Thanks to @drs18 for pointing me to this post by Dave Winer on students running their own publishing infrastructure. How strangely serendipitous that while we in ds106 are raging on about the Gardner Campbell’s “Personal Cyberinfrastructure” that Winer joins in on the net with his own take. Winer also, like Campbell in his “No More Digital Facelifts” presentation, approaches the this idea through the vector of journalism.
There’s an idea, emanating from New York, that if we somehow combine the talents of programmers and journalists, we’ll figure out how to make news work in the age of the Internet. I haven’t been sure what to call this, but I agree that there’s a lot of power in the combination.
Is it a bold statement to say that combining some sort of internet component to every field of study is important if we are to create citizens that will point the way beyond the digital facelift? This isn’t just teaching about how the internet has affected various fields, or where it could go, but giving students the tools to create the future.
The next question is how do we teach the journo-programmer. As you might imagine, I have a few ideas about that.
Here’s what I say. Don’t worry about how to do it, at first — just start doing it. When we started blogging at Harvard, our first few approaches failed. They wouldn’t have worked any better if we spent a year planning them. Better to try an approach, learn, get it out of the way, and come up with new approaches, until you find a way that works.
In most university departments there is permanent paid staff that manage the websites for the students and faculty. It seems to me, if your goal is to boot a new class of programmers and journalists, this activity should be brought into the curriculum, and every student should participate in managing and developing his or her own publishing infrastructure.
Winer is not just asking students to be miniature sysadmins, installing their own cms and related software. He is saying they need to actually create the software – at least some of them.
We will also have a much better idea where existing tools are insufficient, which will lead us to the next phase where the students not only manage the infrastructure, they develop key parts of it.
I love the idea of not worrying how to do it, just start doing it, and use the experience to continue to iterate towards better ways to do it. Maybe it is time for another experiment on personal publishing infrastructures. My curiosity about this matter is growing.