Friday, September 10, 2010

A Facebook Fast?

With the Jewish high holy days upon us and the annual Yom Kippur fast just a week away, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has declared a different and decidedly secular way to enforce deprivation on its students.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the Harrisburg administration's announcement to remove Facebook and other social media from its network for a week.   They say they hope the lack of access will help students to understand what pre-social media life was like and maybe come up with innovative ways to use it. 

Hmmm.  Even I, middle aged and technologically challenged that I am, recognize the futility of this exercise.  I am pretty sure that students will be able to take their laptops (which all Harrisburg students apparently have-no class distinctions or objections on those grounds) over to the nearest coffee shop and get online to anywhere.  Or that those who have smart phones will be able to power-up and connect anywhere on campus.  And the notion that deprivation will inspire new uses for the technology seems backwards.  I know that it's in the use of the technology that new ideas and clever uses come to light. 

As for the idea that depriving students of Facebook will help them understand what life was like pre social media, well, it reminds me of when I try explaining to my kids what carbon paper was, or what a telex was, or how I wrote on an aerogram to my parents once a week while in college.  They smile and indulge my reminiscences, leaving me thinking that only a curious history student somewhere, sometime will care at all about these ancient technologies. 

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