Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Final Reflections: "How I Have Come to Understand Digital Culture"

I came into this class knowing a good amount about digital culture already. I had taken a course from Dr. Burton before in which he emphasized academic blogging and using social networks for social discovery and social proof. I had already been researching and writing about videogames as art and literature for a while. However, what I really took away from this class is a view of the truly digital world we’re now living in. That world is open, complex, beautiful, even though in many ways not exactly new.

The new digital world I saw through this class is open in more ways than I thought. It’s open access, open opportunity, and largely open-armed. I learned a ton about copyright law and the complex issues of fair use and creative commons that I hadn’t understood before as I saw just how much information really is entirely open and free to be accessed through the internet, and how much creative content is being made open source for anyone to use and add to or adjust (the Linux operating system, for example, or Wikipedia). Our lectures on crowdsourcing were especially eye-opening to me because I hadn’t understood just how complex, powerful, and beautiful projects done asynchronously by people from all over the world could turn out to be, like Eric Whitacare's virtual choir. I saw also a wider range of opportunity provided by the internet as we talked about the do-it-yourself movement and maker culture, as well as e-publishing, social networks, and tinkering. This especially hit home to me in the video we watched of a homemade space craft. I also saw how open-armed the digital culture really can be as we talked about all the different opportunities to share undergraduate research, and how communities can and have formed around almost any topic somewhere on the Internet. I especially felt these three aspects of digital culture—open access, open opportunity, and open-armed—as I started my own blog to collect my thoughts on videogames and ultimately published with one blog and am now in the works with two others. In gathering resources to put in my writing, in collecting and forming my own thoughts, and in working with other people through the internet to get my ideas out there and receiving feedback, I have seen digital culture at work in all three of these meanings of the word “open.”

Two students who have especially helped me take my understanding of digital culture even further as I’ve gone throughout this course are, unsurprisingly, the other two students in my blogging group, Greg Bayles and Aleesha Bass. Greg showed me how the three meanings of open in the digital world can become the foundations for an entirely new kind of civilization—how real human organizations can exist entirely within the digital world, and how most physical organizations are becoming increasingly digital as well. Aleesha helped me see how our digital activity reflects our true identity in a clearer way than I ever had before. As I went through the course, I understood more about how our online actions express our identity, but as Aleesha looked specifically at Pinterest and we talked about it together, even concluding that one could tell the personality and major life events of a person based on their Pinterest boards alone, something clicked in my brain and I saw just how our digital selves connect to our real selves in a clearer way than I ever had before.

I’ve truly seen a whole new world throughout the course of this class. Even though our readings of Moby Dick have proven that the concepts, issues, and foundational ideas of the digital world certainly aren’t new, new technologies are allowing us to take those ideas and concepts and deal with those issues in bigger, faster, and deeper ways than we ever have before. It truly is a brave newdigitalworld.