[UTKSIS-L] [Air-l] How is the Internet bad for us?

Charles Ess cmess at drury.edu
Mon Jun 27 05:15:41 PDT 2005

Hi Chris,

First of all, thanks very much indeed for your careful and thoughtful
response (which, for some reason, has only been delivered to my mailbox this
morning).  I was frankly concerned that my comments might come across as far
more bellicose and polemical than I intended them - and I'm delighted that,
however you may have taken them, you were generous enough to respond in the
spirit they were intended, i.e., as hoping to raise important points for
collaborative but still critical discussion.

> You make some compelling arguments, but I am certain that you took my
> thoughts a lot further than I would have taken them.
This is no doubt true.  One of the occupational hazards of philosophers -
whose primary job, after all, is to "look under" explicit claims and
statements for tacit assumptions and premises, as well as for tacit
conclusions and consequences, as part of a holistic analysis of
argumentation and worldview - is precisely the risk of over-interpreting in
these ways.  My apologies for doing so, and thanks for correcting my
hermeneutical errors!
> Indeed, it would seem
> that we agree on much more than we disagree. If one examines the history of
> the Internet, college students have long had access to it since the early
> 1980's when I was an undergraduate so the technology really is not that new
> for the specific group that we are discussing. In historical terms, if you
> are one who takes the long view I can accept your definition of a new
> technology.
Agreed upon agreement (smile) - and I'm glad the definition is acceptable.
(That said, if only for the record - students in my humble little
institution, like most students in similar places [church-related, liberal
arts colleges and universities - which, someone has observed, are always
small... {smile}], especially located away from the main routes of Internet
I, did not have regular or pedagogically significant access to the Internet
until the late 1980s /early 1990s.  [We philosophers also like to muddy up
our own definitions ... something about job security, if nothing else?])
> I can also agree with you on the problems with the food supply as well. I
> try to eat organic as much as possible; however, the problem in the U.S. is
> that ordinary citizens cannot mount consistent efforts against the corporate
> interests that have access to the lawmakers,policy makers and legal counsel
> to get things like questionable food in the food supply. All one has to do
> is look at the current situation in America where there is no national
> health care  to see that the corporate interests are the real interests.
> Unfortunately, there is a lot of economic Darwinism going on in this country
> and it is going to take a cataclysmic event to get people to wake up in
> America. I recently saw a chart that Americans are divided along the same
> lines today as they were during the Civil War. This is tragic; however, it
> is very predictable since we never have fully dealt with the aftermath of
> slavery and economic justice for the working class and middle class in this
> nation. Getting back to the food supply argument, the agribusiness lobby has
> Washington lawmakers and the media under control. One can look at
> Opensecrets.org and see where the money is going every day and see the
> sponsors during the billboards of the talking head programs on CNN, Fox,
> MSNBC and the networks. The water situation was actually the subject of a
> special report by the Center for Public Integrity. It appears that worldwide
> the softdrink and water companies are assuming control of the market.
> Actually, the City of Baltimore, where I live, is actually selling its tap
> to the public because it has consistently been cited as tasting good and
> being clean. 
I don't have any quarrels here - though I would add something in terms of
culture; underlying and/or alongside all these factors, it seems to me
(based in part on cross-cultural comparisons regarding polity and ethics)
that the U.S. ideologies of individualism and libertarianism, though not
necessarily shared by everyone in-country ("culture" as a statistical
generalization, especially in a place as vast and diverse as the U.S.),
accompanied by a general mistrust of government (and for good reason) and
general belief in the efficacies of the market, render us prone to the sort
of exploitation by big business that you point out (the majority of U.S.
citizens seem loath to trust the Feds to regulate them, or see any real need
to do so) - hence we leave it up to the plucky individual to defend
him/herself when it becomes necessary.  _Very_ different, certainly, from
our European cohorts, at least in the northern countries, where there is
much greater trust in the State (though this is eroding in some places, even
as we speak) and much more suspicion of untrammeled markets ruling the roost
(ditto, though more gradually, so far as I can tell).
> I am actually doing my dissertation on edutainment and convergence, and I
> disagree with getting rid of brick and mortar institutions for several
> reasons.
> First, the sociological dynamic is incalculable for the young people and the
> older ones too attending institutions of higher learning. Second, the
> exchange of ideas and cultures is critical to continuing the discourse that
> Plato began when he began the Academy in ancient Greece. Third, there are
> certain times when a student needs tactile intervention from the professor
> or fellow classmates to assist the student in learning a particular skill.
> Fourth, it would appear that a mix of traditional and technology based
> courses tend to compliment one another. This appears to be especially true
> in field based courses in certain majors. For example, I am writer,
> filmmaker and producer by trade. An electronic field production class does
> not really lend itself well to graduate students who work in the field as a
> purely classroom or electronic course. A student needs minimal classroom
> time for this course which I have taught while focusing on the production in
> the field setting. He or she should maintain electronic contact with the
> professor to keep the professor abreast of issues or problems, but there is
> no need to meet every week during the middle of a production.
I couldn't agree more - and I couldn't have said it any better!  Only
differently (I would have appealed to Borgmann and Dreyfus who help support
these points from especially phenomenological and epistemological points of
view, FWIW).
> Finally, I am certain from what I am seeing in classroom and library design,
> both are happening at my university and others like Hopkins and Maryland,
> That libraries are becoming more like edutainment centers that will be open
> 24 hours with card access and digital access to books. The rationale is that
> there are a finite number of a given book that a school can have and this
> number may not be enough to serve the students of the college and the
> Maryland area since all colleges and universities share resources. While I
> may not on principle agree with the economic determinism that is in use in
> this nation and globally, I possess enough common sense to understand that
> historically people in this nation have short memories, are living from pay
> check to pay check and simply have not demonstrated the consistent political
> will to stand up to government tyranny, unfairness and pro-business
> policies. I would have benefited economically from a Bush or Kerry victory;
> however, I am always amazed at the individuals who continually vote against
> their own economic best interests. I am beginning to see the long term
> wisdom of Lou Dobbs on the subject of globalism. Globalism has many tempting
> factors to businesses, but at the end of the day American businesses will
> find that the rest of the world will extract its pound of flesh for years of
> economic and political dominance by the U.S. and that concerns me. Wages for
> working people have been decreasing for nearly two decades while net worth
> of the richest 1% keeps rising a  higher rate. This cannot last forever with
> negative consequences for the country and the world. Have a good weekend.
Again, no real quarrel - unfortunately, i.e., it would be nice to balance
this dark vision with some glimmers of hope.  I guess I see some bright
spots in what appear to be the emerging limits of the U.S. citizens' support
for the war in Iraq and the accompanying unraveling of Republican unity.
Whether any of this will translate into enough of a cultural / political
shift to help us in a globalized future, however - i.e., in ways that might
cushion the otherwise clearly negative consequences that you point to -
well, that remains an empirical question.  But I have to say, unfortunately,
I'm not optimistic.

Apart from those unhappy thoughts - thanks again for responding to my
comments in good and critical spirit.  All best wishes in the meantime,

Charles Ess

Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Drury University
900 N. Benton Ave.              Voice: 417-873-7230
Springfield, MO  65802  USA       FAX: 417-873-7435
Home page:  http://www.drury.edu/ess/ess.html
Co-chair, CATaC: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/

Professor II, Globalization and Applied Ethics Programmes
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23

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