Sunday, October 11, 2009

YouTube - Michael Wesch - PdF2009 - The Machine is (Changing) Us

I was watching Michael Wesch's take on social media and reflecting on some of the conversations I have been involved in lately about social media and it's use. One perspective I have been exposed to repeatedly it that social media, like Twitter, are leading to the decline of sociality. The arguements supporting this seem to come from folks who are unfamilar with technology in general and are at the slow edge of integrating any kind of technology into thier lives.

My irritation at this stems in part from my knowing that these same folks who wax poetic at the loss of face to face conversation and lament over why people don't just phone them to ask a question or to say hello are the same folks who whould be at the forfront of protests against cuts to education in literature. I know this because most of the folks in this conversation are educators.

K, you might be scratching your head now. Follow my logic, as twisted as it might seem, for a moment. The arguement goes kinda like this: This new media (insert any one here) is taking time away from developing relationships. We need to connect with learners face to face, speak to them directly, be able to hear what they are saying.

My response is that communication is critical to relationship building AND relationships are critical to growth and learning AND how we communicate has evolved over time. In some ways email, Twitter, blogs, online forums, Facebook and the like are a throw-back to a time when the written word was king/queen. Don't you get it, people are using written commmunication again! Oh, but you don't like the form of written communication. What? You want it in APA format you say. Sheesh!

What also comes to (my) mind is that our ability to communicate as a species has evolved in pretty much the same way that an individual's ability to communicate evolves. We start and humanoids started the communication process by babbling. Short grunts and monosylable words to get the point across. Then pictures, cave drawing emerged and then symbols. One form of communication enriched the other. As pictographs became more symolic, langauge began to change, evolve, and as more words are learned pictures become more dymamic. Laddered learning occured all through history in the same way it occurs in children.

As with children, when a new tool or media is introduced a new form of communication begins to emerge. The printing press had a huge impact on how we communicate. Books were mass produced and the oral tradition began to decay. I can imaging the leaders and great thinkers of that time having perhaps the same kind of conversation as we are having now. "Memory will lapse" or "stories will lose their impact" they might have said. Of course it wouldn't have sounded like that because the mass produced new media of books changed the way we speak. Just as the way we write now will change the way we speak and the way we speak will change the way we write.

Now enters video, the next BIG wave in social media. K, it's simply back to the cave paintings folks. We are once again trying to communicate visually. The first genre of educational video was the talking head, direct instructional videos. Now we're seeing more and more of an artistic approach, more symbolism and metaphor. We're even seeing a call for a repository of graphic and video work for educatiors courtesy of Doug Belshaw Sites like YouTube, Qik, UStream, and Almost At offer new and excitingly visual ways to connect, communicate, teach and learn.

I can just hear the folks in opposition to this... "Why can't we just write about it, why do I have to let people see and hear me".. or something like that.

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