Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cognitive Surplus and Walled Gardens

The phrase cognitive surplus describes the idle capacity that people have available to engage in collaborative activities, especially in building and sharing knowledge on the web.  Wikipedia is often cited as the prime example of what cognitive surplus can do.

This site represents my cognitive surplus.

In tension with this is the idea of a walled garden.  A walled garden is an entity, sometimes a web site, that encourages users to stay withing its borders.  Commercial vendors have an interest in capturing cognitive surplus to expand their gardens and make them more attractive destinations.

I'm an outsider on edu-hacking, and the future of education, but I think there is a clear competition going on now between the network of "sites without walls" and those more aggressively pursuing "walled garden" status.

I would bet long-term on the open systems, but if I'm going to be "egoless" on this too, I should say it's all good.  If an ed-tech business can help you learn, and provide decent ROI, go for it.  Of course, you might browse for the free and open alternatives.

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