Open Pedagogy: Comparative Case Study of #IndieWeb and #ds106
This comparative case study analysis uses a Deweyian lens to illustrate how James Paul Gee's affinity spaces play out in two open pedagogy learning communities
- Power and Platforms
- Community, Knowledge, Democracy
- Community, Knowledge, Democracy
- Humans and sociotechnical Systems
- Aaddressing Barriers
- Acknowedging our Bias and Participation
McVerry, J.G., Jamieson, J. (2018). Open Pedagogy: Comparative Case Study of #IndieWeb and #ds106. A Paper presented at the 68th conference of the Literacy Research Association, Palm Springs, CA.
Power, platforms, and individuals
The internet, like many communication technologies before, has been described as both democratizing and oppressive. Celebrants have emphasized the Internet’s capacity for supporting new forms of collaboration, democratic participation, and community (e.g. Shirky, 2008, 2010). By contrast, skeptics have highlighted ways that the Internet may limit knowledge sharing and generation (e.g. Pariser, 2012). McChesney (2013) argued that celebrants and skeptics of the Internet present radically different perspectives, both with significant merits yet flawed by a lack of ‘political economic context’ (p. 13). We argue that platforms simultaneous empower and disenfranchise their users, and propose that personal websites can shift this balance in individuals' favour.
The Internet’s transformation away from personal websites and toward platforms has many positive effects: Notably it is easier than ever for many individuals to instantly communicate with masses of others. The rise of ‘Web 2.0’ in the mid-2000s broadened the Internet’s reach as platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and others made it accessible for individuals to produce and share content online. The business model supporting this participation is predicated on platforms’ capacities to aggregate and commodify users’ participation (Cohen, 2013), for example by “set[ting] inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use in the application” (O’Reilly, 2005, p. 5). Whereas barriers for online participation have lowered, this has generally been accomplished in ways that empower platform operators most of all.
One of the most effective design patterns for platforms has been to streamline or automate decision-making, so as to make it easier and faster for users to write, share, and interact with Web content. A key example of this strategy is the rise of algorithmic news feeds, which prioritize or diminish content based on automated decisions whose logic is rarely apparent to users (Eslami et al., 2015). Similarly, the proliferation of simple, predetermined interactions—e.g. likes, shares, retweets—across platforms and throughout the Web encourages frequent interactions which can be commodified as platform-ready data (Helmond, 2015).
This sort of streamlining makes the Internet more accessible by reducing the requirement and ability to make decisions about how and where to seek, respond to, and share knowledge. Many of the technical and other tasks required to maintain an online social world are simplified into a series of steps — scroll through a newsfeed, click 'like', write a reply — and this encourages individuals to use the internet in a way that generates commodifiable data for platform operators. Users enter a transactional relationship (Jarvis) where they provide data in exchange for ease of use.
Franklin's (2004) concepts of holistic and prescriptive technologies are useful for evaluating the democratizing power the web may have. Holistic technologies are those that support craft-like approaches where the wielder of a tool retains control of their process including decision-making and planning. Franklin, a deep critic of technology noted how prescriptive technologies limit our choice and freedom under illusion of convenience Much like a writer can shape their writers notebook based their whims someone can do the same from their own domain.
In contrast, prescriptive technologies enact a division of labour between planning and execution by reconstituting one large job as a series of small steps. A key consequence of prescriptive designs is that they “eliminate the occasions for decision-making and judgement in general and especially for the making of principled decisions” because “any goal of the technology is incorporated a priori in the design and is not negotiable” (Franklin, 2004, p. 18). While we rejoice at how online platforms have lowered barriers to online participation, this has come at the expense of opportunities for the sort of principled decision-making we want to instill in our students.
As educators we must shape the spaces of learning to meet ideals of democratic education (Dewey 1934). For Dewey democracy is a way of being, of experiencing the best collective action humans could muster. The same is true of the web. When we examine learnign as something to be managed through an LMS we do not provide students with the experience of building online networks necessary for knowledge brokering (cite).
Community Knowledge and Democracy
Community matters in the construction knowledge and therefore in building the web. Dewey (1927) noted, ‘[a] Great Community can only occur with free and full intercommunication’ (p. 211). In terms of fighting fake news and wrestling back control from powerful search engine and social media companies, we must build a shared experience around common goals with elements of experimentation and criticality (Bruce & Bishop, 2008). Such community inquiry allows people to construct knowledge from both the personal and the collective (Shore et al., 1996).
We take a research activist perspective that engaging in democratic education requires us to utilize holistic technologies to build community in the classroom. More importantly we believe moving our classrooms on to the web and into the open, will allow learners to share and reflect on how they develop knowledge.
The strongest of learning occurs around a shared goal (Lave & Wagner), and often the institutions of education may interfere with learning (Illich). Therefore we seek to study networked spaces where communities gather around a shared goal as community of practice. Additionally, legitimacy in such communities is achieved in part by adopting a common naturalization of the space's tools and artefacts, i.e. implicitly using those tools for similar purposes and with similar methods as fellow community-members (Bowker & Star, 2000). For this reason, holistic tools that afford critical interpretation and decision-making can contribute to communities that embody those values. These affinity spaces (Gee) often emerge organically and the learners who often fail in formal settings thrive.
Dewey (1934) noted that thinking occurs in "forked road situations" where we are presented with problems and must work through proposed alternatives. Dewey argued that through training we can transform learners’ natural capacities to project future outcomes into the habits of critical inquiry. To this end Dewey stressed the importance of reflection and on the connection of art and meaning.
When we only rely on prescriptive technologies we limit the number of decision making when curating communities and growing the knowledge of students. Students are nto afforded the opportunity to reflect on design. They have fewer needs to.
These thoughts and experiences are culturally mediated and involve practices and tools developed throughout our literate histories (Gutiérrez & Rogoff, 2003). The concentration of corporate power on the web creates a monoculture that threatens non-dominant narratives as users conform to one design aesthetic or, worse, get run off the web by actors more effective at network technologies.
Therefore we believe the best uses of technology for learning require greater user agency over the environment and the people whom make up our networks. Thus we examine learning as a brokering of knowledge (cite) in utilizing both people and networked technologies.
Humans and sociotechnical systems
Literacy and language have always intertwined with society. Halliday's exploration of language (1978) requires us to acknowledge how the web gets shaped by socio technical systems (Huges). We must acknowledge that the Web is not simply a technical system distinct from the social contexts into which it is deployed. Instead, just like every tool for literacy before it, the Web is a sociotechnical infrastructure whose components include its users, builders, maintainers, and other stakeholders (Hughes, 1987).
As a sociotechnical system this evokes issues of power (Focault). This power often goes unseen.When functioning smoothly, such infrastructures tend to fade into the background, obfuscating their constituent parts, historical trajectory, and the fierce debates that have shaped their influence upon the social order (Star, 1999, Sandvig, 2013). Prescriptive designs enhance the seamlessness of such systems, and in so doing reduce opportunities for contesting or choosing their future direction. From the perspective of users who are discouraged from considering how the design might be different, such technologies achieve a sense of closure (Pinch & Bijker, 1987).
Latour's (2004) distinction between matters of fact and matters of concern can help consider this issue. Latour identifies matters of fact as those features of the world we perceive as stable and beyond our control, and matters of concern as things that exist in flux and demand critique and engagement to shape their futures. When technologies present limited options for their use, they are likely to be taken as matters of fact, since they appear beyond the influence of most individuals. Forms of engagement with technology that simultaneously promote critical inquiry and technical fluency can encourage turning the relationship between technology and society into a matter of concern (e.g. Ratto, 2001).
For the past thirty years we have looked at the sociotechnical system of the web as a technology issue and not a literacy issue (Leu, 2015). This has lead to educators utilizing prescriptive, rather than holistic technologies to manage the web. This in turn further reduces the ability of students to read, write, and participate on the web as they do not touch the material language, HTML, used on the web.
Simply put the way we teach the web today would be like requiring students to read a book without learning to write a web. We are asking people to become writers but providing them with tools they can not shape and with pages already half filled. We believe a better way forward is to provide all learners with a space online to shape their own truths and networks.
We believe the best way to support an open web is to encourage, and specifically design sociotechnical systems for our students to learn from a website they control. This in turn may improve their digital literacy skills while also allowing students to exert considerable agency, while we increase their potential to shape the internet more broadly.
The shaping of these spaces for democratic education requires us to consider the shape of learning in these spaces. Any reader of these results should know our truth is shaded by a future we hope for and actively build towards.
As a theoretical lens we apply the concept of Affinity Spaces to surface characteristics of learning spaces we should apply to classrooms using web technologies. James Paul Gee built off the work of Communities of Practice. He chose affinity spaces to delineate from physically defined communities. Instead groups, offline, online or both, gather around a shared goal (2004).
In these spaces of and for learning a learner apprentice's more with the community rather than a specific teacher (2004). Learning occurs through joint action where we pair with more advanced peers around our individual goals but united by our shared goal. Gee makes the distinction between communities of practice around the concepts of space. We learn in these socio technical systems as much from the space as we do from any individual learner.
We utilized Ges's affinity spaces as a lens to investigate learning on the web from a Deweyian perspective. Gee outline 11 principles of affinity spaces for our analysis we operationalizes these theoretical into four overarching themes: goals, organizational structure, content creation and knowledge brokering.
Acknowledging our Bias and Participation
Given the theoretical underpinnings that we must help to build a better web and our belief that the spaces of learning matter more than individual students and educators we both actively participate in these communities. Furthermore as community engaged scholars we conduct research as praxis. We seek to understand how things could be, rather than are they are or where they are.
Therefore readers must recognize that our description of the pedagogies that emerge from these communities could be impacted by our involvement or close personal relationships. We do not try to account for this bias in our analysis but rather embrace it in conclusions we draw from the data.
The data are as independent from our bias as possible. This is a preliminary case study designed to identify variables of interest that can be used in follow up studies. To reduce bias in the data collection and analysis we utilized multiple sources and then triangulated this with community checks.
The goal of the the preliminary results is to identify data sources and analysis methods a priori before a more in depth analysis. This project utilized a comparative case study, using matrix analysis, to identify themes and pedagogical patterns of learning in two affinity spaces.
Given our goal of describing learning from your own website we chose two spaces to study that were deeply entrenched in blogging communities. DS106 and IndieWeb. DS106 was an online digital storytelling class launched in 2008. IndieWebCamp was a movement focused on personal ownership of the social web that began in 2010.
These spaces were ideal for comparative case study analysis of networked learning. They share a relative similarity in age, the participants and founders often overlap, and more importantly they utilize a similar worldview that governs the sociotechnological systems deployed by each affinity space.
At the same time the networks were composed of different audiences with various skill levels. IndieWebCamp, organized around a principle of a deliberately limited approach aimed at a first generation of users through a fourth generation of users. DS106 began as an online digital storytelling class, but created a traveling artist bard of networked educators that migrate from each other's distributed learning classes.
The first principle of having one's own space or website still unites these communities. For DS106 this often included people new to both blogging and social media. For IndieWebCamp it is a multi-generational organization founded by early web alumni and developers both young and old. Both communities reflect the historical inequities found in technology and in MOOC completion rates.
Data sources centered around the networks where these spaces gather. For IndieWebCamp this involved searching the chat logs at https://chat.indieweb.org and for #DS106 an archive of Twitter hashtags was used. Aggregate data of pattern usage was collected for each communities. We also used podcasts and videos of members were also used. The variety of data sources created a rich mosaic of illustrative artifacts.
Data sources for the #IndieWeb community were much more rich, well documented and open when compared to #ds106. Extra data sources included a search engine. We were able to search 2300 sites, 5.7M web ages, 380GB HTML data and use this with a Social graph API and interactive map: 631M links, 706K relationships.
A deeper search of the web or other standards communities in the social spaces s should also be included for criticism and critiques of the web. However, as noted, we actively seek to iterate and improve on these learning spaces.While we acknowledge this influences how we describe our cases we also made efforts to understand the power relationships in these sociotechological systems.
We also should include a second case study of an open classroom to compare to #DS106. Such an approach would help
Inclusion and Rejection Criteria
Given the preliminary nature of this study the inclusion and rejection criteria were not well defined. The matrices were shared with the communities involved and participants were encouraged.
In fact many of the artifacts submitted were from the #DS106 community.
Use of Open Data
The links to artifacts shared in this study are governed by the Terms and Service of the platform, and hopefully of someone's personal website. All links to chats in the IndieWeb are archived under a public domain license. While this data is available publicly, publishing online doesn't mean people assume they give up their privacy. All efforts were made to contact any person who was directly quoted in the study. Any person had the right to remove their quote or change any perceived connotative meaning. This level of member checks improves both the ethics and reliability of the study.
While we annotated and recorded the data collection openly on our websites we have made some private citations. We ask our audience to accept these personal accounts and respect our places as as members in the community. While conflict in learning spaces can provide insight we feel ethically obligated to protect the people and communities we care about.
The 11 attributes of Gee's affinity were placed as the criterion in a matrix. Multiple cells were then created for each of the principle communities. We then scoured
First we began with a matrix utilizing Gee's 11 characteristics of Affinity Spaces (see appendix or we can put in table/aside if publisher allows). These were then cross populated with evidence collected. We then examined the data across the matrix using our theoretical lens as a tool for data reduction.
This lead us to collapse the 11 principles into four descriptive themes: goals, organizational structure, content creation, and knowledge brokering. Once we had the four agreed upon themes we returned to the data sources and looked for illustrative examples from within the community.
Participatory Narrative Analysis
This final level of data reduction occurred within the process of writing. This also involved the community and shaped by the community. For example #ds106 participants help to curate resources and complete the analysis. The #IndieWeb community built search tools to aid in our eforts. Both groups criticized us ift hey felt we did not represent the community.
Extensive field notes were taken during the final phase of participatory learning environment and can be found at https://quickthoughts.jgregorymcverry.com/content/all/?q=%23el30, https://quickthoughts.jgregorymcverry.com/content/all?q=%23ds106, and https://quickthoughts.jgregorymcverry.com/content/all?q=%23indieweb.
These methods allowed us to reach data saturation while creating comparative case studies to examine learning.
#DS106 Case Study
DS106, Digital Storytelling 106, began marked the first time a MOOC wasn’t used to either study open education or the use of tools like social media or wikis. In fact the online class was the first distributed classroom utilizing both the plumbing and the philosophy of open pedagogy to teach domain specific knowledge of digital storytelling. DS106 brought an ethos of focusing on the web as our primary source of identity. From this perspective the first step in learning digital storytelling is figuring out how to tell the story of you.
For Jim Groom, course creator, this meant starting with your personal cyberinfrastructure (Gardner, 2010) and a Domain’s of One’s Own. Groom felt students shoul join a community of creators, make stuff, and reflecting on the process of all three .The community gathers loosely under an ethos of what Jim Groom coined as “EduPunk.” A Do-It Yourself approach to learning that rejects the corporate interest in the formulation of edtech.
DS106 began at the University of Mary Washington in 2010 as an online adaption of a computer science class focused on digital story telling taught by Jim Groom and Martha Burris. To date the class has aggregated and archived over 76 thousand blog post. The class is taught for credit on college campuses but their is also an avid cult like following (Downes, 2018) that creates a multi-generation affinity spaces. The community support page has over 60 names of open participant who made the hall of fame for their support of the open course work.
In terms of the socio-technical system DS106 works with every student having their own blog. These posts are then fed to an RSS aggregator. The majority of students taking the class are college students who take the class for credit. However there are approximately thirty people who participate almost every day annually.
DS106 also relied heavily of Twitter and Google+ as social networks. In the 2014-2015 year, for example, over a thousand people used the #ds106 hashtag on Twitter sharing 14,361 tweets. 402 people sent more than two tweets, 210 participants sent over 10 tweets, and 30 people sent over 100 tweets.
The class included the module of events and then a series of daily creates that are randomly chosen from an assignment bank of hundreds of task. There are also a series of weekly events found in traditional classes. In some semesters there was a physical classroom presence and other semesters a mix of online or physical drop in help.
At the same time the larger DS106 community began to flourish and launch separate programs such as a 24 hour radio station playing to this day. "DS106radio is interesting in week one there was no #ds106 radio. I put out a Twitter message like, 'you know what #ds106 needs is a radio station" Then an open participant in Canada took it upon himself to set up a server and start a radio station. This rhizomatic growth of learning (Cormier, 2015) would not be possible without the holistic technologies used in human sociotechnical systm. There were community spun classes around Noir and Westerns. The group was very active on Google+ and on Twitter. Especially completing daily creates with a hashtag that is very active.
Shared Goals as a Community
#DS106Radio4Life and #Ds1064Life these call to actions permeated many of the artifacts collected as part of this study, and you can hear in the open participants voices how much they take it to heart. http://www.edutalk.info/the-ds106-good-spell-episode-38/ (Johnston & Funes, n.d.). A call many open participants answer to a class that college professors teach all over the world.
DS106 is the shared endeavor. Many strive to build and support the community while supporting each other as digital remix artists.Yet at the same time the shared endeavor that drives #ds106 is in the art of defining oneself through storytelling and by building our a domain of "online".
Groom (2008) defined his vision early on:
"A digital identity should be an online address one can have no matter where they are, a space where you can track that person as they move not only from being a freshman to a sophomore, but from an undergraduate to a graduate and beyond. An online home where they consciously integrate their professional profile through a streaming set of resources and spaces they inhabit online."
In fact for Groom and Marth Burris who designed the first iterations of the class. Encouraging people to make was always the primary goal right behind the other primary goal of making yourself onlin. Jim described it as, "an experiment in thinking where we ask the students to frame their narrative on their own space and on their own way" (Groom & Burris, 2011)
The students also reflected these goals One noted, "In just two weeks I was doing something I have never done before. I have a blog. Something I am very proud of. As the student looks back at the page." (Linda, 2012). As the student panned over a two week reflection post in a fnal course reflection. In the post she discusses how cool it is to have her own website. Other students noted how much more they were writing and remixing and the spikes they had in creativity (Forsyth, 2011).
The course does has specific learning objectives yet the assessment is also community driven.
- Develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression.
- Frame a digital identity wherein you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking
- Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres
The students have a specific website where they can nominate each other. DS106 also has a community supported and built wall of fame. Mainly though assessment is done through self reflection and sharing posts about what you did and why you did it. This creates a "circuit of reflective thought" (Gee, 2013) that supports both the individual and the community endeavors and thereby helps grow #DS106 as a space.
DS206 is organized around college campuses. This does provide monetary support for instructors. However the open participants usually stick to the daily creates or may choose a themed class like "Noir" or "Westerns: to join even if these are hosted by different universities.
These local nodes create knowledge centers in the network. Alan Levine describes the growth as fractal:
but they are not all the same- different courses, different education levels, and each one not taking the course as a single product, but reframing it for their own needs. These are not just carbon copies of ds106, but mutants, lovel mutants, and in some sense fractal, especially around the core of the assignment bank.
The different participants and classes would network together through aggregated RSS feeds, using the #ds106 hashtag on Twitter and a Google+ community.
Membership Pathways and Barriers
While the community strives around a common endeavor there is a distinction between those students who take the class as part of their college class. You see this in the sharp drop off of participation. This #MandatedTweet (Kist, 208) phenomenon occurs when students complete tasks. Such a powerimpance is also seen in the analysis of links.
(Insert Martin ) Picture
An analysis of over 20,000 The wider open participants rarely link and communicate with each other based on an analysis of links. DS106 instructors accounted for this phenomenon by introducing "daily shoots" a period where pictures had to be taken every day. This has morphed into an assignment bank that generates a ne #Daily Create every day. A strong focus on community as curriculum has helped newer participants feel welcome.
(Insert Death Star picture) An visual analysis of the hashtag #ds106 also reveals a concentration of power among a small number of people in the network. There are many participants outside of the connections that simply lurk or hand in their assignments by posting a tweet. It could also be noted a concentration of links emerging from an instructor should be how a node on learning network should loog (Levine
Older members of the community also work to welcome newcomers. In lurking is celebrated as a form of learning. "We have a place for you, when you are ready come on through" A collaborative song lyric on the power of learning while lurking in the community (Hodgson & Funes, 2018).
There are debates, based on Twitter logs, if elder members feel they need to hold back on sharing really elaborate digital texts as being too intimidating early on, but each course as a promotional video that shares a "Bring it on" attitude when it comes to remixing text. For example in a video recorded by Alan Levine to announce his class he remixes multiple layers of audio and video.
Students while no developing deep connections on either social media or blogs still respond positively to the class. One student noted. "Between the creativity, remixing my culture, and creating a communi... actually tapping into an amazing community [sic]The people I have met have blown my mind" (Forsyth, 2011). In the majority of reflection post collected for this study students note the importance of looking up to the open participants.
Still the use of of new blogging paradigms and the pedagogical focus towards openness may not be welcoming to all students. The DS106 community noticed this trend and began to offer a week zero, which was a sign up and help week before class. Many on the ground iterations offered drop in help.
Leadership Pathways and Barriers
The pathways to leadership for open participants reolve around creating and engaging in narrative creation. Major offshoots like DS106 radio, and share narratives all launched by open particpants. The class has also ran without as an experiment with no formal instructor.
DS106 often spawned offshoot communities such as #netnarr https://sites.google.com/view/netnarr-mediajumping/home and the Conneced Leaning MOOC, originally sponsored by the National Writing Project. Many of the participants in these communities overlap and are found in other online courses such as Rhizomatic Learning #MoocMooc, and others.
This rhizomatic learning and leadership (Cormier, 2015) grew out of early learning around a podcast started in 2005 called #edtechtalk and then continued in open courses since Connectivism Course in 2008. The principles of #ds106 and the leadership that supports the communities all travel through these sociotechincal systems.
Gee defines affinity spaces as production based places to learn. The content created in affinity spaces is encourages at every level. The content itself then shapes the spaces through a process of welcome iteration. This space then influences the content participants make. Everything is malleable.
The evidence gathered from DS106 illustrates the importance of making as part of an ethos of learning. As a story telling class content creation became a central tenant. The announcement for the 2017 version of the course has a mashup of different spy movie songs and scenes including mission impossible James Bond, and Austin Powers.
Currently there 800 assignments in the media and the daily creates get published. Top date over 17,00 posts have been collected by more than 800 people. The top five daily create participants have submitted over 1,200 posts this year.
In fact as the the final step of data reduction was occuring during this study new content was being created from the artifacts I was collecting while participants, organizers, and other pedagogy scholars discussed definitions and patterns.
(Insert @dogtrax comic)
Gee makes multiple distinctions of different types of knowledge in his definition of Affinity Spaces. Most importantly Gee notes that Affinity spaces encourage tacit knowledge. These ideas and ways of being that are not easily expressed are found in networks driven by holistic technologies such as the #ds106 class.
Affinity Spaces also value individual and distributed knowledge. This is where the networked technologies augment our ability to think and solve problems. This occurs throughout DS106 where people contribute to community tutorials in Google+ communities.
Extensive, or broad knowledge and intensive, or specialized knowledge are also encouraged in affinity spaces, and like the other types of knowledge that Gee identifies we find examples of each. However we found so much overlap when trying to categorize learning or events into knowledge.
Instead we chose to focus our case studies on Knowledge Brokering. In these spaces knowledge is not learned by memorizing sets of discrete skills or rote practicing of video editing. Instead participants in spaces like #ds106 exchange strategies through a process of knowledge brokering.
Brokering, from a sociologist perspective is a service one individual can provide to another or in the case of affinity spaces to the endeavor writ large. In terms of knowledge brokering we build off of Ching, Santo, Hoadley, & Pepler (2015) work into learning brokering in youth spaces. Brokering provides access to ideas and serving wider needs needs (Burt, 2005; Stovel & Shaw, 2012). Using this lens on affinity spaces we see how this knowledge exists in the space and endeavor of the community.
In #ds106 we see an exchange of techniques driven mainly through remix. Many of the project's, much like the class itself get remixed. Through this act tacit cultural knowledge on the value of creation, ownership, and attribution are spread. Extensive knowledge of blogging techniques grow. Then many, may specialize in technical skills, video production, photogrpahy.
A key tenant of #ds106 which supports knowledge brokering is the publication of reflection post explaining how different projects were made.
IndieWeb Case Study
IndieWeb was founded in 2011 and describes itself as “a people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’” (IndieWeb.org, 2018). IndieWeb’s contributors build and use tools to help web creators own their own content by hosting it on their own Web domain. On its homepage, three reasons are presented for using the IndieWeb instead of centralized platforms: “Your content is yours”; “You are better connected”; and “You are in control” (IndieWeb.org, 2018). To achieve these goals, IndieWeb's community publishes web content to personal websites, rather than relying on corporate platforms. IndieWeb sites are configured to communicate replies, likes, and other social media interactions directly to other sites, without a platform acting as intermediary. In recognition that many of their friends and family use social media platforms, IndieWeb sites also syndicate posts to various platforms, and then aggregating responses from across those sites back to the original post.
IndieWeb was conceived after co-founders Aaron Parecki and Tantek Çelik attended the 2010 Federated Social Web Summit. The two connected with Amber Case and Crystal Beasley to continue in spirit and goals of the conference, but using a different approach. According to Amber Case, the "2010 Federated web summit too much talk not enough build."
The group wanted a more production based approach "Let's write this spec, and start this mailing list, and what about this idea," Case continued in a criticism of w3c efforts to around the social web. Çelik has noted that most participants at the summit were focused on “what could be possible [in the future]” rather than “what was possible [now]” (Çelik, 2014).
The following year in 2011 the group worked to organize the first IndieWeb Camp event in Portland, Oregon. The event was focused on discussing and building tools to own one's own data on a personal website "rather than posting content on many third-party silos of data" (“IndieWebCamp,” 2011). The instructional design followed a barcamp model, the protgenesis of EdCamps. Tantek Çelik also helped to launch BarCamps.
Amber Case explained why early on IndieWeb camp put such a focus on building from your own site first."The whole point is you implement something and you show it to the community. Whoever has the best story doesn't win, the best implementation wins" "You can't make the perfect spec. That is a Platonic ideal"After the event, a decision was made not to keep in touch via an email list, but instead to use the Web. Çelik (2014) explained this choice, "You're not going to email your way into building a website. So we said we don't need it, we're not going to use email. We're going to use the web itself to build the web that we want."
IndieWeb has grown significantly in the intervening years. Between 2011 and 2018, IndieWeb's community has held over 600 events in cities across North America, Europe, and other Western countries (“Events - IndieWeb,” 2018). In 2017, an member of IndieWeb's community named Ryan Barret identified over 2300 of the most active IndieWeb sites around the world (Barrett, 2017), and thousands of people have posted online to IndieWeb's wiki and chatrooms. To date over one million Webmentions, a tool that allows IndieWeb sites talk together have been sent.
Shared Goals as Community
Overall having your own place on the web became the rallying cry of the IndieWeb. As one member notes, "Have a home, express myself, and internet citizenship" (Slatkin, 2012).The IndieWeb wiki list your content is yours, you are better connected and you are in control as the main beneifts of turning to the people-focused alternative to the "corporate web". All of the socio technical systems that have emerged in the community support this goal. This means the tools and and learning spaces to enable everyone'e websites to talk together.
This commitment to owning your data and controlling how you publish on the web drives the IndieWeb community. The concept of ownership is captured in the three values listed on the wiki homepage and in the principles of the group.As one participants notes:
Now I’m not a Web Developer, but I think I’d like to try my hand at it. I don’t need to centralize all of my data but I would like an online presence that I control. Something that I could constantly work on. Something that’s never finished. Much like the web itself.
The building your own space also connects to the shared value of "show don't tell." The idea of showing before talking became a central organizing tenant of IndieWebCamp. In fact the first principle suggested by the community revolved around self dogfooding:
Eat your own dogfood. Whatever you build should be for yourself. If you aren't using it, why should anybody else? More importantly, build the indieweb around your needs. Others can do likewise. (Morris, 2012).
While there is debate to the etymology of the term of "eating your own dog food" the phrase grew in popularity in the tech world in when in 1988 a manager at Microsoft sent an email titled "Eating your Own Dogfood" that described using the products before you build them.
This driving principle influences much of the early web community. In fact in the community detailed how they were not planning for the masses and specifically noted they "were not designing for all." While this did create inequities and reinforce traditional barriers of access in technology it assumed a smaller platform for testing and developing technology.
This is why I think it is exciting that the IndieWeb inherently follows this method. Work small, demo, integrate into the whole what works, and you get this emergent structure out of that that’s resilient, with things evolving at the edges out of people exploring new projects. (Case, 2014).
Overall community is essential in to IndieWeb and much of the energy originally poured into code by key organizers and founders now goes to to supporting the community. There are 3726 mentions of community minus WordPress and Mozilla. 4027 mentions of community when you include allies. 311 mentions of diversity, 113 results for inclusion,399 mentions of conduct when you remove wiki edits #IndieWeb. As co-founder Aaron Parecki notes:
"Community is a huge aspect. It is a big differentiator. We are all working on a shared goal but we are all doing it by having our websites talk together and work on the problem together."
As well as IndieWeb's immediate community, its members value connections to friends and family who do not operate personal websites. IndieWeb sites are commonly configured to syndicate posts to popular platforms such as Twitter, and then copy retweets, likes, and other responses back to one's personal website.
[This] is about staying in touch with current friends now, rather than the potential of staying in touch with friends in the future. --https://indieweb.org/POSSE
This highlights IndieWeb's commitment to working with current real-world systems instead of imagining an idealized future.
Membership and Barriers
While not "allowing the best story to win" does provide for greater inclusion of voices early on #IndieWeb had a strict requirement that you had to have a domain or website to attend an event.
Early IndieWeb events had formal requirements that participants had to be creators, "someone that actually creates on the web with your own website" (Çelik, 2014). Those requirements have been relaxed, but having a personal website remains a de facto requirement for most participation.
"Number One thing you have to do is sign into the website. If you didn't have your own domain you could talk all you wanted to but you had to show at least you are dedicated to the cause of owning your own data." "This filtered out the didn't want to do the iota of work, these people are interested in talking but they don't implement." (Case, 2014)
After 2014, when Çelik attended an anniversary party of the Homebrew Computer Club, a hacker group attended by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, he proposed adding a Homebrew Website Club. Since that time there have been hundreds of people onboarded to the community. In fact a search of IndieWeb chat records reveal 112 posts from people mentioning HWC and 5618 post for "first IndieWebCamp. This marked a shift in the organization to more open membership from the exclusionary role of focusing specifically on developers who could spin uop their own websites.
The relaxation of the membership requirements also aligned with a large increase of press in 2013-2014,.IndieWeb received significant press coverage in Wired (Finley, 2013), Slate (Gillmor, 2014), and Gigaom (Ingram, 2014a, 2014b) and This Week in Google (Marx, Wermuller, Riley, 2014). This lead to an expansion of people to the IndieWeb and there are now 5618 posts cataloged in the chat archive about "first indiewebcamp" (minus your).
Still the large technical barriers existed that made much of the IndieWeb available to the masses. As noted this was by design. "Designing for the masses" is considered an anti-pattern of the IndieWeb, which are practices antithethical to the community. The wiki notes,
Designing for "mass adoption" is one of the traps that many past federated/social web efforts fell into.
It's a form of distraction: instead of designing/building what's immediately useful to you, the creator, you end up ratholing on what "everyone" or "the average person" seemingly wants, https://indieweb.org/antipatterns
This approach, while drastically increasing barriers to entry also protected the community of developers. There are two main developers and maintainers of all the IndieWeb WordPress themes and plug-ins. The focus on self-dogfooding versus building for the masses ensures tools get iterated and tested by the needs of the maker.
To this end the community has used a model that groups indieweb adopters into "generations" with gen1 developers getting further from everyday gen4 users as "Each Generation should be best at explaining IndieWeb to the next Generation. Each Generation should focus on filling in the gaps between one generation to the next" creating a staircase approach to knowledge dissemination. In fact as soon as you get to gen2 users suddenly technology must be done "With a wizard to help them cast the spells." In terms of gen4 users and the IndieWeb, "Introducing Gen4 to the IndieWeb is not yet reasonable at this time."
While the Generations page has not been seriously updated since 2014 the community has made strides to redefine loose membership as
"Be able to share and discuss and publish from your own website and ideally from your own domain name in a way that is not adversely controlled by another company" (Werdmuller & Downes, 2018).
In 2018 the barrier to membership and events was lowered further with a goal of attracting more event organizers. At the 2018 NYC leaders meeting it was decided to add an entry level event of IndieWeb meetup for people who found the word "club" or "Homebrew Website Club" exclusionary based on assumed required work of recruiting members and having repeated events.
Membership in the community was also signified by the use of microformats, a special kind of markup data used in HTML. Microformats were first used in 2004 but were largely abandoned by large search engine companies which in turn influenced to the metadata used by those seeking favor with search algorithms. Many of the IndieWeb building blocks use microformats to communicate with each other.
While symbols hold communities together (Dewey) and often unite affinity spaces (Gee) they can also act as walls for potential members who may not understand or choose to adopt these sign systems. In terms of the IndieWeb community discussions around web standards historically reflected an argumentative discourse prevalent. The founders themselves cite the "RSS/Atom Wars" as a demise in the early blogospher (Case, 2014, Çelik, 2014).
While recent efforts have been made to reduce "snark" on some of the pages of the wiki, the site does have a history of placing increased bias on different strategies that the community may find as "anti-pattern." See https://indieweb.org/bitcoin. for example where the crypto-c This form of discourse may not be inclusive to all participants and may represent a barrier to membership.
While the majority of those who self identify as IndieWeb use microformats to connect their website they do now use a membership gateway of "having your own website." However the community still uses the lens of "show and not tell" any technology for the social web that doesn't have two examples of people using the metadata structure and two examples of something consuming the data is considered "talk." The IndieWeb community, through the use of microformats, has gotten closest to a social web from personal websites, and is one of the few technologies to pass the show and not tell.
Overall microformats demonstrate the power of signs and symbols to sustain a community. In terms of socio-technical system the use of microformats also acted as a barrier to membership. While still in compliance with web standards microformats works on websites the same way as CSS, which controls the way pages look such as colors and fonts.
This caused large technical difficulties for CMS platforms. A recent proposal (IndieWeb/Berlin, 2018) discussed using the property tag commonly used by RDFa, a different metadata type. This issue gets compounded by history as Google once promoted and then abandoned microformats for a different kind of metadata they started to promote. This left many themes and templates littered with older versions of microformats no longer supported.
However, in terms of metadata actively being used in open communities microformats provides both an identity and functionality. Almost every other form of open social data remains theoertical. Whereas a small blogging community and recent growth of the #Fediverse, where communities like Mastodon use microformats have created a web of community.
Leadership and Barriers
Given the already stated barriers of access inherent in the community, the access to leadership style aligns well to Gee's Affinity space model. To attend, what was called the "Leaders" meeting a person had to organize at least two Homebrew Website Club events in the previous year. All Leaders meetings were usually streamed, though not recorded, but documented on an etherpad. This etherpad is archived but a version is converted to a page on the wiki.
Efforts have been made to increase the number of organizers and to diversify leadership. Recently the decision was to change from 'leaders' to 'organizers' represents an effort to make the path to leadership more accessible. Notably, it is intended that anyone can become a 'leader' and the terminology was off putting (private citation).
With so many global events privilege, as in many facets of life, also creates barriers to leadership. Many organizers have professional arrangements with employers or work remotely as digital nomads. While a remote feed is made available hours of household silence maybe impossible in households with children (private citation).
Overall content creation in the In
- Creating tools for supporting indieweb sites (e.g. technical standards, software, design guidelines)
The exchange of knowledge exist at the center of brokering as a metaphor for learning. In Knowledge brokering models people can act as bridges. Yet the #IndieWeb community also demonstrates how the archiving of knowledge also interacts with the web and automation through “bots”
As an illustrative example we can look at a chat archive, of one of the author’s who asked the bot Loqi , “What is a fragment URL?” Had there been a page on the wiki the bot would have come back with the answer. Then another community steps and asks the question to point me towards the correct page. He then uses the bot to make a new page linking to the correct if anyone asks the question I just asked.
At the same time agentive learning drives There are 785 mentions of "my first" 381 mentions of "don't know how" and 1682 mention of "learn" 501 mentions of "itches" 515 for "itch" (minus edited to remove wiki edits) 439 results for goals (also not accounting for wiki edits) in #IndieWeb chat logs
Art of the Self in Blogging and Learning
Both the the #IndieWeb and the #DS106 community put an emphasis on first creating your own space on the world and then connecting with others. This common element explains much of the success of both communities. For open source and open classes to survive and grow they must cultivate the learner while also allowing the learner to cultivate using the knowledge of the community.
Dewey recognized the impossibility to separate art from learning and the role of community in the art. In fact he wrote:
Hence an experience of thinking has its own aesthetic quality. It differs from those experiences that are acknowledged to be aesthetic, but only in its materials. The material of the fine arts consists of qualities; that of experience having intellectual conclusion are signs or symbols having no intrinsic quality of their own, but standing for things that may in another experience be qualitatively experienced.
The same good be said about writing yourself on the web as Dewey says for the material of fine arts. There are so many incidents of intellectual conclusions from learners in both communities. From adding a new feature to your website or building a new CMS. Yet these culminate into the aesthetic experience of building a personal digital infrastructure.
The focus on the art of the experience makes both these communities thrive because the community itself gets sustained by the very creation of art. In other words the more people who make websites the better #ds106 and #indieweb communities act at helping people build websites.
Community and Democracy as Curriculum
In both of these communities learning began with the “self” whether through “scratching your own itch” or building a “Domain of One’s Own” yet at the same time in both learning spaces a recognition that the self grows best in service to the community exists. “Networks are based on voluntary association (otherwise, the forming/breaking of connections doesn't mean anything) (Downes, 2018).
In these communities there are both voluntary and mandatory associations.In #DS106, there are the university students, their instructors and all the support, systems and barriers that come with formal learning environments. Yet there is also a strong community of open participants that never really stop #ds1064Life.
Human Sociotechnincal Solutions
In both #ds106 and #IndieWeb signs and symbols serve both a technical purpose and as a signifier of membership. In #ds106 thi is the collection of hashtags in the community. For the #IndieWeb community this is the role of microformats. These strong symbolic connections act to reinforce memberships in the affinity spaces.
While both communities claim to be "headless" or lacking formal organizational structure both communities large majorities rely on authoritative skills. This was evident in both the open participants of #ds106 and in the few members of the IndieWeb community that control "single points of failure." Large portions of underlying code or services are run by few members. As O'Neil noted:
The hierarchisation and control which, by all accounts, structure offline human interactions, while not formally organized does exist in single authoritative points in the network (2006).
Yet it may be these single points that also drive the success of the activity of the community. In social network analysis authority is often defined as strength of connections. Yet in both of these communities the overall distributed network gets maintained by decentralized local communities that contribute back to the shared endeavor.
The local communities in both IndieWeb and Ds106 connect back to the larger group through a variety of socio-technical solutions. For #DS106 this was mainly commercial social media platforms. For the IndieWeb community they rely on tools more seen in the field of technology such as Slack, IRC, and wikis. AS Gee noted, “The genius of human beings was and is the invention and use of tools to make themselves smarter.” The communities illustrate that models of intelligence and knowledge can not be based on the learner and instructor as the space of learning itself augments and builds knowledge while being shaped by knowledge growth.
Both communities demand high levels of intensive knowledge from participants. This does take work and having the time and freedom to do this work does come with privilege. Many in the #ds106 community are educators and artist who are driven to live the writerly life often as models for their students.
The #IndieWeb community remains a 100% volunteer network. The community, like much of the tech world, trends white and male but photographic records do show a long history of multi-generational learning. It must be noted the community had female founders and the first IndieWebCamp had equal gender representation. Yet the community early on made focus on inclusion. The 2011 web summit comprised of 25% of attendees who self identified as women compared to three at prior events around the social web https://indieweb.org/2011/Guest_List#Final_Count 25% of participants were women (9/36).
Barriers of entry have been inadvertently reinforced by the earlier barrier of entry of having your own domain. This criterion of membership was relaxed. Even in Persona work, a design activity where you draw up characters and guess their needs. Only the "cool kids" could build websites. "Tom" the developer is "38y, single/independent, technophilic, self-employed technology consultant, self-optimizer. While "social media human Ellie" is "impulsive" a "unique snowflake" and 54 year old "social media skeptic Penny" is " unable to cope." While these pages represent one series of sessions from 2016-2017 they may reflect traditional societal barriers in how characters were drawn up.
As stated around 2014 the #IndieWeb community began to refine levels of membership as having your own place online. The barriers to membership were relaxed especially after the introduction of Homebrew Website Club. This events allowed strong authoritative centers of local networks to grow.
There is a cost to these efforts/ In fact as noted not everyone can afford a domain or the credit card industry which domain hosting uses does not work in many parts of the world (Bali, 2018).
Participants at these sites have access to relatively holistic authoring tools, especially when compared to platform-based alternatives. While this introduced extra friction to the writing process the struggle became part of the experience (Dewey) Both communities in this study were focused on getting people online for the first time. This relied on differentiated tiers of content creation as people who built tools for themselves that became tools for the community.
DS106 and IndieWeb strive for a sense of individual ownership over not only the content of one's website but also the process of its creation. In practice, the web publishing tools used among participants have a range of prescriptiveness. Novice web designers are likely to rely upon easy-to-use content management systems such as WordPress, which are more flexible than sites like Facebook and Twitter but nonetheless encourage standardized structures including chronologically based blogs and ready-made 'themes' for determining the appearance of sites. In contrast, highly skilled participants may build their own software or write their site's HTML from scratch, in which case they can control exercise greater control over their work process and decisions. Yet the ease
Overall while in both communities the prescriptiveness of blogging platforms is proportionate to technical skill, the holistic nature of tool use can also be tasked driven as well as technical driven. Many of the remix activities encouraged in the #DS106 communities created the same sense of art of self even if these were driven on what the IndieWeb community calls commercial silos.
The communities also illustrate how technical skills are relative to the individual. Getting a domain online for a first time user can often be harder than editing a media endpoint for a web developer. In other words holistic tools may become more prescriptive to users as their skills increase. Evidence of this is seen in both communities as members begin to utilize more complex tools in spinning their personal narratives.
While the IndieWeb community created a network of blogs free from commercial silos In reality the IndieWeb has stuggled to reach what they define as "Gen 2" users over the past years. While this growth was intentional at first it may also reflect the vision of knowledge sharing in the "generations" model where one generation teaches the next. In such a model the knowledge must always trickle down the steps without learners ever picking themselves up.
In contrast the DS106 community had much greater successes for reaching novices have through structured pedagogical relationships., While not everyone, in fact the majority of people in #Ds106 will ever write their own software or HTML from scratch, but these spaces provide an opportunity for learning how to use increasingly open-ended systems and to make informed decisions about the pros and cons of prescriptive tools. This in turn can lead to a more holistic approach to the web and the ability to create tools and content for others.
Impact on Practitioners
Reading and Writing Oneself
These illustrative case studies, one affinity space from a formal learning environment, and a self-organized all volunteer affinity space provide snapshots of pedagogical techniques by classroom literacy teachers. First and foremost the power of blogging and having a website in these spaces fundamentally shaped the learning environment. The best story we need to learn and tell is our own. As we construct reading and writing as literacy educators we must remember this fact.
Networks as Disciplinary Literacies
In each of these communities learning often began by searching for answers among people and not just from machines. As students develop the content, skills and ways of being in communities that also create wider networks which increases the efficacy of learning content, skills and ways of being. Literacy educators must consider the
Augmented Academic Vocabulary
These two affinity spaces all