As Aristotle famously pointed out, humans are social and political animals. We have an innate desire to come together in groups or in communities and to gather. In Aristotle’s day, in fact, during the most of the history of humanity, that social and political interaction and group forming took place with those who were in physical proximity to oneself. As all of you already know, technology has added new dimensions of interaction that have changed what it means to be social and political. Technological tools from the telegraph to the telephone, from the television to the Internet, have made distance communication both possible and practical.
So have technological tools changed human interaction? Some argue that online social networks form relationships that are shallow and transient. I would argue that technology has not changed natural human tendancies to be social and political and these relationships, while they may take on a new dimension, would be impossible without technology. One example of using technology tools to develop networks impossible otherwise is the use of Twitter to create and develop a global Professional Learning Network. Often it’s easy for us to forget what tools like Twitter are. They are simply platforms. They are channels by which we can communicate with one another. What we actually use these channels for speaks to who we are as humans. Being social and political animals, we’ve always used all commuication platforms to be social and political. My personal use of Twitter to create a Professional Learning Network speaks more about me the person and not necessarily about the tool itself. Professional Learning Networks existed before Twitter and can exist outside of Twitter. What these platforms do, however, is allow one to be social and political with those outside of one’s physical proximity. That was true of the telegraph and is true of the telephone, television and communication platforms on the Internet.
Humans will do what humans have always done; namely, to take advantage of whatever tool one had and use it to one’s benefit. Humans are tool-makers and it is this attribute that sets us apart from all others living creatures on earth. The power of using today’s digital tools is that it allows a community of like-minded individuals to communicate on the go. As I type this blog post on my mobile device at various locations on the globe, you may be reading it on you computer at home or on your mobile device away from your home. Either way, the technology has allowed you and I, regardless of whether we have ever met in person, to carry on this dialogue. In essence, that’s what books have always done; namely, to allow individuals to communicate over vast distances of both space and time. The major difference now is that the conversation is two-directional and, as a result, allows for a richer development of ideas.
To continue the conversation, you can follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rdelorenzo