The Power of the Network

“Digital media and networks can only empower the people who learn how to use them and pose dangers to those who don’t know what they are doing. Yes, it’s easy to drift into distraction, fall for misinformation, allow attention to fragment rather than focus, but those mental temptations pose dangers only for the untrained mind. Learning the mental discipline to use thinking tools without losing focus is one of the prices I am glad to pay to gain what the Web has to offer” (Rheingold, 2011).

The past two weeks in class we have been discussing the distractions and dangers the internet poses for users that are unaware of its traps. This point became even more apparent to me this past week as I had two incredible experiences via Twitter that will forever change the way I interact with social media.

Last week in class, we were discussing virtual and augmented reality. One of the resources we were introduced to was Aurasma – a tool that helps people use augmented reality to turn everyday objects, images, and places into new, interactive opportunities through striking graphics, animation, video audio and 3D content (adapted from the Aurasma website).

While on the Aurasma website, I looked through some of their pages and came across an article about the Detroit Red Wings, headlined “Red Wings launch augmented reality function ‘Wingscape’ within mobile application” (Aurasma). Being a huge Wings fan, I read the article which explained that the organization is now using augmented reality at the arena to make a greater experience for fans, both at the arena and at home.

Thinking this was a cool idea, I immediately went to Twitter to send out a message about my excitement that the Detroit Red Wings – my favorite team – are being technologically innovative. Shortly after posting that message, I got a notification that Detroit Red Wings News reposted my content and credited me for finding the information. I was blown away by this interaction – a news organization mentioned me in one of their posts!

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After further research, I realized that Aurasma had posted the article the same morning that I Tweeted about it. The news had traveled so fast around the web that it got from Galway, Ireland to Detroit, Michigan in a matter of an hour.

A few days later, I had another experience via Twitter that further solidified the power of the PLN for me. The first week we were in Ireland, we took a history walk with a tour guide around Galway. Nearly two weeks later, I get a notification on Twitter that the tour guide from that trip is following me. How baffling – I have no idea how he remembered or found me – I’m not even sure I ever gave him my name directly. I quickly tweeted out positive content about his tours, to which he promptly responded.

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The reason I am sharing these anecdotes is because we have been talking about expanding our PLNs as well as digital citizenship behavior and this seems like the perfect culmination of the two. These experiences make me think twice about what I post online as this has been a humbling reminder of just how open the web is.

As Rheingold notes, “I worry about the billions of people who are gaining access to the Net without the slightest clue about how to find knowledge and verify it for accuracy, how to advocate and participate rather than passively consume, how to discipline and deploy attention in an always-on milieu, how and why to use those privacy protections that remain available in an increasingly intrusive environment.”

I worry about my students and their participation on the web, I worry that they don’t know what it means to be a digital citizen, but I know that I need to teach them how to be digital citizens and now I have experiences of my own to show them the power of the internet and the way it interacts with your PLN.

Sources:

Rheingold, H. (2011). Attention is the fundamental literacy. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Is the Internet changing the way you think?  Retrieved from http://edge.org/response-detail/11370

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