Hmm … so what have we here? I see a conversation that is unfolding slowly (asynchronous conversations really have an advantage in that regard) and that is teaching at least some of us patience. I also see strong evidence of self-reflection, trust, and confidence. People are speaking their minds and points of view, and they are willing to engage other points of view that are different from their own. That takes trust and confidence, as you hardly need either trust or confidence to echo yourself with your peeps.
I don’t know that this particular conversation could have happened 30 years ago as we are all too geographically dispersed, but it can happen today, and I think it will happen even better in 30 more years. This post and the comments are both good conversation and good connection, even with the problematic connections and disagreements.
Still, we would be foolish to ignore the changes in conversation and the ways those changes are changing us. We are changing, and that’s certain. For better or for worse? I don’t think we are in any position to say for certain; however, we could point to writing (disclosure: I teach college writing) as an earlier technological shift in the ways that humans connected and conversed. I don’t think anyone here will argue that we are worse off as a species for having made that shift. Still, I’m sure that not a few curmudgeons complained that people were spending too much time scribbling on parchment and paper and not enough time talking with those sitting with them in the same room. Perhaps they viewed with horror all those mad scribblers in the British Library not pausing long enough to talk to those other mad scribblers sitting at the same table. It’s an image not too different from a group of people on their smart phones, texting—yes—instead of scribbling, but not too different for all that.
Humanity changed itself when it invented spoken language. I think it was a positive change, though enough bad has come of it as well. Humanity reinvented itself when it devised written language—another mostly positive change, to my mind. I think there’s a better than even chance that the shift to electronic communication will also be mostly positive, though I know that I cannot be certain. However, I am certain that we will make the shift, and make it much faster than we shifted to spoken or written communications. And that is basically the problem I have with those who complain about this shift. Does anyone think we can pull the plug on this Internet thing? Aside from an asteroid strike, I don’t see it slowing down, so tell me how to ride it, not how to avoid it.
Thanks for the conversation in this blog space. I couldn’t have done it otherwise. Really.