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Civility

Contributing to a blog has been a core requirement of all the classes I’ve taken so far at the Graduate Center.  So has following and reading various blogs.  I picked up early on how important blogs were to the digital humanities and my academic studies, and I recognize that they are an important tool for sharing and discussing ideas and having an online conversation around those ideas.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t come super easy to me and it’s not my favorite form of communication, but I will do my part to dispense my thoughts and to comment on those of my classmates.  I still relish the face to face discussion and sharing of ideas (thankfully, this class is taught in a classroom and not online).  Perhaps that’s my bias of age showing and I am resisting the “generational shift in cognitive styles” that has been hypothesized due to the rapid development of today’s “mediascape” as Hayles explores in the essay “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Mode” (p. 187).

I know for sure that I get super frustrated when my young nieces and nephews would rather play on their devices than read a good book, but I also know that being connected is an imperative in today’s world and they’d be somewhat at a disadvantage without access to networks and devices (I want them to prefer the solitary enjoyment of escaping into a good book over the rewards of beating their friend in a game of Fortnite, but I might be asking too much?).  What I really hope is that they are able to strike a balance in their development as citizens to be both able to deeply focus and to critically engage (with a book) while also navigating the constant bombardment of information from many directions and screens.  I use the word citizen intentionally here because I was particularly struck by the “Community Reading and Social Imagination” essay’s discussion of civil society and the role that community reading has played in ensuring a civil society.  The authors write:

In coming together to listen to, write, or discuss literature, we ideally develop and hone the skills (of listening to, evaluating, and critically engaging others’ arguments and articulating rhetorically effective positions of our own) that make civil society pleasurable and productive. (p.422)

This leads me to thinking about how some feel that the internet is the “great democratizer” of our time.  Web 2.0, as Liu introduced, allows anyone to be an author or creator or commentator or contributor (if any and all contribute, isn’t that the democratic ideal?).  We can now all come together and write, discuss, and listen online (given that we have internet access and a tool to write with).  Despite my reticence to blog, I still recognize it as a useful platform for communally participating and sharing ideas (although I will still prefer the in person discussion).  I’m not quite sure that the internet really is the great democratizer, but it definitely allows us to have more conversations and to write socially once again.

One thought on “Civility

  1. Jenna Freedman

    I also question whether or not the Internet (or the World Wide Web) is a democratizer. It may actually increase divides. Then again, I feel like smart phones are changing that at little. A few years ago I visited Haiti, which, per Business Insider has a GDP of $1,784 per capita. People there, and in other duressed nations, now have access to the WWW via their phones. They may pay by the minute, and have less sophisticated devices than many of us in the US have, but Haitians are now able to coordinate socially. Those who speak Kreyol can read and communicate in their mother tongue in a country without a significant publishing industry.

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