Brave New Worlds

December 19, 2008

It’s a Brave, New Media World out there and all kinds of issues crop up due to the utter ubiquity of computers and devices, the legal (or illegal) use thereof and the side effects of all these things. I believe that whatever we do with our New Media efforts, we need to be reminded every now and again that the Internet is both a massive engine for empowerment and also an incredibly easy place to forget things as well as to go overboard remembering them.

Like respect for intellectual property and the huge problem we face of finding fair and feasible ways of ensuring that people who generate innovations and products are fairly compensated for their efforts.

Like making sure that people who are doing nothing wrong are not put into hot water for their actions. This story Teacher Throws Fit Over Linux illustrates how misconceptions and laziness lead to tears all around. Tears of frustration and fury (I would imagine) on the part of the Student involved and of mirth and amazement from others. A few minutes with Google and this mishap could have been averted with minimal damage to the dignity of a trusted steward of education.

Like how to write standard sentences in standard English. Spelling counts, just like they told you in school. I totally don’t mind people mangling the language in chat rooms and on their personal pages but it bothers me a great deal when a professionally designed news web site leaves a verb out of a headline, forgets to replace one with a real headline instead of a placeholder or commits any one of myriad Sins of English Abuse that abound in the media today.

Like remembering that your friend in Portland is not likely to be awake at 8 AM Eastern time, and the SMS you send isn’t likely to be well received.

Like counting on e-mail when a phone call is needed. Contrary to popular perception, e-mail is not instantaneous though it often seems that way. Using e-mail in a time critical situation is asking for trouble, especially if your contact is at lunch and doesn’t carry a blackberry. If you need it now, pick up the phone, and do not complain to ME when I get your message long after it is too late for me to help you.

I could go on, I suppose, but I think we ought to consider over the break the ways that we use New Media, what we expect from it and how we would like people to use it with us. They used to call it ‘netiquette, but I haven’t heard that in a while. Maybe we need to bring it back, because if something ticks you off in the New Media arena, then chances are you’re not alone. Do any classes exist in Electronic Citizenship? Should there be any? I assure you that if everyone had to get an Internet license like they got a driver’s license there might be a lot less …er… junk on the internet.

I think we can assume that most people do not set out to make trouble or irritate one another. For all the rest, there is UseNet. But NASA ought to ensure that all its New Media efforts are courteous, timely and correctly spelt, regardless of whether generated on a (OMG! ILLEGAL) Linux box, an XP workstation or a Commodore 64.


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