Saturday 10 November 2012

Webdoc, Widgets, Messages and Mashups

I've been playing recently with Webdoc (http://www.webdoc.com/), a social media platform where 'posts' are effectively mashups of tools, other posts, bits of text, pictures.. in fact, almost anything you want. Given that I have been concerned with the predominance of text in electronic communication, I'm interested in this as a way of communicating in a more 'connotative' way; text, after all is very 'denotative'.

One of the things that I am interested in is the possibility of integrating our ITEC Widget Store widgets into this mashup. In fact, it's very easy to do via embedding from the ITEC widget store. The calculator in the above example has been added in precisely this way...
What interesting about this? Well, I think the ITEC store has developed into a means of individual curation of  favourite tools. In essence it is a 'personal teaching environment'. What is interesting is the interoperability between the personal curation of tools afforded by the ITEC store and tools like webdoc. Users can say "I know the tools which work for me.. here's my list.. and whatever online learning environment I work in, I can easily reach for my own personal tool box."

I think this level of personalisation for teachers is new.

Interestingly, the webdoc tool is closely associated with the development team that produced Open Sankor√© (see http://open-sankore.org/) Open Sankor√© has explicitly adopted the W3C widget standard, and (being open source) it wouldn't be that difficult to plug in access to the Wookie-based ITEC store. So, teachers can teach at a whiteboard within an environment, and always be assured that their collection of personal tools is available. 

The fact that this same collection of personal tools becomes available across a range of other tools and platforms makes this personalisation more powerful: so it  works in Moodle, in web tools like webdoc, in Wordpress, it can be embedded in blogs, etc, etc. 

What is interesting at a deeper level is the connection between the mashup of simple tools and the conveying of more complex connotative messages. It's almost like there is a complex meta-language where meaning can be conveyed between the appearance of different tools. In this way, communication can become more creative, less restricted to simple means of communication like text.

Is this like poetry? After all, poetry is composed of denotations (words), but their juxtaposition produces something more powerful. That might be to stretch things too far... but there is something there, and certainly some of the creative behaviour in webdoc does point to new forms of creative expression.

On the technical side, something else is happening, which is also relevant to this way of thinking. That is the emergence of new specifications for 'mashing things up'. Regarding this, there is the Open Mashup Description Language, which is being developed through the OMELETTE project (see dev.ict-omelette.eu/)

The use of the Apache Rave platform and Wookie Widgets is producing remarkably rich integrations of tools, each of which might have its own functionality, but in combination, they communicate something which is much greater than the sum of their parts. 



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