David Preston

The World Online

Published 2 months ago • 4 min read

Most Tuesdays I deliver a taste of what I’m reading, watching, and thinking about, right to your inbox. Here’s your Taste of Tuesday.

February 20, 2024

When I developed Open-Source Learning in classrooms, learners and I often talked about whether technology was the right tool for the job. Sometimes it was, and sometimes it wasn’t. It depended on the jobs they were doing.

The job of a learner is dynamic. Learning continues to evolve in our society and economy, and technology is changing too. AI. Online communities have morphed into social media. Cultural norms and practices have shifted. Different people are going online for different reasons than they did just a few years ago.

I think it’s important to stay mindful of the online world, if only because it influences the way we operate offline. So this week I’m including a couple snapshots to put things in perspective.

💾 Party Like It’s 1994 —

Want to know just how ancient 30 years ago can feel? Thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, you can! Check out “EFF’s (Extended) Guide to the Internet”: “The world is just a phone call away. With a computer and modem, you'll be able to connect to the Internet, the world's largest computer network (and if you're lucky, you won't even need the modem; many colleges and companies now give their students or employees direct access to the Internet). The phone line can be your existing voice line -- just remember that if you have any extensions, you (and everybody else in the house or office) won't be able to use them for voice calls while you are connected to the Net.”

😪 Yesterday’s Kids Are Using Today’s Kids —

One terrible development in learning and technology is the increasingly sophisticated way in which cynical lobbyists and “culture warriors” use children to influence policy. We see it in every school board meeting, and now we see it in the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). From the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation):

"We want to remind everyone of the stakes. KOSA is still a censorship bill and it will still harm a large number of minors who have First Amendment rights to access lawful speech online. It will endanger young people and impede the rights of everyone who uses the platforms, services, and websites affected by the bill. Based on our previous analyses, statements by its authors and various interest groups, as well as the overall politicization of youth education and online activity, we believe the following groups—to name just a few—will be endangered:

  • LGBTQ+ Youth will be at risk of having content, educational material, and their own online identities erased. Young people searching for sexual health and reproductive rights information will find their search results stymied.
  • Teens and children in historically oppressed and marginalized groups will be unable to locate information about their history and shared experiences.
  • Activist youth on either side of the aisle, such as those fighting for changes to climate laws, gun laws, or religious rights, will be siloed, and unable to advocate and connect on platforms.
  • Young people seeking mental health help and information will be blocked from finding it, because even discussions of suicide, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders will be hidden from them.
  • Teens hoping to combat the problem of addiction—either their own, or that of their friends, families, and neighbors, will not have the resources they need to do so.
  • Any young person seeking truthful news or information that could be considered depressing will find it harder to educate themselves and engage in current events and honest discussion.
  • Adults in any of these groups who are unwilling to share their identities will find themselves shunted onto a second-class internet alongside the young people who have been denied access to this information."

💩 Enshittification —

Open-Source Learning ally Cory Doctorow has served as Special Advisor to EFF and written extensively about technology and society. If there is anyone who can articulate why this stuff matters for everyone, it’s Cory, and he recently did so again in the Financial Times: “The internet isn't more important than the climate emergency, gender justice, racial justice, genocide or inequality. But the internet is the terrain we'll fight those fights on. Without a free, fair and open internet, the fight is lost before it's joined.”

(At this point, you might be thinking, “That’s great David – but where’s the link?” It’s behind a paywall at the Financial Times. Money is right there in the title. I support journalism, but rather than paying for the article or asking you to, here is a link to Enshittification: The 2023 Word of the Year.)

🎸📚 And Now For Something Completely Different: What I’m Listening To While Reading —

I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, which was a dumb lucky trick of fate that meant my youth came with a live soundtrack of badass music that would define multiple genres for generations. I was focused on the music and didn’t know or care much about the backstories or the cultural significance of what I was hearing. So, as an adult, I love reading pieces like this one about the Go-Go’s, the #1 girl punk-turned-pop band of all time. We Got the Beat: “The Go-Go’s didn’t understand the importance of video at the time; but when MTV launched in August 1981, they saw the difference it made. The girls goofed around in the video, driving around Los Angeles in a convertible, and splashing in a fountain. They hoped to get arrested for playing in the fountain, which they thought would make an exciting end to the video. The police didn’t care, but the video would be played nonstop on MTV.”

🤔 Quote I’m pondering —

"Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles."
― Frank Lloyd Wright

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to reply to this email. Which bite is your favorite? What would you like to see more or less of? Any other suggestions?

P.S. If this edition of Taste of Tuesday was forwarded to you, you can join the list here.

David Preston

Educator & Author

Latest book: ACADEMY OF ONE

David Preston

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