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Andy Powell

Is everything in abundance? Attention remains scarce doesn't it? So the ability of learners and teachers to give their attention to both learning resources and each other remains a limiting factor. To refer back to one of your previous posts, one of the factors influencing the extent to which there will be a revolution in HE is the extent to which consumers (i.e. students and potential students) are willing to continue paying for a 'pedagogy of attention' (by which I mean at least partly f2f attention).

Perhaps I'm missing something? (I don't really talk the learning-lingo so I might be off-track here!)


Hi Andy, you're certainly not missing something, you are quite right. There is some kind of inverse law here I think between content/tools abundance and attention. As tools/content/resources become more abundant then attention becomes more scare. The reverse is also true - eg when we had a scarcity of resource on TV (only 3 channels in the 70s), then attention was in abundance - ie it was easy to get several million viewers even with a poor show.
This is why a 'pedagogy of abundance' would need to accommodate this and place great emphasis on the filter, but I think you are right to raise it as it is a principle on its own, something like 'needs to compete in an attention economy'.

Ewan McIntosh

I think the first assumption that you lead on is perhaps too simplistically put: content can be / should be made free, because sharing is frictionless, social interaction means people will share in a way that is too complex for one organisation or publisher to follow and track, let alone control. But not all content is abundant. Lily Allen is not abundant; there is, for better or for worse, only one Lily Allen. It is therefore down to her publisher to work out a means of letting us have a bit of her for the smallest possible transaction, or for free, while providing the necessary (financial/emotional/egotistical) means to keep her producing her market-led unique stuff.

In education, too, knowledge is often declared 'free' and abundant, and the stuff from history ancient and contemporary is. But for new knowledge, we must pay. Medical and scientific research, study into how language is morphing: it all attracts a cost that, in this case, publishers, governments and institutions must/could/should/do strive to make as low-cost or free as possible.

So, as Scotty might say, "we have the technology", to make things free or low-cost, but we - publishers, Governments, individuals with mortgages - don't always see the clever model that makes the genuinely non-abundant stuff free.

And frankly, I'm prepared to pay for non-abundant talent, be it academic or, I must confess, Lily Allen. For the latter, I pay by putting up with ads every now and then while I listen, or even parting with 79 of my Scottish pence. Now *there's* a story... ;-)


Hi Ewan,
the flippant aside to the music industry was probably a mistake. I think the main point holds true about pedagogy - we haven't developed models that have abundance of resource and lightweight sharing as key principles.
On your points though - I agree, talent is not limitless and people need to be paid for this (although they may need to get used to being paid less than they used to). You allude to the Spotify model which I think is an example of moving to an economics of abundance. I think where Mandelson/Allen are wrong is that they think if they can just stop file-sharing we can control these resources like physical ones and then apply the same economics. They are trying to force economics of scarcity onto abundance. I think they'd be better off trying to find new models, which exploit the assumptions of abundance, which is what the music industry has been doing from the start and thus rather missing what they could be doing.


I have a question regarding one of your assumptions: what do you mean with "complexity arises because people don't explicitly collaborate" in this context?

Is it that ideas cannot be easily tracked back to their originator? or maybe that ideas become more complex because they are distributed over different actors in a network, and therefore, it takes the learner much more time finding and constructing the pieces of the puzzle?

Or am I looking in a completely different direction than you intended?


Hi Martin
I think this is right. Anything that can be turned into ones and zeros is immediately made adundant. Stopping that is a waste of time. Anything that can't though remains scarce. Working out how to package the two to keep food on the table and value in the interactions is the hard part. Lots of people are racking their brains on this issue. Godin for example on the impact of scarcity and abundance on marketing and business: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/09/flipping-abundance-and-scarity.html Dan Tapscott of wikinomics fame has also waded into the pedagogy model too: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/tapscott09/tapscott09_index.html His views are not alone. The whole Edupunk thing might just be said to be a reaction to the challenges laid down by the new abundance. I've got a collection of the best Edupunk articles and key players here on PsychFutures:http://psychfutures.ning.com/profiles/blogs/2009-the-year-edupunks-killed

PS we've met a while ago, colleague of Michael Reddy.


A commenter has already noted that attention is not in abundance. I would broaden that out more to say that time is not in abundance - there is so much that I would like to be able to do, but simply do not have time to fit it in. Knowing that its all out there is frustrating...so talk about how we make so much more availabe and abundant isn't helping either! i guess I'd have to argue for a pedagogy of the depressed (with apologies to Freire)!

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