Through a series of events too tedious for me to relate and for anyone else to hear related, I have become interested in the question of how to develop or encourage or create online educational communities that would both make use of the new media that are available and also study this usage self-reflexively. What I want to see is the study of media expanded beyond the various academic and technical disciplines in which it is now confined into a wider and more integrated community of teachers, learners, writers, thinkers, practitioners, and researchers. I want this community to be a place where various media are themselves used to do the work of studying and critiquing media. I want it to encourage people to think media through media and to discover what might happen.
I find myself confronted, however, by the technical aspects of the project. The problem is that I have not yet discovered the medium, if it even exists, that would allow me to form the kind of community that I am imagining. The best option, at least initially, would likely be to use or misuse an existing tool to approximate what I want, but I do not know of a program that would even do this much. I have both blog software and Moodle courseware already available to me, but both of these approaches seem unsatisfactory for any number of reasons. The other option would be to have a tool written specifically for my purposes, but the costs involved would be substantial, even if I did have a clear idea of what this tool would look like, which I do not.
What I am realizing, and not for the first time, is that the things I most want are often the things that do not yet exist. I am not interested in the connections that are made through Facebook or Twitter or Digg, however interesting and useful these sites may be in their way. I am not interested in the connections that are not made through academic and educational websites that are basically textbooks by other means, though I have often made use of these resources. I am not even all that interested in the connections that are made through courseware websites, though I maintain such a site and make extensive use of it.
What I want are spaces where people connect over the work of the intellect, but this work is too often done behind the boundaries of institutions, disciplines, and intellectual property. Knowledge becomes hoarded behind these boundaries, so that careers can be advanced, and accolades won, and royalties received. Rather than forming the basis for a living community, the work of the intellect becomes the basis for disciplinary territorialism, political wrangling, and intellectual isolation. The space and the community that I want do not exist. I hope, however, that their prototypes do exist, scattered wherever they may be across the media landscape, and it is my intention to see if they can be gathered.