Teaching the Architectures of Digital Ecosystems

The goat spymaster

This past summer I taught a graduate seminar course at McMaster University titled Architectures of Digital Ecosystems as part of their Master of Public Policy Program. It provided an excellent opportunity to explore and provide an overview of the current evolution of digital platforms and worlds.

We employed a flipped classroom approach where each session was focused on participatory critical analysis, largely in the form of having students share and analyze relevant news and research. We also used the Metaviews discord server as a place to share links and ideas between sessions.

Overall it was a positive (and educational) experience, and it certainly helped advance my own analysis and ideas regarding digital ecosystems and their design. The irony being that most digital ecosystems are created via participatory design, and yet most participants in these ecosystems are unaware of their agency.

Thankfully based on the evaluations I received, and shared below, I suspect that the students left the course well aware of their agency and how to use it.

This course, in my opinion, was the only true seminar of the semester so far in my experience in the sense that Jesse was one of the only professors who was interested in our engagement with critical thinking rather than repeating the material from our readings. In this course, I found myself thinking "I've got something to say!"  versus "I've got to say something"  every week.

Jesse's administration of this course was a masterclass in nurturing ideas and encouraging critical thought in the field. He struck such a wonderful balance of sharing his own expertise in this field while building our confidence as technologists. Though very unstructured, It was empowering to have a professor that respected us enough to allow us to take a leading role in determining the agendas for our weekly seminars.

It actually makes much more sense to me at least to prioritize individuals with interesting careers in technology as leaders of a cutting-edge professional program rather than individuals with Doctoral degrees.

If I've learned anything that I feel the MPP should take into consideration, is that you don't need PHD to lead an insightful and genius graduate seminar. In fact, I would suggest that whoever selected this instructor in particular continue to seek out unconventional and strategic instructor choices for future courses. Jesse was the only instructor this term that has, in my opinion, matched the innovative and boundary-pushing marketing of this program.

Exceptional. This was one of the most inspiring and engaging classes I have ever taken in my academic career. Supportive, informative, funny, and thought-provoking, Jesse shone as an instructor. He made everyone feel welcome. After each piece of input or comment from a student, Jesse took the time to applaud, analyze, and assess the information. Brilliant. There was no comparison this term regarding class engagement - everyone wanted to participate. The 'news of the week' portion at the beginning of the class was dynamic and exciting. I looked forward to Thursdays every week. Jesse, the 'librarian', also took the time to give us career advice. This was taken to heart by many of us. This class is a testament to the value of redefining the boundaries of a seminar. I wish we had Jesse throughout our entire program. Bring him back indefinitely to teach this class.

this course was great. Jesse allowed us to have a sandbox of learning. It was aimless, like floating on a breeze, and that was the best way for this to be delivered. Jesse basically allowed us to have an expert Q and A about anything we wanted (pertaining to the subject matter of the course). We could bring what we wanted into class, and he would expand our horizons on it. This not only allowed us to have a more engaged role in what we learned, but it democratized the process and allowed me to explore many areas other students brought up that probably would not have made it into a set piece curriculum. Not to mention, he is wicked smaht. Whenever I was set in my angle on a topic, Jesse had a way of disrupting that to make me at least consider another viewpoint, or change my view completely. Way to go Jesse!

Professor Hirsh was one of the best professors I ever had in my academic career.
Jesse Hirsh

Jesse Hirsh