By Ananya S Guha
Patricia Mukhim the noted columnist, recently writing on the Assam carnage, and its sad fall out in different parts of the country, I think made a very crucial and interesting point, which seeks special edification. She said that SMS ands MSSs were being used for propaganda and canards, which is an ominous sign, because it is an indicator of how new and emerging technologies are being grossly abused to instil fear, lies, the myth of propaganda, and the culture of dissemblance. Nothing could be truer than this.
We have had examples of mobiles being used by children to blackmail, and now social networking sites are used for `stalking` and even resulting in suicides. A couple of years back a lady from Shillong got married to a person from the Southern part of the country through a social networking site and found herself viciously trapped in a world of lies.
It is a pity that we have made ourselves the slave of technology, not that we should be its master, but certainly we should emancipate ourselves from this servility, which is spreading abjectly the culture of lies and falsehood.
I have been arguing in my articles that the special import of technology is missing in India, to be used for literacy and education. No one is denying the entertainment value of technology, but education is in its right context, because education can be made more exciting, creative and interesting with the help of technology, in fact it will be `edutainment` in special terms.
But what we do, we fall prey to circumstances of immediacy and gratification. Adults if they take the lead, then the young will follow. The young, the impressionable must be sensitized on the right and constructivist usage of new media. For example the mobile can be see as a compendium of other technologies, apart from telephony, that of the radio and the internet. It is a mini computer. The computer again is a broader classification of such contention. Such contention should start from the school, where such facilities are available, and anyway the mobile has become accessible to the masses.
We must move away from cyber crime to cyber education. Even the Skype can be used for serious academic interaction, in a one to many situations, using the web cam for visuals. I have used it once to lecture to students in East Carolina University, sitting here in Shillong. Cyber education will be our new paradigm of education, where audio video, radio, telephony, text discussion components are integrated. The banalities of technology must be traduced if we are attempting to evolve any value based systemic applications out of it.
That brings us to the argument that technology and the internet can be used very profitably for learning. We have made a fetish almost of terms like e-learning but the point is such learning is enabled by not only other forms of technology but predominantly today by the web. In fact, this may not have the trappings of conventional learning and teaching but can be learning in leisure and anywhere. The flexibility of the internet is a world of navigation where the end user navigates freely in the manner of cyber roaming, into a world of knowledge and experience. And that is learning which is at its best, is learner centric and something which is non- formal or informal. In this context, social networking sites help people to get in touch with one another through a learning which is experience based. The problem is when it is misused and then it is severely castigated and impugned by its adversaries who actually do not understand that it is a tool and platform for learning. Learning is not only gathering information, learning is not only being told what to do but learning also emerges out of sharing and friendliness. Recently, I was not even aware of the fact that the celebrated novelist Ruth Prawer Jhavala had passed away until a friend gave me a link to a news report in the Washington Post. The friend happens to be a cyber friend, someone whom I have not met. It is only when I read the report that I came to know that she was the recipient of two Oscars, and for screen play! It could be sheer and crass ignorance for me but it was a classic example of better late than never! Had I not been given the link I would have been the sorrier person of not knowing such an important fact of literary and cinematic history. At once her novel which I loved when I was a student unfurled in my mind. But what I never knew that she wrote scripts for movies which the Washington Post highlighted as something she was a novice in, because essentially she was a novelist.
The mass of information that the www or the internet generates is inundating. However, it is the choosing and the selection of this information which can make or break. If we surf sites which are detrimental to human interests then we are bringing harm and downfall upon ourselves. If we choose to idle time in social networking sites in a matter of idle dalliance then this will rebound on ourselves. I personally have gained a great deal from a particular social networking site where have learnt about very good online magazines and journals. I have come into touch with some excellent writers who are expect will remain my steadfast friends.
Very recently, I listened to an interview of the Christian Apologetic writer and spiritualist Ravi Zakarias and his views on social networking sites. He echoed similar sentiments and maintained it was upon the individual to make or break. They can he asserted create a world of love, harmony and peace. But if we choose to do otherwise the onus is on us.
Cyber crimes take place because the real world and the virtual world overlap sensationally and unless we put a finer distinction to the two our dreams as well as our crimes will get muffled, reaching out to voices of despair.