Participants in the Age of Information

Jonathan’s political cartoon

This week semester two began with the class’ study of Manitoba’s Red River Rebellion, Louis Riel, and the explosion of Egypt’s political upheaval. On the edge of a new unit, and the coming onset of spring, the Talons have set out to uncover the truth behind media and political interpretation of both history and recent current events. Seeking the more basic truth of individual experience and expression in a record of social bookmarks and blogpostsnot to mention comments the class is attempting to answer personal questions about the goings on in Egypt and Middle East that were identified as relevant topics on the class wiki this week:

  • What are the conditions that have created the anti-government sentiment in Egypt?
  • Where else do such conditions exist?
  • What are the specific goals of the protesters? Who is emerging as their leader / spokesperson?
  • What is important to know about Egyptian history or culture to better understand these recent developments?
  • What has the Western (European, American, Canadian) response to developments in the Middle East been?
  • What conditions or factors influence the West’s decisions regarding these countries’ fates?
  • Who and what is the Muslim Brotherhood? What do they want?
  • What emotions factor in journalism?
  • What does ______ have to gain by influencing different outcomes?
  • What is the media’s responsibility: to tell its audience what it is expecting to hear? To challenge people’s existing views or opinions? To objectively present information?
  • Are there viewpoints or perspectives missing from coverage of events in the Middle East?

Along with the collection, and discussion of many different brands of media’s coverage of the recent struggles for freedom across the Middle East, the Talons took to the blogs last night, and haven’t looked back. They began by seeking out the untold stories, the truth behind the media, even only in as much as they could interpret their own response to them.

Megan found this to be no small task:

I have read so much about these protests, it’s all I can do but to try and imagine what it is like, standing side by side with so many others, all fighting for freedom. I wish I could say that I have done something like that, made a change. Who I am, and what I do, is hardly history textbook worthy. I am a child, a child in a never-ending world which stretches on forever in any possible direction.

For the past week, this is all I have been able to think about. But then, just this night, something occurred to me. The cause of the Egypt rebellions was from a push; a movement from the people of Egypt, but more specifically, the youth. Whenever an article on this is written, you can bet that it usually at least mentions social media as one of the causes. Does the “Facebook Revolution” sound familiar? Or maybe Twitter? These were the means by which the word was spread, the dissatisfaction in the government and the voice they felt they didn’t have, and the realization that something could be done about it.

Donya finds a connection to a young man whose death may have sparked a rise to action:

In this article , it is thought that Khaled Saeed’s death was one of the many factors in the start of the Egyptian protests. On the news, there was some footage of demonstrators holding up pictures of his face and shouting “Khaled Said!” with passionate anger.

Khaled’s brutal death was one of the events that pushed the Egyptians to voice their anger, but was it worth his torture for the sake of his country’s change?

Do you think that if he was alive today, that he would endure immeasurable amounts of pain to have the same outcome? Would you do that for your country and for future generations?

It sounds as if I’m bordering on sacrifice here, but that’s what this is isn’t it?

Only a small percent of people can actually say whatever comes to mind and publish it for whoever to see without having to sleep with one eye open.

The other percent are faced with the possible death of what they believe, who they love and even themselves if they share what they think.

And they do it anyways.

It seems as though Khaled was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and happened to be given a glimpse of how twisted everything really is.The people who were trained to protect and provide an example, were instead exploiting their power in order to get a quick fix.

I think Khaled’s death was one caused to uphold an image, but then later on turned into ammunition for millions of people who were wronged on a daily basis.

I don’t know this man, nor will I ever get a chance to meet him, but the fact that he chose (unknowingly, perhaps) knowledge instead of his own life, made me admire him anyways.

And that is what Khaled said.

And Lexi wonders if she – and perhaps the rest of her classmates – might be onto something bigger:

It’s like I’ve started pulling at a thread that doesn’t end. And maybe that’s the thing about truth. Maybe truth cannot be absolute, irrevocable, and undisputed.

Indeed, Stephanie’s post proposes truth in this case to be an illusion altogether, alluding to the Al Jazeera’s dubbing of recent events:

Egypt’s rebellion will be known as the “Revolution of Dreams”.  This vision is where thousands of men and women work together to fulfill.  Leonardo DiCaprio once quoted in the movie Inception “Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”  As a result, the Egyptians voiced out, allowing the world to make known of their words.  And through this movement, we come to understand that when “people power” unites, it will ultimately conquer the government.

But Richard, in a comment-turned-blogpost on Iris’ post, gets to the heart of the matter:

Raw facts, especially numbers are the truth, however when it is being reported, it become opinion. So, really a report is like myth.

At the heart of every myth there is a grain of truth.

I think, as I told Richard in a comment I posted tonight, that this grain of truth is the essence of our study of history through communication:

The socials curriculum is weaved out of stories of exactly this sort of political instability and unrest:

  • we study the revolutions of England, France, and in America
  • we reenact the Confederation of Canada
  • we are introduced to rebellious figures such as Louis Riel (who in his own time was a fugitive of Canada – teaching highs school in Montana – before being hanged for treason)

These lessons, and a continually rigorous interpretation of current events are the basis of a responsible participation in democracy, but also the pursuit of illusory truths that are the telling, and retelling, defining of human history, starting with a record and discussion of the present moment.

Which brings us right back to Megan, who writes perhaps some of the most inspiring words yet rendered on the class blogs:

And then you come back to me. Still sitting in front of her computer, and still on the opposite side of the world. I am a child, in this age of information. But I am also part of the age of information. I have just as much say in what occurs as everyone.

If what happened in Egypt is any indicator as to what can be accomplished through communication, I think that maybe, I need to realize, or maybe we (and I’m talking to all my fellow youth out there) need to realize that if we organize we can accomplish something big. People may say that children and youth are better seen, and not heard. But you know what? We are the new generation, and we should have a say about what sort of world we are growing up into.

So hey, there’s my two cents. Just tossing it out in the world of the internet.

But I guess you might say this:

I know that it actually matters now.

I am a participant in this age of information.

The class will be engaged in a process of exploring a diversity of opinions across these topics in the coming terms, and invite your input in our discussion, if you, too, are possessed of an opinion about the way of the world, at this unique moment in time.

You can check in with the discussion on the embedded blogposts and bookmarks on the Talons Socials Wiki, as well as Blog and Comment feeds in RSS if you would like to subscribe.

3 Comments:

  1. I like how you’ve weaved these separate blog posts into one nice summary. It’s like you are selling these posts to us by drawing out some key language from each post.

    Your students are on their way to deep thinking, and exploring philosophy. Have you introduced them to Kant? Some of his ideas about truth are pretty interesting.

    • Thanks for the comment, David. I’m glad the post is able to provide a glimpse into the class’ conversation, as it develops. We’ve been talking about the way that the web as it was conceived, by Tim Berniers Lee (who Andrew taught us a great deal about), is best utilized by using blogs and other social media to forge connections between our individual reflections and expressions. If the conversations have more entry points, the better chance they might reveal a greater truth, about Egypt, Canadian history, and ourselves.

      We haven’t gotten to Kant yet, but I did bring up Nabokov’s theory of a singular objectivity… we’ll see where we get to tomorrow!

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