The “Either or…” Dilemma

I recently read a satirical article/blog post by Nathan Jurgenson, “Is the Internet Making Op-Ed Writers Lazy?” A tangential question: What is the correct word for pieces of writing on blogs? Is it an article? a post?  But anyway, I am not an Op-Ed writer, at least not in the traditional (there’s that word again!) sense in that I am not paid for my opinions; but Jurgenson’s characterization of writers who lament the pre-digital reality, who write about how “social media is making it [life? social interactions?] less real, deep, true, meaningful, authentic, soulful, or whatever else makes you feel like a better type of human than the automaton masses” hit painfully close to home.The article/post reminded me of the discussions I’ve also been reading about digital dualism and a post I wrote in October.

While my post dealt mostly with revisiting issues of trust and the idea that for me, I still prefer face-to-face, in-person contact with people to on-line interactions, I also mention that I have been struggling with and re-examining my ideas about and attitudes toward integrating digital and Web-based technology not only into our classrooms but into our daily lives as well. Simplified, the digital dualism argument holds that our digital/virtual lives and our physical/real lives are separate and that our virtual personae are less ‘real’. I’ve no shame in admitting (as I did in a post from mid-November) that I had rather narrow (close-minded? stubbornly nostalgic?) attitudes toward the proliferation of technology in our ‘real’ lives; no shame in admitting that I was basically a Neo-Luddite. I held on to these ideas, I think, out of fear of change and likely because I had not taken the time to critically examine my own beliefs. It hasn’t been easy coming to terms with my own misplaced nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ before everyone had a screen (seemingly) permanently attached to their person, the days when we were all so overwhelmingly polite in public, the days when we relied on our old paradigms of connectedness, social relationships, and education. It wasn’t a comfortable realization that I had developed a passive, close-minded acceptance of ideas promoted in different media: that our kids are becoming lazier mentally; that as a culture we have devolved to ‘virtual’ (read: shallow and superficial) social relationships; that the world is ‘shrinking’ and that this is not a desirable outcome; and that somehow this has ‘happened’ to us, been imposed on us by technology as if we somehow weren’t willing participants and agents in our changing culture. But I think the most uncomfortable realization was that, at least concerning issues of digital and Web-based technologies, I had abandoned my previously held beliefs in cultural and meta-ethical moral relativism and hypocritically imposed dogmatic opinions on the use of these technologies. And I suppose Jurgenson’s article made me think of the notion of digital dualism and question why it should be one or the other? Jurgenson links to a wonderful short film from Francois Ferracci, “Lost Memories” (below) that made me wonder why we couldn’t simultaneously inhabit both worlds – digital and analogue (in fact, I’d argue that most of us already do). Why must we choose between the two? and is it even possible to do so in our technology-infused society?

LOST MEMORIES (French, English Subtitles) from Francois Ferracci on Vimeo.

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