The Double-Edged Sword

Here Comes Everybody

I have started reading Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody this weekend. I am enjoying it, but my mind is buzzing with implications. He discusses how, in the same way that the printing press opened people’s minds and the telephone increased two-way communication, so has the new web applications altered how groups form and interact. He had great stories such as how one website helped a woman recover a stolen cellphone when the NYPD was not interested in pursuing the case, or how Flickr now can develop groups around local parade photos (or national disasters) without anyone being in charge. One had only to watch Twitter early this morning to see Sue Tapp, Jenny Luca, Vicki Davis and Sue Waters get together on the fly through Twitter, shift to Elluminate, and end up creating a social networking site in Google Groups:

Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety, and Success

The power of social media to rapidly pull like-minded people together for collective action without market forces or profit motives is mind-boggling!

Yet, another quote that John Krutch brought to my attention through Twitter this morning seems relevant. John was quoting something George Siemens blogged yesterday, and I am taking it out context, and yet, am not….

“…technology cuts both ways. It opens and it closes. It frees and it imprisons…”


Technology cuts both ways. It opens and it closes. It frees and it imprisons. Wow! It captures some recent feeling I have had at the personal level. I have embraced social media and it has certainly opened new avenues of knowledge and communication, but has also tied up a lot of time and energy, leaving me at times feeling trapped and imprisoned by this technology.

Shirky raises some interesting questions regarding this new empowering technology…question similar to those asked by George Siemens. I feel connected with an amazing worldwide collection of amazing “friends,” yet see fewer and fewer connections with two of my office mates who work down the hall. Our office is splitting into Twitters and non-Twitters (and both sides proud of the fact). I have joined new groups fighting technologically relevant issues worldwide, and joining less with members of my local team. This technology is cutting both ways, it is opening some doors and closing others, it is creating the “haves” and the “have-nots.” This is an unsettling time and will work itself out…but I hope to feel freer and not imprisoned as time passes.

Anyone else feeling this angst???

[Photo Credit: Redwolfoz]

4 thoughts on “The Double-Edged Sword

  1. Yes Britt, me!! This is exactly the feeling learning and growing in this digital world creates. You feel a connection with like minded people you have never physically met, and less connection with those in your physical presence who don’t ‘get’ what all the fuss is about. I’m having to work hard at maintaining connections in both worlds. It is intense maintaining the digital end of things, but I feel so rewarded and enriched by the experience. I feel like my friends and family are tuning out because they are not on the same page, but I recognise that these relationships are vital and I need to make the effort to connect at this end also. Finding balance is the hard part. I’m thankful that my husband gets it, and recognises that this is important for me professionally. Thanks for linking on my blog – can’t wait to read it. We’ve just ordered it from Amazon – don’t think it’s readily available in Australia yet.

  2. Yes, Britt, I definitely feel the angst. Because of things going on in my life right now, I have less time to give to developing and nurturing my PLE. I miss it, but at the same time, I’m more connected to many of the parts of my “real life” that had begun to fall away. It’s such a balancing act!

    I think it goes in cycles, too, where sometimes we’re consumed by all that we can do online and then at other times we just need to get away from it. We all have to find our personal balance points.

  3. Thanks Michele and Jenny for your thoughts. I think that it is helpful to realize we are all feeling similar tugs and pulls on our attention and energy!

  4. Thanks Britt It was pretty exciting watching it all happen. I started a group on Diigo for Australian/ NZ educators so we could perhaps have a forum for issues specific for our situations here and after it hit 37 members I thought I would try and have a meet-up and explore flash meeting which I had booking rights for but had never used. Twenty people came to the meeting and the next meeting will be next Sunday 8pm AEST. then when the booking ran out we moved to ustream, thanks to Sue waters and then on to Elluminate.
    For some of the members it was a really amazing first chance to see the power of the web to build real networks and it was also a great chance for some new links to be made. Vicki Davis and Kate H came on from the Northern hemisphere and they moved it on to much more serious issues and the digital citizenship group was started. Vicki is amazing the way she can cut to the point and also use the net to actually support the technology. A very empowering evening which continues to echo around the blogosphere. Hope we can meet there or on twitter!

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