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THE NEW WAY TO LOOK AT EDUCATION

Boston: A Gollum Moment for Media? And nostalgic for Tom Friedman?

CJ Westerberg, April 29, 2013 6:11 PM

Gollum-Smeagol-smeagol-gollum-14076781-960-403.jpg

photo: Gollum
Was the Boston Bombing a Tipping Point?

by C.J. Westerberg

Pro-innovation-disruption-MOOC-advocate and NYTimes columnist Thomas Friedman
gets nostalgic:

That's why, when the Internet first emerged and you had to connect via a modem, I used to urge that modems sold in America come with a warning label from the surgeon general, like cigarettes. It would read: "Attention: Judgment not included."

And that's why the faster, more accessible and ultramodern the Internet becomes, the more all the old-fashioned stuff matters: good judgment, respect for others who are different and basic values of right and wrong. Those you can't download. They have to be uploaded, the old-fashioned way, by parents around the dinner table, by caring but demanding teachers at school and by responsible spiritual leaders in a church, synagogue, temple or mosque. Somewhere, somehow, that did not happen, or stopped happening, with the brothers Tsarnaev.

Gollum, a symbolic character in Lord of the Rings, (photo above), was conflicted. Substitute his obsession with the ring with our present-day singular-mindedness with technology, speed or efficiency, and we just might see some parallels, although Gollum is quite the drama being.

Back to the Friedman article.  Did the faulty knee-jerk Boston tragedy reporting followed quickly by a false White House AP-hacked tweet create a tipping point for the way we view technology and media?  Or, was it the culmination of other remarkable and not-so-remarkable events?

The collective tech-worshipping zeitgeist may have been at its peak during the Social Network era (see video below). Did it begin unraveling after the the Facebook IPO or Steve Jobs' passing? Along the way, there were career-crushing oops moments such as Weiner's photos and Romney's dissed waiter's video release, seemingly endless incidents of school bullying through social media, and then the personal, "did my friend really post that?" scenarios that gnawed at our psyches.

Regardless of one's politics, we all recognized that these "tech-induced revelations" could happen to us or our loved ones, perhaps on a less sensational scale (having a bad day and saying something which could be taken out of context and a million hits later?), but just as damaging. 

Twitter replaced Facebook as the darling of the moment intellectually and again we may have found ourselves in a bit of a conundrum.  Ezra Klein does a good a job on this one.

Yes, we know that the good news is that we had lots of film and photos during the Boston bombing that helped find the brothers. Yet, there was also a great deal of media craziness and misinformation. The news became - and the feeling was palpable - a race about who could report ANYTHING faster to get the views and the tweets and . . . whatever measurement mattered for that moment.  The ramifications of this kind of journalism (does anyone really use that word anymore except when they charge big fees to take the course in college?) could have been even more serious.

On this morning's Meet the Press, Chuck Todd revealed how President Obama hates Internet and new media - "he thinks that sort of coverage of political media has hurt political discourse."
Is that reporting or a riff?  Did Obama say this directly? All Internet media?  Isn't all media on the Internet?  

Fred Wilson, a well-respected VC who could be a lobbyist for technology (just check out his blog and his skill at throwing out trial balloons to get feedback on certain topics or products) got more than he bargained for when he played up the topic, Evidence of our Smartphones, relating to the Boston Bombing, up to his usual deck of mainly agreeable mates (aka commenters) who are cordially disagreeable at their worst.  The usual commenting group uncharacteristically slapped back to the point where Wilson said the comments made him upset - musings ranged from big brother, anarchy, Google Glass and we-see-the-enemy- and-it-is-us-sort-of-thing - mutiny anyone? 

Jeff Jarvis, the ebullient poster boy espousing the wonders of technology in journalism,  criticized and parodied for being a tech solutionist, even gave a lesson in his most recent post.

Can the technology conversation move beyond pro and con extremes?
   
Something's going on.  Maybe it's just a re-set. 

Or maybe the honeymoon is over and we are in a more realistic phase of how we view, report and see technology in our lives.

That would be a welcome thing.



#1 -Social Network video below

#2 Gollum video
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