"It’s a Bag of Gold!"

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"What part of that don't you understand?"

In Gardner Campbell's talk on "Digital Facelifts," he discusses ow the digital medium for learning is analogous to the printing press.  I agree wholeheartedly with this, except that I will say the digital revolution is phenomenally more important than the printing press.  Whereas the ability to mass produce something on paper is limited to your own ability to deliver the paper to potential readers, the ability to mass produce something on the Web takes a fraction of the effort, and requires little more than an 80386 running Windows 3.1 with Notepad and a dial-up Internet connection.  I suppose my comparison is a little unfair, as the 15th century didn't have public libraries where one could simply pay a farthing and rent out a printing press to publish their most recent work.  We are gifted with readily-accessible technology needed to express ourselves freely on the Web.  Campbell quoted Clay Shirky well on this very point: "We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race."

If I were to say that the Web was a magic wand we could wave over everything mankind has been doing for the past five centuries, I'd be lying.  We must learn this new medium, not merely give print a "Digital Facelift," as Campbell calls it.  In order to master this medium, we must re-learn communication in the environment of the Web, in the same way that we re-learn verbal communication through print by acquiring the skill of writing.  I did find a little bit of conflict between what Campbell says in his lecture and what he discusses in his essay on "Personal Cyberinfrastructure."  He explained in the lecture that diverse tools like bluehost.com's cPanel and WordPress plugins provide a whole new alphabet with which to create our own Web identity.  And yet in the essay, Campbell seemed to reject the "training wheels" which so many services provide users, claiming that "by the time students get to college, those aids all too regularly turn into hindrances."  I'll agree with the former statement, and strongly reject the latter.  I speak from experience when I say that one can easily become hung up on details when creating something as personal and intricate as a Web space.  And while I enjoy getting caught up in the details, I know many who do not.  So the existence of these simplification tools are very important.

Overall, I think mankind has yet to tap into the full power of the Web, although we have started to carve away the important parts.  Take, for example, the recent political upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, in which protesters have been using digital media to show the rest of the world what they are going through.  No stories touch my heart more than these, as I see the Internet being used for such personal advancement as the condition of a nation's people.

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