Web 2.0 and the Corporation

Should we worry about corporate domination of the internet, and of our information, as we teach online? Do our college-age students worry?

D’arcy Norman notes in his blog post about Facebook that students today seem inordinately comfortable sharing a lot of personal information wth big corporations that want your data so they can make money off it. He mentions Google, which is beginning to dominate Web 2.0 apps among educators, and proprietary course management systems, which trap content and then erase it.

For a number of faculty, the answer to this corporate nonsense with course management systems is cobbling together your own. Creating your own CMS is called “loosely coupled teaching” by Scott Leslie, as I discovered at Martin Weller’s blog via Stephen Downes’ blog. Yeah, Web 2.0 is my tech info source!

So we can each create our own system for teaching our classes. This means we gotta share our opinions of what the good tools are. I followed Weller’s linke to blogquiz for informal assessments, but it has advertising. In fact, the animated ad kept the page from loading quickly into my browser. Pbwiki has advertising. And a great many other things that are fun to use.

Most of my students are capable of ignoring the advertising, which in itself speaks to their lack of concern about it. I can’t ignore it, which may be a vestige of my radical views during my younger years. I work for a public educational institution. I don’t want the pages I use for learning to have advertising links. They’re all intrusive, even if they’re just text (like pbwiki’s). It’s like having advertising posters in my classroom, which I find similarly unacceptable. And if I cobble together a number of apps to do what I want, I’m assisting the advertisers even more.

Of course, I understand that ads are the price I pay for “free” web 2.0 applications. I also understand that I could download, and host myself, we applications based on open source code. I’m willing to do this in a minor way. But since I don’t write code (although I can steal what I need), I feel stuck. I’m waiting for the day when public colleges host their own stuff because it’s so obviously useful, like chalkboards and data projectors.

I have always been opposed to corporate domination of anything (education through Channel One, our government through lobbyists and contributions, software through Windows). Like D’Arcy, I am concerned about the sharing of so much personal information. At the same time, I know that my insurance company and the online stores I buy things from can put my whole life on the web without my permission. That is the cost of the convenience of using the internet. I suspect that students don’t “trust” Facebook or Google any more than I do. But they shrug off the “convenience fee” while I worry, and try (uselessly, I’m sure) to mitigate the effect on myself and my students.

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