Facing the Facebook
Jan 24, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Another anti-technology screed from the Chronicle (do they ever get tired of running these?) this time contra the Facebook, a social network with membership restricted to U.S. college students. To follow this article, everything bad happening on campus - from disengaged students to rising costs to homophobia to media manipulation - is caused by Facebook. The argument is as ridiculous as it is invalid (but shedding the principles of reason seems to be no obstacle to the professoriate these days, a phenomenon that puzzles me by its pervasiveness). Why do I think the author's "ethical concerns" (his words) are misplaced here? Perhaps it's because I obtained my degrees mostly by skipping class and learning how to think and to write at a student newspaper. Perhaps it's because I wasted years of my life playing, chatting in, and eventually designing online environments. Or perhaps it's simply because I understand a little about the principles of causation, and I know that the expression does not cause the phenomenon. Whatever the matter, I will take a few words out of my "egocasting" (his words) to call on the Chronicle to apply some sort of academic standard to its coverage. Total: 49
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Comments

Re: Facing the Facebook

As I say to my husband, "You go, girlfriend!" [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Facing the Facebook

I commented on something similar over at Kept-Up Academic Librarian yesterday. I came across a newspaper article that indicated the impact of faculty providing podcasts and other course material digitally was resulting in massive student course desertions. They quoted a faculty member basically saying, "I'm pulling the plug on these technologies because they just cause the students to stop coming to class". I asked if the media can't find at least one faculty member out there who knows how to use technology in such a way that it encourages students to come to class because of the way the technologies are used. The answer isn't just to lose the technology - it's to figure out how to use it better so that it compliments/supports - not replaces - what happens in the classroom. That said, I do think there might be something worth talking about with respect to "Generation Disengaged" - and that we may be seeing the outcome of students spending 5 or more hours a day internet surfing, game playing ,etc. Perhaps you didn't go to class or spent time online, but what you were doing may have caused you to become more intellectually curious. Do you think that would have been the case if you were spending that time trying to achieve hook-ups in social communities or forming cliques to find surround yourself with people who think the same way you do? It's definitely important to question the anti-tech backlash and where it's coming from, but in light of recent reports about declining student literacy and abilities to comprehend/interpret food labels, maps, instructions, etc., maybe we need to be asking and further research what role too much technology might play. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Facing the Facebook

"egocasting" isn't the author's term. It belongs to Christina Rosen, who keeps lamenting the fall of civilization by bad forces, like democratic desires and the use of technology. Thanks for reminding me of this thing - I took a whack at it myself, after initially trying to pass (on) it. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Facing the Facebook

Glad to see there are folks out there talking about this. It had been passed on to me by my CIO and I had to take two passes at my blog entry before I could reduce some of its vitriol. Keep up the great work! - john - edventures.wordpress.com [Comment] [Permalink]

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