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Links to my published articles online
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A Longitudinal Analysis of Weblogs: 2003-2004

Language Networks on LiveJournal

Adolescent Diary Weblogs and the Unseen Audience

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8 December 2006 23:59:59 UTC-0500

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The Performativity of Naming: Adolescent Weblog Names as Metaphor

Buxom Girls and Boys in Baseball Hats: Adolescent Avatars in Graphical Chat Spaces

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Last updated July 8, 2005.

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Last Updated November 22, 2005.

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My Book2
New books are added but reading status is rarely accurate.

February 22, 2006

Some thoughts on fear of the other and isolationism

Reading articles in today's Inside Higher Ed has me thinking about a of nexus of though and discussion I experienced this month. First, the release of the book by he-who-will-not-be-named-because-he-deserves-no-more-free-publicity-from-me has many in academia talking and laughing. While I see the humor of the whole things, the idea that a peace scholar is on anyone's "most dangerous" list should both amaze and frighten liberals and conservatives, there are deeper ideas present in the acceptance of his ideas by his fellow citizens.

Second, while attending Cyberworld unlimited? Digital Inequality and New Spaces of Informal Education for Young People I asked a question following an esteemed British colleague's discussion of digital culture and school policy. My question was in reference to the use of new communication mediums within schools and the construction of policies to support or outlaw such uses, such as MySpace being banned in some American schools. The response I got was totally appropriate, my colleague had no idea what I was talking about. You see it's just not an issue in the United Kingdom or in Europe like it is here. Why would you ban a technology you can use for learning?

Third, would be my previous post this morning from Confessions of a Community College Dean and his discussion of the fear of uncertainty as it relates to university assignments.

Underlying all of these issues, on one level or another, are several basic ideas. One, people - especially young people - are not rational actors with freewill, rather they are blank slates to be written upon by anyone with whom they come into contact, permanently transfigured in fact. Second, bad overwrites good every time regardless of previous experiences with good - good can't hold a candle to bad. Third, bad is anything unusual, disagreeable, or outside my experience set or belief system.

While in Bielefeld I was party to several fascinating conversations that revolved around the uniquely American fear of the other and the unknown. Now I am not saying that we have a lock on these ideas, rather that our society has institutionalized the concepts to a far greater extent than most other western countries. I have my conjectures on why this is true, having read nothing academic on the subject I have only my own thoughts to play with. Whatever the reasons the American cultural landscape is framed by isolationism - internationally, intranationally, city-to-city, and person-to-person. Rugged individualism undergirds the idea so that we have the undieing belief that we have the right to do most anything we want as long as no one else calls us on it, and, of course, no one has the right to make us do anything we don't want to do. Oh and one of the things we don't want to do is look at something from the others perspective, if they were right thinking they would understand that we are right and get with the program.

It's always been interesting to me that after George W. Bush's original election to the presidency, I commented to several people about my concern that our new president had not held a passport prior to his election. Amazingly none of the people, admittedly these were not folks who travel extensively themselves, got what I was saying. While I have no doubt that Bush had set foot in Mexico and maybe Canada, both are countries US citizens could travel without a passport prior to 9/11 and it's aftermath, I found it odd that a wealthy person had never decided to holiday in London or Paris or Italy at least. Why had the idea never come to him or never been acted up? I'm no mind reader but looking at his speeches since taking office I have to harken back to my underlying issues, why bother with the unknown when the known is good pretty darn good. Besides if they had anything better to offer we would have imported it by now.

I have to admit that as I grow older I become more disturbed by the isolationism I see in my culture. We may rule the world, not that I even totally buy that concept, but that is largely because we have had such a strong economy. Nothing lasts forever and what will happen to my culture when the torch passes to someone else? The Chinese, making gross generalizations, do not see the world as American, also a gross generalization, do...and there are many more of them than there are Americans. Though I have rays of light that give me hope, in the kids I see online. So many of them are meeting others and finding out that inside we are all pretty much the same, while learning that someone else can hold ideas and beliefs that they don't subscribe to and that both parties can still be friends. I have a lot of hope when I look at the internet generation, if they bring a percentage of what they are learning to the table I think it will be a better world overall.

Posted by prolurkr at February 22, 2006 10:25 AM

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