Over the course of the last three months I’ve talked about a wide variety of things in my search for some kind of internal understanding about information programs and services. Other topics and subjects have found their way onto this blog in that time, and while they’re all still highly relevant, in the interest of good bookkeeping here’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of the INN333 highlights from the semester that was:
Cue a wavy distortion filter and tinkling music for a walk down memory lane.
Week 1 Primer on Personal Learning Networks
Week 2 Reflection on Information Overload
Week 3 Reflection on Social Media & Micro Blogging
Week 4 Reflection on Content Curation, Aggregation, and Web 2.0
Play for Week 4 in which I tried my hand at some content curation of my own
Week 5 Reflection on Library VoIP services
Play for Week 5 in which Ben Harkin and I played silly buggers with Skype
Week 6 Reflection on The Failure of Google+
Week 7 Reflection on The Intersection of Creative Commons and 3D Fabrication
Play for Week 7 in which I finally joined the filter brigade on Instagram
Week 9 Reflection on Device Agnostic Applications
Play for Week 9 in which I declare my love for the humble QR code
Now that we’re done wiping away the tears from all the good times we’ve shared I ask that you endure one last soapboxing for the semester as I reflect on what this all meant to me.
As a lifelong hobbyist of technology I have always had an insatiable desire to tinker with gadgets, play with the latest software and games, and test out the newest platforms and services. Back in 2010—when the iPad first launched—I became increasingly interested in the potential effects of how technology was increasingly incorporated into day-to-day life and how profoundly transformative an effect this was having on how content was authored, published, and consumed.
As information consumers, we all live in an age of unimaginable abundance, uninhibited by traditional notions of material scarcity. The infinite shelf space of the internet paired with zero-cost reproduction of content had created a world inundated with increasingly complex and almost magical platforms for technologies and experiences that even a scant few decades ago would have been nothing more than science fiction. And here I was trying to make sense of it all.
At the time I was finishing a master’s degree in writing, editing, and publishing at the University of Queensland, and I began obsessing over how the commoditisation of information and digital publishing was converging and—by extension—devaluing digital works. I became convinced that the devices and services that were simultaneously enabling these transformative, futuristic experiences in our lives also represented the greatest danger to the quality of those experiences. Tapping into social media, RSS feeds, and inviting ‘push’ notifications into my life seemed to be nothing more than inviting a never-ending supply of indiscriminate garbage information to bother me.
My fleeting dalliance as a neo-Luddite evaporated fairly quickly, but left me with a healthy scepticism for the efficacy and capabilities of the digital products that had so quickly come to dominate our lives.
Fast-forward to July 2013, and I find myself facing down a semester entirely concerned with examining the practical application of these technologies. I was actually keen to welcome the chance to explore many of the themes I was fascinated by, and eagerly got stuck right in.
As I have a fairly high level of comfort with complicated IT systems, I had doubts that I would get anything worthwhile out of the practical side of the subject that—at face value—appeared to be an odd assortment of activities designed to familiarise students with crucial information services in the wild rather than do anything particularly complicated or revelatory with them.
I could not have been more wrong!
Being pushed to engage in—and more importantly—reflect on these experiences made me actually take the time to examine the many-faceted uses of these services, and better appreciate how they might be utilised by others. Enough time has passed that I can’t call to mind any anecdotes about the specific challenges I faced this semester, but I have a nebulous idea that I found the process of discovery and investigation to be meaningful and cool, and genuinely enjoyed playing with how I approached and interacted with the activities.
Paradoxically, although this subject has concerned itself primarily with social technologies, I couldn’t shake the divided and diminishing effect of lacking more direct social collaboration with my peers. Despite the ongoing conversations on Twitter and Facebook and regularly touring my colleague’s blogs, I felt displaced and distanced from my peers—despite our shared engagement. The handful of face-to-face workshops were undeniably highlights of the semester, but just drove home how much I regretted that more face time with the cohort was not available.
Ultimately, this subject helped me appreciate and articulate a deeper understanding not only of how and why certain services function the way they do, but also how crucially important it is to take the time to interrogate and examine these functions fully.
Although the heady season of INN333 has come to a close I’m not going anywhere. My journey of professional development is far from over and there are scores of blogs unwritten just waiting in the wings.
So stick around, the best is yet to come.