Someone once told me, “you have to know where you came from to see where you are going,” and while I don’t think that statement is completely true, it sure has been a valuable idea to reflect on recently. Specifically, in my six short weeks at the Human-Centered Design & Engineering department at the University of Washington, I have been (pleasantly) astounded at how much my background in rhetoric and media studies has impacted my learning environments. While I had no intention of studying rhetoric when I arrived at Willamette three years ago, the New Media and Technology class I took from Professor Nacho Cordova would change my life in more ways that I could have guessed.
In Nacho’s class, I was introduced to the notion that I am part of hundreds of webs and networks of information and culture, that my interactions with technology were shaping much of my lived experience, and that all human actions (aside from breathing) are inherently social. I learned about the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, Lev Manovich, Jean Baudrillard, Clay Shirky, Lisa Nakamura, and James Carey, among many others. Though these ideas were starting to shape and give foundation to much of how I saw the world, I didn’t realize the seed that this class had planted in me, pushing me to learn more about digital space and the way we interact with it.
Via my favorite news source, I learned that Nacho is at it again, but this time it isn’t a 300-level theory class, it is a freshman colloquium called “We Are Media.” I’m quite thrilled for Nacho to be able to take such vibrant and fascinating curriculum and update it in the past three years, as well as walk through this material with a generation of increasingly digital beings. What I really enjoyed seeing were the 5 key questions that Nacho has set out for the class to examine:
1. In what ways do new media and social media technologies help us think differently (and engage!) about writing, reading, and learning?
2. How might access and use of digital resources shape our understanding of civic engagement, public voice, and participation in public life?
3. How does meaning-making and social change take place through new media technologies and within social media contexts?
4. What kinds of multimodal critical literacies need to emerge in order for individuals to keep up with the rapid technological change we experience in our society?
5. How does such media and technology help us document our lives, engage in creative expression, and create community?
I would encourage all of us to reflect on these questions in our own experience, as we are constantly engaging with one another through media (you are reading my blog right now…). I think that each time I reflect on these questions, I am able to engage more mindfully with people as well as media (as well as people through media) and I hope that you have a similar experience.