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We Are All Public Now: Surveillance, Technology, and the Sanctity of the Classroom

Monday, January 1, 2007


This lecture was presented by The Cornell University Computer Policy and Law Program.
As information and communicative technologies pervade the higher education classroom; academia has been justifiably enamored of the democratizing potential of constant connectivity and inexpensive information distribution. But these technologies -- Web sites, blogs, social networking sites, course management systems, digital video, and camera phones, instant messaging, etc. -- have generated some profound negative externalities as well. Chief among these is the loss of the sense that the classroom is a special, even sacred, space. Professors and students now operate in an environment of almost constant surveillance. And for those teaching and learning controversial subjects, the potential for abuse is clear and present. This talk argues that we in the academy should avoid the temptation of "quick fixes" such as restrictive technologies and regulations. Instead, we should foster a structures conversation that generates better norms, protocols, and ethics and aims to restore the classroom as a safe and special place for the deliberation of ideas and the dissemination of knowledge and wisdom.

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