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APIs for Students

My exploration of the API focusses on its ability to assist in agency for an individual within a system. I’m exploring beyond the grounds of feedback systems, and assessing other forms of potential Edutech platforms.

APIs – application program interfaces – provide a programme to access and interact with datasets within another program. APIs let you build, hack and remix current systems. For example, a student has utilised Twitter’s API to post (on their behalf) data pulled from UOW’s Parking API to build a (somewhat satirical) Twitter account that tweets out parking availability amongst social commentary. Or, something more elaborate that integrates data from BOM weather mapping, and Livetrafic feed with UOW parking data. Both of these (Indie edutech) platforms are possible due to the availabilities of APIs. Essentially, connecting two (or more) data sets from separate systems produces more value than either of them could independently: an API economy.

Within an API economy the value exchanged is our own data. It’s the standardised value exchange when signing up for (particularly free) services online. In comparison, the personal API offers an individual ownership and use of their own data, and grants other sites and applications access to that data as they see fit. Instead of allowing existing platforms to monetise an individual’s data, if that data is owned and centralised on an individual’s personal IP6/Domain/Node, the individual has the power to monetise from the exchange.

The personal API in the university context is “a pedagogical act and a creative opportunity” to change the relationship between data owners and users. “Tapping into one’s data should be a negotiation that the student gets to make“, establishing a status of equality within the bureaucracy of education. To elaborate on the importance of ownership and advocacy, Phil Windley proposes the concept of sovereign source identity—”the notion that your identity comes from within you and not from someone else.” To infer, Windley argues that defining an identity within Google, Facebook, or (in this case) WordPress, is compromised because the ownership of data is held within the organisation. Therefore, an identity (constructed of data) should be developed within a personal domain to retain agency. I have my doubts that students would be willing to construct an identity outside a platform with a) an established audience and b) stable features; on the basis of data control – especially due to how embedded students are in existing platforms, and therefore a potential lack of opposition to data ownership.

Based on this, I still don’t know understand the value of a personal API besides the fundamental: ownership of one’s own data. I suppose the applications for a student could extend to meetings, timetable management, feedback etc. But I’m struggling to win myself over on this. So, next week I’ll explore the concepts of a Personal API outside the university context.


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