Friday, September 29, 2006

Groups vs. Networks

In a recent post, Stephen Downes, also one of my favourite bloggers, has explained the difference between groups and networks. According to Stephen, groups are closed, distributive and require unity and coordination. Networks, on the other hand, are diverse, autonomous, open, and connective. He also provided a video and a drawing illustrating his thoughts about this distinction.

George Siemens stated that "A network can simply be defined as connections between entities. Computer networks, power grids, and social networks all function on the simple principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be connected to create an integrated whole. Alterations within the network have ripple effects on the whole".

In another article, George said "Networks are simple, consisting of two main elements: nodes (or vertices) and connections. The power of networks rests in their ability to expand, grow, react, and adapt. A network grows in diversity and value through the process of connecting to other nodes or networks. A node in a network can consist of a person, a content resource, or (if the network is perceived from a "high view") other networks".

I believe that a network is different from a group in the sense that it is characterized by less structure and control and more dynamic and flexibility and that our learning has to be based on networks rather than groups.

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