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A chance to be a nerd, for credit!

Hello, everyone! I'm Jennifer, and I'm a Political Science major. I live in St. Paul with my music-teacher husband and our two non-musical cats. I'm a super-super-super-super senior because I've had that pesky problem of not knowing what I want to do with my life. I've spent the last decade slowly finishing my degree while dipping my toes in writing, photography, politics and - most recently - financial aid (I'm a financial aid assistant at a local Catholic college).

My family's first computer was an Apple IIC, and I was instantly in love. My dad was a technophile, and I followed suit, salivating over each upgrade. My friend's father, an Apple rep, brought home a scanner when I was seven, and I spent an evening - in awe! - scanning my drawings while my friend sat bored in the living room.

My parents signed up for a Prodigy account in 1993. I was a shy, nerdy kid who was thrilled to find a platform where I could communicate without the horror of face-to-face interaction. I spent a fair amount of time on BBs and IRC, and - when it became available in the AOL years - instant messaging. I started a personal website in 1997, after researching the musical RENT online, and finding the online diary of an obsessive RENT fan. Diaries? Online? For everyone to read? The concept piqued my interest, and I've updated my own site since then, though the hosting has changed (originally on an AOL server, now have my own domain) and I don't post as frequently.

While I found convenience of e-commerce interesting, what really fascinated me was the idea that I could find or read ANYTHING on the internet - any idea I had was already there. I've seen the internet go from its Compuserve-days to its sprawling, behemoth-like present state. I feel like I've been a (quiet) living witness in some ways in the development of the web, and I'm excited to take a course like this because it's the first time I'll be able to say, "Hey, I remember that! I was there!" Never thought I would get a chance to brag about THAT.

Tying into the reading, one of the concepts I've struggled with (and which Wikinomics addresses) is the idea of specialness, or, more accurately, how the internet has dissolved some of those hierarchal lines that make "specialness" possible. Anyone can be a writer or reporter or expert these days, and inherently, I believe that's a good thing. But there's that nagging feeling - is it really OK for EVERYTHING to be so easily achievable now? Is there merit to the old-world struggle of becoming a writer or journalist or scholar? The Wikinomics authors see this egalitarian system as a positive change. I think they're right, and I think any hesitance I might feel is ego - there's something satisfying about working hard to climb a ladder, and then feeling that slight superiority as you watch others try to get to where you are. Though it's rampant with ego - more so in real life, I'd say - the internet has a way of flatlining this type of arrogance. Though I don't think the internet is quite as egalitarian as the authors suggest, there's truth to the idea: on the internet, you can be anything you want, and your dreams are often more achievable than in the analog world. But does this concept encourage mediocrity? I struggle with this, too.

I look forward to this class!


Thanks for expressing your thoughts about the flattening effect Web 2.0 technology has on conventional notions of profesionalism. I too find the possibilities that the new accessibility makes available to "ordinary" people regardless of their professional qualifications very exciting--particularly in the area of journalism. In my opinion, conventional conceptions of journalistic professionalism can conceal the operation of power relations and ideology. The influence of power and ideology became evident in mainstream media coverage of the buildup to the war in Iraq, for example. If anyone is interested in examples, just ask. Last term I wrote a paper on documentary films about media coverage of the war. Given the near monopolopy on the production of "news" in the U.S., I join many other concerned people who seek alternative sources of information. Citizen journalism is one way to not only consume alternative information but to produce it. It's a way for someone like me to pursue an interest in my personal life without the necessity of obtaining another degree. In fact just this week, I heard a report on a new nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting citizen coverage of the electoral campaign. I would add a link to their site if I could only remember it! (Is there a Web 2.0 technology for memory???) Anyways, I look forward to learning how to utilize 2.0 technologies in pursuit of my documentary-making interests.

It's true that the web provides a way for anyone with sufficient access and leisure time to participate. But just being able to do something doesn't mean that you're able to do it *well*. There are many good blogs out there, for instance, but there are also thousands of horrible ones.

And re the comment about Web 2.0 solutions for memory: there actually are, of a sort. And in a couple of weeks we'll be talking about one that would solve the problem you describe.

Re: citizen journalism. This is definitely an area where I see open collaboration as a positive change. I think as more sites organize themselves (The Uptake is a great local example), we're going to get real news for the first time in several decades. This is especially exciting during the election year - we're getting coverage that isn't possible through major networks.

And true, there's thousands of horrible blogs out there, and most of those don't get attention. It's those horrible/mediocre with high hit counts that worry me - you take sites like Drudge, for example - your basic tabloid, with thousands of readers. Of course, the solution is here is the solution for real-life, exclusive media: do your research, take it with a grain of salt.