Weeks Seven and Eight in CSC 442 Section B at UIS – Transcript

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Today’s podcast is about Weeks 7 and 8 in CSC 442 Section B at the University of Illinois at Springfield.  For more information, visit the blog at csc442b.blogspot.com.

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Well, welcome back!  This is Burks Oakley, and today is Sunday, March 9th, 2014.  I'm speaking to you today from my home office in Champaign, Illinois.  I'm a little late with today's podcast, due to the change back to Daylight Savings Time earlier this morning - spring forward, as they say.  Well, this clearly is March weather now - well above freezing on Friday, then snow showers over parts of Illinois yesterday, and the forecast is for 60 degrees here tomorrow.  Hopefully we'll have a warming trend and we won't have to deal with any more snow this month.  And then they can get out and fix all the potholes in the city streets!  As you probably can tell, I've had enough of winter after returning early from beautiful Naples, Florida.

OK, now, on with the podcast.  This past week, in Week 7 of our course, we looked a number of interesting issues related to use of Internet technologies by families and communities.  We read three reports from the Pew Internet and American Life Project:  Social Isolation and New Technology, How mobile devices are changing community information environments, and Neighbors Online.

We certainly covered a wide range of topics in the student-led discussions.  On the topic of social isolation and new technologies - well, it seems that most of you feel that individuals are NOT isolated by technology - instead, they are brought closer by technology - especially communication technologies such as Skype, the cell phone, texting, IM, and video chat.  In fact, these technologies seem to bring you closer to family members - especially those living far away.

On the more general topics of community information online and neighborhoods online, gosh, we discussed a number of interesting topics.  Last semester, one of the students in the class lived in Tempe, Arizona - and in a discussion posting in Blackboard, he wrote "The best place for community information is www.tempe.gov. This site has all kinds of useful information about my community. I found an RSS feed, Podcasts, Twitter page, Monthly news letter, Neighborhood watch program, and a live stream of the local city council. I would have to say that my community is doing a great job of informing its inhabitants with its online content."

Another student, who lived in San Francisco, mentioned that she is MORE connected due to technology - not socially isolated.  She wrote "I myself can see this first hand. Upon my move to the San Francisco Bay area, I have been using the internet primarily to discover new shops, cafes, parks, fitness clubs and other sources that I had when I lived in Florida. Using message boards, review sites and internet calendars I've been able to fully experience my new home- and in fact, been more social than ever before!"

[We discussed texting with neighbors about community issues, such as garbage collection and neighborhood events - but also the need for F2F meetings.  But based on all the postings, it seems that many of you don't interact as much with your neighbors as you probably should.]

Other topics we discussed included using Yelp to access reviews of local restaurants and shops, getting text messages with traffic delays, RSS news aggregators, and accessing news from multiple sources - cell phone, Internet, and television.  Gosh, we even discussed
getting news from Facebook - since so many different news organizations have a Facebook page that you can "like".  But I have to say that I was surprised to learn that so many of you don't regularly access the current news - and that many of you don't want to know what is going on in the world since it is too depressing.  That's really a sad commentary.

[I thought that it was interesting that so many of you commented about getting text alerts from UIS - since these alerts really are only of interest to people on the UIS campus, and many of you are living far from Springfield.]

Overall, as I look at the Week Seven discussions, I'm really pleased with how well some of you are doing - although I have to admit that I am depressed by the lack of participation on the part of some of the students in the class - certainly not the effort I expect for a four-credit hour course. 

I like the in-depth postings that include links to additional online resources that actually teach us something new.  I dislike the short postings that simply express an opinion - such as writing "I think that ten years from now, person-to-person communication will still be the preferred way for people to communicate."  What does that teach us?

OK now, moving on to Week 8.  In this coming week, we’ll be looking at the role of the Internet in Government, Politics, and Civic Engagement - certainly a very timely topic.  We'll be reading four publications from the Pew Internet and American Life Project – and these are:  Government Online, Social networking sites and politics, Social Media and Political Engagement, and Civic Engagement in the Digital Age.

In the report Government Online, the Pew folks found that citizens are going online to access data from government agencies, and many online adults have used social tools such as blogs, social networking sites, and online video - as well as email and text alerts - to keep informed about government activities.

In the report Social networking sites and politics, the Pew folks found that "birds of a feather don’t always flock together on social networking sites when it comes to politics."  They reported that friends disagree with friends about political issues and usually let their disagreements pass without comment.  In addition, social networking users can be surprised to learn the political leanings of their friends - more than one-third of such users have discovered through a friend’s posts that his/her political beliefs were different than the user thought they were.  I know that I've had to un-friend several people in Facebook - I simply couldn't stand to see what they were posting on a daily basis.

The report Social Media and Political Engagement found that the use of social media is becoming a feature of political and civic engagement for many Americans. Some 40% of all American adults have used social media to post their thoughts about civic and political issues, react to others’ postings, ask friends to act on issues and vote, follow candidates, ‘like’ and link to others’ content, and belong to politically-related groups formed on social networking sites.

Finally, the report Civic Engagement in the Digital Age found that social networking sites have grown more important in recent years as a venue for political involvement, learning, and debate. Overall, about 40% of all American adults took part in some sort of political activity on a social networking site during the 2012 campaign.  This report illustrates the increasing importance of SNS as places where citizens can connect with political causes and issues; activities include posting links to political stories or articles on social networking sites, following or friending a political candidate or other political figure on a social networking site, and belonging to a group on a social networking site involved in advancing a political or social issue.

I’m really looking forward to the upcoming discussion of these Pew reports.  Note that since everyone will be busy finishing up the Paper One assignment, we won't be having the regular "student-led discussions" in Week Eight.  Your assignment this coming week will be to address one of the questions that I will ask about the weekly topics (I'll post those questions in the Week Eight Discussion Forum), or else you can pose your own question and answer it.  I will provide some additional instructions about this assignment in my initial posting in the Week Eight Discussion Forum.

Remember that your first paper is due this coming Friday, March 14th, by noon central time.  You may already have noticed that I have opened a new discussion forum in Blackboard for the submission of these papers, and I want you to submit your paper in that forum.  Note that there also is a menu item on the main course menu at the left of the Blackboard window that you should use to submit your finished paper to the plagiarism-detection site, Turn-It-In; this menu item, not surprisingly, is called Paper One - Turn-It-In. So this means that you need to submit your paper in two different places - in the discussion forum, and also to Turn-It-In. 

Finally, Spring Break at UIS starts at the end of Week Eight in our course, so the Week Eight discussions won't officially end until the Monday AFTER Spring Break concludes, which is March 24th.

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Well, that wraps up this podcast.  So until next time, this is Burks, signing off.

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