Craig Maudlin (clm) Mon 30 Apr 12 11:08
Hi Howard, really enjoying Net Smart. > we are human precisely because we co-evolve with our technologies... Certainly a core human characteristic is our tool making and using abilities. But we often seem to think of technological artifacts as essentially external -- almost taking on a life of their own. The section head in your book "(Using) the Internet Makes Us Stupid (or Not)" suggests the related, but crucial question: Is it us or the Internet that's responsible? You are suggesting that to become net smart, we need to take more responsibility for our own behavior on the net. What are the prospects for moving the public framing of such questions away from the perspective that sees technology as something that is generally imposed on us?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 30 Apr 12 11:27
Along with that, Howard, can you talk a bit about co-evolution and augmentation; how these technologies and ourselves are beginning to blend? This will have an impact on the evolution of consciousness, in the manner you mentioned before, yes?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Tue 1 May 12 10:23
Jon -- I always advocate creating a lightweight structure to start with when using wikis, to avoid that kind of structurelessness vertigo. Craig -- Hi! Great to hear from you again. The whole issue of technological determinism is arguable. Probably the strongest and most articulate advocate in favor of the view that technologies are autonomous is Langdon Winner, who I always take seriously. But many cases indicate that social, psychological, and cultural factors -- how people perceive and use technologies in their living context -- can be decisive. The printing press is a case in point. It was invented in China and Korea centuries before Gutenberg. In addition to the technical difficulties of ideographic versus alphabetic writing, there were strong cultural factors that led to the dominance of Europe in the print era. China had a strong central government (which had reversed China's sea exploration by fiat); Europe had many competing states. China's religious environment was relatively stable; Europe was in the throes of the Reformation -- and it didn't hurt that Protestant theology was all about reading your own Bible at a time when printers were looking for new markets. Epidemics had severely reduced the European population in previous years, and there was a surplus of used linen clothing, which helped drop the price of paper. You see where I'm heading. In terms of online technologies, we've seen innovation coming from physics laboratories in Switzerland, dormitories in California -- the network is an innovation amplifier as well as an innovation. You will note that in the book I am very careful to frame statements in terms of human agency. Whether or not determinism is the correct viewpoint, I see it as disempowering. Ted, note that while Engelbart didn't talk about Darwinian evolution, he did emphasize the "bootstrapping" process of co-evolution of inventors and machines to think with. People who built the first augmentation technologies were the users of those technologies, and they used them to build improved augmentation technologies. In terms of the evolution of consciousness, I did touch on that in Smart Mobs -- speech, writing, the alphabet, printing press, telephone, Internet were all inventions that enabled people to think and communicate more effectively and in new ways, and literate populations, equipped with better thinking tools, created ways of life that enabled human populations to expand and to live in environments that were previously inhospitable. The results of civilization are a mixed bag. For more on that, see the book Pandora's Seed. I was very much taken by Teilhard de Chardin's notion of a noosphere when I was an undergraduate, and while I don't really subscribe very much to mystical ideas of technologically-mediated worldbrains, the Web does seem increasingly like a noosphere.
Roland Legrand (roland) Tue 1 May 12 14:46
Howard, you recommend tools for crap detection, curation, social dashboards and collaborative work. What tool would you like to emerge in this regard - something which has not yet been developed in a satisfactory way, but which would fulfill important needs of net smart people? But also, are there developments which seem like a loss - for instance it seems rss-feeds are less promoted these days (at Google and other important venues) and there is this trend toward an internet of apps - which sometimes seems as the rebirth of the walled gardens.
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Tue 1 May 12 17:02
In the Crap Detection chapter I write about several approaches that are attempting to combine social and algorithmic means of adding automated crap detection -- a browser add-on, for example. RSS is less promoted, but I don't see it going away. That means a knowledge-gap between those who do and don't know how to use RSS+search+Twitter, etc to roll their own information radars. I've written in all my books about being alert and politically active regarding attempts by the state and corporate interests to enclose and otherwise gain power of the Web. In regard to the surveillance state and dataveillance markets, I think personal liberties have somewhat irrevocably lost ground, particularly since 9/11.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 May 12 09:57
Can you say more about loss of liberty - how you think that's happened, what specific freedoms have been challenged? I'm always fascinated by the conflict between assertions of liberty and assertions of some forms of higher level control. Libertarians talk about doing away with laws and regulations that limit freedoms, especially that limit free markets. However deregulated finance markets tend to blow up, as we've seen recently. How important are freedoms, how valid is a state claim to limit freedoms? How do we draw the line?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 May 12 09:58
(That should have said "a state claim to a right to limit freedoms"...)
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Wed 2 May 12 12:14
Here's one: " right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." We have video cameras on the street that can recognize individual faces, a million square foot NSA surveillance computation center being built in Utah (and, according to one prominent whistle-blower, to spy on US citizens, which was forbidden previously), the legalization of drone aircraft, massive dataveillance. And it's amazing that the question "what freedoms" have been challenged can even be asked. For the most part, American citizens have accepted outrageous acts like the extrajudicial killing of American citizens and the kinds of surveillance I noted. How valid is a state claim to limit freedoms? This isn't my bailiwick, but of course any state has the right to take measures to defend the safety of its citizens. At which point does surveillance and control outweigh safety? There is no such thing as a free and fair market. Someone needs to punish the people who put their thumbs on the scales. If a corporation publishes its financial data, then it's not a free market if those reports are not independently audited and the auditors are prohibited from accepting bribes. So I'm somewhat libertarian, but I contest this business about regulation killing markets. This is getting far beyond Net Smart, however.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 2 May 12 12:24
Howard, it's so great to see you here. And thank you for this book! I owe you a personal debt of gratitude for your leadership and inspiration here int he WELL, where I did a hell of a lot of growing up with your help.
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Wed 2 May 12 12:44
Hello, David! And thank you for your role in making the WELL a real community. I clearly remember the first time we met. Do you? It was at the bandstand in Golden Gate Park between the DeYoung and the Academy. You were just moving out of my neighborhood to the East Bay. We all helped each other, did we not?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Wed 2 May 12 13:32
By the way, some of you may remember my 3 year old daughter running around WELL parties. Here she is, interviewing me about Net Smart for Aughors@Google (where she now works). http://youtu.be/vajSK1jV56A
jelly fish challenged (reet) Wed 2 May 12 13:48
David Gans (tnf) Thu 3 May 12 07:37
> the bandstand in Golden Gate Park between the DeYoung and the Academy. You > were just moving out of my neighborhood to the East Bay. Was that a WELL gathering that took place kinda of under a tree? WHat I remember most about that day was walking up with my then-girlfriend, decidedly not a techie, and hearing Hugh Daniel speaking the punchline of a story: "Bang fortune minus O," he said, generating much laughter among those around him and an immense question mark over the head of my companion.
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Thu 3 May 12 09:42
I think that WELL gathering in the Arboretum was after I met you. I still have a photograph of me holding Mamie at that Arboretum party. It was cold and foggy.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 3 May 12 11:17
I don't know that the discussion of freedom/privacy and constraint thereof is too far off topic. The skills you want people to learn are just the skills they'll need to protect their freedoms, their privacy, and a way of life we took for granted (possibly too much for granted) in the latter part of the 20th century. One protection we've had a reasonably strong, active, and often courageous Fourth Estate. However market support for in-depth journalism is evaporating. I recently attended a journalism conference where there was much excitement about new, computer-mediated tools for gathering and publishing news, but a complete fog about how to make the business of news work, and how to ensure funding for the kind of deep and sustained investigations we often need to protect our freedoms. We the people may have to do some of that work. Your chapter on social-digital know-how and collective intelligence should be required reading for every citizen, if not the whole book. What are some good examples of emerging platforms for collective intelligence? Where do we see collaborative news gathering by professionals working with citizen journalists?
Elin Whitney-Smith (elin) Fri 4 May 12 14:46
I think wherever skills disappear others will arise to take their place. Bloggers and fact checking sites are taking the place of investigative journalists. The skills are being deployed by different people in different ways. In the introduction (p.14) you quote Nicholas Carrs as saying that the internet is changing how we thinks so that we are losing an essential ability to focus and dive deep. Probably analogous to the shift from scrolls to codex (1st to 6th century CE), then people probably said we would lose the ability to think rationally since information could now be accessed randomly.
Elin Whitney-Smith (elin) Fri 4 May 12 14:47
Just watched the interview - good on both you and Mamie!
Elin Whitney-Smith (elin) Fri 4 May 12 15:22
In Nicholas Carrs Atlantic article Is Google making us stupid? he quotes Maryanne Wolf as saying that deep reading is indistinguishable from deep thinking yet for many, me included, writing is the best access to deep thinking yes writing in response to reading and thinking but writing nonetheless. Thus, Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. (Francis Bacon) The internet provides people with undreamed access to both conference and writing. Carr in his essay quotes playwright Richard Foreman as predicting that we will be spread too thin, to become pancake people. Given that the ideal of a liberal education was to know something about much and to be aware of many perspectives it could be described as pancake education. Not long ago, and probably still, people decry the tendency of colleges and universities to create narrow specialists rather than liberal scholars. Is the internet the antidote? Finally the world of the Western Tradition that Forman and Carr extol: Western culture, in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and cathedral-like structure of the highly educated and articulate personalitya man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West. is an elitist, male dominated, Euro-centric world view that again, the internet may actually correct.
Craig Maudlin (clm) Fri 4 May 12 17:49
Thanks, Elin. Now I've read that article twice. I'm tempted to say that the only people that really need to read it, won't. Or maybe I should point out that if being a flibbertigibbet was Google's fault, we wouldn't have invented the word so long ago. Perhaps it's enough to point out that the solution to Net Dumb is Net Smart.
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Fri 4 May 12 19:11
I confess that since I stopped teaching digital journalism I've stopped tracking the rapidly-moving developments. I bet you know more about what's happening in regard to citizen journalism than I do right now, Jon. If you want to look at it that way, I've been writing about computer-mediated collaboration for a long time, from virtual communities to smart mobs. When I started thinking about and researching the chapter for Net Smart, it became clear that multiple genres and literacies of mediated collaboration are emerging -- virtual communities and smart mobs, but also crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, collective intelligence, collaborative consumption, distributed computation, social production, each with its distinct advantages, barriers, heuristics. A lot is happening with scientific collaboration -- the way researchers around the world put together ad-hoc networks and worked literally around the clock on identifying SARS comes to mind (http://www.who.int/csr/sars/project/en/), INSTEDD is proactively trying to forecast and prevent epidemics and respond quickly to medical emergencies (http://www.slideshare.net/fullscreen/InSTEDD/introduction-to-instedd/1), Ushahidi and crisis mapping (http://ushahidi.com), HIV research by online gamers (http://www.nature.com/nsmb/journal/v18/n10/abs/nsmb.2119.html), networked science (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204644504576653573191370088.html ) -- those are a few of many examples I've collected lately.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 May 12 15:34
One downside of online collaboration is that it's not always clear who's in the mix and how engaged they are in the collaboration. What are some best practices for making a virtual, distributed collaboration work?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Sun 6 May 12 11:28
You hint at one of the answers in your question, John -- the better people know each other or at least know something of each other, the richer the collaboration is likely to be (although there are forms of collaboration such as crowdsourcing that don't require people to know anything about each other). So informal channels of communication seem to be helpful -- at least they have been in open source production, in Wikipedia, in the creation of the Internet and the Web. Be careful about extrinsic rewards, especially financial, which can kill the collaborative spirit in some circumstances. But leaderboards can be useful. Regular synchronous meetings with platforms like Googlt+ Hangouts or Blackboard Collaborate have worked with me when people spend most of t heir time communicating asynchronously. And of course, when there are possibilities for face to face meetings, take them. And don't forget that idle chit-chat lubricates trust, which leads to more contributions, so encourage off-topic conversations.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 6 May 12 14:46
Twitter chats seem are popular, yet it seems like a media mismatch for what people are trying to do - i.e. taking a medium created for short burst drive-by "microblog" post and try to adapt it for sustained conversation. Do you have any thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of Twitter, and where it best fits in a suite of tools for collaboration?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Sun 6 May 12 16:14
I haven't hung out on the WELL in many years. Are you telling me that people no longer use "Send?" For the kind of person who is amused rather than confused by multiple channels, part of the fun of the WELL for me was the mixture of long, thoughtful (or not) asynchronous chunks of writing with short, synchronous bursts. Twitter chat is not really such a great medium, but it IS a way to draw people into a community, since it is open to anyone who uses the hashtag -- the educators on Twitter have a regular, lively tweetchat (#edchat) and there are others who meet regularly. I did write at some length in the book about Twitter, which was adopted from the piece I wrote some time ago when I got tired of shallow critiques of Twitter who didn't know how to use it: http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/05/11/twitter-literacy-i-refuse-to-make- up-a-twittery-name-for-it/
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 7 May 12 12:19
Many people don't use "send" because they're not using the command-line picospan interface, they're here via the WELL Engaged web interface instead. However there are so many alternatives now for instant messaging, I'm sure there's still many combining async with realtime yak. Twitter can be adapted to so many uses. I first learned of it at SXSW 2007, where it started building a critical mass of adopters; we were using it there to coordinate ad hoc meetings. SXSW was starting to grow, it was harder to find your friends in familiar places, and great to have a way to coordinate on the fly. I found myself comparing Twitter to the sort of IRC chatrooms you leave open as you're doing other stuff, and jump in and out of conversations as they're happening in realtime. As you say in the book, trying to read Twitter as somehow continuous, keeping up with every post, could drive you stark raving mad. Dipping in and out at random can be interesting, information flow as i ching, and there are structured ways to search and track conversations. I thought Facebook was going to die at one point, but it succeeded - by making its activity stream a bit more like Twitter.
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