Bookmarked Knitting a Healthy Social Fabric. – danah boyd – Medium by danah boyd (Medium)

Our civic infrastructure and social contract are crumbling. We all know that education has a crucial role to play in a healthy democracy. Yet, what I want you to take away from my talk today is that building and knitting the social fabric connecting your students is as important as the material you teach. You have the power to construct social networks in a healthy way. And those of you who build tools have the ability to enable such connections through your design decisions. Ignoring this won’t make it go away, but it may help our country fall apart. My ask of you today is to take this need seriously and strategize ways to knit the social fabric collaboratively.

In a keynote at Educause’s annual conference, danah boyd the role played by schools in building the social fabric of the future.

Beyond interests, we look for people who are like us because this is easier, more comfortable. Sociologists call this “homophily” — birds of a feather stick together. But there are choices that we make in an education context that increase or decrease the diversity of people’s social networks. And those choices have lifelong and societal consequences. Those choices happen whether we intend for them to or not.

boyd argues that there are three ways in which people bond: an intrinsic alignment, extrinsic enemy and shared vulnerability. I guess this is why things like school camps and outdoor education activities are so powerful. However, with all this, building bonds and social ties seems to have been something overlooked during the pandemic and offsite learning.

For the last year, as students have negotiated K-12 and college during a pandemic, the lack of awareness about the importance of social tie development became even more profound. We’ve seen countless tools built to help students obtain the school material. Teachers invested in finding ways to transfer classroom pedagogy to the internet, to produce more interactive and compelling video content, often using tools like polls to interact with students. But the primary relationship that was considered was one rooted in a notable power differential — the dynamic between the teacher and the student. Yes, students have still been required to negotiate group projects on Zoom, but how many tools have been rolled out this year that are really about strengthening ties between students? Helping students connect with others in a healthy way? Most of what I’ve seen has focused on increasing competition and guilt. Tools that are designed so that everyone can see each other’s assignments, complete with timestamps that reveal the complex lives students face navigating virtual school. Tools that privilege those who can perform. And tools that are rooted in accounting and accountability. Why are we not seeing tools to help students bond across difference?

The problem is that in a world of polarisation and social fracture, connections are the strongest weapons we have. As boyd explains,

To radically alter how people see the world, you have to alter their connections to those who might challenge these new frames.

boyd puts forward some ideas for a more thoughtful social fabric. These include pushing back on drumbeat around stranger danger so that we can actually speak to others, creating digital outreach programs to support those in pain online, and being more deliberate about social networks within schools.

If you put the social network at the center of your work, how might that change some of your practices? As an administrator, you could assign classrooms strategically. As a teacher, this could shape how you constructed group projects, how you seated students. You do much of this by feel already, but a tool lets you shift your goals. Rather than making your goal be about the success of the group project, imagine a goal that’s about strengthening the graph of the students.

Although boyd’s focus is on the American education system, it is still an interesting concept to consider. Personally, I have not seen a lot of opportunity to build social ties. Sadly, when there is a will there is a way and some students find their own way to connect in less structured spaces. Although I am an advocate for more deliberate social spaces in education, someone has to support such spaces.

Liked How to run a small social network site for your friends (

This document exists to lay out some general principles of running a small social network site that have worked for me. These principles are related to community building more than they are related to specific technologies.

Bookmarked Why private micro-networks could be the future of how we connect (MIT Technology Review)

Forget amassing likes or cultivating your online persona. Apps like Cocoon are all about being your true self with just a select few people.

This is what I raised with my idea of deliberate social media spaces. This also reminds me of what Greg McVerry does with Known, although I think the application is moving away from that.
Liked 1,000 True Fans? Try 100 by Li Jin (

The monetization strategy for 100 True Fans also differs from the 1,000 True Fans convention. Easy perks like offering users ad-free content and access to back-catalogs can help creators monetize at a lower dollar amount. But to gain fans who are willing to pay $1,000 a year—no small sum—creators need to offer a step-function increase in value. The recipe, then, is to go niche and to tap into users’ desire for results. Practically, what does that look like? It means providing differentiated content, community, accountability, and access.

  1. Premium content and community that has no close substitutes
  2. Delivering tangible value and results
  3. Accountability
  4. Access, recognition and status
Listened Networked Making – Podcast by David White from

On the 10th July 2019 we ran the ‘Networked Making’ event at the University of the Arts London. This post introduces a podcast in which myself and Jon Martin reflect on the ‘Making Networks’ workshop activity we designed for the start of the day
(with input from Dr Sheena Calvert and the ‘Interpolate’ student group) .

The activity was described as: “A workshop session in which participants collaboratively make and reflect on a physical model/metaphor of their networks.”

David White and Dr Sheena Calvert explore the sense of risk, negotiated assessment and challenges associated with agency in delivering
an open-ended session. This is a useful reflection on professional development and learning.
Liked Value (Half an Hour)

When I talk about people belonging to a network, for example, the only relevant thing to me is that the person is a part of the network – not how many connections they have, not what weight their words have within the network, not whether the person is a desirable contact to have. All of these are ways of trying to characterize the person’s participation in economic terms, when the fact of their participation in a network has no economic properties at all.

Liked Networks: An Engine For Scaling Learning And Innovation (Part 3) by David Culberhouse (DCulberhouse)

It will benefit today’s leaders and organizations to spend time investing in and learning how networks can better serve our individuals and organizations for scaling the level of learning and knowledge that is necessary to stay vital and relevant in a world of accelerated and often turbulent change.

Bookmarked Small b blogging (

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.

And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows.

Tom Critchlow provides a case for network blogging where your focus is on a particular audience:

So I challenge you to think clearly about the many disparate networks you’re part of and think about the ideas you might want to offer those networks that you don’t want to get lost in the feed. Ideas you might want to return to. Think about how writing with and for the network might enable you to start blogging. Forget the big B blogging model. Forget Medium’s promise of page views and claps. Forget the guest post on Inc, Forbes and Entrepreneur. Forget Fast Company. Forget fast content.

This stands in contrast to the idea or argument that blogging is first and fore mostly personal.

via Doug Belshaw