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December 03, 2013

Digital Footprints in the Sand?


When I first opened my twitter account in 2008, I was probably ahead of the game. I did it, not of my own personal free will,  but was academically extorted into it by Professor Comerford of my
"New New Media"studies class in Norrköping, Sweden.
One of the requirements of this course was that we adopted and used different forms of social media in order to better understand their potential applications.

Today as I write this blog, which was similarly founded in the same era under professor Comerford's coercion, I am starting to appreciate some of the lessons learned back when people were still confused whether twitter had anything to do with twits and if a blog was something that happened if you ate breakfast too quickly. I am also realizing that, like with any new phenomenon, things have evolved and I may have misjudged the usefulness of some of these tools.

In listening to a presentation on Digital Footprints by Tyson Seburn, a prominent figure is the TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) field in Toronto, I was immediately struck by how social media in general seems to have matured from the early days of the facebook frat party, to a true network of professional resources that are as essential to career-building today as a strong resume and clean clothes have ever been.

Specifically in the field of teaching English as a second language, in an industry that is foundationally international, the potential to build community, share resources, network, and provide teachers around the world with connection to their peers, is an advance that stands to benefit English teachers, and accordingly their students as well.

In 2009 my colleague and fellow Blog Journalist writer Russ MacDonald mused in a blog post:

 "I suppose there will always be some Twitterers (twits?) who will maintain the service, but perhaps its popularity will fade into the netherworld of internet memes (remember ICQ?)."

There is still time for this to happen, but twitter is hanging around and finding more ways than ever to make itself useful. It seems that it is not just for celebrities and advertising, but that in our busy, over-saturated internet world, we still have time for 140 characters. It doesn't seem that this trend of rushing around is about to reverse, so it looks like twitter is here to stay.

Ultimately, I found Tyson Seburn's session to be a bit of a wake-up call for me personally and socially. The tools are there for everyone to use, the digital divide notwithstanding, and it is incumbent on us to make use of them, and to help those without the savvy or know-how to "get-connected" as much as possible. Our digital footprint is no footprint in the sand. It belongs to the alter-ego known as our digital selves; a persona that has spawned itself into existence and that will only continue to evolve and grow over time.

Below is a link to Tyson Seburn's presentation slides:
http://www.slideshare.net/tysonseburn/your-digital-footprint-28851582

January 24, 2011

If I Have Nothing to Hide, Why Would I Need to Lie?


It has been awhile since The Blog Journalists have been in action, but a recent event in Canadian News has re-kindled my journalistic fire...and boy is it blazing over this one.


The report last week that the CRTC is weakening the blanket ban on false news to now only cover "any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health, or safety of the public." is a decision that could destroy the integrity of the Canadian media. One could even put forth the arguement, as some already have, that lax regulations such as these (the American version of this law is more stringent than the one proposed by the CRTC) can create an enviroment of distrust that can lead to violence such as the horrific shootings in Arizona this month. I am reluctant to blame events such as the one in Arizona on the media because, as we know, random acts of violence do happen. On the other hand, the media* is the lifeblood of our society. When pure, it serves as a source of truth that flows through us all, reinforcing democracy. In the same vein, if polluted with pathogenic stories that serve the interests of a select few however, it is not a stretch that body of our society would start to decay. This change in regulation threatens to turn us into media junkies with dirty needles full of addictive half-truisms sticking out of our arms; being told what others want us to hear instead of what is true. It sounds extreme, but watch a half-hour segment on FOX News and you'll know what I mean.

(*I dislike lumping all media together like this because when we hear this label we often think of just television or newspapers, but there are so many different media and platforms for us all to have our voices heard, epecially since the advent of new media through blogging, podcasting and social media.)


We would all like to believe it will not happen; that nothing will change; that even if little wisps of untruths started to float onto our screens, that we would see them; that they would scream out to us, or at least come with a disclaimer read at the end "Stories shown on this program may not be entirely accurate representations of what may or may not have actually happened." Yet we know that it will not be like this. To our eyes, nothing will change. We will never know.


Ultimately, anyone who wants to be a journalist whether independent or working for a major media corporation, should be bound to the pursuit of the truth. Of course everything is tinted by our own beliefs, but this should only affect our opinions on a subject, not the actual facts at hand. People that think this regulation will not change anything and that all media outlets will put the search for the truth ahead of their own agenda should not be deceived. If I have nothing to Hide, Why Would I need to Lie? If they don't have a reason for lying, why would this regulation be changed? The CRTC cited that the current sweeping regulation is in conflict with our Charter of Rights and wouldn't hold up in court. My question is, why don't they take this issue to court then? Why are they trying to slip this regulation through as if it is nothing at all? If they were truly concerned about what was right, a careful analysis of the entire issue would be made and all the appropriate democratic steps would be taken.


Under the new CRTC regulation, I might be tempted to make a bold accusation as to who I thought might be behind these changes. It stinks of the same type of behind-doors decision making that has led to a number of controversial, but relatively hush-hush political decisions in Canada over the past five years. Proroguation of Parliament. Senate stacking. Massive negative-ad campaigns. Decisions to cut off funding to political parties hidden in with other bills, essentially paralyzing the opposition.


I won't point fingers though. It won't do any good. The people of Canada are the only ones to blame if this regulation passes. If we don't take note of the issue, condemn it and do all we can to stop it, we cannot complain.


So here it is, your chance to do something: www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2011/2011-14.htm


Write to the CRTC and tell them this is wrong. Tell them you want the truth and that anything less is unacceptable. Tell them that if this regulation is against the Charter of Rights, it should be discussed democratically in court, not changed without the slightest regard or consult of the people it affects.


This is about our country, our families and our lives. This is crucial. This is about the most precious thing we have: the truth.

June 15, 2009

Atheists vs Believers: The Third Period

So Who will it be? Weeks have gone by with no clear resolution, but tonight the metaphysical hockey game will come to a close and we will finally know the truth.

As the players start their march from their dressing rooms, the fans in the stadium are out of their minds with excitement. The arena has become possessed by the game at hand and the enormity of the stake.

The players are also clearly affected by the atmosphere and the animosity between the teams is palpable. Dawkins in jawing with Aquinas while St. Anselm stares down Phillip Pullman. Yet there is one player who stands outside the fever pitch. As goaltenders usually are, the Believers goalie is quieter and more reserved than the other players. As the others head out to the ice, he remains in the dressing room focussing on the game at hand.

After a peaceful moment he pulls on his glove and blocker, picks up his stick and walks into the electric arena.

At puck drop the players stare each other down like and line up like soldiers on a battlefield. The sounds is deafening, yet the lonely Believer's goalie crouches quietly in his crease.

Referee Kant drops the puck and the players spring into action. Play moves into the Believers end and the puck rolls into the corner. It's hard to say exactly what happened next but an agressive Pullman collided with an equally spirited Anselm while battling over whether religion was important or not. Both players ended up lying on the ice, intertwined and unable to get up. The other players immediatly forgot about the puck and began pushing and shoving in the corner. Quickly things escalated from a normal hockey scrum to a full-out Donniebrook as the benches emptied and even Atheist goalie Karl Marx skated the length of the ice to join in.

Yet while the players on both sides tried to decapitate one another, the Believers goaltender remained an outside, watching what had been a good hockey game deteriorate into chaos. He knew right then there was only one thing to do.


He turned and skated towards the fighting players and threw down his gloves and stick, tossed his hemet away and skated into the crowd of swinging saints and dualing deniers, yet instead of joining in the battle he skated past them and knelt down beside the injured players on the ice. He asked them questions to find out how badly they were hurt and listened to what they had to say.

Meanwhile, the other players slowly stopped fighting, turned towards the 3 men on the ice and for the first time realized Pullman and Anselm had been hurt. But they were puzzled by what they saw. Of all they had heard about Jesus, Believers and Atheists alike, they expected to see something miraculous...an instant healing or divine intervention. Instead what they saw was the image of a man on his knees, listening intently to what both the Atheist and Believer had to say. What they saw was nothing other-worldly but something each and every one of them would have been cabable of doing if they hadn't been too busy fighting and arguing about who was right and who was to blame.

Now, at this moment the entire arena had become silent, with all eyes pointing at Jesus. With all the flashy plays, big saves and uppercuts thrown, it was a simple act of kindness that had captivated the audience and put the spotlight on the Believers goaltender who, given this opportunity, delivered a message as simple as the act that had stopped the fighting:

"For those of you that care to hear, God is here for God is love alone. To love one another as I have loved you was, and still is, the only truth there is. Your life is yours to live, and life is so important, but nothing is more important than being ready when you are called to be of service. Love is not religious, or scientific, but life itself and being open to living and loving is the only way true life can ever be experienced, otherwise you are only fighters, battling your way throuh life, blind to both the needs of others and yourselves."

With that, Jesus turned and skated towards centre ice. For a moment, the other players stood still, and then followed suit. When the players had lined up at centre ice, the shook hands and congratulated each other on a game well played and then headed for their respective dressing rooms with 19 minutes still left on the clock.

And so with that, the game ends decidedly undecided, ready perhaps to be continued a different day in a different place, but not here, not now. Although it may not feel as if anything has been resolved, the general feeling is that the premise for the game was all wrong anyways; that the question of God's existence was somehow less important than the result; that the message of peace and love delivered by Jesus was more important than anything else.

Will Grassby

May 04, 2009

Crosby versus Ovechkin: The Battle to be Best

The two greatest stars in the NHL are facing off head-to-head from two of the biggest hockey cities in the United States. The NHL and NBC each teared up a little bit, and hockey fans everywhere checked off their calendars. Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, and of course the rest of the Capitals and Penguins, were finally facing off in a playoff series.

Since coming into the league in the same year thanks to the lockout cancelling what would have been Ovechkin’s first season, the two have been in direct competition for the title as league best, for bigger and better trophies, and for the hearts and minds of the fans. Ovechkin won the first battle, taking home the Calder in 2006, and each have won a Hart, Crosby in 2007, Ovechkin in 2008. Ovechkin has also outscored Crosby in three of the four seasons since they both broke into the league, while scoring goals with reckless abandon. But statistics aside, the most interesting aspect of the battle between the two youngsters is the battle for the fans.

All of hockey’s eyeballs had been on Sidney Crosby for years. Here was a clean-cut boy from Canada (Nova Scotia, no less), who spoke perfect Wayne Gretzky English and dominated his opponents in junior hockey. He was being toted as the new face of the NHL, which was suffering from an image and a game problem before and especially during the lockout of 2005. The rights to draft his services were put to a lottery for all teams, and the NHL brass breathed a sigh of relief when that first ball they pulled didn’t have an ugly green and purple coyote thing on it. Pittsburgh it was, and how suiting to have Super Mario there to tutor him in his waning days. They could revitalize a failing franchise in a strong hockey market, and breathe new life into the franchise and the entire NHL. That’s a lot of pressure on a seventeen-year-old.

So Crosby was the cool kid and everyone wanted to be his friend, until this foreign exchange student showed up and became the life of the party. Two years older and able to funnel three beers at once with complete disregard for his body, Ovechkin became the toast of the league. He could score goals; he could throw hits; and he can celebrate with the best of them. Unbridled enthusiasm from a kid who didn’t know any better and was doing what he did best, which also happened to be what he loved to do. And to the delight of everybody (but perhaps Sid), he kept doing it.

So two parts maturity, three parts temperament, add in some hockey breeding and a dash of marketing, and Crosby becomes a hard-luck whiner who nobody wants to be around, while Ovechkin’s still scoring goals with reckless abandon. Crosby grew up being compared to Wayne Gretzky the hockey player, as he grew up watching Wayne Gretzky the diplomat. A polite Canadian, Crosby said all the right things about hard-work and fair-play and we’ll-get-‘em’next-time, while Ovechkin’s still scoring goals with reckless abandon. Even the NHL marketing machine, with a series of very cute and funny ads, played Crosby the straight man to Ovechkin’s prankster. In the brilliant hotel add featuring a number of NHL stars goofing around like kids in a hotel during a hockey tournament (what’d they call it when they threw flour in your face while you slept?), Ovechkin orders large amounts of room service, only to have it sent to Crosby’s room. Crosby, in his very best Seinfeld impression, bemoans being the butt of Ovechkin’s joke. Ovechkin is just a lot of fun. Perhaps Sid did a bit of whining in his first year or two, but it must be tough when men twice your age with a tenth of your talent are shoving the butt ends of their sticks into your ribs behind the refs’ backs, while Ovechkin’s still scoring goals with reckless abandon.

Not to belittle Alexander Ovechkin. He has done great things for the Washington Capitals and the game of hockey. He has maintained his ‘cool foreign exchange student’ demeanour as well as his zest for life and scoring goals. He has improved the play of his teammates, and is always the first one in on the celebration when they score. He has done interviews and commercials and been a personality, all in a culture and a language he doesn’t understand. He has given the NHL an anti-Sidney to play against Crosby’s hero. And perhaps most importantly he has guided his Capitals into the second round of the playoffs, all while scoring goals with reckless abandon.

However I would still take Sidney Crosby on my team, and I still think Pittsburgh will take the series. (I had said Pens in five, but mostly because I was mad at Washington for coming back against New York…). Crosby has the style of play that will succeed in the NHL playoffs, and he has shown it by leading his team to the finals last season. All while being two years younger, and with the continued weight of the league’s and the fans’ expectations. Go Sid Go.

Russ MacDonald

April 29, 2009

Tweet Tweet

his past month I have heard the word Twitter more times than my previous twenty-one years and six and a half months of existence [editor's note: I am actually 22 and a half, not 21. I don't know what to tell you]. I have never tweet (tweeted?), nor do I really understand the appeal. I’m not really sure if this is just a further foray into narcissism, or if this is another manifestation of decentralised mass communication that has evolved from the Internet. I do use facebook, but I’m not really sure if there’s a large difference between a facebook status update and a tweet. Perhaps someone could enlighten me. I was relatively late jumping on the facebook train, not really for any ideological reasons, but I just didn’t really see the appeal there either, although I now find it quite useful for keeping in touch and coordinating events. I do also appreciate the irony in an online blogger accusing Twitter of narcissism, especially without having ever used the service, however I like to think that my posts represent more than mundane self-absorption (and in more than 140 characters).

An article on cbc.ca today said that as of February of this year, Twitter had more than seven million unique visitors, although sixty percent of people using the site were not coming back within the next month. That is compared to a seventy percent return rate for facebook at the same stage in its growth. Numbers like that suggest that Twitter will become a passing fad, without enough substance or evolution to maintain a large base of people. I suppose there will always be some Twitterers (twits?) who will maintain the service, but perhaps its popularity will fade into the netherworld of Internet memes (remember ICQ?).

From a cultural standpoint, it is interesting to question what Twitter says about us. My sister, who is recently back on the facebook train, had explained to me that she long-ago deleted her first account, because she found it to be nothing more than an inane waste of time, with little real value. I guess that comes down to how you use it. I have noticed a trend with the most recent incarnation of facebook down that road, with more status-updates and fewer wall-posts, becoming more about ME! I do enjoy following my friends’ various travels and projects, however it is of less interest to me that ‘Sarah is boooooooored.’ (More irony: I will likely inform people of this blog via facebook-status-update. Maybe I should tweet about it too.)

It will be interesting to see where facebook goes, and how it is used by us in the future and by future generations. Will it continue to devolve into a mess of personal updates and applications, or will it maintain its usefulness as a networking site. I suppose that is really up to the people who use it, but that begs the further question about the politics of technology and what the driving force behind the changes really is. Are people adapting to the technology as it is presented to them? Or is the technology shifting to shape the demands of the people. The new facebook layout was met with large amounts of backlash, and yet people have gotten over that and begun to shift the direction of the site again. Perhaps it is suiting to end this post with a mention of youtube, but for a remarkably funny song about the perils of MySpace and the potential for your children to find your profile in twenty years, check out MyHope.

Russ

April 22, 2009

The Atheists vs The Believers - 2nd Period (Part 3 of 5)

After a short delay the 2nd period is ready to be played with part three of our five-part metaphysical hockey game blog series. This week the key players shift and the topics of discussion are markedly different, but the goal remains the same. Cementing once and for all the greatest question of all. Is there a God?

With the players back on the since re-frozen ice everything is set to go for the 2nd period of the metaphysical hockey game.

Referee Immanuel Kant skates to centre ice and drops the puck. We are underway. Off the draw the Atheists take the puck and dump it into the Believers zone and give chase furiously. They look like a team on a mission and the first one to the puck is Greek star Epicurus who grabs the puck in the corner and barges his way unstoppably to the front of the net. His argument is simple. He says “"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?" (from 2000 years of disbelief) He fires this quick shot and scores the first goal of the game, less than 1 minute into the period.

It is to be noted that Epicurus was originally reluctant to join the ranks of the Atheists because he himself is a deist, meaning his answer to this problem is that Gods, although they exist, do not involve themselves with the world and therefore allow evil to occur.
Epicurus joined the Atheists due to his allegiance to skepticism and the scientific method, something he felt was incompatible with the faithers on the other side.

With the ever troubling “Problem of Evil” on the table and the Believers already down by a goal, they look disorganized on the ice and Richard Dawkins seems very interested in sealing the deal by throwing several hard, but mis-guided shots on the Believers’ goal.

Yet there seems to be a bit of conflict growing amongst the Atheists. A team composed mostly of educated philosophers and thinkers, they see Dawkins as out of his league; a try-hard if you will. A few of the Atheists are fed up with him hogging to puck and missing shots that they would no doubt bury into the back of the net. This frustration comes to a head when Dawkins decides to try to go end-to-end with the argument that religion itself is the source of evil.

After stick-handling through a couple of checks with religious fundamentalism as his cause, he gets blindsided by an almost 1700 year old St. Augustine of Hippo. A figure almost completely cut out of The God Delusion, Dawkins is completely surprised by the surprisingly spry Augustine and is sent sprawling into the boards.

Augustine subsequently grabs the puck and shows great dexterity in maneuvering around the Atheist defense whose insistence that evil and God cannot co-exist was exposed by a quick suggestion from Augustine the evil itself does not exist. When pressed by the back-checking Dawkins to elaborate on this blasphemous claim Augustine puts it in scientific terms for the Oxonian. What is cold but lack of heat, he said, and with that, what is evil but lack of good? What Augustine is establishing is evil as a perversion of the good and a by-product of free will. With that he left Dawkins with this quote:

“For the almighty God…would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? …in the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its own place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil.”

On that note Augustine fired the puck between the Atheists’ goaltender Karl Marx's legs. Game tied.
1-1. Augustine had effectively shown the Atheists the possibility of an omnipotent, all-benevolent God in a world with things that seem evil.

However the battle has just begun. The Atheists come back hard arguing that the world would be infinitely better without any “perversion of good” and that Augustine’s had his foot in the crease on the goal by effectively playing with words instead of presenting a valid argument goal. “Go upstairs” they all yelled in chorus.

Kant skates over to the penalty box area and takes hold of the phone receiver. He calls up to the official goal judge Henry Huxley. Known for his fair judgements Huxley is quick to make his decision. Although Augustine’s foot was in the crease, he says, the rule states he must interfere with the goalie to disallow the goal. Since his argument does provide a valid analogy of a world with both an all-powerful, all-benevolent God and evil, or however you want to phrase it, the goal stands. 1-1

With that the Believers’ bench shout out for joy as the Atheists look seething.

2 minutes to go in the period and they are indeed a chippy 2 minutes. Numerous high-sticks are seen as well as a couple of “charges” against Augustine by Atheists who were not at all pleased with the sneaky move on his goal.

Despite the jeers, the period ends with the score tied.

Headed to the dressing room is one cheery group of believers and one grouchy looking group of atheists (although it's hard to tell whether Dawkins is grouchy or if it is just his usual demenour.)

It looks like the 3rd period will be one for the ages. The Atheists are chomping at the bit to get back on the ice and throw their best arguments at the rather annoying Believers squad while the Believers are looking to ride the wave of their late goal to victory. With both teams motivated and anxious to get back out there, even the Atheist fans cannot doubt it will be an electrifying finish.

Please check back next week on Wednesday at 5pm EST for the 3rd period.

Will Grassby

April 20, 2009

Columbine: Looking for Answers

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre that left fifteen people dead and another twenty-three injured after two gunmen went on a rampage at their high school in Littleton, Colorado. Afterwards, questions abounded, and answers stockpiled as well.

Many of the purported ‘reasons’ for the killers’ actions reflected the notion that they were outcasts, goths, nerds, or played violent video games and listened to violent music. Fans of Marilyn Manson, much of the blame was placed at his feet for ‘influencing’ these young men to commit this heinous act. It seems somewhat ironic that a man whose stage name and persona is a play on the association between pop culture and mass murder is subsequently blamed for such an event.

Manson was interviewed by Michael Moore for Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine, in which he discussed gun control and American culture in the context of the Columbine massacre. Say what you will about Moore (or Manson), but the discussion they had covered a number of relevant topics. In the interview, Manson highlights a number of other factors that were much more likely contributors to the events than any simple answer of violent music. According to Moore, the United States dropped more bombs on Kosovo that day than at any other time during the war. Manson also highlights a culture and cycle of fear and consumerism perpetuated by the media as more damaging than any rock-n-roll music. The final question of the interview is the one which has stuck with me the longest since first viewing the film, and it’s when Moore asks Manson what he would say to the kids involved and the people in the community, to which Manson replies: “I wouldn’t say a single word to them, I would listen to what they had to say, and that’s what no one did.”

And he’s right. Too often we are all too focused on what we would say and do, and speaking louder to ensure that we are heard, when instead we need to stop and listen to each other. When people become disenfranchised and feel they are wronged, they make sure they are heard in whatever way they can. When that is mixed with violence and adolescence, we find ourselves with tragedies such as Columbine. When it is mixed with radical nationalism and misplaced religious zealotry, we have events like September 11th. When it is met with peace and support, we have “Give Peace a Chance”.

In order to resolve any number of the conflicts facing the world today, we much approach them with this same resolve. We are all the same, and we all just want to be heard. What is right and just will inevitably triumph, and the way to see to this is by encouraging open communication amongst all parties.

Russ