Community & Social Technologies

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Flier from CAS/MillerComm Gitlin Event “Social Media May Be Media But They Are Not A Society”

Technology is changing everything in higher education. From new apps that challenge both traditional content and delivery to MOOCs, advances in tech are rearranging the global educational landscape. And, for some, the potentials and possibilities so quickly opened up by these advances can feel a bit more like a enigmatic tornado than a breath of fresh air.

In his recent CAS/MillerComm talk, entitled “Social Media May Be Media, But They Are Not A Society”, given here at Illinois, Professor Todd Gitlin, of Columbia University’s Journalism School, addressed the wide perception that mysterious, almost mystical technology is responsible for all major social movements of our time. It is widely known that leveling movements like Occupy Wall Street have taken to Twitter and Facebook to circulate information. In the process of making politics more transparent, these movements–and the technologies they harness–tend to take on an aura of mystery. A few Tweets and Doodle polls, it seems, and a community sprouts overnight, strong enough to topple governments and dream up new ways of living.

But Gitlin’s whole point is that we’ve got the order wrong.

“Human activity is the cause, not the effect, [of change]….It is more mysterious than technology.”

It’s not hard to Tweet; you don’t need special knowledge to open a Facebook account (though you might to close one). Technology doesn’t make community, community makes technology, and then we use our technologies to learn from and with one another.

That’s how we intend to use this blog: as a repository of information, and as a space to grow our student employees as members of a community interested in thinking about and bettering technology and education here at Illinois. Beginning soon, every week, one of our student employees will contribute something relevant and interesting to our community that we hope you will enjoy. Keep in touch!

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