Monday, July 31, 2006

DOPA,, why I am not surprised

While I am tempted to call names and insult some of the people who claim to represent the people, I will try to refrain. I wish I could say I was suprised by this, but by now I know that "those people" will pretty much do anything to pander to their fundamentalist theocratic and corporate clienteles. That they slipped DOPA under the radar does not suprise me. That they pretty much did it to foster hysteria and paranoia amongst their clientele does not really suprise me either. That they pretty much did not educate themselves as the many educational potentials of social software and that they think the internet is a series of tubes somehow does not suprise me either. Readers must be wondering by now if the Itinerant Librarian is just a jaded cynic; the answer is probably yes. By the way, every other blogger has picked up on this, so I am not sure what could I possibly add. Denunciation has already been done. Some people have posted rational explanations, and Mr. "Tubes" Stevens has been ridiculed in a few places. Readers can find a summary of available posts to get a sampling from Jessamyn West. I wish "my" legislators were among the few who voted against the thing, but that would be wishful thinking.

Now, some people out there are suggesting we should write or call our legislators and tell them how we feel about this. If I believed it would make a difference, I would probably run off a few letters. I so want to believe, but my faith in politicians is not exactly, shall we say, confident? Now, people do complain about their politicians, but after a while, I have to wonder about the people who elect these uninformed career politicos. I mean, Mr. Stevens is an octogenarian. I have nothing against seniors except when their ignorance and lack of education lead them to do things that are less than beneficial. He clearly, like a lot of his colleagues, have been in Congress for quite a while because people who are probably just as ill-informed as they are keep sending them back every election year, probably without even thinking. It kind of makes you lose faith in people if this is the best they can do when it comes to electing representatives and other officials.

So, if I had something to say to "those people," what would I say? For one, social software has enabled me as a librarian and educator to continue my professional development. Education is often a buzzword for "those people," including having well-trained and educated educators. A lot of social software makes my professional development possible. I can use a blog to publish ideas and exchange ideas and information with other colleagues. I can use other tools in order to contact those colleagues for collaborative activities that would further my professional development. But that is just my angle.

I would tell them about the many teachers who use blogs in their classrooms with students. Many of these blogs are used to practice writing as part of composition programs. I thought "those people" were interested in students improving their writing. I would also tell them that the Millenial generation pretty much lives in an online environment. They communicate and learn via a lot of these tools. If you want to reach them, that is the way to do it. Are the tools perfect no? Have there been some incidents from MySpace? Yes. Does it mean it is a cesspool as some people imply? No. You see, the hysteria is an example of creating fear out of a few incidents. I would love to see actual statistics of any incidents in comparison to the many people who use sites like MySpace because I have a feeling that the numbers would just not add up. However, it is in the interest of "those people" to make parents hysterical over MySpace so they can keep their jobs, and while cynical, unfortunately a lot of people who know better will probably buy the line. In large measure, "those people" can get away with it because a lot of parents simply don't do their job as parents. My ten year old daughter is a lot more savvy about online issues that "those people." Why is that? For one, because her mother and me have done our job as parents. When she goes online, we know where she is at. The family computer is in an open part of the apartment. She knows to ask about anything that may not look right, like pop-ups, and the only messaging she does is with other family. This takes parenting, which is something that a lot of so-called parents just refuse to do. Those are the people that barely figured out how to stick one thing into another thing and somehow managed to reproduce. They are the people who want some magical bullet to solve their problems because they are just too dumb or too negligent to be actual parents. Parenting takes work, and to those who do not put the work in, the schemes of "those people" seem a convenient solution. Only problem is those solutions do not work.

Now, "those people" tied their legislation to libraries because for some reason they think that libraries, once seen as the arsenals of democracy, are now just places for pedophiles and perverts to hang out. Again, are there some people who do bad things? Yes, and those people are everywhere. It means we need to maintain our vigilance. Banning all these tools in the name of "keeping children safe" is not the way to do it. You do it with education and good parenting. You don't do it by trying to cover the sky with a hand. Young people will find their way to social websites, and they will find ways around any filters or bans that "those people" choose to implement. Instead, we should be educating young people so when they go online, they can make good decisions. It does not mean they will always make good decisions; that is a part of growing and learning. My adult readers may want to think about some of the less-than-brilliant decisions they made when they were young. I know I made a few, but I had the good fortune of having supportive parents who I could turn to. It took them a lot of effort to get their children to become good people (thanks mom and dad).

Libraries are places of learning as well as social institutions. Use of the internet in libraries is the latest way to provide information and services to the libraries' constituents. Will some people misuse it? Sure, but this is nothing new, and it does not mean you throw out everything on account of a couple of miscreants. We should give young people some credit; they are more savvy than we think. While we may get the occasional girl or boy who runs off to meet someone they met online, there are a lot more young people who know better and simply block those strangers. For the most part, you can't fool young people; they have very good b.s. detectors. What the legislation does is deprive of access a lot of people who may not have access otherwise. Sure, I am a user of my local public library, but if they blocked things like Blogger, I have the option of going home and using my connection. A lot of people do not have this choice, and this legislation is part of a slippery slope that serves to increase the digital divide between those who can afford access and those who cannot. "Those people" are basically saying that some people deserve to have access and some do not. It does not sound very democratic to this librarian.

A lot of my students use tools like Facebook and MySpace. It's how they coordinate their group work and stay in touch. Sure, they socialize, but they also get a lot of stuff related to school done via such tools. College professors use tools like Wikipedia as well as other wikis they create. Wikis often require a log-in, are provided by commercial products, and often require some profiling. Yet collaborative tools like wikis would be blocked from libraries because of unfounded fears and basic ignorance. A lot of educational opportunities would be lost because of ill-thought ideas like DOPA, and with those opportunities, the nation loses just a bit more of the competitive edge it seems to be losing. You see, using social software also teaches things like critical thinking (you have to be able to judge what you find) and problem solving, skills valued in the business world. Those are skills that employers around the world want, and by the way, a lot of them use social software as well. What about job seekers? Using things like may require you to create a profile in order to post a resume or search listings. Many job seekers use public libraries. DOPA would likely block those efforts as well. Is the nation saying that it will not support people wanting to find work? However, don't take just my word for it. The Librarian in Black has a nice little explanation of what this can mean to a library's website.

There are many little ramifications to this little piece of legislation that a lot of people do not seem to think about. Steven Cohen asked an interesting question, and that is do the social sites care about libraries? I think it is worth noting that in spite of the fuss, sites like MySpace, or rather their corporate owners, have remained awfully quite on the matter. Considering that "those people" are pretty much portraying social software sites as less than savory places, one has to ask why none of them (as of this writing) have remained absolutely silent when their reputations are on the line.

Anyhow, there goes my little rant and why I am not surprised. Dismayed? Yes. Surprised? No.

No comments: