The Digital Realist
So, I’ve decided to re-brand myself. I say that tongue-in-cheek, as I am greatly irritated by the whole concept of folks branding themselves. But here I am doing it, sort of.
Why? Well, for one thing, when I initially started blogging I knew it would take some time to get a feel for my blogging voice. So how has my voice changed since I started my blog several months ago? Let me first tell you how it hasn’t changed. What hasn’t changed is my fascination with the impact of digital media on literacy, attention, critical thinking, personhood, etc. That subject has been my focus since my thesis project began in 2008. I finished my thesis in March of 2010, but found myself compulsively sneaking off to research the topic. This surprised me, considering how happy I was to finally finish the project. After a few months of secretly visiting websites like Digital Nation and Pew Internet and American Life Project, and buying books like Jaron Lanier’s You are not a Gadget and William Power’s Hamlet’s Blackberry, I decided to come out of the closet. I got a Twitter account, a Diigo account, and a blog. With a passion I went back to learning as much as I could about the impact of new media technology on human life.
How has my voice changed? Well, I think I have become more balanced. Whereas I started out three years ago pretty oppositional toward media technology, particularly social media, I have become much more of a realist. I am engaging in social media. I decided that rather than stand on the outside and throw stones (not virtual stones, but real ones, like the kind with dirt on them), I would become a critic from inside the world of new media technology. I would be open to the good and the bad. Really it was a pragmatic decision, in part driven by my 65-year-old thesis committee member who said to me “OK, I think you are right about the problem, but what are we going to do about it. I mean, we have to deal with the situation as it is.” He was right. In my field of rhetoric composition, idealism is subservient to good, solid classroom pedagogy. We are teachers; our job is to teach writing. The primary concern is how we can best accomplish this, given the cards we have been dealt.
Another thing that has influenced me is all the connections I have made on Twitter. At first glance, I thought Twitter was the most mindless of all social media. “going to the bathroom”, “doing my nails”, etc. It shocked me to discover that Twitter is the most text dominated, idea-driven social media around. I’m now a big Twitter fan – WAY too sophisticated for Facebook foolishness. It has been rewarding and enlightening to follow so many bright people who have the same interest in this field. I’ll admit that most of them are more proponents of new media technology than I am, but there is learning that takes place in the give and take.
So why the name “Digital Realist”? I think this post explains it, as does the subtitle of my blog. I see myself as a person who is willing to highlight the ways new media technology is improving human life while at the same time pointing out when it is bringing us down. That’s a digital realist. As an educator who is a digital realist, I am a proponent of Neil Postman’s view that schools should be involved in technology education, evaluating “what technology helps us to do and what it hinders us from doing.” That’s my goal here, so let’s get on with it.