Home' Teacher : October 2010 Contents 12 TEACHER OCTOBER 2010
Generation after generation throughout his-
tory has been faced with the challenges of
transformational change. Socrates feared
that the advent of writing would erode
memory -- I remember reading that some-
where because, luckily, Plato and Xenophon
wrote it down -- thus limiting the capacity of
people to express, interpret and reinterpret
knowledge. He needn't have worried.
Once writing had become accepted, and
virtuous, though, we then saw the introduc-
tion of the printing press as the 'work of
the devil' because it enabled more people to
share information more widely.
We've accepted books, newspapers and
magazines, and now see them, mostly, as
virtuous, unlike technologies like television,
video and DVD which, since their inception,
have come under fire. Too much TV is bad
from reading literature, which is a wonder-
ful thing and not the work of the devil.
Like the 'idiot box,' which sums up the
supposed anaesthetising effect of TV on
young people's minds, the internet and world
wide web are now the subject of scrutiny.
The main subject, though, is web 2.0
and social networking tools like Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube. Next in that illustri-
ous line from writing, books and TV, these
are the latest baddies in a continuing debate
about the challenges of new com munica-
tion tools. What's common in all the cur-
rent debate, and debate in times past about
older communication tools, is the focus
on the dissemination of information and,
behind that, on the influence or control of
ideas and behaviour.
The ubiquitous nature of the web has
made it more difficult than ever for govern-
ments, business interests and other groups
to control or limit information in order
to persuade certain groups to a particular
point of view.
Consider two recent examples: Google's
decision to halt its filtering of content within
China, and Google's opposition to the
proposal by Senator Stephen Conroy, the
Commonwealth Minister for Broadband,
Communications and the Digital Economy,
to filter Australian content. Both illustrate
the fears of governments in allowing access
to certain types of content, whether for
political or child protection concerns, and
YIKES, NEW COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES ARE SCARY; THEN AGAIN, NEW COMMUNICATION
TECHNOLOGIES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SCARY, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE SHOULD BAN THEM.
GREG WHITBY EXPLAINS.
Face to face
Who's afraid of communication technology?
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