Obama's camp ... understood that humans are -- and have always been -- social creatures, and that social media are nothing more than a powerful accelerant to human interaction. To suggest that they are new is akin to suggesting that chewing our food is a modern concept or that the love of warmth is a fad activated by the discovery of fire. Social media are the continuation of our species' drive to connect, communicate and collaborate. Obama embraced this reality and, with it, propelled a network of mobilized, purposeful advocates the likes of which no marketing effort has ever seen. David Krejci, "Message received," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11-5-08
Krejci's opines that Obama's use of social networking sites played a decisive part in his victory. (Excuse me for a second... HE WON! YIPPEEEEEE! Thanks. I needed to do that - again.) Obama's Facebook page has 900,000 members and Facebook was one of over 16 sites he used to both inform, motivate, and, yes, raise funds.
I've long been concerned that prohibiting the use of the Internet in schools in any form will politically disenfranchise students who may not have ready access outside of school. (See 1998's "Citizenship and Technology" column.)
Might one of the victories of this election be that social networking sites will be seen by more educators as educational and civics tools, not just for recreation? I hope so.
Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT and author of the McArthur report Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, writes:
We are using participation as a term that cuts across educational practices, creative processes, community life, and democratic citizenship. Our goals should be to encourage youth to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in contemporary culture...
What a person can accomplish with an outdated machine in a public library with mandatory filtering software and no opportunity for storage or transmission pales in comparison to what person can accomplish with a home computer with unfettered Internet access, high bandwidth, and continuous connectivity… The school system’s inability to close this participation gap has negative consequences for everyone involved.
For our kids, civic engagement equal social engagement.
My 1998 column concluded:
Jonathan Kozol in his book Savage Inequalities reminds us that there are two kinds of schools in this country: those training the future governors and those creating the future governed. Well-used technology can go a long way to help assure all citizens have the ability to participate in governing their own lives. And it won’t be long before technology is not just helpful in allowing this participation, but essential.
It really wasn't all that long.