A Guide to Reddit: The (potential) Front Page of Social Media Medical based Education
What is Reddit?
Reddit is one of the most popular and rapidly growing social media platforms today, with Alexa ranking it as the 36th most popular website in the world. Defining Reddit may be difficult, but it can be described as a socially organized and community run content aggregator.
The website doesn’t have a central authority organizing and managing the posts, it rests on volunteer submitters and moderators (mods) to function as curators with a great amount (some would say too much) of independence. Despite its indy or guerrilla spirit, Reddit is owned by mega publisher Conde Nast publications.
How it works?
The platform is essentially organized in users called redditors (noted /u/user) and forums or communities called subredits (noted /r/topic). The users can submit any linkable content such us other web pages, videos, pictures or self-entry-text to a specific forum. Each post gets up voted or down voted which along a very complicated algorithm based on time decay increases or decreases the visibility and noteworthiness of the post.
The user who submits content gets awarded karma proportional to the amount of votes, being karma a sort a merit badge or bragging-right, with no intrinsic or extrinsic value; but likely working as an immediate gratification mechanism.
One of the most popular Reddit features is the ability to comment about the posts. All entries contain a colloquial section where the users can discuss the content of the submission; not uncommonly the comments are more engaging an interesting than the actual post. Similar rules in terms of karma and noteworthiness related to votes and time applies to the comments.
A great video from GCP Grey explaning how Reddit works:
What makes Reddit different from other social media hubs is the powerful culture behind the platform and its users. The website has its own lingo, code of conduct and heavy anonymity governing the website, this leads to a strong sense of community and belonging, while creating the feeling of being different from other more tamed platforms.
The community values curiosity, knowledge, wit, engagement and timeliness and rewards or punishes the content based on them. The values of Reddit resonate particularly strong with the current teenagers coming to age and the Generation C, who are defined by being connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented and always clicking.
Reddit can be an extraordinary positive force of thought and action but at the same time it has been involved in very reprehensible and dangerous acts; Reddit functions as a reflection of the culture where it exists and all the good and bad is only a representation of our current society.
How to use Reddit for social media based education?
The technical and cultural characteristics of Reddit offer a robust and free access platform to create digital communities of learning and practice.
Even acknowledging Reddit’s critique of mob-type behaviors, the ability to create and publish content, the capacity to be curated by moderators, asynchronic nature and the social negotiation of the content are key characteristics of the upcoming social learning paradigm.
A digital teacher can create a subreddit, asking the learners to become users; then posting not only didactic units, but also Journal Club type of discussions, polls and even evaluations. The learners can interact not only with the teacher but also with other learners of the group, other communities and users that may appear relevant to the discussion. The teacher acting as a curator (or moderator) can steer the discussion where it appears most appropriate for the curriculum.
A great example of how history teachers use Reddit can be found at /r/AskHistorians
“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”
– William Gibson