Summary of Learning

It took me a while to sort out what I wanted to do for my summary of learning and  I soon discovered that it was not an easy task to condense everything into a short video. However, I did it! Digital learning is about continuous learning so even as I started to collect my thoughts about what I wanted to share, I found myself reading articles and watching videos on what tools would best meet my needs. I learned about the presentation concept of Pecha-Kucha, how I might use it with PowerPoint, and then found a useful video explaining all the nuts and bolts of editing my narration, converting files, and uploading the video to my YouTube channel. I knew some of these processes already, but a quick refresher was helpful. In this video, it also taught me about Audacity, which I’m excited to use in the future as a simple audio editing too.

EC & I 831 pushed me out of my comfort zone both technically and pedagogically as an educator. I hope this summary video captures some of my experiences and where I hope to go in the future. Thank you everyone for such a great learning environment to interact in.



Slacktivism: Good or Bad?

I recall the wave of French flags that Facebook users laid over their profile photos this year and my thought process around deciding not to follow suit although many of my FB pals had done so. When I first starting reading about the story my reaction was that this was a simple way to demonstrate support and compassion for a country and city suffering from a senseless attack. I was about to change my profile and follow suit, but then I start reading more posts (not from anyone I actually knew) and discovered that doing so was actually controversial.

What could be controversial at first glance? As I read on I found that those not changing their profile agreed that is was senseless tragedy as well, but did not feel this was the best way to address the tragedy. There were various reasons for and against, but the one post that stood out for me the most was by a person that wanted the whole event minimized in any form of media. Their argument was that the support was appreciated, yet they did not want a media outpouring to give the terrorists any extension of “fame”. For me, at this time, the argument made a great deal of sense. We’ve used a similar arguments before to avoid glorifying murderers and rapists. So I did not change by FB profile.

At the time I had no idea that this topic is part of the whole slacktivist debate. After reading though the articles from this past week and considering some of the activism projects in the digital world, I’m still a bit uncertain about whether slacktivism is a good or bad thing. This graph gives a quick overview of what would be considered slacktivism vs activism, but after reading more about this topic, I do not feel one is necessarily more effective or better than the other.

Graph from Weebly

Both Branstetter and Rosmarin talk about the common critiques of slacktivists being shallow and just appearing to be socially conscious when more could be done with real action. This could be in the form of donations or other active on the ground work. However, Branstetter argues that slacktivism is actually dead as millennial actually use the digital world to equip themselves to protest both digitally and by foot while Rosmarin points out that slacktivism does create awareness while cynics of slacktivists will actually encourage these better informed individuals to make better choices and at some point take action.

So when I consider slacktivism in this light, it is neither good or bad. It is important to consider what you share and like along with why you do so. It should not be about being appearing to be socially conscious or raising something contentious for the sake of shock value, but engaging in digital activity that has meaning to you. Groetzinger notes that slacktivism in larger networked numbers provides support to those actually on the ground and that those actively engaged in digital activism are more likely to become involved in real life. Therefore, slacktivism can be a mechanism for individuals to learn about and become better informed before making a conscious decision about their on foot involvement.

The key here though is actively engaged. Slacktivism cannot be about signing every petition that floats across your screen or shouting out comments for shock value. It must be a way to learn about injustices and challenges (both locally and globally) and find out how you could actively engage digitally and if you are compelled and able to do so on foot as well. Slacktivism, as many would argue creates much greater awareness than ever before so individuals and as a collective we can influence positive change. This video gives a simple overview of how such awareness through the digital world is actually a modern form of activism. We can make better choices and informed decisions by engaging online in meaningful ways and find ways to influence change without necessarily going to traditional activism methods (although there is still a place for that too).

This debate is far from over, but more than anything is has allowed me to think more consciously about what I post or engage in online. I was already doing it thinking back to the flag example, but now this whole concept of online activism has made me start to consider what I have maybe commented, liked or shared without considering the full message behind that story and what activist message I am sending. Digital activism is creating self-awareness and understanding what messages you support by sharing. I do not know that I will ever be as dedicated as Martha Payne, but her work is proof that digital campaigns such as hers can be very effective in informing and advocating for change, which is by definition activism.

Troll and harass away- it’s not face to face so who cares?

I often wonder about the negativity presented about the digital age and social media and question if this stems from a lack of education or pure disregard for human decency. Those that choose to post such malicious attacks on others must know this is wrong and must know that it is in a very public forum that compounds the impact over traditional face to face right? Maybe they do, maybe they do not. I think some do get caught up in this negative hype, not fully understanding the impact of their actions, while others are intentional. But, what can we do to educate ourselves and others about online harassment and trolling so that we may take a more proactive approach?
Image from trolling article:

We have recognized that digital communication, access to information, and online sharing is only going to grow and is quickly becoming a part of our culture, our daily interactions, and learning. So, we cannot stick our heads in the sand, but instead figure out how to maximize positive discussions and online learning. We must educate ourselves and encourage others to do the same.

As I watched this week’s videos and went through the readings, I was saddened by the rampant rates at which women are outwardly attacked and harassed online, simply for being female and expressing their opinion or writing online. Although no one is immune to harassment and online trolling, the rate at which women are attacked is staggering and reveals how far we have yet to go to address things such as sexism and racism. John Oliver’s spoof on an AOL advertisement of the outrageous things individuals do and say on the internet look so ridiculous and unacceptable by larger society as we would never accept the same actions face to face.

It seems so ridiculous that by removing face to face and by creation of anonymity of online profiles, individuals feel they can act in ways that would not be tolerated in other settings. Matt Rozsa points out:

Online anonymity is only an asset when it’s used to comfort and protect individuals who wish to express opinions in a psychologically “safe” environment

Yet, online anonymity has become the refuge for trolls seeking to intimidate and harass among other things. For those finding themselves attached by both individuals that do identify themselves when they make such vicious posts and those that hide behind their sad fake profiles, there are laws to address their inappropriate actions. The Government of Canada’s website outlines the consequences of actions such as cyberbullying, revenge porn, threats, and harassment to name just a few. PREVNet explores the ramifications of criminal law on cyber crimes and what is being done in varying provinces to address this growing problem.

However, there are many criticisms of the current laws claiming that the digital age and the problems associated with it have moved faster than lawmakers and that current laws fall short of actually working. As Jake Kivanc’s article points out, Bill C-13, which addresses revenge porn and other criminal harassment laws are great, but fall short of addressing digital harassment. The courts have found it difficult to determine if cyberbullying is an actual threat, therefore fitting as a criminal offence under the harassment law. Critics argue that new legislation is needed in a timely manner to clearly define cyberbullying and that it can be done without infringing on freedom of speech.

However, Kivanc’s  notes that Bill C-13 and public school campaigns against cyberbullying have taken priority over any initiative to draft better laws for digital harassment and cyberbullying. So in the meantime, we should be as proactive in taking advantage of educating ourselves and those around us how to protect against such malicious acts. The RCMP, Government of Canada, PREVNet, and the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime all provide educational information to understanding our current laws, what the impact of cyberbullying and harassment are, and provide resources to avoid being a victim or how to support working through such challenges. Further, Matt Rozsa says:

we can start by creating a culture that shames individuals who cross the bounds of decency. We can start by stating the obvious: It is never appropriate to use slurs, metaphors, graphic negative imagery, or any other kind of language that plays on someone’s gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. Not only is such language inappropriate regardless of one’s passion on a given subject, but any valid arguments that existed independently of such rhetoric should have been initially presented without it. Once a poster crosses this line, they should lose all credibility. Similarly, it is never acceptable to dox, harass, post nude pictures, or in any other way violate someone’s privacy due to disagreement with their opinions. While most people would probably agree with this in theory, far too many are willing to access and distribute this humiliating (and often illegal) content. Instead of simply viewing stories of doxing, slut-shaming, and other forms of online intimidation as an unfortunate by-product of the digital age, we should boycott all sites that publish these materials.

While we wait for Canadian laws to catch up to the digital age of online bullying and harassment, we can educate ourselves and those around us, we can learn how to support victims of trolling, and we can minimize such foul work by not giving it any recognition or legitimacy. This perhaps is what rings most true for me as I consider many of the news forums online that I would love to participate in, but most of the discussions I find is derogatory and so off topic that I do not bother. Since when can we not discuss a news story without making it personal and attacking one another with such disregard for one another? Let’s start creating rich, challenging debate versus narrow and derogatory banter about nothing and ignore the trolls at work.

Where’s the coin slot on my wireless?

It seems eons ago that when you wanted to make a call, you found a payphone and dropped in some change, when you needed a photocopy, you inserted a quarter, and if you wanted to used the hotel business centre you put in coins or swiped your credit card to access the internet. But, times have changed, I can do all of these things and more from my own portable device. But, is the coin or credit card reader soon to be installed again, but on our own devices to control who accesses what? Pay per use?

Graph: United Nations Global Development Goals Indicators

This week I have read about the digital divide and network neutrality, which paints a challenging picture for public policy makers, small internet start-ups, and individuals that are trying to ensure the internet and the digital world are equally accessible and secure for all users. Portable devices are so sophisticated that we can do everything we would do at home from a landline via WiFi or through our cellular data package while on the go. This has opened up the internet and the digital world to many that could not have otherwise afforded more expensive home devices and home hard-wired ISP fees. Portable devices can operate on a data package, but even these costs can be reduced by accessing free WiFi. Our digital world has become more accessible to many in developing countries and lower socio-economic classes while becoming portable for all.

There are a few issues that concern me as I read about the digital divide. With wireless and wired infrastructure being maxed out with our increased downloading and uploading, are mega corporations and a few monopolizing

Source: Wall Street Daily article on neutrality

ISPs going to limit what content is accessible and by whom while charging large fees to the consumer? Are changes to FCC rules favouring Facebook, Netflix, Google, and others that can afford the “fast lane” over smaller start-ups and educational institutions trying to provide open source education? Are we essentially installing the loathed coin or credit card reader on our own devices again so those who can afford can access the full network while others are limited to dial-up and basic cable (or peasant vision if you remember the analog TV towers of rural areas)?

It seems like we have come so far by developing sophisticated wireless devices that allow us to transport our work and communication needs wherever we go along with making such devices more affordable, which has translated into more equitable access to the internet. Wired connections have also improved over the years along with virtually being able to find a free WiFi connection wherever you go. Now that exponential access is being seen as a strain to the infrastructure, the FCC and corporations are posing pay per use solutions rather than improving and developing the infrastructure for all users. Sounds like another private solution to a public problem. Cade Metz is right, altruistic rhetoric of private corporations claims these changes are in the interest of pubic good, but are really profit driven.

Although published in 2000, this study by Statistics Canada provides Canadian data and some interesting graphics on the digital divide based on income. Further, PEW Research provides telling data on white, Hispanic, and black populations and the digital divide in the United States and smart phone and internet usage across the globe. This article makes correlations to income, age, and level of education.

The data makes it apparent that the digital divide is alive and well. In a democratic society that champions equitable opportunity for all, then we must consider how to maintain equitable access to the digital world of the internet. If networked learning and open education are the future, then putting limits via user fees on access only serve to defeat the original purpose of opening opportunities to all. As Sarah Wandy points out, we often take the internet and the work done to maintain neutrality and prevent digital divide. How can we as individuals continue to support these efforts and advocate against the negative controls of corporations that seek to line their pockets and narrow the open access of the digital world?