For the Your Choice activities in Collection III, I chose to work with Bob and Kevin in a collaborative attempt to create intellectual discourse around a topic relevant to the Collection. We actually spent several weeks debating how we would collaborate across Slack and email. Although we bounced a variety of ideas around, ranging from using Hypothes.is to annotate an article, to recording a live debate around a key topic, the project we settled on is one that I was excited to complete.
In order to embrace the spirit of collaboration and the Your Choice options, we created an activity that meets three of our choices: Work Together, Weave It, and Wing It. We engaged in rather rigorous discussion to determine that our final product of working together would be a website addressing a controversial statement related to copyright and intellectual property. To populate this website, we created a Wing It activity we’re calling “Discourse, Together.” Within this activity we each took an individual stand to our selected controversial statement. Once all our stands were posted, we then reviewed each other’s comments and perspectives to create a thoughtful reflection (thus completing the Weave It activity). Finally, we embedded a Google Doc into the website so anyone who visits the site can join in our discourse.
All in all, I really enjoyed being able to complete a discourse in this manner; it gives you time to consider your perspective, find evidence to support your claim, and really craft an argument that is meaningful to you. Further, it was a fun way to approach the discussion because we all took the statement in very different directions; my post included a more historical bent and (perhaps) a bit of an homage to “open,” while Bob’s examined copyright length and the relationship between creator and corporation, while Kevin approached it from the right of ownership and the potential benefit to the creator’s descendants. I think this would be a great activity to repeat with future students, although it might be fun for controversial statements to be discussed among the entire group in Slack.
Not surprisingly, I would reward each of us a 20/20 for the Wing It portion of our activity.
Step 1: Select a topic complementary to all things digital
Although none of the works we’ve read thus far has explicitly tackled the concept of technological dependency, it’s something that I keep coming back to as I think about digital citizenship, digital literacies, and how we (and frankly, I) engage with the digital world. As any digital engagement requires the use of technology, how are we teaching students (and perhaps reminding ourselves in the process) positive use patterns and ensuring their interactions with technology are intentional, mindful, and beneficial?
While I have definite thoughts about this topic, I wanted to explore what others are saying across a variety of fields (computer science, psychology, etc.). Needless to say, the information provided created a compelling argument for the need to better educate individuals about the issues surrounding technology dependency.
Step 2: Research what’s being said
I encourage you to review these sources before proceeding to my synthesis.
According to Sherry Turkle, approximately 40 years ago, computer scientists debated the uses for home computing devices, discarding the concept that we would use them to store addresses and calendars, instead favoring the notion that children might learn to program. They expressed concern, which at the time seemed quite valid, that individuals would struggle to keep their computers busy; how wrong they were.
Fast forward to 2017 when our smart phones store our lives – contacts, communication, every hour of our day, health information ranging from sleep patterns to weight fluctuations to the amount of steps we take each hour – and these early predictions are laughable. As an added bonus, smart phones now connect to our tablets, computing devices, watches, thermostats and alarm systems, kitchen tools, etc. The list is endless, really. We live in a connected world. While the benefits of connection certainly exist and we witness on a regular basis the creativity of man, perhaps we are too connected.
Across the literature, it is clear that technology is changing (has changed?) how we interact with the world around us. Turkle’s research details stories of children who are growing up in competition with technology as their parents read bedtime stories, attend recitals, push swings, make and eat dinner, wait in the pickup line at school, and even drive with phones permanently attached to their hands, standing as a ready distraction from reality. Technology, like a wanton and tempting mistress, pulls us away from our friends and families, our obligations, and our very lives with the promise of the dopamine rush that accompanies the validations of “likes” from our peers (Sinek). As we move more of our interactions online, studies indicate that we prefer to text over talking, “titrating the nature and extent” of our communications with others (Turkle) while we bemoan an inability to “form deep and meaningful relationships” with others (Sinek). We communicate in the shorthand of social-media speak (comically exaggerated (hopefully) in Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s video Hashtag) and find ourselves in the content we share (Turkle, Wortham).
Not surprisingly, then, technology has also changed how we perceive the world. When (we believe) our lives (don’t) happen (unless it’s posted) on social media, we learn to filter our experiences, mitigating the negative and focusing on the story we wish to paint. We filter our very existence. As Floersch notes, “we believe our lives are only as vivid as they appear on the internet. We post, and post some more — yearning to paint a picture of perfection, a life well lived,” yet we forget our friends do the same. In other words, we create our perfect “realities” online while desiring the “realities” created by others. These competing realities have created what psychologist call the “fear of missing out,” or FOMO, which refers specifically to “the blend of anxiety, inadequacy, and irritation that can flare up when skimming social media…[and glimpsing the thrilling] daily lives and activities of [others]” (Wortham). Further, there are “no vaccinations to prevent [FOMO] or treatments to curb its paralyzing effects” (Floersch). The feelings created by FOMO are likely (although not explicitly stated) to increase what Turkle describes as the feeling of being “alone together.” Additionally, as we further remove ourselves from face-to-face conversations, yet avoid time alone to “think, create, and connect” in ways that center us, we lose the ability to be alone without experiencing deep pangs of loneliness.
Beyond the fear of missing out and the inability to be alone, we also experience media overload and the effects of “infinite choice” (Sterling) as we spend approximately 13.6 hours a day interacting with media…even though we spend more time choosing a video than we do actually watching it. As we adapt to being exposed to vast amounts of content, we “crave novelty” and spend more and more time seeking it out.
While this, admittedly, paints a potentially grim picture, there’s still hope. Although there is some disagreement as to whether or not we should refer to technology dependency as an addiction (Turkle; Sinek), it becomes a moot point when we realize we can learn to strike a “better balance between life and technology” (Sinek). Turkle recommends beginning by “[getting] a grip and [separating] yourself from your iPhone” (Wortham). Part of this separation is creating mindful moments with friends, family, and peers in which technology has no role, allowing you to form the deep and meaningful relationships that it cannot mimic (Sinek). Finally, as Turkle passionately charges, we can change the conversation around technology – it’s not too late. Rather than focusing on the intimate relationships we have with technology, we need to reframe our conversations and ask, instead, “how technology serves our human purpose.”
Step 4: Apply it to your experience and reflect
I chose this topic through a tangential rabbit-hole. As a former teacher, I sometimes struggle with the amount of time I spend in front of a screen within my current roles as instructional designer and student. I stare at not one, not two, but three monitors at work all day and then come home to stare at a tablet screen as I complete homework. For someone who loves being outdoors and thrives on contact with others, it’s becoming frustrating. Given this, as I read more about digital citizenship and digital literacy, I couldn’t really escape the notion that part of responsibly educating students to become digital citizens has to include discussions around mindful use of technology.
Even though we had a computer from the time I was 3 (my Dad was Turkle’s computer scientists’ best case scenario – he has us programming in Basic before we started school), my parents were very strict on the amount of time we could spend with technology, preferring we, instead, read a book, play outside, or visit with friends. They, knowingly or not, struck an adequate technology-life balance for us. Further, the Internet wasn’t invented until I was in college, so I had adequate time to develop interpersonal skills and know how to form meaningful relationships. Although I technically qualify as a millennial based on my birth in 1981 (and frankly it pisses me off), I, for the most part, missed learning (as in learned behavior) the fear of missing out. I also think my, in general, eschewing of social media helps with this; I know people filter their lives and that’s not the part of life I care to see.
Far be it from me, however, to say I’m immune. I spend far too much time in front of a computer, often to the detriment of my personal life. While I may have an excuse (working, teaching, and studenting will certainly do it), I would have a nose the size of Pinocchio’s if I said I’m mindful in my use of technology and don’t let it distract me. Where I see its effects most readily is the amount of time I can waste in front of a computer (I don’t consider academics a waste; Solitaire when I’m avoiding adulting, however, definitely qualifies), the ease with which I allow myself to be distracted, and the anxiety I feel when I cannot use my phone (this is less about being connected to friends and more about the amount of my life that’s on it – calendar, Fitbit tracking, camera, etc.).
As I work through my courses and really start seeking the connections I can find, I am actually quite tempted to move some of those “conversations” back to paper. There is something to be said for drawing something in a tangible way that even a computerized mind map cannot mimic. What gives me hesitation, however, is the amazing indexing and search capabilities that come with the digital world. And, therein, lies the Catch-22. How do we create mindful interactions with technology while embracing all the affordances it allows? I’m not sure I have the answer to this, or that it’s an easy question to answer…but it’s certainly one we should all be considering.
The following pages represent my rich reflections on chapters 6-9 of Doug Belshaw’s The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. On the whole, I very much enjoyed Belshaw’s argument and the questions it encourages. Further, its open-ended nature allowed for both academic and contextual interpretation and analysis. Although I attempted to maintain cohesion in my analysis across the chapters, I’m not sure I’m always successful.
As a student of Information Studies, I find it somewhat difficult to comfortably and fully exist in digital spaces (too many articles and discussions about connections gone wrong). While this is less true in my academic endeavors (as evidenced by the amount of my thought processes I include in my assignments), it is increasingly true in my personal space. Never comfortable providing unlimited access to my life, I’ve always been a bit cautious about who could access my social media pages and have, recently, limited the accounts for my personal use to one (Instagram).
As in many things, this creates an interesting dichotomy. From an academic perspective, I love the accessibility and connectedness of the Internet and the information it puts at my fingertips. I also take full advantage of the affordances of the many technologies I use and experiment with on a regular basis. So, in my professional life, I’m absolutely a technophile who loves access to all the things; however, I try to limit (probably largely unsuccessfully) my personal information to a select few. With a Masters Degree in Information Studies, you think I would have a leg up on the general populace, but, really, I think it’s just made me more aware of the amount of information we make available about ourselves simply going about our daily lives.
So, what do we put out there? The challenge of this assignment is to find out.
As you engage with the required materials, consider the Internet Society’s definition of digital footprint as “all the stuff you leave behind you as you use the Internet.”
Take no more than 20 minutes to create a mind map using Mind Meister (or another mapping tool) representing your intentional (the activities in which you share deliberately) and unintentional (the non-deliberate results of sharing activities) digital footprint or dossier. Be specific and thorough, but don’t get bogged down, just map what comes to mind.
Once you have completed the map, use colors to note what data is intentionally created (green) or unintentionally collected (red). (I also noted comments in blue.)
Write a paragraph reflecting on what you learn/how you feel about the exercise.
Visit Mind Meister to read and comment on my Digital Footprint/Dossier mind map. Here’s a teeny tiny, non interactive preview…
(On an unrelated note, if anyone knows how to get iframe into WordPress, I’d take some advice!)
I find this map simultaneously fascinating, horrifying, and overwhelming. (Particularly given that this is what I came up with in only 20 minutes!) I also think it makes it clear that we live in a world driven by technology and information and, unless we’re willing to go off the grid (hey, at least we live in the state where that’s a thing!) or give up a fair share of the most basic modern conveniences (some of the things I choose to use but cannot control the data they collect; the passport being a prime example), there’s only so much we can do to limit the digital footprints we create…and, given the footprint I create as a conscientious user, I think it’s safe to assume that the footprints we create are BIG. I can’t even imagine what this map would look like when someone born in 2010 reaches my age. That said, as a historian, it makes it interesting to consider the amount of data that will be available to those 100s of years from now who attempt to understand our society. (The Library of Congress is already archiving Twitter…)