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The essay question is ‘With reference to issues and thinkers you have encountered on this module, critically consider the relation between democracy and networked communication’.

The essay should be based on the resources provided (2-3 resources could be added from the writer if needed)

The essay to focus on informal civic learning and its contribution to democracy.
An example would be the networked communication sites and their contribution to democracy.

This reaction paper aims to explore the theory of collective learning and its contribution to supporting social change. This paper will be based on the work of Deborah Kilgore (1999) and Benjamin Gleason (2013). Abhijnan Chakraborty et al.’s study (2017) will be discussed as a critique of Kilgore and Gleasons’ articles. Kilgore’s theory of collective learning offers an understating of the shared collective knowledge and its importance when developing and maintaining a sense of solidarity which in turn encourages collective social action (1999, pg. 199). Gleason’s study of the different ways in which people engage with informal learning in an online setting is interesting as social network sites such as Twitter are becoming prominent platforms for many individuals in obtaining important information and news stories (Chakraborty et al., 2017).
Kilgore defines collective learning as ‘a process that occurs among two or more diverse people in which taken-as-shared meanings… are constructed and acted upon by the group’ (1999, pg. 191). While Gleason talks about participation in the form of sharing videos and tagging (2013, pg. 979), Kilgore discusses the importance of moving away from individualised formal learning to promote social change. What both articles have in common is their focus on participation as being an essential part of informal collective learning.
Gleason examined the way twitter supports informal learning by following the #OWS hashtag. What Gleason found interesting is that about half of the tweets he observed were user-generated, meaning they were created by independent users rather than mainstream media. The information was mostly in the form of YouTube videos, images and blogs. The user-generated nature of tweets meant that they offered multiple perspectives. Informal learning through user-generated platforms also provoked creditability issues as users are mostly unknown. However, Gleason believes this encourages the reader to have an open mindset while allowing for reasonable critique (2013, pg. 976-977).
Chakraborty et al.’s article (2017) addresses the way a hashtag receives attention. Their study shows that ‘a large fraction of trending topics are promoted by crowds whose demographics are significantly different from Twitter’s overall user population’ (2017, pg. 22). A hashtag becomes a trend for many reasons including twitters’ trend selection algorithms and the coverage through traditional news agencies (2017, pg. 22). When debating online informal learning, Chakraborty et al.’s work help us notice the importance of the fairness and biases in the algorithms that makes a news story or any topic popular (Chakraborty et al., 2017, pg. 30).
In conclusion, Kilgore claims that collective learning beyond traditional formal education addresses social justice and encourages collective social action (1999, pg. 192) This is evident in Gleason’s study as he believed the informal learning on Twitter provides several possibilities for participation in a social movement (2013, pg. 979). However, it is vital to be aware of the type of information that we are exposed to. Chakraborty et al. study (2017) highlight the biases relating to the way a hashtag becomes a trend. Whether there is a focus on certain topics and an overlook for others affects our informal learning. Given that we engage mostly with the hashtags and topics that are trending, are we expanding our knowledge about a topic that we believe to be important? Or are we clicking on a hashtag that Twitter wants us to learn more about?

Type of service: Academic Paper Writing
Type of assignment: Essay
Subject: Sociology
Pages /words: 14/3600
Number of sources: 20
Academic level: Undergraduate
Paper format: Harvard
Line spacing: Double
Language style: UK English