Social Media: More than a Distraction

 Before entering Pierre Lévy’s classroom, I can admit that I was beginning to develop a negative perception of social media. The perception may have rooted from my high school teachers, my aunts and uncles, or perhaps my grand parents. Either way, every time I would pull out my phone to read Twitter or check up on Facebook, I would be immediately scolded (in one way or another). The older generation did not understand that I was not ignoring them or avoiding the conversation. In fact, I have never been the type to choose my screen over a discussion. All in all, the reactions of my superiors in regards to my use of technology has always been quite negative. It nearly made me feel guilty for using social media. However, after having learned the infinite advantages to internet usage, it is now clear to me that the internet is not simply for leisurely use. It’s far more than that, really.

         The lessons in Lévy’s course were of a wide variety. The first few lessons were focused on cultural and natural evolution, which tied in well with the large historical evolution of education. One of the first concepts that really intrigued me was that the first type of education was social and the world is now returning to the same type of education. The first beings learned how to identify themselves, imitate others as well as develop habits of all sorts. In other words, they learned off of each other. Today, education is social again as we are learning collaboratively and openly, thanks to social media.

         Following the evolutionary based lessons, we learned what elements support collective learning. Essentially, a data-centric society is what supports collective intelligence. For example, science has become open and research is now collective thanks to the digital humanities. Learning in general is now collaborative thanks to MOOCs, massive open online courses. However, we learned about the difficulties of living in a society centered around data such as cyber-spying and cyber wars, political competitions in online electoral campaigns, and rebellions lead by social media websites (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

         After developing a vast understanding of the data-centric society in which we now live in, Lévy conveniently taught us how to contribute to it ourselves. Essentially, in order to effectively contribute and participate in today’s society, one must curate data. Lévy advances three types of intelligence that are interdependent on each other: Personal, critical of the sources and collective. Personal intelligence begins with managing our attention by prioritizing and choosing the subjects we wish to interpret, categorizing them and adding them to what most recognize as the cloud. Critical intelligence of sources consists of diversifying and cross-referencing sources, which is externally criticizing. Internally criticizing, on the other hand, consists of identifying categories for theses sources. After externally and internally criticizing sources, one must evaluate the transparency of the curated information. Finally, collective intelligence has a lot to do with “la communication stigmergique”  (no direct English translation), which forms a global and local memory that multiple authors can contribute to. Global and local memoires lead to a large freedom of responsibility and power. Now, not only can elitists and professionals of all sorts contribute to the cloud, but we all can. Even university students like us have the power to contribute to our data-centric society. More importantly, and I advanced this notion in my mid-term essay as well, implicit and explicit knowledge are essential to collaborative learning. In short, one must externalize their tacit knowledge, which is the knowledge that is imbedded in the brain and difficult to teach the general public. One must also internalize explicit knowledge, which they are able to absorb from the general public.

         The reason for which I have decided to concentrate on content curation in my essay is because throughout this semester, the main thing I have learned is that curation is at the centre of learning collectively. As I previously advanced, collective intelligence is how society is educating themselves now. Therefore, it is imperative that we learn to curate if we want to contribute to and take away from the cloud. I’ve made multiple conclusions this semester, as Lévy has provided us with a large number of essential information, most of which I was not able to touch on in this essay. However, I touched on what I found was most imperative to take away form this course, which is the ability to curate content.

         All in all, Pierre Lévy’s course provided me with an extremely effective argument towards the older generation who disapproves of my use of the internet. Social media is so much more than gluing my eyes to a screen instead of engaging in a conversation. Rather, social media is essential to today’s network society and better yet, it contributes to discussions. I would highly recommend Lévy’s course to the non-believers of the power of social media.