Today, I caught myself thinking about how most people spend their lives in a similar fashion to a washing machine’s rinse-circle-and-repeat cycle. I’m not sure about everyone else reading this, but I’m pretty lazy when it comes to my laundry day habits; I make sure everything I wear (solid colored sweatshirts, solid colored and plain white t-shirts, and jeans) are a wash-cold, tumble dry low sort of thing, and I neer separate my colors and whites. (So far, I’ve been lucky enough to not have any dye transference!) Similarly, I also tend to let my interests, hobbies, responsibilities, and commitments snowball and blend into one another to the point where they’re indistinguishable, and just as routine as my Wednesday laundry days. The same goes for the bulk of my academic life; everything feels like a rehash. But, there’s something about the subject matter of this class that’s scratching at me like a wool sweater and makes me want to take a second look at the dial and change it to delicates, and line dry for good measure, to really soak in some knowledge. Oh, yeah! I know that I met all but two folks in this class last semester, but it’s only polite to offer a quick introduction. My name is Sun Kaushik, Sun being an elaborate Dad joke and nickname for my government name that I dislike and very few people actually call me by. (Although you could use it if you so desired to.) I think of weird comparisons like laundry habits and my academic life all the time, and if I could meet any deceased musician, I’d have to flip a coin between my favorite Beatle, George Harrison, and Tom Petty. (A better choice would be to pick all deceased Traveling Wilburys, so I’d get Roy Orbison as well.) Also, I like green apples, and I don’t particularly want to grow up.
Going back to the topic at hand, I cannot wait to jump headfirst into the content and material for this course! Talk about making a riptide in the pool of academia! I’m excited about this course in particular because technology has always been a part of my life as far back as my memory stretches, thanks to my Dad always keeping pace with it and the inherently curious nature I inherited from him. It’s still up for debate between my parents whether I learned to write or type my name first since my Dad had me trained for computer literacy at a young age. Anyway, it’s exciting and definitely going to be interesting to finally discuss technology and the internet beyond the perspective of folks who make me roll my eyes and say, “OK, Boomer!” And by that, I mean the folks who are convinced everything analog all the time is all-around better and think folks like me who were raised in the digital era are somehow entitled, lazy, or not worthy of a seat at any table they’re sitting at.
As an incredibly awkward guy, to an even greater extent in my younger years, the Internet gave me a sense of belonging and camaraderie. It was a lot easier to speak to people anonymously, over a message board about a shared interest, like Dungeons and Dragons, than it was to try and make friends with people who either didn’t know I existed or thought of me as a weird kid. Before you worry or criticize me, I promise I followed my internet safety rules, and I (at least I think) turned out for the better because of it. (I coped with remote learning pretty well initially, and to be honest, I’m really enjoying it now!) And of course, being someone who struggles with sleep, the fact that the internet is this never-closing, transient coffee shop of sorts is a plus. But, as much as I appreciate it, I’m not naive enough to turn a blind eye towards the darker side of the dimension, and the ways that tech is connective for more purposes than just the leisurely, and can be educational as well.
I’m not here to be a broken record and talk about technology and the pandemic, particularly when it comes to remote education. After all, that’s the focus of this class! I’m not even going to be a boring throwback to pre-pandemic school assembly days and passionately discuss net safety. But after reading the book Pattern Recognition by William Gibson over break, (I’m not giving out spoilers! Check it out for yourself!) and having read plenty of articles over the past few years about issues like racism in AI detection, the danger of surveillance tech being hacked, which is more of a reality than ever, and seeing the rate at which our toolbox is expanding, I think this class is my best bet at a foray into the digital world. I’m going to consider it my own Tron-like experience. We built something wonderful that is spiraling out of control, and now we need to really integrate ourselves in to salvage life, as we know it now and as we knew it in the past.
What I really hope to get out of this incarnation of Net Narr more than anything is a more nuanced understanding of what role I play in shaping the lives of other people in this new age. I was always more of a non-playable character in years past, but now I realize that just by existing, my existence has a consequence for others, if that makes sense, especially at the university level in a small cohort. That consequence of my existence only expands outward when I do things like go to scholarly events, share my work or parts of myself on Twitter, or somehow enter a space with other occupants. I guess my central question for the post-pandemic university would be: Who is in charge? Is it me, the learner, who can be camera on or off, aloof or involved, bonded with their peers or isolated, and able to decide for themselves what their ultimate outcome is going to be? Or is it the instructor, who is trying to mold this digital environment into the hackneyed power-structure that they feel at home with? More importantly, how does this challenge to power play out on the greater stage of the world? What becomes of us?
Well, I think a three-page ramble fills my quota! And before you think I forgot, and for the two new folks who are just getting to know me, it’s customary for me to share what I was listening to while pounding away at my keyboard. For this post, it was “Twisted Transistor” by Korn and the live version of “Year 3000” by McBusted! This player is ready, and for now, I’ve got a full HP bar! See ya on the other side in class!
3 replies on “POV: You’re ready, Player One”
“Who is in charge? Is it me, the learner, who can be camera on or off, aloof or involved, bonded with their peers or isolated, and able to decide for themselves what their ultimate outcome is going to be? Or is it the instructor, who is trying to mold this digital environment into the hackneyed power-structure that they feel at home with? ”
Great questions to ponder (and you read many of the same books I have read — and you don’t sound like a broken record to these eyes on the page.
You had me at an opening metaphor. This laundry machine is going to be one of those that rock across the floor when it is in high spin mode.
I’m excited to have your energy and media savviness in the class. Run Sun Run!
As always Sun, bringing the wonderful imagery and metaphors. But the part of your reflection I really resonated with was, “What I really hope to get out of this incarnation of Net Narr more than anything is a more nuanced understanding of what role I play in shaping the lives of other people in this new age.” The idea of our role in the big picture is one that has been burning in my mind all throughout my time at Kean so far and this class feels like it takes that to a whole new level. I appreciate the humanity you bring to a lot of the conversations we have in class and the tricky dynamics you highlight. I am looking forward to seeing what you bring to Net Narr conversations. 🙂