OK, not really. Just the end of the semester. But when I look back on everything I learned in my Media, Culture, and Technology class, it certainly does feel like the end of one kind of world. I started this class, and this semester, as an optimistic and hopeful user of media and technology. After reading many books and articles, watching countless videos, and extensively talking about technology for the past 4 months, however, I have changed into a critical and somewhat skeptical technology user; and this makes me proud.
I started to feel this change very early in the semester, and pointed it out in my post Internet Misconceptions, which I wrote after starting Curran, Fenton, and Freedman’s book. As I mention in this post, I was naive to think that the Internet was a legitimate and effective way of encouraging democracy. After reading Dave Egger’s The Circle (which I discuss here and here), I quickly learned that when in the wrong hands, technology can hinder democracy, even when it looks like it is helping it. This has made me rethink what it means to be an active participant in our society. Instead of sharing a video, liking a status, or signing an online petition, I’ve learned that the best way to make change is to turn off my computer and cell phone and get out in the world. We live in a culture that constantly encourages us to be active participants–and staring at a screen is not the way to take advantage of that.
This class has also taught me how important it is to check facts and sources before sharing or believing them. While I usually did this before this class, after conducting our CRAP detection survey, I discovered that I am in the minority of my fellow students. Some students do try to fact check the information they get, but not many of them do this at the level they should be. As Howard Rheingold suggests in his book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, the best way to verify data is to triangulate it–verifying it through three other sources before sharing or using it. I’ve learned that this really is the best way to ensure you are using accurate and recent information.
Perhaps the most important thing this class has taught me, however, is how I interact with technology on a personal level. I’ve learned that I become engrossed in technology not because of the connections they give or the distractions they make or even because they are new and exciting. The most fascinating thing about technology, to me, are the worlds we can create when we use it. This is the issue I am taking up in my digital story, specifically with regard to books–the most important form of technology in my life. By analyzing how I engage with technology, I hope that I can become an even more intelligent and critical user of it.
As this semester draws to close, I look back and think about all I have learned in this class and I am overwhelmed. I’ve learned that technology could potentially take over democracy. That our generation is passively living in a culture that begs for active participation. That everything you read on the Internet (and anywhere else) is not always true. That technology can be used to manipulate children. And, most importantly, that technology is everywhere and we need to be careful with how we use it.