Digital Activism and What It Means for the Future

This week’s focus, digital activism, was especially interesting to me. Like many people in this day and age, I’m pretty heavily influenced by social media and have found it to be a regular part of my daily life. Whether I’m logging on to Facebook or scrolling through Instagram, checking up on trending Tweets or going on the front page of Reddit, I’m being exposed to the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of everyone else. Personally, I think this is awesome! We now have access to all of this knowledge and connectivity that even ten years ago wasn’t as complete as it is today. But that’s pretty much where my consideration of its effect had stopped before this week’s assignment. Tackling the idea of digital activism as a whole movement was kind of new to me and taught me that I had taken the activism I’d witnessed for granted.

Teens, in particular, are embracing digital activism as it’s given them a previously unprecedented outlet. As mentioned in the Teen Vogue article, what we picture as traditional activism (pickets, rallies, physical protests) has now joined forces with an online presence. Populations who previously didn’t have the privilege of having a voice now do. Online communities for support and the swapping of ideas have now become the norm. Because of this, the younger generations are having a bigger influence on activism than ever before.

The effectiveness of this activism is up for debate. Their have been so many movements that were born from a hashtag or gained attention from a blog post. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is a shining example of many people coming together for a common cause across multiple platforms. However, I can also see the point of view of those who are more cynical of this newfound activism. Some make the point that there is a “bandwagon” affect and people are only joining certain activist efforts because it is the new thing to do. Others complain that sharing a post or liking something on Facebook isn’t effective enough to be considered activism. In my opinion, I think that’s not entirely true. To me, digital activism is the “real world’s” problems just amplified in a digital matter. Those who are only interested in popular digital activism causes because they’re “in” would probably act similarly in other situations. No, the single act of reblogging something doesn’t make the problem go away. It does, however, raise awareness. Awareness is the first step to action.

Personally, I haven’t had much direct involvement in digital activism. I find myself getting fired up and occasionally sharing things on Facebook, only to have to defend my beliefs in a very public forum. I’m a big fan of debate, but sometimes I think online debates (election-based conversations are coming to mind right now) take on a bit of a circular pattern and I just find myself getting frustrated. I guess I could say that I am involved in digital activism as I use online platforms to keep myself informed on current issues. I was always raised to never immediately believe everything I read, so I enjoy picking various sources for my information and comparing it as it comes in.

With a relatively new idea like digital activism, we will have to wait and see how it shapes the future of activism. Some effects are immediately apparent, though I suspect we will see some more latent ones down the road. For me, the key issues are this:

  1. Are we intelligently participating in digital activism? Are our sources reliable, are we choosing our battles wisely, etc…
  2. Digital Activism is providing an amazing opportunity for younger online users to have a voice. This is hands down a positive result.
  3. There are “broad, but finite” uses for digital activism, which we must hone in on.

 

I found this module exciting because I think it’s particularly relevant right now. America is abuzz with election season, and it’s almost impossible to not get sucked into what we see on our feeds. I think responsible digital activism requires a decent balance between mindfulness, restraint, and a desire to better our world through an online format. Reflecting on this topic has made me reconsider my participation (or lack thereof) in digital activism and how it affects me.

PCC: Toban B.

Advertisements

“Hey, Look! It’s Me!” Googling Myself and What I’ve Learned

When considering Googling myself, I thought it would be a learning experience regarding what I found on the page. When you hear about people Googling themselves, it’s usually not in a great context. Especially if that person is well established in certain circles or professional online communities, what comes up when they’re Googled can make it or break it for them. Of course, a new invention as of late has been companies popping up and promising complete control over your online profile…for a fee.

So imagine my surprise when I Googled myself and found almost nothing! I found three pictures: 2 I uploaded as my Twitter avatars, and one from the CSC paper back in the fall of 2015. Other than that, it was just a bunch of other people with variations of or my exact name. At first I was relieved. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything worthy of shameful Google results, but who knows? But then, I got to thinking: what does this mean for me professionally?

It’s no secret that potential employers will Google potential employees as a low-key background check (then there are background checks, too, but that’s a different story). If they find something they don’t like, it’s not a surprise if you don’t get the job. If they see you’re active in online communities relevant to your career and don’t have actions shots from “Case Day 2k15!!1” on your Facebook profile, you should be in the clear. But what if your employer sees nothing at all? Just a couple of (admittedly unflattering) photos you posted to a social media site and a non-detailed school newspaper article? If they can’t view your Facebook profile, will they see that as a bad sign? I was quite surprised when the uneasiness came from what I didn’t find, rather than what I did.

I suppose the most unsettling part is that I had never previously considered building my online persona for future (or current) employers, colleagues, etc. When a classmate mentioned their LinkedIn profile, I was shocked. You mean people under 30 use that site? But now I’m not so sure. While I’m grateful I’ve been responsible with my internet use, I would really like to stand out to future career connections. I want people to look me up and see a page full of reasons why they should connect with me. While I was so concerned about standing out for the wrong reasons, I never for a second considered I might be blending in too much!

The takeaway: I will definitely consider starting up a LinkedIn profile, even if I feel I have nothing to offer up for my profile yet. It’s never too early to start, and I’m already in college! I will also consider the social media formats we’ve been using for class these past weeks. I remember being pleasantly surprised at how helpful and passionate the communities were on here and Twitter, so I should definitely use that to my advantage. Overall, I’m grateful for this exercise, since it opened my eyes in more ways than one!

 

Book a Week: “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood

So I’ve finally gotten off of my “creepy psychopathic people in suburban settings” (exhibit 1 and 2 found here) genre kick and decided to pick up “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood. I had previously read a couple of her novels before, including her famous dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” and loved them! Everything I had read of hers before was more of a sci-fi, dystopian sort so I decided to try something a bit different. “Cat’s Eye” is in the first person point of view and covers the life and childhood of Elaine Risley, an older and more eccentric artist.

What I loved most about “Cat’s Eye” is that it is a coming-of-age novel set in reverse. The narrator is already older and already self-admittedly past her prime. Because of this, the storytelling is set in a sort of melancholy by nostalgic tone. It also takes a look at growing up from the wiser, more knowledgeable point of view of someone who has lived through it all. When I was a lot younger, I really loved reading novels about young girls growing up. it made me feel more normal during a time that everything seemed so off-kilter, and I felt closer to the characters as a result. As someone who is almost no longer a teenager, I really appreciated the narrator’s wiser and more knowing outlook. Now that I myself have more or less “grown up” (though we never stop, in my opinion!), I really appreciated the more realistic outlook on things. Not everything was idyllic and perfect as a child for Elaine, and she understood her own demons and personal issues. This is the type of self awareness that you won’t really get from a younger perspective.

I also thought the plot of “Cat’s Eye” was well paced. Jumping from present to past and back again, it spans from Elaine’s memories as a small child to her years as a young woman. I never once felt bored or like a plot point was being dragged on for far too long, which I thought was impressive given the nature of the topic.

Reading “Cat’s Eye” also made me feel empowered as someone who was growing up, and as a woman. Elaine’s narrative voice was so relatable to me. It was strong at times, while self deprecating at others. It held obvious grudges against long-gone childhood friends but also mused on present events. Margaret Atwood somehow got into the heart of everything conflicting thought I had ever had and personified them into her character of Elaine Risley. (Dramatic? Yes. Accurate? Also yes.) Her novel made me smile at Elaine’s silly crushes, and made my heart break with empathy when she felt neglected. I appreciated everything I myself had gone through, because I had seen it with a similar lens through Elaine. I can definitely see this being a book I will return to time and time again just to get something new out of it every time.

After I finished the book, I just kind of sat there. Usually, I’m not too affected by what I read until I give myself appropriate time to ponder it. However, I was left with such a feeling of companionship with a character that never existed. It wasn’t until a little bit later that I realized it’s because Atwood made it so easy to empathize with Elaine Risley. When I read a bit about the book later (very meta) I found it’s speculated that Atwood crafted the character of Elaine Risley after herself. To me, this makes sense. It’s been a while since I’ve read such an in-depth character.

Emotional book review aside, if you’re looking for a slower-paced, more introspective reading experience, this is the book for you. Even if you feel you have nothing in common with the character, I would urge you to pick up another one of Atwood’s novel for the poetic writing alone. I hesitate to give any book a perfect score, so:

Book Rating: 9.5/10

PCC: T.M. Craan, Design; Jamie Bennett, Illustration

Digital Citizenship and Us

Digging around and reading online about digital citizenship really put things into perspective for me. I think before, being someone who is active on the internet was something I took for granted. The concept of “Digital Citizenship,” was sort of there, but not really. I knew not to cyber bully, to not believe everything I read on the internet, and that there are some less-than-safe places on the internet. I’d also read about people being “hacked”: rather, they let their passwords be too simple or get in the wrong hands. But to me, those topics were only sort of relevant. As a “simple” user who goes on the computer mainly for homework and social media, what did I have to lose? Just like citizenship in the real world, I quickly learned through reading that digital citizenship also requires the efforts of everyone in the community to uphold.

One thing that is interesting (and a bit concerning) to me is the idea that the next generations will be “digital kids” who will grow up with the digital world being a given. Looking back now, I think it’s impressive that I was using powerpoint in Kindergarten. Now, there are tablets for toddlers. What was considered new and “cutting-edge” for me when I was growing up is now old news to these young children. While a lot of me sees nothing wrong with that, there are some concerns. Children have a difficult time adapting to the social norms and expectations of the real world. How will they handle both real life and digital citizenship?

I know I sound outdated right now, but hear me out: On top of the rules and etiquette that we’re all taught at a young age are now additional guidelines regarding the online world. On top of being concerned for the real life safety of children, we must now consider how being in the digital age will affect them. Furthermore, this idea of digital citizenship is only now gaining traction. Where we’ll be in ten years is quite different from where we are now. As technology becomes more engrained in our daily lives, it will become more pertinent to our etiquette and daily behavior.

My question as a future educator is this: How much of my students’ digital citizenship will fall into my hands? Will it become a permanent fixture in our curriculum to teach children to strive to make the world a better place- in the physical and online realm? Of course, this should be a goal, anyway. We can probably all recall some sort of lesson in school revolving around the dangers of cyber-bullying. But it’s become much, much more than that. How can I involve relevant lessons regarding digital activism? How can I reach out to my students and let them know that censorship is a real thing, whether we like it or not. My grade school teachers warned me about misinformation on Wikipedia, but that has nothing on the websites of today.

I guess the hardest part about reading about digital citizenship was knowing that the responsibility is there. I like to think I do my part to be a good digital citizen, but there’s more to it. As a future educator, it will be my responsibility to instill digital citizenship in my students. It will be my responsibility to guide them in a new and sometimes scary age. Most of all, it will be my responsibility to accept that I, too, have a lot of learning and adjusting to do, even when I thought I was ready. Maybe that acceptance of responsibility is part of what digital citizenship is. Everything is much more exposed, raw. Like Craig Badura posted in “The Digital Citizenship Survival Kit,” so charmingly, sometimes the reality of the digital world isn’t apparent until it’s put into tangible, cute evidence. So, as a teacher, where does my role in all of this play?

 

PCC: Marcie Casas

Podcasts and Digital Story Telling: Yes!

One thing I’ve learned from the vast community of those interested in education is that embracing technology is key. Not only are our students going to be immersed in technology, but it is important to embrace technology in order to get on the same level as our students. By doing so, we will be expanding our teaching possibilities and growing personally. One such example of using technology in the classroom is the implementation of podcasts and digital story telling as part of the curriculum. At first, I thought maybe it would be a sort of cop-out. I remember more than a couple instances where a teaching saying, “Class, we’ll be watching a video today,” might as well have been translated into “Class, we’ll be slacking off today.” My senior year of High School, my AP Government teacher resorted to making us watch C-Span for the second half of the school year. To me, that was not interactive nor effective teaching.

Reading “Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling” really opened up my eyes. If you had asked me what digital storytelling was before reading the given articles, I would have had no idea. But “Teacher’s Guide” was a great way to start learning! I especially loved how there were multiple formats provided as a way to incorporate digital storytelling into every day curriculum. I’ve found in a lot of classes, incorporating multi-media can often seem forced and out of touch with what the “kids” are doing nowadays. I loved the ideas that the article provided, though. They seemed refreshing and completely doable. In particular, the book trailer was my favorite. It requires books (love!) and re-imagining something that doesn’t immediately come to mind.

I also really loved the idea of adding podcasts to the class curriculum. “What Teens are Learning from ‘Serial’ and Other Podcasts” really made me smile when I read it. For me, podcasts are soothing and informational. They are a fairly hands-off way to learn that are at the same time engaging to the listener. In this day and age, there are numerous podcasts that appeal to whatever your interests are. I also loved the point that Linda Flanagan made: some students are more capable of listening to a higher level podcast than they are writing or reading at a higher level. Anything that helps people learn and overcome obstacles gets an A+ in my book!

My overall takeaway from reading about podcasts and digital storytelling was that incorporating student-relevant media into the classroom is crucial, and so is how it’s implemented! I had some pretty mediocre experiences as a student myself, so at least I know what not to do. I was also given plenty of ideas that enriched the classroom material as well as expanded my “tech” comfort zone! Overall, I think it will be something to keep in mind when I make lesson plans in the future.

 

PCC: Daniel Filho

Book A Week: “Gone Girl,” By Gillian Flynn

My second book for my independent learning project was “Gone Girl,” By Gillian Flynn. I actually had heard of “Gone Girl” before last week’s read, “The Girl on the Train.” Often in bookstores (both in person and online) they are recommended right next to each other. After reading “The Girl on the Train” and having a pretty positive experience, I decided to take the plunge and read Flynn’s novel! I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m usually the kind of person who jumps from genre to genre over longer periods of time, but also has certain genre “kicks.” So if I read one mystery/suspense novel, it’s more likely for my next book or two to also be mystery/suspense.

I will start off by saying that if you are someone who likes books with a definite and resolved conclusion, then maybe “Gone Girl” is not the book for you. However, if you’re a big fan of twisted people with equally twisted minds and motives, then you’ll definitely enjoy this read! I find myself to be someone with a darker sense of humor when it comes to books and movies, so I really enjoyed Gone Girl. I had seen the trailer for the movie that came out in 2014, but never got around to reading it. Side tangent: Is anyone else weird about not seeing a book-based movie until they’ve read the book? No? Just me? Okay.

One of the signs of a good author, to me, is subtle characterization. Remember how in Middle School your English would tell you to “Show, not tell”? Yeah, pretty much that. In my opinion, I know I’ve come across a good writer when I realize the careful characterization has been spanning the entirety of the novel. When everything culminates into one grand picture, slowly, I know the author has quietly led me to imagine this character. For me, gradual and subtle characterization make the characters much more vividly real. Thankfully, Gillian Flynn mastered this art in “Gone Girl.” At first, I wasn’t too sure how to feel about either character. At the end, while I was still blown away and a little bit shocked, I felt like I truly knew these difficult characters. Another thing that drove it home for me while reading “Gone Girl” was how non-traditional the ending was. Without giving anything away, I really thought that the ambiguity of the ending was perfect. Had Flynn decided to conclude the story more definitively, I think that would have taken away from the overall effect. The ending almost made me chuckle, because with the characters in the novel, of course it would end like that.

If you’re looking for a quick, thrilling read with an interesting twist on humor, I would definitely recommend “Gone Girl”. While it’s certainly not the most high-brow nor inspirational book I’ve ever read, one thing I’ve already learned from my independent learning project was that it’s okay to read merely for fun. “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, by all means, was definitely fun to read!

 Book Rating: 8.5/10

DS106- Say What??

When I opened up week 4’s assignment sheet, I was confused. What is ds106? How does an open course in digital storytelling pertain to me? How can a course from another institution be relevant to the one I’m taking? Thankfully, I relaxed a bit and took a dive into ds106 by starting on the about page. Slowly, and by stumbling around rather blindly, I realized that ds106 is actually pretty cool. Not only is it unique in its structure (or lack of which), it also encourages creativity without forcing it. Yes, there are assignments, but they are quite open to interpretation and are pretty helpful with those of us trying to get a hang of the whole “online identity” thing.

One thing I liked in particular about ds106 is its emphasis on community and the inspiration that comes from it! Specifically, the “Hall of Fame” for creations that proved to be extra “inspiring.” These works can be found in a collection here. I think it’s very neat how students vote for the projects that inspire them most. Not only is it great incentive to do well, but it gives a sense of community to the class that yes, their work is being acknowledged past the grading sheet. Sometimes, continuing a creative path is difficult. It can feel like no one is really paying attention, or that maybe what you’re coming up with isn’t as great as you thought. These feelings can occur especially when posting to the internet, where there are millions of others just like you, also trying to digitally express themselves. While recognition is only part of the reward, it definitely helps to know that you have other people to bounce ideas and feedback off of.

I also loved their internet radio station! At the time of writing this post, I’ve only gotten the chance to listen to a little bit of it. However, the concept alone is quite interesting! Again, the ability to produce a product that anyone can access, such as a radio program, is such a confidence booster for those who are a bit unsure regarding their work and how it is being received.

Honestly, what I loved most about ds106 is how much it reminds me of DigLit! Though the outlets and set up are slightly different, both ds106 and DigLit are actively encouraging people to explore and communicate in the digital age. While I’ve learned so much from DigLit already, I can’t wait to see what else ds106 has to offer!

 

 

PC: Shawn Rossi