The Scottish Council for Volunteer Organisations. (2013). “Internet Banner”. (Online Image.) Retrieved from [http://www.scvo.org.uk/news-campaigns-policy/campaigns/digital-participation/]
As I reflect back to my younger years, my first participation with a computer was in 1977. I was in grade 10 taking a technology course in order to fill my schedule. At that time, only the “nerds” hung around computers and someone like myself was not even allowed to touch them! My male instructor asked me to get help from “one of the boys” every time my punched tape cards would not compute! Man, or shall I say woman, how the times have changed!
Reading about the history of the Internet is like reading the history of my digital life. I grew up within this timeline and can fully relate to Schafer’s (2011) point of alienation to emancipation. I have witnessed the growth, or better put, physical shrinkage of technology. It seemed the smaller it got the bigger it became. With the usage of a closet sized computer in 1977 to manipulating technology in the palm of my hand. From alienation, “Debbie, get one of the boys to do it!” to emancipation, “Hey, let me Google that”. Or, from taking the Go Bus to George Brown College in Toronto, to participating in an online course at Brock in my pajamas. While watching a black and white television that only had 13 channels, would I ever imagine my offspring watching a television series on a tablet. I am enamoured with the Internet and the World Wide Web of today! I can’t get enough.
With the change of the Internet/Web from “the information highway” to a culture of participation (Schafer, 2011, p. 10), my digital responsibilities went from reactive to proactive. In the days of the “information highway”, I used the Web to help a child look up information for a school project or maybe sign up for online bill payments; it was simple and impersonal. As the highway changed directions, I began to feel vulnerable, not knowing who was lurking, I was composing emails in the heat of the moment and disclosing personal information to sites that I knew nothing about. I also remember hiding the fact that I had a facebook account because my friends thought it was for crazy, lonely, “I don’t have a life” people. The road was changing and it was time to change with it. I thought, “Start being proactive about participation. Learn about using the Internet/Web in this new participatory environment. Take precautions while participating online. Be digitally responsible”. I knew there was so much to learn and gain in this ever expanding environment. I needed to get off this lonely highway and use these Web 2.0 tools to my advantage. I wanted to participate socially with friends, colleagues, students and many of the great minds posting to the Web. I knew I had to be proactive in order to participate in a digitally responsible way. Hence, my completion of ADED1P32: Learning in the Digital Context and my beginning of COMM 2F00: New Media Literacy.
What about the ease of the human-computer interaction? Can technological determinism be shunned when reflecting on our role in todays digital world? When I look back at how far I have come according to the advances in technology and how it has made my life better, how can it not be determined by technology? How could I continue my education later in life while working full-time without the technology of a laptop and a wireless connection? How could my cousin from Arizona and I talk face to face without facetime? How would I stay connected with my teenage girls without a cell phone to text? How would I send lectures and notices to my students without email? Theses are examples of my affordances of a participatory culture determined by technology. I like the free search engines and social sites available to participate with my family, friends and students. Without them I have no education, no communication with distant relatives, anxiety about the whereabouts of my girls and no job. Maybe a power outage; the expense of a new laptop; or a dead battery of a cell phone is a constraint for some, but for me it is a small inconvenience that is easily dealt with to enjoy the participatory culture of my digital life.
Schafer, M. T. (2011). Bastard culture! How user participation transforms cultural production. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.