Overall, I like what McLurken has to say. I especially enjoyed his opening anecdote, about the initially-skeptical student who eventually gained appreciation for digital scholarship, after encouragement from McLurken to embrace feeling “uncomfortable, but not paralyzed.”
Well, I should say that I like this version of this story – the one that McLurken is obviously touting, and that bears the morals ‘moments of epiphany and introspection can blossom from discomfort,’ and ‘digital technology has a place in academia,’ and ‘don’t knock it ’till you try it!’
And yet. . . my cynical mind is pushing me to imagine a slightly different telling of his tale, one a bit closer to my own experiences. What if the wary student was onto something? What if Omeka/Wordpress/DOS/whatever digital tool McLurken had his students use just wasn’t the right tool for the job, at least not for this particular student? What if the “right tool” (again, perhaps only for this student) was a non-digital platform? It’s hard to imagine the student’s discomfort as anything but paralyzing if this was the case, and she had to trudge through building an entire project in a platform she didn’t understand, enjoy, or agree with.
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the experience of being pigeon-holed into using a platform that just doesn’t ‘play nice’ with us, or with the material at hand. It isn’t fun, and it stifles creativity and learning. I’ll certainly grant McLurcken that more often than not, initial frustrations with technology can be attributed to that universally unpleasant feeling of stepping outside our comfort zones. But occasionally this discomfort has a more substantive root, and may be a sign that we’re trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. It’s the difference between jumping into a cold pool and getting used to water, and dipping your feet into a green, radioactive pool, then saying “nope, I’ll look for another.”
As Sherwood brings up in his post, our generation risks forfeiting the Internet’s “by the people, for the people” mantra if we continue slinking toward consumptive, rather than creative behaviors. To keep the Internet in our own hands, we must look critically at the technologies we use – a process that involves, among many other things, learning and deciding which tools and platforms are best for which projects. As students, it’s also critical that make this decision ourselves. I appreciate that in this course, we’re being given both the time and freedom to do just that.