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    « The Radical Impossiblity of Teaching | Main | Are social media, social? (Part Four) »

    Are social media, social? (Part Five)

    In the 1930’s radio was a crucial part of European and North American culture. It was a medium that anyone could listen to and many people did. It was also a medium that was used by the Nazis for example, as a propaganda vehicle. Communication’s systems are by their very nature open to abuse as well as good. Radio is now one of the most important media used in Africa for learning at a distance.

    I bring up what seems like an archaic medium, radio, to suggest that social networks have always been at the heart of the many different ways in which humans communicate with each other. In each historical instance, as a new medium has appeared, there has been an exponential increase in the size of networks and the manner in which messages and information have been exchanged.

    These increases have radiated outwards like a series of concentric circles sometimes encapsulating older forms and other times disrupting them. The fundamental desire to reach out and be understood remains the same. This is what we as humans do, even in our worst moments. We primarily use language and then layer other media not so much on top of language but within its very structure. The brilliance of working with 140 characters is that it takes us back (and may well be pushing us forward) to poetry. The psychology of engaging with an economy of words within the cacophony of messages directed towards us each moment of every day is encouraging a more precise appreciation of the power of individual words. In this sense, I am very heavily on the side of Twitter.

    At the same time, Twitter is not a revolution. Information in whatever form, depending on context, can be dangerous or benign. But information exists in a very precise fashion within a defined context. Notice that the Twitterati in general identify themselves. Twitter is somewhere in between text messages and instant messages, an interlude that connects events and experiences through the web as a hub. Early on Twitter was described as microblogging. My next post will look at blogging and what has happened to the many claims made about it when blogging first appeared.

    Part Six...

    Reader Comments (1)

    Here are some general comments on this very interesting set of posts.

    * Digital utopianism is at the heart of the thought challenges that you appear to be thinking about. I think it's useful to analyze it as an ideology - that is, a more or less coherent set of beliefs that is driven by values. As opposed to a coherent theory based on rigor and empiricism. Ideologies are useful as rallying points, but typically fail in the face of facts.* This ideology is reinforced by a view that the printing press caused the Reformation (partially true, but the time was ripe), media determinist ideas from the likes of Innis (anyway, was the rise of the Catholic Church thanks to the codex truly a triumph of human progress and empowerment???), and the 1960s new left leanings of leading digerati (I stand convicted as an accomplice, at least).* Media tools are used for both good and evil... which in any case are in the eye of the beholder.* The double edged sword is an apt metaphor for thinking about the uses of digital media. Further, I'd say it's an arms race. Leading case in point: Tea Party, Scott Brown.* Twitter is an extension of talk and CB radio (immature, messy, banal, often trashy).* Blogs are an extension of pamphleteering (somewhat more mature and civilizing... hard work, but also available to perverse and trashy priorities)* At the end of the day what counts are cultures and societal structures - civility, tolerance, personal integrity, norms and laws, etc. These seem to be in decreasing supply. It's quite arguable that digital media are not helping matters.
    May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavidTicoll

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