#SchoolNerd

Education is one of the most valuable things in my life. It is vital in the development of human communication, critical thinking, and basic skills needed in the work field. Not only does it provide individuals with information about subjects like math or science, but how to use that information in daily life.

I definitely see change happening in the way students learn. Nowadays, most of our information is digital. We Google topics, log on to digital archives, and participate in crowdsourcing sites like web forums or blogging. The shift from traditional ways of teaching in classrooms, meaning textbooks and lectures on a blackboard, to the a more digital setting will take better form in the future. Instead of written essays, we can upload our writing online and include the media we gathered in our research. Instead of just citing the works, we are able to hyperlink that document or website onto our essays. It will provide our work with a more tangible feel.

Education will definitely be more interactive, despite arguments of Digital Humanities being perceived as erasing that unique human interaction between scholars. If anything, the Digital Humanities will bridge that human interaction by allowing so many people who are already working on the Internet, to collaborate. Education is not only active with physical involvement, but primarily intellectual collaboration as well. Intellectual interaction is just as fast in the Digital Age, than any other times before.

The way educators teach their students will be much different in the future. I am a firm believer that education should be accessible to all people. So, in online education, that dream can come true to many of those who cannot physically be in a classroom. Yet, those who are still going to school, can benefit from online learning. Digital libraries, blogging, and even social media can benefit one’s education. We have to keep up with the Digital Age, not be fearful about it. If used correctly, we can unlock even greater ways of sharing scholarly work and really promote the importance of education.

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ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN.

It’s no coincidence that the title of this post is in all caps.

Dave Egger’s The Circle makes it clear that privacy is something that isn’t a luxury to us anymore, or at least as it once was. Mae Holland lands a job at the prestigious company, The Circle, whose great influence on technology and social media is known throughout the globe. This place is entrancing. It has all these cool gadgets, dorms that feel like 5-star hotel rooms, and parties for staff members. It’s every social-media junkie or gadget-nerd’s dream job. Yet when we go further into the novel, we discover the dark side to the company and it’s mission.

Eamon Bailey, one of the three CEOs of The Circle, announces their latest project: SeeChange. It’s a small camera that’s the size of a lollipop, which can record high-definition images from practically anywhere. The best parts to this product is that it can go undetected and is very affordable. It’s lightweight, small, and of great quality. Bailey expresses how significant this product is not only for personal use, but for foreign affairs as well. Countries that are under authoritarian regimes can be monitored and “held accountable” for any actions they take. If there is one thing I took out of Bailey’s speech, it’s that SeeChange is the ultimate stalk-cam. Someone can be recording you and you would even have the slightest clue.

He turned again toward the screen and read it, inviting the audience to commit it to memory: “All that happens must be known.”

Bailey flashes this message to everyone in the company, almost in a brain-washing way, to not only promote SeeChange but to instill the true mission of The Circle. I knew from the beginning that The Circle was too good to be true. I mean, free tablets and organic mattresses to sleep on whenever you please? Where’s my application form?

But I must say, reading even further made me stop to think about signing on the dotted line. Bailey’s mantra is a warning. His company’s colt-like environment wants to take out the individual and link everyone’s lives together. Employees encourage “zinging,” similar to nowaday’s posts or tweets, so everyone is updated on each other’s lives. The more hits and activity you get, the greater your PartiRank is. The tablets and cellphones are all hardwired to feed into the motherboard. The Circle can literally know everything about you and use that information to their advantage. And that advantage can become your disadvantage. “All that happens must be known” is literal and in being so, it should send shivers down your spine.

In this Digital Age, we already knocked down the walls of our private life. Admit it to yourself, your social media accounts has been updated at least once today, just like every other day prior to. Your thoughts and actions are documented as they unfold, keeping what was once  considered private, now public. We don’t really think twice about posting on our websites. We feel safe enough that hitting “Private” on our settings will enable some kind of firewall to protect us from those we don’t want snooping around our pages. But it’s the complete opposite. Like SeeChange, monitors are going around undetected. What’s on the Internet, is on the Internet… forever.

Mae’s consent to all that The Circle asks of her to do is also something to think about. We want to have a place in this world. We want a sense of belonging. So, we follow employer’s instructions and company policies like our life depends on it. Often times, we do not question why or what does it matter. We simply follow and give the big thumbs up. This reflex is seen when agreeing to Terms & Conditions of a company. It’s a long list of things we just don’t want to read, yet agree to because we want to be able to be a part of it. Not agreeing to the Terms & Conditions means that you won’t be able to use the product or website. Now, who wants to be labeled as a loser for not signing up? Exactly. So we give our consent, to whatever it is the company asks, even if we aren’t aware of what exactly that is.

Whether it is twisted company policy or even our own conscious decision: information is going to be sent out into the open. Everything about us will be known. And terrifyingly enough, it may already be so.

The Controlling Big Brother

“We live in a land where freedom exists.”

That statement has been thrown around, criticized, embraced, and everything else in between. Freedom is supposed to be a right— FOR ALL PEOPLE, yet there are many who feel like there is a divide or sort of favoritism when it comes to who actually gets that freedom. Then there are things like privacy that comes into question. Does everyone have the right to privacy? What is privacy? If freedom is to do what you so please, then what happens when someone else intrudes on your right to privacy? All of this restraint on human thought and physicality is questioned in George Orwell’s 1984. This novel shows London in a dystopian society, where a figure “Big Brother” leads the controlling Party. Citizens are constantly being watched through telescreens which is also overseen by the Party. They cannot say anything against the Party or Big Brother, or else suffer major consequences, even death. The people must follow all the rules placed upon their society, which is very precise.

One crime that the Party takes very seriously is thought-crime. The simple act of thinking puts the individual in a very tough situation. One cannot think of anything against the Party’s decisions and laws. For example, the Party has very strict laws about sexual activity, and seeks to rid everyone of the desire to have it. Producing a baby is a “duty to the Party” and not something married people— or people whom are simply in love, just do. So, sexual activity is prohibited unless approved by the Party (which is also so crazy), as well as the idea of it. The thought police regulate these inner most “private” ideas. They follow your every move, often times without you knowing, and read your physical movements. The slighted abnormality in your movements can say something about what you are thinking, which is exactly what the thought police want to weed out. Many people believe that we have some sort of thought police roaming around our society today. Our most private thing, our thoughts, are not so private.

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live–did live, from habit that became instinct–in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

There is no doubt that we entertain the idea of eyes constantly patrolling us. They track the places we go, listen into our phone calls, and even have the ability to go into our homes without us even knowing. But the biggest question that we all want an answer to is, “who is THEY?” The people of Oceania know that it’s Big Brother watching them, but do we know who’s watching us? It could be the government, major industries like Google or Apple, other countries, or even your next door neighbor. We can speculate, but there’s a possibility that we might not ever know.

Nowadays, we also have a kind of “newspeak” that Orwell mentions in his novel. We are developing new lingo, speaking in Emojis, and even substituting real words or actions to simple acronyms. This “destruction of words” is something that scares me most. Without a language, there is no communication, no thought, no way to express what you truly mean. With the whole movement of social media and texting, we are slowly losing the value of words. Yes, I do believe we are able to be creative through online activity and crowdsourcing, but it can be limiting as well. For example, we can tweet about one topic and then have everyone tune in via a hashtag, but once everyone is #tweeting that same message… when does it become clear that the creativity is somehow lost in translation?

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.

Things like re-tweeting, re-blogging, or re-posting, take the individual idea and RE-generate the same concept. We feel like it’s always different, but in actuality, “newspeak” is trying to send us down a narrow road. We are not different. Everyone is just going to eventually say the same thing, the same exact way, and in doing so we lose any sense of creative or FREE thought.

Orwell’s novel definitely sends his reader into a state of paranoia. Freedom is put as this great right that we all have and in celebration we continually exercise it; through social media, activism, classroom conversations, etc. Yet, it is also binding. Freedom becomes the opposite of what we feel it should be because it is still just an idea. It’s that same telescreen flashing good news of freedom and how amazing it is to have. We are fascinated by it, believe in it, and constantly want to live in it… but is it even true?

Is freedom this illusion we give in to so we can feel safe? Is it a distraction to a whole different reality we are unaware of? By questioning it, yet still going about everyday life as we please, an act of ignorance?

We are a socially obsessed and highly opinionated generation. We exercise our “freedom” more than anything. But Orwell’s dystopia is no different than ours. We might not be dressed in blue overalls and have the telescreens glaring down at us. But we wear branded clothing with a Starbucks cup on one hand and our smartphones in the other. Orwell definitely gives us something to think about. Perhaps even a warning. He did write in his diary for a reason:

For the future.