“History of Communication” Final Blog Post

Throughout the semester we examined some points in history that provoke thought about human development, media communications, and the impact of technology on society.  In this essay I wish to relate some of those ideas to current educational opportunities.  Specifically, I wish to discuss the connection between history of communication, present educational opportunities afforded by digital technology, and student’s individual goals.  Inspired by the text we read and the blogging practice that we were engaged in throughout the semester, combined with face-to-face classroom discussions lead by instructors and students, I assert that student-centered education and user-driven media communication could form a fruitful bond, which (when used thoughtfully) could enhance a positive educational outcome and assist on the creation of better opportunities for disadvantaged communities.

One experience that inspired me was an “Upgrading Your Curriculum” workshop that I participated in (as part of my research fellowship at “Harlem Schools Partnership”, Teachers College, December 15th, 2009) presented by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs.  In her www.Curriculum21.com resource network Dr. Jacobs emphasized the importance of the connection between our heritage (the richness of our individual and collective background), our community (i.e. the classroom), and (this is the weakest link) – the student’s future goals.  Through web technologies teachers and students from around the globe could enhance the practice of knowledge sharing and discourse regardless of geographical and other boundaries.  This affordance could be especially valuable for third world countries or poor neighborhoods, which may not have the same educational wealth; yet through digital technologies and effective outreach initiatives could leverage on the ability to transport teaching and learning methodologies via new channels of communication.  One organization that explores such opportunities is the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.

Early in September we examined the globalization phenomenon and technological advance from multiple perspectives. Responding to Deibert (1997) and McClintok’s (2009) text, and reading “Globalization: A Very Short Introduction” (Steger, 2009), I realized that there is more than meets the eye regarding new communication technologies and its effect on human thought.  Although there seemed to be a consensus among classmates that the Internet is the main cause for globalization, I was intrigued to investigate (collaboratively and individually) the meaning of Internet technologies in becoming significant in our daily lives, on a personal, commercial, professional and political level.  How did this change (dependence) come about?  What is the effect of such cultural shifts on abstract thinking and deep discourse?  Examining such changes from the historical, scholarly and critical points of view became a curiosity for me related to my learning experience at the “History of Communications” course, and reflections on my blog posts allowed me to connect ideas to my personal experience and interest.

Our readings, blog postings and class discussions challenged the cultural, social and fragmental engagement in multi-media pieces of web-based interactions.  We read Homer’s Iliad (written version is usually dated to 8th Century BC), and Havelock’s Preface to Plato (1963), discussing the influential tradition of oral poetry in Ancient Greece.  By way of my blog posts I was pondering over questions like what is the meaning of “the truth” in today’s context?  Is there one “truth” (as described by Plato’s cave allegory)?  Should educators support students to acquire information as a quest after their own truth?  Does the transparent display of multiple perspectives of “the truth” mean that there are different fragments of “the truth”, depended on the context and the given moment?

French theorist Bruno Latour added a political layer to people’s perception of “the truth”, claiming that (political) epistemology refers to the integration of politics and scientific validity into everyday life, and that people tend to use Science (the politicization of “the sciences”) as the ultimate explanation of something (Latour, 2004).  Latour’s critique of the Cave allegory, followed by the classroom discussion prompted me to read more of Latour’s recent work, which inspired my blog post, suggesting that Latour’s recent view about globalization and modern technology is that it is utopian and “homeless” (Latour, 2009).

Therefore, on the one hand we examined emerging technology’s strength and value from the historical perspective, suggesting that there is a great benefit for speed and convenience of interaction (Carey, 1989), as to variety of forms and mobility of communication.  On the other hand, such developments create a new arrangement of power and control (Berlinger, 1986).  This means that only those with access to new technologies (i.e. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as discussed on my blog post) will have social power and status, ultimately being accused of monopoly, while increasing the gap between the “have” and “have not”.

Furthermore, the choice we are making as a society to validate and accept the new way of communication could lead us to dig our own grave of submission to Capitalism (Moretti, in class, 2009) and neglecting our sense of self.  The final text by Birkerts (1994) argues that book and literature reading was our “agency for self-making”, inwardness and self-reflection, whereas digital technologies are sacrificing our souls for the sake of “nasty” electronic post-modernity.  As a society, we are accepting and practicing quantity over quality.  There are two sides to the coin.

In summary, it is important to understand the historical, philosophical, critical and sequential process of communication and emerging technology in order to consider the usage of digital communications as a teaching and learning tool.  Educators will often find both benefits and disadvantages, and will have to make a decision according to specific goals and circumstances.  For example, the “History of Communication” professors’ choice for blogging formed a specific structure of interaction within the class.  For me, some of the benefits of blogging as a learner include transparency of the thinking process, peer-pressure of public display that adds to a competitive nature, out-of-classroom dialogue and self-expression (“life is a stage”); access to multiple perspectives and ultimately the enhancement of a classroom community (“imagined community”?), by which people’s blogs exposed their “selves” and their ideas.  The casual tone and richness of personal examples can be regarded either an advantage or disadvantage – on the one hand it creates an eye-level friendly dialogue environment, but on the other hand it neglects a formal and more rigid structure appropriate to scholarly discourse.  Another disadvantage can be the amount of time spent on the computer searching and producing a blog artifact in place of reading and writing.

Finally, the blogging practice relates to my personal goal as a student, which is (among other goals that are more academic in nature) acquiring new media production skills so I could be better prepared for future employment.  As an Ivy-League school Teachers College at Columbia University is preparing me to be one of the future professionals who would carry their knowledge in a 21st Century skills package.  As a result, I would feel empowered by my new capability to produce and maintain a blog, and even accumulate eyeballs and comments to my blog journal.  I already learned how to redirect my own URL (www.PazitLevitan.com) to my blog, and refer to it from other social networks platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.  This will, without a doubt, increase my socio-economic status, and will be regarded as a great benefit on my resume, assuming that most jobs that I will apply for would have appreciation to “cutting-edge new media technology skills”.  Would anyone be hired for a prestigious job in the academia without such digital communication skills?  Without intending to do so, another Capitalist is being produced through the choice to conduct a blogging-centered classroom.  Having said that, I assure my blog readers that your servant blogger cares about the “have not”, and with my newly acquired digital media literacy I will seek the education, empowerment and improvement of the lives of the less fortunate – those who did not have the academic opportunity to be trained with new media competence.

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December 17, 2009. Columbia University Doctorate, Family. Leave a comment.

Reflections on my Origin and Nationalism

Family in Jerusalem

Jerusalem - "territorial and social space inherited from the prerevolutionary past"?

Here I am a young child in Jerusalem on a family trip, smelling the spices of the old city, feeling the sharp edges of the physically cold (and colorfully warm) nostalgic and ancient stone, making a connection to my community through stories about our nation’s history, struggles and victories… how could I not feel pride and responsibility for growing up Jewish in a declared Jewish State?

Benedict Anderson, in his book “Imagined Communities” (1983) argues that nationalism is a cultural artifact of a particular past, and that as such it has been legitimated with a profound emotional legitimacy.  Nationalism invents nations and communities, which is spread out much beyond a certain boundary of one nation.

According to Anderson, the cultural roots of nationalism have a strong affinity with religious imaginings.  Religion attempts to explain destiny.  Nationalism, with its two cultural systems (“religious community” and “dynastic realm”) are imaginable mainly through the medium of a sacred language and written script.

Reading this week’s text I remember growing up with the embrace of the Hebrew language as a part of my deeply-rooted culture.  It is our biblical (classical) language, our historical language, our scholarly language and our cultural Jewish language.  Even though less than seven million people speak the language on a daily basis, its sacredness and cultural meaning as a community signifier goes way beyond its numerical reach.

My life is filled with visual representations of the sacred community, available anywhere, anytime.  Whenever I need an injection of a sense of belonging I can read Israeli news in the Hebrew language on my mobile phone by one finger tap.  I live in New York City, raise American children, yet I still stand up silently every year for one minute in honor of Hebrew soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the Jewish Nation – I do it almost automatically.

Intellectually, it may be controversial to salute people who kill and sacrifice their lives for a piece of land, especially when knowing that the Middle East conflict is still alive and so painful (to people on both sides).  I wish I knew what to do to end this violent conflict.  On the other hand, the emotional aspect of nationalism that Anderson touches upon and its power to to connect people and thinking through cultural and historical context resonate with my sense of belonging to a Jewish and Israeli culture.

Additionally, Anderson claims that print-capitalism made it possible for more people to think about themselves, and to relate themselves to others in profoundly new ways.  I wonder whether new computer-mediated technologies change the way communities are imagined.  In my opinion, it does not change communal cultural bonding in a profound way.  People find their own “imagined communities” online in a similar manner that they do offline. Online social networks are just as “limited” as other communication networks.  As a professional Internet Marketer and Online Communications Developer who has attended various workshops and panel discussions debating digital communications I remember one message being highlighted within the industry – THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL.  “Localized” messages reach people on a visceral level.

As Anderson writes on page 6: “All communities larger than primoridal villages of face-to-face contacy (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined”.

November 16, 2009. Columbia University Doctorate, Family. 4 comments.

Week 8: My Facehook on Facebook

This week we read Donath and Boyd’s (2004) interesting article entitled “Public Displays of Connection“, discussing identity, personal information, shared values and social status as key elements in online social networks. I especially enjoyed the following class discussion about power and status establishment through social network interaction. There are “popular” Facebook friends, most of whom are savvy and literate with manipulating both the technology and the social circle.

Descriptive or Deceptive? This week I was busy working on midterm papers and group projects, while trick or treating with my kids (reflecting on another social pressure of a holiday that I never celebrated as a kid growing up in Israel, but since it’s a sweet ritual, why not make your kids happy and have some fun yourself?) Following the rather exhausting (yet fun) experience I posted myself dressed up “by day” and “by night” on Facebook. I felt that I would send different photos to different “friends” if I had the time, but since I had to be efficient with my energy, and still felt the need to “share” (why?), I chose the most common identity on Facebook – fun, family-oriented and social by day and single (big illusion!) and sexy by night. Fantasy? Escapism? Desired identity? Perhaps.  Donath and Boyd offer another angle: “a public display of connections can make someone else establish that they are you” (pg. 76).
That’s my Facehook on Facebook (and possibly outside of it).  It may seem shallow not discussing the meaning and the emotion of the Halloween experience, but it certainly fits in the social quilt. And I admit that I fell for my own energy-promoting images (just staring at my constructed identity uplifted my energy), and was satisfied with my steady progression at Facebook literacy.
ps – I have great mentors. During a chat a Facebook friend suggested to use less smiley face icons while chatting. It’s not considered cool! LOL

November 1, 2008. Tags: , , , . Columbia University Doctorate, Family. Leave a comment.

Dr. Kinzer’s Class

In the Social and Communicative Aspects of the Internet and other ICTs class we were asked to create our own blog for the purpose of writing our research journal.  In this category I will be expressing my thoughts about literature and research questions related to the weekly readings and class discussions.

I included a photo of myself with my two-year old boy, Geffen, as Professor Kinzer and some fellow students recalled that I started my doctoral degree studies two years ago with a two-week old baby in my arms.  Today Geffen is an active boy who likes to run around and express himself verbally even without raising his hand, so it would be difficult to bring him along to class without interruption.  Thus, this photo pays a (still) tribute to the little visitor tradition in the first class of the semester.

September 10, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , . Columbia University Doctorate, Family. Leave a comment.