Final Paper: Healthcare as an Archive of Feelings

Matt Kasson

Final Paper

 

Medicine in the modern era has been defined by incredible discoveries and miraculous cures. Vaccinations, antibiotics, as well as new diagnostic technologies now allow physicians and other medical professionals to eradicate disease more easily than any other time in human history. We have new understandings of how diseases and viruses operate, from the common cold through complex cancers. However, as with many other aspects of our modern culture, medicine is not perfect. In the United States especially, costs have skyrocketed while results lag behind. In 2013, we spent $2.9 trillion on healthcare alone, and these costs increase every year. (1) Before long, it is quite possible that our economy will be literally bankrupted as a result of this wild spending, and arguments abound as to what the best solution to this problem may be. While the issues at hand may seem complex, and many people may claim to  have the correct answer, the truth of the matter is that there is no clear cut solution to our problem at hand. Medicine and healthcare are extremely personal, intimate topics. When political decisions literally affect people’s lives it is no wonder that tensions and emotions alike flare up at every debate. Undeniably a complex issue, I believe we have a duty to at the very least understand this archive and out relationship with it whether one agrees with it or not. In this paper, I will try to examine both the specific causes of our healthcare crisis, as well as the current state of healthcare itself. Finally, I will evaluate our culture’s relationship with this issue, and how the technologies it represents shape the world around us.

One major source of cost for healthcare is that of prescription drugs. Many people are shocked at the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a single pill, however this a very real aspect of modern healthcare. As a result, many are often quick to point to large pharmaceutical companies as major drivers for these ridiculous costs. This may be true to an extent, but not so much as people might assume. One of the major reasons that medicines often have such high costs is not their actual manufacturing, the the research and development (R and D) that must go into each medicine before it can be sold. This process often takes years, and after a drug has been successfully created it must still pass the regulations and testing of the FDA, which again can take years. Add all this time together and it is not unreasonable to expect a single drug to cost a company billions of dollars to create, while taking up to a decade to even go to market. Hospitals are another often blamed culprit for the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. We have all heard the stories of people going to the emergency room for a look at an annoying cough, only to be slapped with a bill in the thousands of dollars. this aspect comes down mostly to an administrative issue, as well as a centralization problem in all hospitals. On top of this, the emergency room has in itself become known as an almost “ground zero” for the issues plaguing American healthcare. The ER is supposed to be used, clearly, as a place to go when you are faced with a true medical emergency. They are required and regulated to maintain enough professional personnel, diagnostic equipment, and supplies to handle any and every health problem which it may encounter. As a result, in my example of the thousand dollar bill for an annoying cough, the reason was not the visit itself but the resources needed to make that visit possible. Truly, however, all parts of the American hospital cost exponential amounts of money simply because are system lacks the organization to manage it as efficiently as we need it to.

As a system in this country, many would argue that the healthcare system itself is inherently flawed. One of the main arguments behind this reasoning is that private insurance companies, which in the past dominated the healthcare market, have the ability to determine which hospitals and which physicians they are willing to pay. In addition to this, often times they will simply refuse to pay for certain procedures. For many people who never purchased health insurance, the situation was even worse for both the patient as well as the system as a whole. This relationship held between the individual and this system can be illustrated in the following example: if a pregnant woman in labor was to walk into a hospital uninsured, what would the hospital do? Of course, they would have to care for the woman. It is in fact a law that they MUST care for this woman. (2) However, because this woman has no insurance it is very likely as well that she doesn’t have nearly enough money to even come close to paying the thousands of dollars needed by the hospital and its staff to carry out the procedure, in which case Medicare covers the cost. However, Medicare will likely not come close to covering the full amount needed. So then, who is responsible? In this case and in most cases, it is the hospital which must “foot the bill” so to speak. The hospital must pay for everything involved with the procedure, and cover the cost elsewhere. But where else can money come from? In truth, it comes from those people who DO have insurance. In order to cover the costs of those people without quality insurance, or any insurance at all, they must hike up all prices across the board. This reasoning is one of the main driving forces behind the Affordable Care Act. There is a paradox in this country that people without insurance are driving up insurance prices, which in turn forces less people to be able to afford and purchase health insurance. By forcing people to purchase cheaper and more flexible insurance from the government, many hoped that this cycle could be broken. In some ways it has. For instance, as of mid-2015, 11 million Americans gained health insurance coverage under the ACA, and the percentage of uninsured Americans dropped from 18% in 2013 to 11.9%. (3,4) While this helps, people fear that it will not be enough. By tackling all of healthcare, the government risks the possibility of bankrupting itself. Unless enough people take advantage of the program it is likely to collapse, the results for the national economy being devastating.

Now that I have given a background for the issue at hand, I’ll now attempt to evaluate the role of healthcare as both an archive of feelings in modern culture and a technology with which we as people have an ongoing and developing relationship. In “An Archive of Feelings,” Ann Cvetkovich related experiences of trauma to her own personal development. She writes that some of our most important personal and interpersonal growth comes as a result not of happiness but instead moments of intense stress or worry. She goes on to write that, “As a name for experiences of socially situated political violence, trauma forges overt connections between politics and emotions.” (5) For Cvetkovich, this trauma stemmed from the politics of lesbian and gay rights, and the toxic political discourse these things promoted. However, I believe and clear connection can be drawn between this topic and the topic of healthcare in America. For instance, both items detail the relationship of the government with our personal lives. In the case of Cvetkovich, the government attempted to strangle in many cases the feminist and gay rights movements, and in others it was often just the culture of the United States itself which attacked her. On the issue of healthcare the government and our culture alike also attempt to control what people can and cannot do; how we can and cannot live. We archive in hospitals, doctors, and nurses many emotions that we are unable to talk even to our own family’s about. Some of the most personal and emotional facets of our lives will take place in whitewashed rooms filled with men and women wearing lab coats. I think that for this reason, the healthcare system is one of the most unique in our current world. Few other places are concurrently so modern and open to the world while remaining secretive and silent for the people it serves. In “Alone Together” Turkle writes that, “We have to love our technology enough to describe it accurately. And we have to love ourselves enough to confront technology’s true effects on us.” (6) I feel that one of the greatest barriers most patients have in the world of medicine and healthcare is the inability to confront not only its abilities, but also its limits. We love the machines and pills that save us, but we hate the financial and emotional costs that they have.

Turkle wrote on technology as if it was a being separate from mankind, but one which we grow closer to each day. It was seen as a tool for our use, something apart yet integral to our daily lives. Medicine is very much similar to this, however I feel that in the near future this line of separation will grow thin. Healthcare as a whole is a monster in our modern world. It is a service which people need for their very survival, however it is something which can bankrupt entire families in the blink of an eye. Medical technology each year grows more and more advanced. Soon, much of modern medicine will become less a tool and more an extension of our own bodies. The consequences of these developments are some which humanity has never faced before, however there are facts on the table which cannot be denied: Our nation needs healthcare. We need it, and we need to change it before it is too late. It is something which impacts each and every person in our country and the world, and before we can reap its benefits we must come to learn how to control its consequences. Truly it is a problem which needs solving today, despite its true consequences not being felt until tomorrow.

 

Sources:

1) http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/downloads/highlights.pdf

2) 42 U.S. Code § 1395dd – Examination and treatment for emergency medical conditions and women in labor

3) Jenna Levy. “In U.S., Uninsured Rate Dips to 11.9% in First Quarter”. Gallup Polling.PMID 041815

4) Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo. “Number of Uninsured Fell by More Than 11 Million Since Passage of Obamacare, CDC Reports.” Huffington Post. 

5) Cvetkovich, Ann. “An Archive of Feelings.” 2003.

6) Turkle, Sherry, “Alone Together.” Basic Books 2011.

 

 

 

A Reflection on the Pros and Cons of Technology (Bonus Blog)

If there is one thing which can be said on the past 200 years of human existence, it is that we have progressed farther than any other time in our entire history. We have climbed mountains, performed miracles, and done incredible things that before would have seemed simply like magic. In my short lifetime alone, the internet has developed, smart phones have revolutionized our way of life, and every aspect of our day to day existence has come to be influenced in some way or another by technology. This all seem incredible, and indeed it truly is incredible, however each new discovery and revolution brings with it consequences and adverse effects as well. For instance, although technology has made our lives easier in ways we previously could have never imagined, we have been forced often times to sacrifice our own freedom and privacy on its behalf. Life is more complicated than ever before, and for better or for worse it will only continue this way for years to come.

Some of the greatest aspects of modern technology have been in healthcare, personal technology, and manufacturing technology. Jobs which would have previously taken up to 20 people to perform now take less than 5. Communications which might have taken weeks just 100 years ago now happen in the blink of an eye, and sicknesses which previously crippled maimed and killed countless millions of people are now cured in a matter of days with a simple pill. People from 100 years ago would have no idea how to operate in our modern era, and likewise we would have no idea how to survive 100 years ago.

All this is indeed incredible, but as has been said by countless amounts of people, often one may ask whether all this progress truly is for the better. Obviously, it can hardly be argued that advances in medical technology and increases in convenience are themselves negative aspects. However, our entire way of life has been turned on its head in the evolutionary blink of an eye, and many wonder whether we as human animals are properly equipped to handle it. We were raised to be hunter gatherers, as many know, eating what we could find and living in groups no larger than 50 to 100 people. However, in our modern era we have social networks in the thousands. Friends, family, and acquaintances all become blurred into one enormous social bubble. Our working life too has changed dramatically. The idea of the 9-5 job feels normal to us, but evolutionary this is one of the strangest ideas to ever emerge out of human society.

I really enjoyed this class because it allowed us to evaluate all aspects of technology in out modern society. We did not endlessly praise it, however we did to preach that technology is an ultimate evil either. instead, what I think this class allowed us to do was evaluate the effects of technology from all relevant angles, in a way which promoted the exchange of new ideas from one person to another. I think that it’s important for us to take this way of thinking into all different aspects of our daily lives, and that we can become better people as a result of it.

Strategies for Interviews Regarding Medical Artifact Politic

Like I’ve touched on in my previous posts regarding modern medicine and the technologies with which it associates, there is no person the in the United States or the world who is not affected by healthcare. While the forms and quality in which it is delivered can constantly vary, the bottom line holds that all people need and are affected by healthcare. In the United States especially, this has become one of the largest and most toxic issues in the political scene, most notably with the introduction of “Obamacare.” While it claims to, and often does, help to insure countless thousands of previosuly uninsured Americans, there can be no denying that the plan itself remains flawed to a relatively high extent. Because of its far reaching consequences, to properly gauge the national stance on our healthcare system I think it would be important to interview a wide variety of people.

The first group I would speak with, and in my opinion some of the most knowledgeable people on that subject, would doctors. Physicians work metaphorically on the “Front Lines” of American healthcare. They are the ones who watch it operate on a daily basis, and are the ones at the end of the day whose work is most directly affected by it. It would be important to gather their perspective to gain a somewhat “inside scoop” on what the effects of this system really are.

The next group I would speak with would be those people who compromise “lower class” America. Many of these people in all likelihood would never have been insured prior to the introduction of Obamacare, and so are in this sense its target audience. Given access finally to health insurance, I would be curious to know just how their lives have been affected by the introduction  of this new and monumental program, and just what the pros and cons of it really are. Surely, if the group which this program is designed to help the most feels that it is really of no help at all, then the program in its entirety needs to be reevaluated.

Next would be the middle class. These are Americans who very likely already have insurance through their employers, and if not simply don’t purchase insurance because they believe they don’t need it. Obamacare requires all Americans to be insured, and those who are not are subject to a fine. In this sense, many people are annoyed by it and feel that their lives would actually be better off without it. While it is obviously a necessity to have access to healthcare, I think many people would argue that there are better ways to  go about it then to force them against their will to take part in it.

Finally I would speak to upper class America. This is the group I believe is most often opposed to the new healthcare system, and are those who I often see as being most vocally opposed to it. In all fairness, It think it would be important to gather their thoughts on the matter, in an opportunity to speak their side’s opinion on this matter.

 

Our Class Archive of Essays and Privacy

One consistent theme which I have noticed in our class is the incredible importance of interconnections via technology in our modern world. It seems that whether it is music, cell phones, or the internet, all new forms of media and technology which we have written blog posts about are in some way related to a connection with the rest of the world. We are constantly seeking new ways to communicate with each other, whether through twitter, Instagram, Facebook, vine, or any of the other plethora of platforms at our disposal. However, at the same time we are also clambering for more privacy in every aspect of our lives. It seems that on the one hand we are more desperate than ever for the next great technology no matter the cost, but on the other hand we are willing to start mass protests in the name of personal information protection.

I feel that something that has also been apparent, however, in both the blogs we have posted as a class as well as information and blogs found in the mainstream internet content, is that we are willing to begin searching for a compromise between two extremes. For instance, we are all aware that a loss of privacy is never good, and I do not believe anyone among us would ever be comfortable knowing that a random person could access any of our personal information. However, we also can recognize that technology is capable of doing some incredible things. The world has never been more interconnected, and if we constantly shut down any new project in the name of supposed complete privacy than some of the greatest innovations of the era would have been shut down. I think that there should be a distinction between what platforms are completely private, and which ones are not. I do not think that any person would have a major objection to an internet catered to their interests and hobbies. In a world in which we are constantly striving for convenience and ease some of these information repositories really do make our lives easier. Having said that, I think that there are certain aspects of our lives which must remain untouched. Our homes for instance must I think always remain private, as must conversations with others unless we explicitly agree to make them public. Now, obviously on public sites such as Facebook and Twitter complete privacy in conversation is not something we can reasonably expect. However, on mediums such as our personal cell phones I don’t think anyone would be willing to allow the government to reach in and see whatever they’d like.

Eventually, our society will have to draw the line somewhere regarding how comfortable they will be sacrificing information for new technology. There are additional grey areas as well, for instance when searching for criminals and investigating politicians perhaps. Despite all this, though, we still need to have havens in our life where we know we are completely private. I feel that our class realizes both the wonders and dangers of modern technology, and all the consequences that can come with it. Judging by our blog posts, however, we remain undecided on the correct course of action to take next. In all likelihood this issue will be one of the most important of our generation.

A Personal Reflection on Healthcare

I decided to write on the technology on healthcare in large part because it will soon be a dominant part of my life. I will be attending medical school next fall, and as a result all aspects of medicine, both good and bad, will have an effect on my interpretation of the world and my place in it. I think that it’s important for me to be able to reflect on this system before I engage with it, because in a sense this will I think give me slightly more control over my fate within it. There are countless aspects to modern medicine which are both good, and bad. For instance, few will disagree that our current system is both far to expensive, and far too inefficient. However, what I think is very easy to forget is that on a day to day basis, it is ordinary people trying to conduct themselves professionally within it to best serve their fellow man. In large, abstract conversations regarding the organization of our national healthcare, or controlling medical costs, I think it is easy to forget that the art of medical care at the end of the day is comprised by individual interactions, not between competing corporations but between human beings. What so attracts me about the profession of a physician is not the compensation, which will be slashed in years to come and with which I will have to pay off my ~$200,000 anyway. A life of luxury does not draw me either; I will likely be working 50+ hour weeks with an irregular and unpredictable schedule. What attracts me to medicine is the sense of self worth and accomplishment I just might be able to achieve for myself knowing that each day, if nothing else I will have the opportunity to improve someone else’s life. This may sound naive, and in all likelihood it very much is, however it’s any ideal I think any student wishing to pursue medicine needs to have. It’s for this reason that an investigation of medical technology interests me. If a system and the technology in it is broken, it’s likely that even those with the best of intentions will find it difficult to succeed within it. Many people often point fingers at seemingly incompetent nurses, doctors, and other professionals when they feel they have been overcharged or under-served. However, I feel that if the public were properly educated on the issues that medical professionals face in today’s society, it would be much more cooperative and understanding of the current situation. Medicine is not expensive because the people prescribing it are greedy, no more than waiting periods are seemingly endless because professionals are lazy. It is instead the system which has been built, and the bureaucracy which manages it, which so chokes it. In my final paper, I hope to be able to analyze this system, and potentially find ways which which patients and healthcare providers alike can both learn to cope with it in the most efficient, empathetic, and meaningful way possible.

An Observation of Medical Technology in the Modern World

Medicine in the modern era has been defined by incredible discoveries and miraculous cures. Vaccinations, antibiotics, as well as new diagnostic technologies now allow physicians and other medical professionals to eradicate disease more easily than any other time in human history. We have new understandings of how diseases and viruses operate, from the common cold through complex cancers. However, as with many other aspects of our modern culture, medicine is not perfect. In the United States especially, costs have skyrocketed while results lag behind. In 2013, we spent $2.9 trillion on healthcare alone, and these costs increase every year. (1) Before long, it is quite possible that our economy will be literally bankrupted as a result of this wild spending, and arguments abound as to what the best solution to this problem may be.

One major source of cost for healthcare is that of prescription drugs. Many people are shocked at the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a single pill, however this a very real aspect of modern healthcare. As a result, many are often quick to point to large pharmaceutical companies as major drivers for these ridiculous costs. This may be true to an extent, but not so much as people might assume. One of the major reasons that medicines often have such high costs is not their actual manufacturing, the the research and development (R and D) that must go into each medicine before it can be sold. This process often takes years, and after a drug has been successfully created it must still pass the regulations and testing of the FDA, which again can take years. Add all this time together and it is not unreasonable to expect a single drug to cost a company billions of dollars to create, while taking up to a decade to even go to market.

Hospitals are another often blamed culprit for the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. We have all heard the stories of people going to the emergency room for a look at an annoying cough, only to be slapped with a bill in the thousands of dollars. this aspect comes down mostly to an administrative issue, as well as a centralization problem in all hospitals. On top of this, the emergency room has in itself become known as an almost “ground zero” for the issues plaguing American healthcare. The ER is supposed to be used, clearly, as a place to go when you are faced with a true medical emergency. They are required and regulated to maintain enough professional personnel, diagnostic equipment, and supplies to handle any and every health problem which it may encounter. As a result, in my example of the thousand dollar bill for an annoying cough, the reason was not the visit itself but the resources needed to make that visit possible. Truly, however, all parts of the American hospital cost exponential amounts of money simply because are system lacks the organization to manage it as efficiently as we need it to.

Modern medicine is clearly costing far more than it should. Although ideas for solutions are prevalent everywhere, a true solution will very likely not arise within the next decade or more.

Sources:

1)http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/downloads/highlights.pdf

Healthcare and the Medicinal Arms Race

Modern healthcare has grown to become synonymous with high cost and poor achievement. We are all familiar with the comparisons to other Western countries, mainly in Europe, who’s costs are far lower and outcomes far better than here in the United States. In the past decade fingers have been pointed at countless institutions, practices, and professions in order to find a single culprit for our lagging system. In truth, it is a multitude of issues which have resulted in our current situation. A topic into which I have considered investigating is that specifically of medical technology, as well as the pharmaceuticals which are used on a daily basis in any medical environment. The world of drug and medical technology research is a multi-billion dollar one, and one which has been permitted to grow nearly unchecked for the better part of the 20th century and beyond. It is also a delicate subject, and one which the general public and politicians alike find difficult to discuss. When discussions do take place, the sides are often extremely polarized. There is obviously more than one reason behind this; however a major one is how we as a population view our own healthcare. I believe that we are in a cycle where the reasoning states more is always better.

Many people point to pharmaceutical companies as culprits in skyrocketing costs, however we need their services and technologies for the drugs we use to survive. Medical technology has grown incredibly expensive because it is impossible to put a “price” on a human life. Even though a single drug may take hundreds of millions of dollars and years to develop, if it has the ability to save or even prolong people’s lives than of course it will have support. Though to most people these kinds of costs may seem ridiculous, when our own family members or friends are at risk the costs seem nominal and necessary. At some point in our future, we as a country must be prepared to either sacrifice this blank check medical technology developers currently carry in order to constantly produce the best and newest drugs and machines, or sacrifice another aspect of our lives and resources.

The vast majority of a single person’s medical costs will be accrued within the final decade of their life. As a person’s health fades, it grows more and more difficult, and expensive, to maintain their health. Our nation is incapable of funding our healthcare system as it stands for more than half a century further into the future. We therefore face many difficult decisions as to how this bridge can and will be crossed. Truly, if we are unable to make a decision on the matter soon the consequences will be disastrous. Especially with a topic as delicate as medicine, where lives are literally at stake, talking about things as seemingly frivolous as money and technology seems pointless or even cruel. Our ability to create new technologies is seemingly endless, however our resources are not. The decision between the two will not be an easy one, but it is a necessary one.

The Illusion of Authority: An Analysis of User-Generated Online Media

Matt Kasson

Paper 1

The digital revolution has brought about a new era in information and education. To young generations, libraries are now nothing more than quiet areas to use their laptops. Gone are the days of meticulously searching for specific journal articles or books, now one is able to simply point and click online. However, the search for information is not by any means the only recently simplified task. The production of information is in many ways easier than its discovery with the aid of online tools such as wordpress.com and Youtube, and for better or for worse the common public is taking advantage of these resources relentlessly. Our physical and virtual realities are constantly becoming more intertwined, and the consequences of this for our lives in the midst of this influx of information are still unclear. As noted by Watson, “As users become simultaneously self-presenters, self-curators, consumers of others’ lives, and brokers of individual and collective histories, we enter a new age in which it is urgent to investigate how digital environments are reconstructing both the public spaces and the private intimacies of our networked selves.” (1)  While the free flow of information is often claimed as an inherent good, I believe that left unchecked open websites such as Youtube and Reddit still offer the possibility for manipulation and malevolent use.

On the website Youtube, all content is user generated in the form of video uploads. These videos are able to be anywhere from seconds in length to hours, and can be on nearly any topic imaginable. Many accounts have subscribers ranging in the tens of thousands, some in the hundreds of thousands, allowing them to reach incredibly large audiences instantly. Many accounts are for entertainment, other academic, but none are fact checked or reviewed in any manner. Because of this, both respected academic accounts and their amateur counterparts are technically equal in their availability and authority. Due to the freedom with which videos are able to be uploaded, there is much opportunity for manipulation as well. Due to many prior concerns, within the past week Youtube, “has banned content creators from directly tying up with advertisers and mandated its users to disclose commercial tie-ups before uploading a video.” (2) One would expect such a ban to arise only from necessity, which thus illustrates one of the websites major potential issues. The article goes on to write, “YouTube, however, allows content creators to earn revenues from sponsorships like simple product placements, text banner ads embedded in the content and content solely created around a brand.” (2) Therefore while affiliation with a sponsor must be disclosed, accounts are still free to gain sponsorship as they please. As is the case in the real world of marketing, these sponsors are then open to manipulate and influence the accounts as they see fit. Even in accounts that are unsponsored, the user who submits the video is able to post whatever information he or she wishes. Information that is incorrect, unfair, or without scientific support is still able to be posted. I therefore believe that the website Youtube cannot only spread ignorance and misinformation, and reinforce it as well.

The next website I will examine is that of Reddit. Like Youtube, the content on Reddit is 100% use-generated, and nearly any subject is able to be posted and discussed. It is described as, “…an aggregate social networking site where users, or Redditors, post links from the Internet, original content, and self-posed questions.” (3) I believe Reddit is an interesting case because on it, all accounts are completely anonymous. This allows users to speak their mind in the company of others, without risk of having their real identities “found out.” Like Turkle asserted, “The world is now full of modern Goldilockses, people who take comfort in being in touch with a lot of people whom they also keep at bay.” (4) This “Goldilocks zone” is essential for users to feel completely comfortable sharing otherwise damaging or private information. However, this anonymity often comes at a cost. Without major repercussions for lying or other behavior, there is little to nothing stopping users from posting and propagating information however they see fit. One might assume that users would be inherently suspicious of such sites as a result of this, but in “The Digital Self” Watson shows how this may not necessarily be the case. “…the assertion of authenticity is crucial to certain users, such as those disclosing victimization or transgression, and to certain kinds of sites—those devoted to coming out, weight loss, illness, or grief, for example. Noting how a site deploys strategies for winning belief and where it invokes guarantors of authenticity can illuminate the complexities of virtual reality, even when an identity is partially or wholly fabricated.” (1) Reddit deploys the strategy of community in order to give its users the belief of authenticity. When faced with a particularly moving or powerful piece, scientific or personal, human beings are naturally inclined to believe it. While this may be a good thing 90% of the time, when this backfires and fails I believe it can be dangerous.

Another medium which I feel needs to be addressed is that of the social media site “Facebook.” Now one of the wealthiest and largest internet success stories of the modern era, Facebook has spread in popularity across every generation. On it, people are able now not only to submit their own content, but to share the content of major websites as well. New stories, opinion articles, all such mediums are now commonplace on anyone’s Facebook page, and I feel that this could have some unforeseen consequences. For instance, one of the most basic biological aspects of human beings is our innate desire and predisposition to form a pack or group with others. Often times this “pack mentality” is a good thing, it allows us to socialize and form common ground with people in a way which promotes social interactions. However, sometimes it is not a good thing, and can in fact be damaging. What social media sites such as Facebook allow is the rapid spread of idea, no matter how incorrect or altered they may people. Many things shared on Facebook are designed simply to enrage people, or start social movements based on emotions and not facts. If users are unaware of this, it can be very easy to get sucked into a seemingly innocent string of thoughts. Most of the time this is not a major problem, and such movements are able to simply fizzle out without making to large of an impact. However, if they do gain traction the amount of authority they can come to yield can be quite troubling. People often times have a very entrenched set of beliefs, which when reinforced can become even more polarized. Facebook allows people to gravitate towards others who share their same beliefs, and allows them to become further convinced that their opinions are the correct ones. Eventually, anyone who has a separate opinion is not only looked down on as “wrong,” but can become viewed as an enemy. However, this remains an extreme of the problem at hand. If properly handled and educated, people can avoid this kind of groupthink without falling victim to it.

While it may seem that these sites are at risk more so for manipulation than for a societal benefit, I do not mean that this is always the case. Indeed, sites such as Youtube, Reddit, and others have allowed information to spread and people to connect faster than any other time in human history. As the Association for College and Research Libraries wrote, “Whether observing new forms of scholarly communication and information sharing, learning what works and doesn’t work with marketing, seeing how users acquire information literacy skills, and how the Internet community advocates for information issues, Reddit has something for everyone and is highly relevant.” (3) Just because content does not come from a distinguished professor or peer-reviewed journal does not mean it is inappropriate for public view. For instance, these sites are still excellent for exchange of new ideas and opinions, as well as public discussion. One viewing of a comment thread on a common Youtube video will however convince someone that reasonable exchanges of ideas and opinions are few and far between. At the end of the day, these user-driven sites must not be the source of a person’s education. It is still essentially important that the common public is properly educated by professionals in the classroom. Once educated as such, the proper navigation of online channels such as Youtube and Reddit will become much less an opportunity for manipulation, and more for what they were created to do; the connection of humans to and with each other. This is one of the greatest strengths of our internet age. If people can use these connections to exchange information in a truly meaningful manner, our society can progress at speeds never before seen in the age of humanity. It is our duty to be aware of these pros and cons of the internet age at all times, and to use the power of social media appropriately. If we can, the sky really is the limit.

 

Works Cited

  1. Watson, Julie. “Studying the Digital Self: Five analytical concepts that can guide scholarship on visual lives.” The Chronicle 21 April 2014. Document.
  2. Dasgupta, Pritha. “YouTube bans content creators from tying up with advertisers without intimating the co.” Economic Times 3 March 2015. Online Article.
  3. Sanderson, Beth and Miriam Rigby. “We’ve Reddit, have you? What librarians can learn from a site full of memes.” Association of College and Research Libraries 2013. Online Article.
  4. Turkle, Sherry. Alone Togethe: why we expect more from technology and less from each. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011.

Alone, and Educated, Together: Loneliness in College

The college environment is perhaps one of the most technologically and socially dynamic in our modern society. Tens of thousands of students, most within 4 years of age of each other, live together in a kind of quasi-city going to classes together and living together. Usually, these same students are extremely technologically adept as well. Applications like facebook, twitter, instagram, tinder; all are household, common names among the population of college students. In “Alone Together,” the author often referred to various technologies as barriers to social interaction, rather than promoters. In our modern college world, I think that this ia a possibility that need consideration. As the author Peplau details, “loneliness is most common among teenagers and young adults and appears to decrease in older age groups. College students are one of the groups most likely to suffer from loneliness.” (1) In this blog post I’ll discuss why this might be.

The classroom is the staple of an educational environment, and a university is no exception. However, the classroom of a college is often quite different from that of a high school or grade school. Hundreds of students are sometimes packed into the same room, giving the feel more of a seminar than a personal experience. Many classes such as our own still offer a more intimate environment, but even despite this they are sometimes likely to feel impersonal. In large or impersonal groups, the effects of loniness are often exaggerated. When students grow so absorbed in their education that they are unable to socialize, or they simply feel uncomfortable meeting to people, it is expected that they will soon grow lonely. I think that like in the article “Alone Together,” huge numbers of people actually accelerates these effects.

Another issue that I have seen college students face is the idea that romance is a necessity for happiness. In the same Peplau article, she writes, “putting all your energies into any one relationship or assuming that one person can satisfy all your social needs is a risky strategy. Unfortunately, the myth that true love solves all our social problems is widely accepted. Hence, young adults may tend to neglect friendship in search of romance. Rather than developing a close relationship with a best friend or nurturing close ties with companions at work or school, people may focus on “falling in love.” (1) Young people place so much emphasis on “finding the one” or discovering romance that they often times neglect other parts of their lives that actually will give them happiness. I have seen friends find a partner, and then simply fall off the map once they continuously spend all their time with them. In the college environment, balance is key. Though it may often seem that perfect grades, or great friends, or an awesome relationship can all individually lead to happiness in truth it is a combination of factors that cure loneliness.

College is often described as the best time of a young person’s life. However, there are many studies which show that this may not necessarily be the case. As with any time of a person’s life, loneliness is often inevitable. I believe that as is detailed in “Together Alone,” the technologies and situations we encounter are not necessarily what will define our emotions. What will is our interpretations of them.

1. Peplau, L A. “Loneliness and the College Student”. 1987 Advancing Psychology. 475-479.

Online Classes and McLuhan: Effective Use of Media Or Waste of Time?

The modern world of higher education has changed dramatically in the past decade. With cost of tuition skyrocketing, and the desire for parents to send their children to college rising with it, universities are scrambling to remain competitive. Many if not all continue to build gorgeous new buildings, and invest in new technologies so that they can continue to exist in this “education bubble.” In recent years, one of the most common technologies used has become the online classroom. With no actual presence of a professor, students read, write, and turn in coursework all through an online digital media. Entire university programs have sprung up, with colleges such as the University of Phoenix and Ashford University offering upper level degrees without ever having to set foot in a classroom.

Many critics of this new educational media have argued that it does not serve the true purpose of higher education. McLuhan himself argues that in the upbringing of a child, and I believe in education in general, “Growing up—that is our new work, and it is total. Mere instruction will not suffice.” I believe online institutions can in many cases serve to benefit those who are already members of the workforce, or who perhaps do not have the time to physically attend a university. However, within the environment of a 4-year institution it seems these courses provide a shortcut for universities to raise enrollment and revenue without sacrificing any real resources of their own.

According to an article on online in the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, “no significant relationships were found between students’ self-motivation and perceived learning outcomes.” (2) This shows that not only are students less motivated to perform well in online, but even if they do they will see no significant benefit from it. However, the article goes on to say that having online courses can act as an effective supplement to a more traditional academic schedule. As long as the teacher is still actively involved with the students and the coursework, there are still plenty of benefits which can potentially outweigh the negative aspects. “More specifically, there is a clear relationship between instructor feedback and student satisfaction and perceived outcomes. Feedback is a motivator to many students and should be incorporated into the design and teaching of online courses”

In the end, I believe that the ultimate issue with online courses is whether or not students and teachers alike will be able to properly engage in them. As with any method of teaching or learning, the more one puts into it the more they are likely to get out of it. Having systems to hold both parties accountable throughout the course must be in place. At institutions such as Ohio State, I think it might also be helpful to still have office hours available to all students so that they might still have this benefit. In a world where the cost of education constantly grows higher every year, we must be able to find ways to cut expenses. Though the education to some may not seem as rigorous, it seems for  now that online courses offer an easy partial solution to this problem.

1. McLuhan, Marshall-Quentin Fiore. The Medium is the Massage 2005

2. Eom SB, Wen HJ, Ashill N. 2006 The Determinants of Students’ Perceived Learning Outcomes and Satisfaction in University Online Education: An Empirical Investigation. DSJIE 4, 215-235.