Using Position Diagramming to Understand Personal Growth Through Exposure to Information

In Design Theory class, we used position diagramming to synthesize 8 authors’ positions on technology.   Instead of taking a stance and then plotting the authors’ in relate to where they stand on my stance, I took a different approach.  I identified strongly with points from several of the authors writing on the influx of information in our society and lives and so felt conflicted about how I actually feel about it.  I used the position diagram to understand how that was happening and what my stance is on how the influx of information affects our personal growth.   To give you a breakdown on what I found:

I used Paul Dourish as a metric for which to understand a good balance for taking in and outputting information.   He describes there being a tension in privacy, that there must be a balance of information coming in and going out.  That being out of balance by throwing out too much information to the world risks personal integrity and conversely keeping too much to oneself risks cutting off connection with others.  Either outcome inhibits personal growth.  Therefore, balance is integral in the tension of privacy.  Being in balance leaves one open to connection and therefore growth.

Next I looked at Neil Postman.  Postman is a little bit caveman on his look at information and technology.  He thinks that the invention of the printing press actually closed down community and connectedness by distributing news via print instead of by word of mouth.  I can’t disagree, but I think it’s also pretty extreme.  He thinks that too much information overwhelms and confuses us, so I put him on the axis as too much information inhibiting personal growth.

Next I looked at John Dewey.  Dewey’s primary interest is in education.  He writes about experience as what makes you “you.”  We are a sum of our experiences.  He then writes about how not all experiences are positive, and how some are in fact miseducative, meaning they detract from one’s future experiences.  For example, if you had a terrible math teacher and she taught calculus in a horribly backwards and dry way, you would be reticent to go ahead and learn calculus more in the future.   That is a miseducative experience.    According to Dewey, the quality of information would then translate directly into the quality of one’s experience.

danah boyd:  boyd is a researcher in youth and technology.  This particular article addresses privacy and facebook and how facebook basically has created a giant gray area between secrets and totally public information by making everyone be able to see everything via newsfeed.   Her stance is that technology is here now, so we basically have to figure out how our culture is supposed to feel about privacy.  Is it staying or is it going?

Emily Nussbaum was the one that swayed me the most.  She managed to make an argument that our young generations, who are weaned on reality tv, instant message and facebook, aren’t suffering as much from that as we thought.   She argues that in fact, posting your every move to the internet and having to live with its presence forever and committing to your past behaviours, actions and words (typed) is actually a great growth experience.  That these kids might end up having thicker skin, be able to feel shame and process shame better than those generations that can hide things, and be able to forgive and be forgiven in an active way.   These are things that promote growth and character and connection.  These are good things.

So, I think that instead of feeling like one author’s position on how the influx and outflux of technology affects personal growth is correct, I feel like I have a general overview of where I stand:  the balance of the tension of privacy where some goes out, some stays in allows connection with others and maintenance of integrity.   The responsibility towards what goes out, however, and any feelings, thoughts or actions that surround that, is equally important in maintaining integrity, extinguishing shame, and asking for and giving forgiveness, things that also ultimately make us feel connected and grow.