Nomenclature, vernacular, and relating to push-mowers

Anchor for this item  posted Monday, July 10, 2006 at 8:39 AM MST

Geek-talk took yet another well-deserved drubbing last month when Jon Udell took issue in his "User-generated content vs. reader-created context".
"Everything about this buzzphrase [user-generated content] annoys me. First, calling people "users" is pernicious. It distances and dehumanizes, and should be stricken from the IT vocabulary ("Those clueless users") as well as from the publishing vocabulary. IT has customers and clients, not users. IT-oriented publishers have readers, not users.
Second, "content" is a word that reminds me more of sausage than of storytelling (see Sausage, traffic, and clueless users). As writers and editors we don't "generate" "content," we tell stories that inform, educate, and entertain -- or should."

On the odd chance that this sounds trivial, here's a little mind experiement: I invite you to try and imagine what geek-talk would provide us as alternative nomenclature for "mouse" ... yaa, mouse, the thingie so many of us spend so much time pushing around, what to call it if not "mouse"? navigation handle?

Now, mice and "navigation handles" aside, lookee here (and who'd uh thunk it): in context of "a six-minute video that documents how to use, and maintain, the Scotts Classic" (that's a push-mower, BTW) Jon showed how to crack that particular semantic Gordian knot:

"in an era of commons-based peer production there will be increasing numbers of folks who will package their knowledge and experience in video form, and publish it freely, just because they can."
"Clean air gardening and the future of shared experience"

... "commons-based peer-production" ... that's the stuff; brilliant! Now ... why didn't I think of that?!

(see WikiPedia entry for ''Commons-based peer production''; "a term coined by Yale's Law professor Yochai Benkler")

I'm feeling sheepish ... a decade ago I was helping with workshops aimed to have folk to their own thing when it came to local politics; how to create a poster, write a press release, conduct themselves in a media interview, that sort of thing; three decades ago I was putting slide projectors and cassette decks to use in popular education. And I'm certainly not alone in my knowledge of "peer programming" as part of the "extreme programming" methodology. But Jon rang the bell: he cracked the nut and got to the kernel of it ... "peer-production". Indeed! And, I hope: in deed!

We can pull together or we can fail, alone, as things fall apart ... I'm been saying that for a long while. But I didn't come


Just now I wrote Jon, "''When things aren't given their proper names, what is said is not what is meant, and what should be done is left undone.'' (That's just me, playing fast and loose with some Tao-think. Confucius? Lao-Tsu?) Anyhow, back in the day, Paolo Freire's thinking was operational: we operated "learner centers" and aimed to be "agents of extension" (education rather than training, yes?). Sooooo when I blogged about your lovely post and "peer-production" I had to wonder why /I/ hadn't come up with the phrase! Anyhow, now we all have it on hand, and thanks to you for that."

Addendum: I just had an exchange with JU concerning credit:

">> Now we all have that phrase on hand. And thanks for that, Jon.
> Not me. Thanks Yochai Benkler among others for the term, but him in particular for exploring the economics of it.
>Ah, I didn't express myself well enough; in fact I included a WikiPedia link to his page in my MozDawg blog.
But my point stands, Jon. As John Willinsky argues so forcefully: the stuff only cooks when it's in circulation (whether publically-funded scholarly research or handy-dandy memes). So no ... I mean yes: thank /you/. We have to perpetuate the stuff. (Who talks about Freire these days? We can't afford the dis-economy of re-inventing this set of wheels.)
"
When I wrote, "Why did I think of that" I didn't mean to ask why I hadn't invented the term ... I mean that the term is in circulation but I didn't think of it; Jon did.
It's not necessary for each of us to recreate the silver hammer and re-invent the art of its use, but it's up to each of us to make good use of what we have, and to each of us do our bit!

Peripherally related:

  • the eXtension Communities of Practice Site (Wiki) - "This site is where members of eXtension's Communities of Practice come to collaboratively generate educational products to serve their designated Communities of Interest.
  • Access eNonProfit - "The program is intended to help nonprofits make the most of their Internet connection and web presence. It's about making smart business choices that meet the needs of clients, patrons, or members. It's primary audience is the smaller nonprofits with limited budgets but big ideas.
  • Technology for the Nonprofit and Philanthropic Sector (Elizabeth Finn's blog) - "Integrated workflow management for nonprofit organizations: If you build it, will they use it?"
  • Non-Profit Soapbox - "Your cause; Your website. The User-Friendly Website Manager"
  • With thanks for these to del.icio.us/DEF


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