Some days ago, Michel Bauwens pointed to a developing open source application, ShiftSpace, asking how this could be relevant to P2P.
ShiftSpace is an open source layer above any website. It seeks to expand the creative possibilities currently provided through the web. ShiftSpace provides tools for artists, designers, architects, activists, developers, students, researchers, and hobbyists to create online contexts built in and on top of websites.
A use in P2P was not immediately obvious to me, so I replied in the negative. But today, I came across an interview Michel gave to Robin Good, a friend and new media blogger, about P2P in education. From there, it was on to an article by Harold Jarche, on user generated context for learning.
An interesting point made in that article (quoting Umair Haque) was that users predominantly create context, not content, an important distinction to make.
Haque says that “context” is what most users generate and that content remains an area for professionals or at least the well-known amateurs. The rest of us just add context to what is flowing from the main information nodes, like TechCrunch or the New York Times. Understanding that most of us in the “long tail” generate context, not content, is an important differentiation.
Talking about context in education, Jarche concludes his article with the words
Creating good content on a platform that lets users (teachers & learners) add context may be the the real killer application in education. Content developers and institutions have been so concerned with protecting their content that they don’t see where the real value lies. Letting others add more context will only increase the value of their content.
An ability to add context to material available on websites is of course exactly what ShiftSpace strives to provide. You’ll need Firefox to use ShiftSpace, which is a collection of java scripts allowing to highlight text, attach “post it” notes, change images, and even edit the page’s source in html.
A quote from Michel’s interview with Robin Good makes it clear how ShiftSpace could be put to use in learning:
Robin Good: What Does P2P Mean for Learning Communities?
Well P2P in the context of learning is changing a presumption in the sense that what you want to learn is not necessarily outside of your community. It’s not out there, it’s basically collective intelligence that’s already present and implicit in the group itself. But of course the group basically, if you wanted, is worldwide. And so it’s how you can create a structure whereby you enable people to learn from each other, because you can never say beforehand where a particular piece of knowledge is that you look for. It can be one particular person, who had one particular experience at some point in time. You don’t know that, but he or she knows. So [the real question should be] how can you create a system where you can broadcast the needs and people can then self-aggregate and say “I know the answer to this question, I can teach you that”?