(Note: This post got away from me. Sorry.)
(via Kathy Sierra) Last week Danah Boyd posted an essay that talks about why MySpace matters and what the potential fall out from the MySpace panic is. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but I did find this snippet to be particularly thought provoking:
MySpace has grown so large that the needs, values and practices of its users are slamming into each other. It’s facing the archetypical clashing of cultures. Yet, interestingly, most users are not that concerned – they’re trying to figure out how to live in this super public. The challenge is that outsiders are panicking about a culture that they are not a part of. They want to kill the super public rather than support people in learning how to negotiate it. No one knows how to live in such a super public, but this structure is going to become increasingly a part of our lives. It is no wonder that youth want to figure it out. And it is critical that they do, especially since our physical worlds have become more segregated and walled off, partitioned by age, race, class, religion, values, etc. Yet, it is the older generation that did that segregating and they’re not really ready to face collapsed contexts at every turn or to learn how to engage with people who have very different values on a daily basis. Because of their position of power, outsiders are pushing the big red emergency button, screaming danger and creating a complete and utter moral panic. Welcome to a generational divide, where adults are unable to see the practices of their children on kids’ terms.
“Support people in learning how to negotiate it.” What a concept.
I find the culture in this country more and more ironic every day. As Danah says in her essay, we say to kids all the time that they shouldn’t reveal to much of themselves, yet everywhere they look on television we’re engaged in the sport of revelation. We reward our kids with trips to the mall yet say nothing about the fact that we live in a society where 80% of the things we buy are thrown out within six months. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink quotes Polly LaBarre who notes that the U.S. spends more on trash bags than 90 other countries spend on everything. Think about that. (Wendy‘s in the final stages of her environmental tip book…more such items to come I’m sure.) We claim to strive for equality, yet the only voices with any power are white, middle-aged, Ivy League educated, wealthy men who have lost (if they ever had) any perspective of what equality really means. And if you think that’s a problem, try this:
No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you’ve heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.
Oy. It feels pretty hopeless, sometimes…
Mark Ahlness says
Will, thanks for your thoughts and the links to others’. Wish your voice were heard on some of the big ed=tech discussion lists. Between wwwedu and edtech, there are over 5,000 subscribers listening to a heated discussion about myspace right now. I did send a link along to your blog… All the best – Mark
In reading Danah Boy’s essay about the ups and downs of Friendster and MySpace, I can easily see the issue that I can see as potential problems as we begin to integrate blogs, wiki’s, streaming video and podcasts to the day to day functioning of education. As educators we often find ourselves troubled between the desire to see students express themselves in a free and open way and worried that they will take this freedom too far and force administrators to restrict student’s First Amendment rights.
I was recently at CUE listening to Alan November speak, and one of his suggestions was to create ‘Ethics Committees,’ to allow students to have a voice in the way their speech (oral and written) should be regulated in both a school and personal setting. I think this is an interesting idea, allowing students to become more proactive in their online lives. This is the debate that must happen and I hope this is part of the debate that Mark’s post above references.
I totally agree with Kyle (above). We must allow our students to become part of not only the discussion but also the solution to these issues. We need their input (the whole “digital native” argument). They will be living in this world – they should be helping to make the rules. I am very interested on hearing/reading more about this issue of student involvement…any suggestions?