Monday, September 27, 2010

Why am I so pessimistic about cultural competence in an online world.

I've been putting off writing this.

I'm usually pretty positive we can make the world a better place. Hey look at at title of this blog Brighter Futures.

About culturally competent online facilitation on a global scale, I'm feeling pretty pessimistic.

I think there are many, many difficulties.

When you go to live in new country you are immersed in a new culture. If you study or work in that new culture you learn the language and how things are done, you learn about the world view of the new culture. You also learn about your own culture.

You learn that that you have norms, expectations, values and assumptions that you had no idea that other cultures don't share.

You can come to understand this, and go meta on this because you are embedded in the new culture and you are an outsider. You also change the culture you are embedded in because you relate to people you encounter and form ongoing trusting relationships. You have to share you thoughts about with others in the form of models.

You say in effect, "Am I getting this right? In this culture when you say this and do that, you don't mean what we mean in my culture you mean something like this?"

The German poet Novalis (1772-1801) who first combined the following words said it well. "The strange becomes familiar and the familiar becomes strange".

Because you are embedded in a strange environment you come to see your assumptions and thoughtless biases and your habitual heuristics.

But when you stay home and interact across the world over the internet, you stay embedded in your environment and the members of your online community are embedded in theirs.

There are less chances to see the familiar as strange. We carry on and with our invisible assumptions. If we have more power than those we facilitate, they try to fit in as best they can.

We carry on in our culturally insensitive ways, blind to what were doing.

If our cultural biases were ever pointed out to us, we might be horrified or even hostile, possibly dismissive.

I'm not sure my pessimism about cultural competence is correct.

Am I justified in thinking this?

I wonder if anyone has researched this.

I found this article New Directions in Research into Learning Cultures in Online Education by Robin Goodfellow on Google that seems worth a read.

This posting was inspired by my fellow FO2100 students but Matt Blackstock's blog post on this topic, Cultural Competence in the Online Facilitation Environment "

In this post he writes "Be aware of your own assumptions"

I guess my thinking is that this is easier said than done.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Knowledge brokering in the Web 2.0 era

I was recently asked to fill out an evaluation of AusPAnet to fill in a surveymonkey survey.

I would describe AusPAnet as knowledge brokers or evidence brokers. I also would describe myself as a knowledge broker/evidence broker.

Since encountering Web 2.0 concepts, I’ve been rethinking my assumptions about the best methods to advance my evidence brokering work in mental health promotion.

Before going on I need to own up. The following criticism of AusPAnet knowledge brokering strategies is also criticism of my own past efforts at knowledge brokering.

AusPAnet on their very basic website is says “AusPAnet is targeted to building knowledge and capacity in the physical activity workforce.”

Their main activity is a regular e-bulletin. It contains links to with short summaries, teasers about events, new journals articles and reports.

Internet technology has moved on and broadcast Web 1.0 e-bulletins are fast becoming outdated. Readers expectations are also changing. People are using less email and devoting more time to interactive social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

I and others want more interaction and discussion and opportunities for online professional conversations. Look how Facebook traffic has increased while email is dropping.

I don’t just want information gathered, selected, sorted and shoved at me. I want to talk about the ideas and contribute and discuss the ideas and information that I and other have found that we have found significant. I want to do this because it helps me integrate the new knowledge into my practice. It helps me learn.

Old One Way sign

By mobilene FLICKR Jim Grey

While it is useful to get a regular e-bulletin with lots of good stuff, a one-way e-bulletin does not engender dialogue about the ideas contained within.

To get evidence and ideas into practice it takes more than telling people about the research/ideas and data. There are many practical issues to be worked through to get a new idea into action. There are barriers to overcome, facilitators to mobilize, lots of practical details and contextual factors to understand and access. There is also the task of integrating the new knowledge into existing understandings and practice. This is a social process.

Online discussion supplemented by occasional face to face gathering help do this. The community of practice idea is a very useful strategy for discussing new ideas and to consider the implication of evidence for practice.

The essential point that I’m making is that in order to assimilate new ideas and take those ideas to the stage where they can be actioned locally, a social process of learning and the making meaning shared needs to happen and that social media toll can help. The logical conclusion of this is that successful knowledge brokers will in future being spending more of there time facilitating online learning communities.

While knowledge brokers will still devote their time to gathering, selecting, sorting and sharing evidence this will be a far more social process.

Web 2.0 tools offer no cost and low cost tools for doing this work. Web 2.0 tools such Facebook groups, Twitter, Ning, Linkedin, Skype, Youtube blogs and online events such webinars, Tweetups, video conferences can help with this.

I’m yet to really adequately explore social book-marking tools such as Delicious as an evidence brokering tool. My organization uses an old version of Internet Explorer that does not properly interface with some Web 2.0 tools. I patiently await its update but eagerly explore these new ways of thinking.

Do you think I'm being foolish to embrace these changers?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Twitter Conversations

I was in my first twitter sustained conversation this week. The hashtag keeping it altogether was #nzaot10. I think it was a international conference of OTs (Occupational Therapists.)

I was following it out of curiosity when the conversation turned to some mental health related topics, that I'm quite interested in.

So I contributed my ideas from my position as an mental health promotion expert.

It was an interesting professional conversation because I don't often get to dialogue to academic inclined OTs.

Some of my Tweets were retweeted by key participants and that encouraged me to participate more. Further, a few questions were directed at me.

In the next few days, my Twitter account 'lewismal' picked up a handful of new Twitter followers who are OTs in different parts of the world.

I'm not sure what that will mean for them or me. I do sense the value from this Twitter interaction of having conversations with people who think differently about topics I work on from my peers.

I look forward to what comes my was from them by way of ideas, news or questions that disrupt my professional assumptions.

I wonder what would happen in my home town of Toowoomba ( to our already strong community networks and to our fairly weak local media if local tweeters started using a #Twba hashtag.

Does anyone have any predictions?
Does anyone know of a town/small city that has adopted a hashtag based on its name? What happens to community spirit?

I should Twitter out those questions.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The implication of people of like minds and purpose tending to cluster in a Web 2.0 age

There are implications of the observation that people of like mind and purpose tend to come together and form networks.

For me the big implications for project/campaign work in health promotion is in what this means for strategy.

I have found that if you can make a few strong links with keen people, these initial contacts will guide you or take your message onto others of similar mind an d purpose who will be likely be interested in what your saying or trying to achieve.

This has always been the case but this dynamic has been amplified by Web 2.0 and social network media.

Margaret Mead's famous quote, "Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The power of a few has been upped by Web 2.0 and social network media.

Before social media, if we had the money, we used mass media to get the word out to the multitudes in the hope that we would link up with the few who were ready to interested. This was relatively effective compared to other choices. Hence so much advertising and mass media.

New social network media tools and the networks they have created and supercharged are now relatively more effective than mass media.

I realised this reading Craig Thomler's blog. He recently gave a presentation on Social Media in Government. Watching the video of his talk really lifted my thinking to this conclusion. The shock of this realisation also got me going through some old notes about ideas I encountered a few years back from R. Craig Lefebvre.

The increasing influence and effectiveness of social media will reinvent the way that health promotion works. The tried and true methods of based on the linear Source -- Message -- Channel -- Receiver (SMCR) process is becoming outdated.

Craig Lefebvre work seems to point to newer paradigms. His paper The New Technology: The Consumer as Participant Rather Than Target Audience is a good read. Wriiten back 2007, it was a harbinger towards Health Promotion 2.0.

His blog post Social Models for Marketing: Social Networks from Oct 2009 is also a recommended read.

Craig Lefebvre has a flock of writing on social media that are interest to anyone who wants to use social media in social advocacy or health promotion on his blog under the tag social media. I'm working through and reworking my way through them and their hyperlinks.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Skype as a collaboration tool

This video sets out my thinking on Skype as a collaboration tool.

It is also an trial of video blogging.