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The Puzzle Of My Own Personal Cyberinfrastructure

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Here are some reactions for ds106 to Gardner Campell’s “No More Digital Facelifts” presentation. It was so densely packed with “Right on!” and “Yee-Haw!” moments, it really got my head buzzing, and I suspect I will be feeling this effect for quite some time to come.

No More Digital Facelifts – Right on!

The internet is handing you an (intellectual?) bag of gold – Yes!

The old ways of doing things is actually interfering and hindering the capability of the new way to reach its potential –  unfortunately true!

Students absolutely need to be architects of their own cyber infrastructure. I don’t know if a vanilla web host and cpanel is really the answer, but it may be part of it. Putting stuff online is becoming so simple. It is like breathing. I don’t feel like I can ask people to master cpanel, even an automated wordpress install, any more than I can expect them to author HTML. I am a web application developer, but even I turn to internet services like posterous to host my blog. I make sure I can get my content out. I am not really sure I want to be bothered to run my own blogging software. I can think of problems with this model, but the convenience that the hosted platform and the fact that it is also a people network make it worthwhile.

Perhaps I am delving too deep into the technical details. Let’s look at the philosophy a bit more. Yes! The unbounded possibilities of giving people an open space that they can install, modify, or create all manners of software on can yield great results.  Giving this to students is asking them to create something new that the instructor didn’t even conceive of. Bag Of Gold, Dude. BOGD.

Gardner compares the importance of the rise of the global network of computers as the advent of the phonetic alphabet. I take no exception with that statement. So it easily follows that there are new literacies that are required to participate in and make sense of this digital soup. I agree. But what are the prerequisite skills required for this literacy? To write using the phonetic alphabet one gains proficiency at using certain tools: quill pen, no. 2 pencil, ballpoint, typewriter, word processor. It doesn’t matter though. Which ever one of these tools is used, it doesn’t change the basic premise of alphabetical literacy.  So, then, I begin to wonder what is required for one to construct their own cyber infrastructure. Naturally the tools will change over time. Today does one need to know html to have, for lack of better word, cyberliteracy? Does one need to be able to install and manage their own content management and collaboration platforms? If not, then what is it? Is it simply practice around participation and identity expression? Is understanding participation in social networks like twitter or facebook important to this new literacy?

Gardner described the new literacy as three pieces: narrating, curating, sharing.

I don’t know if if it matters as much tools we use to practices these three things, but there is still some basic technical understanding required. Will these technical requirements disappear over time? Will doing so leave us at the mercy of those that would exploit our lack of knowledge? Does it do more to advance the practice of literacies and the amount who are literate by making things easier? Can we manage and own our own online data and relationships without needing specialized technical knowledge? This is the puzzle. I’d really like to see some more examples as well as data on students that were placed into the deep end of web hosting companies and domain registrars. Do they produce more? less? Is the data safer or less safe? Do they feel that they own their own content more and how does this effect their use of these tools?

Regardless of these answers, or what the future holds in way of new tools, it is important that we think of guiding students and ourselves to use these tools with intention, and understand the ramifications of which tools they use.


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