My self-directed learningThe self-directed learning remains one of my favorite aspects of the class for me. Although not all students enjoyed the lack of strict requirements, I felt that it allowed me to explore topics that were actually interesting to me, whilst still helping in-class learning. Much of the information I consumed came from books like Vindication of the Rights of Women and Napoleon: A Life because that's what I love. The Right's of Women was written by a Mary Wollstonecraft a leading feminist leader in the 1800s. This book allowed me to tap into the leading arguments of the day on the rights of women, and what epistemology they used. Napoleon: A Life gave me a hindsight view of history and allowed me to understand the importance of religion and changing social classes in the French Revolution. I also gained some useful knowledge from other media such as YouTube videos about famous enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and Thomas Paine. I even watched a Netflix mini series about Cyber Crime. By watching this mini series I gained valuable knowledge about how the digital age is being changed by the advances in cyber crime. Overall my self directed learning allowed me to see the topics we discussed through the lens of people who actually lived during that time. This gave me a deeper understanding of the impact of history on our present day.
My Evolving Project
Where my project started and where it ended looks like the results of a game of Telestrations, where the picture you draw at the beginning looks nothing like the final picture.This change in topics require changes along the way but really centered around one major pivot, switching from ending foreign aid to how social media builds real friendships.
My initial idea was to focus on why we should end governments giving foreign aid and instead give people the power to help others. This initial blog post was nothing more than a few rather quickly drawn note cards with a small amount of text. As I discussed this idea with my original cohort, Chloe Kent and Nathan Lambert,I realized that although this topic was currently relevant it didn't really have the personal angle that we discussed in class. One day in class we were discussing the excellent personal angle Alec Hammond's blog post it hit me; I should write about Quidditch!
As I thought about our discussions on social media and digital communication throughout the semester I quickly realized that social media and other digital tools were making new friendships possible. This went against popular opinion on the inherent evil of social media. My blog post A Case Study in Quidditch quickly became the most viewed blog on the class blog. I knew then that I had found a topic that could actually grab people's attention. I shared it on social media and the response was similar. Through social media and in person discussion with friends and fellow Quidditch players I gained valuable insight on my argument and design, eventually leading to my final post Social Media is Building Real Friendships: A Case Study in Quidditch. A much more polished post.
Communication and History
Communication shapes the lens through which we view both the past and the present. The way we tell our stories and the stories of others through communication not only affects how our history books present history, it is also the driving force behind many of the most important events in human history. Communication has such a powerful effect because it allows people to spread ideas, both good and bad. These ideas lead people to take action from the liberating idea that all men are created equal of the American Revolution, to the demagoguery of politically leaders in the 2016 election. One was spread on parchment and the other through digital media but both shaped history.
Studying history has given me a greater appreciation of the power of communication in our present day. The power of digital media on communication shouldn't be underestimated but as I studied the history of communication I gained a valuable insights about the effect of communication. That insight is that we tend to think that every new form of sharing our ideas from the printing press, to social media will destroy the fabric of our society. This often happens as people focus in on the negative effects of each new form, and don't look at it from a bigger picture. Each change in communication effects our society but often the effect is more incremental than we think once we get past the initial adoption phase.
A prime example of this is social media. There is no shortage of information about the evils of social media as it's rapid rise has changed much about how we talk to one another individually and as a society. As I reflected on the similarities to the reaction of society to the printing press I realized that what we are experiencing isn't quite as new as we thought. When we think of the printing press we now realize all the good that it did over the course of the last couple hundred years and I believe the same will be one day be true of social media. Just as our societies coped with the changes then, we will cope with and learn to better use social media and other forms of digital communication to spread world changing ideas. All we need to do is adjust.