Saturday, 26 February 2011

Facebook: A Virtual Coffeehouse???

Hi again,

I was thinking about what implications a social networking site such as Facebook could have when it is used with classmates in CCK11 MOOC. You know that we have created a Facebook group for CCK11 course and some conversation has been going on this group where everyone is an admin so that no one is superior to anyone, and the number of members is increasing each day. We are currently 121 experts, ameteurs, lurkers, creators, consumers, educators; we are all different people with different backgrounds, expertise, interests, religions, languages, countries etc. 

I can see that people including me have concerns about privacy, security and misinformation. In addition, some concern seems to arise from the original reason or the objective why Facebook was created in the first place in 2004 by Zuckerberg. Furthermore, the highly informal nature of Facebook gets even more scarry for people who don't want to be bothered by people hoping to hook up with the opposite sex, or when they hear stories of what other people had to go through because someone used the information on their Facebook accounts to do harm.

Further issues were raised about free tools on the web including Facebook on yesterday's CCK11 session. As George Siemens stated these web 2.0 tools makes us more digital and gives us more control. However, every FREEdom comes with a PRICE to pay, so these free tools are not actually free in a sense. The price you have to pay is that these tools give the provider more control too. I agree with George that if you are not paying for a service, then you are the product that's being sold. However, I think this is a win-win situation even though seeing yourself as a product being sold is an unsettling one. We are using Facebook to connect, to converse, to discuss, to create and share and in return Facebook does use us. I think it's a matter of where you draw the line, how much you really want to get involved in. To me, one needs to create a sense of balance and be aware of his/her actions and their possible outcome when he/she is present on an online environment just like real life. 

Another price that you have to pay is "social lock-in" which is a term raised by George and Stephen during the last session and it's an issue that I am yet to explore and learn more about. What I could make out from the last session about Facebook or other platforms is that we need to take care not to allow one particular space to own all the connections, information, and knowledge. As Stephen puts it knowledge rests in connections and if Facebook holds connections then knowledge rests in Facebook. I can see that when you allow one particular space to handle all the connections, it contradicts to the rationale behind a PLE and in conclusion to the connectivist principle because knowledge is distributed and diversity is a richness. When George and Stephen reject the idea of an LMS like moodle because it creates a danger of centralization against distribution, Facebook or any one particular space shouldn't be allowed to centralize all the connections and information or knowledge. I understand the danger when one particular person/space holds all the knowledge. Yet, this fact doesn't mean that we aren't going to take advantage of features of these environments on the contrary we need to keep this connection as well for the sake of diversity and distribution. 

Finally, I would like to mention one perspective of how I view CCK11 Facebook group. Someone posted on this group Stephen Johnson's video on where good ideas come from discussing the importance of environments where people get together casually and come up with innovative ideas. He holds coffee houses responsible for "the enlightment" of England. Like the coffeehouse of England Facebook CCK11 group for me is a space where people get together with different backgrounds, different expertise and share, and honestly I am learning a lot from the conversations taking place on this group mainly because I have a lot to discover and learn from the other members of this group. This group might not lead to "enlightment" on a big scale like coffehouses had in England but it seems to be leading at least one participant, me, to big enlightment. Moreover, I can see that people bring their friends into this virtual coffeehouse so people are making new friends with similiar interests. You know what they say a friend of a friend is a friend. For me this FB group serves as a café in a school where learners get together to have a nice chat and the chat itself turns out to be a learning opportunity. If the provider of Facebook makes a change on this space that we would not appreciate or decides to close it down, we will do what we would when the owner of a real coffehouse turned it into a place where it is impossible for us to hang around or decide to close it altogether: move to another coffehouse and carry on where we left off. 


  1. yes ~ but far more diverse and democratic than the 18th c London Coffeehouses or French Salons. An authentic organically and technologically evolving institution. Have you read early web history of the Well?

  2. Good post Abdullah. @Vanessa agree re more democratic etc - maybe our FB group has more in common with the market square gatherings currently witnessed in the Middle East even if the changes we may hope to achieve are of a different nature. What do you mean re: 'web history of the Well' Vanessa?

  3. Thanks for a great post, Abdullah.

    To be honest, I hadn't seen the "FB control" over me, just the upside: the connections, the sharing of ideas, etc. It's all good to me.
    Thank you for putting it together :-)

  4. But if your only social contacts are at one favourite coffeehouse or pub, then when it closes you will be alone. That is why it is important to make contact with one another at our own homes (blogs like this) and to occasionally hang out at other establishments (linkedIn,, etc)