Selected papers, presentations and other contributions available online

Quick list: most recent papers

Networked, Integrated, Augmented: towards a future when all learning is e-learning (2011)

Risks and Opportunities in Authentic Learning (2010)

E-Government and Social Media: The Queensland Government’s MyQ2 Initiative (2010, with Mark Balnaves)

The social side of social media: technology or collaboration? (2010, with Elaine Tay)


Networked, Integrated, Augmented: towards a future when all learning is e-learning
A presentation for the Centre for Studies in Higher Education University of Melbourne, March 2011


This presentation is the first of several that wrap up my Learning in Networks of Knowledge project, undertaken as an ALTC Teaching Fellow, and try to look forward to the consequences of the knowledge networking paradigm change. I argue that in future all learning will be e-learning (even though, sometimes, it will still not directly involve the technologies of digital computer-mediated networks). However, the change will occur because the underpinning circumstances of study will be relentlessly networked; various technological mediations will be always integral to study; and realities will be routinely augmented by connected media. The traditional boundaries between e and not-e (boundaries that have productively aided e-learning development in the past) will disappear. The period of e-learning as distinctive and different will eventually come to an end. My paper looks at this triptych of networked, integrated and augmented and outlines a few key implications for staff, students and universities as a whole.


Risks and Opportunities in Authentic Learning via the Internet
The National Curriculum Innovation and Quality Forum 2010 , Melbourne, December 2010.


Authentic learning is a powerful approach for educators because it motivates students to attend closely to their studies and improves the application of skills and knowledge beyond the classroom. The internet is a particularly important tool for such learning; it not only can make authentic learning practical in many cases but also prompts students to develop awareness of the public, networked form that knowledge work now takes. I will, in this keynote paper, (a) summarise approaches to authentic learning in the BA (Internet Communications) at Curtin University; (b) identify the key benefits in using a public knowledge networking approach to authentic learning; and (c) highlight risks and strategies for managing those approaches in the pursuit of authentic learning online

Using Web 2.0 in your teaching: ideas, applications and affordances forenhanced educational outcomes
Presentation to Australian universities of outcomes from ALTC Fellowship project, Learning in Networks of Knowledge, April 2010
The presentation focuses heavily on the way that a wide array of Web 2.0 / social media applications can be used in higher education, whether in distance or on-campus learning. The presentation will demonstrate the ‘top 10’ innovative applications which exemplify the different ways in which Web 2.0 can make a difference for university learning. Designed to provide practical, usable ideas, the presentation emphasises how the technologies which might be chosen must be understood in terms of their relationship to the content, assessment, outcomes of learning, and the particular context provided by students and the subjects they are studying. The presentation will involve detailed visual display of various applications. It moves beyond general discussion of blogs, wikis and social networking into consideration of unusual and valuable online services and sites which are not well known to educators..

Authentic Assessment in the era of Social Media: ideas and applications from Internet Communications
Seminar at Oxford Internet Institute, London Knowledge Lab, and Institute for Educational Technology, Open U May 2010

Authentic assessment refers both to the alignment of assessment with the actual outcomes of students’ learning, and to the utilisation in assessment of approximations of real-world situations within which knowledgeable activity might take place. In both cases, student learning is assumed to be intimately connected with the manner in which they are assessed, and that students will be more highly motivated to learn if their assessment is authentic. The emergence recently of Web 2.0-enabled social media online provides a new opportunity to develop assessments that match with, and draw upon students’ engagement with online knowledge networking, creating new possibilities for ‘authenticity’. Matthew Allen will briefly review why an assessment-driven focus on online learning is important, and how authenticity might be developed in a world of social media, before presenting several examples of current and proposed assessment practice in an undergraduate Internet Communications course. While the examples demonstrate the importance for assessment practice of the particular disciplinary and professional context provided by the subject matter of students’ learning, these examples will also show how the use of Web 2.0 in blended and online learning can more generally be based on real-world knowledge production, in knowledge networks, that bridge the growing gap between formal and informal learning via the Internet.

E-Government and Social Media: The Queensland Government’s MyQ2 Initiative (Matthew Allen and Mark Balnaves)
EDEM10 – 4th International Conference on eDemocracy 2010 Danube-University Krems, Austria, May 2010
In 2009 the government of the state of Queensland, Australia developed and launched a public, strategic vision for the state and its people entitled Toward Q2. Like many similar government media activities these days, the vision was articulated primarily via the Internet: a commonplace form of e-government. Yet Toward Q2 is soon to be accompanied by a more innovative form of e-government through another initiative – MyQ2. MyQ2 is a website that takes seriously the power of social media in building governmental interaction with citizens. MyQ2 involves participants choosing, tracking and reporting commitments they make to achieve real change in their everyday lives. The changes involve living healthier, environmentally friendly, and community supportive lives. If achieved, each one, in a small way, contributes to the government’s goals for a state in which citizens are collectively more responsible for social change for better outcomes and more efficiency in public administration. This paper will focus mainly on describing MyQ2 so as to demonstrate how it represents a new form of e-government that uses social media to build civic engagement, while doing so in a way specific to the needs of government. MyQ2 demonstrates how the use of Web 2.0-based approaches enables governments, in theory at least, to mobilise citizens to become active participants in the operational achievement of governance.

My presentation of our paper started to develop some new ideas around the meaning of e-government. I will write this up in due course: the slides below give an indication of how I want to develop the more descriptive paper for this conference which is published in proceedings

Web 2.0 for networked learning: from collaboration to shared cognition and knowledge networking
Networked Learning Conference 2010: Seventh International Conference on Networked Learning, Aalborg, DK, May 2010;
http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/organisations/netlc/past/nlc2010/abstracts/PDFs/Allen.pdf. In Dirckinck–Holmfeld, V. Hodgson, C.Jones, M. de Laat, D.McConnell & T.Ryberg (eds), Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010, Aalborg: University of Aalborg: pp.964–966 (poster below)

This poster presents research-in-progress into the educational affordances of so-called Web 2.0 sites, services, with a particular emphasis on those applications that involve forms of shared human-machine cognition and that promote public knowledge networking. This research involves reviewing many hundreds of Web 2.0 tools and selecting approximately 50 for further analysis and exploration as learning applications. In doing so, the research will generate examples of unusual affordances provided by Web 2.0; it will also present a more structured categorisation of the kinds of uses and benefits of these tools. This approach is valuable because much current research and analysis of the impact of Web 2.0 on education, particularly higher education, has emphasised a relatively limited array of tools – principally blogs, wikis and social networking services – that offer educators and students opportunities for student-led collaborative work. Such opportunities involve strong emphasis on constructivist pedagogy: students’ interactions with each other, mediated via the Internet, are viewed as the positive benefit which networked learning can provide. However, Web 2.0 is far more than just collaboration, and associated shared self-expression. In particular, Web 2.0 includes many examples of services that take one form of input from a user and, rather than just sharing it with others, enable the transformation of that input into different forms, either as visualisations, maps, or other re-representations. Web 2.0 is also starting to see the development of knowledge-work engines that embody the concept of shared cognition, in which the service and the user cooperate in the production of some final knowledge output or which present to users knowledge that has already been processed more extensively than through simple searching. Web 2.0 is also closely associated with the idea that knowledge work is now networked and distributed; it involves users appropriating, creating and sharing knowledge products in a very public way, far beyond the narrow ‘audience’ of a particular course or program of study. The research presented in this poster will provide, firstly, examples of the Web 2.0 tools which emphasise these additional ways of exploiting the Internet for networked learning; secondly, the research will provide a first iteration of the overarching structure of categories and classifications which can be used to assess any proposed Web 2.0 application in terms of its affordances for learning as knowledge networking. By understanding these technologies, truly collaborative networked learning can be developed that blends with the emerging cultures of online behaviour increasingly common to contemporary student populations.

The experience of connectivity: results from a survey of Australian Internet users
Information, Communication & Society (2010) in production.

The social side of social media: technology or collaboration? (Elaine Tay and Matthew Allen)
Teaching and learning Forum 2010: Educating for Sustainability Perth, January 2010

Educational Media International, accepted for publication (April 2011)

This paper discusses how course design may draw upon social media in order to teach students appropriate skills for a network society in the context of team-work based learning. The emphasis is not upon web 2.0 and social media as inherently suited to providing educational solutions, but upon the ways in which they can be adapted by course designers within the framework of explicit learning objectives. More specifically, we provide a case study of how the use of social media in a blended or wholly-online learning environment provides affordances for team-based collaborative learning, especially when incorporated within a course design that encourages independent, self-directed and authentic learning. This paper argues we need to assess the social aspects of social media, rather than upon the technological, that is, avoid the fetishisation of ‘apps,’ through the creation of assessment that alternately foregrounds a critical appraisal of web 2.0 technologies and places onus upon the students to develop, with guidance, teamwork skills and processes. We provide an example of how it is possible to integrate web 2.0 technologies into their learning processes and assessment, in order to teach about the realities of collaborating with others in small teams in a work environment increasingly mediated by the Internet. In order to achieve these learning outcomes, course design needs to balance scaffolding with the need to place the imperative for learning specific content and skills upon the students, the latter through the provision of assessment outcomes and resources that the students need to work towards together

The pragmatic portfolio: An assessment approach for distributed learning (Matthew Allen and Elaine Tay)
Teaching and learning Forum 2010: Educating for Sustainability Perth, January 2010
Portfolios, especially where they involve some use of or link to online technologies, are currently a popular focus for learning innovation in universities, drawing on a tradition of using portfolios in some areas of higher education and attempting to extend and broaden this practice. In some cases this focus has led to ambitious plans for whole-of-institution approaches, often involving significant technological development. However, the term portfolio can also cover a wider variety of possible learning and assessment activities and there are ways of using portfolios which, while quite traditional in their own form and approach, enable teachers to approach other aspects of their curriculum and pedagogy in far more innovative ways. This paper explores the conceptual basis on which the Department of Internet Studies at Curtin University of Technology is utilising a pragmatic approach to portfolio assessment within individual units of study, so as to enable a more thorough implementation of distributed learning. In this form of learning, where students regularly contribute to their own and others’ learning through short tasks and conversations, the evidence of achievement is widely distributed and not easily accessible for either formative or summative assessment. As explained in the paper, students are required to collate, select, and then contextualise a sample of these numerous productive moments of their ongoing study. The paper concludes that while other goals for portfolio assessment (such as encouraging reflection) can also be used with this approach, its primary value is in unleashing the potential of social media creativity in a manner that motivates students via the requirement of assessment, enables feedback to be provided to guide learning, and which promotes shared responsibility between teachers and students in determining the kind and extent of their learning activities



Tim O’Reilly and Web 2.0: The economics of memetic liberty and control
Communication, Politics and Culture, 42:2 (2009), pp. 6-23.
This article presents an account of the role of Tim O’Reilly, both as an individual and as a corporate entity (O’Reilly Group), in the creation, spread and use of the concept of Web 2.0. It demonstrates that, whatever Web 2.0′s current uses to describe variously the technologies, politics, commerce or social meaning of the Internet, it originates as a deliberately open signifier of novel and potential internet development in the mid-2000s. The article argues that O’Reilly has promoted the diversity of the term’s meanings and uses – celebrating textual liberties – but has also emphasised the special role that O’Reilly plays in providing the authoritative definition of that term. In essence, O’Reilly profits from this ‘control’ of the idea of Web 2.0 but that, to enjoy that control O’Reilly must also allow differences in meaning. The paper concludes by suggesting that Web 2.0 therefore signifies a new kind of economics that brings together freedom and control in a new way.

Link (Learning in Networks of Knowledge) Project summary
Australian Teaching and Learning Council Assessment Forum + ATN Assessment Conference Melbourne November 2009.
A short overview of the Learning in Networks of Knowledge project, as at November 2009, with a particular emphasis on the assessment issues in the project.

De-tooling Technology: networked computing as an environment, purpose and medium for social action
Making Links Conference, Melbourne November 2009.
This keynote presentation begins with a contrast. On the one hand, network technologies are very desirable for social action, allowing activists to achieve more with less, more quickly and with broader impact. They are tools which help greatly.On the other, the very advantages they bring are bound up with the cultural logic of contemporary capitalism, obsessed as it is with squeezing increased productivity from every last resource at its disposal –natural or artificial, human or otherwise. This contrast alerts us to the need to look beyond network technologies as the easy solution to every problem, and focus instead on the human relationships which might be enabled by them, but for which technology never completely account.

As the remainder of the presentation will outline, this focus on relationships requires us to ‘de-tool’ information technology: to think of it as something other than a fix for problems to be picked up and put down at will. Rather, it is more valuable to think of networked computing as part of the environment within which social action can occur; often an important purpose for social action; and as a medium which nutures expression and engagement of self and belief. Ultimately, there is only a fine line between exploiting technology and exploiting people: social action in a network society can avoid stepping over this line by recognising the symbiosis of people and computers that together enables us to work productively for change and development

Learning as knowledge networking: conceptual foundations for revised uses of the Internet in higher education (Matthew Allen and Jane Long)
World Congress of Engineers and Computer Scientists: Education and ICTS Conference, San Francisco, October 2009
This paper argues that the inherent characteristics of knowledge work, when combined with the operation of the Internet in contemporary society, produce a change in the dominant paradigm of what constitutes knowledge work. Since learning is a form of knowledge work, therefore this change will affect university education. The paper further argues that, because of the way in which online learning initially developed in universities, in most cases, the current approach to the Internet and higher education does not account for the changed conditions of knowledge in a network society. It concludes that new directions are needed which will allow us to make technology and pedagogy choices for future education better suited to a network society

Authentic Assessment and the Internet
EdLearn 2009, AACE Conference, Vancouver, October 2009
https://netcrit.net/content/aaceauthenticassessment2009.pdf [powerpoint slides below]
This paper identifies the importance of assessment for student learning, especially ‘authentic assessment’. While recognising that authenticity can be judged against the alignment of assessment with learning goals, and of assessment with real-life activities, the paper asserts a new element: the degree to which the Internet is part of the everyday lives of most university students. Thus, a third form of authenticity emerges when assessment is aligned with students’ use of the Internet for simultaneous informal and formal learning, and the nature of the Internet as a place of active knowledge networking, involving co-creation of information and knowledgeable content (a consequence of the emergence of Web 2.0). The paper argues that developments in assessment using the Internet will only be authentic if they take account of the way the Internet functions outside of higher education, rather than seeing it as an educational technology divorced from its own authenticity.

E-Governance as Digital Ecosystem: a new way to Think About Citizen Engagement and the Internet? (Mark Balnaves and Matthew Allen)
5th International Conference on e-Government, Boston, October 2009

There has been a long history of attempting to deploy networked information and communications – mostly in the form of the Internet – to support the broad goals of effective, efficient and responsible democratic government. While there has been considerable talk about the way such technologies might promote better governance – through increased citizen participation in debates and discussions about future outcomes – there has been, in contrast, much action that actually uses the Internet for more efficient government, by creating online and networked interfaces by which citizens can transact business with government. There has been only limited success in using the Internet and similar communications channels to allow citizens to participate in their own governance. Undoubtedly, the Internet does facilitate public consultation… However, consultation of this kind tends to be a mechanism for gathering opinion and gaining citizen approval for change that is not different except in transmission form than previous approaches based on meetings and written submissions. W…This paper aims to provide a solution to some of these problems by drawing on the idea of how the Internet can host and support a digital eco-system.

Experience of Connectivity: A survey of Australian Internet Users
Internet Research 10.0 – Internet : Critical, AoIR Annual Conference, Milwaukee, October 2009
A draft, not for direct quote, of full paper being submitted for publication; this paper explores the background to and detail of the findings of my 2007 survey (n=1172) of Australian Internet users. It emphasises the overall experience of connectivity, based on people’s use of the Internet judged against the significance and extent of the Internet for them in achieving life goals. Presents findings around connectivity, loss of connectivity, social relationships, and axes of engagement (directional, transactional, collaborative).

Is e-governance a function of government or media? Some directions for future research and development of electronically mediated citizen participation (Mark Balnaves and Matthew Allen)
Internet Research 10.0 – Internet : Critical, AoIR Annual Conference, Milwaukee, October 2009
This paper presents a response to this situation: it provides a richer account of the contradictory rise of e-government without e-governance, and examines the potential for media-based participatory engagement to complement e-government. It presents two models of the future of electronically mediated citizen engagement: the first involving agonistic relations between government and citizenry, with civic participation occurring outside of government-approved forums; the second involving the intimate linking of governmental transactions to participation by those citizens engaged in them. Finally it will outline mechanisms for researching the capacity of either or both models to sustain effective participation.

Re-invigorating the use of the Internet in higher education: preliminary findings from the ALTC Fellowship project “Learning in Networks of Knowledge” (Elaine Tay and Matthew Allen)
Communication, Creativity and Global Citizenship: Australia and New Zealand Communications Association Annual Conference, Brisbane, July 2009

Web Presence:Understanding persistent and interlinked content as the basis of identity formation and promotion through the contemporary Internet
Communication, Creativity and Global Citizenship: Australia and New Zealand Communications Association Annual Conference, Brisbane, July 2009
A draft paper, presented here in the interests of broader consideration and development: not for direct quotation. Please contact me if interested in further discussion.
In this paper I will outline the concept of ‘web presence’ to aid in understanding the relationship between online identity, knowledge networking, and user-generated content. I am developing this term beyond its current, relatively superficial, understanding as ‘a place’ on the web, or as marketing jargon (see for example the Wikipedia entry for the term). Web presence refers to the sum total of all interlinked content that World Wide Web users create, making for themselves a persistent and visible ‘presence’ online. I will detail, in particular, the way we might divide this ‘total’ web presence into a series of categories – core, extended, and linked – that help us grasp the relationship between individual authoring and publishing location. I will also suggest several ways in which the concept might be used to develop new research approaches to understand how individuals contribute through dispersed knowledge ‘events’ to the overall sum of online content, but also to specific networks of knowledge that emerge from the interlinking of various people’s web presences. The term web presence has particular significance in the context of user-generated content through Web 2.0-style activities, sites and services. What this concept suggests is that we must also think about content-generated users: users whose presence online is the sum of their contributions to the web in many different places. Such content-generated users are both real people or certain aspects of them, but also serve the same kind of purpose as the imagined ‘audiences’ which form a key part of the economics of television programming. In conclusion, this paper proposes a new way of thinking about how we might conduct research into online activity both exploiting, but also recognising how ‘who we are’ online depends on what we say, where we say it, and how it interconnects

Historicising the Internet
Presentation to the Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Program 2009, Brisbane, July 2009
Presentation of ideas for PhD students about the uses and dangers of ‘history’ in Internet scholarship; see also handout

Innovative Education Online: Ideas for the future of learning and the Internet
A Workshop on Using Web 2.0 Technologies for Online Teaching, various locations, June-July 2009
Presentation component of 3-hour workshop run as part of my Learning in Networks of Knowledge Project in Australia in June-July 2009. Thanks to the ALTC for support in being able to run this workshop. This workshop will be run overseas at two conferences later in 2009. See also handout.

Education and the Internet: Web 2.0 and renewed innovation in online learning, Teaching and Learning Forum 2009, Perth, January 2009
Paper outlining the basic ideas behind my ALTC project – focusing on web presence and knowledge networking

2008 and earlier

Web 2.0: an argument against convergence? , First Monday, March 2008.
My argument is, in brief, that Web 2.0 can be read as an attempt to assert that ‘the web’ is not like traditional media as a means to differentiate web development and investment from media development. Includes a brief discussion of how to conceptualise Web 2.0

“Computer says no” – humans, ICT and ethics, Information Age, January 2008.
A readable version of my 2007 Australian Computer Society lecture on ethical developments and uses in ICTS, particularly around the notion of the exercise of ‘discretion’.

Traditional media and the new media audience, OnlineOpinion.com.au, May 2007.
Argument that new media creates the media audience in new ways, posing challenges for traditional media organisations, since the audience they seek to reach via the internet isn’t the same audience they normally imagine.

Preface to the Special Edition, Convergence, Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies in Society , 4.2, 2006: 46.
Special issue contained papers from the 2006 AoIR conference held for the first time in Australia; suggests convergence is best understood from the perspective of consumer/producers of intergrated media

Internet Research, cybersoc.com (Robin Hamman), March 2006
Thoughts on the future of academic Internet research, concluding that “Rather like the Internet itself, Internet research is scalable and adaptable, coming into being through interconnection rather than through the establishment of boundaries and demarcatory signage.”

What role for the Australian government in broadband policy?, Centre for Policy Development: policy forum, July 2005.
At a time of significant alarm about the failure of government action to develop high-speed broadband networking, I question whether the government’s close involvement would actually be of value.

Broadband Technologies, Techno-Optimism and the “Hopeful” Citizen, in Nolan et al. (eds), The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments (eds Nolan et al.), 2006, Springer, pp. 1525–1547

Dematerialised data and human desire: the Internet and copy culture, Second International Conference on Cyberworlds (CW’03), 2003
http://www2.computer.org/portal/web/csdl/doi/10.1109/CYBER.2003.1253431 or directly at

Hacking the Undernet: Libertarian limits; commercial containment, (Jane Long and Matthew Allen)
Australian Journal of Communication. 28:3 (2001), pp.37-54.