Trolls

In the very first post that I wrote for this class, I said, “I’m scared of these things called “trolls.“” After completing the readings for this week, I’ve realized why I have these fears, particularly as a woman. According to an Australian study, 76% of women under the age of 30 experience harassment that ranges from “unwanted contact, trolling, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of rape and death.” It makes sense then, that one of my primary concerns of putting myself out there online, would be that I would become the target of trolls, especially if I took a stand for social justice issues. Katia Hildebrandt is one such lady who challenged white supremacy and ended up with a “troll army” threatening her. You can hear more her story by checking out her blog post #PrivilegeGate, or, How I Unwittingly Provoked a Troll Army. It’s as scary as the fairytales in which a young girl tries to pass over a bridge guarded by a troll.

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Matt Rosza suggests a variety of ways that we can change the discourse of “gendered bigotry against women [that] is widely considered to be “in bounds” by Internet commenters (whether they openly acknowledge it or not).”  The final suggestion is that comments must be done by someone who attaches his or her name to the charges and can, thus, be held accountable for them. This aligns with what I wrote about in my blog post about anonymity. Although anonymity and privacy are essential and beneficial in some circumstances, anonymity does allow some users to make comments that they would not normally make in real life. But as John Oliver says, “People say it’s (the internet is) not real life, but it is. And it always has been.

The internet and social media hold the possibility of social change. What will you do the next time you encounter a troll? Will you head home or cross the bridge?

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Jam Sesh

This week I met with my best friend, Riley, for a jam session (and some coffee). It was great to play with and for someone else who is already an accomplished guitarist. She showed me some of the things that she has been working on this year, and it was encouraging to hear from her that it takes time to see progress!

Ri

After that, It was my turn to played for her. She noticed that the guitar that I’m using has a really wide fretboard, which makes it  difficult for me to switch from one chord to the next, especially because my hands are small. She also said that the fretboard isn’t cut away where it meets the body of the guitar, which is why I’ve been struggling to play the high part at the beginning of “Brown Eyed Girl.” She recommended that I ask a professional about a better guitar if I’m serious about sticking with playing. (I think I am…) I had no idea that I was playing a guitar that was such a bad fit for me, and wouldn’t have learned differently without continuing to be frustrated, or by meeting with another more experienced guitar player. This kind of personal connection definitely makes a difference for this type of learning!

I’m still receiving Drue James‘ lesson and tip emails, and this week one of them was particularly fitting to the idea that a music student really benefits from face-to-face interactions with others when learning to play an instrument. He said:

I’ve been teaching beginners for 10 years now and one thing I’m seeing increasing is bad playing habits.

I think it’s because there’s more self taught YouTube guitarists than ever. Being self taught is awesome and without you guys watching my videos life wouldn’t be as much fun. It does have one big disadvantage…

No one is checking your playing and offering you personal feedback. Bad habits can make playing the guitar much harder than it needs to be and it’s easy for them to sneak in when you’re learning by yourself.

The video below has my top 5 bad playing habits. The video not only shows you what you might be doing wrong it also shows you how to correct it.

This video was so helpful, and I wish that I had found Drue James and his videos earlier in my learning journey.

In addition to my jam sesh with Riley and Drue’s email, Logan Petlak’s tweet with a link to “5 Tips on How to Get Your Child to Practice Piano” was also an encouragement to me this week.

Playing vs practicingThe article suggests discussing practice time as “playing” time instead to foster a positive attitude toward learning to play an instrument. The difference between the connotations is substantial. Practicing is hard work. Playing is fun.

The other tip that the article suggests is to create a pleasant environment for playing. This means keeping your instrument in an accessible and comfortable place. I’m going to try to find a better home for my guitar so that I’m tempted to play (not practice!) more often. Let’s do this! I’m excited to share my song with you in a couple of weeks!

Taking The Internet For Granted

I’ve used the Internet countless times, but I have never really considered how it was developed, who maintains it, or that regardless of the site I use, they will all work equally well. I take for granted that this tool exists as it does, without considering the thoughtful foresight that has gone into maintaining net neutrality.  Net neutrality is a set of rules that makes the web free, ensuring equal treatment for all Internet traffic, regardless of whether one is browsing Khan Academy videos or cat clips.  This all began with the man who invented the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. The World Wide Web Consortium decided that its standards should be based on royalty-free technology, so that they could easily be adopted by anyone. He wanted the Internet to serve as many people as possible.

Tim Berners-Lee

Photo Credit: Southbank Centre via Flickr

Mark Zuckerberg also claims that he wants to provide an app that offers free access to certain internet services, including Facebook, on mobile phones in developing countries. The app is called Internet.org. The app only offers some websites though. For this reason, a group of publishers in India pulled out of the program, saying it violated the principles of net neutrality. This violation takes advantage of impoverished people by limiting them to second-class Internet access, when Zuckerberg could find other ways to provide free Internet if he really wanted to serve others.

This is not an isolated incident. Poor people often are not protected in the same way that middle class people are because of the differences between the security of devices they can afford, the networks they connect to, and the quality of legal help they can access when their rights are violated. This digital divide continues to grow as the Internet evolves and as some websites become more powerful.

For many years, the Internet has provided equitable opportunities for people to learn and create, but this space is changing. It makes sense that it is. As a microcosm of our society, the Internet is mirroring our society’s ever growing upper and lower classes.

Some day, we may commiserate together over the death of the Internet as we know it. Will we be able to say that we fought corporatization, or will we sit back passively and watch it happen, taking for granted that the Internet will always be free?

Guitar Blues: Making Music Should be a Social Experience

Although I have found some great apps and sites to learn how to play guitar, I am missing the human element that makes music-making so much fun. I’m used to having lessons with teachers in-person or playing and singing in an ensemble.

This led me to ask what is it about making music with others that is different from learning alone? Do I learn better in-person? Is the social experience separate from the musical experience or do they work together? So I decided to investigate.

Thanks to a study by Walter J Freeman III, published by  UC Berkeley and shared through Creative Commons, I’ve found some answers. Freeman concludes that even though knowledge is formed in individual brains, “rhythmic behavioral activities that are induced by drum beats and music can lead to altered states of consciousness, through which mutual trust among members of societies is engendered.”  He further states that “music together with dance have co-evolved biologically and culturally to serve as a technology of social bonding.” The entire article is fascinating, and you should definitely check it out for yourself. When people make music together, it fosters trust and bonding in ways that language cannot. The social and human experience are critical to the music-making experience.

My goal for the upcoming week is to play  “Brown Eyed Girl” with a friend who already knows how to play guitar. I’m hoping that this will motivate me to continue practicing and to bring the fun back to learning and playing music. When I look back to my very first post about this project, my goal was to learn how to play some campfire songs to share with my family and friends. I didn’t simply want to learn a song; I wanted to use music to connect with people.

Campfire on Honeymoon Beach, Isla Danzante

No matter how great technology becomes, there is no substitution for the human experience.

Social Media: Who are you and who will you become?

When was the first time that you tried “Googling” yourself? We’ve all done it.

Google Search Bar

For me, it was right after my guidance counselor told our graduating class that post-secondary institutions would be looking at our Facebook and Myspace pages in addition to our applications and resumes when deciding who would “make the cut.” I didn’t use either of those social media sites at the time, but a couple of things did come up: an article about an award that I had received through the school division and a local news article about our basketball team (I was noted for getting fouled out). All of the other results were related to my cousin’s hockey career (we shared the same last name) and my great-uncle’s  memoirs from our town’s centennial celebrations (we also shared the same last name). My digital identity was pretty lame. It didn’t reflect my true identity.

After reading the articles for this week’s class, I found myself curious about what I would find this time in a Google search of myself. The results were very different. This time results from my gravatar, Facebook, my school’s website, Twitter, my blog, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, FlipQuiz and the Saskatchewan Cheerleading Association 2014 AGM came up. (Not all of the results were for my accounts, but other Sarah Wandys in the world.)

Google search 1

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My digital identity has evolved, and I’m proud of how it represents me professionally as an educator and volunteer, and also personally. But after reading Bonnie Stewart’s blog post “What your New Year’s Facebook Posts Really Mean,” I wondered how much these social media sites reflect who I am/was independently of them, and how much they have actually shaped who I have become. Stewart says, “Social media is where we are deciding who we are, not just as individual digital identities but AS A PEOPLE, A SOCIETY.” If this is true, then it is a relationship between what I have engaged with on social media and how I have responded to it that has created my digital identity, keeping in mind that I assume a global audience so I sensor everything I share.

I’m not the only young person who is taking care to manage their digital footprint. A study by Madden and Smith, “Reputation Management and Social Media” suggests that “Young adults are the most active online reputation managers in several dimensions. When compared with older users, they more often customize what they share and whom they share it with.” They are becoming more digitally literate and better digital citizens. This is important because customers, employers, neighbors and dates are more likely than ever before to search you up on the internet.

Because people seeking employment know that employers will search them on the internet, some have proactively begun to create online profiles or portfolios to make a good impression and provide links to examples of their skills and abilities rather than simply listing them on a resume. One man, Alec Brownstein, even used Google AdWords to connect with desirable employers. When the creative directors he wanted to work for Googled themselves, they would get an advertisement at the top of the search results introducing them to Brownstein. He ended up receiving two job offers. What we share has immediate and long-term affects, both positive and negative.

I tried searching my maiden name again, just to see what the results would be. Sure enough, the same articles about my award and basketball game appeared, although several pages into the search. Still, I was able to find them.

Every tweet, every blog comment, every Facebook post, every Instagram picture, every AGM report, and every Pin is a snapshot of your identity, and more importantly an opportunity to consider who you want to become.

Keeping Tabs on the Debate Between Standard Notation and Tabulature

When I was VERY little, I would crawl up onto the piano bench and pretend to read the music that my mom had been practicing for her choir rehearsals. The tiny black notes seemed chaotic, and I’m sure that my plunking at that time would have been a little cacphophonic too. When I started learning to play piano in grade two, the notes straightened out as I began to corral them into lines. Now, when I look at music, I can hear it. It’s the most beautiful language in the world to me.

kid plays piano

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Flickr

But language is about far more than written expression, and music even more so. It is about tone, expression, emphasis and, above all else, communication. So, here are my questions for you today: Does it matter how we come to learn a language? Do we need a common written expression to communicate? How do standard notation and tablature fit into this conversation?

Learning a Language

People learn in a variety of ways. Some learn best by seeing, others by hearing and still others by doing. Ultimately, a combination of all modes is most useful. For most musicians, this means learning to read standard notation, listening to talented musicians, and practicing. A lot. I know some incredible musicians who have learned to play entirely by listening and practicing. They can’t read music, but are talented in ways that I will never be, even though I read standard notation. These artists are often fantastic improvisers and self-aware of how they fit into an ensemble, because they have trained themselves to listen so carefully. Still others learn to play an instrument by reading standard notation and can sight-read almost anything without ever having listened to the piece. Incredible! Regardless of how the musician has learned the language, they are able to communicate emotions and ideas through their music to an audience.

Speaking the Same Language

Although it is easier to communicate with someone who shares your language, people are still able to communicate when they speak different languages. They use hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language. They teach each other their language and slowly learn to speak it. When musicians want to share their music with others, they write it down or record it for others to learn. Standard notation is a common language that allows musicians to communicate clearly. Guitarists often use tab as a way of notating and sharing music, and it can be incredibly effective for beginning musicians. Alternatively, musicians can listen to recordings and learn the songs by ear. Although reading standard notation can be the most consistent way to share written music, it is not the only way to communicate. This leads us to the standard notation versus tablature debate.

The Standard Notation Versus Tablature Debate

This week I learned how to read tab using ultimate-guitar.com. It was really easy. I enjoyed experiencing success early on, and I’m sure this appeals to lots of other beginners too. The only downfall was that the rhythm wasn’t notated, so I had to know the song’s rhythm before reading the tab. However, in a world with so much technology, it is easy to find a quality recording. Even with this in mind, in the music communities on university campuses, student-teachers and professors argue about teaching high school guitar students to read standard notation or tab. For me, this is a particularly interesting conversation. Here are some of the pros and cons of each.

Standard Notation

Pros

  • widely used
  • consistent
  • includes rhythm, pitch, dynamics, tempo, and other cues

Cons

  • it is difficult to learn
  • it takes a lot of time to learn
  • not as much guitar music is available in this form, especially for free online

Tabulature

Pros

  • easy to learn/ accessible
  • lots of guitar music is available in this form because amateur guitarists can learn how to play a song, record what they’ve learned using tab, and share it for free online

Cons

  • doesn’t indicate anything other than pitch (rhythm, dynamics, tempo, and other cues are not included)
  • amateur guitarists post their versions of tab online, which may have mistakes

I think that hidden in the rhetoric of this discussion is also the idea that standard notation is superior to tablature, in the same way that certain languages, like English, also hold privilege in global society, while many people discredit Indigenous oral languages in favor of written text. If teachers make the decision not to teach tab to their guitar students, it shouldn’t be to uphold dominant notions that privilege standard notation.

Dave Eichenberger, a professional guitarist, outlines the history of both tabulature and notation and explores the pros and cons of each in his post Cage Match: Standard Notation vs. Tablature. After thoughtfully weighing the pros and cons, he says, “Both have terrible disadvantages and huge advantages.” So why not use both?

 

The Power of Connection: Your Moral Obligation

What are you passionate about? Music? Technology? Cats? Baseball?

How did you become passionate about this topic? Friends? A teacher? Your parents? An online discovery? I’d bet that it was a connection with someone who shared their passion that inspired you. These personal connections spark interest and creativity, and provide the necessary fuel to continue learning and participating. George Siemens says, “[n]urturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning” (2014). The internet doesn’t simply connect us with ideas or knowledge, it also connects us to the people who have those ideas. Thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, people have been able to connect with, well, almost anything they  want.

Connections edit

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

So, what happens when the possibility of making connections online are limited by laws?

Lawrence Lessig says that copyright laws are stifling creativity, resulting in the stunted evolution of new ideas, and argues that the internet should revive a read-write culture rather than kill it. Danah Boyd argues that locked-down academic journals should be accessible to the public for the same reason: our collective ideas are more powerful when they are shared than when they contained by “[h]eavy metal gates.” Aaron Swartz, a contributor to the development of Creative commons, among many notable accomplishments, argued, “sharing isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative.” He fought the Stop Online Piracy Act bill in the United States because he believed so strongly in the importance of learning from others. He said that it was a “bill against the freedom to connect.” These individuals understand the necessity of connectivism to our collective global development.

"I work for ideas and learn from people" - Aaron Swartz

Some organizations, like Creative Commons, have taken steps to ensure that digital material remains accessible to the public. Their “vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.” Spaces like Flickr are thriving today because of the work of of Creative Commons.

Right now, I’m learning how to play guitar using a variety of internet sources and apps, all of which I have accessed for free! People have generously shared their knowledge and talents by creating tools and educational videos for others, like me, to benefit from. This same generosity allows open education to serve those who might not otherwise be able to access learning materials or educators.

Take advantage of the connections that are available to you online, but more importantly, be generous in what you can offer to others. Share your passion.