Book Review for Big Data

What exactly is “big data”? Is there a proper and concrete definition of it?  Is it referring to all the computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets so commonly integrated into society?  Or is it the term we use for the information overload that is prevalent in our everyday lives?

“Big data” is the beginning of the transformation society is now going through.  It is not limited to just one definition.  Rather, it refers to a new way of using massive amounts of information to change all aspects of everyday living for the better. Big Data explains how obtaining abundant information, at times outdated or seemingly not related to the issue at hand, can produce new and more valuable insights, skills and ideas to benefit businesses, markets, governments, citizens, societies and the way people relate to each other.  Moreover, it is important to understand that correlation, not causation plays a significant part in getting the answers we need to solve problems in business, finance, government, health, medicine, and  many other areas.  We need to put aside the centuries-old question of “why?” and instead ask “what?”

But with the advantages of big data also comes certain risks, one of the most concerning of which is privacy.  Technology today allows our personal information to be shared like never before.  So how can we protect ourselves as individuals and as a society?    Will we no longer have free will? What happens to fairness and justice?  What can we do to keep big data from taking over?

From Commander Maury who chartered the ocean waters in the 19th century, to Mike Flowers and his “kids” who were able to locate illegal-conversion dwellings out of 900,000 units in New York City, to the Google Flu Trend of 2012, Big Data describes how using an abundant amount of information can ­­­­­­­­­be extremely beneficial in solving problems.  Mayer-Schӧnberger and Cukier also offer ways to keep big data in check, from the idea of placing more responsibility on the users of data rather than on the public, to hiring professionals to review big data analyses and predictions.

Big Data informs and educates, while at the same time reassures us that technology doesn’t have to come across as this growing, threatening power looming over our heads. The authors, Viktor Mayer-Schӧnberger and Kenneth Cukier, know their stuff.  Mayer-Schӧnberger is a professor of internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute at OxfordUniversity.  He has written over 100 articles and books, including Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age (2009) and Governance and Information Technology — From Electronic Government to Information Government (2007).  Cukier was the former technology editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia in Hong Kong and a regular commentator on CNBC Asia.  He was also the European editor of Red Herring and worked at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He has written articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Prospect, The Financial Times and Foreign Affairs.  He has been a commentator for CBS, CNN, NPR and BBC on business and technological matters, and is now the data editor of The Economist.

Reading Response #5

In “The Disruptive Power of Collaboration”, Clay Shirky talks about how the current business world has changed from just a few years ago. I believe a big part of this is that as a society, we are more comfortable with sharing and therefore companies produce products much differently now than in the past.  Most often now, there is not just one  “inventor” or “creator” of something, as in the 3-D printed shell for a radio-controlled car Shirky talked about;  it is the result of a collaboration of many minds.  Take, for instance, the iPhone.  Apple is a tremendously-sized company made up of dozens and dozens of engineers, technicians, graphic artists, etc.  The creation of the iPhone (as well as their other products) is the result of the combined skills, knowledge and intelligence of its employees.  By pooling their resources (their employees), Apple and other large companies have been able to produce state-of-the-art computers, tablets and phones with features that were unheard of a few years ago (and which keep improving each year).

The process of sharing also plays a big part in supply and demand. I believe because we can obtain information at the mere click of a button or swipe of a screen, we are much more aware of the current new products and trends available.  And because we are all so well connected to one another, we are instantly aware of the new products our friends and family buy.  If our best friend buys the newer version of the iPhone, we are more likely to go out and buy one too.  This feeds into the “demand creates supply” concept Shirky spoke of.  Years ago companies would produce a huge inventory of a product, confident that their supply would be consumed once the demand for it came in.  I think today it’s backwards now, because companies produce a new item but spend lots of money on advertising it to the public.  Once the word is out and the public sees this new product, the demand for it rises and therefore the company produces a large supply of it.

In “Žižek, Plagiarism and the Lowering of Expectations”, Phelps discusses how crushed and disappointed he felt after learning that one of his most-admired scholars was accused of plagiarism. We all rely on scholars for information whether we are writing a research paper or just want the current world news.  It’s interesting to note that we all have this unspoken trust in those who provide this information to us, that what they are reporting is true and original. Most of the time we hardly question whether what they are saying, writing or reporting is true.  We think to ourselves that their work is published in a book or a journal, or what they say has been plastered all over the TV and internet, so it must be true.  Phelps reminds us that these scholars and scholarly people are just like the rest of us:  mere mortals.  Most often, scholars rely on other scholars for their information.  They make mistakes just like you and me.  It’s good practice to remind ourselves of this, and take in all information from all angles.  And with a grain of salt.

Citations:

“The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky.” McKinsey & Company. March 2014. <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/The_disruptive_power_of_collaboration_An_interview_with_Clay_Shirky?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1403>.

 

Phelps, Hollis. “Žižek, Plagiarism and the Lowering of Expectations.” Inside Higher Education. July 17 2014.Web. <https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/17/%C5%BEi%C5%BEek-plagiarism-and-lowering-expectations-essay>.

Literature Review

LITERATURE REVIEW

Belle Colassaco Knowledge Management

September 28, 2014

 

Digital Technology and Family Relationships: Positive or Negative?

With today’s widespread use of smartphones, iPads, tablets and computers, immediate access to information and instant connection is the norm.  But how has this information overload and constant connectivity affected families and their relationships with each other?

Perhaps one of the most revealing studies on the effects of digital technology on families is Aimee Ball’s article, A Life Unplugged. Ball describes how several families tolerated the power outage after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012.  Families were forced to endure days, weeks, even months without their electronic devices.  For many teens and preteens, it was the very first time in their lives that they were entirely off the grid.   They could not text, watch TV, play video games or log onto social media sites.  As a result, face-to-face conversations and actual personal visits resulted.  Children discovered board games such as Monopoly and Clue.  One mother even brought out a deck of cards, but her son wasn’t sure what to do with it.  And one teen resorted to studying for a test on state capitals by using a childhood jigsaw puzzle.

In recent years experts have examined the effects of digital media use on relationships and family life. Katherine M. Hertlein’s 2012 article, Digital Dwelling:  Technology in Couple and Family Relationships published in Family Relations, discusses in detail the many aspects of how digital technology affects relationships and family life, such as the changes to the structure and process of a relationship.  She defines the ambiguity of using digital technology (“the definition of problematic behavior varies between people.”), and examines the social context of computer-mediated communication, which allows a person to act differently from their “real” self as opposed to their “ought” self (such as sexual chatting on the internet).  Hertlein explains the redefinition of boundaries between online and offline social relationships, and how these blurred boundaries can interfere with couples and family functioning.  Further, Hertlein states that the constant use of digital technology forces a redefinition of intimacy and relationship maintenance in couples.

Other experts are echoing the negative effects. Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa H. Barker’s book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age (2013), reveal the results from clinical studies involving parents and children.  The authors examine how digital devices are replacing human contact and interaction, and often interfere with the ways a family develops intimate connections.  Because the family unit is the first and most significant teacher in defining values, modeling relationships and mentoring, Steiner-Adair and Barker (2013) emphasize that, “Every time our child’s texting, TV, electronic games, and social networking take the place of family, and every time our tech habits interrupt our time with them, that pattern is broken and the primacy of family takes another hit.” (p.41).

In an interview with Scientific American, Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reports that our “always on, always on you” environment is negatively affecting relationships and some basic human strengths that we need to thrive.  In observing hundreds of people going about their everyday lives, she noticed that people tend to look at or fiddle with their phones when waiting for the bus, standing in line, or whenever there is an opportunity for down time.  Turkle argues that we are so immersed in our digital devices and we now hand them to our very young children, but it is children who especially need solitude.  She emphasizes that children who do not learn to be comfortable with solitude or inner reflection tend to have a difficult time forming true relationships later in life.  Technology today has forced us to “crowd source” our lives and we expect more and more out of it.

Although many experts agree that digital technology may negatively affect families, Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Sarah M. Coyne and Ashley M. Fraser’s 2012 article, Getting a High-Speed Family Connection: Associations Between Family Use and Family Connection published in Family Relations, acknowledges that some media use can be positive.  Several studies involving the use of electronic devices between family members revealed that watching TV together (coviewing) and playing video games together (coplaying) can promote more physical contact between family members and can lead to open discussion between parents and their children.  Most of the studies in this article revealed that the use of electronic devices today is associated with high levels of family connectedness.

In further support of digital technology’s positive aspects is Michael Bond’s 2014 article, Friends in High-Tech Places. Bond acknowledges other researchers’ findings that the use of the internet, cell phones and social media actually increases social isolation, and the average number of close friends in the United States and Great Britain is declining.  However, Bond explains that social media sites such as Facebook allow us to stay in contact with high school or college friends, past and present work colleagues, casual acquaintances, people met travelling, friends of friends, and occasional strangers.  Social media has allowed us to maintain a “relationship” with these weak ties, when before today’s technology we would have allowed them to fade away.  Bond affirms that new research has shown that Facebook can actually improve the quality of distant relationships, and that the biggest reason for using social media sites is the need for friendship.

 

 Works Cited:

 

Ball, A. (2012, November 11). A Life Unplugged. New York Times. p. 1.

Bond, M. (2014). Friends in high-tech places. New Scientist, 222(2970), 40-43.

Fischetti, M. (2014). The Networked Primate. Scientific American, 311(3), 82-85.

Hertlein, K. M. (2012). Digital dwelling: Technology in couple and family relationships. Family Relations, 61(3), 374-387. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00702.x

Padilla-Walker, L. M., Coyne, S. M., & Fraser, A. M. (2012). Getting a high-speed family connection: Associations between family media use and family connection. Family Relations, 61(3), 426-440. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00710.x

Steiner-Adair, C., Barker, T. (2013). The big disconnect. Protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age. New York, NY:  HarperCollins.

Reading Response #4

This week’s readings on privacy, the word “evil” as defined by Google, and Big Data all tie in together.  In today’s world, the subject of privacy is becoming scarce.  We conduct most if not all our business digitally, electronically or via the internet.  The way we socialize is done the same way via social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.  But what are we doing to ourselves when it comes to the notion of privacy?  Our whole lives are being exposed:  from our grocery purchases, to our health, to our entertainment and socializing.  For corporations this has become a tremendous way of raking in profits, as they monitor and track our spending habits and social lives.  Many times I have received coupons in the mail for a certain item that I have used in the past, or for which I will most likely use in the future, and for a split second that feeling of gratefulness overrides my question of, “Gee, I wonder how they knew I liked this product?”  When we conduct our everyday business via digital technology, we basically give up the right to privacy.  But is that a good thing?  In O’Hara’s article “Are We Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Round,” he states that giving up privacy not only affects us as individuals, it affects everyone else.  We no longer carry the sense of accountability because if our privacy is diminished, the question of responsibility for the outcome of our actions is blurred.  If we decide to post something on Facebook that will negatively affect our chances for a job later in the future, is it really our fault?  Don’t we have freedom of speech here in America?  Or is it Facebook’s fault for having that picture available to the public?

Which brings us to Bogost’s article, “What is ‘Evil’ to Google?” Are we being “evil” if we post something negative?  Is Facebook evil for exposing it?  Or is the company who didn’t hire us “evil”? Google’s motto “Don’t be evil” is not referencing the usual definition of “evil” that most of us have learned (which, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is defined as “morally reprehensible; sinful, wicked; arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct; causing harm…”).  So what does Google mean?  Different people will define the word “evil” differently.  But we shouldn’t kid ourselves if we think Google’s motto is not referring to itself.  Of course, Google is a corporation and all corporations are in business to make money.  So for Google, their motto simply means don’t do what they say is evil.

All the information Google and other companies acquire, the web searches, credit card information, purchases, cell phone information, and social networking sites are all part of the “Big Data” that exist today. We have come to rely on Big Data to run our everyday lives and for the most part, it has been tremendously successful.  Technology has made purchase transactions, research, information, entertainment and communication run at lightning speed and efficiency.  But we need to step back and remind ourselves that just because we have all this data, doesn’t mean it’s perfect.  I believe we are still in the baby phase of Big Data and the failed outcome of  Google’s Flu Trend is a good example.  Google was tracking statistical patterns of the flu, not what caused the outbreak.  Unlike the CDC, Google was more concerned about the correlation rather than the causation.   The media (another branch of Big Data) plays a huge part by sometimes magnifying a story to the point of public panic, oftentimes because it has incomplete or the wrong information.

Bigger, faster, cheaper, and more information doesn’t necessarily mean correct information. I agree with Harford when he states that Big Data is flawed and we shouldn’t fall in its traps.  There are still various glitches to Big Data and we need to be patient for it to work out all its kinks.  It will probably be years before Big Data will run perfectly; we should also be aware that it may never be perfect at all. Until then, I think we should stick to that saying of “Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet and television.”

 

Citations:

O’Hara, Kieron. “Are we Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Round?” IEEE Internet Computing 17.4 (2013): 89-92. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6547595

 

Bogost, Ian. “What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?” The Atlantic. October 15 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/what-is-evil-to-google/280573/

 

Harford, Tim. “Big Data: Are We Making a Big Mistake?” Financial Times. March 28 2014. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/21a6e7d8-b479-11e3-a09a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ziUgQIoH

Digital Technology and Family Relationships: Annotated Bibliography

BALL, A. (2012, November 11). A Life Unplugged. New York Times. p. 1.

Aimee L. Ball describes how several families tolerated the power outage after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012. Families were forced to endure days, weeks, even months without their electronic devices.  For many teens and preteens, it was the very first time in their lives that they were entirely off the grid. They could not text, watch TV, play video games or log onto social media sites.  Face-to-face conversations and actual personal visits resulted.  Children discovered board games such as Monopoly and Clue.  One mother even brought out a deck of cards, but her son wasn’t sure what to do with it.  And one teen resorted to studying for a test on state capitals by using a childhood jigsaw puzzle.  This eye-opening and at times amusing article forces us to step back and examine our dependency on digital technology.  It makes us stop and think of the pronounced differences in the way families interact before the digital age as opposed to current times, and it forces us to question what we are missing when we are all “plugged in.”

 

Barreto, S., & Adams, S. K. (2011). Digital technology and youth: A developmental approach. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 27(6), 1-6.

This article by Steven Barreto and Sue K. Adams addresses the widespread use of the Internet, cell phones, social media and video games by children ages preschool to teen. It discusses how digital technology can be very useful in education, personal growth and recreational experiences for children, but it stresses the importance of parental supervision in order to avoid negative impacts. This article is very helpful in identifying the possible risks of digital technology for the youth, such as digital dependence, reckless sharing of information in public forums, plagiarism and cyber-bullying behavior, and it also presented tips on how parents can manage their children’s use of digital technology based on age group (preschoolers, school-age children, teens and young adults).

 

Bittman, M., Rutherford, L., Brown, J., & Unsworth, L. (2011). Digital natives? New and old media and children’s outcomes. Australian Journal Of Education (ACER Press), 55(2), 161-175.

This article reveals the results from studies of different types of media exposure on Australian children ages 0 to 8 years. The researchers differentiated between “older media” (TV) and “newer media” (computer and internet), and its effects on the children’s cognitive development, vocabulary, reading and writing skills.  Certain variables such as socio-economic status and the mother’s education were taken into account.  The  researchers’ findings suggested “that at certain stages of a child’s development there is an association between language and computer access.”  This information is helpful in understanding the way children develop cognitively.

 

Bond, M. (2014). Friends in high-tech places. New Scientist, 222(2970), 40-43.

Now that social media sites have been around for years, with Facebook being the original one started in 2004, researchers have done various studies on the effects of these sites on friendship. Michael Bond’s article focuses on the impact of technology on friendship trends.  Some studies have revealed that the use of the Internet, cell phones and social media is increasing social isolation, and the average number of close friends in the United States and Great Britain is declining. Most of us can now stay in contact with a large number of “extra” people via social media, to whom Bond refers to as “weak ties,” those being high school or college friends, past and present work colleagues, casual acquaintances, people met travelling, friends of friends, and occasional strangers.  Social media has allowed us to maintain a “relationship” with these weak ties, when before today’s technology we would have allowed them to fade away.  However, Bond reveals that new research has shown that Facebook can actually improve the quality of distant relationships, and that the biggest reason for using social media sites is the need for friendship.  This article is helpful to my research in that it presented both the positive and negative effects of social media on friendship, but it also is a reminder that we as human beings rely on just a small number of close friends for the necessary social needs of warmth and belonging.

 

Fischetti, M. (2014). The Networked Primate. Scientific American, 311(3), 82-85.

Scientific American’s interview with Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reveals Turkle’s work from interviews of hundreds of people and their interactions with digital devices. Turkle states that our “always on, always on you” environment is negatively affecting relationships and some basic human strengths that we need to thrive.  Today many of us are uncomfortable with the notion of being alone, and our capacity to be alone is disappearing.  In observing hundreds of people going about their everyday lives, Turkle noticed that people tend to look at or fiddle with their phones when waiting for the bus, standing in a grocery store line, or whenever there is an opportunity for down time.  We are so immersed in our digital devices that we now hand them to our very young children, but it is children who especially need solitude.  Turkle stresses that children who do not learn to be comfortable with solitude or inner reflection tend to have a difficult time forming true relationships later in life.  Technology today has forced us to “crowd source” our lives and expect more and more out of it.  Sherry Turkle’s findings are relevant to my research in that her work involved everyday people, and she explains how technology has influenced the ways we interact in our relationships. Yet Turkle is hopeful that today’s children will grow up to set limits resulting from their own negative experiences in today’s digital world.

 

 

Hertlein, K. M. (2012). Digital dwelling: Technology in couple and family relationships. Family Relations, 61(3), 374-387. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00702.x

This is an in-depth article where Hertlein describes in detail the many aspects of how digital technology affects relationships and family life. She discusses many topics, including:

  1. Changes to the structure of a relationship.
  2. Changes to the process of a relationship.
  3. Defines the ambiguity of using digital technology (“the definition of problematic behavior varies between people.”).
  4. The social context of computer-mediated communication, which allows a person to act differently from their “real” self as opposed to their “ought” self (such as sexual chatting on the internet).
  5. The redefinition of boundaries between online and offline social relationships, and how these blurred boundaries can interfere with couples and family functioning.
  6. The redefinition of intimacy.
  7. Relationship maintenance.

Hertlein’s insightful and eye-opening article is packed with useful information that helps to understand how digital technology has influenced the dynamics of couples and families today.

 

Padilla-Walker, L. M., Coyne, S. M., & Fraser, A. M. (2012). Getting a high-speed family connection: Associations between family media use and family connection. Family Relations, 61(3), 426-440. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00710.x

In this article, Padilla-Walker, Coyne and Fraser report on the results of several studies regarding the use of electronic devices between family members. The studies were based on the use of media such as TV and video games, cell phones, email and social networking sites.  Several factors influenced the outcome of the studies such as the age of the children, level of income and education, and socio-economic status.  However, contrary to my initial belief, most of the studies revealed that use of electronic devices today is associated with high levels of family connectedness.

 

Schofield-Clark, L. (2013, June). Rethinking the role of digital media in family life. Parenting in a Digital Age.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/em/126399

Schofield-Clark discusses how parents today of young children are more comfortable using digital technology than the previous generation of parents. She reveals the results of a survey done of 2,300+ parents of children ages 0-8, and how the survey has divided parents into three categories of media use:  the Media-Centric, Media-Moderate, and Media-Light.  She acknowledges that there is a correlation between media-use and level of income, and that the responsibilities of parents have shifted more into terms of time management.   This article confirmed my belief that parents today use digital technology much more than parents of previous generations, but I was surprised to learn that today’s parents did not feel that current technology did not make parenting any easier.

 

Steiner-Adair, C., Barker, T. (2013). The big disconnect. Protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age. New York, NY:  HarperCollins.

In this book, Steiner-Adair and Barker convey their findings from studies done from their clinical work with parents and children. With today’s reliance on technology, the authors examine how digital devices are replacing human contact and interaction, and how it is negatively affecting family relationships.  This book offers advice on how to halt the technological revolution from invading the necessary significant contact between children and their parents.

 

Thompson, P. (2013). The digital natives as learners: Technology use patterns and approaches to learning. Computers & Education, 6512-33. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.12.022

This article reported on the results of a study done on 388 freshmen at a large Midwestern land grant university to determine whether the current generation of students, completely surrounded and immersed in digital technology (“Digital Natives”) think and learn differently than previous generations. It explains why Digital Natives are labeled with a distinct set of learning habits and behaviors, defines “neural plasticity,” and presents in detail their learner characteristics (such as a “desire or perceived need to multi-task,” “craving for speed and inability to tolerate slow-paced environment,” and “expectation for immediate feedback and ‘payoff’”). Among some of the research findings, one particularly interesting one revealed that not all Digital Natives are proficient on all digital technology tools, but the range of technologies that the students use may be fairly limited. This in-depth study focuses on the learning style and abilities of students labeled digitally proficient, with the outcome of some results being not quite what I expected.

DIGITAL SCHOLARSHIP LAB: The Virginia Secession Convention

The Civil War. North and South.  President Abraham Lincoln.  Slavery and Secession.  These are all subjects we have briefly read about and are familiar with from U.S. History classes in school.  But do we really understand the reasons why Virginia and the remaining Southern States seceded from the Union?  In February 1861, the delegates of Virginia elected to remain in the Union.  Two months later, they voted to secede.  Most of us, when asked what caused the Civil War, will automatically reply that it was because “the South wanted to keep slavery, and the North was against it.” But there were other complex issues that worked together to divide this country in half, and subsequently push its citizens into the bloodiest war in U.S. History.  This project focuses on Virginia’s secession from the Union immediately before the start of the Civil War, and asks the question of how did Virginia come about seceding from the Union?

This Digital Scholarship Lab explains the Virginia Secession Convention, its members and contains the fully-transcribed texts of the delegates’ debates. It also features a timeline of events starting from November 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected President, to April 1861 when Lincoln called for volunteer troops.  There is also a map showing each county’s votes for secession as of April 4 and April 17, 1861.  The state is divided into counties and by clicking onto a county; a box appears showing the percentage of slaveholders, the enslaved, and the farm value per acre.

This Lab offers a detailed picture of why Virginia chose to separate from the Union and outlines the events leading up to the Civil War.  It is a very interesting and informative online tool not just for students studying American History, but for everyone.  I have always been intrigued by the Civil War, the people living during that era and the hardships they endured, and our country’s struggle to remain as one unit during tremendous conflict.  Our state is rich in history and the past events of the 19th century have had tremendous impact socially and economically, not only in this state, but for the entire nation.

 

Citation:

Virginia Convention of 1861 – Civil War Collections – University of Richmond. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://collections.richmond.edu/secession/

Reading Response #3

“Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?” by Edward L. Ayers and the Introduction to “Knowledge Among Men” by Dillon Ripley touch upon modern digital technology of today and of the past. Digital technology today is so prevalent in society that it is rare to think that not everyone is using it or taking advantage of it.  It has transformed the media, communication and education and most of us cannot imagine our everyday lives without it.  Yet Ayers states that not all scholars are utilizing digital technology in their work and some even regard that new digital methods are “not valuable or important” for their research.  Why?

I believe that part of the answer may be found in Ripley’s Introduction. Ripley stresses the importance of learning not just by observing and reading, but by touching, handling, and involving our entire selves.  Today it is so easy to acquire information from the internet, yet most if not all of that information is second-hand, information that was written or discovered by someone else.  Ripley addresses an important issue by stating that acquiring information only by reading is not really learning; it is only obtaining already-learned information, or memorizing by rote.  Is that truly learning?  Children (and most of us) learn best when we can touch or handle something, turn it over in our hands, and experience its characteristics with all our senses.  Digital technology today has become both a blessing and a curse:  it is a blessing in that we have such a vast array of information, graphics and pictures available to us at the click of a button, but it is a curse in that it discourages new ways of thinking, and the true sense of learning can be lost.

Ayers states that “the number of scholars willing to commit themselves and their careers to digital scholarship has not kept pace with institutional opportunities.” I wonder if this is because most scholars are “old-school” and refuse to adapt to new technology.  Maybe they have a hard time integrating new concepts into tried-and-true, age-old techniques.  Or maybe these scholars perceive something that Mr. Ripley has expressed (and many of us do not comprehend):  that while our technology today is definitely efficient and groundbreaking in the area of obtaining vast amount of information, it is lacking in ways to expand our imagination. With all of technology’s wonder of impressive graphics, lightening-speed functions, and endless storage of information, it is quick to encourage us to abandon our old ways of thinking.

At the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship lab, historians and scholars are creating a digital Atlas of American History using the original The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, first published in 1932.  This is a perfect example of combining the old with the new, and further stresses Mr. Ripley’s belief that we have a need for tactile, physical objects.  The old, very-outdated Atlas from 1932 is not being thrown out entirely for a newer, digital one.  Rather, the original Atlas was used, enhanced with animation and clickable features.  Retaining the features of the original map also retains the wealth of knowledge and information that could only have been acquired eight decades ago, and allows us to briefly experience, through the eyes of the cartographers and other scientists alive during that time, this country’s landscape and environment which has long since changed and developed.

Digital technology is definitely here to stay, but I don’t believe we need to entirely throw away old methods or tools from the past. It is in our best interest to combine the features of old learning and new technology.  Preserving some of the ways scholars obtained knowledge and information in the past can only enhance our ability to learn today.

 

Citations:

Ayers, Edward. “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?” Educause Review Online. August 5 2013.Web. <http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/does-digital-scholarship-have-future>

Ripley, S. Dillon. “Introduction.” Knowledge among Men. Simon and Schuster, 1966. 7-12