Weblogs as a transformational tech

Blogtalk Conference Paper, Vienna, May 23rd-24th 2003
by Oliver Wrede

This paper discusses different questions of weblogs in context of higher education. It is focussing on three loosly coupled questions:
1. How can the weblog format improve discourse?
2. How it can weblogs support teaching at universities?
3. What are the insitutional benefits of weblogs in universities?
It seems obvious that these questions relate to each other and probably should be discussed in context of each other. The document grew out of a wild collection of speculative thoughts and notes. It is also based on some daily experience with weblogs in an educational setting.


1. Weblogs and discourse

1.1 Dissipative nature of discourse

1.2 Reading and comprehension

1.3 Speech acts

1.4 Narrative forms and weblogs types

1.5 Discourse tools

1.6 What weblogs offer for discourse

2. Weblogs and teaching

2.1 Students today: Cooperative and self-determined?

2.2 Hidden agenda of teaching

2.3 Learner-centered approach

2.4 What weblogs offer teaching

3. Weblogs and universities

3.1 What has changed?

3.2 Emergence

3.3 Organizational aspects

3.4 Upcoming research: Weblog-Campus

Footnotes, Credits, Links

Compared to other formats there are some aspects about weblogs that are very distinctive:

There is a potential that increases very quick with the size of a community,

weblogs are both monologues and dialogues and therefore can benefit from the advantages of both forms and

they also intersect e-mail, discussion forums, instant messaging and conventional electronic publishing,

they are continuous in the sense that they are not result oriented but process oriented (while the process will end when discourse ends),

weblog-enabled discourses penetrate the rather static institutional hierarchies that create much overhead.

Weblogs integrate these characteristics. Other software concepts have some backdraws that limit their application (while definatly they are effective when properly applied):

Learning Management Systems are maybe not open enough to connect to discourses outside of the class

Groupware is often project and result oriented so that the flow of ideas is cut off once the project has been finalized

Content Management Systems rarely offer personal web-publishing solutions and are focussed on workflows and production

Weblogs are not special because of their technology but because of the practice and authorship they shape. And it is a practice that will require a weblogger to be »connected« to processes, discourses and communities. With a linear growing number of connections the chance for interconnections increases exponentially (like the value of a fax …….