This is the topic of a 10-week MOOC being offered by Stephen Downes, which started this week. For the course outline see – https://el30.mooc.ca/course_outline.htm . Stephen said somewhere that he was trying to create an elegant site for the course. I think he has succeeded. I love this simple image and title.
On this site Stephen writes:
The premise of this course is that we are entering the third major phase of the world wide web, and that it will redefine online learning as it has previously. The first phase of the internet as it was originally developed in 1994, based on the client-server model, and focused on pages and files. The second phase, popularly called Web 2.0, created a web based on data and interoperability between platforms. In what is now being called web3, the central role played by platforms is diminished in favour of direct interactions between peers, that is, a distributed web.
I missed the beginning of the course (I’m not even sure which day it did begin), being away on holiday in the Trossachs, Scotland, where ironically it was very difficult to get an internet connection and was impossible to stream anything. Whilst we might assume that everyone everywhere is connected all the time, my experience this week suggests otherwise. Nevertheless, given the influence of Web 2.0 on what we understand by ‘truth’ and how to live ethically in this post-truth world, it seems important to me to ensure that we at least have an inkling of the developments which will lead to Web 3.0.
I am now back from the beautiful wilds of Scotland and connected again and have watched Stephen’s video introduction to the course, in which he provides an excellent overview of what the course will cover.
He told us that the course would be structured around the outline depicted in the figure below and then talked briefly about each element of the diagram.
The basic premise is that because we are moving from a world of documents to a world of distributed dynamic data, Web 3.0 will be based on a linked open data cloud. This means that the approach to learning will change. It will no long depend on remembering, but instead on pattern recognition. In this model, knowledge is pattern recognition.
So far, so good. Stephen then went on to discuss the significance of the Cloud and Graph elements of his diagram. Here he lost me. He told us that anyone could learn this if we put the effort in and that through this we would learn how to create new types of distributed and connected learning resources. I found myself thinking that I have always like driving; I know how to change a wheel, and when opening the bonnet where to top up the screen wash and oil. I can even jump start another car if necessary, but beyond this I am not interested. I take the car to the garage and let someone else with years of experience sort it out. Similarly with technology. I am simply not sufficiently interested to get into the nitty gritty. I am not interested in learning how to programme or learning different computer languages. I think there will probably be more people like me than technical experts (although maybe not on this course!), so I wonder what the implications of this are for a distributed model. Further, I like the fact that I can come to this course and know that Stephen has the experience, has done all the work and is willing to share this. I am grateful to him for this and his generous openness, but it does not make me want to learn programming 🙂
To return to his presentation, I was more interested in what he had to say about identity and community. I agreed of course that in social networks we are the product and that we are being exploited by large corporations such as Facebook and Twitter, who are selling and making a profit from our data, and I was encouraged by Stephen’s suggestion that in Web 3.0 the quantified self will give way to the qualified connected self, not measured by numbers but by our properties, affinities and things we have created. Our identity will be the thread that runs through an otherwise distributed, disconnected set of data. This made sense to me and I was intrigued by the idea that we will each have a private key to access the web. No more passwords!
I also appreciated his discussion about community, which he suggested will no longer be based on sameness, but on consensus and being able to make decisions together. This seems such an important point for education and for this to be able to function, as informed citizens, we will need some fundamental critical literacies, which he suggests are:
- Syntax – the ability to recognise patterns
- Semantics – the ability to assign the meaning, importance and value of something
- Context – being able to identify something in relation to its environment
- Cognition – inference, deduction, induction, for the best explanation
- Change – processes of change, regressions, cyclic change etc.
There was more about each point in his diagram, and there will be even more as the course progresses, but the key point is that a decentralised system is needed – a system which focusses on consensus and being able to make decisions together.
Having first heard Stephen’s and George Siemen’s ideas on the need for a decentralised, distributed, connected web ten years ago, when they ran the very first MOOC on connectivism in 2008, it is great to see how these ideas might be developing ten years on.