chapter 10 social ties


As I assume this book was conceived before Facebook became a phenomenon and a daily ritual for lots of internet users, Benkler brought up many points that are proved by the latter. Network users, especially on Facebook, where allows for social interaction to go beyond a small group, “spatial constraints, and even time synchronicity,” engage in social activity and transmit information that involves a much larger extent than previous.

Other than keeping up with close friends and family, networks also create a space in which Benkler’s “weak ties” can be built, maintained, and potentially enhanced. “Weak ties” refers to acquaintances we recognize by names but would not make the effort to mail physical holiday cards. Networks such as Facebook is an ideal place to preserve such weak ties as such sites facilitate searching for such people, and sending a greeting instead of relative stress that might accompany a phone call or even an email. Although I do agree to a certain extent that such networked weak ties might become easier to access when one needs a favor or a particular service from them, but then is it reasonable to doubt that one’s identity and social function in the real world could be taken into consideration when friending one another on networks?

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response to Bass- Engines of Inquiry

sorry for this super-delayed blog guys….

Bass stresses in various forms that students is a vital body in the pedagogical circuit, that students learn better actively and collectively, rather than being a passive receiver. And to better facilitate students’ caliber, Bass unfolds the following aspects of learning where technology can help: distributive and dialogic learning, public accountability, authentic tasks, and reflective and critical thinking.

One intriguing point Bass brings up briefly is that when approaching a technology-based environment, some educators have difficulties to prioritize, may that be time, material coverage, or control. Bass lists out several features in ways critical thinking can be enhanced in a technology-based setting. However not only we need to ask our students to think critically, but rather us as educators to enable critical thinking before we even step into curriculum building. This interesting dilemma reminded me some of the classrooms I have been where the instructor’s’ enthusiasm for the subject resulted in a journey through every little subject-related anecdotes the instructor has hoarded over the span of years. Because of the convenience technology brings us, we are at a time in which accessing information has never been easier before, how do we use technology, not just as a tool and a device to gain access, but also to filter? As Bass points out later, “technology is merely a prop” to transfer something far more valuable. That is something for us to think about.

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from point A to B – Schivelbusch Provocation

A recent internet phenomenon features a photo in which of a clumsy steam locomotive lugging a slim streamlining modern bullet train out of a typhoon affected station in southern China where the entire region lost its electricity power due to the natural catastrophe. In a country where most of its steam powered engines retired to museums, this photo caused quite a nostalgia among various generations, majority of whom interestingly chose to overlook the practical function of that locomotive. Though perhaps no longer culturally dominating, an old technology or organic power rarely just extinct globally, it either becomes less noticeable into the infrastructure, or transit into a role that is less function prominent but experience based. Schivelbusch discussed the psychological attitude we had transitioned through towards traveling in trains, which was relatively new at that time, I wonder whether that makes it a binary transition towards the roles of “out-dated” machines as well?

“As the new technology terminated the original relationship between the pre-industrial traveler and his vehicle and its journey, the old technology was seen, nostalgically, as having more ‘soul’.” This quote is also appropriate when applying to traveling by trains and airplanes. Now that the time it takes to cover the same amount of geographic ground is further drastically reduced by engines that are even more powerful, the lengthy, rhythmic railroad seem more expressive all of a sudden. One solution is “transferring the economically obsolete old technologies to a new realm, that of leisure and sports”. As the modern vision of traditional traveling, railroad companies now offer from sight-seeing routes, of which destination is no longer a priority, to Writer in Residency program during which writers are invited to enjoy the inspirational landscape while being productive in an enclosed, distraction-free environment.

One intriguing perspective the book touched upon but did not elaborate is the impact on locality and the formation of globalization from industrialized transportation. The enclosed space and the certain amount of time of limited mobility (not to mention the commodity culture within that space and time) forms its own unique cultural environment. Shortened perceptual distance resulted from decreased time spent traveling from point A to B, of which another byproduct is the instant access to a different cultural “world” from that of connectivity of industrialized traveling, especially now in the form of air travel.

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