Ch 05: Digital Wellbeing & Detox

The Internet of Publicity, Bigotry, and Liberty

I want to start this post by sharing my Daily Create kaleidoscope. This activity was engrossing, and I spent way too much time playing around with the program and trying out different colors. The little red dot in the middle of my finished product gives me 2001: A Space Odyssey vibes, and an AI gone rogue seems to fit the theme of NetNarr. 

Speaking of evil computers, Brenna Clark Gray’s article “Digital Detox #1: Welcome to the Show” expresses concerns about our overuse of technology, which has only increased during the pandemic. She explains how schools and students have been relying on private programs to e-proctor exams and conduct live video lectures without considering potential pitfalls like privacy concerns. Honestly, these kinds of privacy issues have been out of sight and out of mind for me throughout the pandemic (and even before it); on some level, I know that tech corporations like Google and Zoom are collecting my data for their own nefarious reasons, but they also make every aspect of my personal and professional lives a whole lot easier. 

It feels like the right to privacy is slowly being erased, and in order to live in the modern world, you need to have everything—your browsing history, your photos, your location, your thoughts—exposed. The erosion of my privacy is always a looming, ominous discomfort in the back of my mind, but I try not to think about it too much because it feels unavoidable and useless to protest. Corporations aren’t going to stop collecting our data out of the goodness of their hearts, and the government is too old, out of touch, and ignorant to even comprehend the problem, let alone stop it. (Remember when Congress questioned Google’s CEO? I’m still not sure whether it was hilarious or depressing.) 

The internet has made it much easier for private companies to collect personal data, but as danah boyd points out, the internet can’t take all the blame for the bad things people use it for. In the podcast “The Internet of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” boyd explains how the internet simply exposes the flaws that already exist within our society. The bullying, racism, bigotry, etc., that are found in every corner of the World Wide Web unfortunately exist in every corner of the world, too. It’s been tough for me to reconcile what I want to believe about humanity—that most people are fundamentally good—with what the internet shows me—that most people were just waiting for a platform where they could freely and anonymously spew hatred. The past few years have been especially eye opening as I’ve started paying more attention to politics and begun realizing how many of the people I grew up with hold backwards, hateful views and feel no shame in sharing them on social media. 

Despite all of the negative aspects of society that the internet reveals, it’s also a tool that allows endless opportunities for making connections and creating communities. Boyd describes how—especially for younger generations—the internet means freedom. It’s a way to escape rigidly structured schedules and overprotective adults. Kids need to learn independence and self motivation, and they need opportunities to be allowed to think for themselves instead of expecting to be told exactly what to do. That’s why I want more online asynchronous learning in the post pandemic university (and in lower levels, too). Fully remote asynchronous days—in which students would be mostly left to their own devices without extensive teacher intervention—could promote critical thinking skills and encourage schools to abandon curriculums that focus on rote memorization and standardized tests. 

Despite its drawbacks, the internet is a valuable tool for connecting and learning, and I imagine all participants of the post pandemic university will rely on it heavily. Here in the mid-pandemic university, I’m using it for every assignment, including this blog post. I recorded a quick Vocaroo clip of me writing this blog (featuring my cat playing with a bell in the background) to share the sounds of grad school during the pandemic.

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