Building Global Citizens: Empathy, the Limits of Human Nature, and First Steps towards Social Equality through E-Learning Assignments

Building Global Citizens: Empathy, the Limits of Human Nature, and First Steps towards Social Equality through E-Learning Assignments

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-046-4.ch013
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With the popularization of global e-learning, built on unprecedented information technology (IT) connectivity and content distribution via the WWW and Internet, instructors have a responsibility to use these resources to build savvy learners who are also responsible global citizens. The Web acclimates and acculturates individuals into a global culture haphazardly. A more purposive learning approach may more constructively promote the long-held goal of liberation-based learning. A more pro-social state-of-being may be realized with designed e-learning assignments that promote learner empathy, reveal the limits of human nature, and provide supports for initial steps towards social equality. This then provides a model for online learning assignment design with an eye towards transformation and liberation. Given the broad diversity of cultural approaches to the concepts of liberation, this chapter will take a non-model-specific approach to this concept.
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The World Wide Web (WWW) and Internet have been harnessed to provide electronic government (e-government) services for local citizenry around the world. The perceived benefits of these technologies involve widespread access to relevant information (for knowledge and decision-making); low-cost information dissemination to promote free speech, and communication facilitation; the maintenance of human social relations unconstrained by space-time; community formation and social organization; production and commerce; leisure and entertainment; identity formation and psychological development; learning and cognitive development, and cultural understandings (Brey, 2005, n.p.). On the other hand, research has found a range of negative implications of this mass medium on society.

Brey has reviewed the literature and found 11 countervailing negatives: “information overload, false information, harmful information, harmful communication, harmful effects on social relations, harmful effects on community and social organization, harmful effects on production and commerce, harmful effects on identity formation and psychological development, harmful effects on learning and cognitive development, cultural fragmentation, and loss of privacy and private-public boundaries” (Brey, 2005, n.p.). More specifically, there are concerns about the loss of privacy protections, fraud, false identities, moral pollutants, hacking, anonymous postings, libelous information, support for negative addictive behaviors, and anti-social behaviors. The greater Net-enabled connectivity may be interpreted to enhance behaviors that are considered illegal and immoral as well (Caplan, 2009). Chopra and Dexter argue that software has philosophical implications that are social, political, and metaphysical:

Code may both advance and counteract political imperatives: in this context, free software is not just a question of managing technology but of determining the contours of our selves (sic) and the politics we choose. Technology and politics become inseparable when technologized entities are political actors and objects of political philosophy. A new political philosophy for this technological age must reflect the blurring of boundaries, and the new obscurities, that technology induces. The liberatory potential of free software lies in its potential to address both these effects (2007, p. 41).

Others, however, have argued that incorrect inferences have been made about the Internet promoting democracy or anything other than an anarchic environment. “There is little evidence that the Internet will create new communities to make up for the decline in civic engagement over the past four decades in the U.S.,” observes Uslaner (2000, p. 64). Millions turn to the Internet as a regular part of their daily lives (Iriberri & Leroy, 2009, p. 11:1), and the WWW is the backdrop for many forms of e-learning.

Understanding how those services and have been shaped and delivered will be important in first understanding the information and communication technology (ICT) affordances. Then, once the provincial applications have been discussed, this chapter will examine how the WWW supports the global citizen identity. If the Internet is a singularity—a point in space-time where gravitational forces are so infinitely dense and voluminous that space-time becomes distorted—then it should be harnessed instead of resulting in chaos. The collective creation and pooling of knowledge may result in increased “individual and aggregate capabilities,” optimally in a “virtuous cycle” (Flake, 2006, p. 2). These synergies cut across national boundaries and cultures, including developing countries (Alam, Ahmed, & Islam, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Aggregate: Assemble into a complete whole.

E-Citizen: A member of a state who uses electronic methods to access (e-)government services.

Urban Village: A community of people living together in an urban or city environment.

Acclimate: Adapt to a new environment.

Predictive Analytics: The use of information technologies to project occurrences in the future.

Globalist: A perspective that emphasizes placing world interests above those of individual nations.

Redundant: Repetitious.

Social Norm: A standard or pattern of social interaction and engagement.

Telepresence: The embodiment of a person in a socio-technical space that captures some aspects of their personality and role.

E-Government: The uses of information and communication technologies (ICT) to delivery government services to a populace and to make government more efficient.

Affordance: A function that is made possible through a technological device.

Literacy: The knowledge of a particular subject or field (as in digital literacy, informational literacy, cultural literacy, and others).

Social Equality: Just, fair and impartial treatment of all individuals.

Screen Effect: The concept that people may feel like they’ve taken effective action when they’ve only posted a message or interacted emotionally (and parasocially) with a mediated message.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT): A range of technologies used for the creation, capturing, storage, and access of information and the support of human communications and interactions.

Conviviality: Civility, friendliness, agreeableness.

Dissemination: The distribution or broadcasting.

Social Presence: The indicators in an online space that show the presence of more than one person and show some indicators of their “state” and communications.

Participatory Design: The inclusion of potential users of a technology in its design from the beginning phases to the roll-out.

Free Speech: The right of people to express their opinions in public without government interference.

Civic: Relating to citizenship or membership in a city.

Cultural Fragmentation: The breakdown of more traditional senses of culture.

Social Justice: Morally correct and fair treatment of all individuals.

Democracy: Governance by the people.

Sustainable: Maintainable over time, not taxing on the environment.

Open-Innovation: The uses of research information from both inside and outside an organization to support its research and development (R&D).

Deliberation: Consideration or consultation before a decision.

Third Sector: Non-profit organizations.

Captology: Persuasive computing.

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