Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Planning--learning with and from "weak ties"

Weak ties and collaborative learning--who are your most useful collaborators for any given learning task?

I was reading an article this past weekend “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” by Clive Thompson in the New York Times, September 5, 2008. Thompson made a very interesting and useful point to think about when engaging in collaborative networked leaning. If one only selects, “friends” or e-vites others who are part of your intimate circle of friends and colleagues to participate, one may not get the richness of insight and ideas that we are likely to get by e-viting or soliciting information from our “weak ties.” Here is how Thompson (2008,p.4) explained the idea:

“This rapid growth of weak ties can be a very good thing. Sociologists have long found that “weak ties” greatly expand your ability to solve problems. For example, if you’re looking for a job and ask your friends, they won’t be much help; they’re too similar to you, and thus probably won’t have any leads that you don’t already have yourself. Remote acquaintances will be much more useful, because they’re farther a field, yet still socially intimate enough to want to help you out. Many avid Twitter users — the ones who fire off witty posts hourly and wind up with thousands of intrigued followers — explicitly milk this dynamic for all it’s worth, using their large online followings as a way to quickly answer almost any question.”

Of course, all of your “connections” are available from our contact or friends list by any mobile device anywhere, anytime.