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Blog Post #3: Being Online

The first blog prompt asked you to think about technology may be affecting our definition of literacy and rates of literacy in the US. In the second blog prompt, you were asked to consider how social media in particular are affecting workplace situations and the relationship between our public/professional and personal lives. Both of these prompts deal, although in somewhat different ways, with a concept that is also central to Rosen's argument in "The Deciders," that is the extent to which the exercise of personal autonomy is helped or hindered by digital technology.

"Autonomy" as Rosen describes it involves the right to operate without fear of government intrusion into our private lives, and to be free of government interference in our thoughts, expression, and religious belief. "Autonomy" can also, much more broadly, mean the right to be free of interference from or domination by other private individuals. The prompt about digital literacy suggests that one's autonomy may be increasingly tied to one's ability to understand and use certain digital technologies. The prompt about social media in the workplace questions whether employer limitations on employees' use of social media constitute an unreasonable interference with their personal autonomy. This prompt asks you to consider whether our interactions online enhance or diminish our autonomy, by either expanding or limiting our opportunities to learn from our mistakes, move past traumatic events, make friends, express ourselves freely, effect social and political change, etc.

Image credit: "i will not do what i tell myself" by Jane Alexander Allen on Flickr.

In a blog post about "Personal branding in the age of Google," Seth Godin writes:

Google never forgets.

Of course, you don't have to be a drunk, a thief or a bitter failure for this to backfire. Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are.

Although he does it with a bit more nuance, and tailors his advice specifically for students, Will Richardson, in "Footprints in the Digital Age," offers pretty much the same advice when he discusses what educators can do to help their students ensure they will be "Googled well":

More than ever before, students have the potential to own their own learning—and we have to help them seize that potential. We must help them learn how to identify their passions; build connections to others who share those passions; and communicate, collaborate, and work collectively with these networks. And we must do this not simply as a unit built around "Information and Web Literacy." Instead, we must make these new ways of collaborating and connecting a transparent part of the way we deliver curriculum from kindergarten to graduation.

Younger students need to see their teachers engaging experts in synchronous or asynchronous online conversations about content, and they need to begin to practice intelligently and appropriately sharing work with global audiences. Middle school students should be engaged in the process of cooperating and collaborating with others outside the classroom around their shared passions, just as they have seen their teachers do. And older students should be engaging in the hard work of what Shirky (2008) calls "collective action," sharing responsibility and outcomes in doing real work for real purposes for real audiences online.

Both Godin and Richardson presume individuals have a responsibility to protect their online identities. They take for granted online rhetorical situations in which persistent, ubiquitous surveillance is just a fact of life. Rosen, though, offers an alternative view, one that suggests that through careful policymaking and also mindful application of technological solutions, we can create truly private spaces on the internet, that we can protect the right of the autonomous subject to disappear from the public eye, to leave behind a troubled past, to reinvent herself, to be free from government and corporate interference in our online activities.

What do you think?

Posting: Group 3

Commenting: Group 1

Taking a Break: Group 2

Category: Being Online

In your Blog #3 post, take a position about how technology affects personal autonomy and who has responsibility for protecting it online. Carefully read both of the new articles referenced above, and re-read Rosen. In the process of considering and arguing in favor of your position, you might think about these fundamental questions: Is autonomy actually an important value that should be protected? Are we ever truly autonomous, or are there limitations on autonomy that have nothing to do with technology, but are rather an inherent part of being part of a human community? Can limitations on personal autonomy ever be a good thing? Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog.

Image Credit: "2011-11-04_19-32-46_152" by Chaz Evans on Flickr.

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