Maybe I’ve been watching too much science fiction in my free time, but often times when I think of social media and technology, it’s not the most positive associations that generally jump to my mind. Sure, I’m linked into social media about as much as almost everyone else in my generation is (although Twitter is a new one for me), but when I think about the Instagrams and Snapchats of the world some speculative fiction is natural. It’s hard to imagine the tech giants of our day as benevolent. What does Facebook know about me? Who around the world has my data that I don’t even know about? When is Amazon going to stop buying, well, everything? Paranoia with technology, especially social media, is about as human as it gets, and it certainly makes for some great storytelling.
One of humanity’s favorite (and most valuable) pastimes is critical analysis of progress, casting doubt and doom on things that should in theory be pushing the human race forward. The absolute core of any science fiction is distrust of technology’s evolution, and that paranoia stretches in daily life as we wonder if all the likes and shares and retweets, all the big data, the constant connection, starting at that screen all day – is it really good for us, or is it leading us down a dark path? If I have just binge-watched the whole new season of Black Mirror right before I ask myself this question, I don’t think you’re going to hear boundless optimism. Add a viewing of the new Blade Runner movie in there and you’ve got the recipe for a whole lot of tech hesitation.
But I digress: as Professor Kane talked about on Day 1, this class is not about affirming or decrying technology. An honest reality has got to fall somewhere in the middle, as with any kind of evolution: there are incredible gifts that technology has bestowed upon the business world and humanity as a whole, and also question marks. It’s harrowing to speculate on the negatives, sure, but the reality is that technology has improved the world in countless ways. A balanced approach to the topic, informing oneself of both opportunities and pitfalls, is the best way forward. This class can help remove some of the mystery surrounding tech in a business context, make it seem all a bit more graspable and less Orwellian.
It’s hard to escape some talk of technology in any CSOM class, but this will be the first time that the lessons of technology are treated in a way that’s incredibly interactive outside of class time. I’m certainly a little intimidated by the class structure, but also excited to see the ways I can supplement my learning outside of class through my own research and through the hard work of my classmates. I’ll also say that while I definitely have my fair share of social media knowledge, I’m hardly what I’d call social media “savvy”. I’m new to Twitter, although I’ve lurked for years in the hunt for NBA updates, and am years beyond the middle school glory days of Facebook, when I would post a status update whenever the Philadelphia Eagles won a game, something I clearly thought was important enough to share with my 50 friends. But I use social media all the time, in order to inform myself about what’s going on in the world (supplemented by more concrete news, of course), to keep up with friends, and of course just to entertain myself. The approach to this class, especially with the regular twitter updates and the blog posts, will now mean that I’ve got to provide that interesting stuff. It’s going to be a fun challenge, one that will take a little getting used to.
I honestly can’t say that I entered the class knowing about the untraditional structure, and although it gave me some pause I think ultimately it will prove rewarding. Even just a couple days into the social aspect of the class kicking in, I have already been exposed to so many creative uses of the blog and Twitter platform, getting to see great insights and commentary from my classmates and the stories that they are linking to on social media. If a lot of pop culture focuses on the doom and gloom of social media and tech, this class can be a reminder that social media can be used for productive and educational methods. I realize that is kind of annoyingly meta point to make, but I think it’s true. In learning about tech and social media using tech and social media, we can learn the positive ways it can be used in a rapidly changing and connecting world.