The 4th Age of Sand

As I have immersed myself more into the world of social media, commenting on articles, the blogosphere there’s a very real attraction to it for me.  I like putting ideas out there, I like being social, meeting people I never would have met.  Overall I’m very positive about the way we communicate.  Douglas Adams in a wonderful speech he gave (transcript here) talked about how humanity has made enormous leaps via, what he calls, the four ages of sand.  Sand being made of silicon he outlines the 4 ages as:

1) Using silicon to make glass for the telescope

2) Using silicon to make glass for the microscope

These two allowed us to see the macro and micro universe around us.

3) The silicon chip.  Computers with their ability to do many calculations quickly allowed us to model the process of how things work.

4) Silicon for fiber optics in the communication age.

From http://www.cbstelephone.com

Although of course at the time of the speech we didn’t use satellite as much as we do today, but there are still a lot of computer chips involved in those!  The point is that Douglas Adams saw the power of being able to communicate with people remotely as a powerful tool.

Yet when we look at this great age where the world is being connected we tend to get overwhelmed by stories of social media addiction, the loss of time spent in the physical world, face to face communication, and some often harmful interaction.

It is this last one that is on my mind right now.  I watched the interview recently with Jon Ronson on The Daily Show and he has a new book where he talks about internet shaming.  One of the people he focuses on in his book is Justine Sacco.  You may remember her, she was the one who made a joke tweet on her way to South Africa from Heathrow and from only having 170 followers to a landslide of people waiting to lambaste her at the end of her flight.  His book looks at the history of shaming and what it means in todays day and age.  He wrote a good piece in the New York Times if you don’t want to read the book.  It’s a great article, long, but most definitely worth a read.

After years of using digital media for communication there are many challenges to overcome.  I think that ultimately when you write things that people are going to read, you have to be a great writer.  Without our physical gestures and voice intonation it’s easy for meaning to get lost.  It’s easy for a joke to sound serious.  It’s easy for well meaning advice or information to sound condescending.  It’s easy for sincerity to be taken as sarcasm.  But I was thinking that good writers are not so unambiguous and we pick up things like sarcasm and sincerity better.  Maybe when we communicate through writing we need to think about how we say it more deeply before we do so.  I think part of the illusion lies in the fact that we think we are actually having a conversation and try to type out things like we are, but in fact communicating through writing is not very much like a face to face conversation at all.  Justine Sacco’s life was destroyed for making a joke to her few twitter followers, poking fun at white privilege and walked out of a plane into an absolute hellscape of a virtual mob who wanted her to hang.  Someone on twitter was even there to take her picture as she walked off the plane.

This story also reminded me of recent events concerning the pizzeria owners who said they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.  A friend of mine linked me an article about how we really don’t benefit from publicly shaming those owners regardless of how discriminatory and prejudiced their views might be.  Seeing that those bigots had over $800,000 raised in their name infuriated me and I could feel the anger rise in me and wanted to join the mob of people shaming the for their views.  Luckily it occurred to me that being upset and shaming bigots doesn’t really change anything and that it would be better to put goodness into the world instead and decided to set up a fundraising account for an LGBT youth group in Indiana that does a lot of good work in schools and for young members of the LGBT community.

It’s amazing how easily we can succumb to being part of “the mob” through digital media.  I’ve been caught up in it and I am sure many who read this have as well.  When you reflect on it, it’s an empty feeling though.  You get to feel bold for being part of

From http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com

a righteous fight, and yet remain anonymous in that sea of virtual people calling out for someone’s blood.  This is the other facet of the age of the internet is that posting comments behind the veil of a computer screen, or smart phone screen is that we feel protected and thus we say and do things we wouldn’t normally do.  Everybody is familiar with “trolls” and the divisiveness they cause with their comments.  In the end best advice really is “don’t feed the trolls”, but someone always does and arguments ensue.  I know for me the internet allows me to be bolder than I am perhaps in real life and while sometimes I think it helps me gain some additional confidence in myself, more often I just use the internet as a shield to give compliments and say things I am too shy to say in person.  Too often I also find myself assuming a more negative intention in the comments of others because the internet is full of people saying things that I don’t think they would say to your face.  It’s kind of like how drinking affects people.  Some people become open and honest in a kind way, others become belligerent and mean.  For me I feel that it’s something I have improved on and need to keep improving to be the man on the internet that I am in real life.

I am not down on the communication age, I just feel like we’ve invented an important bit of technology that we haven’t figured

from http://harvardpolitics.com

out how to use to the best of its ability yet.  I think that there are a lot of important ways that the internet can be used that our too valuable to ignore.  We can learn about issues all over the world that can foster our love of humanity and can help us see that we do truly live in a global community.  Social media was used to organize a revolution in Egypt to overthrow a terrible dictator (sorry Egypt it hasn’t gotten much better), when in the past there would have been no easy way to send the message to everybody simply through a land line.  Social media has been used to bring things to the light that would have caused more harm.  A video of cop shooting a man in the back, racist chants from a sorority in Oklahoma, a video of a NFL football player knocking out his wife (not really about exposing the football player, but how it helped exposed how the NFL organization tried to cover up evidence they had about the incident) are examples of how the sharing of certain information has value.  But I think we owe it to ourselves to try and take ourselves away from the mob mentality.  What if Justine Sacco had made her joke to your face.  Even if you weren’t clear that it was a joke would have you ran down the halls calling her a racist?  You probably would have just removed yourself from her social circle, but you could have also taken her aside and turned it into a teachable moment about why her joke might not be found as funny, or asked follow up questions to understand her intention.  Shaming is a terrible thing and how many of us have made jokes or comments we regret?  How many times have we been wrong in our attitude or thinking and needed a chance to learn from our mistakes to come out better on the other side?  Doesn’t everybody deserve that chance?  Is it necessary to traumatize somebody for a few thoughtless words?  Let’s instead try turn negatives into positives.  Let’s try to teach instead of shame.  Let’s try to understand instead of judge.  I am no saint in this area, but I’m going to keep trying, because the benefits of this communication age I think are enormous.  It is our disconnection from each other that leads to fear and mistrust I believe, and we can know and understand so many more people and issues today than we could 30 years ago and I truly believe that the power of the internet can lead to a new golden age for humanity.

 

 

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34 thoughts on “The 4th Age of Sand

  1. After reading your post (excellent one, btw!), I think social media has helped me become bolder in real life. Frankly, it’s helped me learn how to argue correctly. When I was younger, I had all of these ideas floating around in my head, but I didn’t know how to organize and articulate them. Social media really helped me with that aspect, to where now I feel like I can create a cogent, well reasoned argument in person off the cuff because I’ve done it online so many times.

    And I have to feed the trolls because they’re wrong…and I’m right… 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Believe me I get sucked in by trolls too. The important question is, are they truly asserting a point in which to argue or are they just trying to stir the pot and piss everybody off and waste people’s time. I suspect they quickly move on from their comments or just seek attention and aren’t overly concerned with the truth of their arguments or yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post Swarn! Truly the silicon age, the internet, and social-media are POWERFUL animals/machines and deserve our utmost respect, utmost knowledge (bordering sometimes on a PhD in Electronic Engineering! 😛 ), and our utmost management!

    I’ve had to remind myself to get into and STAY in the habit of “think twice, speak once.” In other words, yes the internet and social-media move at light-speed and you’ll get left way behind if you don’t HURRY and get your two-cents in! 😮 But on the flip-side of that “panic”, you truly risk being completely misunderstood, even vilified, if you DON’T take adequate time to choose your words, syntax, and phrasing precisely and carefully! Now, we are communicating WAY BEYOND our own little worlds and experiences, and into other cultures, other races and ethnic backgrounds, and as a result I’ve witnessed a good college friend of mine in Texas (unintentionally) offend a female feminist of mine in Sweden! Man, talk about the DANCE I had to perform to keep them from strangling each other! LOL

    But like you, I too see this powerful tool, this BEAST of a connector of peoples, as a hugely beneficial method of EDUCATING the rest of the world, especially those illiterate 3rd-world nations that get plucked apart by extreme militant (religious?) groups because of being “kept in the dark ages.

    Indeed, management and respect for this monster</em (or big teddy bear?) is the key. Is it not?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well in many regions with high literacy, technology isn’t easily available. In Pakistan and other Islamic countries there is a great deal of censorship. But nevertheless people find a way to bypass those things to get information. Sometimes at great risk though. I would say that respect for the “monster” is important, but perhaps more importantly is to maintain respect to people and see that social media and the internet is a tool for connecting people. I think we forget the people part sometimes when we connect through digital media. But I agree with what you are saying I think we sometimes rush into using a technology before being really thoughtful about its benefits and damage! Thanks for reading this post and your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Do you have videos enabled in your comments? Have you caught this TEDx Talks clip on “Discourse in the Internet Age”? Very profound stuff Klepek shares… 😉

        In case you don’t have videos enable in comments, here’s the link:

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree wonderful Lady. As Swarn poignantly & eloquently covers, internet discourse is POWERFUL. He (and this video again) has challenged me again to continue refining my writing skills & putting more serious thought into my structure & wording! Swarn is spot-on… the majority of people online & on social-media tend to be more emotional than analyzing properly the world of the Writer, the world of the text, and the world of the Reader, themselves, and HOW they all interact! Those are fluid dynamics aren’t they?

        I sometimes forget those dynamics when reading/writing. :/

        Repeat Note 4,284 to self: “Reply not Urgent! Think twice, speak once! Repeat!” 😛

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Professor, all throughout my Christian upbringing, I was taught to be inauthentic. I don’t know if this is regional, but in the South, you are taught to be polite and respectful even when it’s not deserved. It wasn’t until I got involved on the Internet in discourse that I was able to speak my mind — how I really felt. It was incredibly liberating, and I grew so much, though I’m cognitive of the fact that I still need to refine my communications skills without losing authenticity. I’m a work in progress.

          You have no idea how much I respect you. Why? Because you let me be me. You let me speak my mind even though it was infused with emotions. You gave me a voice. But most of all, you listened. I knew you had by the way you responded. Your responses positively affected me. These last few months have especially been beneficial to me as I’ve been working through some PTSD stuff that can pop up via triggers. You have sometimes been the reason for those triggers, but you have also been a part of that positive, growing experience, and healing. If it wasn’t for your spontaneity, and your authenticity would you have learned anything? Had you not been your authentic self, I may not have had a few positive breakthroughs myself. As you have often said, sometimes pain can be good.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Wonderful sentiments Victoria. Being genuine is so important. And that was my experience living in Oklahoma. People have this “southern hospitality” mentality, but it’s a front. Behind closed doors they really are not so kind. I found many people to be very inauthentic there.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Mmm, you’ve warmed my heart yet again Victoria. 🙂 Thank you. ❤

            <em<As you have often said, sometimes pain can be good.

            With that said, if I may, I’d like to refer to a post I wrote not so long ago about exactly that concept. No, no, no Victoria — calm down. It isn’t about THAT. 😉 lol

            It’s about how my Dad taught me that concept — from the teacher’s POV — when I was a young boy:

            To Operate A Mechanical Edger

            I think you’ll like it. 😉

            Like

        2. Finally had time to watch the video and that was very well done and thank you for adding it to my post because as Victoria says it compliments what I wrote very well.

          I also love the fact that this blog supported such an intimate exchange between you and Victoria. In a virtual sense this makes Victoria Liana, you are Jauvan, and I am you. 🙂

          I hope that my tone is obvious with that joke! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. A really superb post, Swarn. I very much enjoy discourse because I learn a lot from the experience, though I am ever working on polishing my online communication skills. There are several people I know online that I have discourse with on a regular basis, and we’ve established friendships in the process — moving the conversations to Skype or the phone. So I have to remember to keep that in mind when I’m in discourse with them. Other readers may not be aware of the dynamics between two or more people involved in the conversation, or that we have established a comfort zone where we can be more open with our thoughts, more vulnerable. There’s a lot to take into account when those fingers hit the keyboard, besides the discussion at hand.

    Thank you for sharing, for caring, and for a powerful message.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Victoria for your comments and kind words. I agree that I think my life in the digital world has done me good overall, but there are times when it’s never quite enough. I did the on-line dating thing for a bit when I was younger and at that point I already realized that a virtual relationship when you haven’t met can often cause you to fill in details about a person that you haven’t met face to face, and this could more than likely leave you disappointed when you meet them in real life. This was back in the late 90’s and interestingly this is what a lot of research has actually shown about the drawbacks of online dating websites. Especially for our generation that grew up with almost all face to face interactions our minds naturally fill in gaps that we are missing from a longer on-line initial relationship. I was always one for not having a lot of interaction before meeting in person, because I didn’t want to build a false narrative about someone. In the end though I find myself in an emotional contradiction. While I am happy that I have met such amazing people, there is a part of me that is also sad, because as I get closer to people in the digital world my desire to have them nearby increases so that can really know them. Maybe it’s wrong to think that way, but, for instance, no matter how many times we communicate back and forth on here through writing, I will never feel like I really know you without knowing how you laugh, how you use sarcasm, how you roll your eyes, how you gesture with your hands, how you move, etc. So many sensory inputs are missing and so it always feels incomplete. Again I always try to be thankful for the goodness I have, even if it is incomplete. And maybe my feeling is simply because I was born at a different time. Perhaps the next generation will not feel that sense of incompleteness that I do.

      I think there are a number of areas of on-line communication I still need to improve. I find that the blogosphere is more suited to me because I feel it is a more thoughtful place. Facebook however is like being in a crowded room filled with people you might want to discuss with, but I feel more rushed and don’t put as much time into thinking about how I want to say it. I quickly write out comments and move on to the next one. Facebook is the worst for giving yourself the illusion of having a real face to face conversation because interactions can be quick, but when it comes to discussing more important issues and philosophical content it definitely falls short.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Swarn, these are the kinds of meaty conversations I long for in my “real” world. I get the face-to-face, and all that goes with it, but the realness and depth I’ve experienced has primarily come from people I’ve met online. Fortunately, you can get the tone, and hear the laughter and yes, even sense the eye rolls when the conversation ends up going to Skype or phone.

        I had a very close relationship with my Nana. She’s deceased now. She was there to pick me and my mother up from the hospital when I was born. My dad was in the Air Force so when he came back from being overseas (I was about 2), we moved about 4 thousand miles away from my Nana. Nevertheless, we kept our relationship going via the telephone and writing. Our relationship grew stronger — we grew closer together.

        I was 10 when my dad got transferred to the South. We were living in California at the time. There are many wonderful things in the South and there a good people here, too. It’s breathtakingly beautiful in many places. But, people who have been churched hide behind a facade, and as I mentioned, are often inauthentic. If someone gets pissed at me, tell me — and tell me why — give me a chance to explain, and allow me to get mad, too, and defend myself. Don’t tell every brother and sister in the community until it gets back to me through the grapevine. Or — don’t judge me to be something I’m not — when in fact, that person is actually projecting.

        I’ve had to learn the hard way about life. I was naive and too trusting. While I’ve had one or two very negative experiences on the Internet, the Internet literally saved my life and sanity. It helped bring me out. Because of the nature of many of the posts I’m involved in (religious mostly) I can understand that people may only see one or two facets of me during discourse. However, I do have a tender, empathic side that predominates my personality. But, interestingly enough, it is that side of me that tends to attract predators, so I am careful with whom I share that with.

        In my offline world, people don’t want authenticity (with exception to a few people in my life). Most want you to conform for their sake. I was taught to obey and submit. Obey my parents. Obey my teachers. Obey authority. Obey the boss. Obey my husband. Obey God. On and on. I was always cooperative, even at a cost to me, and in the process, I lost myself. I understand the necessity of cooperation but I also understand the importance of boundaries. There is a quote by Lilian Smith that I think about often. It is a reminder to always remain true to myself even if it ticks people off:

        “For men tied fast to the absolute, bled of their differences, drained of their dreams by authoritarian leeches until nothing but pulp is left, become a massive, sick Thing whose sheer weight is used ruthlessly by ambitious men. Here is the real enemy of the people: our own selves dehumanized into “the masses.” And where is the David who can slay this giant?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Love that quote!

          Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that I may have a little bias here, and also show perhaps a little bit of privilege having grown up in a safe environment where I could ask questions and speak my mind. My mom is very Christian, but she’s not a fire and brimstone type of Christian and has always encouraged questions and discourse. She accepts me as an atheist, believe in the separation of church and state and is very tolerant of other belief systems. To be quite honest I’m not sure how she is still Christian. lol

          One of the things that perhaps I should have mention in my post is how helpful the internet is for connecting people who are dealing with some pretty serious shit. It’s almost like cheap group therapy. 🙂 When depression hits, one of the hardest parts of dealing with that is the feeling you are alone. And the anonymity even helps one open up in a way they might not normally do in person. The perceived feeling of eyes on you, judging you, is a fear not easily discounted. Also, there are some people who have rare diseases or conditions where finding a community that understands what you are going through can be hard. As with Ruth who lives in the South, and yourself, it can be hard to find a community where you can express yourself in a secular way, feel the freedom to question religion, or engage in an activity that for some reason is seen as sinful. In going through pregnancy and having a baby it can be easy to panic about things when you are a first time parent, but I found the internet to be a great source of calm. There is literally no thing that is happening to your child that hasn’t happened to other ones. You type your question into google and a ton of forums come up with people talking about the issue and how they handled it. Of course for many of these things there isn’t one straight answer, but you can connect with people and read a variety of responses and make a very educated decision. It is amazing.

          So my desire for face to face communication with people who I’ve grown close to on the internet gnaws at me sometimes, but ultimately I have gained, and grown through the amazing people that I’ve met and the amazing amount of information that easily passes through my digital stream and am grateful for it all, even if those relationships never move further than written word. 🙂

          Like

          1. “To be quite honest I’m not sure how she is still Christian.”

            LMAO — well, probably because she doesn’t take it to extremes. Obviously she doesn’t. You were very fortunate to have such a great upbringing. My parents divorced shortly after we moved to Mississippi, and my Dad went back to California. The Catholic Church and the community pretty much shunned us because my mom was divorced, and it wasn’t good to be a woman and divorced back in the 70’s in the most religious state in the Union. My grandparents, on my Dad’s side, also shunned us because according to the RCC, we were now bastard children.

            After my parents divorced, my siblings and I were exposed at a young age to things children shouldn’t be exposed to like poverty, homelessness, devastating hurricanes, child abuse (physical and emotional) from the RCC, etc. There was no charity from Christians. But, I didn’t see them as Christians. I didn’t know any secular people or less conservative Christians. I honestly thought everyone was like that. At that tender, young age, I didn’t understand the dynamics of religion and discrimination. My mother’s status as a divorced woman even affected the way we were treated in school by teachers.

            So what do children do best? They go into their own little world, and that is what I did. I pretended that these things didn’t bother me. It was safe there. It was a survival tool. After I left home, the repressed emotions surfaced in nightmares for a couple of years. Little did I know, though, that these experiences would prepare me for more trauma as an adult. I’m a strong person, but I never realized that until I found the Internet. I think you’re right — that the Internet can provide a type of cheap therapy. Cheap, yet effective. In my case, profoundly effective. It was through the Internet that I began studying about human nature. I needed to find forgiveness, and I did, but not the kind of forgiveness that Christianity promotes. I found authentic forgiveness through understanding, through knowledge, and with that came a peace that I had never known as a Christian.

            I think that a lot of the shaming that happens on the Internet is due to the religious indoctrination we get where we are told that we are innately depraved — that there is no good thing in us (as the Bible proclaims) and that anything good we do is because of a middle-man-god named Jesus. erBrene Brown spent ten years doing research on vulnerability and shame. She said there is an epidemic of shame in America. She is right. The fact that social networks have taken off like they have and have become so popular is indicative of our need to be acknowledged and make a connection with one another. Unfortunately, it’s the negative behavior (that 1% as noted in the TEDTalk) that ends up getting most of the attention.

            Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more Swarn — I, too, have found the Internet to be a great source of calm. There’s not a better feeling in the world then to know you are not alone — that others can relate — that there are like-minded people who welcome your uniqueness, realness and voice. It was through the Internet that I discovered a beauty in humanity that I’d never witnessed before. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. And these are the times when the internet just isn’t enough. Your sharing of some of what you’ve been through and your struggle to break through that stifling religious community you were raised in makes me just want to give you a big hug. And with that hug I would say things so much better than any words I can come up with. I can completely understand why you have such a fondness for the internet and connecting with people that way. As I said, I know the internet has done so much good, I just wish it didn’t also magnify the darker stuff as well. Maybe we as humans just have to get tougher. With the power to connect the entire globe together we must face a greater volume of pain than we’ve ever been exposed to as well. Arguably even those mobs in the darkness eager to shame others may just be people crying out for help. Maybe it’s better that we can hear them now even if they are asking for help by hurting others. Being aware of atrocities that happen in other places, while placing a burden upon our hearts and souls, gives us an opportunity to work together and do something in a way we never could before. It’s interesting times indeed.

              In the NYT article I linked by Jon Ronson in this blog he talks a bit about the history of shaming. Public executions, floggings, etc. Shaming has been around for a long time, and is cross cultural. Whether it’s exile, shunning, or just generally making people feel like dirt for being imperfect humans just doing what seems natural at the time, shaming is a particular cruel form of punishment that does intense psychological damage and doesn’t really work in encouraging positive behavior. There is no compassion or understanding. It’s harm for the sake of causing harm. Let’s hope the internet can help us raise more people than knock people down. 🙂

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            2. Swarn, I think a lot of the shaming stems from poor parenting skills and religious/cultural indoctrination. Children have, for much of history, been viewed as property. So if people were devalued as children, they are likely to devalue themselves, thus more likely to devalue others as well. Also, those who have a superiority complex are generally very insecure.

              I’d like to share a social experiment with you.The man, who is in Lithuania, doesn’t speak or understand the language. He receives a hate message on FB in Lithuanian and can’t read it, so he asks some locals to translate it for him.

              http://kindnessblog.com/2015/04/13/watch-what-happens-when-a-man-asks-people-to-translate-a-hate-message-hes-received/

              Liked by 1 person

            3. That’s a great point Victoria. It’s all a slippery slope isn’t it? We may think we are great parents…but feel that kids need to do what they are told always. Or maybe we think we are loving people, but we hate those Muslims because they are terrorists. Kids watch when we devalue others or themselves, and they begin to see that it’s normal to devalue others, and that’s when they trouble begins. And this video was so powerful in showing the importance of compassion, and I think that is what makes the internet such a harsh place at times. People too often don’t think about the fact that there is a person at the other end of our comments. This is perhaps what my blog post should have said to really sum up. Always remember that even if this mode of communication is not what we are used, we always are talking to people and it’s important to keep that in mind as we communicate through digital media. Thank you for sharing that video and as always excellent conversation.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Swarn. The Times article about shaming was quite disturbing. That’s why I never tweet anything, because no one on Twitter knows how to take a racist joke. I suppose that isn’t entirely true since I did tweet once, when I found out Costco no longer offered sauerkraut with their Polish sausages. Come to think of it, that was a racist joke…

    Although I consider sarcasm as one of my spiritual gifts and think it’s ever-so-clever to say things that can be interpreted in at least two or three different ways, I have been disappointed with myself to find that I am very slow to recognize this in others. I find that my first thoughts are the most shallow understanding of what someone has said, especially if I don’t know them and even more so if it’s in the context of a short one-off type statement. For me, it takes a concerted effort to assume the best and understand the context before coming to a conclusion.

    It’s ironic that as our ability to communicate has achieved unimagined levels, etiquette has virtually disappeared.

    (Did you catch the “virtually”? Two meanings. I couldn’t resist. 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments Chris! I agree that one or two lines from someone makes it very difficult to determine the intent of the comment. Given how many negative comments do appear alongside various hot button issue article it’s easy to sometimes to assume the worst as well. All in all it’s probably just best to avoid anyone who is being negative, or who you think might be negative, especially in a short comment. Nothing you say is likely going to influence their opinion anyway. It probably impacts somebody more if they see people being positive and constructive and they see themselves someone outcast with their negativity. I don’t know.

      And your pun was virtually brilliant. I am stunned. lol

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      1. Yes, don’t feed the trolls.

        On a slight tangent to shaming, where people are shamed or have their careers and/or personal lives affected by what they say through social media I wonder if there will be consequences to a lack of participation.

        I’m hardly a technophobe. (In one of my university physics labs, a buddy and I made a laser transmitter for beaming Van Halen across the room. I ended up with a rather poor mark for not having an hypothesis or measurements or something. I’d never make it as a scientist.) But, I’m not very interested in social media, what’s on youtube, or the latest iPhone. I sense a growing disconnect between me and mainstream society in this area. It might just be my perception, but perhaps the day will come when anyone that doesn’t maintain an online presence will be considered irrelevant and a Luddite.

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        1. It’s funny. I was Chair of the promotion committee on campus for 4 years and to apply for promotion you submit 3 (or more) big binders of evidence of your excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service and the committee reviews them. Well these things were a lot of weight and it was a big pain moving them around to different parts on campus. Older committee members were having back pains because we had 40 or so applicants, so we decided well to be environmentally friendly we should encourage faculty to submit electronic dossiers so we tried to give faculty options. As a result of being unionized a couple of faculty threaten to grieve the promotion process if we allowed electronic dossiers (because the guidelines don’t specify you can use electronic dossier…although doesn’t specify paper either) they were worried that if they didn’t do an electronic dossier they’d be considered luddites and we would give them a worse evaluation. Of course even if we did consider them luddites, it wouldn’t affect our evaluation. So don’t worry there will always be people like you to make sure that we don’t get too ahead of ourselves and cater to your needs like sending an e-mail to schedule a meeting or calling on a landline. So cheer up. lol

          Seriously though, I mean it will probably be no different. Although I have a smart phone and iPad, I use a small fraction of its functionality. Outside of facebook I hardly use any other social media, while most of my students have about 5 or 6 platforms that they do social media over. So even I might be considered a luddite as well. I do feel myself tiring a little bit of keep up with every new things. But I also don’t think that should be the point of all these platforms it to use them all, but rather choose ones that suit your lifestyle. You are certainly smart enough to use technology to the point where it enhances your life, rather than just using it for the sake of using it, and that should be the thought process on this stuff going forward. I watched this TED talk on this stuff called 7th sense technology and it was before google glasses came out, but it looks even better than that. Essentially technology is moving in a direction that will enhance physical interaction with the resourcefulness of the internet which I think is the thing missing right now. I feel like we are in an in between phase in the technology where it all seems sort of busy and inefficient. So you might find some of the things coming out in the next 10 years more to your liking. Either way your kids will definitely find you quaint and will have the same reaction I had when my dad sent his first text message. lol

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  5. I’ve often noticed, being that I edit and proofread a lot of papers, that people tend to write the way they speak. I’ve somehow developed the opposite and carefully use slang or other idioms in a more deliberate way, for the most part, for example. I don’t know why that happened to me, but anyway, people tend not to think about what they say for the most part. It could partly stem from the fact that most people don’t really think deeply about language and communication, in my observation. I do, I think because of my background in linguistic anthropology, but I noticed that people will use vocabulary and punctuate their writing as if they were saying it aloud. When I do editing jobs for this one friend of mine in a graduate program, I ask him questions that I normally wouldn’t ask my clients since I can go a little deeper with him. I notice in his essays, he’ll say things like, “clearly” or “interestingly”. I ask him to be careful and deliberate in his use of such terms because he is being presumptuous that he was able to clearly demonstrate his point or that what he says is interesting to the reader. And since we usually avoid first-person pronouns, it’s not really possible to say “I find it interesting that…” to indicate that he is interested by it. He should let the reader decide those things or else, in a way, he’s almost trying to be manipulative, even though he isn’t intending to be. Words can be so powerful. So imagine, if that in an essay, which usually requires more thought to go into it, you could struggle with how you communicate your ideas, how much less do people think about their everyday speech?

    I don’t recall hearing about Justine Sacco’s story in the news, but it reminded me of a conversation I had with a very strange individual at a party the other night. He was upset about a guy who tweeted about bombing Heathrow airport as a joke when something happened there that frustrated him and then later got arrested. He didn’t think it was fair because he said you’d have to know the guy’s sense of humour, and all his friends found it funny. I tried to point out to him that authorities don’t really have the time to determine whether or not you’re a funny man and how well regarded you are by your peers. It’s one thing to say that directly to your friends, but here you are posting in a public forum where the safety of potentially hundreds of thousands of people are at risk, so the authorities can hardly be blamed for not taking a chance. I was unable to persuade him, unfortunately. (And he wasn’t strange because of this conversation but on account of several conversations we had where he appeared to be quite ill-informed but still holding very strong opinions on matters.)

    I’ve actually tried to fade out of the life of a friend that trolls constantly. He’s taken up Zionism, despite not being Jewish, and he trolls just to argue with Islamists on Facebook. He gets banned from pages all the time, and once his Facebook account was even suspended temporarily for his comments. He says he gets a charge out of seeing people squirm when they can’t defend their positions. The sad thing is that he is quite well-read and intelligent, and there are so many more productive things he could do with his mind, but he is inexperienced in a lot of ways about the world and so he makes a lot of assumptions about the Middle East and Arab culture despite not knowing people from there, so his book knowledge is rather limiting and I get sick and tired of trying to explain how real life works and don’t want to deal with it anymore!

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    1. Yeah, interestingly I’ve been dealing with a similar situation in making some comments on another blog. People think that being right is the only thing that matters, but no matter how right you might be, it also matters how you communicate that idea. Berating others for the views is as pointless as Westboro Baptist church thinking their tactics actually get people to turn away from homosexuality.

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  6. Pingback: Technological Literacy | Cloak Unfurled

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