“This is where my original fascination with society’s inability to disconnect from technology and social media morphed into a twisted concern.”   JKaufenberg Reflection, Week Four

This week’s reading, chapter 1 and 3, Seeing Ourselves Through Technology (Jill Walker Rettberg, 2014) grabbed my attention and intrigued me in more ways than one.

Watching teenagers around me digitizes what seems to be every waking moment of their lives; I have been in a constant state of concern with the greater impact that technology may have on their lives in the future. After reading, Rettberg’s concept of Written, Visual and Quantitative Self-Representations, I developed a better understanding of digital self-representation. Even though society as a whole continues to ridicule selfies and blogs, the digital forum plays a major role in everyday lives of individuals.

The digital mediums that Rettberg focuses on, written, visual and quantitative, have a definite place in our modern world. A place that would be here in an alternate format if we did not have our current technology. According to Rettberg, blog and written status updates are descendent of diaries, memoirs, commonplace books, and autobiographies. Selfies are descendants of visual artists’ self-portraits, and the quantitative modes of lifelogs, personal maps, productivity records and activity trackers are descendants of genres such as accounting, habit tracking, and to-do lists. In today’s digital culture, the three modes are intertwined (Rettber, 2014).

Relating to and understanding the writing and visual self-representations was easier to comprehend, while the quantitative side was a little more challenging to wrap my head around. The more I read, the more I thought back to the Insightful human portraits made from data, TED Talk. In an earlier post, Inspiration from Data and a Little Creative Thinking, I connected to this same TED Talk after reading Heilyeah: Weekly Summary and Digital Artifact. It is definitely worth bringing up again because this is where my original fascination with society’s inability to disconnect from technology and social media morphed into a twisted concern.

As Language Arts and Communications teacher, I am seeing directly and indirectly how technology and social media are influencing students in a variety of ways, both positive and negative, every day. Part of our, middle and high school Language Arts, studies involves personal character, first impressions, and self-image. We look at who we think we are and how people view us. As students mature, they can see that the two are not always the same, and the choices we make can change how others view us. Adding technology and potential “alternate personal characters” into the mix can shape the reality of our future selves. It is important that we continue to discuss the impact of data, technology, and social media with students of all ages. Technology creates an open book that displays the “who” we want people to know and even the “who” we want to keep private. The important thing to remember is that no matter “who” that is, once it is out there it cannot be taken back.

Artist R. Luke DuBois makes unique portraits of presidents, cities, himself and even Britney Spears using data and personality. In this talk, he shares nine projects — from maps of the country built using information taken from millions of dating profiles to a gun that fires a blank every time a shooting is reported in New Orleans. His point: the way we use technology reflects on us and our culture, and we reduce others to data points at our own peril. TED2016


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