Wanted: Secure Place to Connect

After reading about the dangers of algorithms and the tendency for social networks to collect our information, I am curious why there isn’t a popular social networking site devoted to keeping user habits private? While Mozilla has filled this need with browsers, DuckDuckGo has done this with search engines, and there are countless linux operating systems devoted to this issue, I have not heard of any social networks with privacy as emphasis. With all of the public uproar over the use of private information by Facebook, I would imagine that someone would have developed a viable alternative.

Of course, I am sure there are plenty of reasons why people haven’t done this. For example, it may be too costly or people may not have shown much willingness to actually change their online habits. In addition, it may be that people who want to post information about themselves online are not overly concerned with privacy. Finally, there actually might already be a viable alternative out there that I have simply not heard of or that has been muscled out of the market by larger companies.

What are your thoughts on this? Are there good alternatives? What other barriers are there for new social networking sites entering the market?

lake pebbles under body of water

Where is the online equivalent to this?


Weekly Play – Remembering WWI

kO9cNVP - Imgur

For my weekly play this week I decided to go back to creating a meme that relates to a current topic in politics. Since tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, I thought it would be fitting to comment on the lessons that we maybe haven’t quite figured out since then. Sadly, there are countless countries that are ramping up nationalistic rhetoric and choosing chauvinism over international cooperation.

The picture I chose for the backdrop of this meme is from a photograph that was taken by an unknown French photographer in 1916. I liked this particular image since it sets a serious tone and portrays someone who seems to be giving much more thought to the people who died than most world leaders do today. Hopefully, this image could at least make someone pause and think about the connection between nationalism and the bloodshed that occurred in the 20th century as a result of it. It has been encouraging to see a little more attention given to the issue over the past few days. I am curious whether this will die down again after the anniversary has passed.

Beware of workplace analogies

While reading chapter 4 of Jacqueline Vickery’s “Worried about the Wrong Things” the conversation of cell phone use in classroom shifted to how adults in the workplace are able to learn how to manage cell phone distractions. While this is often true, I was reminded of how inaccurate it can be to compare schools to places of employment. First of all, we may not necessarily want to mimic the corporate culture and values often found in the workplace (though please feel free to enroll in my new Goldman Sachs finance class or my Exxon sponsored environmental stewardship course).

Furthermore, we have to remember that employees may act a little differently since they are allowed to choose where they work or they may get fired if they do not meet the expectations of their employer. Students on the other hand, may not be as worried about upsetting their teachers or being unproductive as much as they would be about upsetting a friend for not responding. In addition, unlike teachers, leaders of corporations are not held accountable if an individual is failing or not progressing.

Therefore, while it is handy to act like schools and the workplace are the same, I don’t particularly see it. That being said, it may be necessary to still assume that students may require the freedoms and conditions that are often found in the workplace. However, much of this may still be dependent on age and is a slightly different conversation. Stay tuned for that one.


Referees discussing the penalty for illegally applying privater sector concepts to the classroom



Let’s Take This Outside

Reading about the Harry Potter Alliance and the work that they are doing is an excellent reminder of how meaningful change often develops in unremarkable ways. While it is perfectly acceptable to start off with an ambitious social mission, is this the way that most social movements develop? Maybe we just need to get passionate and capable people in the same room (or digital environment) and the great ideas will take care of themselves later.

Throughout the civil rights movement, churches and college campuses often served as a meeting place from which many of the key figures emerged. During the creation of the US Constitution, it is said that the taverns of Philadelphia was where the real ideas were developed. As a result, it may often be necessary to simply create a safe space that can act as a point of connection and incubator for new ideas. What is inspiring about online communities is the fact that they can mobilize a large number of people and communicate over vast geographic areas. In addition, the ability to easily integrate funding models through paypal, gofundme, etc. means that they can operate on an even grander scale. Now the the question is, will other online fan groups and communities start to evolve by including a social mission to their work too?

black and white decision doors opportunity

Which path will online groups follow in the coming years?


Weekly Play – Create a Word

For my weekly play this week, I decided to try something from the DS106 Make Bank. While there were a lot of interesting options, I decided to try the challenge from October 27th to create a word. Since my weekly plays have been centered around political commentary and advocacy,  I created a word that could provide a statement on what I would like to see more of in the current political climate. As you can see, I created the world “plonscience” as a call for having more of a conscience in coming to political decisions. Having observed many lawmakers doing what seems to be merely politically expedient, the hope is that plonscienceness will soon rule the day.


A Spooky Post About Ghosting

This week has been incredibly busy with trying to balance taking care of two small children, finishing all of my coursework for my masters program, and wrapping up first quarter grading at my school. As a result, it has also been incredibly difficult to find time to actually have any significant social interactions. Okay, don’t worry, this whining does have something to do with digital literacy.

With time at a premium, I have felt that I have not been able to respond much to people on social media or comments made on my own blog for this class. In addition, my communications with friends and family have dropped off as well. While this can be socially isolating, I have also been considering whether this may be sending unintentional messages to those around me.  In other words, have I been unintentionally “ghosting” people through my inability to maintain consistent communication? Though, since I’m not intentionally trying to harm them, maybe “Caspering” is a better term for it.

All of this has also made me think about how social norms have changed over the past decade. Based on a small amount of research on Wikipedia, the term ghosting wasn’t even being used until 2011. And while there has always been an expectation that we stay connected with our friends and family, the expansion of social media and texting means that we are often expected to interact with a wider group of people in shorter yet frequent ways. This is not necessarily bad, but it does seem at times overwhelming (especially for people that tend to prefer more traditional means of communication).

two people dressed as ghost

Is there a ghost in you?

Books Group #1 – Moral Panic

Greetings and welcome to my first book group post about Worried About the Wrong Things by Jacqueline Ryan Vickery! So far I have enjoyed reading this book and appreciate that Vickery does not try to be overly optimistic or negative about how teenagers relate to technology. I am interested to see if this book changes how I view how youths engage in the digital world.

One of the more interesting ideas covered in the first chapter is the comparison between society’s views on youth culture in the 1920s and today. Like the 1920s, Vickery notes, “Digital technologies afford youth increased opportunities to develop peer languages, cultures, and communication networks that are separate from adult cultures and norms.” However, unlike the 1920s, Vickery also describes how social media and communication technology has filtered into the home and spheres outside of school. As a result of this “co-presence” or constant contact with their peers, there is an increasing fear that it is becoming harder to control or monitor what youth are doing.

Overall, it debatable whether the moral panic described by Vickery is overblown or legitimate. Yes, technology does seem more pervasive but is this a threat or simply a change from traditional norms? Also, did previous generations benefit from a blissful ignorance of what teens were doing since it was happening outside of their view. Either way, I appreciate Vickery bringing up these issues and it will be interesting to see what comes next.


Creativity and Civic Imagination

Reading Christina Evans’ article, “The Nuts and Bolts of Digital Civic Imagination” provided me with some inspiration for how to encourage students to become more politically active. In addition, much of what she discusses in article can be incredibly significant for finding ways for students to feel like they actually have a voice and could potentially change something.

One area that I am particularly intrigued by is the idea of providing opportunities for creativity for activating political engagement. While some students are incredibly political and tuned into the world around them, others could care less about such topics (it’s strange that teenagers sometimes seem to have other higher priorities).  In addition, many students have become so disillusioned by the injustice that they have seen or heard that they tend to disengage from the conversation entirely. As a result, this article made me wonder if allowing creativity, art, and problem solving to drive the conversation could help increase student interest – and eventually foster an appreciation for civic engagement during the process.

five bulb lights

Sometimes a creative consciousness precedes a political consciousness. However, building the capacity to combine the two can lead to a truly impactful movement.


As I am writing this post right now I am sitting in my house without power (I blame the crazy amount of rain that we had last night). Initially, I was filled with panic as I started considering how difficult it would be to complete my assignments and work for my job. Luckily, my laptop battery has a little power left on it and my phone is still working. Still, this made me ponder both the positive and negative aspects of being so dependent on technology (both of these themes were present in our readings this week). Without internet access or power for my desktop holding much of my work, I am obviously very limited in what I can do. Compared to previous power outages, I am even more limited a lot more of my information is stored on the cloud. Thus, one scary aspect of technological advancement as a whole is that we tend to become even more rudderless when the technology is ripped away from us.

On the other end, it is interesting to see how much more information I still have available. Using my cellphone, I was able to look at Seattle City Light for information about the outage and to report the loss of power. Interestingly, there was no information on the website but my wife informed me that a Facebook group that she belongs to was reporting outages in multiple neighboring areas. Like discussed in Netsmart and Superconnected, social media has the power to outpace traditional sources of information.

Furthermore, I am generally much more tapped in to what is going on in my neighborhood and community as I generally check neighborhood blogs and social media groups. This is generally where I get news about new businesses, community events, crime, etc. It is amazing how much more aware I am of what is going on in my neighborhood since connecting these resources a few years ago. While these events are often important to me, they are usually not the type of news that would make it on a city wide media outlet.  I imagine the only way that I will actually learn about what caused the power outage will be from one of these sources.

One word of warning, I made the mistake of looking at a discussion board on a community blog. While I shouldn’t be surprised, there was an incredible amount of vitriol and trolling for a post about a community meeting for planning an urban village. This was a reminder that while we are becoming more connected, there are still challenges and difficulties that we still must navigate.

sea boat ship high dynamic range

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Weekly Play – Voting Video

For this week’s project I decided to attempt to make a quick 15-30 second video to try to convey a message on voting. The concept was essentially to practice making a public service announcement or how to video that could contribute in a positive way.

For the video, I used my cellphone to film and then imported the video into WeVideo to edit and do a voiceover. Originally the video was about a minute long so I tried speeding it up in order to give it a different feel/style. Unfortunately this did not quite turn out as smooth as I wanted it to, but overall I think it represents the type of project that I could imagine students doing. Also, I think that it’s important to help students understand that their first product, like this one, will not be perfect.

In addition, this project would have also been much easier if a second person was recording or if I had an actual tripod to hold my phone (even though the slightly shaky look was intentional). In the end, the more I do these types of projects, the more I appreciate the opportunities for problem solving and creative choices they present. I also like the idea of having students creating work for audiences other than their teachers.