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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Antigonish 2.0: A Way for Higher Ed to Help Save the Web | EDUCAUSE Review - New Horizons

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"Antigonish 2.0 offers a call to colleges and universities around the globe to consider how their staff, faculty, students, spaces, and resources can help create a less polarizing information ecosystem and can reopen the web to its participatory, democratic potential" reports Bonnie Stewart, Coordinator of Adult Teaching at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI).

Photo: EDUCAUSE Review
 
I remember when the World Wide Web was going to revolutionize everything. I don't mean the techno-centric narrative of automation and The Jetsons that bursts repeatedly out of our culture, like a pimple, every generation or so. I mean the web that was going to connect us to each other. The one that was going to allow us all to produce and contribute to a shared world of digital artifacts. One without gatekeepers.

More than a decade after Web 2.0 heralded a connected, participatory world and three decades after Richard Stallman's "GNU Manifesto,"1 the web has instead become, in far too many of its corners, a fetid stream of ugliness and sensationalism. The web has become media. Attention—not voice or connection—is the currency of media.

Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University, talks about the structures behind the current state of the web in the opening column2 in this EDUCAUSE Review New Horizons series: how the social media model of stream communications amplified decontextualization and reactive response on the web.3 Technology entrepreneur Anil Dash also laments the web we lost.4

Meanwhile, I wander around in a social sphere increasingly calibrated for constant hits of scandal and outrage, and like a frog boiling in a pot, I wonder what to do. Hyperpartisan sites—run on business models that profit from both sides of the binary5—fuel an attention economy bent to the purposes of autocratic governance. Facebook algorithms and 24-hour news and platforms that privilege retweets over replies6 feed out a steady diet of toxic narratives that encourage polarization and anger and lashing out.

If the web was indeed a revolution, it sometimes seems to have entered its Reign of Terror phase. But the resolution doesn't lie in a return to the equivalent of the monarchy—the old gatekeepers of institutional knowledge and power. That path leads to another Napoleon. Rather, the same higher education institutions whose hierarchy and gatekeeping the web was supposed to open up and democratize7 are increasingly necessary partners in building any kind of democratic future for society, full stop.

That's because the web is a big part of where we live now. But we neither understand it nor know how to use it for learning. What we need is not a revolution, but a way to develop the local and global literacies needed to foster functional democratic participation. This won't just spontaneously generate out there on online platforms such as Reddit or Instagram. Neither will it happen in classrooms. Or community halls. But if we can find a way to weave all three together into a functional model, maybe there's a possibility.
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Source: EDUCAUSE Review 


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