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Surfing the Visitor-Resident Continuum January 29, 2013

Posted by adam1warren in Uncategorized.
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Mapping your digital footprint

Mapping your digital footprint

I never could see the sense in Prensky’s Digital Native : Digital Immigrant proposition; it seemed clear to me that many young people have very shallow digital skills while many older people – well, heck, they invented the internet and all its technologies. Conversely, other young people thrive in the digital world while many otherwise competent professionals seem terrified by IT. Its all a bit more complicated than Presnky makes out. Then I came across a well-written and researched paper from 2011 which critiques the whole idea of Digital Naives and Digital Immigrants and provides all the references and critical analysis to justify my doubts.

Koutropoulos, A. (2011) Digital Natives: Ten Years After. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 7(4). Accessed online May 2012: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no4/koutropoulos_1211.htm

I’d heard a bit about an alternative view – Digital Visitors : Digital Residents – which seemed to offer a more grounded approach, and have just come across an excellent video by David White (Oxford University) which provides a good overview of this. The blog post also has a link to a paper if you prefer reading about it.

The part that really struck a chord with me was the diagram above, where David described how he is a Resident in his professional life (as a learning technologist), using blog posts and tweets to build and maintain his digital identity, while in his personal/private life he is very much a Visitor who prefers not to leave much of a digital footprint. He also talked about the need to ‘feed the machine’ – that digital personas need constant activity and erode if they are neglected. I’m very aware that I’m basically a half-hearted Resident, posting the occasional blog post, irregular Facebook status update and random tweet – so my online persona is sketchy and insubstantial. I joke about ‘anti-social networking’! He also described these personas as ‘micro-celebrities’ and this is perhaps why I don’t put more effort into maintaining mine – it seems to smack of the ‘me-me-me’ generation, at odds with my quaint British reserve. Also, if you are busy living some of your life online, what is it that you are not doing instead? This is where I strongly identify with the Visitor status, using the web as a means to an end – a way of finding what I need and enabling activities… That said, it’s time to go and watch some TV… episode 3 of Utopia.

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E-Learning and Digital Cultures January 29, 2013

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As one door closes, another opens… and today is the start of the E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC, created by the University of Edinburgh and running on the Coursera platform. And I have to say it looks great: clearly structured with weekly activities that not only look achievable, but really interesting. The contrast with the MOOC I just bailed out of could hardly be stronger, and my motivation levels are sky high again. Apparently there are around 40,000 participants, which should make for lively discussion forums.

The first two weeks are looking at utopian and dystopian visions of digital culture, with special reference to education. The first activity is to watch four short films that explore this issue, and my initial thoughts on the first of these follows.

Bendito Machine III is an animation that shows a ‘primitive culture’ worshipping technologies – and when a new one arrives the old one is unceremoniously dumped on the scrap-heap. We see radio replaced by TV – and the vintage video it displays quickly veers from the naive consumerism of the 1950s to graphic footage of the Vietnam war and the violent repression of anti-war protests… all mixed in with cheerful cartoons and advertising messages of course. Turn on your state-of-the-art 50-inch flat-screen home entertainment system and has so much changed in the intervening 35 years?

The TV becomes a sinister presence, uncontrollable and damaging to the culture, but soon enough it is replaced by a new device (the computer?) which almost immediately malfunctions and is itself replaced by a huge device with tentacles (the internet?). And so technology marches on, faster and faster, taking us to an unknowable future.

There are ecological aspects to this allegory: the scrap-heap of discarded technologies finds its real-world mirror in the WEEE waste directives and the burning electronic trash fields of places like Agbogbloshie in Lagos. And also right now in my cellar, where a vast 28″ Sony Wega CRT TV (once the best that money could buy) lies discarded in favour of a brand-new Samsung 1080p HD LED flat-screen.  But it is not all minuses: the new device uses a fraction of the raw materials and half the energy and delivers a vastly superior picture quality.

What of the social implications of a fixation on technology? There is a sense that we are rushing into a digital future, pushed by the need for manufacturers to sell us new products: “Just look at all the things our shiny new phone does that the one you bought last year can’t!” So suddenly we all become faux-experts in megahertz and megapixels, gigabytes and broadband speeds. But what we don’t pay any attention to is the social impact of these new devices – except suddenly we have sexting, cyber-bullying, spam texts, phishing emails, botnets and twitter scandals. Plus pub quizzes are no fun now everyone has wikipedia in their pocket, and HMV and Blockbuster went bust because CDs and DVDs will soon be as quaint as 3.5″ floppy disks or Super-8 film.

I read a lot of SF (which I always think stands for ‘speculative fiction’) and one very relevant novel is ‘Super Sad Love Story‘ by Gary Shteyngart [Washington Post review]. In his dystopian near-future everyone can video-blog their life, turning it into an over-acted reality show, post mindless updates about their purchases to their GlobalTeens account and use the RateMePlus technology on their äppärät to check out the sexual hotness and credit-worthiness of everyone in the room. Its not so far away, that world, and companies like FaceBook, Foursquare and MindTheGap are bringing it closer by the day.