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Meaningful Living and Learning in a Digital World

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IOPS | You are invited! | To engage in our discussion which explores one of the most important issues of our era. | How to live and learn with technology in ways that add authentic value to our lives and to the world. | As we embrace the conveniences of emerging technologies in the classroom and beyond, we will explore ways to employ them with a people-centered approach that includes #balance, #compassion, #healthy #living, #mindfulness and #relationships. This discussion/exploration is inspired by The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration and the University of West Georgia.

The Call for #proposals has ended. However, we hope that you will #join us for some inquiry and #peaceful #rejuvenation in a #scholarly #environment.



Reconciling Humanity and Technology in the Classroom

Humanistic Instructional Design

Work-Life-Learning Balance

Health & Wellness in the High-Tech Workplace

Mindfulness and Health

Learning Science

Coaching and Mentoring Distance Learners

Sustainable Technology Solutions

Social Equity and Educational Access

Experiential Learning

Conference on Meaningful Living and Learning in a Digital World 2019







Discussion 12 Comments

  • Boulder Dash 3rd Feb 2019

    How social media supercharged the propaganda system

    By Justin Podur
    Source: Salon.com
    February 2, 2019

    In their book “Manufacturing Consent,” the late Ed Herman and professor Noam Chomsky described how a privately owned free press could function as a propaganda system that deceived its readers quite as efficiently as a heavy-handed government censor.

    In their propaganda model, information about the world had to pass through a series of filters before reaching the media’s audiences. These filters prevented dangerous ideas — like democracy, equality, and peace — from reaching the readers of mass media. They identified five of those filters: Concentrated media ownership helped ensure that media reflected the will of its wealthy, corporate owners; reliance on official sources forced journalists and editors to make compromises with the powerful to ensure continued access; shared ideological premises, including the hatred of official enemies, biased coverage toward the support of war; the advertising business model filtered out information that advertisers didn’t like; and an organized “flak” machine punished journalists who stepped out of line, threatening their careers.

    When Herman and Chomsky created the propaganda model in the 1980s, they wrote about newspapers — what we now patronizingly call “legacy media.” The “legacy media” still wield influence, but things have evolved far beyond the five “filters” they identified: ownership, official sources, ideology, advertising revenue, and flak. In our media environment, these five filters have become supercharged. And new filters have refined propaganda into something more like mind control.

    The supercharging of existing media filters

    Ownership of media outlets is now supercharged and superconcentrated. It’s not the four or five media companies, but Big Tech that determines what you see. And Big Tech is even more concentrated: it’s Google (which owns YouTube) and Facebook (which owns WhatsApp and Instagram). The generous can give honorable mention to Twitter, with its few hundred million users (which dwarf the reach the “legacy media” had). In recent years tech billionaires have bought media companies too, such as the Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon), the Intercept (Pierre Omidyar of eBay), Time magazine (Marc Benioff of Salesforce), and the Atlantic (Laurene Powell Jobs of Apple).

    Official Sources: Relying on official sources and the compromises needed to maintain access to those has long been a force behind media self-censorship. Media companies like Fox News have staked their fortunes on Trump’s ability to draw audiences to their networks. They have made Trump the ultimate official source and the ultimate news story. This has reduced the range of issues down to those that cross Trump’s limited attention span and narrowed the spectrum of debate (for and against Trump’s often absurd positions on the topics of the moment).

    Ideology: Herman and Chomsky wrote about Cold War and War on Terror ideologies, but today’s ideological filter is worse than ever. Anticommunism might not have the force it had in the 1980s, but the New Cold War means that associations with Russia can be made to the same political effect as they had then. We also continue to have to hear about the importance of endless war, the endless generosity of police, the undeserving poor, and most of the other key premises that undergirded the media in the 1980s.

    Advertising revenue: The tech giants are advertising companies at their heart, and so all of the problems that came with the legacy media being driven by advertisers remain in the new environment. Two years ago a report out of Columbia University described the new business model of media, “the platform press,” in which technology platforms are the publishers of note, and these platforms “incentivize the spread of low-quality content over high-quality material.”

    Beyond the boost to the propaganda system provided by the transition to a “platform press,” the new advertising ecosystem has led to an explosion of what could be called the fake internet: advertising companies can pay other companies for clicks; the production of content can be automated. Much of the internet, as writer Max Read puts it, is now “fake people with fake cookies and fake social-media accounts, fake-moving their fake cursors, fake-clicking on fake websites.” This provides the powerful with two distinct opportunities to mislead audiences: first, they can take advantage of the fake internet directly. Second, by posing as uniquely credible on an internet full of fakery, they can sell more sophisticated or subtle falsehoods.

    Flak has become supercharged to the point where organized hate machines can be created and deployed against anyone at the drop of a hat, creating immense psychological pressure to silence independent voices. In November 2018, Indian student activist Shehla Rashid wrote devastatingly about both the organization of hate on Twitter and the effect it has on her:

    “The hate that I get from pro-BJP accounts is organised. No sooner have I tweeted than hundreds of abusive, acerbic, mocking replies start appearing beneath — within 12 seconds, 17 seconds. It would be flattering if it weren’t scary. Also, there seems to be no way to avoid this. There is no method to the madness. Regardless of what I tweet, there is ‘instant abuse.’ It is not based on the content of what I write.”

    This affects not just Rashid, but her followers on the social media platform: “If you want to genuinely engage with my post, you’ll think twice before replying to me, as it means that your day will be ruined by abusive trolls who will keep tagging you for hours or even days. You will find no support for me in the direct replies (except in the forms of retweets or favourites) and you’ll take whatever I say with a pinch of salt.”

    Rashid feels stuck, as in an abusive relationship: “In times when electronic media has turned into a show of competitive bigotry, Twitter does provide activists like me with a platform to air our views. I have 427,400 followers on Twitter. This means that the trade-off between leaving Twitter and having a voice is too high. This points to a deeply abusive relationship that we have with Twitter. We have virtually been held hostage to its benefits.”

    The new media filters

    But the new environment has some powerful filters the old one didn’t. Here are three:

    It’s brought to you by a cult: Earlier this year employees at Facebook described the ways in which the company’s performance review system, in which numerical ratings from colleagues are gathered by managers, leads to “cult-like” practices within the company. To get ahead in the company, employees must “act as though everything is fine and that we love working here,” even when they don’t. In authoritarian political systems, people must do what they’re told; in totalitarian systems, people must pretend to love the authority. Most corporations could be described as internally totalitarian, and so this may not be a “new” filter. But by recent reports, the most powerful social media corporation in the world is, internally, more totalitarian than most.

    An opaque algorithm controls what you see: Many researchers have pointed out how social media algorithms work to boost conspiracy theories, move users to more extreme content and positions, confirm the biases of the searcher, and incentivize the outrageous and offensive. These proprietary algorithms, which determine what you see, cannot be viewed, reverse-engineered, or understood. The media platforms that use them do so without any accountability. On the other hand, savvy political operators with resources can game the algorithm by creating ecosystems of links and platforming one another. This has been done so effectively on YouTube that, as the report “Alternative Influence” notes, the top 10 results for the phrase “social justice” are “criticisms of social justice from reactionary channels.”

    They have hacked your social brain: When you receive news on Facebook, even though it comes from a small number of corporate sources or advertisers, you are receiving it from your friends, and so it comes with additional trust that you never had in “legacy media.”

    One of Facebook’s founders, Sean Parker, said that Facebook’s goal was to “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible,” and that it did so by giving users “a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you . . . more likes and comments.” The point was to create “a social-validation feedback loop . . . exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

    If that were not enough, social media platforms can hack your mood directly. In 2014, it was revealed that Facebook researchers had done a study on users, manipulating their moods, to see if they could. That case was terrifying, and has long been forgotten. Repeated academic studies show that social media use is harmful to mood and body image. Reducing its use can help with mental health. That is why upper-level social media executives neither use, nor allow their children to use their own platforms.
    In the face of the propaganda system, Chomsky once famously advocated for a course of “intellectual self-defense,” which of necessity would involve working with others to develop an independent mind. Because the new propaganda system uses your social instincts and your social ties against you, “intellectual self-defense” today will require some measures of “social self-defense” as well. If Big Tech executives can unplug themselves and develop their “real-world” selves, those of us who hope to resist should probably do the same.

    This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.
    Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer. You can find him on his website at podur.org and on Twitter @justinpodur. He teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

  • Boulder Dash 3rd Feb 2019

    “This debate is part of a larger phenomenon, in which YouTubers attempt to
    reach young audiences by broadcasting far-right ideas in the form of news and entertainment. An assortment of scholars, media pundits, and internet celebrities are using YouTube to promote a range of political positions, from mainstream versions of libertarianism and conservatism, all the way to overt white nationalism. While many of their views differ significantly, they all share a fundamental contempt for progressive politics—specifically for contemporary social justice movements. For this reason, I consider their collective position “reactionary,” as it is defined by its opposition to visions of social progress.2 United in this standpoint, these YouTubers frequently collaborate with and appear with others across ideological lines. Together, they have created a fully functioning media system that I call the Alternative Influence Network (AIN).”

  • Boulder Dash 3rd Feb 2019

    “The Alternative Influence Network is a coherent discursive system despite the seeming variety and independence of its members. In this section I show how these figures are connected by an interlocking series of videos, references, and guest appearances. Within the AIN, a hodge-podge of internet celebrities claiming a variety of political positions impart their ideologies to viewers and each other. The boundaries between different political groups of influencers and the ideological positions they promote are often slippery. Many identify themselves primarily as libertarians or conservatives. Others self-advertise as white nationalists. Simultaneously, these influencers often connect with one another across ideological lines. At times, influencers collaborate to the point that ideological differences become impossible to take at face value. For example, self-identified conservatives may disavow far-right extremism while also hosting explicit white nationalists on their channels. Within the AIN, this collaboration generates a cross-promotion of ideas that forms a broader, intertextual common ground. Many of these YouTubers are less defined by any single ideology than they are by a “reactionary” position: a general opposition to feminism, social justice, or left-wing politics.”

  • Boulder Dash 7th Feb 2019

    “The dream of the open web emphasized new, expanded, and untrammeled opportunities for knowledge and sociality. Access to the public would no longer be mediated by the publishers and broadcasters that played such powerful gatekeeper roles in the previous century. The power to speak would be more widely distributed, with more opportunity to respond and deliberate and critique and mock and contribute. 51 This participatory culture, many hoped, would be more egalitarian, more global, more creative, and more inclusive. Communities could be based not on shared kinship or location but on shared interest, and those communities could set their own rules and priorities, by any manner of democratic consensus. The web itself was to be the “platform.” 52 It would finally provide an unmediated public sphere, a natural gathering of the wisdom of the crowd, and a limitless cultural landscape.

    Soon, new services began offering to facilitate, host, and profit from this participation. This began with the commercial provision of space for hosting web pages, offered first by Internet service providers (ISPs) themselves, and increasingly by web-hosting services like Tripod, Angelfire, and Geocities. Yet these still required knowledge of web design, HTML programming, and file management. The earliest content platforms—MP3. com, SixDegrees, Livejournal, Blogger, Cyworld, Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, Delicious, Orkut, Flickr, Dodgeball, YouTube—often began by trying to facilitate one element of being on the web (write without needing to know HTML; keep a list of friends or fans; make content easier to find through directed search). 53 These services were meant to “solve” some of the challenges of navigating the open web. They substantially simplified the tools needed for posting, distributing, sharing, commenting; they linked users to a larger, even global audience; and they did so at an appealing price. They also had acute network effects: if you want to share and participate, you want to do so where there are people to share and participate with.

    These platforms were, of course, nearly all for-profit operations. This made them quite interested in not just facilitating but also incorporating the kinds of participation that the web itself made possible. 54 Platform companies developed new ways to keep users navigating and posting, coax them into revealing their preferences and proclivities, and save all of it as personalized data, to sell to advertisers and content partners. Some pushed to become all-in-one services—combining storage, organization, connection, canvas, delivery, archive; some looked to partner with traditional media and news providers, to draw the circulation of their content onto the platforms. Some extended their services infrastructurally, building identity architectures (profiles, login mechanisms) that extend to other sites and computationally linking themselves to the rest of the web. 55 These were all strategic attempts by platforms to counter the economic risks of being mere intermediaries, by turning themselves into ecosystems that keep users using their services and make data collection more comprehensive and more valuable.

    In other words, to be free of intermediaries, we accepted new intermediaries. Platforms answer the question of distribution differently from the early web or traditional media. But they do offer the same basic deal: we’ll handle distribution for you—but terms and conditions will apply. These terms may be fewer and less imposing, though you may be asked to do more of the labor of posting, removing, maintaining, tagging, and so on. But the platform still acts as a provider. 56”

  • Boulder Dash 7th Feb 2019

    It’s not about new technologies and what democratic wonders they have to offer. If the predominant and prevailing set of economic structures are still in place, it is those that will determine its use.

    Just like how most people approach the making of music., the sing, the hit, the wonder, the tears.

    It’s never really about the music or creativity, it’s about how to get enough people to sit and listen to your shit regularly enough for the purposes of making a living out of something you love doing. The use of the technology is determined by the parameters that the prevailing economic system sets. Exceptions to the rule exist but rarely survive and most do not ever hear about them. Blues was eventually captured, as was rap, relatively quickly by Big Daddy White Geezer. Gotta milk that potential. Any revolutionary elements or content was soon and relatively ditched in favour of commercial success and the jangle of the bling and hip runners.

    As soon as any technology is introduced, even if produced free and separately from the confines of the Spectacle, which would be rare indeed, it’s use is captured by the psychological states and ideological atmosphere, the climate and environment necessary to sustain market capitalism for instance, that most people have been born into and rarely question, which sets off a race to see who can benefit from it the most and quickest...to make a killing in monetary terms which really means to be successful. Andbeing a success IS, in our world, about money and perception. Exceptions to the rule exist, can be found, but they aren’t numerous enough to change much. And just saying money doesn’t buy you happiness doesn’t mean anything in the long run. A vacuous saying.

    The ruling classes don’t have to do anything really. People see the opening for riches and a comfortable life and jump right in. Their mindset is what it needs to be. Post WW2 saw mind/behaviour control/manipulation move to another level. By the time of the digital world Big Daddy White Geezer has it down pat and the three minute song and pop music industry did it’s thing.

  • Dave Jones 9th Feb 2019

    It brings up the question of the artist in a participatory society. We decide collectively to support the person who builds sand castles, saying, sure, we got some surplus and what the hell. Maybe I'll start fishing, they can pay me to fool trout with a fly. Won't need much and you COULD do the video and some folks might find it entertaining. Guess we'll have to vote, and only if we can come up with that surplus.

  • Irie Zen 9th Feb 2019

    Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age

    Mitchel Resnick >> The Media Laboratory >> Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    First, the good news: in the years ahead, the declining cost of computation will make digital technologies accessible to nearly everyone in all parts of the world, from inner-city neighborhoods in the United States to rural villages in developing nations. These new technologies have the potential to fundamentally transform how and what people learn throughout their lives. Just as advances in biotechnologies made possible the “green revolution” in agriculture, new digital technologies make possible a “learning revolution” in education.

    Now, the bad news: while new digital technologies make a learning revolution possible, they certainly do not guarantee it. Early results are not encouraging. In most places where new technologies are being used in education today, the technologies are used simply to reinforce outmoded approaches to learning. Even as scientific and technological advances are transforming agriculture, medicine, and industry, ideas about and approaches to teaching and learning remain largely unchanged. To take full advantage of new technologies, we need to fundamentally rethink our approaches to learning and education — and our ideas of how new technologies can support them.


    # Beyond Information

    When people think about education and learning, they often think about information. They ask questions like: What information is most important for people to know? What are the best ways to transmit that information from one person (a teacher) to another (a learner)? What are the best ways to represent and display information so that it is both understandable and learnable? It’s not surprising that people see a natural connection between computers and education. Computers enable people to transmit, access, represent, and manipulate information in many new ways. Because education is associated with information and computers are associated with information, the two seem to make a perfect marriage.

    This focus on information, however, is limiting and distorting, both for the field of education and for computers. If we want to take full advantage of new computational technologies, and if we want to help people become better thinkers and learners, we need to move beyond these information-centric views of computing and learning.


    Over the past fifty years, psychologists and educational researchers, building on the pioneering work of Jean Piaget, have come to understand that learning is not a simple matter of information transmission. Teachers cannot simply pour information into the heads of learners; rather, learning is an active process in which people construct new understandings of the world around them through active exploration, experimentation, discussion, and reflection. In short: people don’t get ideas; they make

    them. As for computers, they are more than simply information machines, despite the common use of the phrase “information technology” or “IT.” Of course, computers are wonderful for transmitting and accessing information, but they are, more broadly, a new medium through which people can create and express.


    If we use computers simply to deliver information to students, we are missing the revolutionary potential of the new technology for transforming learning and education. Consider the following three things: computers, television, fingerpaint. Which of the three doesn’t belong? For most people, the answer seems obvious: “finger paint” doesn’t fit. After all, computers and televisions were both invented in the twentieth century, both involve electronic technology, and both can deliver information to large numbers of people. None of that is true for finger paint. But until we start to think of computers more like finger paint and less like television, computers will not live up to their full potential. Like finger paint (and unlike television), computers can be used for designing and creating things. In addition to accessing Web pages, people can create their own Web pages. In addition to downloading MP3 music files, people can compose their own music. In addition to playing SimCity, people can create their own simulated worlds. It is design activities such as these that offer the greatest new learning opportunities with computers. Research has shown that many of our best learning experiences come when we are engaged in designing and creating things, especially things that are meaningful either to us or others around us (e.g., Papert 1993).


    When children create pictures with finger paint, for example, they learn how colors mix together. When they build houses and castles with building blocks, they learn about structures and stability. When they make bracelets with colored beads, they learn about symmetries and patterns.

    Like finger paint, blocks, and beads, computers can also be used as a “material” for making things — and not just by children, but by everyone. Indeed, the computer is the most extraordinary construction material ever invented, enabling people to create anything from music videos to scientific simulations to robotic creatures. Computers can be seen as a universal construction material, greatly expanding what people can create and what they can learn in the process (Resnick 1998).


    # Digital Fluency

    Unfortunately, most people don’t use computers that way today. When people are introduced to computers today, they are typically taught how to look up information on the Web, how to use a word processor, how to send e-mail. But they don’t become fluent with the technology. What does it mean to be digitally fluent? Consider the analogy with learning a foreign language. If someone learned a few phrases so that they could read menus in restaurants and ask for directions on the street, would you consider them fluent in the language? Certainly not. That type of phrase-book knowledge is equivalent to the way most people use computers today. Is such knowledge useful? Yes. But it is not fluency. To be truly fluent in a foreign language, you must be able to articulate a complex idea or tell an engaging story; in other words, you must be able to “make things” with language. Analogously, being digitally fluent involves not only knowing how to use technological tools, but also knowing how to construct things of significance with those tools (Papert and Resnick 1995).

    Fluency with language not only has great utilitarian value in everyday life but also has a catalytic effect on learning. When you learn to read and write, you are in a better position to learn many other things. So, too, with digital fluency. In the years ahead, digital fluency will become a prerequisite for obtaining jobs, participating meaningfully in society, and learning throughout a lifetime.

    Today, discussions about the “digital divide” typically focus on differences in access to computers. That will change. As the costs of computing decline, people everywhere will gain better access to digital technologies. But there is a real risk that only a small handful will be able to use the technologies fluently. In short, the “access gap” will shrink, but a serious “fluency gap” could remain.



    # Rethinking Technologies

    In addition to rethinking our approaches to learning and education, we also need to rethink the technologies that we provide to young people.

    Most of today’s computers were designed primarily for use by adults in the workplace. We need to develop a new generation of computer technologies worthy of the next generation of children. It’s not enough just to make computers faster; we need to develop new types of computers. Today’s youth are ready and eager to do more with computers. We need to provide the hardware and software that will enable them to do so.


    # Reforming Educational Reform

    Increasingly, nations are recognizing that improving education is the best way to increase wealth, enhance health, and maintain peace. But there is little consensus on how to achieve an educated population, or even on what it means to have an educated population. Can progress towards an educated population be measured by counting the number of people in school? By the number of years they spend in school? By assessing their grades on standardized tests? Every country in the world, it seems, has a plan for educational reform. But, in most cases, reform initiatives are superficial and incremental, and do not get at the heart of the problem. These initiatives often introduce new forms of testing and assessment, but leave in place (or make only small incremental changes to) existing curricula and existing teaching strategies. We need to reform educational reform.


    # Rethink how people learn.

    We need to fundamentally reorganize school classrooms. Instead of a centralized-control model (with a teacher delivering information to a roomful of students), we should take a more entrepreneurial approach to learning. Students can become more active and independent learners, with the teacher serving as consultant, not chief executive. Instead of dividing up the curriculum into separate disciplines (math, science, social studies, language), we should focus on themes and projects that cut across the disciplines, taking advantage of the rich connections among different domains of knowledge. Instead of dividing students according to age, we should encourage students of all ages to work together on projects, enabling them to learn from one another (and to learn by teaching one another). Instead of dividing the school day into hour-long slices, we should let students work on projects for extended periods of time, enabling them to follow through more deeply and meaningfully on the ideas that arise in the course of their work.


    # Rethink what people learn.

    Much of what children learn in schools today was designed for the era of paper-and-pencil. We need to update curricula for the digital age. One reason is obvious: Schools must prepare students with the new skills and ideas that are needed for living and working in a digital society.

    There is a second, subtler reason: new technologies are changing not only what students should learn, but also what they can learn. There are many ideas and topics that have always been important but were left out of traditional school curricula because they were too difficult to teach and learn with only paper, pencil, books, and blackboard. Some of these ideas are now accessible through creative use of new digital technologies. For example, children can now use computer simulations to explore the workings of systems in the world (everything from ecosystems to economic systems to immune systems) in ways that were previously not possible. Some ideas that were previously introduced only at the university level can and should be learned much earlier. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to transform curricula so that they focus less on “things to know” and more on “strategies for learning the things you don’t know.” As new technologies continue to quicken the pace of change in all parts of our lives, learning to become a better learner is far more important than learning to multiply fractions or memorizing the capitals of the world.


    # Rethink where and when people learn.

    Most education-reform initiatives appear to assume that learning takes place only between the ages of 6 and 18, between 8:00A.M. and 3:00P.M. —that is, when children are in schools. But schools are just part of a broader learning ecosystem. In the digital age, learning can and must become a daylong and lifelong experience. National education initiatives should aim to improve learning opportunities not only in schools, but also in homes, community centers, museums, and workplaces. In Denmark, for example, the Ministry of Education joined with the Ministry of Business and Industry to create Learning Lab Denmark, a new research lab that studies learning in all settings, in all stages of life. In the years ahead, the Internet will open up new learning opportunities, enabling new types of “knowledge building communities” in which children (and adults) around the globe collaborate on projects and learn from one another.


    # Towards the Creative Society

    In the 1980s, there was much talk about the transition from the “Industrial Society” to the “Information Society.” No longer would natural resources and manufacturing be the driving forces in our economies and societies. Information was the new king. In the 1990s, people began to talk about the “Knowledge Society.” They began to realize that information itself would not bring about important change. Rather, the key was how people transformed information into knowledge and managed that knowledge. The shift in focus from “information” to “knowledge” is an improvement. But I prefer a different conception: the “Creative Society.” As I see it, success in the future will be based not on how much we know, but on our ability to think and act creatively.

    The proliferation of digital technologies has accentuated the need for creative thinking in all aspects of our lives, and has also provided tools that can help us improve and reinvent ourselves. Throughout the world, computing and communications technologies are sparking a new entrepreneurial spirit, the creation of innovative products and services, and increased productivity. The importance of a well-educated, creative citizenry is greater than ever before.

    Children should play a central role in this transition to the Creative Society. Childhood is one of the most creative periods of our lives. We must make sure that children’s creativity is nourished and developed, and we must help children learn how to extend and refine their creative abilities, so that the creativity of childhood persists and grows throughout life. To achieve these goals will require new approaches to education and learning, and new types of technologies to support those new approaches. The ultimate goal is a society of creative individuals who are constantly inventing new possibilities for themselves and their communities.