I dragged my feet writing this blog for a few reasons. Yes, yes, busy of course, but that wasn’t the real driver for my delay. I didn’t know what to write and I am not looking forward to this class ending. I’ve really enjoyed our small group discussions, readings, and getting to know my classmates in a meaningful way. While the name of this class is Social Media and Digital Business, I really think that it was about community.
We all use the Agora Portal every day here at the Heights. It’s how we access grades, Canvas (another learning community), course information, the campus directory, and so much more. It’s basically a hub to our lives at BC. Of course, the naming of the portal was intentional. In Ancient Greece, the agora was the town center where everyone gathered to conduct business, socialize, and engage in political conversation. It was the center of work, play, and education.
So here we are, some 3,000 years later. We’re living through technological advances that even our parents never could have dreamed of and will likely see more in our lifetimes that aren’t even on our horizons yet. These new technologies have infiltrated our lives and have dictated a new set of societal values and expectations. Our agora is no longer a market filled with stalls and vendors, a destination that you enter and exit willingly. Now, thanks to wireless internet and ubiquitous mobile devices, our agora is an integrated digital universe.
We’ve discussed many features of our new digital society throughout the semester, especially how social tools are being leveraged for commercial uses. We’ve talked about Facebook Marketplace, monetizing Instagram, and Snapchat’s IPO. There’s no longer a strict separation between work and play. Necessarily, we’ve considered the evolving code of conduct for digital interactions. Since this world is changing so rapidly, there are still a lot of unknowns and grey areas. It makes my head spin!
This fall HBO premiered a science-fiction drama called Westworld. Its unique premise suggests a vaguely futuristic world in which scientists have engineered robots that are incredibly humanoid. Wealthy humans can pay to visit a park in which they’re invited to live out their basest desires, which often includes raping, torturing, and killing the robots. Quickly the viewer learns that the robots bleed, appear to feel pain, and are able to recall previous traumatic experiences. The show raises several ethical questions on the nature of reality and the blurred distinction between technology and humanity, including whether the hosts are robots or artificially grown humans. In this new Westworld community, it is disturbing to watch the “real people” treat the robots in a way that would not be socially acceptable elsewhere.
A society like Westworld might not be as far off as we think. That’s why I feel it’s important to remember our roots, dating back to the original agora of the Ancient Greek marketplace. Technology is a great tool that can be used for communication and commerce, but can easily function as a weapon. I’m sure that I’ll misuse technology, especially since the guidelines for proper use are vague, constantly changing, and open to interpretation. I’m hopeful that, if I strive to be mindful and intentional in my digital interactions, that I’ll have a greater positive than negative influence on my digital society.
PS A little shameless plug here: even though our class ends today, don’t forget that we’re all part of the greater BC community. No matter where your journey takes you, you can remain connected to Eagles all over the globe. This is one great aspect of technology! Make sure to like BC Alumni on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay current on campus advances. Also check out our alumni chapters page here. If you are planning to leave the Boston area after graduation, this is an awesome resource to connect with other alumni with whom you’ll have one significant thing in common: your love of BC.