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Posted by on Jan 2, 2010

Warburton, object-centric and user-centric learning

Warburton refers to online social spaces as often being either object-centric spaces or ego-centric spaces. Object-centric spaces have at the core of their focus the object itself; several examples of this are Flickr, Digg and Dopplr. Ego-centric spaces place the individual at the core of the focus; these include LinkedIn and Facebook (Warburton, 7). However, most social networks have elements of both.

There are aspects of Facebook that are indeed object-centric (even while remaining true to the individual-focus of the user experience). When MySpace and Facebook were battling for user allegiance and supremacy (at least in the United States), there was an eventual perception that MySpace’s openness of user design (in essence, the user was allowed to do anything and everything they wanted to do in their individual space) was a weakness. MySpace lost ground as participation became messier and messier, while Facebook promoted active participation in an otherwise rigid construct. Facebook does not allow for alteration of the user page within the Facebook ecosystem; it is always in and of Facebook. The overall point is that Facebook is in some ways object-centric with the object being Facebook itself. Facebook is a walled garden and often the garden itself becomes the whole point of the exercise.

When discussing object and ego-centric online spaces, naturally the suitability of each for education becomes a question. Which is better for learning; which promotes a more active participation? A blended model seems perfectly appropriate in this context. Students as users need a sense of empowerment and ownership; having students carve out a personal space complete with their own branding and indentification promotes participation. A blog or personal page would be sufficient for this purpose. Having object-centric elements of the learning environment would prove beneficial educationally as well; Flickr is a good example in this context. Users are attracted to the objects themselves in Flickr and social connections and collaboration stem from that core utiliatarian purpose. The same could be true for an online object-centric learning environment. The educational objectives and/or content itself could be the object in which to focus participation.

Cameron in an object-centric learning environment in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He is present in the painting by identifying with it. He succumbs to its pace, rhythm, vibrancy, not the other way around

Both promote presence. In an ego-centric environment the presence is dictated by the focus and empowerment of the individual. This is my world, I have created it and it serves me. When it ceases to serve me, I will cease to be present in it. It is consumer choice personified and one must be careful to apply these ego-centric environments haphazardly to education as they accelerate the commodification of education into a mere consumer choice. If education is not good for the individual, then it is not good at all. It is the microeconomics of consumerism (individual as consumer of education) being applied on a macro scale (higher education realigning to the wants of the individual as filtered through the wants of private enterprise).

All that being said, one is present in an ego-centric world. One is also present in a object-centric environment, although at times this can be more of a passive existence. Object-oriented environments are often akin to museums; we come to study something, but it is not always something we can transfer to the self. It is outside us and communities are often formed around such objects, but it requires a disciplined participation to be considered present.

An ego-centric learning model; the focus is on squarely on the individual, so much so that the object being studied comes to the individual and not the other way around. Retrieved October 12, 2009, from http://www.dailyartfixx.com/2009/08/18/dante-horoiwa-brazillian-street-art/.

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