Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Now, Google's Good for Granny

As I was surfing the web this a.m. I ran across a story about a recent study at the University of California, Los Angeles. The study set out to measure brain activity of older adults as they search the Web. The findings were interesting and operate as a nice antagonism to Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid" published last summer in The Atlantic. The link to CNN's coverage of this study is here.

The study was paid for by the Parvin Foundation and was published by Gary Small and Susan Bookheimer, both UCLA professors, and Teena Moody, a senior research associate at UCLA's Semel Institute. The paper was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

But I really was drawn to this piece, which I've only skimmed, because it seems to touch on how new practices of literacies do enable, sustain, and maybe even sharpen minds of all ages. Often the popular press argues for the legitimacy of digital natives' critical thinking skills that stem from gaming or the like, as well as how the same digital natives have their own (new) "texts" and attendant literacies. What I hope we'll start to see is that these are new times for everyone and not just young whipper-snappers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Facebook, Safety Schools, and Victorianism over Literacy

Ok, here's a hard sell. TechDirt recently ran a story, " Rejected From College Because of Your Facebook Profile", in which anecdotal evidence shows what has been rumored for much time...that admissions folks gander more than occasionally at applicants' online social network profiles. The author, Mike Masnick, gives a pretty fair accounting though ultimately concludes that applicants shouldn't expect their profiles to exist in a vacuum and that as much as applicants strive to "put their best foot forward" they should include their Facebook profiles in such efforts.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I think most individuals get this. Sure, there will be those that claim this is out of bounds and not appropriate use of admissions staff time. That aside, I'd like to argue that such snooping and censure is simply out of step with with what we need to be critical of in our cyberculture present and future. If our young digital native scholars are as much the person they represent and broadcast on Facebook, then why don't we scrutinize things like the literacy skills that go into (or don't) Facebook representation. If we take this line of critique, even the current gawk and lament gang has a "way in"...they could lambaste applicants who are unaware of the rhetorical context within which they exist. Basically the same path currently taken, but without the tacit Victorianism that's at work currently (the Victorianism that suggests "we know you do these sordid things we just don't want to see them).

I'd like to see an acknowledgement of the spaces and identities that young people (and old people too) create. If we can remark on those spaces versus merely trying to censure (and censor) OSN users, then we can get into a realistic and progressive discussion/development of ethics...online and otherwise. Then an actual (and virtual) conversation over creativity, stupidity, reinscription, and possibility can take place.