Monday, August 31, 2015

And You May Contribute a Verse…

While answering the question ‘what is good among the struggles, failures, and emptiness of life?’, the famous American poet Walt Whitman, in his poem ‘O Me! O Life!’ says, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here, he refers to life as a powerful play, the sequence and progression of which is beyond any individual’s control. However, at the same time, the poet gives immense power in the hands of each individual by noting that each person “may contribute a verse” in this powerful play. In other words, a person can use their voice to contribute to and shape the ongoing conversations in their life.

The ability to contribute to the ongoing raises a basic question: How does one do it? There need to be some channel or medium through which an individual can put forth their opinions and viewpoints. The Scholarship in any field is limited to the researchers or the ones who have made their mark in the field. The print media is similarly not accessible to the common masses to express their viewpoints. And both the Scholarship and the print media, at times, are guided by the dominant narrative and have ulterior agenda and motifs. In such a case, it becomes difficult for anyone to present an opinion especially if it does not go along with the dominant narrative.

Social media which includes, but is not limited to, blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, provide a means for people to share their beliefs with the world and eventually engage in a conversation with others on topics which they are interested in. Once can use one or more social media platforms to post their viewpoints on a topic and similarly be aware of others’ viewpoints on the same topic by following others on the social media platforms. Moreover, through social media, one can connect with people with similar interests and passions and eventually form a tribe which has the power to bring about changes which an individual alone cannot.

Social media not only provides a platform to express oneself and communicate with others but also serves as a platform for academic collaboration, teaching and learning, and engaging in a social dialogue. There are multiple blogs (some of which are referenced here) which are dedicated to history, medicine, and business among other disciplines. These blogs can serve as resources for students and faculty alike. Blogs can also be used as an outlet for students’ works as is being done in the ‘Contemporary Pedagogy’ and ‘Preparing the Future Professoriate’ classes done at Virginia Tech. Some blogs allow multiple authorship and thus those provide avenues for collaboration in academia and in the process of learning.

Blogs and other social media platforms foster interaction among learners. This interaction helps people construct knowledge from a constructivist viewpoint. Unlike the traditional teacher-centric model of education, social media provides a model of learning which is centered on the learner in that the learner engages with the rest of the world using social media and learns in collaboration with others. Collaborating with others to learn also helps the learners to integrate multiple viewpoints in their learning unlike the traditional model where the learner is exposed to only the teacher’s and/or their classmates’ viewpoints.

In a nutshell, while Whitman suggests that the good thing about life and the world is that one has the ability to change them through their efforts, social media provides one with the opportunity to channelize those efforts so that they bear fruits.


  1. Hi Ashish, thank you for sharing your thoughts! I agree with your comments, especially your pointing out the role of blogs on constructing and re-constructing realities. You're absolutely right, the blog discussions can not only help people to process their thoughts by themselves and share them with others, but also can help us to see how an idea evolved thanks to shared thoughts on that.. The traditional discussion forms do not allow much for us to see this invaluable construction process. Thank you once again for sharing! cheers, yesim

  2. Great points, I agree that the internet provides a means of expression that has the potential to empower people who were previously dis-empowered to express themselves. It's important to note that not all social media options are equal in this regard, we must be critical of who or what company owns and manages our data. Posting on facebook is quite different than posting on your own blog that you manage yourself, which in turn is different from posting on a blog controlled by a company like WordPress. None of these are necessarily "better" or "worse" than any other, and all would *claim* to give an equal voice to all people, but in reality that might not always be the case. Take for instance the recent controversy of Facebook imposing the "real name" rule, arguably due to the predominantly white, cisgendered, straight males making the decision not understanding why it could be a form of oppression to use the name assigned to them at birth.

    So yes, the internet has great potential, but don't confuse the Internet for the various popular software tools, and always be critical of those tools!