Monday, March 7, 2011

Imagine Life Without the Web

Last week my niece and nephews came to visit. A special occasion indeed, as we rarely see them now that they are away at college or working. It was a happy family time filled with site seeing around New York City, complete with walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and eating pizza at the world famous Grimaldi's on the Brooklyn side. Mostly, we just hung out and enjoyed our extended family. But what was perhaps most noticeable this time was the overwhelming presence of the Internet and Facebook. If we were not actually engaged in physical activity, (skating at Wolman Rink or watching a play on Broadway) then out came computers or other mobile devices of choice, and everyone retreated into themselves and quickly connected to whomever was out there in cyberland. Somehow, although we were all loving being together, nobody could resist the lure of the Internet. Often times conversations had to be cut short as everyone found it difficult to focus on each other, and not on Facebook friends and or clients.  The scenario I describe here is surely not unique to my family and raises many interesting issues about how the Internet is impacting not only our family relationships but all our relationships. Imagine how different this family visit would have been without everyone constantly checking their Facebook status. Imagine what our life would be like without the Web.

Starting the week of April 4th, this is precisely what Hofstra School of Communication students will be exploring as they begin what is the first of its kind, a "Week Without the Web."  Aimed at prompting students and faculty to contemplate the many implications that the Internet and social media in particular are having on our society, the week will include curriculum that embraces traditional technologies, films that explore the role the Internet has played in our lives, performance art, readings, research projects and videos. The highlight of the week however, will be that everyone will attempt to disengage from the Internet. YES, you heard correctly, students and faculty will try to conduct their daily life without the use of the Web. In fact, to underscore the level of difficulty, those people who succeed will don a bracelet that reads "Unplugged," while those who are slipping will be forced to show the other side of the bracelet which reads, "Plugged." I'll be keeping close tabs on the progress so stay tuned for more on the "Week Without the Web," at Hofstra University, School of Communication.

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