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this is not the future

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On the first day of class for ds106, Jim Groom was telling us how this class would be different, because it wasn’t going to be conducted in some walled garden like Blackboard, away from prying eyes. Rather, our digital creations would be shared in public, on the internet. My reaction was “okay yeah, the 300 people taking this online might look at our work, but there are so many dark, untrodden corners on the web. It’s not that public.”

But I’m probably wrong about that. What I failed to account for is new media, the network effect, all of those buzzwords you hear about how the internet is changing business, changing media, changing communication. That the internet is a paradigm shift, a game changer, a reset.  That’s what we’ve been hearing for years now, seeing the effects of, and, at least for me, not really giving a lot of thought to. Sure, I benefit from it – I use amazon, read blogs, read news aggregator sites – but I’ve also merely accepted it without deliberately thinking through the ramifications.

But now I have started thinking about it, after an unexpected experience over the weekend. This past Saturday I encountered an amusing video, and decided it would be fun to share on twitter with #ds106. Thus the following innocent tweet:

Imagine my surprise the next day when I returned to bitly, the URL shortener site, to see if anyone checked it out:

Huh? An internet lurker, with a brand new blog and twitter account, submits something to #ds106 and that day it gets over 10,000 clicks? Crazy talk. But true: now there are a bunch of retweets of the bitly URL, saying “THIS IS NOT THE FUTURE.” And indeed it is crazy talk – I found out after I wrote this that the author of the blog post I linked to had actually tweeted a similarly themed message about the future to twitter earlier that day, and had also used bitly for the link. Strange days… The outcome, I think, is still valid in the general.

You might say, “so people submit links to reddit or digg or whatever all the time, it’s not really a big deal.” And you’d be right, except for one thing. All that blather before about openness and network effects and paradigm shifts was really just an abstraction in my head, the meaning of which  I only intellectually acknowledged. But this is different, because this time I was a participant. And I think that’s one of the things ds106 is about – not just consuming, but producing (or sharing), because what we create actually can reach and affect people, whether 300 or 300,000.

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