When I opted for this unit, I was looking forward to being exposed to new technologies on the web. I knew fully well that the technologies that are emerging today are going to transform our lives in the near future. I liked how this unit has created a fine balance between play and reflect activities. The play activities helped me to test out new technologies, while the reflect activities set my mind to think more seriously on technology-related issues and how it would impact our lives. For instance, when I was reflecting on ‘Declaration of the Independence of CyberSpace’ during week 8, I began to see how much technology mirrors human societies. I liked the fact that we were encouraged to discuss slightly polarizing topics such as online privacy and information capitalism during this week, which I believe was the most mature topic that required us to look beneath the surface.
I believe that the learning environment of this unit is like taking a peek into the future of education. As we are exposed to more types of media in our daily lives, it is only natural that our academic approach follows suit. I especially enjoyed week 10’s play activity pertaining to the maker movement, as I was able to try my hand at a DIY wooden yacht. While I wouldn’t call the project tough, it certainly was challenging. For once, I had to get off the computer and do something for ‘real’, rather than just typing, swiping and clicking. This made the project all the more interesting and meaningful to me.
Besides that, I was able to see how thousands of people around the world enjoyed doing small yet meaningful projects, which made me feel connected to the world at large. I feel these aspects of emerging technologies are serving as a counterbalance to bring together people, instead of making people feel alienated in virtual worlds. Thus, there is no doubt that some emerging technologies certainly have the potential to facilitate collaborative learning. WikiHow, Instructables and YouTube are revolutionizing the way in which people learning everyday tasks. Infographics is another area that has grown as a result of online media consumption, as it is able to share figures and numbers in an easy to understand yet non-academic approach.
The activity which I found uninspiring was the finding an online instructional resource for Week 8 and talking about it. Instead of being one-dimensional, if this play activity involved some collaborative engagement, it could have been more interesting. Besides that, what I found lacking in this unit is exposure to more open-source creation projects like SourceForge. While researching about DIY and MakerSpace, I began to learn about Arduino and Raspberry Pi electronic boards that foster an open-source way of thinking and doing things. While I did learn about data retention laws during Week 8’s reflection, I would have also liked to learn more about the legal aspects of online behaviour, as I believe this is going to be an important area of concern in the near future. Furthermore, I also feel that that a progressive unit like this should consider covering socio-political implications of technology. However, I do understand that staying apolitical helps to curb polarizing attitudes and foster a healthy learning environment. An advanced version of this unit can also focus on how behavioural aspects of online communication (e.g. trolling) affect overall user engagement.
During the course of this unit, my key learning came when I began to observe an emerging pattern of personalised websites gaining more traction in virtual space. For instance, the ‘persona poster’ and ‘quantifying yourself’ activities were like performing a post-mortem of my own electronic identity and virtual presence. I realized how we have already started living in the virtual world and how deeply we are invested in it. Coming to think of it, LinkedIn has almost replaced traditional business cards, while Facebook is a personal newsletter for the celebrity in all of us.
When it comes to online interactions, I am usually not very proactive. However, I do realize the potential it has for engaging in a meaningful conversation. I did have a few interaction on my blog thru the comments section, but I definitely see scope for improvement there. Had I promoted my blog via social media, I could engaged in more interactions as it would expose my blog to a larger audience. I also believe that my introverted nature had something to do with the limited online interactions. However, I believe I could improve in this aspect, when the need for it arises.
My lightbulb moment during this unit came when I assessing the MyFitness Pal app for the ‘quantify myself’ play activity, during Week 4. I have always considered myself an introvert and tended to value my privacy in virtual space. So, when I was using this app on Apple Watch, I was consciously aware of the fact that I was wilfully handing over my personal data to a pervasive 3rd party. However, I was willing to make this compromise to meet my fitness goals. The strange realization was that I was actually okay with the minor privacy lapse, as I was getting a valuable service in exchange. So, I believe that the value that online services like Facebook or Twitter offer to individuals is what makes them ignore the obvious privacy implications. I feel that this trend will only continue to rise, as the next generations of users will have lesser inhibitions about sharing their personal life with the rest of the world.
Now that I have briefly summarized my experiences this semester, I can truly appreciate the breadth of the topics covered in the unit. So, my key take-away for this unit is that technology is deeply ingrained into almost every aspect of our life including health, entertainment, food, education, personal and professional life. While staying vigilant of privacy implications is important, there is also a need to accept a certain level of compromise to enjoy the benefits of personalised web services and meaningfully engage with peers online. As different aspects of technology are deeply connected, I believe that the learnings from this unit will subconsciously affect my personal and professional choices in the near future