The best conversations about online discussions happen face to face. Those with the most interesting things to say don’t say them online. They don’t want to. I’ve said it before but it needs saying again. We can’t assume everyone has the confidence to put themselves out there digitally or – dare I say – even wants to. Which leads to the question ‘is the choice to be digitally inactive a valid one?’ At a time when the university is implementing a digital education plan and its VLE procurement has resulted in enhanced Blackboard provision, how long can resistance to digital ways of working be condoned?
There may be trouble ahead. The causes of resistance are complex. Instinctual, intellectual, personal, political – there’s much to be learned from self-chosen digital divides. While one side forms cliques of tweets and blog posts the other relies on email and face to face meetings with coffee and biscuits. East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
Resistance is mostly invisible. In the online world of RSS and social media-ness, like clings to like. Resistance through choice is interesting. Often it’s about being human in the age in the machine or in Lee Siegel’s words being Against the Machine; Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (2008). Siegel continues the anti-internet diatribe of Andrew Keen in the Cult of the Amateur (2007). Both writers follow Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985 revised 2005) and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1993). Throw in Nicholas Carr with his 2008 question Is Google Making us Stupid? Add the JISC and British Library CIBER report into the research behaviour of young people and put all this alongside Jaron Lanier’s manifesto You Are Not a Gadget (2010) to be afraid, very afraid, of ever logging onto a virtual environment again – although of course we will continue to hook ourselves up, cyborg-like, for as long as the connections make it possible. It’s more than an addiction, it’s become a way of life, but within our mass of digitally enabled lifestyles there remain those who resist, who don’t have internet-enabled mobile technology through choice, who wouldn’t consider enrolling on TELEDA and who value their self-chosen non-internet lives.
Perhaps we’ve all been fooled by google. Persuaded by easy access to information and the duplicity of google+ hangouts. We’re all living in the negative utopia of Huxley’s Brave New World. The internet has become a digital Soma-like alternative where we communicate via a machine which monitors and records every interaction for ever. Unless of course we don’t have a digital identity in the first place. Sometimes I feel like Kassandra – tell truths but don’t be believed. Once you’ve sold your soul to google it’s too late to do anything about it. You can’t delete a virtual self. Even after death it lives on. Sometimes I’m afraid resistance may prove to be the wisest choice. But only time – and a google database – will tell.