Content as infrastructure

Selections copy pasted from this blog post. Please refer to it for context, links and references.

"...investors are generalists and probably not making decisions based on any specific technology. To explain, he suggested that [educational] investors were probably looking at a big picture, looking for projects that address big social issues such as what UNESCO say are sustainable development goals.

...for every 10 projects his firm invests in, they expect 8 to fail, and seemed to be pointing out that it isn't necessary for educational technology developments to be financially viable in and of themselves... longer term loss leaders create infrastructure that can enhance the development and returns of other investments...

Perhaps certain digital content needs to be thought of in terms of infrastructure, essential to education, culture and civic development, needing strategic investment, and not be included in a user pay logic.

Perhaps access to quality content is a sort of infrastructure needed by a knowledge economy? And so we might consider certain content in terms of infrastructural investment. Similar to galleries, libraries, archives, museums and public education, but brought online and free to access and reuse.

...If MOOC and edtech developers could reduce their emphasis on content, presumably they might invest more in their service design.

...So how can investment in content-as-infrastructure be separated from investments in edtech-as-service without falling into a reusability paradox, where content is developed specifically for one context, and thereby rendered less useful to another?

Perhaps if we look at some of the largest content repositories today as a way of considering that question. Each one of these have different levels of thinking about content, from mere publishing and distribution, through to metadata management, copyright management, and workflows and processes for continually engaging with the content infrastructure:

Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia reference projects. Very high usage rates, free from commercial profit motive and advertising, technically robust and long standing open source and open standards, evidently useful, reliable and reusable, multi media and multi lingual and relatively easy to invest and engage in.
Wikimedia Commons is worth highlighting as the multi media repository that serves Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia reference projects.
Archive.org. Also free from commercial profit motive and advertising, technically robust and long standing open source and open standards, culturally significant current, managed in an inter operable system that invites other libraries and archive repositories to use it freely.
Youtube. Very high usage rates with a reliable and interoperable service, but its commercial and emerging political imperatives must make it a secondary, if necessary infrastructure. Perhaps thought of as distributor only.
Google Search. Very high usage rates with a reliable and somewhat interoperable service, but its commercial and emerging political imperatives, along with the nature of its service, makes it a secondary, if necessary infrastructure. Content only needs to be exposed to it.
Academic webservices like ResearchGate are fast growing platforms that look like disrupting the access restrictions imposed by traditional journals, and value adding their service with communication and networking features, as well as user profiling and data analytics.
What would a concerted effort to lift the quality of [Australian coverage in] Wikipedia do from a content-infrastructural perspective? Knowledge of Australia and Australian perspectives would gain generally, if I'm right in assuming that Wikipedia is one of the most used information sources. Adding images, video, audio, graphics and multi lingual text could have significant impacts.

The WikiProject Med is an example of a concerted effort to improve healthcare information across all languages in the Wikimedia projects. That of course includes text, images, graphics, video and audio. Are Australian medical perspectives, policies, laws, services etc, adequately covered in that project? This work has a direct flow on effect into Google and Facebook, and an indirect flow on into journalism, academia and public discourse. MOOCs and fee based educational publishers directly and indirectly leverage this work.

The GLAM Wikimedia project works with Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums that are interested in getting their content out into more widely used, reliable and reusable domains. The State Library of Queensland's massive transfer of out of copyright photographs is one such example. Other work continues.

The Wikimedia Australia charter is a small group of Wikipedia and free content enthusiasts who would probably benefit with resource investment and personnel with project management and other skills.

Here's a little more on the idea of Wikipedia as MOOC

Why the contribution is important

The question remains though, can free content be thought of in terms of infrastructural investment? Would having high quality free content positively stimulate the wider educational technology market? Can KMOOCs separate their content from their service designs? Will wider sectors like tourism, the arts and culture, government, and the Korean diaspora value free and online access to reliable Korean content? Will private investors see it as a loss leading investment that may improve the impact of other investments? Is loss leader investment a niche for educational development?

I would very much like to be part of such an investigation.

by LeighBlackall on November 24, 2017 at 02:13PM

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