The beauty of this course (COMM2FOO) is that it takes a current issue and makes me examine it beyond a cursory overview. I am forced (willingly) to examine and ponder and relate to the content as it impacts my world. This session is no exception. Our readings for this module present us with an impressive array of information and detail into the world of the ubiquitous mobile phone. Goggin (2011) cites the incredible statistic that mobile phone subscribers have exceeded 6 billion (p.148)! Given that the global population is 7.1 billion, this is an astounding number in terms of the overall reach of mobile telephony. Campbell and Park (2008) present a fascinating insight into the world of current mobile communication technology, not the least of which are the new terms that they have integrated in order to adequately capture and describe the associated social phenomena. For those of us who are not digital natives (Black, 2010) and were born before the advent of the microcomputer, see the table below (Campbell & Park, 2008) .

In their article they assert that there has been a paradigm shift from the mass media world of the mid-20th century to what they deem as today’s “new personal communication society” (p. 371). They invoke Castells (2000) network society research as a framework to describe the degree of profound social change experienced through the introduction and adoption of mobile telephony. Indeed, Campbell and Park (2008) argue that mobile phones transcend communications technology and have become an icon used to express our sense of self that we share with those we include in our social networks, based far more on style, fashion and brand status than on functionality.

So how has all of this impacted me? We were asked to consider how the ‘ubiquity factor’ or the omnipresence of smartphones has impacted our worlds and our relationships. This past Christmas I received a brand-new iPhone5 (soon, I understand from tech bloggers, to be obsolete). It is slick, sexy, fast and light, a perfect representation of our “consuming culture” (Goggin, 2009, p. 231). I love it, but do I consider it an integral part of my identity or a “symbolic representation of self” (Campbell & Park, 2008, p. 373)? I can say at this point, no, at least not yet. I have referenced previously, however, that I am a member of the baby boom generation and a teacher. This matters because what Campbell and Park (2008) dub the “mobile youth culture” intersects both my personal and professional practice. It is rare that a mobile phone does not appear at either my dinner table via one of my offspring (adults) and it is never, for better or worse, that a mobile phone does not impact my classroom. Campbell (2006, as cited in Campbell & Park, 2008) asserts that in 2006, faculty and students agreed that cell phone use in classrooms is problematic. I argue that this is a distinctly outdated piece of information and anecdotally offer the assertion that students in classrooms today are unable to sit through a class to break without sneaking a peek at their phones. Class management is a different ballgame and one whose rules are yet to be solidified. The term ‘absent presence’ deeply resonated with me – see below. How do I work with this phenomenon – do I integrate it – ignore it – ban it – give up? I text – some; I have not (as yet) linked my workplace email to my phone – I do not want emails to reach me at all hours at which they are sent; do I take my iPhone to the bathroom – no – but I have thought about it! I can live without mobile phone access 24/7. Can (and should) Gen Y – who are my student base? Cisco Systems research says No.

Am I ready yet to assert that this technology has either enabled or constrained us?  There are multiple benefits and drawbacks for each perspective. Stay tuned for my next post. I will express a position that I’ll be ready to defend.

Term Definition and Context
apparatgeist The spirit of the machine – a framework that has been developed to explain consistencies in the social change as a result of cell phone adoption
absent presence Being physically present, but mentally and socially elsewhere
hyper-coordination The relational and expressive elements of mobile communication use
micro-coordination Instrumental uses of a mobile phone
monologic media One-sided media delivery e.g. television (as opposed to dialogic)
telecocooning Interpersonal communication without physical proximity to another individual

References

Black, A. (2010). Gen Y: Who they are and how they learn. Retrieved from http://www.isd300.k12.mn.us/tech_inte/soc_media/Resource%20Documents/GenY-Who_They_Are_How_They_Learn.pdf

Campbell, S., & Park, Y. (2008). Social implications of mobile telephony: The rise of personal communication society. Sociology Compass, 2/2, 311-387.

Goggin, G. (2009). Adapting the mobile phone: The iPhone and its consumption. Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 23/22, 213-244. doi: 10.1080/10304310802710546

What Value – The Information Society?

This week most of my energy vis-à-vis new learning has been consumed with understanding the rudiments of wiki’s in general and our Wikipedia sandboxes in specific. This has been part of our exercises aimed at examining the information society in which we live. More about that experience in a minute.

I have also been reflecting further on Castells’ quote that I addressed in my last post: “…technology does not determine society: it is society.” He further states that technology has shaped our social order based on the “needs, values and interests of the people who use the technology” (Castells, 2005, p. 3). I felt that perhaps this sentiment reduced us to the sum of our technological development, made the human element less important, and drew some socio-economic inferences about global access to technology.  At first blush, this felt like a negative to me.

However, over the course of the last week or so, I have been reading some of the blog posts of my classroom cohort, many of whom are viewing this statement through a very different lens. Take a look at the sentiment expressed by johnnygraham111: “This course. I finally took the time to stop and think about how incredible it is to be able to learn together in an engaging environment where none of us really know each other”. How true – and this digital connectivity that did not exist as little as 10-15 years ago is something that should be celebrated. The network society has gifted us with the possibility of virtual scholarship, and that has had a very personal benefit for me given the totality of my online degree completion. In fact, Robins and Webster (2002) argue that the virtual academe might be a democratizing influence as higher education becomes more accessible to the mass public.

@davcity is embracing the network society with the view to finding employment; “Obtaining a job now depends on networking and whom you have in your network on LinkedIn or other networking sites.” As Castells asserts, “digital networking technologies are the backbone of the network society” (2005, p. 4). For new job seekers, perhaps they are a mandatory tool.  I have a job – but what if I didn’t? The network society would likely be my first tool of choice.

So, back to Wikipedia. On a purely technical level, this week has been a bit humbling as I struggled to manipulate the digital technology. It has not been an intuitive lesson – I needed cheat sheets and the written word as instructions, and some personal support from a colleague.  Those of us engaged in academic study have been repeatedly cautioned to never use Wikipedia as a credible source, and I have religiously stuck to that mantra (the times that I took a peek at ideas and information as a thought starter, notwithstanding). But, I use Wikipedia for all kinds of other information on an almost daily basis. It astounds me the knowledge that I can obtain with the click of a key.

What has been really illuminating is my enhanced understanding of the role that Wikipedia plays in facilitating the network society. Here is what the site’s founder has written in his appeal for funding to maintain the integrity of the site as a resource; “It is a humanitarian project to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet.”  Overstated – maybe, but as a vision, how inclusive. Wikipedia is maintained by thousands and thousands of volunteer authors and editors and we can now number ourselves among them.  In essence, Wikipedia is an information repository by the people, for the people. As Castells noted, social change is dependent on “where, by whom, for whom, and for what communication and information technologies are used” (2005, p.6). Does it get more democratic than Wikipedia?

So, the network society examined through the lens of others, as a facilitator of information tools like Wikipedia or as a vehicle for virtual education might just foster the “cultural and organizational conditions for creativity on which innovation, thus, power, wealth, and culture, are based” (Castells, 2005, p. 21).

An Information Society

Posted: November 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Wow! The readings this week that invited us to examine the network society, the information society and the virtual university were all at times complex, compelling, and maddening in their respective styles and messages. Sometimes, while reading I felt it was an uphill slog, while at others, I felt a visceral connection to some of the arguments made.

Castells (2005) asks us to understand the current global social transformation as it relates to technology and makes the very bold (in my mind) assertion that “technology does not determine society: it is society” (p. 3). I noted in the margin that I wondered if this is a somewhat dehumanizing statement. Have we been reduced as a society to our attachment to technology and is that an overtly Eurocentric statement?

Thoughts around that?

He states that what most of us have called the information age, or the knowledge economy and in fact, globalization, is what he identifies as the network society and outlines a very clear argument to support this idea.

By contrast, Mansell, (2010) says that in fact, nothing is clear about the information society – in fact, she avers that as a concept, it is “notoriously fuzzy” (p. 165) and she presents a number of perspectives of leading theorists in her paper. So for her, there are no unequivocal statements as to the information or network society. Norms and values are changing in her view, not by technology, but as a response to the actions taken by people involved in the information Society.   

Robins and Webster ask us to consider the concept and impact of technology as it relates to a virtual university. As an adult education major and a teacher, this is the article with which I could better identify, but all three, especially in light of current global political and economic situations felt current and important.

What is was able to glean as a common theme, was that the impact of technology as it relates to virtually every aspect of modern life needs to be critically examined and assessed. The information society or the network society is inextricably linked to our political and socio-economic outcomes; witness that the most tweeted image this week (or ever) was an image of newly re-elected President Obama and his wife in a post-election hug of jubilation. Would the outcomes of the US presidential election have been different without the use of ICT’s? A very compelling argument can be made when you look at the comparison of Twitter followers between Obama and Romney , Obama widely outpaced Romney – and consider their use of social media. http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2012/11/07/the-tweetelection-obama-had-more-than-just-the-ground-game-in-his-favor/

Then compare the demographic breakdown of voters – far more voters in the age groups more likely to be impacted by ICT’s.

Obama – Blue

Romney – Red

As for education, the advent of virtual universities has allowed me to complete 95% of my degree work in an online format. Without this option, I would not have been able to merge a full-time career and part-time studies, to obtain a fully accredited degree. Newman stated in the past that universities were a “place for teaching universal knowledge” (as cited in Robins and Webster, 2002). In contemporary culture, evidence as presented by  Robins and Webster, argues that this model is no longer the standard – so thanks for the choices open to me and to any learner seeking alternate modes of education.

 Communication Technology: Obfuscator of the Public and the Private?

Using my technological umbilical cord, I looked up the origin of the word persona. Interestingly, it is derived from Latin and it means ‘mask’. In our current vernacular, we use the term to describe which version of ourselves we present and in what circumstances – in essence, our mask of choice. Current online communications technology directly impacts on our public/private personae in relation to privacy implications, since what once may have been private musing, might now be global fodder for comment and criticism.

Reflecting further on my online persona, I have explored to a greater depth the writings of Sherry Turkle, a renowned social scientist and psychologist. Her recent talk at the TED2012 forums, and synthesized at TED Blog | Places we don’t want to go: Sherry Turkle at TED2012 resonated deeply with me, in part, I am sure, because it fits my selective perceptions of the impacts of technology on our relationships and ultimately, ourselves.  Therefore, I am going to proffer the hypothesis that the use of social media technology is the precursor to a myriad of online privacy violations.

As I noted in my last post, Turkle believes that we have become so intrinsically connected to our tech devices, that they have altered who we are and how readily we disclose to those around us. I agree – I think that we are fundamentally changing the way that we relate to others – and that in turn, changes the “face” that we choose to present to those with whom we interact.  Information sharing that once was in-person and private is now texted, blogged, posted or Tweeted.  As noted by Bradley, (2012), “Social media, however, has rapidly fostered an environment in which individuals are able and, it seems, entirely willing to broadcast information about themselves, their friends, their families, and their activities to a broad public”(2012). Additionally, notes Boyd and Ellison, (2208) our idea of behavioural norms in using social networking, is guided by our imagined belief as to the audience or the “Friends” with whom we share. Does this imagined audience reflect reality and does it impact how we share?

Social networking activity, Turkle believes, limits our ability to self-reflect based on the responses that we get from others. She states that “we’re designing tech that will give us the illusion of friendship without the demands of companionship” and that this is “changing how people think of themselves…I share therefore, I am” (Turkle, 2012).

Tiger Woods and Congressman Anthony Weiner might have been better served, not sharing; at least not in a domain that is inherently public. Consider a tweet that is made in the heat of the moment; the Alberta Wildrose leader, for example, who tweeted that the recalled meat in the recent tainted meat scandal, which is potentially infected with E.coli, might be suitable for the homeless – an unfortunate and ill-considered gaffe, which is now public and has gone viral. She might be currently considering a more prudent way to manage her public persona.

One could argue that the ability that tech communication offers to edit ourselves, to clean up what we say, to avoid the pitfalls of mistakes and our hesitations; the very ‘humanness’ of  F2F communication (Turkle, 2012) , is an advantage in the management of our public online persona. However, a recent article, for example, (http://socialmediatoday.com/emoderation/940646/iwf-study-finds-sexting-images-stolen-and-made-public) finds that 88% of sexting activities that teens assume are private conversations, are uploaded onto other websites. This removes the ability to edit or “digitally clean” from our control and places it squarely in view of the public domain.

Bruce, in his blog post, Bruce’s Education: Rage against the machine references the recent online controversy regarding the tragic suicide of Amanda Todd (herself a victim of image transfer and public bullying), as he notes the vigilante-style outing of those who posted disparaging remarks on Amanda’s Facebook memorial site.  He remarks on the surprising transparency of the virtual world, and comments that in a very public fashion “it appears that those who have been surveiled have begun manipulating the machine themselves;” another element in the evolution of our changing socio-cultural norms. Bruce also provided a link Bruce’s Education: Little devices to a very timely radio broadcast where the guest reflected on how the devices and their marketing impacted our identity and has the potential to “change our personhood”. She believes that the devices serve in part, to change our identity by convincing us our lives are more task-based apps– and less relationship-based interactions– and that the devices amplify this tendency.

As I try to conclude my stream of consciousness regarding the impact of personhood/personae/privacy, I am reading a comment by Lyon (2008); “technological systems themselves are neither the cause nor the sum of what surveillance is today.” Hmm – extrapolating that comment to the issue of social media and privacy, I find this whole process has been quite instructive.

Therefore, my conclusion is that the devices themselves are not innately problematic. Where we have a gap is in the development of the appropriate social and cultural behaviours that govern our use of them. The issue is that speed with which new technologies are developed and adopted has exceeded the concurrent establishment of social norms.

In fact, the very public nature of the some of the more spectacular public transgressions, might ultimately serve in an educational role – at least in the teaching of what not to do.

 

 

 

Online Me: Who is this?

Posted: October 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

I have such a mixed outlook regarding social media. We have been asked to reflect on what factors we consider when releasing information about ourselves and how this contributes to our presentation of ‘self’ in an online world? My initial response is that save this blog page, and my seldom used Twitter account (still getting ready to dip my toes in that water) which of course, were set up as a response to our New Media Literacy course, I do not release any information about myself into the electronic ether. In this world of Amanda Todd and cyberbullying, the impacts of which touch my work fairly regularly, I am incredibly wary about what I want others to see about me (or my loved ones – whom I cannot protect in a virtual world). Tweets are made in the heat of a moment and retracted; images are posted and cannot be retrieved. Thinking about a ‘Surveillance Society’, a colleague who teaches Public and Private Investigations uses Facebook as a jumping off point to show her students exactly what information is out there about themselves and how easy it is for anyone with a little knowledge, to retrieve.

But, is this entirely true? Do I release nothing? Well, in all of the online courses that I have taken (and that numbers 18 at this point), I post with my full name and middle initial attached. We introduce ourselves and post weekly, using both personal and workplace examples to inform our forum submissions. In each of these, a persona emerges. Whether this is reflective of the real me or whether it is what Turkle calls a “constructed persona” ((1999) is not clear; I am not an objective judge of this.  Because I have constructed a mental model of others in my course, so I am sure that they have done this for me.

As I scan our articles for this module, getting ready for our next major post, something said by Sherry Turkle resonated; “the little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t even change what we do, they change who we are” (Turkle, 2012). Is this true? As I post this blog entry and prepare to launch into the Twitterverse, does this change who I am?

And if so, is this something I want to meet, or to run from?

Tech: Empowered or enslaved?

Posted: October 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Technology: Empowerment or enslavement?  Egalitarian tool of the people or digital divide?

Those are the questions (or mine anyway!) This is an interesting dichotomy for someone who has online communications technology open and in use constantly – it is a fundamental tool in the development of my work product; as a communications device with family and colleagues; for use as a 24/7 source of “did you know” factoids on everything from entertainment to politics. I have it at my fingertips, therefore, this must be truly an egalitarian info age in which we live as it empowers all who have access. Do all have equal access?  

Ah, Barbrook and Cameron in “The Californian Ideology” (1996) caution against the “apartheid” (p. 61) created by information haves and have-nots – a social divide then, that is not equally empowering, and in fact, could be viewed as democratically polarizing. This is a thought- provoking position. Radnovic blogs that it is critical that we bridge socio-cultural gaps not only in access to technology, but in the associated required skills, since by not doing so, we risk further polarity in education and opportunities. Food for thought, indeed. (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/12/14/digital-divide-and-social-media-connectivity-doesnt-end-the-digital-divide-skills-do/).

Extending the idea of unlimited access to technology and its impacts, Barbrook and Cameron suggest “what is unknown is the social and cultural impact of allowing people to produce and exchange almost unlimited quantities of information on a global scale” (1996, p. 52). While I embrace many aspects of the electronic age in which we live, and I am in the baby-boom demographic still impressed by new and emerging technologies, I see constantly, the mixed impact of tech communications tools. On one hand I can create a slick and interactive online Slide Rocket presentation, publish it and have global participants – great and makes me feel validated as a technology current individual (more or less). On the other, I observe mounting evidence of technology dependence –e.g. texting and driving, walking or using a public  washroom. Davidow (2012) cites truly frightening statistics of a neurosurgeon who texted 10 times during an operation causing the patient partial paralysis (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/technology-addiction-will-lead-to-our-evolution-or-enslavement/250951/).

Is the need to feel connected at all cost healthy or harmful?  Am I empowered or enslaved? This is a dialogue worth having.

BTW, did you Google today?

Here goes – and an update!

Posted: September 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Well, here I go with my first blog post. I am so totally unsure why anyone would read this but here goes! I created this as a part of a course that I am taking on New Media Literacy – COMM2F00. Great learning – makes me stretch a bit and of course is part of my degree completion credit requirements.

I am a teacher of Ontario community college students – Marketing, Sales, Leadership, Advertising and Communication so this is something that can only help (I think). The new semester start up is always packed with things to do – meet new students, sort timetables, prep my lessons, attend meetings. On top of that of course are the two courses that I am taking through Brock – both fully online – my 17th and 18th online courses. Forces good time management, that is for sure.

I think that it is very humbling and grounding to be a student while you are a teacher. It helps connect you to the angst and anxiety that your own students feel and ensures that you provide as much support and clarity as possible. I am as mark driven and outcome oriented as any of my students – hmmm. In fact, I would venture that living the learner experience is an invaluable resource for any teacher looking for professional development.

On top of this I got new progressive glasses yesterday! First time and I am not too sure about that whole thing. For those of you younger than 40, you wear these when all your ranges of vision – reading, middle and distance go into the toilet. It means that you can (in theory) have one pair of glasses that will act as an all-purpose aid. All I feel right now is somewhat motion sick as I try to get used to them. Any advice welcome!

Update 1: – am used to the progressives – and now have a pair of computer glasses too, so all bases covered.

Update 2: It is the start of the January 2013 semester. Fall courses done, both work and personal and I am now embarking on three more – degree completion is achingly close – April 2013, if all goes well.