08 February 2010

The future of information (a Super Bowl post)

Most of the Super Bowl ads sucked this year, let's just agree on that. Misogyny and with "men in underwear" jokes that were stale in 1959 are, hopefully, simply extreme wastes of marketing money and opportunity.

My personal favorite was probably the Volkswagen ad, a very slick transgenerational bit of minimally explained comedy...

but no ad said more than Google's...

The Google ad owes something to Michael Wesch and Kansas State University's Digital Ethnography class videos, but it also breaks out to fully explain the full reach of our contemporary information gathering tools, from the academic to the frivolous, from the mispellings ("louve") to the mis-searched (needing to add "France" to Paris is one search), from the maps to the photos to the comments on a location. This, for all those wondering what "students need to know," is what students need to know.

The Google ad was completely platform and device independent, which is key because we now search everything everywhere. What restaurant? Where is that customer? What is that professor interested in? What has this potential employee created? Is the florist open so I can bring flowers? Where do I sleep tonight? Can I make train reservations? What does ethnography mean anyway?

Whatever it is, we need to know how to efficiently, effectively search, and we need to know how to be searched, and how we, and our works, and our lives, will be searched. We will need to know how to participate as well. Who put that picture of the Parisian church up? Who put up the reviews? What is "slug bug"?

Don't tell me these are genetically encoded skills of the "digital generation." That is nonsense. I see enough teens and young twenties to know that most know very little of this, and many, nothing at all. That's because their education has failed them. They've been battered with information on footnotes and citations and APA style and MLA style, and borders and type-sizes in the schools which were supposed to be educating them for their futures.

But the schools were training them in mapping skills for the last century, and they come to universities not knowing that Google Scholar exists, and not knowing what you can find on the discussion pages of Wikipedia, and not knowing how to even refine a Google search. They are strangers in their own land because they've been led by educators still locked in some ancient time.

Let's change that. A year in which the New Orleans Saints become champions is surely the start of a new era, right?

- Ira Socol


Unknown said...

To a new era.

Chris Fritz said...

Students don't learn these skills because their teachers don't have them either. Our current education system relies on a gradual trickling down of knowledge and skills from higher ed academics to public school teachers, then finally to the youth. Professional development tries to plug the holes, but it's a reactive solution and the world is changing too fast now to be reactive.

Educators need to direct their own learning to keep up, as do their students. Most of the people I know that have these skills have done just that - they found communities and resources to help them learn without the need for a managing authority to let them know exactly when, how, or even what they should be learning. The skilled elite are just that because they learn beyond the current system and often in spite of it. When are we going to wise up and fundamentally change our definitions of education, teacher, and student?