It’s easy to be extreme.
Subtract the nuances, those pesky gray areas that pervade our lives, and you’ll be safe to vent from your black or white pedestal of choice. As Jerry mentioned in Tuesday’s class, just because the horror stories of online predatory acts and Internet-based identity fraud have the potential to turn us into frightened old fogies, that doesn’t mean we should yield. We don’t want our students to think of us as the paranoid freak police, do we? I don’t. They already have plenty of reasons to think we're/I'm freakish.
Similarly, we can’t let the realities of social inequity in online spaces paralyze us from engaging in the important pedagogical work that new media provide. For example, while the racial profiling that happens on our nation’s border crossings surely shows its face in online spaces, such ugly misuses of power should not cause us to shut down our monitors and call it a hopeless battle against technology. Instead, as suggested by the smarty-pants Selfes, we need to strike a “necessary balance” of viewing technology both as a site where oppression exists as well as a place to pave rich possibilities, or “new discursive territory” (66).
And while my praise for the Selfes may be a tired tune by now, I’ve gotta commend them yet again for their ability to state the unfortunate realities without getting buried by them. As I continue to wrestle with how to approach technology in the classroom, their ultimate warning rings very true for me, and it is this: that our use of computers has the potential to “achieve both great good and great evil” (68). It's another push to be a critical user, not a passive one.
As they point out, marginalization happens through many “subtly potent gestures” (69), which refers back to the pervasive gray I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. It’s in those passing, nuanced, under-the-table occurrences when mistreatment most often happens. Just as Standard English has become the invisible default in computer interfaces, so too does hegemony creep up on us in sometimes not-so-obvious ways. Does that make it any less dangerous? Nope. In fact, the sly ways of profiling and other disempowering acts could be more dangerous if they appear with a low-fi consistency rather than an overt infrequency. If social hierarchies are build into the software design and infrastructure itself, we might be blinded to it all the more.
And while I found myself writing "isn't that a stretch?" in the Selfes' margins every once in a while (e.g. pointing to the white hand tool that moves boxes in computer programs as oppressive--come on, really?), I generally agree that guiding students to "recognize computer interfaces as non-innocent physical borders" (77) should be added to the agenda--pronto. On that note, I'd better go make some additions to tomorrow's 402 plan.