I had the opportunity today to return to the classroom and teach a graduate level Anthropology class on Culture Change. I was asked by the professor to get students to think about how this new technological communication might be altering the nature of social relationships, and the very essence of society itself.
The lecture was an abridged version of my “Born to Be Wired: Technology, Communication and the Millennial Generation” presentation. I didn’t need to spend as much time explaining emerging technology to a group of graduate students. Instead we looked more at overall implications of the communications revolution and the sociological changes.
Last week there was a great post on the Freakonomics blog asking Is Myspace Good for Society? Leading thinkers were asked “Has social networking technology (blog-friendly phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) made us better or worse off as a society, either from an economic, psychological, or sociological perspective?” They had some interesting answers.
My favorite resource on the use and impact of social networking is Danah Boyd. Her thoughts were included in the Freakonomics post and I provided this link to this Discover Magazine video interview with her as well.
During the lecture we discussed the work of Marshall McLuhan. If you are not familiar with his work, you definitely need to check him out. He was way ahead of his time. I’ve often thought about what he would think about the Internet and Web 2.0.
I concluded my lecture by summing up my take on the best way to approach the use of communications technologies. I created a slide of the album cover of Radiohead’s OK Computer and quoted lyrics from the song “The Tourist”, which includes the line “hey man, slow down, slow down, idiot, slow down, slow down.” I think we need to carefully manage our time online, learn to slow down, and occasionally unplug – something easier said than done.