Recognizing & Respecting Truth: New Technologies, New Boundaries, New Connections

When I first got this, and a string of related posts from Steve Gilbert in an email, my  reaction was, “Either he is brilliant and I don’t understand any of this, or he’s totally confused.” My finger waivered over the delete key, because I know enough of Steve to know there might be an idea in here:

Recognizing & Respecting Truth – In the Classroom & on the Web: Pls Comment: New Technologies, New Boundaries, New Connections
New Technologies, New Boundaries, New Connections
What are the new challenges and opportunities provided by the rapidly emerging computer technology options for “blogging,” “podcasting,” and other new forms of telecommunications, information exchange, and social networking?

Where are the lines between personal blogging, political blogging, and course-related blogging?

Having just moved my blogging from a university hosted resource to my own domain because my personal and research interests were leading me onto ground where I might be seen as using state resources inappropriately, this last question got my attention.

Here is a bit of a story. In the 90’s I was Director of Educational Technology for the College of Education at WSU. I was thinking about questions like, should faculty be rewarded for use of technology (eg tenure and promotion). Initially, I thought yes, but later moved to think not. I concluded, faculty should be expected to be doing leading edge work in their fields. To do so they must necessarily use the appropriate tools and methods. Traditional focus on professional work would bring along authentic uses of technology, focus on technology per se would advance a variety of artificial and perhaps ill-concieved behaviors.

In that job I also watched faculty who found that the computer the university could afford to provide them was inadequate to the work they needed to do. Some had purchased computers at home that suited their needs. The result was, when the faculty came to work, they were impaired in actually doing their work by the  environment provided by the institution. I became further radicalized, concluding that the university was doing faculty a disservice by leading them to believe it should/would provide their computing. Computing was becoming too personal, too personally important, to leave it to the institution to provide. I went out, bought a laptop and ceased using university computers as my primary work platforms.

This choice also solved some of the appropriate use issues that using state computers posed. What email is it approipriate to read/ send on a state machine?

In 2004, I helped launch a blogging resource for WSU, and was active there. But recently, my interests in collaborative online group work led me into a role with a campaign against a Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Moscow, Idaho.

Our opponents began to question if my use of a university-based identity (an email address) or a university-based blog was ethical. The easiest solution, following on the line of my previous reasoning, was to step out of the university. This is a very “Web 2.0” solution. I may, when I finish moving, bring some RSS from my identity into my university web page, but that will be just a place to share parts of me. I am not going to divide my mind between that which my employer sanctions and that which interests me, but I may divide what I present on my employer’s premesis (much like I dress a certain way to come to work, or use certain language).

So, back to Steve’s question. There may be a line between personal, political, and course-realted blogging if the blogger is using resources where others have power-over the result. Students routinely do this already, what they do/think/say in school differs from what they do/think/say in the rest of life. Course blogging, because of the power relationship will probably be inauthentic and only done under compulsion. The other two will probably be most authentically done in resources that are out of the univesity’s control. (By which I think I am arguing that University should not run a blogging resource, its too personal, the user’s identity needs to be created separate from the instituion, and that to provide a university resource is to do a disservice to students, much as providing inferior computing was a disservice to faculty in the notes above.)


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