Author William Deresiewicz approach to digital media is heavily interested in what digital media seems to be taking away from us. His theory is that digital media is bringing about an end to the importance of solitude and “alone-time” in our culture, something that he sees as extraordinarily important to humans as a whole. Today, people are so consumed with being known, being recognized and applauded, being applauded and admired, that we are constantly putting ourselves online, looking for approval from each other, to the point where “the greatest contemporary terror is anonymity.” Deresiewicz reminds us of the past societal importance of solitude; the “rare spirits” often went into solitude to clear their heads, to connect with God (whosoever that may be to them), and to think deeply. Solitude, he notes, also allows us to notice things that get lost in the shuffle of social interactions, and can be very transformative. Interestingly enough, the problem that both solitude and digital presence are trying to solve is the same one; it’s a fear of being unknown, just another face in the crowd, that pushed the people of yesterday to seek solitude and transformation, while it pushes us to be constantly known by our peers.
– What are humans like without solitude? Is it a good thing?
– Is there space for solitude in digital media?
In this article, Andrew Keen takes a look at Web 2.0 and seriously does not like what he sees. He thinks that the community-building, voice-sharing, and democratizing of internet space by large companies that is Web 2.0 is nothing more than a personalized (read narcissistic), mediocre, professional-less space, that honestly isn’t all that great. Keen’s worries are multi-faceted; he first and foremost sees the ability to personalize social internet spaces as a gross form of narcissism; by adjusting our pages to reflect the best in us, and filtering out media that we don’t agree with, we both exalt ourselves to everyone who sees our content and narrow our perspectives drastically on a medium that allows us the most contact with other perspectives. Keen also thinks that the democratization of media and the creation of content will not improve our experiences; rather, when professional content becomes as noted as home-made, mediocre content, the quality of our media experience will be heavily reduced. It’s like giving the composition of Mozart the same availability and presence online with a baby’s composition; it devalues the work and professional excellency of Mozart’s piece.
– Do the benefits of democratized media outweigh the negatives?
– Why is professional content assumed to be superior to homemade content in this article?
Todd Gitlin’s article on nomadicity focuses on the intriguing paradox of culture becoming more independent by putting our social and entertainment outlets into more mobile and portable devices. He starts with a time line of sorts of various items, noting how as it evolves, it gets smaller and easier to carry around. Due to this, we end up with the ability to go further away from our social circles and still stay in touch. As personal entertainment grew however, so did people’s tendency to infringe on the rights others have to dictate their personal spaces, what with cell phones ringing, boom box’s blaring, and other “digital noises” spilling over private bubbles. He also notes that this ability to be connected at all times leads to the destruction of serialization, which is losing one’s individuality and being reduced to a function (think waiting in a line; you’re just someone else in line). We can use our connections to constantly project individuality. There’s a paradox here; this new connectedness-spirit, where we seek to take control of our own surroundings through digital means, makes us freely accessible to the wills of other people. We are always connected, always able to be reached, and that controls us.
– Does nomadicity encourage more connectivity?
– is it a good idea to ‘disconnect’ from time to time?
In this section of Murphy’s writing, the author tries to bring Twitter into multiple theoretical contexts with how it is interwoven into our social structures, instead of seeing Twitter as merely propagating the lifestyle of the culture using it. One thing he mentions is that Twitter can be a sort of digital “object”, meaning that the content created in a topic is almost akin to an essay on the topic. He sees this as a good way to understand “social representation, reconfiguration, and reproduction,” which basically means it can help us understand how our society functions. He also explores the idea of using Twitter as a way to “produce themselves”. We have a drive to form our identity, and through posting and tweeting about our lives and current situations, we develop a habit of consistently defining ourselves to everyone. They can be self-affirming and ego-boosters in this way. Twitter also seems to help democratize the sharing of people’s opinions to some people; however, Murphy does not quite agree. He says that even though people might have a stronger voice as a secondary effect, those who run Twitter still have ultimate control.
– Is democratizing media a good thing? Should Twitter be changed for that purpose?
– Is Twitter as reliable as news outlets or big company media sources?
Murthy’s first chapter on Twitter takes a moment to explain what Twitter is (for those living under such a deep rock that they somehow don’t know), and how it stands out among common social internet sites like Facebook and MySpace. Twitter’s claim to fame is how it encourages its users to post in 140 characters – the same size as your standard text message – which are available for all users to see and comment on. It’s organization by themes and events, instead of by user, can make it a powerful tool to get an idea of the general opinion of a topic or event, since you can go to the hashtag and read what people have tagged the hashtag to. Murthy notes that it acts more akin to a stream of voices, all chiming in on a single topic. It also allows strangers to comment to each other, such as people tweeting at celebrities. While Murthy admits that Twitter is similar to Facebook in some ways, he says that Twitter isn’t “social networking” per se, meaning a social place that allows people to connect and keep up with each other individually, but it is a “social media”, which is more like a place where ordinary people can publish ‘news’ or ‘stories’ for all to see.
– Can Twitter be a reliable source of news and information?
– What makes Facebook a “social networking” site, and not simply “social media?
The interview with Henry Jenkins was centered around the way that the ideas for media-centered learning was being propagated around the world. Having helped write one of the most popular papers on the subject himself, Jenkins says that he is pleased and surprised by how much the Digital Media Learning (DML) group has grown since then, especially in America. However, he does note that MacArthur, the people (or person?) sort of spearheading this initiative, has not been doing a good job at both spreading the word outside of the US, as well as listening to input from other countries that have tried this themselves.
The interview with John Palfrey revolved around challenging students through digital learning while keeping them safe from predators, hackers, etc. He says that some of the early experiments he seen in providing a digital learning environment are promising, but there’s also been too little overall change going on, and no one has tried to make more than a splash in a couple of small places. Bullying was also mentioned, to which Mr. Palfrey said that the problem of bullying both online and offline stems from an issue in the educational system, and that schools need to teach their kids how to be braver than they are (meaning, take calculated risks for their own good or the good of others).
The interview with Eszter Hargittai was focused on the digital divide in today’s world, as opposed to when digital technology first became popular. Eszther says that there is a distinct social inequality when it comes to computer skills. Seemingly, those who are lower class are less capable of using digital devices than people above them, and not just because they don’t have access to them or don’t use them often. This means that the more important democratic events happen digitally, in a place where everyone is meant to weigh in, the voice of the lower class is not heard as well as it should be.
– How can we get more people involved in the conversation of DML?
– What needs to change in the educational system to mitigate bullying?
This introduction for the e-book “Leading Thinkers” attempts to fill in the reader on the context for the conversations that will take place in the book. The conversations are centered around media in schools – but not in the usual sense. They’re more focused on how to make school desirable by children while still teaching them through the use of the digital media they’ve grown up with, instead of simply increasing the amount of digital media/technology being used. This would be a drastic change to the structure of the educational system – one that might be necessary and useful for budding digital natives. Such a change would start on the fringes and work its way to the center, and opinions differ on how possible this kind of change could be.
– What are some ways that digital media can be used effectively in the classroom?
– Where can we as college students help encourage and inspire teachers in bringing digital media into the classroom?