Sunday, February 10, 2008

Zipcar, Goloco and Social Learning

So I watched an interesting talk on many fronts the other day by Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar (the American automobile sharing service) and now Goloco.

Goloco is a "a service that helps people and communities create their own personal public transportation network" - seemingly enabled via a social software application (like Facebook etc - and there does appear to be a Goloco Facebook application).

Goloco pitches itself as "a better way to travel. Driving together reduces CO2 and raises your spirits at the same time."
Of course the environmental benefits of ride-sharing are obvious, but it was the fun part that got my attention.

With the enthusiasm of a new economy start-up entrepreneur (although one who seems to be a bit nervous) Ms. Chase paints a picture of a future where the social experience of getting there is half the fun. Through services like Goloco, traveling would once again be a richer, social, more enjoyable experience (think of the depth of experience and satisfaction of say, pioneering settlers (minus the hardships of course), as opposed to the lonely, devoid of meaning drudgery "commuting" can be today). Well, personally I'm not betting too much money on the Goloco vision emerging in the near term, but the talk did get me thinking about the experience of learning.

Learning can take place in both social and solitary contexts, and although the balance is no longer as absolute as it once was, libraries for the most part seem still predominantly to facilitate solitary learning (sure information commons/collaborative spaces are popping up, but most libraries are still centered around the usually solitary book).

This post is getting a little long, so let me cut the the chase: Is anyone using social networks to actively pair users with similar interests in an attempt to create social learning contexts (with the permission of each individual user of course)? In effect to perhaps actively create richer learning experiences in the same way Goloco is trying to create a richer traveling experience?

I know a lot of libraries have a somewhat passive presence in social networks, but is anyone (ONLY with the permission of all involved!) actively pairing previously unknown patrons with similar interests in an attempt to enrich their users learning experiences and thereby smashing through the privacy boogeyman that still somehow exists when our patrons give permission to share information?

The technology seems to be there, but is anyone regularly using it in this way? What have the results been?