We’re now in the third week of class, and I’ve got a terrific, articulate group of students who aren’t afraid to engage the material and share their thoughts (which makes my life much easier :)). As part of the requirements for the course, I’m asking each person in the class to keep a research journal blog, which functions as a place to articulate, think about, and slowly redefine a research question or questions that they’ll pursue in the final project. For the first class, I asked them to come up with three questions that they’re interested in exploring this semester, and in each subsequent class I’ve asked them to reflect on how the readings for that week may (or may not) impact on their thinking about their questions.
So. It occurs to me that 1) I have a blog, rather neglected as of late, and 2) I have a research question that I’m working on (my dissertation topic) – and it seems that it’s only fair to engage with the materials in the same way that I’m asking my students to, no?
The prompt for this week: What concept or idea intrigued you most in this weeks’ readings?
How/does it impact your thinking about the questions and issues you
wrote out for yourself last week?
Dyson et al.’s Cyberspace and the American Dream is a striking example of the rhetoric that the Internet is the last frontier for true democracy of ideas – the authors even use the phrase "bioelectronic frontier" to emphasize the wide-openness and opportunity that the Internet supposedly presents. While I tend to groan at this type of talk – partially out of an inherent cautiousness around big, sweeping remarks, and partially because I don’t think we have evidence that the Internet has been truly democratizing (think Shirky’s discussion of the long tail) – I did find one notion particularly interesting. Like Crawford, Dyson et al. presented an economic basis for their arguments regarding the Information Age; however, I appreciated the way that Dyson et al. acknowledged the social component as well, in saying that the Third Wave won’t be achieved until we as a society, and especially those in power, learn to take advantage of both the technological breakthroughs currently available to us (and which make up a big component of the Third Wave) as well as the opportunities for social change that the technologies enable (note the use of "enable" instead of "offer!" A strategic choice after last week’s discussion. :)).
One other thing: in their conclusion, Dyson et al ask, "Who, in other words, will shape the nature of cyberspace and its impact on our lives and institutions?" Cynically, I want to respond, the people in power, of course. However, it’s worth thinking about some more… the rhetoric currently surrounding the Net Gen is that the new social and cultural practices that are cropping up around their uses of various technologies will have a large impact on shaping our lives and institutions. I see this happening on some levels, but I think the jury’s still out on the large scale impact. Then again, hindsight is always 20/20…