April 29, 2010
Lost and Found in Cyberspace
I really got a lot out of Darnton's 4th chapter in The Case for Books. This chapter was particularly interesting because Darton talks about how he like to stay old-fashioned in some areas and doesn't see himself embracing the technological advances that could be used and usually prefers to keep things how they once were, especially for learning purposes. We'll go quote by quote on this one.
On page 60 - "Much as I admire my younger colleagues, who splice computerized music and images into their lectures, I find it best to talk right at my students armed with nothing more than chalk and a blackboard." Alright, let's break this one down. First, I hate that he says "talk at my students." I don't really feel like students learn by being talked at...so poor choice of words there Darnton. Unless you really do talk at your students, in which case, you might want to reconsider your teaching style and not worry so much about how much technology in you have in your lectures. On the other hand, I like that he limits his tech use in class, because although in some cases I would say that it is very useful, in my experience, I've seen more professors mis-use technology then actually incorporate in effectively, which then just makes it a distraction and not a teaching tool. I like that in this case he seems "lost" and sides with the ability to simply teach and talk to students, inside of hiding behind different techy things to try to catch students' attention and then try to teach them something. In this case, I like it old school.
Another great quote was on page 60 too. - "Such a notion (that we can look up and know anything through the internet) of cyberspace has a strange resemblance to Saint Augustine’s conception of the mind of God - omniscient and infinite, because His knowledge extends everywhere, even beyond time and space. Knowledge could also be infinite in a communication system where hyperlinks extended to everything - except, of course, that no such system could possibly exist. We produce far more information than we can digitize, and information isn’t knowledge, anyhow." I feel like this goes along with the recent information that we've dealt with, talking about the Memex. I like that Darnton says that a system so omniscient could never exist, because what I have been arguing with the Memex text is that, that statement is true, that no system that is all knowing and still able to function properly, that is man-made would ever actually work. I like that Darnton also relates this to the mind of God because I also feel that we are always trying to learn more and more and more and we can never seem to be satisfied with what we do know and people seem to be at arms about that when in reality, it would probably drive us all insane if we were all, all-knowing. I'm glad that only one person has to know everything and he's got a pretty good grasp on all of that if you ask me. I really enjoy this quote because it shows us that we are human, never will we ever be able to link all of the information in the world together perfectly, in any form, Memex or internet and we should really not be trying to do so in my opinion. Link what we can and do the best job at that and let the rest go. We're never going to be all-knowing, gasp that concept and move on. I'm sure you wouldn't want to deal with that pressure anyway.
Along with that quote, this one is on page 61. - "Most human beings have vanished into the past without leaving a trace of their existence." Although I feel like this quote is a little depressing, it's true. And it goes along very well with the quote above because it proves that we will not know everything and it is impossible for us to ever know everything because there are so many people that have come into the world and left without ever writing down their ideas or sharing what their opinions were on certain subjects for all sorts of various reasons. Our knowledge of the world will always be incomplete without those ideas and without knowing of those people...I feel like this goes without saying, but God knows about those people and we may never know them...our information is always going to be incomplete. Stop thinking otherwise. Learn what you can and move on. Grasp the concept that you will never know everything and live with it. As a side note, I hope I don't become one of the people that doesn't leave any kind of mark on the world.
Final quote, from page 64. - "I am convinced that the Internet will transform the world of learning. The transformation has already begun. Our task, I think, is to take charge of it so that we maintain the highest standards from the past while developing new ones for the future." I agree. I think the internet is transforming the world of learning and I am excited to see where this knowledge takes us, but at the same time, cautious of what it will take us away from. If ebooks means the end of real books or podcasts mean the end of newspapers or if social networks means the end of real relationships, I'm not having it. But if we can coexist with all of those things and just expand our ability to learn with both kinds of tools, I'm cool with that. Actually, I'd prefer to always have both just to be able to compare and contrast and learn in different forms. I know it's not going to help me learn everything possible...but I'm also not trying to learn everything. I'd rather not have that burden and live life knowing that it's okay to not be all-knowing and that someone much more capable than I will ever be has got that part under control.