Monthly Archives: October 2008

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants

I think today in Greece the winning team is Digital Immigrants. But this is a game we know we gonna lose. Sooner or later, Digital Natives, will conquer the world. Digital Natives are the people born in the era of Hybrid Society and in the context of computer mediated communication and information super highways. For digital natives virtual social interactions are taken for granted and computer’s mediation is inevitable.

I have to confess that I used a personal PC for the first time in my life at the age of 18. My whole school years were pure with no computers and cell phones. I first met the guy named Internet at the age of 21 but at that time I couldn’t even imagine its evolution and its multiplexion with our lives. I consider myself as immigrand in the cyberspace. And I wander what are the differences between my generation and digital natives generation. What are the differences in the learning processes, in the formation of cognitive procedures, in cognitive development, in socialization, in mental health? And at the end what is the overall impact on quality of life and on human spirit? to cyber or not to cyber… That is the question…

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The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is a wonderful book. Full of emotions advanced ideas and valuable simplicity. This book cannot easily be categorized. Is not a simple novel, is not a scientific book. Actually it is letter, full of valuable and emotional material, to his children. The book was issued in April 2008 just three months before his death. Randy Pausch passed away in July 25th, 2008 due to pancreatic cancer.

In his book Randy Pausch is writing about fulfilling dreams, his own dreams and others’ dreams. But this is just a “head-fake”. Actually is a letter to his children about what he wanted to tell them but they were to young to understand. However this emotional father’s letter to his children is valuable for every children and every adult. It is a passage full of simple and useful advises for everybody’s life. But surely his children will read it in very special way.

The Last Lecture was very helpful to me and make me think about matters of existence, life value, dignity, compassion, humility, intelligence and time management. As a computer scientist I also enjoyed the section about Alice project (www.alice.org) which I think is an important educational environment for teaching programming. It is more suitable for modern students in comparison with Logo language. It is object-oriented and 3-d environment. Very creative software.

I feel grateful to Randy Pausch for his contribution to our life and I am sure his three children and wife will adore him also through the memories and guides he left behind for them.

Randy Pausch was offering a course named “Building virtual worlds” at Carnegie Mellon University and was a head member of ETC (Entertainment Technology Park) at the same university.


Homo Hybridious!

Communications Technology always changes the available for communication ways. Literacy, for example, made possible to pass people thoughts and ideas through different generations and human communities without the need for oral communication and with a great level of accuracy (with respect to the fact that orality is a completely different way of thinking and communicating in comparison with literacy). Electronic media, wired and wireless communications changed the available communication pathways and caused what Gergen calls the absent presence.

Online social networking (OSN) is a new communication technology. It is not new regarding the technological infrastructure and communicating tools. Internet and computer networks are available since 1970’s. However Online social networking is new a technology because incoroperate ideas and methods of social interaction never used before in human history. Such a new idea is the infinite interconnection with others through common friends. The other idea is the social construction of identity in social networking virtual environments. In these fully technology mediated environments we are known by the company we carry. However is not difficult to construct a strong social identity becouse relations in environments like facebook are rather superficial in comparison to face-to-face relations. Welcome Homo Hybridious!


The Hybrid Society era …

McLuhan divides history in 4 discrete seasons: oral tribe culture, manuscript culture, Gutenberg galaxy and electronic era. Every stage is distinguished by a new invention with enormous social impact: literacy, typography and information society. Online social networking is a technology (in a wider consideration) that may be leads to the next stage, to hybrid society era. I think hybrid society is a distinct era because social relations change dramatically by the addition of a virtual part, a virtual lived experience that is complementary and multiplexed with normal lived experience.

People today interact socially in a natural world and the same time interact socially in a computer mediated world, in the world of online social networking. Both social interactions are lived by the very same corporal human body. So they are not distinct experiences but they rather consist a unique hybrid social lived experience.

I think Hybrid Social era as a distinct nest stage of information society because of two major reasons. Hybrid social networking experience is completely new social experience with the theoritical possibility to be connected with all the world population through the friends-of-friends capability, never known before. Second by the characteristic of the powerful social construction of identity. In facebook we are known by our friends and what they say about us.


Hybrid social learning…

Modern society is hybrid consisted of a virtual and a real world part. What about learning. According to Vygotsky and other thinkers, learning is a social process. We learn when we interact with others. Children are learning in families, local societies, tv and media, Internet and virtual communities. What is left for school? Well school is also a place of social interactions and learning. An important issue is the combination of social interactions and learning procedure. This is done be Virtual Learning environments like Moodle. However these environments are course-centric, so social interactions within are kept to a minimum level. Maximizing social interactions can be done with the use of educational social networking technologies. That is a student-centric and not lesson-centric educational platform. May be a kind of social-extended and user centered Moodle platform. So every student can have a central user profile and approaches educational material and educational social activities.

I am not sure whether the above idea is functional or not. Finally may be we have to keep some things traditional. Technology cannot be the drug to treat every disease. But we have to check it. The fact is that modern students are definitely using social networking for their needs.

Even if social networking is proven to worth use it in a class, introducing the procedure into school practice is a very hard task. A great effort is required to educate teachers and pay the cost and nobody intends to do so. What I see in my country is always formal training programs for teachers that are implemented during teachers free time, without paying them. And always the content of the programs are at least nothing worthies the time to attend. I cannot understand why someone who want to train teachers to a modern approach, uses traditional approach in his/her very teaching! I assume he/shedoes not know what is supposed to teach.

Great Expectations…


Virtual vs. real world experience

virtual reality worlds bring a totally new social environment for mankind. Human psychological characteristics developed through many years of evolution in a natural environment with no virtual stimulus. Modern hybrid society imposes new ways of social interactions. We have the body of a primitive hunter in a technology mediated social environment. In any new context some men are better adapted and some others no. Natural selection is expanded to include technological adaptation.

Virtual experience is altering human psychology in many ways. New acquaintances in facebook are reinforced by social contacts, guaranteeing the individual’s integrity. Social networking users are social defined beings. In facebook we are known by the company we carry with us. Virtual experience is affecting real world processes and vice verse. Human cognitive functions are context sensitive. New technology mediated social environment is expected to change human thinking.

Learning was always a social process and a fumdamental mean for human development. Today learning is also a social networking process. Hybrid society lead to hybrid experience and hybrid social learning.


When we’re connected to others, we become better people…

This is a phrase from Randy Pausch’s famous book “the Last lecture”: when we are connected to others, we become better people. The fact is that man is a social animal. We want to be with others, we want to engage with others, we want to communicate and interact with others. The rules of social engagement and the allowed and offered ways for people interaction are imposed by the given cultural-historical context.

People are determined by the surrounding society and also determine and change society in a mutual way. Place and history and current events co-construct the human fate. Human actions are causing changes in the already modulated historical-cultural social capital to be delivered as a social context for the subsequent generation.

According to this historical-cultural approach, online social networking (facebook etc.) is the result of the appearance of some concurrent factors. Information Society, modern communication technology and infrastructure, social parameters of living in modern crowded big-cities are some of these factors. Modern citizens and adolescents are modulated by social networking and simultaneously are define the dimensions of social internet.

We are humans and we need to be connected to be humans. But what is the role and the place of social networking connectivity in relation with the traditional ways of social interactions that includes human touch? Is virtual experience similar to lived-real world experience? Is it superior? Is it inferior? Is it complementary?

We live our lives in present time. Our life today is hybrid with a virtual and a real-world part. And we don’t know, we cannot now how our life would have been without internet and modern communications technology. So we can’t make comparisons and decide what is best. We have to live in the specific historical-cultural snapshot and cannot do otherwise. May be that’s why we have to understand what is going on, how computer and internet mediation is affecting personal and social psychological processes. How our social mind is changing in the social media era, what are the possibilities, the new horizons and the pitfalls.

In any case biological and cultural development do not occur in isolation. Social interaction and social learning actually lead to cognitive development. May be the same is happening with social networking learning…