During spring 2014, an online collaboration arose between ITU's Global Business Informatics' students and students at Harvard University as to how we use the internet. Students at the courses Society and Technology at the IT University and Exploring Race and Community in the Digital World at Harvard University in the USA met online to exchange digital autobiographies with descriptions of the students' first experiences with the World Wide Web and how they use it today.
Society and Technology, a first year, first semester course on the Global Business Informatics program about the inseparability of society and technology, is taught by assistant professor Rachel Douglas-Jones and she first met her American counter, lecturer on African and African American Studies at Harvard Carla Denny Martin, when they both studied at the American university back in 2007.
“The idea for this collaboration arose when Carla and I met up during a research trip I made to Harvard in spring 2014. I knew she was teaching Race and Technology because we had already reconnected over Twitter, and we realised our students sometimes struggled to contextualise their own experiences with different technologies, some of which defined eras of their lives. So using the old fashioned pen pal idea, we proposed to put our students in touch with one another, so they could share digital autobiographies,” explains Rachel Douglas-Jones.
What makes a digital citizen?
In the digital autobiographies the students reflected on their own trajectory so far with technology, specifically IT. The purpose was to give students opportunity to get to know the different experiences of their peers on another continent and allow them to use this reflection to sensitise them to the national, historical and infrastructural specificities of their engagement with digital technologies, and to help them see how the experiences of their peers around
“The ambition was to see this reflexive moment inform how the students engaged with the texts as the course progressed, and the realisation that their perspectives and experiences are not necessarily shared by their age-peers world over was certainly evident,” says Rachel Douglas-Jones.
“As an international teacher myself, I was surprised by the role of Danish social media networks in their childhoods, and also by the centrality of gaming both for the Danish and American students. Discussions about the Danish CPR number and American Social Security numbers led to in depth discussions of the role of the state, questions of data privacy and the different expectations held by Danish and American students. What does being a ‘digital citizen’ mean in these two different countries, for example?”