I started this blog for a course that I am currently taking at the University of Washington Bothell called New Literacies for Digital Learning (BEDUC 476). As a Social Studies teacher and former undergraduate student in the Jackson School of International Studies, I have always been fascinated by studying the way people identify themselves. Do we still identify with our nationality in current times? How do secondary students slowly build their identities? Is 7th grade truly just a period of finding our tribe?
It is no wonder that I am so fascinated by tribes because I also love studying Africa and the Middle East, where tribes continue to rule certain geographic areas despite decades and centuries of outsiders trying to split them up through nation building. Closer to home, even in the United States, we live in a very divisive time where our recent presidential election has divided many of us and I wonder if our grandparents are trying to hold on to their tribe or maintain the tribes that they grew up with? Are teenagers around the world who snap chat with one another really mixing across cultural, racial and gender lines?
In one of our course readings this week for BEDUC 476 we read Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman’s book Networked: The New Social Operating System. In this book, the first chapter addresses Social Networks. The chapter describes from a Sociological standpoint the rise of social networks through the increased access to the internet. Perhaps we used to meet face to face with our neighbors, our colleagues and our family members. As the pace of our lives increased, people began traveling further distances in shorter time frames, and people move away from their hometowns to work, study and live, many barriers were eliminated and people now live all over the world yet are still connected with friends and families online. The book discusses that as our social contacts have increased, the types of friends or acquaintances we have are now more complex because we socialize in a variety of ways today in various networks.
Simply one reading in my class is not going to answer my questions but still, I find it interesting to ponder that although five-ten years ago we felt that the internet was going to break down so many national, cultural, racial and ethnic boundaries, I wonder if sometimes we are going backwards? Are the social networks that we are creating online mirroring our real life tribes? Are we really meeting people from other social groups on the world wide web?