Posted by: Donna Z. Davis, Ph.D. | October 4, 2011

Reflections on Week 2

Let me begin with a tweet from tweet master Chris Brogan
@chrisbrogan that was ironically posted yesterday. Brogan wrote, “The more you choose boldly to be the real you, the more the world shifts to accommodate you.”

The question was raised last night, “what is real?” Is there a real world vs. a virtual world, or is there a physical world that may function parallel to a virtual world? I would challenge you to think about what we mean by virtual. Is it because it exists only online? This is not simply a question of avatars and fantasy, whether in 3D or 2D. What is virtual space? What are virtual goods? Have you ever paid for and downloaded an .mp3 or a movie? If you don’t have a physical LP, CD or DVD, rather it exists only on a drive or cloud somewhere, it it real?

And consider this… for better or for worse, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the largest degree granting college or university in the U.S. is the University of Phoenix, Online Campus with an enrollment in 2009 of 380,232! Because they meet “virtually,” are those students, the information they exchange or their degrees not “real?”

Certainly in a virtual space, the opportunity to deceive is even greater than in a physical space. There is the option of the veil of anonymity behind which we can hide. We’ve seen the worst of that exposed in such societal woes as online bullying, infidelity and financial scams all of which have occurred throughout history in what most call the “real world.” Yet for others, that veil creates a sense of safety from which they feel they can most openly and honestly reveal their truest nature or the news as THEY see it. Again, for better and for worse. Consider the implications for those who tweeted from the streets of Libya or Iran during their uprisings.

I encourage you to do your readings and explore your topics with an open mind about both the risks and opportunities of our mediated world and how we as communicators consume and engage. At the center of it all is ethics, which brings me back to Brogan’s quote. Boldly be real in what you represent in your personal, professional and academic work. We’ll dig more deeply on this issue as the weeks unfold…

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