31 August 2009

Why We Engage

In trying to understand better just why and how social media is better at engaging us as individual users, I have been looking into several different theories often applied to education technology. So here is a first shot and please feel free to put in your two cents, as this is just the start of what will be far more extensive research.

Engagement theory (Kearsley & Schneiderman, 1999) uses the base structure of Relate, Create Donate, assuming we are talking about engaging both the teacher and the student. As participants in user based media we are both the teacher (sender) and the student (receiver). We therefore all benefit and become more engaged based on participation as we contribute to of all the three areas (Relate, Create, Donate). Perhaps it is more cyclical in the open collaborative model version of how we interact online today. Instead of creating one final product of research, it is ongoing and dynamic. So we are engaged, but how do we stay there?

So, now let’s look at the psychoanalytical perspective to understand Social Representation (Serge Moscovici in 1961), a "system of values, ideas and practices with a twofold function; first, to establish an order which will enable individuals to orientate themselves in their material and social world and to master it; and secondly to enable communication to take place among the members of a community by providing them with a code for social exchange and a code for naming and classifying unambiguously the various aspects of their world and their individual and group history". Here we must have rules established in order to engage as the interaction is based on TRUST. It is generally agreed that we must have this trust in order for user based tools to be successful.

Outside of the academic sphere and into the multifaceted global realm, we have new rules and codes that are being created. The rules are evolving and are being created collaboratively. With each new evolution of the tools we use the codes of interaction evolve. And yet, the sharing and learning continues. Are we engaging simply for the sake of curiosity, the need to learn and to share? Even Wikipedia struggles to find a general collaboration theory that explains it. What we do know is that it is happening and users are engaging. In the quest of understanding effectively interaction for maximum benefit for both the receiver and the sender, I put this out there as a seed for discussion. What are your experiences with engagement and how do you feel that the rules have changed to make it more effective?

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