Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why we need to be able to talk to anybody

I am a staff member. I conducted a podcast where I interviewed three student bloggers about their visions of emerging technology in education. That is what got me in trouble. I was told not to podcast conversations with students even if I do it off campus, on my own time, with my own equipment (and we are all consenting adults.) This is my response:

We need to include everybody, and exclude nobody, in the conversation for it to work and be real. When you isolate any group, whether it be students, staff or faculty and try to prevent them from talking to each other you destroy the power of the conversation to help your organization.

I keep pointing to the Cluetrain Manifesto. It is about turning markets upside down. Like markets, the university (by that I mean all universities) are changing from being a top-down organization where the administration controls the message through the power of their media outlets, to a bottom-up organization where everybody contributes to the conversation and nothing is hidden - because there is no place to hide! Since the blogosphere/podosphere and tools like RSS makes it super simple to broadcast globally, nothing can be hidden. (Of course, in my opinion, for public universities nothing should be hidden.)

What does that mean for universities? In my opinion it means we have to embrace transparency! Everybody needs to be free to talk to everybody! When it comes to the conversation all voices (like all IP adresses) are equal. The workplace hierarchy is separate from conversational equality. It has to be the audience, not the institutions that choose the voices to listen to. The conversation really starts working when university presidents, deans, chairs, professors, staff (including custodians and the folks who work in the admissions office) and students are all free to blog, podcast, comment, trackback and link to each other as well as talk on podcasts.

Can you imagine how those conversations can create new and exciting solutions to vexing problems we have and can enrich the learning experience at the university?

I can!


At 1:39 AM, Bernard said...

There's got to be more to this proclamation. On the surface, it sounds like a constraint of free speech and over-reaching policy.

At 5:36 AM, John said...

Don't overlook another Cluetrain piece. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. I saw this morning that Scoble picked your story up. It's time to start having some conversations about this. ;O)

At 7:52 AM, Steve Sloan said...

I was shocked when I was told this and I do not know from how high up the org chart this comes. In my opinion it is about fear of the loss of control that having your staff, faculty and students all networking together away from command and control seems to imply. I can't read minds so I do not know what is really behind it, I suspect it is fear of change.

At 11:32 AM, mike said...

this would be more credible if you posted more details other than "I was told not to post".

I work for a bigco; I can't talk about my company in certain ways on the blog, as I'm not a spokesperson, but I can talk about anything else, w/anyone else.

I frankly don't believe the U. can do anything to stop you from recording a conversation w/friends and then posting it.


At 7:03 PM, Steve Sloan said...

It came up during a discussion regarding my performance evaluation (which otherwise was good.) It is too bad you can't talk about bigco. Other than trade secrets and confidential information, the conversation should be open. I recommend reading the Cluetrain Manifesto. In public education there is no trade secrets the added element of the public interest to not waste the taxpayers money.

More info is here:



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