Considering Keys to Identity and Authentication

Forgotten Keys(Warning: this is a bit of a ramble)

In EL30 (E-Learning 3.0), Stephen Downes has us now thinking beyond notions of identity, and into the future of digital authentication.

Stephen, our navigator, explores the notion of private and public ‘keys’ as a way to keep our identities and our data private, and firmly in user control. As I understand it, the encrypted private key is what we would use to access and share our information and the public key is the doorway that others can enter if they have a matching or designated encrypted private key themselves. Anyone else, without that key, would not be able to move into the encrypted data.

The keys — private and public — create a barrier, or a wall, of protection, and only those who we trust and know would have access, even if it were leaked or hacked or whatever. In this case, he is talking about how to protect our identities, and perhaps, how our Identity Graphs might reflect this kind of protective barrier.

I’m wondering, how does the use of encryption keys form our online identity? I also wonder, given the nature of open connectedness that informs so many of the educational and learning circles I am part of, how does this shift to extreme privacy both enhance and hinder those interactions? Will people who might otherwise be important to my own learning be left out of the loop, if the door is locked too tight? I have this analogy in my mind — which is not quite apt — of how comments on blogs are sometimes set with spam filters so high that one gives up on even bothering to take time to leave a comment, ending a conversation before it even begins. Would encrypted keys do the same, but even more so? I don’t know enough about this topic to say with any authority but I wonder about it.

In one case, Stephen describes a key that is literally a small drive that you plug into computers you want to use, and your login and data trail is on the device. This device you take with you (on your keychain, perhaps), so that you no longer rely on browsers as your login point (and therefore, risk leaving data trails for others to find and use).

As I mentioned, I don’t know much about this encryption process, although I have read a little bit about it before and wondered how technology solves a problem technology has made (privacy issues), but does one technology fix of another technology problem then somehow open the door to yet another unforeseen technology problem? What problem might encryption keys pose? Maybe I am just being cynical. I sure don’t have an answer to this problem of identity hijacking by hackers and marketers and technology giants and more.

Take a listen to Stephen and see what you think. The comic above was my attempt at humor — of noting that whatever the technology, someone is sure to lose it.

Peace (ID it),

Messing Around with Identity Graphs

Identity Graph: Writing Days

For the E-Lit 3.0 course, Stephen Downes has us pondering identity and graphs, with a focus on Identity Graphs. These are used by marketers to fine-tune who we are, using our data trails, in order to push their products our way.

Stephen envisions a different way in the Web3 world, where data will be used in deeper, richer, and unknown ways. He is turning “quantified self” into “qualified self.”  A new EL30 post he is working on (he has shared his draft with the world) expands on this notion in interesting ways, particularly in the world of anonymity and biometrics and more.

The task for this particular activity was to create an Identity Graph but without identifying who we are, or naming us on the graph. This suggested cloak of identity invisibility led me to think of a Scatter Graph, and then I figured, what does writing look like in this kind of visual? That’s what the graph above is aiming for.

The comic below? It’s my initial response to thinking of Identity Graphs and marketing departments.

Don’t Graph Me

I remain concerned about how Identity Graphs are used and are developing with different technology (would an Augmented Reality Identity Graph be cool or creepy, or both?) , and how our ability to hide from commercial interests in digital spaces seems more and more difficult to maintain.

Stephen interviewed Maha Bali for this week’s theme.

If you want to engage with me in the margins of their conversation, come on over to Vialogues where I have set this up for discussions as a way to watch together.

Stephen and Maha in Vialogues

Peace (where data hides),

Wrapping My Head Around Graphs and Networks and Stories

On GraphsI am reading and re-reading Stephen Downes’ piece on graphs for the EL30 (E-Learning 3.0) course, pondering the ways he thinks about the representation of social networks, stories and more. I am not even sure I follow it all. I’m fine with that, for it has me thinking in differen directions.

On GraphsWhat I am wondering about is how to re-envision graphs as something more than story, more than just a visualization of information, more than a way to read the world. Stephen asserts that the power of the graph is in its connector points, that the overall structure of a graph system — the way a graphing structure can underline a more powerful network — is more reliable than the narrative. Whether this is story or not, I don’t know. As a writer, I default to thinking of this in relationship to story. Stephen may not be doing that at all. He may be thinking more technical, more about network design and community interactions.

He explains:

The terms ‘graph’ and ‘network’, for example, essentially refer to the same thing, but with a difference in emphasis. I tend to use the word ‘graph’ when thinking of the formal properties of a network, and ‘network’ when thinking of the physical properties of a graph. – Stephen Downes

During the week, he asked us all to do a graph of some sort. I made this one, about when I spend my time thinking about the concepts of EL30. It is completely unreliable.

el30 graph

All this connects to what Stephen points to as Web3, the idea of where the Web structures might head to, as part of a more decentralized organization of social connections. Pondering the potential of where we are going, as opposed to becoming bogged down on what hasn’t worked for us in the past is beneficial.

As an aside, I gathered a graph shared by another EL30 participant — Matthias — and tried to remix it a bit, showing how I was reading his nodes, landing on the connector point of Conversations.


Peace (here, there, everywhere),



The Unseen Cloud and the Nature of Learning

The Cloud Changes Our Learning

Stephen Downes, of E-Learning 3.0,  consolidates his thinking on “the Cloud” with the lines above, which intrigue me as a writer, teacher, learner. I don’t have a clear sense of what it means for me yet so I am in the “mulling something profound” stage. (And I am already behind in this course, as Stephen keeps moving us forward at a rapid pace.)

This, too, from the same post:

It’s easy to think of the cloud simply resources as “someone else’s computer” where you run your applications online. But the technology that makes it possible to use the cloud has created a whole new class of resources, a class where resources are more than just text or multimedia, but resources that are in fact fully functioning computers. – Stephen Downes

Read Stephen’s piece, entitled “Cloud” and see what you think.

It’s a bit abstract for me at times, with technical language and concepts that I sort of understand but sort of don’t understand. Yet Stephen’s reflections are still worth perusing how technology innovation like what we call the Cloud is changing the ways we learn and maybe the ways we teach. I have this feeling that this course is just seeding my brain for some future thinking. (Rain from the cloud brings flowers in the Spring?)

Stephen suggests that we need to move beyond just seeing the Cloud Storage Idea as just some unseen box of stuff where we park our digital parts for later access, and that we — as educators and as learners, formally and informally — view the Cloud more as part of a larger systematic underpinning of conceptual learning frameworks whose potential has yet to be tapped.

And maybe in doing so, in viewing the Cloud in this different angle of moving parts and learning acquisition potential, we can begin changing the very nature of what it means to learn, and how we go about doing it.


Cloud Control

Then, the other day, Greg made a comment about ‘containers’ in the frame of writing — of how we use “sections” in essays as containers for ideas, or how some story narratives (and I am have misread his intent but it got me thinking in this other direction, which is what learning is all about, right?) use the idea of “three” as a container (three little bears, three little pigs, the kids in Harry Potter, etc.) for narrative. This brings up a tension between archetypes that pen us in at times and freedom to explore beyond the boundaries (which is what Stephen is suggesting).


Peace (grounded and clouded),

A Comic Reaction to the Data Visualization

DS106 Non-Analysis Comic

Greg kindly shared out a data visualization of some #DS106 connections.

Although I didn’t quite know what it all meant — even though the focus of the E-Lit 3.0 course that I am watching from afar is all about data tools and data analysis, so much of it is beyond me right now — Greg’s visualization looked pretty cool.

After looking at it for some time, I thought, this is a game board. Then I thought, this needs to be a comic.

So I made a comic, for Greg. The game might yet come …

Peace (in the frame),

Listening to George and Stephen: Machines, Humans and Learning

Just hanging out with George Siemens and Stephen Downes with a cup of coffee. I started yesterday morning and am continuing to view it this morning. It’s fun to listen in to these two. This video discussion is part of E-Learning 3.0. These two have a long history of nurturing open, connected platforms for learning.

Some Scattered Collected Words and Observations:

  • “What’s the future like?” — Stephen
  • George: We are at a funny point in the field, with technology explosion, innovation and moocs. There was a wave of ideas that emerged and then …  “The last five years, we’ve been in the wilderness ..” — George, and the potential “structural different” possibilities of learning is still in flux. He refers to AI and other ideas.
  • “The human end is critical” (George) as the wave of AI and data comes into play. “What should our school systems do to prepare people for” that future? Me: this is always the question, always on the minds of educators.
  • Stephen’s pointed question: What is the thing that is uniquely human?
  • George: Connecting the idea of machine learning to human learning. Is there such a connection? “What’s left (for human) is the definition of purpose …” — Stephen.
  • “Maybe we’re (humans) destined to be that voice in the computer’s head … that’s an important role …” — George
  • “Why are we teaching in a way that is counter-intuitive and not personally satisfying to students?” — George
  • Trustworthiness of the system is important — George, but he notes that the problem (fake news, platform manipulation, politicizing technology, etc.) has long been there, but the US presidential election brought it to the public surface
  • Fragmenting a narrative via digital to cloud the meaning of an event is a new corporate/political approach to control news cycles — George, talking about Occupy Wall Street, President Trump, Turkey, etc.

Listening to these two grapple with the impact of AI and Machine Learning in a human world, and in schools that are still driven by older models of learning, is interesting.

Like them, many of us are struggling to retain what it means to retain a humanizing approach in a data digital world, which feels more and more as if it is overwhelming us. This same topic of “being human in a digital world” also came up during a day-long meeting yesterday I was part of about technology and education, and I loved how theat important topic spilled over from me, watching this video, and us, in the room.

As a teacher, thinking about the role that education will play for my students in navigating such a world is a constant overarching theme. My students won’t be in that world for another ten years or so. Can you even imagine that world? How do you educate someone now for what you can’t yet envision?

Peace (learning),

PS — it occurs to me now that I should have popped this into Vialogues for collaborative viewing and commenting. Next time, perhaps …

I Am Reading This

dogs welcome flickr photo by djg0333 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

The first line of the invite to Stephen Downe’s newest adventure — E-Learning 3.0 — says:

If you’re reading this, then this course is for you.”

I guess I’m in!

Short Intro: I teach emerging adolescents. I am a writer. Those two passions often intersect. As such, I am always looking for places where educators and writers can connect about learning through digital spaces and immersive experiences. I learned about Stephen’s course through friends’ sharing out on Mastodon, so in some ways, following the trails from those posts and toots (what you post on Mastodon) to the course overview by Stephen (with its first lines of welcome) is a rather natural pathway. This blog post is my first foray into the exploration, and gives me something to feed the RSS Dragon.

Course Site: 

Peace (dogs allowed),