As I read the opening chapters of Jeff Utecht’s book, Reach, I was intrigued by the distinction he made about communities and networks. Immediately after reading the section, being a visual learner, I scribbled a quick diagram for me to make sense of what I had just read.
I started analyzing the ways in which I had interacted, socialized, and utilized the technological tools I had at my disposal. My first thought went to ICQ (I was surprised to find that it is still around), an instant messaging app with a very memorable “uh oh” sound effect (if you really want to hear it, click here). I remember downloading ICQ, allowing me to be part of the community that used this messaging program, and searching and adding individual friends I wanted to converse with to build my network. I did something pretty similar with MSN and AIM, adding to my network of “friends” one individual at a time. Then, Six Degrees and Facebook came into my life where I was able to see and interact with (if I chose to) community members who were not my immediate friends or family. This allowed me to expand my network into people I didn’t know.
This thought gave me pause as I read the idea of “Hanging Out” in “Living with New Media.” Students that I work with will be entering a world where Facebook and other forms of social networking is almost a necessary dimension in their social livelihood. Though students use these tools for various reasons and in varying ways (sharing entertainment, flirting, dating, cultivating a relationships, etc.) the idea of safety comes to mind. I am a strong believer in the power of social networks and the amount of positive effects they can bring to the user. However, I am also aware of the negative aspects or the repercussions of poor choices while engaging in social activities on these sites. A former colleague at the School at Columbia University , Karen Blumberg (@karenblumberg) showed me this PSA created by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
As I viewed this video again, I thought about how participation in networks for social reasons or to learn are extremely important. However, it is necessary for users to consider who our intended and unintended audience of what we post on the internet are. As individuals, there is a need to think about the purpose of what we do online, thinking about what and what we share. And, as teachers, we need to support and teach students to make intentional and carefully considered choices on the internet.