All-powerful audience

March 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

wordle moocLast week’s UvA MOOC lecture was  about the linear effect-oriented approach of communication, mainly developed by the media in the 20th century. Between the First World War and the popularization of television, many theories were developed to somehow explain how the “all-powerful media” constructs different realities and influences its audience. It was very interesting, for example, to see the classic example of radio broadcast “War of the Worlds” being deconstructed by theorists Paul Lazarsfeld and Herta Herzog. What used to be an example of the “bullet theory” effect (immediate, precise and short term), had to be reviewed: what was behind the panic? Media’s own exaggeration and a mix of decontextualized understandings? Those might be still current characteristics of the present media, but it’s easy to see that online, audience power has increased and became appreciated.

Examples can be seen everyday on social media websites, on-line newspapers and even traditional media, such as printed newspapers, radio and television. With an intense scale of interactivity, the public tells what it wants to see. It votes on best videos, share stories, pictures and links. It is also awake when something goes wrong. The feedback is constant, and this is also part of the MOOC experience. This week in the UvA MOOC, for example, some quizzes had problems. In a few hours after lectures have been released, messages appeared in the Forum reporting errors, which were soon solved (until some problems on the gradebook took over the topic).

Youtube vintage add. Credit: Moma Agency (Brazil)

Fake Youtube vintage add. Credit: Moma Agency (Brazil)

The user experience was also clear in the division of lectures in this MOOC. Discussions about the media theories are divided into eight pieces of videos, as I mentioned in a previous post. Although most MOOCs providers I’ve seen so far chose to use longer videos of lectures, I believe this also presents a good alternative to those who prefer to understand each step at the time, especially when we’re mentioning so many theories or overviews. In the forums, however, opinions differ: some students prefer to watch full lectures, without intermissions. As all lectures are recorded and edited now, perhaps a good idea for the next MOOC is to discover which method works best for most students: short videos or long lectures? And even better if would be possible to have both options. The UvA MOOC team already did something great: published all videos into playlists on Youtube, so pauses are now minimized.

I believe that all chances of experiments turn MOOCs into quite interesting objects, because lectures and education professionals are not sure about what to offer and how to offer academic content for such a large and different audience. I’ll have technological determinism on my side: we should strongly explore digital tools in order to multiply knowledge. Or, as MOOC Professor Eric Rabkin affirmed in one lecture: “it is foolish not to explore technologies in order to improve knowledge”.

More nice vintage posters like this one of Youtube here.

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