The Internet: Scarcity or Abundance?
Mark Raygan E. Garcia, Director, Office of Information and Publications
The internet is both a battle and a breeding ground. It is where people wage war against ignorance, apathy and social injustice. In the same way, it is where people grow their ideas, pride and sense of belonging.
But as the internet scales up its infinity of resources by the second, its role has become interchangeable and contradictory. It is hardly able to box itself in the same set of issues to maintain its reputation as either a battle or a breeding ground.
What to some is a defender of the oppressed is to others a perpetrator. The internet contains information against racial discrimination, but it also features liberated sites that provide depth and perspective to racial superiority. It provides space for open discussion of issues, but it, too, is a venue where connivance and monopoly could set in, in advancing self-serving motives. It aids in the enhancement of “people skills”, but it also opens up space for the talented to prey on the weak.
The duality of information and the plurality of opinions make the internet a chaotic marketplace of ideas. It offers shots of realities and fantasies, of truth and lies. To a certain extent, it dictates the way one looks at the world, appreciates life, and moves forward in finding (or ending) the meaning of one's existence. It makes, in the same way that it could break, the world.
No doubt, the internet is a useful digital tool. But in giving flesh to its role in academic learning, the extent to and manner by which it is utilized has to be examined.
In the international seminar on “Sharing Culture and Service-Learning through Digital Tools” hosted by Miriam College, a question was posed: “Scarcity or Abundance?”
Is there a scarcity of “no holds bar” sharing online? Is there an abundant supply of knowledge online?
To understand how the internet continues to transform (or destroy) lives, giving rise to the question “scarcity or abundance?”, focus has to be given on two things: content and users.
In terms of content, there is no debate on the usefulness of the internet. Fact: more than 30% of the world's 7 billion population are internet users. Majority of whom are sources of varied internet data passed on within the circle. Among them are professionals and freelancers who thrive on the internet as their bread and butter. A good percentage comprise organized groups or companies which job it is to keep information flowing and internet utilization levels high.
With the overwhelming information on the internet, the greater challenge is in finding a point of debate to give rise to the issue of scarcity.
In the context of academic learning, specifically service-learning, the issue of scarcity is given rise not by the volume of information but by the number of relevant users. There is a scarcity of relevant users accessing the net for information about service-learning. Relevant users can be classified into two: active and passive.
What is abundant are passive relevant users: those who are online to “Google” about service-learning but remain stuck in their interest to simply expand their knowledge about it. But there is a scarcity of active relevant users: those who are advocates and practitioners of service-learning who establish a multiplicity of connection points to common issues that give face to service-learning concepts.
Scarcity in the internet is in the availability of dialogues and discussions about service-learning as human conditions. The internet, to me, fails yet to bring to the fore how service-learning is more than a teaching pedagogy; how it is an effective way of building cultural understanding, enriching local experiences, and connecting local and regional issues as distinct yet crucial links in addressing larger global concerns.
The internet, specifically social networking sites or free sharing sites, has yet to capture the human value of service-learning. This manifests an opportunity for academic institutions to bolt together the internet as part of the students' lifestyle and the academic thrust of promoting online discussions on service-learning experiences. This would eventually make the process of sharing about service-learning fun yet uncompromising of the objective of cultural appreciation.