#OpenBadges: Beyond Spray and Pray!

The current Open Badge process looks very much like spray and pray: badges issuers spray badges then pray that they will be collected —in many instances less than 20% of earners push them to their backpack. Badges earners spray (some of) their badges on the web then pray to get some kind of feedback or value. Badge designers, issuers and earners pray that badge consumers will be able to make sense of the (pretty) pictures embedding the metadata.

If we had to describe Open Badges as a market, it would be qualified as a supply-led market, not a demand-led one. A supply-led market is dominated by producers pushing goods to consumers, enticing them to buy through marketing campaigns. It is what the #BadgeTheWorld and @BadgeEurope could become, and will not!

What would a demand-led Open Badge market look like? What would the benefits be in moving from a model where badges are primarily pushed onto people, to one where badges are pulled from them, with their active participation?

There are two ways to think in terms of demand-led: one of them is to invite the potential clients to tell suppliers what kind of goods and services they would like to receive. This might look like demand-led, while it is just a patronising version of supplier-led. Another model is based on the emergence of the prosumer, a term coined by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave (1980): as society moves toward the Post-Industrial Age, so will the number of pure consumers decline. They will be replaced by “prosumers,” people who produce many of their own goods and services (Philip Kotler source). The read-write web, the fablabs, the webmakers, the regain of interest in cooperatives, are evidence of the emergence of the prosumer. We just don’t want to be adjusted to the market, we want to decide how the market should be. It is for the market to adapt to us and not the other way around.

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