Digital Disengagement (leave some behind).

As I write this I have a Google Doc open on another screen, apparently writing itself, as participants in this open doc discuss gathering together to debate digital engagement in academia. This is a direct result of a tweet about engagement which included a link to the doc. People are jumping in. The debate has already begun. Suggestions are already being made about how people can be better included for the debate – the discussion about inclusion is happening before the proposed event is fixed – including how to avoid alienating ‘traditional’ academics who are either wary of digital technology, or have yet to see the benefits.

Mentions of elitism have already emerged however. Caution is being recommended. I am bemused. I was under the impression that ubiquitous digital technology was the best possible tool ever to be developed for inclusiveness. I have had my own brushes with resistance to technology. I understand when people have difficulty getting to grips with the new methods of communication and knowledge sharing the internet provides.

Here’s a thing though. I don’t drive a car. Never have done. I know one or two others who have reached middle age without driving, but we’re in a minority. Such a small minority in fact that the odds of me getting resistance from a technophobe who can’t drive are pretty small. Which means that a large majority of people who are resistant to learning new technologies associated with the information super-highway (ha ha – remember that?) are people who are happy to climb into a metal box with wheels on the corners, powered by making the liquid remains of ancient organisms explode, and steering them along actual highways. Oh, and not crashing into the hundreds of other people who are also engaged in the same pursuit. Many of them will be listening to the radio, which will cut out when it needs to jabber some traffic updates at the driver, while simultaniously taking instructions from the satnav on the dash. Some of them may even be engaged in conversations with people who aren’t even in the car, via a handsfree set. They may even be texting, or talking on their mobiles without a handsfree set, adding a whole new level of distraction to  an already complex and potentially lethal situation.

Much of the equipment they will be engaged with – including the car itself – will have been sold to them via a television network – and often these networks come with their own software systems and a big fat multi-buttoned controller to get the hang of.

So what’s my point?

My point is that the digital tools which allow collaboration are both free, and very easy to use. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google Plus, Flickr, Scribd and various mapping services are all aimed at non-experts. A handful of service providers have equipped everyone with access to a computer and an internet connection with the tools to spread their message globally, and interact with groups and individuals on a 24 hour basis.

If you can drive, this stuff is an absolute doddle.

So is your resistance fear based, or agenda driven? If it’s fear we can help you. Ask. We want to help you.

If it’s the other one, pull over. You’re holding people up.

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