We are reading Rainie and Wellman’s Networked: The New Social Operating System for my internet culture seminar. I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes:

Networked individuals live in an environment that tests their capacities to deal with each other and with information. In their world, the volume of information is growing; the velocity of news (personal and formal) is increasing; the places where people can encounter others and information are proliferating; the ability of users to search for and find information is greater than ever; the tools allowing people to customize, filter, and assess information are more powerful; the capacity to create and share information is in more hands; and the potential for people to reach out to each other is unprecedented. Rather than snuggling in—or being trapped in—their groups, people must actively maneuver their networks. Some people are more likely to be network mavens than others, better able to navigate and operate the system.

Much of this book is about theory, but there’s a subtle nudge to educators here (as well as students). If life functions on a social operating system and we are installing a new OS, it’s imperative we talk through the user experience. Are we teaching our students how to navigate this new environment, how to engage it in an ethical and productive manner? Are students walking away understanding that learning to navigate this environment is tied to both their own success and the success of those around them?

I say we aren’t.

Media literacy should be a fundamental part of education in a networked world. People who go into corporate world take speech communication and it’s crucial for them. How much more so is being able to understand and navigate social network environments as a life skill for, well, everybody?

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The new networked individual
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