Week 4 reading review (for February 17th, 2009)

1.  Provide a quick over view or summary of the readings  (3 – 5 sentences)   (8pts)

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

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Is Google Making us Stupid talks about the idea that the way in which we gather information now is changing our ability to process information; it suggests that we are becoming less capable of processing deeper, longer works, and instead skimming along the surface of ideas, jumping from link to link, but never quite diving in.

Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? discusses the ways in which blogging is giving voice to progressive politics while potentially further quieting the voices of more disconnected, rural, and uneducated people.

The ‘podcastWhy Podcasting Matters for your Organization (which is not actually a podcast in the form it was delivered) argues that no matter what your role, business, segment, or product that podcasting should be either a part of your campaign as a direct tool for building an audience or as a way of reaching someone else’s target audience as an advertiser. It also talks about the simplicity with which a podcast can be created, using simple free tools, a basic understanding of RSS feeds, and a hosted space for delivery.

2.  Clearly Identify what you feel are 3 key ideas in the readings (8pts)

In Is Google making us stupid? the key idea is that avid users of the service and others like it, as well as active users of the internet in general are having their minds and mental processes changed in the same way that the printing press, television, and other mediums have changed our expectations and interpretation of content. This author in particular is seeing a negative loss of the ability to comprehend and analyze deeper messages such as those found in reading tomes like War and Peace. Personally, I feel that the new skills and the old skills are both still necessary, and will greatly intermingle as we become more comfortable with the new skills societally.

War and Peace 1st part soviet poster
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In Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? the key point being delivered is that we need to continue to work to include those currently excluded from the new media, such as the uneducated, the rurally located, and those who are choosing to exclude themselves from new mediums at their own peril. Otherwise, we are simply making the audience for more traditional media (television, radio, newspaper) more segmented and only half-aware of the up to the second truths being delivered in the new media.

In Why Podcasting Matters for your Organization the main point is that podcasting is not just only for digitally oriented businesses, schools, and individuals, but for everyone, in the same way that blogging isn’t just for the “digerati” or “blogerati” but rather for everyone as both producer, consumer, and everywhere in between.

3.  Support your summary and/or key points with three specific references to the readings (7pts)

In Is Google making us stupid? the author quotes a study that provides some evidence for the idea that our minds are changing as a result of using the internet:

It is clear that readers are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of ‘reading’ are emerging as users ‘power browse’ horizontally through titles, contents pages, and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems like they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.

In Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? the author poses the issues we encounter by seeing blogs as a true vox populi:

At a time when the visible digital divide may be shrinking as increasing numbers of Americans come online, it may be replaced by an invisible version that benefits those who are well

XO with Internet connection, Khairat (India)
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educated, well connected and organized.

In Why Podcasting Matters for your Organization the author talks very specifically about the idea that everybody should be podcasting, no matter how large or small their audience, no matter their intent. Click to hear the excerpt from the assignment that exemplifies this idea:

Excerpt from Audio assignment.

4.  Identify the most difficult or challenging concept for you from this week’s readings.  Saying “I don’t know” or “nothing was difficult” is not an adequate response. (8pts)

In Is Google making us stupid? the author makes broad assumptions about users of the new media, and I always tend to bristle at the idea that any two people are the same, much less an entire society. The most difficult concept here for me is believing that technology can have dramatically negative effects when my own experience has been so much a means to the opposite ends.

In Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? the most difficult concept for me is getting my mind around how we can invite diversity into the blogosphere. I personally have found that if someone doesn’t want to blog, sees a blog as a specific thing that is immobile in its definition, or if they don’t see their own view as publishable material, they simply won’t blog.  I also already have some white male guilt, so the fact that I’m such an avid blogger makes me feel like I’m somehow doing something wrong by adding to the statistic, and I don’t feel like I should feel guity for participating.

In Why Podcasting Matters for your Organization the most difficult concept for me was wondering how to help people get past the ideas of RSS, hosting, and media production in the execution of podcasts. I’ve tried many times, but the nomenclature, familiarity, and technology get in the way.

Koenig's 1814 steam-powered printing press
Image via Wikipedia

5.  Provide 2 or 3 discussion questions for us to talk about in class (6pts)

In Is Google making us stupid? the end of the article talks about how Gutenberg’s press, and even the typewriter have had a similar mind altering effect on the authors. With this in mind, would we be better off as a society without either of those things in the long term, or are we in the short evolutional space where using tools like Google are relatively awkward because we are SO new to them?

In Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? the idea that diversity needs to be introduced to blogging; just because anybody can blog doesn’t mean everyone will blog. How can we get the heretofore unheard voices and unpublished thoughts into the blogosphere so that we can enjoy a more complete cultural view?

In Why Podcasting Matters for your Organization the idea is introduced that podcasting has such a low threshold of entry that anyone can do it. Why isn’t everyone doing it?

6. Discuss how this week’s readings might relate to your upcoming presentation, paper or to the “real world.” Here too, saying “I don’t know” or “it does not apply” is not an adequate response.  (8pts)

In Is Google making us stupid? the concepts have strengthened my view that technology is a tool like fire, a hammer, or a calculator. It can be used to smash, burn, and cheat, or it can be used to cook a wonderful palate changing meal, build the most magnificent palace, or help us determine the calculations to send humans to Mars.

Manager of Mars Explor...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

In Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? the charge is made that we are not doing enough to bring the diverse voice to the mic, and that we are not doing enough to create an audience for the myriad of bloggers that already exist. I’d argue that in past mediums, and in life itself, that media and species evolve according to the fitness of the species, the ability of the medium to transform content into audience thought, and a masterful execution. I think that it will work out in the end, somehow, and that we should stop worrying and just blog, already.

In Why Podcasting Matters for your Organization we learn that everyone should be using these tools. As an advocate of this idea, I know from experience that wanting others to use the technology isn’t enough. It has to be useful for them, it has to be easy to use, it has to be seen as a common practice, it has to be supported, and there has to be an intrinsic reward. Otherwise, consider it forced.

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