Documents to data — for me, this is not an easy farewell.
It is not that I conceived ‘data’ as a setback in the hierarchy of data – information – knowledge – wisdom. This meaning of data is just one of the two possible senses: the one that suggests that data is just the substance, the raw material that we ‘processed’ when IT was still called EDP. While the glimpse into Learning Analytics on Wednesday still sounded like they see data like the tons of sand that clueless gold miners sift through to find some nuggets, Stephen’s last video featured a very different sense of data: like ‘facts’ which are ‘linked’ in Berners-Lee’s semantic web, and which are shared via the various initiatives to open the results of publicly funded research data for reuse and validation. This is an approach that must be applauded, of course, despite there is a danger that unstructured (unlinkable) ‘data’ get neglected.
It reminds me of the time when library information or, say, chemical abstracts were retrieved from OPACs or other special database hosts through an X.25 session and a login window, rather than clicking directly. OK, database rows aren’t typically addressed separately. But letting go of files and folders, also my own responsibility of backup and restore becomes much more risky. While I use to just right-click and copy my .accdb MS Access database file before I start a risky operation, I don’t know how I would repair the MySQL database on Reclaim Hosting if it scrambled; even if I recovered the component files, I’m not sure how I would recreate the whole again (which is greater than the sum of its parts).
OK, maybe I am more relying on my file system than a modern user would do (e.g. my notes are just tiny separate Notepad .txt files, and much of my ‘graph’ consists of simple folder shortcuts), but I find it regrettable that in modern apps, and especially on the mobile, the access to your single files is largely obscured — and I was already thinking that a ‘Reclaim your filesystem’ movement was due.
I understand the push from larger objects towards smaller entities. From a picture object to picture dots. From assignments to xAPI events. It might help to ‘see’ an emergent whole picture in the way human brains do when they let go of the typical isolating/ fixing habit. (I am not sure though, if Learning Analytics is not also used to isolate ‘trends’ and reduce students to measures.)
But the users’ handling of their data becomes more complicated, and I fear people are willing to delegate ever more of this hassle to the eager offers of ‘helpful’ platforms. The classical example for me was RSS where the simple thing of a feed address is so much obscured that standalone readers died and people were lured into the trap of the Google Reader.
So, yes, decentralization becomes more important with the data-based model — becomes very important.