The Virtual Revoltion Programme 3

I loved the dramatic “Dr Who” like music that accompanied the first twenty minutes or so of this programme. It summed up the melodrama of the main idea that the web is not free and that we are paying for it by giving all our details away.

So I thought about this and I had a couple of issues that I want to explore. Firstly, if Google is aiming for world domination then what would the world be like if it was just switched off overnight? I suspect that we’d all be “Bingers” or that the convenience of a massive and easily accessible search engine would lead to new players in the market to take Google’s place.

I am aware of the fact that advertising is omnipresent in web-pages or even on blogs but then again I can choose to ignore the advertising or switch it off when it infuriating appears as a pop-up before I can look at some interesting site.

If I did have to pay for “Youtube” for example, I would probably not use it very much, if at all and suddenly I could not access many of the marvellous Ted Talks that I am always going on or Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture that I managed to see last week and which kept me enthralled and amazed for well over an hour.

Yes the internet is a commercial playground and has been colonised by the captains of industry and commerce to further their wares but it also the means for children, students in higher education and adults who want to increase their learning to get access to many things that were denied to them before. How many of these would be accessed if there was a price to pay (and I mean money here).

Only at the very end was the excitement of the net made clear and so far in this series I have seen little of the tremendous potential of the web in education but I know that Amazon is an endless bookstore and may be influencing what I might purchase in the future!

I am afraid that this programme was very much back to the simplistic statements of the first programme and with many of the criticisms that I made then returning about a lot of wonderful locations being used needlessly (here I am in San Francisco with palm trees and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, here I am in New York).

Next week they are going to be looking at children and the net. I can already imagine the tone of the programme because they prefaced it by saying that this is the “Facebook generation” well there you go, we shall be looking at how all they do is post silly remarks on facebook, Tweet endlessly and get a bit of cyber-bullying in for good measure. But if that is the case, then again, there is very much oversimplification going on. I happen to know that there is some amazing work being done by students all across the world using the net and that they are collaborating across continents. (Please see my earlier posting on “The Flat Classroom Project”).

So far in this series I saw a small snippet of Howard Rheingold in programme 1 but have yet to see some of the more interesting figures in education and the potential of new technology being interviewed. What about George Lucas and the Edutopia Project? I recommended Curtis Bonk before the programme began but he has not been interviewed. If you’ve never heard of him or his ideas then I suggest that you look up yet another earlier post I did on his book “The World Is Open”.

I think that one of Curtis’ main points in his book is that the world is open because the technology is free (monetarily). I understand the arguments that have been put forward by Programme 2 but believe that there is a trade off here about the access to the huge knowledge-base that is the internet and the fact that we may be dogged by indiscretions 40 years after we have done them… but then again the papers dredge up the ancient indiscretions of every new celebrity that sparkles before their light goes out….. and do we really care… should we really care?

That there is a lot of knowledge about us given away freely is certainly frightening but then again the example of the Dutch collection of data that was so horribly used by the Nazis in World War 2 just shows that there has long been a problem with the ownership and potential misuse of data.

If we closed down Google and Youtube’s access to our data would that lessen the potential for important data to be held about us by Governments and other organisations to be misused at some time in the future?

Those of us who are trying to widen the use of the internet in schools believe that the free access to information and collaboration for students may help us combat authoritarianism in the future, that we are trying to produce global citizens who are interested in breaking down barriers of race, religion and nationality.

I wonder how much of this point-of-view has been looked at in these programmes.


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