Are we “with it”? Marshall McLuhan Asked Us Once
It is seductive to agree that the “VLE is dead” (perhaps, in Fronter’s case, it is). The VLE however – and depending on your definition – is not necessarily dead; perhaps it is just sleeping. Even a lowly book is a VLE if you want it to be. And the ultimate VLEspace, the third web, is waiting in the wings. What is Web 3.0 and what does it have to do with games, learning and us? There are many conflicting definitions because like any embryonic idea, it doesn’t know what it is yet. Jane McGonigal might argue that 3.0 is a game: the gameful web, or the ludic web of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I like this idea because I love Jane McGonigal and enjoyed her book very much. Any argument which proposes gamification and video games as a way of saving the world gets +5,000 hope from me. In many ways, Jane McGonigal is perfect. Some experts may disagree with her and point to other definitions and concepts of Web 3.0 (see below).
Marshall McLuhan famously asked us in the early 60s if we were “with it”. Or were we still in the age of the book? Now we are still in the age of Web 2.0, but McLuhan understood, maybe in advance of many of today’s experts, that the web is just a construct of “tribes” (affinity groups or communities of practice) who are “with it” (networked) and “beat drums” (tweet). By claiming there was a difference between an adolescent and a teenager (in terms of media), he glinted and hinted at the idea of a digital native. McLuhan anticipated Web 1.0: maybe we could dedicate Web 0.0 to him. In fact Wired Magazine (in 1992), then a fledgling paper-based product, named Marshall McLuhan as its patron saint. Wired went on to become the go-to place for everything web.
This is the year that our beloved Secretary of State for education has called for the deletion of the curriculum for ICT (eduspeak for IT) and a wiki for a new curriculum. Perhaps this is a new phase of eduspeak; or perhaps it is a genuine change in the way we do things, and a possible way of teaching Web 3.0.
Either way, it is an exciting time to be training for schoolteaching. As we prepare to educate “retribalised” human beings, there may also be a shift back to the “literary man”, the human who sits alone with his own point of view. Jimmy Wales, as an objectivist and an individualist, is one of those people. I am excited about using the tools and tactics of Web 2.0 with the children who are about to create Web 3.0. We still do not know exactly what Web 3.0 is yet. An intelligent web? A semantic web? A new hard infrastructure? Tron, Minority Report and Psychohistory?
The calendar has been reconfigured and we are now entering a new age in education, computer-based learning and communications. Web 3.0 is just around the corner and the slate has been wiped clean for us to rewrite the web of learning as we see fit. This is amazingly powerful and exciting.
My feeling is that Web 3.0, as McGonigal so eloquently writes, is a game. I recently began reading Cory Doctorow’s novel about games, communities of practice, digital natives and the economics of the future. In Doctorow’s eyes, McGonigal’s ideas have developed into hard economic reality. Of the 20 largest global economies, 8 of them are games.
It is strange to look back at Marshall McLuhan who was so clear in his ideas about what was in store for us. The spirit of the 60s lives on!