Thinking Digitally, While Living Physically

There is an underlining question that connects all of the assigned materials from this week – as educators, learners, readers, thinkers, creators, and writers – how will we need to change our way of thinking about ideas, knowledge, and expression.  There are two presuppositions built into this question, namely that the ongoing growth of digital technology and social media is not a momentary trend, or fad, but a fact of everyday life in the 21st century, and, that anyone who is engaged in the task of learning, thinking, or creating need to be actively involved in these emerging technologies and media forms .

Image of a Wandering Teacher from Ancient Greece

Image of a Wandering Sophist from Ancient Greece 

The notion that educators and thinkers needs to be actively and continuously open to revision and reconsideration seems to run counter to the popularly held view that there are certain things in life that are fundamentally fixed and unchangeable.  Education is one of several categories that tend to be bundled together as cross cultural universals – meaning that even though there will be variations in style or approach, there are certain things that everyone shares.  This concept is one that has been vigorously debated over the last several decades, as more evidence mounts that this view is either wishful thinking or an intentional twisting of observable facts.  The fact of the matter is that previously there was no effective way to allow the ideas, expectations, and beliefs of others to achieve any type of meaningful circulation.  That is the hard reality of being restrained by print circulation.  When you need to rely on materials, equipment, and a circulation network, it is a near certainty that there will be a limited amount of ideas that make their way through that process.

A View of the Earth from Space

A View of the Earth from Space

Keeping all of this in mind, it becomes easier to see why the advent of the Web would be a cause of interest to those who see the potential that is available within a structure of open access and global circulation.  Of course, that does not negate the need for understanding what this type of conceptual, intellectual, and creative freedom requires – namely, an active vigilance against fraudulent or hostile activity within the openness of cyberspace.  In short, what is required is for each individual user to be willing to take a global perspective, rather than a singular (or local) perspective.

As with any type of newly enacted freedom, early responses tend to be mixed.  Some focus exclusively on the novelty, or triviality, that those freedoms open up, while others feel that such freedoms are inherently problematic, or threatening.  The usual response that emerges from this is a reactionary protectiveness – a need to keep the traditional in place, as this is what has worked in the past.

Considering these points, what is your own perspective on the freedom of creation and idea circulation that we are all faced with out on the Web?  What are some important things to begin to attune ourselves to in the 21st century?




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