“How do you train a generation to speak to all people across all space and all time?“ ~ danah boyd
One of the debates I’ve been having recently has to do with the publicness of learning through 2.0 tools like blogs. Don’t get me wrong. As someone who’s been blogging for almost nine years, and has a dozen different status messages broadcasting my moods & motions 24/7, I’ve set the bar low when it comes to my own privacy. I’ve rarely had problems unlike some of the very frightening things that have happened recently to others. On the contrary, my experiences have been very positive. I’ve met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Furthermore, my “meatspace” friendships are a lot richer for the mutual awareness we gain by keeping tabs on what we’re blogging, bookmarking, twittering, etc.
That’s fine. We all have a choice. But what happens when you don’t? What if you’re required to establish an online presence as part of your coursework?
As danah boyd points out, there are some important shifts that happen when you move into a publically mediated space. Online, what you say is
- persistent even if you delete it, it can be cached by a search engine or cut & pasted by someone
- replicable but not always faithfully copied & pasted into a new context
- aimed at invisible audiences … you don’t always know who’s paying attention
Recently, I got a sense of how jarring it can be when a student realizes this. I came across a blog accidentally, loved it and asked the author if I could share it with others in my office. I wanted to pass it around since she was reflecting on her learning and connecting with people in the industry where she hoped to work. She was a “portfolio learner” in a digital space. However, the request completely threw her off balance. To her, even though she was blogging in the open, she considered her writing private. What are the unintended consequences of asking people to participate in an open culture?
I feel we’re coming to a time when we’ll have worked all this out. As a New York Magazine story recently pointed out, “their skin is thicker than yours.” Maybe eventually we’ll all have thick skins.
But as a learning institution, we have a responsibility to keep people safe. As a colleague of mine says (and I love to quote him often), “our job is to take people on a journey and bring them back safely.”
What does that mean when you learn in the open?
(Photo, I’m a sucker for a Neon Sign, by Richard Roberson)