Friday, July 18, 2008

Online, offline... clashes and complements

"Students believe that Bebo is our site, our space to do what we wish to do, and they see commercial companies accessing Bebo as being invaded. It is an arena of contest."Universities are keen to use social networking sites as a means of marketing their university and connecting with students, but many academics think this may be playing with fire."Of course the state, universities and commercial organisation, are using social networking sites to access young people and of course social networking sites are actually run by commercial companies and are a commercial space, which has been colonised by students," said Atton. "They should understand it cuts both ways and they should see the small print that the outside world peers inside the subculture to observe what they're doing. They are open to surveillance. Then there is also the question about the free expression of the academy. As Noam Chomsky said, 'you can't just be in favour of free speech for the ideas that you like.'
When are online student comments free expression, and when are they harassment? | Students |

Interesting article... and something I've been mulling over for a while, both on an institutional and personal level.  I am always really careful about what I say online - I am aware of the little trail of electronic footprints which can be connected back to me at any point and I think it does affect the amount of thought I give to whatever I write.  I still have questions in my mind about the appropriateness of universities linking themselves to their students via social networking / other web 2.0 sites.  I wonder that even if the links are only invited inwards, i.e. please feel free to connect to our central hub to form your own personal learning environment... there are significant issues about boundaries and privacy of which both parties need a greater awareness.

Do we encourage the formation of online communities amongst educators and students, likening it to the equivalent of the staff room / student union... then pull the rug by going 'actually, we can hear you so you can't say that'?  I still feel that we're thinking in terms of old norms and conventions and the one can't be likened to the other in any meaningful way.  Digital literacy is not literacy literacy.  It's complex, it leaves great big marks everywhere you go... and until there's a global unsend feature, you put your online foot in it once, and it can haunt you for a hugely long time and on a scale you never imagined.
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