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Of Dickens and Dickering

Fashion has long been a vehicle for communication.  As a child in the tie-dye, bell-bottom era the fashion was not always particularly compelling, but it made a statement.  It wasn’t so much about the substance of the statement but, rather, making the statement and being part of a movement that sought to change things. In those days, ironically, there was a great deal of communication about the “communication gap.”

Forty  years after the Woodstock music festival, communication is the fashion. Smartphones, netbooks, laptops, and iPods connect us to the world’s biggest amplifier where we broadcast text, pictures, audio and movies using applications like WordPress, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter just to name a few. A myriad of applications served over a nearly ubiquitous network. Just as before, we are long on statements and short on substance. The irony now is that communication is the fashion but it has created so much noise that we are alienated from the quiet where thoughtful, purposive discourse takes place. A lot has changed in forty years but much is still the same. We have filled the gap with noise and tied into an “opiate” more pervasive than anything Marx could have imagined.

We are in the global era that a Tale of Two Cities accurately describes, “”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

I was considering all of this as I composed an email message to describe the “best” way to share video data. It struck me how much time I was spending considering the method to broadcast the data rather than the information the video sought to communicate.  For how many of us in the educational technology arena is this the case? Does this suggest that we are part of the noise rather than a signal beacon?  Are we dickering with technology in place of facilitating communication?

The questions are, to some degree, rhetorical but at some level each of us in educational technology must consider them if we are to move beyond dickering over the “best” technology in deference to facilitating the best communication. Dickens also wrote of redemption in “A Christmas Carol” and while our plight may not be as dire as that of Ebenezer Scrooge, if we are to avoid “Amusing Ourselves to Death” we must thoughtfully consider our role in the fashion of communication.

Posted in Reflection.