by Stephen Downes
[Sept] 01, 2016
The link to his ebook (73 page PDF) appears in his RSS feed, but not the web version of the same post, which is interesting. No matter, it's free and worth a look. To the post: it caught my eye when I found myself sympathizing with how difficult it is to keep up. This is my job and I'm in awe of how a simple thing like computers and websites became this great tangled mass of applications, standards, protocols and formats. And that's just the surface level! And then there's the way the internet has changed from being a place where people share with each other to a place where people relentlessly market themselves (maybe rereading his post was what led him to remove the link to his book). That said, I think he's wrong when he says "Social media is what you make of it." Companies like Facebook and Twitter are working very hard to make sure you can't make it into something that works for you - they need it to work for their advertisers. And we need to rethink 'social'. It's not just 'conversations'. I want to write well-thought-out pieces and engage in thoughtful and reasoned criticism - not conversation. Just saying.
I can understand the desire on the part of some (many, even) to put down the screens and engage face-to-face, uninterrupted. My sympathy with this view ends when professors - even Clay Shirky - are "moving from recommending students set aside laptops and phones to requiring it." At the point something is required the arguments in its favour become irrelevant, and it is simply the exertion of power that makes it so. And if power is what defines the dynamic in a classroom, then any effort to support the empowerment and the enfranchisement of the student is undermined. I realize a lot of people don't see the classroom dynamic as a question of power. But they are, after all, the ones with the power.
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