Education as a Solution

When I think about the potential for computer virus attack I get worried.  After reading the Jonathan Zittrain chapters I wonder why there isn’t more destruction wreaked by rogue hackers and evil doers.  According to Zittrain, the personal computer (PC) and the Internet developed rapidly because access was available and creativity flourished.  In the beginning there was the Apple II:

The Apple II was quintessentially generative technology. It was a platform. It invited people to tinker with it. Hobbyists wrote programs. Businesses began to plan on selling software. Jobs (and Apple) had no clue how the machine would be used. They had their hunches, but, fortunately for them, nothing constrained the PC to the hunches of the founders. (4)

I like the term “generative” because it captures the notion that creativity and availability foster innovation.  I think this is the point Zittrain is making.  We shouldn’t allow our creative abilities to be threatened by viruses and malware threats.

How do we keep the innovation and creativity flowing that will enable us to create even more powerful computers and information technology?  How are we to deal with viruses and malware and still progress?  These are the questions that came to my mind when I finished reading “The Future of the Internet” introduction and chapters 1-3.  Zittrain offers a start to the dialogue that needs to take place:

The solutions to the generative dilemma will rest on social and legal innovation as much as on technical innovation, and the best guideposts can be found in other generative successes in those arenas. Those successes have faced similar challenges resulting from too much openness, and many have overcome them without abandoning generativity through solutions that inventively combine technical and social elements. (84)

I think this is a pretty ambiguous statement; however I think that the solution rests on an educated population of computer and Internet users.  Who will educate this population?  The burden of education falls on educators; people like you and me.  I’m not saying that the proliferation of viruses and malware is a result of inadequate education.  What I am saying is that as the skills required to use a computer become more complex there is a reciprocal need to educate and inform computer users so they won’t become victims of the negative aspect of generativity: viruses and malware.

In the article “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life“the author, danah boyd, discusses the importance of social networking to today’s teenagers.  The author argues that teenagers today use new media to convey their identities and socialize.  Identity and socialization are two important aspects of growing up.  Boyd says adults are shortchanging teenagers by trying to control them.  The need on the part of adults to control teenagers is representative of social changes that have occurred over the past seventy years: from direct adult youth interaction to separation and segregation.  Boyd says this is not socially healthy:

In today’s society, there is a push towards privacy. By allowing us to have a collective experience with people who are both like and unlike us, public life validates the reality that we are experiencing. We are doing our youth a disservice if we believe that we can protect them from the world by limiting their access to public life. They must enter that arena, make mistakes, and learn from them. Our role as adults is not to be their policemen, but to be their guide. (22)

By being a “guide” and not policeman adults are educators.  I believe the prevailing theme in the readings this week is about education: education about new media technology and educating youth about social interaction.

Zittrain makes the case that it is only through education that we can overcome threats to new technology: viruses, malware, etc.  Boyd argues that rather than control, today’s youth need guidance and education regarding socialization.  Both of these authors make reasonable arguments that support education as a means to an end.

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