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Availability of Experts

September 26, 2010

One major benefit of social media is how close we are to subject matter experts. We have the ability to connect with those who can help or inspire with a few clicks, no matter their status on the topic through the various social networks available.  Various sports people, actors, singers, and authors have all at some stage reached out to the masses on a personal basis to answer a question or chastise if appropriate.

I connected, through LinkedIn, with Ellen Gunning, the author of a popular text book on PR in Ireland and within a few hours I had a reply with a valid comment coupled with advice and possible connections to make in conducting my research. This small act on her part is a simplistic and crude example of how Web 2.0 tools increased my productivity and learning.

In reading “Socially Constructed Learning: A Commentary on the Concept of the Learning Organisation”, the author Joy Cullen includes Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist’s 1978 theory that cognitive learning occurs at the social level.  In the article the author says

“A key notion in socio-cultural theory is that individuals learn through exposure to experts in their environment. Vygotsky coined the term “zone of proximal development” (ZPD), to refer to the difference between the level at which a learner could function unassisted and the level to which the learner could be extended with expert assistance. More generally, the zone concept “refers to an interactive system within which people work on a problem which at least one of them could not, alone, work on effectively”

This is going to form a significant part of my primary research, and I will need to find a mechanism to measure this social learning if it currently exists either face to face or electronically.  Is there a difference between on the job and general subject matter in order to do a better job. My example is small and insignificant on its own, but coupled with other interactions I hope to have using web 2.0 tools over the next few months, I will end with a large repository of usable research.


Cullen, J. (1999) “Socially Constructed Learning: A Commentary on the Concept of the Learning Organisation”, The Learning Organisation, Volume 6 · Number 1 pp.45–52.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 28, 2010 8:50 am

    Hi Fergal,

    Interesting observation, it’s fair to say that the distance between those with power/knowledge and the rest of us has narrowed significantly in every sense. Ellen is a veritable expert in her field (great example) and she is very open which is great. I too have made online contact with experts I could only have dreamt of reaching pre-web 2.0.

    However, the caveat I’d throw in is that Web 2.0 opens some interesting doors, because through personal branding we can all become “experts” or at least be perceived as such. Wikipedia is a great example-you can search there for anything but will the information be accurate? I certainly wouldn’t be citing it as a reference! I guess my point is that user-generated content is great but it can create an illusion of expertise where it might not exist.

    Am enjoying reading your work Fergal, keep it coming !


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