That was the focus of the Startup and Reception Technology Showcase, which featured several new companies exploring the odd middle-ground between collaboration, control and privacy. And while many of the companies featured in the showcase created products geared towards advertising and marketing, small modifications in software could also provide new opportunities for pedagogy and teaching. I’ll list a few of these new startup groups before giving a short reflection on the opportunities and dangers implied in their products and their use in teaching pedagogy.
- Swyzzle: Swyzzle provides markup for embedded video. Swyzzle uses markup to embed links to information about products appearing in popular television, films, or youtube features. Their vision is to remove all kinds of commercials that interrupt filmed content. The Swyzzle company also offers tracking and analysis features that can chart when consumers decide to link to product information.
- Stronico: Stronico tracks connections between people. It takes information from different social media sites and creates a giant map listing who is connected to whom. You are not only able to see who you are connected to, or who your friends or friends of friends are connected to, you can also see how they are connected. If you, for example, meet an important person in a meeting — for example — and do not get connection information from that person, you can use Stronico to find this person. Stronico is, in this sense, a powerful form of online networking in which you can find important contacts almost instantaneously.
- Likeminds: Likeminds connects people with similar interests, and uses their reviews on amazon.com, Netflix, GoodReads, Flickster and other social media applications to suggest other books, music and films you may be interested in. They envision a marketing environment where advertising becomes increasingly more personalized.
- looxii: A social media analytics provider created by former students at Georgia Tech, looxii is committed to making analytics simple. looxii is primarily made for social media marketers, but it can also be used by academic sites that want detailed analyses of their traffic.
- 9th Period.com: 9th period uses existing social network sites to connect students with one another across the country. Students are able to crowdsource questions to students taking similar classes anywhere in the world. For example, if a student is taking an introduction to philosophy class and has a question about Plato’s definition of justice in The Republic, they can search out other students taking philosophy and ask them. 9th Period.com is designed for elementary, middle and high school education but can also be used by college students, graduate students and faculty.
Many of these technologies represent new attempts to personalize commercial products and provide consumers more choices when looking for something specific. However, they also represent unprecedented incursions into individual privacy. For example, Cardlytics, a program devoted to giving consumers coupons with discounts that are linked to their debit cards, uses information on purchases from your online bank account to determine what products you buy and how much you spend on them. Cardlytics are implemented by individual banks looking to recoup losses after the changes made by the recent Federal Financial Regulation Legislation. They provide consumers with targeted and personalized coupons. Consumers have to opt-out of the program if they do not want corporations to have access to their purchasing information.
Despite the privacy issues that emerge with several of these social media applications, they can also provide new opportunities for teaching. The technology that drives Swyzzle could also be implemented to markup video for grading student films, or to add important historical, technological or biographical information in an “Introduction to Film” class. The programming that powers Stronico could also be used to create historical maps showing the ways different historical figures, events, ideas, and technologies relate to one another. Finally, it would be interesting to envision an academic version of Likeminds, where graduate students and faculty suggest new avenues of research.
The Startup and Reception Showcase only underlined the promises and the perils of the social media era. While the attention to personalization provides powerful new forms of online collaboration, no one seemed too interested in maintaining pre-Facebook levels of privacy for their clients or users.