Thursday, July 29, 2010

EDUC 504: I would give this post a clever title but I'm too distracted by my multitasking (Reflections on readings for July 30)

Reading: Klapperstuck & Kearns, The Wired Life: The Public and Private Spheres of the Gen M Community

I'm apparently not really a member of "Gen M", because I can remember a life that wasn't wired... I remember when computers were really only good for word processing and whatever games your parents bought in a box and loaded onto the computer using big, black 5.5" discs. On the other hand, I do seem to have at least some Gen M attitudes.

  • Watch TV while texting friends on cell phone and doing homework and using the Internet? Usually not... sometimes TV + internet.
  • Media used to keep me connected to my peers and the world at large at all times of day and night? Yes.
  • Sit silently next to my husband while we both catch up on Facebook? Um, sometimes.
  • Want ad content to be tailored to my interests? I'd rather see an ad for a cool new yoga mat than high heels any day.
  • Consider online privacy to be a matter of controlling which friends see which posts on my blog / facebook / twitter and then using those media to broadcast specifically to those friend groups? Definitely.

And I'm still not sure I see why the last one is bad, although that seems to be the implication of the article. I moved away from Boston three years ago and am still in daily contact with some of my best friends there because twitter and livejournal and facebook let us communicate with each other in an efficient manner. Yes I have to trust the web site in question to observe the privacy settings I select, but that's true of every online transaction from online banking to putting data in google docs -- all of these depend on a reputation for security and observing your privacy settings in order to have people trust them. I'm not sure why I should worry more about facebook than about my bank or google docs.

Yes, one of your friends can go and repeat what you said outside your walled garden, but that's just a real life problem translated onto the internet -- the problem is the friend, not the medium. And yes, for every blog post I write I spend at least a few seconds choosing between the options of "totally public" (fine for a funny xkcd cartoon), "locked to friends" (most posts which have any sort of identifying personal information), and "private" (it's only there for me to read). I don't use the last one often, but when most of my journal entries are ones I feel comfortable sharing with friends, it makes a certain amount of sense to keep the totally private ones in the same place for organizational and backup purposes.

I guess for me it becomes more problematic when "friends" online are not friends from real life. 99% of people who can see my online "private" information are people I've met and been at least friendly with in real life; the vast majority of the other 1% are no more than 1 degree removed from me -- the second cousin I've never met, the friend of a friend who takes cool pictures. When it crosses over into the territory of, "someone I only know through their online presence" that feels much more sketchy to me. I need the real world validation of the online projection, even if it was in high school 15 years ago.

As a teacher who's thinking of using things like wikis and podcasts and blogs in the context of a classroom, the part wherein the authors wring their hands over whether students consider the privacy (or not) of uploaded content is relevant, I suppose. Although I would in general imagine that anything safe for class consumption is also safe for public consumption (that at least seems to be the assumption with the blogs we've made for this class).

So it seems like I'm not fully appreciating the concerns of the authors or the points they're trying to make because the Gen M experience is too close to my own, as they describe it. I can't tell if this means I'll have an easy time of it because I'll get where my students are coming from, or I'm setting myself up for a pratfall because we're really more different than I think.

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