart of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence.
This is exactly, I think, what George Seimens talks about when he says that knowledge resides in the network, and that to be truly educated these days, we need to know how to leverage that knowledge when we need it. And that we all get smarter as we link to one another and become a part of the conversations that are going on.
O’Reilly also talks about achieving “global consciousness” on the Web, but I think we are still a long way from that. There is still too much echo-chambering happening, and I think one of the biggest hurdles that we have to overcome in all of this is how to insure that our students (and ourselves) value both sides of the conversation.
Anyway, something to think about to start off the week…