In our next Studio Visit we are in conversation with Brian Lamb “Re-Director” of the Learning Technology and Innovation team at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, British Columbia.
We are about 25 people — we build and maintain ~700 fully online Open Learning courses, and we also provide learning technology support for a campus of about 12,000 learners. I started blogging in 2001, and most of the work I enjoy tends to emphasize the “small pieces” of relatively simple online technology.
I’m also starting to teach a Masters-level online course for the University of Guadalajara on “applied learning technology”, and I am looking to Networked Narratives for inspiration and guidance.”
With little irging Brian will likely his “doom-mongering” view of internet of 2019, how he deals with it and stays informed with what’s happening there. But it’s not all darkness! Because this week we are taking our first look at the possible digital alchemical use of the animated GIF as a digital art and messaging form, Brian is ideal to talk about as he seems to have a knack for finding GIFs to create a message with.
You don’t need to sign up to watch; the stream will be available here (which will also be the archive after the visit). We encourage, hope, appreciate live tweeting as well via the #netnarr hashtag.
You can also read and add annotations to this video on vialogues.
How would you characterize the internet in 2019?
In terms of the scariness, I think most of what is getting worse relates to centralization, and concentration of web activity into fewer places, places that are driven by the profit motive. There has long been a generalized anxiety about the commoditization of human relationships online, and I think a lot of the more disturbing stuff we are seeing now is driven by that.
So much of our lives are being shaped by formulas and algorithms in ways that are not visible to us. The tech is shaping politics, economy, culture and social life. It feeds this generalized sense that things are beyond our control.
What kinds of changes have you made last few years to be more in control of your online activities?
I use an array of adblockers and tracker-blockers, and try to use a VPN when I can. I have not deleted my Facebook account because it is handy for keeping up with my extended family, but I have turned off notifications and visit far less frequently.
A work in progress: I have tried to be more aware of my status as a white dude on the internet. I don’t want to be a “mansplainer“, and I’ve banned “well, actually…” from my online vocabulary.
And more broadly, trying to be less argumentative with people, be more patient and empathetic. It’s easy for the intensity of even an honest disagreement to go off the rails, and people who may be outside a particular context will likely take things in unexpected ways.
What are you most recommended tools/resources for being informed in 2019?
I subscribe to a couple newsletters (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter (HEWN) from Audrey Watters; and katexic)… Many of my best Twitter follows are people that are either teaching this course, or visiting it. For a slice of where I live, I highly recommend @KamloopsArchaeo – she has incredibly good Twitter game, and regularly opens my mind to the physical and cultural history of the unceded Secwepemculewc land on which I am a settler. I love the Digital Tattoo, a student-authored resource exploring online identity published by the University of British Columbia.
Some recent books recommend include Weapons of Math Destruction (Cathy O’Neil); The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (Shoshana Zuboff); and Winners Take All (Anand Giridharadas) – that last one’s not really a tech book, but it illuminates a lot about the mindset of those that fund “innovation” in tech and education.
Probably the only important reference to me or my work was this film that Alan made about EduPunk.
What, if anything, represents light in the internet darkness?
I always feel energized and more hopeful after working or talking with students — whatever their age. Even though I don’t teach full-time, I feel privileged that I get to have this experience as often as I do.
And as courses like this one remind us, the things (and most of the people) that made the internet so exciting and wonderful are still there… We can still use it to connect people, to share, to learn. It’s on us to develop and support digital technology in ways that strengthen those human impulses.
Notes from The Hangout and After
To be posted after the event.
Featured Image: Provided by Brian.