Alison Healey

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Reflecting on the CyberOne Experience & Living in a Wired World

CyberOne has enabled me to step outside the box—to view myself, society, and the world from myriad perspectives, a là the Necker cube and the Three Hats Riddle. I have developed an identity as a “learning machine,” seeking to be part of constructive law that will promote truth in the court of public opinion. I have embarked upon a journey striving to use rhetorical space—in a networked information economy—for empathic persuasion. As I pursue my quest, exploring my personal identity and my role in society, I also search for a balance between open and closed spaces in cyberspace and in the world.

The first steps in my CyberOne journey were not easy. I enrolled in the course hoping to learn about technology that could be used to combat crime. As a justice and law administration graduate, I thought that learning about blogs, youtube, and cyber media would serve me well in a potential career in criminal law. At the same time, my expectations were uncertain, knowing that in Professor Nesson’s class, anything could—and likely would—transpire. After rejecting my “flight” instinct during add/drop, I committed myself to becoming a node in our societal network…and not just any node. Rather, an ever-expanding one who relentlessly reaches out to other nodes to connect, learn, and collaborate. I continue to struggle with the issue of self-governance, enlightened by Benkler and Fried’s analysis but still striving to reconcile the potential of our technologically-advanced society with its unfulfilled status.

So, what have I learned? First and foremost, I’ve learned that I have a lot more to learn. Secondly, I’ve realized that I do not fully know myself and my capabilities, nor do I know exactly how I fit into the “real world” or the virtual world. I’ve also recognized that context is crucial to how we see facts, as their meaning varies with our point of view (e.g., Gilbert, Barlow). A course highlight was discovering—though in no way mastering—empathic argument. I’ve learned about what it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another how he or she senses it, to perceive the causes as he or she perceives them, without ever losing the recognition that it is an *AS IF* condition.

From Scratch, I learned that a deceivingly simple project can pose significant challenges. The code language did not coincide with my thinking, so it was necessary to expand my sphere of knowledge. I’ve spent hours developing (imperfect) games—and enjoying every frustrating minute. It is strikingly similar to life situations where one must translate one’s own language into another in order to relate to fellow human beings. After all, people speak the same fundamental language, but their building-block codes are shaped by culture and life experiences. Individuals have many ways of approaching a subject, a la the Necker cube, all of which may be correct. Experimenting with Scratch was a powerful reminder of the importance of an open mind, a creative nature, a child’s enthusiasm, and a willingness to relate to others.

From the theoretical discussions on “big idea Mondays”, I learned about the pervasiveness of networks in modern society. I broadened my horizons by studying topics ranging from copyleft and the open source movement to the philosophies of Benckler, Fried, and Dawkins. I also gained knowledge about Google, audio production, citizen journalism, and the dynamics of IP copyright issues. On a meta-level, I developed a profound appreciation (empathy?) for the presenters, authors, and guests, as their enthusiasm and devotion to their work was evident. Moreover, I became inspired to become an active part of the social network phenomenon, to be open to new ideas and increase my empathy for fellow human beings. I also re-committed myself to pursuing subjects about which I am passionate, and striving to retain my love of lifelong learning, curiosity, humor, and idealism.

The Second Life experience, for me, was a demonstration of the potential power, yet practical problems, of a virtual world. Extension school students undoubtedly derived much value from Second Life meetings; but for most law school students, it was a fleeting, rather uncomfortable interaction in unfamiliar territory. More law school time should be devoted to community development in Second Life. For me, the issue was mainly logistical. Ultimately, I learned that Second Life is an example of an amazing technological development that 1) relies heavily on support from its internal community; 2) did not engage law students, perhaps because of lack of class time devoted to its use, or perhaps due to other constraints on our time; 3) has room for improvement (i.e., speaking rather than typing), and 4) is exhilarating yet slightly disturbing, as I wonder if some Second Life members become too engrossed in their virtual lifestyle.

Developing my Weeks project page over the course of several days was a mind-expanding experience. I read Benkler’s book, googled information, contacted Deborah Scranton, and tried to meet with my group on a number of occasions. During that time, I learned three things: 1) if tools are placed in the hands of a willing community, their efforts can be aggregated to produce something amazing, which benefits them and enhances society; 2) creating accurate, interesting wiki pages requires tremendous effort and time; and 3) once again, I was reminded that most law school students are not good at team projects.

I did find a fantastic team—with Mary, Kwan, and Diane, among others—when we formed small groups at the beginning of the semester; however, we never did much with those groups. (Overlooked or forgotten, I guess). On our own initiative, we discussed our projects and offered input. As Nesson and I discussed at one point, it would have been fantastic to develop team projects, but students with whom I discussed the idea were reluctant.

The wiki was a valuable learning tool, although its usefulness declined because it was not rejuvenated. The brief discussion of blogs was worthwhile but unfulfilling; the course could be significantly enhanced by requiring students to keep a blog. My potential “blogs” evolved into journal entries.

My final project consisted of two wiki pages, with polls, links, resources, etc., and critical analysis of my CyberOne experience. If I had web page knowledge earlier, I would have created one. Regardless, I am proud of my wikis, and I welcome reader participation. I developed them over the course of a few weeks, so I did not feel comfortable (did not really know how) to make them into webpages. (Note: include class on creating web pages next time!) Please refer to my wikis, especially Individual_v._Machine...From_a_CyberOne_Perspective for additional analysis of my project and what the course has meant to me.

Initially, I was an unenthused, non-believer in the power of empathic argument and the usefulness of CyberOne. However, during the semester, while devoting my energies to fulfilling the spirit and requirements of the course, I have become reinvigorated, recalling my potential as a “learning machine.” As a law student pursuing a career in litigation and/or dispute resolution, CyberOne has encouraged me to apply my identity, my empathic skills, and technology to help shape the law and our society in a positive, innovative, non-Hector-like way. The journey has just begun…