August 27, 2008 § 4 Comments
A friend on Facebook has had the words ‘This is creepy treehouse’ written on her profile picture for many months now and I’ve always wondered what the f is she’s on about. The other eve over a F2F drink she finally revealed the meaning of her reference and when I got home I immediately googled the term and found the ed-tech blogosphere had been busy with creepy treehouses for months. The clearest definition is on Flexknowlogy – “Defining Creepy Treehouse” which includes:
n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention of luring in kids.
n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards.
what struck me immediately was that the repulsion described and commonly attributed to the kids for adult built or infiltrated social networks and LMS’s can also be applied to the all-age communities suspicion of inauthentic attempts by institutions to jump into the social networks. How many times have you run across a cultural institutions presence on Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. that no-one is maintaining in the way that’s authentic to the community space you’re on. It’s like the light’s are on in these spaces but no-one’s home , both frustrating and a little creepy for the interested community members and totally useless, even harmful for the institution.
The general consensus, and I agree, is that the creepy treehouse is best pulled down by paying healthy respect to the social spaces of others and the way they wish to use them, no matter what the age. Web 2.0 technology has opened up all sorts of incredible learning possibilities but the social structures we’re interacting with are more mall than classroom. You can’t force people to hang out with you in their social space or join you in yours, personal choice is everything here. To use social networks to reach students/audiences there should be an effort to build trust and you can only really do that by being authentic and finding out what that means and how it can be achieved. After all that you may still be creepy but that’s whole other story.