I got sucked into the story that Shirky uses to introduce the idea behind “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone,” so much that I went to the original website and looked for the 20/20 clip on YouTube (unsuccessfully.) The story is interesting, and I understand what Shirky is saying–the web is a powerful tool, and we need to get students to understand this. I think students do understand this, though, and perhaps feel it is more powerful than it really is.
I don’t think Shirky was thinking about this, perhaps because this article was from a few years ago and I don’t think this was that big of a thing then, but I was reminded of the idea of slacktivism. I know I’m guilty of being a slacktivist about some things; I’ll get sucked into signing a petition on Change.org, then end up signing ten more. I think sometimes this helps, but really, most of them get lost in cyberspace.
I thought of a status Caitlin re-posted on Facebook a couple days ago about slacktivism and how it’s much more beneficial for any cause for someone to actively fight for it, rather than passively signing a petition online. I thought about how I watched the quality show Kathy after class Thursday (come on, I just needed to zone out after all that hard work!) One of the guests was Jane Fonda, and they showed her mugshot from the 70s. While many do not agree with what she was fighting against–and she has actually apologized for it–she was being active about her protest. Kathy commended her for that, and I thought about how there is little that I would actually physically protest against, even though I feel like I’m passionate about a lot of causes.
We talked about a lot of issues in Dr. Ford’s class last semester, and one idea she gave us was to have students write to their congressman about an issue they feel strongly about, and actually send the letters. Physical letters, though it’s pretty easy to correspond with your congressman via the internet these days. Especially in an English classroom, I think this is a great idea. It teaches persuasive writing, gets students writing in general, plus it gets them fired up about something worthwhile. Additionally, we can teach students that there are active alternatives to the slacktivism they are probably used to practicing.