Friday, February 13, 2009

Information-gathering in a Web 2.0 world, and the limits of tech

Below is the beginnings of a post I spent most of two hours on. Blogger seems to have eaten the rest of it, which lends credence to the Luddite idea that technology eats souls. (1) Someday, I'll rewrite the entirety of the post, but not now. This wasn't even the post I intended to write today.

(1)Disclaimer: I'm not a Luddite. I don't know anything about Luddites and truly have no idea if that's what they believe. If any Luddites are reading this, and are offended by my cheap and stereotypical joke, I apologize.

This one is off-topic, but not as off-topic as it seems at first blush. In my varied interests (education, politics, journalism, and social justice, among others), the Internet and universal access to information have had a very clear transformative effect. There's been a lot of debate in the journalism world, in particular, about the difference between the mainstream media and citizen journalists. (These terms are loaded--in the blog circles I run in, "mainstream media" is negative and "citizen journalist" is positive--but I don't mean to use them that way.)

The lines of this "conflict" grow blurrier as we move on, as "real journalists" write blogs sponsored by newspapers, as bloggers are invited to major press events (doesn't Huffington Post have a White House correspondent now?), as it becomes more and more obvious that pretty much everybody can point a cell phone camera at something happening, and pretty much anyone can write about stuff.

The same model seems to have an effect on education, but maybe not so much as it should. The Internet gives anyone the ability to teach their subject matter around the world, using a variety of communications methods, with varying levels of interactivity, and a lot of motivating elements. The only theoretical difference between the best learning on the Internet and the best learning taking place in school is the level and quality of feedback.


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