This blog post is my keynote address to IACSS09.

200px-MarshallMcLuhan Source

If a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture.

When the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent.

Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain … (Marshall McLuhan)

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This process has accelerated since these insights were first published in McLuhan’s work. The Twitter example from Infoharmoni exemplifies this I believe. (“This is a dynamic network, showing what companies the 200 most prolific tweets were talking about. Both people and companies are nodes, and the edges change over the course of the day. Everytime a person tweets about a company, an edge is added connecting that person to the company. After 30 minutes, the edge decays. The companies are labeled, and the individuals are anonymized here”.)

I did not mention McLuhan’s global village ideas I made in a post recently but I have taken the fate of equus grevyi very seriously!


Males are highly territorial, claiming prime watering and grazing areas with piles of dung called middens. They generally live alone in their territories, except when females move through during mating season. Non-territorial males travel together in groups of two to six animals. This social system differs from that of other zebras, which typically form female harems that live in one male’s territory all year. During dry months, many Grevy’s zebras migrate to greener mountain pastures, but males on prime territories often remain there year-round.

Interestingly “each zebra has its own unique set of stripes, which are as distinctive as fingerprints”.

I would like to use the ecology of Grevy’s Zebra to discuss social networks stimulated by Dan Rubinstein’s 2007 paper and my experience of connectivism through my participation in CCK08 (and CCK09).

It is a discussion about digital ethnography too inspired by some of Michael Wesch‘s insights.

To be continued …

Global Villages, Connection Generation, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

The drive from my home to the University of Canberra gives me the luxury of listening to some great radio programs on Radio National and Classic FM. The journey takes eighty minutes and so by the time I arrive at the University or home on the return journey I have had the opportunity to listen to news, a range of ideas and composers. The rich resources of the ABC website enable me to follow up any of the day’s items.

On Friday (8 May) I was thinking about the Public Sphere discussions hosted by Kate Lundy. I had missed the event but had followed with interest the blog post news and the Twitter feed (the Twitter part of the discussion reminded me of some of the points Mark Scott had made at the National Library of Australia’s Innovative Ideas Forum). Just out of Braidwood I tuned in to Radio National’s Life Matters and was delighted to hear Richard Aedy‘s introduction to his Talkback program To Tweet or not to Tweet?

The guest on the program was Iggy Pintado. Iggy’s son and father joined him on the program to discuss the characteristics of connectivity. Iggy Pintado is the author of the Connection Generation.


It was interesting to learn that “the book reveals how individuals, groups and networks have progressed beyond their intent to communicate to a tangible connection between people, information, experiences and ideas”. The program used the tag #lm for Twitter during the discussions.

Jelle Marechal was on the program too. He discussed the potential of  a social network site such as GetaLife to create real world activities.

The audio recording of the program is here. A number of people called into the program and helped explore the role social network sites play in people’s lives. Two key issues for me were the discussion of a connected ‘global village’ and the range of connections we have with this village. I liked Iggy’s discussion of the invitational nature of social networks and the choices each of us makes to participate or not.

Just as Life Matters finishing I was driving up the hill past Lark Hill Winery and switched to Classic FM where there was a repeat of an interview between Margaret Throsby and Dan Rubinstein, Director of African Studies in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. The next forty minutes was a delightful exploration of Biocomplexity in the context of Professor Rubinstein’s study of zebras. On his Princeton University home page he notes that his research explores:

the rules governing animal movements and migration—and involves the interaction of ‘self-organizing’ behavioral movement rules, ecological information, and habitat structure at multiple spatial scales to understand how migratory animal movements respond to human induced land use change and how these changes in movement in turn affect population stability.

What was fascinating about the discussion was that it touched upon many of the group, network and community discussions in last year’s CCK08 course on connectivism and connected knowledge. I realise that it would have been fascinating to have shared a 2007 report Social Networking for Zebras (Science News Online, volume 172, number 22) with colleagues on the CCK08 course. But the immediate links with the Life Matters discussion that had taken me from Braidwood to Bungendore were very strong too.

Dan Rubintein’s analysis of the plains Zebra and the Grevy’s Zebra resonate with discussions about the formation and development of stable (and unstable) social networks in on-line communities. Iggy Pintado describes himself as a ‘super-connected‘ networker. His experience seems entirely congruous with the success of plains Zebras … an eco system of on-line engagement has emerged and has stabilised. I was left pondering if Robyn Williams’ approach to social networks discussed in Life Matters was akin to the Grevy’s Zebra experience and reflects a distinctive response to modernity that is very clear about the tools of conviviality used.

What a delightful way to spend eighty minutes!