In a rejoinder to Pløn Verhagen, entitled "Learning theory or pastime of the self-amused" George Siemens makes the observation
"The content-central view of learning loses effectiveness in environments that are rapidly changing and adapting. Text in itself is a codification of knowledge at a point in time—a snapshot. In contrast, conversation is fluid and continual."
Knowledge is also fluid and continual, with each experience going towards our own sum-of-knowledge, but also having the ability to engage the mind in a bout of revisionism. We adjust our world model according to the latest information available (according to my empirical epistemology) - and the strength of this is such that we can suffer from source confusion (for a simple description, see Brewer and Williams, 2007).
Interactions on the web, or indeed, any written communication, have comparatively good recall and data integrity. Whilst it is possible for the record to be modified, without deliberate action being taken the written word has a better memory than almost any human being, and is not subject to post-event suggestion. A notable exception to this is when a system allows people to go back and edit information to which others have already replied.
The conversation can take place within this less-mutable environment rather than the more error prone 'natural' environment of speech. This enables participants to go back and assess not only the meaning, but also whether they (or other participants) had any errors in their process of understanding what was meant. Of course, in the final analysis the participants are still able to draw different inferences from the conversation, but at least the conversation itself can be accurately recalled.
Whilst this is often used for blame attribution, due to the argumentative nature of net denizens, the main advantage it gives over purely audio conversation is that it gives much better support for reflection and meta-cognition.
Meta-cognition is under-appreciated, in my view. The most effective learning is learning about how we learn - reflecting on this and seeking to improve the process gives us the single greatest advantage in dealing with the ever-increasing rate of knowledge production in the world today. Epistemology is the cornerstone of everything we do at OdinLab (although we still need to convince some members of the team that it is!).
I confess, I am fascinated by auto-recursion. Meta-cognition (thinking about thinking), learning about learning, knowing about knowing and about knowledge, finding the meaning of meaning - none as simple as some people think (or am I, perhaps, not seeing the light?).
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