In two weeks’ time I’ll be in Dubai with my Dad and sister for a final celebration of his time in the UAE working for the SSAT. It should also, all things being equal, be a celebration of my having finished my doctoral thesis, having started my studies over six years ago.
The thesis is on the subject of digital literacies and, I believe, not only is a useful overview of the development of the digital and new literacies arena, but contributes a model of how to develop digital literacies which should be pragmatically useful. Since 2007 I’ve been updating dougbelshaw.com/thesis as I have written and updated each chapter. Recently, I also started a new blog at literaci.es.
One blog that came at some speed onto my radar in the last couple of years is DMLcentral, a project funded by the McArthur Foundation in the US:
DML Central is the online presence for the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub located at the systemwide University of California Humanities Research Institute and hosted at the UC Irvine campus. Digital media practices are fundamentally reshaping society in far-reaching ways, especially in how people all around the world are learning and connecting with one another.
Across the globe, an ever-expanding number of researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, industry, scholars and youth are exploring the boundaries and possibilities of digital media and the networked world of the twenty-first century.
At DML Central, we want to do all we can to fuel that exploration – to enable break-through collaborations and evoke illuminating conversations that lead to innovations in learning and public participation.
There’s some well-known individuals in the field of new literacies and media who blog for DMLcentral – you may have heard of danah boyd, Howard Rheingold, and Aleks Krotoski for example. The About page also demonstrates the partnership between DMLcentral and Futurelab, and organization with whom I’ve worked before.
Seeing a synergy between my own research and DMLcentral, I sent a speculative email to the team expressing a desire to contribute to the blog. I’m delighted to say that they were enthusiastic about the idea and after some discussions I’ll be contributing my first post next month.
I’ll still be blogging here and the other various places online I mentioned in this previous post (which also details an easy way to keep up with all of my writing and research!)
Three years ago, at the end of 2007, I took a hiatus. Inspired by Stephen Downes, I realised needed a break from the stream. It’s time I took another one, but for different reasons. This time I’m taking a cue from danah boyd who explains her position well:
Years ago, I realized that there was no way to take a vacation and manage the always-on, always-in-contact lifestyle that technology affords. Initially, I thought that it’d be possible to simply ignore email while on vacation and deal with it afterwards but I realized that this was untenable. It takes months to catch up on thousands of emails and I’d come back and immediately burn out again trying to catch up.
She goes on to add that “disappearing without properly making certain that everyone has what they need is irresponsible and disrespectful.” That’s why I’m giving advanced notice that I’m going on a personal digital hiatus from Friday 17th December 2010 until Monday 10th January 2011.
In practice this means that during this period:
I won’t reply to any email (and any email I do receive will be deleted).
I’m uncontactable via Twitter.
I won’t be blogging or moderating comments.
If you need to get hold of me, there’s two options: phone me (if you haven’t got my numbers already, you don’t need them) or contact me at work (until 21st December / after 4th January)
I’ll keep on clipping the occasional article I come across, but I’m intending to swear off Twitter, email and blogging for three weeks, during which time my wife will almost certainly give birth to our daughter. If that isn’t reason enough, I’ll also be doing the following:
Getting back into shape. The snow has knocked my exercise regime for six.
You may have missed it, but there’s a privacy debate going on as we enter a new decade.* I wanted to share my thoughts, as I think there’s some confused thinking going on.
Usually, when people think of ‘privacy’ they’re actually conflating three notions:
Privacy – not being seen by others
Anonymity – not being identified by others
Ownership – the ability to control things
These are different and should be considered separately.
A lot of digital ink has been spilled recently over changes made by Facebook, the world’s most popular social networking site. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, claimed privacy is ‘no longer a social norm’ which prompted some nods of agreement, but also some vehement criticism. The ever-eloquent danah boyd pretty much sums up the backlash:
There isn’t some radical shift in norms taking place. What’s changing is the opportunity to be public and the potential gain from doing so. Reality TV anyone? People are willing to put themselves out there when they can gain from it. But this doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly wants to be always in public. And it doesn’t mean that folks who live their lives in public don’t value privacy. The best way to maintain privacy as a public figure is to give folks the impression that everything about you is in public.
It’s this control over the public/private debate that is often conflated with anonymity and ownership. And it’s not just media hacks that get this wrong, it’s people with letters after their name. Dr Kieron O’Hara, for example, believes that online life distorts privacy rights for all:
As more private lives are exported online, reasonable expectations are diminishing… When our reasonable expectations diminish, as they have, by necessity our legal protection diminishes.
This effectively takes an argument reserved for celebrities (‘you live by the sword, you die by the sword’) and applies it to everyone else. Not so.
Most of what people object to in the name of ‘privacy’ online is merely technology making something that’s always been done easier or faster.
Object to being ‘tagged’ in a photo on Facebook? Did you likewise object when people passed around printed photos of you at a gathering back-in-the-day?
Don’t like your phone number being posted online? Is it ex-directory?
Not a fan of Google Street View? Do you stop people walking by your house and taking pictures of the local area?
I would argue that no-one has a ‘right’ to anonymity in anything apart from legal proceedings. To attempt to do so – even in an analogue world – is unrealistic.
Recently, I received a suggestion via Skribit that I blog about how I deal with ‘having such a public web presence’ coupled with the tendency of students to ‘google their teachers’. The question seems to be about privacy: do you really want students to know everything about you?
The answer to that can be summed up in one word: control. I am my own media outlet. It doesn’t cost me anything but time to do so. Of course I have secrets, my dark side, things that I don’t want people to find out. But I can control what is said about me. Google Alerts emails me when my name is mentioned somewhere on the internet. If it’s defamatory or negative, I give my side of the story, try and work things out. It’s no different than going to the village gossip to set things straight.
I moderate comments on my YouTube videos, I keep most photos of my family away from public viewing areas on Flickr, and not all of my Delicious links are available for viewing by everyone. That’s why I like Aza Raskin’s idea of a Creative Commons for Privacy. Just as Creative Commons licenses have made it absolutely clear under what conditions you can re-use someone’s artistic work or media (see the top of this post), so a similar system for privacy would give unambiguous recourse for privacy violations. People will tend towards openness, of course they will.
But then I’m not so sure that people being open, controlling their digital identity and learning how to respect the wishes of others is such a bad thing. It’s all about being clear and unamibugous.