Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mass personalisation

If the high era of industrialisation was driven by the logic of mass production, it could be argued that the digital age is driven by the logic of mass personalisation. In the former, Fordist model the single product was endlessly replicated as it expanded into new markets, whereas the digital economy depends upon hyper-personalisation, tracking the tastes and characteristics of individuals and niches. It sells multiple products to individuals rather than individual products to multiples. Popular music is a good way to think this through. The rise of the vinyl LP was a bundled package of music which, when things went well (as they did, for example for the Clash) albums like London Calling traveled well and reached diverse markets. In the era of iTunes, music looks different - it's unbundled and delivered direct to your playlist. And mass personalisation is helped along by services like Spotify, LastFm and BlipFm which help to feed you more of what you like. As education becomes increasingly marketised, we'll have to imagine what hyper-personalisation might mean for the knowledge economy. Two possibilities present themselves: niches and new levels of specialisation born out of what Gee & Hayes (2011) call passionate engagement; or, incoherence and fragmentation in which continuity is a chance occurrence. In my reading of mobile technology, I seem to be turning up stuff on the Tesco club-card, which I previously thought was a rather an innocent piece of plastic that I used to scrape ice off the car windscreen...but now I know it's track-and-trace technology that may be used for sinister purposes (persuading me to buy fairtrade butternut squash for instance). So now I'm wondering about the educational equivalent of the club card. What, I wonder would it do? It might give you feedback 'These were the courses you passed - here are some more at that level?'; 'Other people who studied Marine Biology also studied Plankton Migration'; 'Three of your friends liked Media Studies'....or maybe instead when you visited your university's treasured VLE it would only show you what you needed to do next, after that is, you'd swiped a pass on your student card!

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