On web 2.0, education and humanity


This is my quite informal and not so scientific text on the subject. More of a ideas and questions on this subject than a real essay, which I hope to do later on as a part of my graduation work from Univeristy of arts and crafts.


I have been lately reading “Program or be programmed, ten commands for digital age”, “Life inc” by Douglas Rushkoff and “You are not a gadget, a manifesto” by Jaron Lanier which all are really great and very wise books which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone or actually to everyone. But I do not mean to promote these books (I bought my copies btw.)but rather to first acknowledge that I might be a bit biased toward quite critical attitude on web 2.0 and on social media.

The questions

I have noticed that there seems to be quite a rush and anxiety to use social media and web 2.0 solutions in education.We have multimedia boards, teachers are encouraged to dapple on facebook and twitter, etc. This has got me thinking that has our technology really advanced in so high level that we should use it education, or use it more than we use it now. What are the advantages of technology over traditional means of teaching? Can we engage the students in some better way? Can we get them interested to learn more efficiently? If yes, isn’t that bit troublesome news, in a way that people don’t want to learn but by engaging them to technology we can fool them to learn?

Teaching is a not a simple task, it involves many aspects and much has been written about how to teach and to learn, or grow as humans. It’s a difficult and complex issue and something that I feel I’m not yet able to understand so well I could write about it much. Anyway I understand that teaching is not just done by passing the knowledge from A to B, but it’s something that happens in a process, or in a dialogue between A and B. Martin Buber wrote good thing about this, as have many others.

Dialogue is communication. Over 90% of our communication is non-verbal. Only less than 10% is straight verbal communication. Still computer programs relay on those 10% almost completely. Sure, it is possible to program the computer to recognise different patterns such as facial movement or change in speech, but that too has to be preprogrammed and will be based on some data set and not in that dialogue happening at that moment between A and B. What will we lose in using technology as a teaching tool? Of course it’s still only a tool, but for example  most universities exists in Second Life and give courses there. How much is lost in that kind of teaching? What are we learning? What kind of learning is suitable for that kind of environment? Also by encouraging univerisities and schools to base their departments in Second Life we become more biased to develop courses suitable for those environments.The threat is that we become more like programs and not that programs becomes more human like.

How much of the popularity to use web 2.0 and social media is about us humans decending ourselves to think more like computers rather than computers becoming more intelligent and humanlike?

Computers and software is not intelligent. The only intelligence they possess is programmed by us humans. Without us the software would just be some silicone chip in a board maybe running a little hot. But nowadays we can program computers to do wonderful things. And maybe they do seem to be intelligent. Still there exists so much in human communication where computers doesn’t come even close. Human communication is rich, its vivid, its analogue. Communication with computers is always digital, meaning its already reduced to zeros and ones. Nothing exists between those zeros and ones. What’s more is that many of web 2.0 sites reduce our human uniqueness even more to some multiple choices and maybe to an avatar. Im afraid that it’s not very rich way of communication. Also that what some profile pages communicates is not us, it’s not our digital self, it’s not even good caricatyre.. If we become more like our facebook page, twitter feed etc., or think more like some game ,we might end up growing that way and lose the valuable bits and betweens of life.

I do think there is good ways to use technologies in education and also in our communication but we have to be clear what it is and what it is not. We must understand the workings of such systems.


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