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Shock 2007: Does Web 2.0 Herald The End Of In-House Development And Provision Of IT Services?

27/03/2007

In November last year, Roger Geyer and Steve Whitaker (University of Virginia) discussed the notion of Perpetual Beta in the virtual classroom at the Universitas 21 conference on e-Learning and Pedagogy.  Whitaker and Geyer identify user-added value as one of the hallmarks of Web 2.0, and as discussed elsewhere this can be conceived as a huge paradigm shift for all involved.  It has seemed to me a sign of these fast moving times that some four months later we’re questioning whether Web 2.0 now spells the end universities in-house software development (Walk and Kelly, UKOLN, University of Bath).  A straw poll was conducted at the Shock of the Social 2007 conference, and the perhaps unsurprisingly (from a predominantly ‘in house’ crowd) the answer was a generally resounding ‘No’.  That said – it is clear the universities are anxious to appropriate, and in some respect re-sell the strengths of social networking technologies.  If the technologies themselves (folksonomies, wikis and so forth) are simply batched and integrated into students PLEs various concerns must be expressed.  Whilst this conglomerate offers a dynamic pitch to the university portal – in discussion – issues of branding and control of external services were weighed by delegates.  Implicitly, the accessibility of these technologies and universities responsibility to diverse student groups, (not to mention obligations to the DDA) mean these factors must be addressed from the outset.  MySpace has proven the potential horrors of user controlled content, and as accessibility discourse races to address the hype of 2.0, I realise I am still unaware of any large scale, funded accessibility research or audits of the pack leaders amongst the current student portfolio of Web 2.0 technologies.  We need a benchmark. 

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