ed tech

Image by Rollo, J. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/734612

Well, here is our culminating activity as we get ready to conclude COMM2F00. We are adding another skill-based tool to our repertoire by converting our blogs to a focused topic. In doing so we are adding blogs we follow, key web links with associated information and twitter hashtags that all have the same overarching topic. I have elected to pursue educational technology as my blog theme. As I noted on many occasions, the work from this course intersected on a regular basis with the work in ADED1P32 and very importantly, with my role as a post-secondary teacher. Learning the knowledge and skills associated with these courses has provided me with considerable ammunition for my teaching and learning portfolio. This blogging activity is something that I am considering continuing beyond the duration of the semester.

The world of of higher education is changing with a rapidity that is unprecedented in recent years. In order to be able to reach students, maintain a learning ‘edge’ and continue with life-long learning, it is imperative that I stay connected with the types of tools that can enhance my practice. To that end, I have started to curate a number of contributors to the world of educational technology. By adding these tools to this blog, I not only engage with the critical topic of education, I enhance the impacts of my classroom practice.  Understanding Web 2.0 is great for my personal learning and pedagogy.

This is a perfect opportunity going forward! Stay tuned – blog under construction.

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future

Image by Villi, I.(2009). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1138723

The question that has been posed as we conclude COMM2F00 is: Do I feel more inclined to become a “produser?”

Let’s do an inventory of the new skills and applications with which I have gained some facility over the duration of two semesters, two digitally based courses and many experiential activities.

I can:

  1. Tweet– and I do a little – but I follow more
  2. Blog – enjoy this and do it more often with greater commitment to the connectivity. Found some great blogs to follow
  3. Podcast – or voice blogging – great tool
  4. Make and edit a video – in a rudimentary way – also engaging but I need much more skill development
  5. Edit a wiki – would not do this for fun or entertainment until I can become more proficient
  6. Work in Google Drive, use tools such as Diigo, Evernote, VoiceThread,  use an RSS reader and curate work.
  7. Create a story in Storify – fantastic way to weave threads of information into a recognizable pattern

To be able to catalogue these is quite remarkable and I am most appreciative of the learning opportunities that were built into the curriculum.

Will I produse once the pressure of academic requirements is removed? According to Lunenfeld, (2007) I am depriving myself of an element of my humanity if I download only. He states that failing to use my newfound social media literacy skills is tantamount to living in a cultural vacuum. He makes a compelling argument in his assertion that we must balance our engagement in the Web 2.0 world to avoid metaphorical diabetes – or an overconsumption of downloaded media to the exclusion of self-created material that one chooses to upload and share into the ‘aether’ (p. 2/12). He frames this as Mindlessness vs. Mindfulness.

Here is my fear. Rheingold (2010) proffers the idea that participation in the act of produsing connects us, reduces passive consumption – creates agency. But he also cautions us regarding the amount of content produced that is “no good and [in which] nobody cares” (p. 18). I want my contributions to have some meaning, beyond me and if it doesn’t, do I want to engage while further extending my digital footprint?  “What could be more melioristic than mindful reception and meaningful production…” (Lunenfeld, 2007, p, 9/12).  Great quote, but, meaningful to whom? For me, that is a barrier that I need to consider. As an adjunct to this, Lievrouw (2012) reminds us of the mean world aspect of the internet, which in part, is the phenomenon where data gathering and  personal monitoring in the name of security and/or commerce means that my information may be used in ways unintended by me.

Well, then, a tentative yes – I will continue to produse. But first I will commit to improving my skills – to continue to learn – to experiment. I want to be the 1 in 100 who actively engage and not part of the 99 who just comment or opt out completely (Bird, 2011). So, at first, I will just test the water, a bit, before plunging into the deep end.

We have also been asked to consider what intimations of deprival do I have regarding the “produsage” that potentially looms before us? I have three areas that give me pause.

One, I alluded to briefly above. The private becomes very much public and every piece of culture that we produce and disseminate discloses ourselves to those who consume it. Our public sphere becomes ever-wider and I fear the loss of personal control and a too-conspicuous merger of the public and the private. Even using privacy settings or protecting oneself by using avatars in an online setting may not be enough to safeguard our personas. Further, as noted by Rheingold (2010), in order to fully employ our “crap detection” abilities, we need to be critical about the produsers whose content we consume. Can this critical reflection take place if the identity of the product’s creator is excessively protected? The onus for fact-checking is now on the consumer; it is no longer a given that published works have been vetted for accuracy.

Additionally, I have concerns for the increase in “continuous partial attention – attention splitting – multi-tasking” (Rheingold, 2010); call it what you will.  Is our ability to give sufficiently focused attention to the world around being compromised to the degree that we will lose the skill of critical reflection? (see my last post) Bird (2011) frames it by noting that our engagement with technology might be a factor in narrowing our perspectives as it has the potential to invite repetition. This could ultimately discourage truly innovative or creative production of cultural content.

Lastly, let’s take a contrarian look at the idea of consumption. Sterne (2012) states that “active participation is now a privileged mode of consumerism” (p. 2). Does this exclude those whose socio-economic status does not afford them inclusion as part of a participatory culture? While we celebrate the democratic nature of the internet, we always need to consider those whose voices might not be heard.

For me the best take-away from all of this is knowledge. I no longer feel on the periphery of social media participation. Despite my Boomer status, I can say with conviction that I am far more digitally literate; a produsing and consuming member of the Web 2.0 world.

typewriter

Image by Buchholz, J. H. (2005). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/250630

newspaper

Image by Ambrozik, B. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1411509

A colleague recently wrote in a forum post a reminder of previous learning regarding critical reflection in which we had engaged. Borrowing from his post he reminded me that “Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) include critical reflection as one of the three key elements of transformational learning.  It involves reflecting on the content, the process, and the premise” (Vusich, 2013).

This is relevant to this week’s module since critical reflection was an integral part of new learning for me around the topic of citizen journalism. Prior to the readings I had the (not too considered)  opinion that while Web 2.0 offered opportunities for information collection, traditional journalism, with its reliance on verification was likely the most reliable way to gather and disseminate “real” news.

Upon completion of the five associated articles that thoroughly explore the phenomenon of citizen journalism, critical reflection has resulted in a personal transformational shift.

“Facts, truth and reality are…the “God terms” in journalism (Zelizer, as cited in Hermida, 2012) with information verification the cornerstone of journalistic integrity. This quote describes the essence of my previously held perspectives regarding news. I want a credible and reliable source from which to receive information. However, Hermida asserts that in so doing, mainstream media exerts control and power over what stories are deemed newsworthy and how they are presented.

Social media; particularly Twitter and blogs are offering alternative perspectives to information gathering. Hermida describes the process through which Twitter offers ongoing pieces of information that is shared, fact-checked, denied or reframed in an open forum that evolves through collaborative discursive processes including citizens and media. The issue of verification in real-time news dissemination is less about definitive facts and more to present “a dynamic and interactive rendition of events” (Hermida, 2012, p. 664). Bruns and Highfield (2012) cited Twitter’s capacity for discovering a story that can then be expanded in venues with the ability to more deeply explore nuances and implications, or to extend the life of a story (such as WikiLeaks) that may have reached its “best before” date as determined by mainstream media players.

I can live with this fluidity – after all as noted by Brennan, any news information is open to interpretation by the individual presenting his/her findings (as cited in Hermida, 2012). Additionally, traditional news gathering organizations may be subject to organizational bias as a result of funding from actors engaged in lobbying activities which in turn influences editorial directions (Bruns & Highfield, 2012).

As I read further I noted several distinct opportunities for citizen journalists:

  1. One of the key social media benefits for citizen journalists is a lessening of the control of cultural production and knowledge by news organizations into voluntary contributions from a variety of diverse sources.  This seems to me to democratize and de-centralize ownership of what and how information is presented.
  2. I liked the term ‘multiperspectival’ (Lind & Bruns, 2012) in which news gathering in social media represents numerous and divergent perspectives. The culminating factor in my transformation to a proponent of social media’s role in journalism is the Friedman (2011) article entitled Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima: An analysis of traditional and new media coverage of nuclear accidents and radiation.” The author presents compelling empirical evidence to demonstrate substantive increases in the quality and quantity of information that was available for consumption following the Fukushima accident. Clearly, the internet and the collaboration of citizen and professional journalists resulted in in-depth, interactive and multi-faceted information to a global community; far better than the traditional news media outlets were able to provide in the earlier incidents.
  3. The advent of news curation – (i.e our Storify exercise this week or storylines in Twitter using hashtags) in which participatory journalism offers news, opinion, commentary on specific stories or topics. Curation activities are now the domain of both the professional and the amateur but the advantage is that there is no one individual organization charged with “gatekeeping.”  “Gatewatching, according to Lind and Bruns (2102) is the new watchword and allows all of us to engage with news and information as we choose – to capture or compile; collaborate, contribute and inform (p. 7). As a story is curated its discrete elements and components can be assessed for validity, completeness and perspective.
  4. Most compelling piece of evidence: Voice. Dahlgren (2003) discusses the impact of voice as a social process, in which narratives can be shared and valued. Social media seems to be a core component in the provision of voice. Participation is enabled through Web 2.0 – social media is a tool which ensures that we do not deny voice to those around us; “to deny it to others is to at least implicitly to deny their humanity” (p. 37). How eloquent an argument for the role of social media in citizen journalism is that?

We were asked to consider if the emergence of these new opportunities encourages us to participate more directly in citizen journalism and/or social activism or not.

I think that the early answer is yes; it may be a few tentative tweets or blog posts until I find my voice. I still worry about my digital footprint, but I can see me offering facts and or opinion where I think it might forward a discussion or provide additional insight. This requires conscious self-editing in what we choose to share. I deplore some of the types of whistle-blowing activities that have emerged in a Web 2.0 era; the sleeping TTC employee who turned out to be ill; the finger pointing after the suicide of Amanda Todd. I am not sure that any of these are positive contributions but judicious use is required with any emerging tools.

A caveat for all information gathering is that we are ill-served in accepting any news story without critical reflection as to its veracity, its sources and credibility. Whatever role we choose for ourselves needs to be informed by critically reflective evaluative processes.

pirate flag

Image courtesy RAWKU5. Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1053085

Another week where the readings have stimulated new thinking, discussing and analyzing. We were charged with reading and viewing discourse surrounding the issue of online file sharing and intellectual copyright infringement and then discussing our stance. We have also been charged with new learning in the form of a podcast using a citation from one of our weekly readings. I chose Under the Pixelated J0lly Roger: A Study of On-Line Pirates. (2012). Deviant Behaviour 34 (1), 53-67. doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2012.707536

As I explained in the podcast, this quote resonated because of its approach to sharing of online files contrasted to the sale of other types of commodities. Is there a correlation and should there be going forward?


Excerpt passage: para 3, p. 57

 

For those of you so inclined, here is a PDF version of this week’s blog. Blog Post 6 – Podcast

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Image courtesy CLJUC (2009) Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1180239

From my perspective, there is a complexity to this question that requires it to be teased into discrete components. I infer from the question a bias that copyright laws are an inherent problem and that the culture as commons (Bradley, 2010) model should prevail over copyright restrictions governing the acquisition and use of Web 2.0 materials. As noted by Jenkins (2004) there is a distinct tension between the media conglomerates who are implementing stringent policies to restrict usage in order to maximize revenues and consumers who are equally resistant to these controls. Even after completing our readings for this module, I felt woefully ill-equipped to make a cogent argument that fully addresses the above question. After a bit of a web search I found several articles that further framed the intellectual property debate. Michael Geist, a well-respected Canadian law professor and columnist who writes about technology and legal implications discussed this topic in his blog. Read this entry that cites the words of Judge Richard Posner regarding the restriction that copyright laws are placing on creativity. Note the fervour with which his commenters debate the issue. I am not alone in my inability to crystallize my views. It is clearly a dichotomous debate.

Jenkins (2004) highlights the belief that the internet’s “gift economy” is being undermined through ongoing commercialization and that the media concentration by conglomerates will reduce access. This concern is shared by Posner who believes that restrictive fair use is inhibiting the creative process.

Hildebrandt (2007) explores the ramifications of both copyright and access using the phenomenon of YouTube. His conclusion (albeit from 6 years ago) is that that YouTube has certainly democratized access and has made a credible attempt to address copyright issues. This action in itself has resulted in a number of other consumer generated content sites that are similar and in the case of sites like Vimeo, less commercially oriented, as consumers try to avoid YouTube’s clutter.

Further clouding my thinking is my response to the excellent Kirby Ferguson video documentaries Remix (parts 1-4) in which he demonstrates the connectivity and creative inspirations engendered between old works and new. Is this the cultural commons as it is supposed to be; shared, inspirational, dialogic? Manovich (2008) celebrates the ability of Web 2.0 to support and disseminate the creation of cultural works by both professional and non-professional producers of art. If there were tighter and more restrictive controls would we have the level of cultural creation that we currently enjoy? A number of my class mates refer with passion the amount of online media that they consume and enjoy as integral to their lives. Conversely, as classmate Bruce laments, the mass production mentality that YouTube supports, may result in a loss of “the art and wonder of the story. That undercurrent behind the visual or auditory spectacle that sticks with you and keeps you thinking long after the image and sound fades.”

I feel strongly that downloading new music, literature and other media without paying any sort of user fee is inherently unfair to the artist, who after all creates to live. Video, music and literature piracy is unjust to the creators and it needs to be controlled. I am also concerned that many legitimate news organizations will cease to exist (many have already) if their revenues from traditional media continue to decline. In the case of news, (see these links that examine the controversy incited by the Toronto Star’s announcement that it intended to launch a paywall) there are many other online options, but are they are credible and reliable news sources? I am a huge user of online content and would find paying for certain things untenable. However, I buy ebooks, use iTunes and am willing to pay some fees for some services in order to preserve them. If we do at some level uphold the idea of intellectual property and are not willing to pay for well-constructed content, are we destroying the incentive to create?

Jenkins (2004) touches on the topic of micropayments which he notes that at the time of his writing were not fully operational. In the intervening years a number of micropayment models have been developed. In October 2012, Google launched a micropayment service for web content. Take a look and see what you think. Is this an answer, at least in part, to the copyright dilemma or is it another attempt by a large media organization to commodify content? In all cases is commodifying content the enemy?

In order to have a balanced discussion perhaps the question needs to be reframed. As our readings and my cursory research would indicate there is a plethora of opinion from multiple perspectives on this issue.

Perhaps the question should be how do we balance the right of producers to be appropriately compensated for their work (not in perpetuity, but to enable them to earn a living) against consumers who are increasingly entitled regarding accessing material on the World Wide Web. That might make the issue less dichotomous.

Today, two of my courses converged in the most interesting way. Along with this new media course, I am taking Learning in Digital Contexts in my Adult Education major. Both highly interesting and both very relevant in more ways than just academic credit. I completed my readings for the ADED course first and noted the information from a blogger, Josh Bernoff, entitled Social Technographics: Conversationalists get onto the ladder. Take a look at the graphic in the article. It links directly to our conversation here regarding the impact of and our personal engagement with online content.

Using the “ladder” that Bernott references as a form of measurement, I see that my enforced (now happily) participation in the blogosphere makes me one of the 24% who are Creators (albeit minimally). In truth, I have been until this semester an active member of the 70% who have been dubbed Spectators. Manovich (2008) presents online social media use statistics that cohere with this information, and speculates about the huge incremental increases to be seen in 2012, which has of course, occurred.

Relating this occurrence to information in this module’s readings, Jenkins (2004), explains that convergence in media is significantly altering the relationships between “existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences” (p. 34). I am part of this cultural shift as I move from a passive consumer of social media to an active (sort of) participant.

Prior to this I have been a far larger consumer of online content. I use YouTube in my classrooms, Google Scholar and Books in my course research and in my class preparation; Google Docs to work cooperatively, and use a LMS for my own course materials. I have produced presentations and course lectures in SlideRocket which have then been uploaded to the web. Wikipedia is often the starting point when I need a quick and dirty explanation of something and don’t want or need to do a comprehensive search.  As Jenkins notes, consumers of online media are assuming more control and I am becoming part of that phenomenon.

However, I have previously had an inherent aversion to embracing all things in the online social media realm. I feel a decided lack of expertise which is inhibiting – I will not post something with which I am not fully comfortable. I fear being overly visible, even with privacy settings, since as Manovich (2008) states, information that was originally intended to be transient, may now have a permanence and presence that is unwelcome. I have a resistance, perhaps unfounded, to news information that comes from an source that may not be accredited, and have concerns that if information comes from bloggers who have a particular agenda or perspective then a true(er) understanding of the issue might be impacted (Manovich, 2008).

I can see a slow evolution in my consuming and ultimately producing habits, as I acquire more confidence and expertise in using tools in ways that I control and can master.

BTW, I watched a very good SlideShare presentation today (another example of converging material in accessing content online) with a very good explanation on the concept of the “long tail”. Take a look if you have a minute.

wires

CC licensed stock.xchng photo  by Darrell Rogers

So the world has reached the 6 billion mark in mobile phone subscriptions resulting  in a profound shift in socio-cultural interactions that deserve significant examination (Goggin, 2011). Goggin’s view is supported by Castells’ (2007) assertion that “mobile telephony has emerged as one of the defining communication technologies of our time” (as cited in Campbell & Park, 2008, p. 372). Let’s step back for a moment and determine what this means in terms of impact. What is the social utility and what are the attendant social ramifications?  How do we conduct ourselves – when do we access it – where do we communicate and why it is so important?

If, as asserted by Josgrilberg (2008, p. 2), we have reached the age of the digital locus, and that mobile telephony is the “door to this locus”  then is it not time to establish ground rules for the evolution that is occurring in social norms?

Consider Josgrilberg’s concept of a digital locus. He describes this phenomenon as having discrete social conventions with associated material consequences. Wellman (as cited in Campbell & Park, 2008, p. 376) furthers this notion as he shifts the idea of personal connectivity from place, to person – the individual is “an autonomous communication node” or “portal”.

nodes of communication

Nodes of Communication CC licensed from Flickr by Arenamontanus

Josgrilberg concludes that the digital locus “is a site of fulfillment and the struggle for survival” (2008, p. 2). This seems to me to dictate that we need discourse around how this alters current social conventions.

How and where we engage with each other is sometimes problematic as once clear social boundaries are blurred. Campbell and Park (2008) invoke the concept of copresent others. How many times have you been the unwitting recipient of a one-sided cell conversation that left you wishing to be anywhere but where you were? At what point, if ever, is it inappropriate to conduct personal business in a public setting via your mobile telephone? The illusory barriers referenced by Campbell and Park, are just that; illusory. It is time to decide if the encroaching personalization of public space is something with a social benefit or a lamented casualty of the growth in personal communication technology (PCT). Ruty224 poses the very valid question. Are real conversational skills being lost through the frequency and superficiality of some PCT communication?

Post-secondary classrooms no longer are the domain of the sage on the stage as the attention of undergrads is increasingly fragmented and focused on the technology that connects them instantly to their peer group. Absent presence in the classroom is not anew concept; students’ attention has always been divided. However, much of this division was the result of monologic media (in my case a novel inside a textbook). Dialogic media exacerbates the impact of absent presence as it requires active and reactive participation (Campbell & Park, 2008). Consider the perspective of Katie Benedict who freely acknowledges her dependence on her phone and its use in the classroom. Students and faculty need to work together to create classroom norms to govern this phenomenon.

As I referenced in my last post, Cisco Technology sponsored a survey that highlights the ubiquity of mobile phone technology. Read this article and you will likely recognize at least some elements of your own behavior. The car, toilet, workplace, bedroom – nowhere is off limits.

When we access no longer is dictated by the traditional notions of etiquette. Persons (like me) of a certain vintage will remember that it was considered bad form to telephone someone (land line, that is) past 10 p.m.  PCT’s create and facilitate a frequency and immediacy of communication (i.e. texting and Facebook) where these social barriers are shattered.

The why of mobile technology use is most interesting in terms of socio-cultural impact. The mobile youth culture wants to carve out an increase in personal autonomy while they create a sense of personal identity. The intensity and frequency of PCT interaction allows enhanced privacy (from prying parents), increased social membership and interaction without geographic boundaries (Campbell & Park, 2008). This is an excellent tool in the arsenal of self-development and growth. Conversely, has it led to a rise in the helicopter parenting phenomenon by linking parents 24/7 to offspring? Mobile technology has aided and abetted personal political power. Social uprisings such as the Arab Spring were facilitated by social media – often through PCT (Campbell & Park, 2008). Peer created journalism is rising where individual citizens can record and upload eyewitness accounts of breaking news stories. While we have instant exposure to news, we need to ask if  there has been attendant loss in the integrity and credibility of the stories. All of these occurrences create opportunities for reflective discourse, courtesy of mobile communications technology.

Shakespeare, via Hamlet, offers us the notion that “there is nothing either good or bad except thinking which makes it so”. This editorial does not profess to weigh the merits of mobile telephony. What is does that say is discourse is needed, boundaries discussed, impacts reviewed and social conventions established. Not by force, but by dialogue. I am prepared to start the conversation by taking this stand. If you would be uncomfortable hearing a very private conversation in a public space, then don’t engage in one yourself. Let’s tear down the “symbolic fences” (Campbell & park, 2008) and remember that these are imagined barriers that we have erected. Just because we ignore others around us doesn’t mean that they are not there. Followemc asks if smart phones have led to dumb users. Well, we don’t have to be. After all we live in a digital locus where the rules are ours to make, don’t we?