Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mary Madden at USF

Mary Madden, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet and American Life project, spoke at USF on Thursday, February 7th as a part of this semester's Davies Forum -Digital Literacy- guest lecturer series.

It was interesting, since Mary's job is to pretty much to compile and analyze the facts and ideas about what's happening RIGHT NOW! in this digital world. Here's what I got out of it-

We are moving from slow, stationary connections (land lines, dial up internet, and horse carried mail) to fast, mobile connections (texting, cell phones, i-phones). SO other things are surely happening along with this shift in access and communication that change our culture, the way we live in this world.

For one, how about this: what does it mean to be culturally literate? there's this whole idea of "self literacy"-using online tools to create an identity (facebook, myspace, blogs) which is just sort of part of being 'in the know' these days, and so is a part of one definition of being culturally literate. which is really interesting. I have sort of thought of Facebook more as creating an advertisement for yourself, which I think in some aspects weird and terrible, but that probably comes from a cynical side of me - and like these digital world embracers I should think on the positive side: these people are content creators! Facebook is a new outlet for artisitic expression! Even if it is uploading photos of yourself that make you look a certain way? And censoring photos of yourself that other people upload so that the only ones left represent the side of you that you want people to see? I guess so. People are the creators of their lives. One comment brought up in Mary's discussion was that people need the skill of how to integrate their online life with their real life, because often they can be different. Hmmm.

-She opened up her talk with the idea of "appropriating and remixing" content- like what DJs do. This gives it new meaning, and is an awesome art form. Bloggers can be said to do this too, and probably every other artist, if you think about it in a wide enough framework. Everything is intertextual, based off of everything that came before it.

-Our notions of public space and privacy are changing. What do we put on the web? Should I be putting this on the web right now? how much is too much?

-There's a website called Polar Rose that is working on their facial recognition technology so that they'll be able to identify a person by their photo. a little bizarre.

-What are the ethics on the internet? I don't think there are any.

Mary also met with us the next morning in Crossroads cafe on campus. She gave us a few more inside details on what it's like to work at Pew where reporters often "dial-a -quote"- expecting quick, simple stats and data about Pew's research. Professor Silver brought up the point that the kinds of things Pew works on aren't often things that can be summed down to a succinct quote.

She also talked about how she has realized how much prestige quantitative data has over qualitative data in the science/research world. So a report that has interviews with over a hundred people is less valid than one that divides everything into numbers and charts. Interesting. To me, the qualitative is far more interesting.

It was great to get to talk to her in a casual setting because (and I realize this sounds ignorant) one realizes that this very intelligent academic, organized professional with a prestigious job is a person just like you and I who has worked hard to the top! Inspiring for sure. Thanks Mary.

Mary said one of her favorite blogs is the shifted librarian

No comments: