Monday, May 19, 2008

Semester in Review - Spring '08

Another semester has come and gone, bringing me one step closer to graduation. This semester sparked in me a passion for my education that was missing before. As my education moves forward, I have been given the chance to study particularly interesting and valuable topics. This semester, I became fascinated with information and communication technologies and their effects on society. Throughout the course of the semester, I studied in depth the ethos of collective intelligence projects like Wikipedia, the nature of Web 2.0, and the relationship between communication technologies and economic development.

This semester, it was my goal to integrate the work I did in all of my courses into one cohesive body of work. In some ways, I was successful. In other ways, I was limited by the general education curriculum. In any case, I learned a great deal about the world in which we live.

A course in environmental biology gave me an understanding of the ways technologies can effect ecosystems. The course emphasized sustainable ways of living, even in the face of increasing dependence on technologies that pollute the environment. Technologies that have a positive or neutral effect on the environment were also discussed.

A course in ancient Greek philosophy gave me an understanding of the earliest stages of western thought. The course focused on the beginnings of philosophy and natural science. Questions like, "what does it mean to live virtuously?", and "what is the nature of reality?" were discussed in depth. Both this course and the environmental biology course gave me moral guidelines, which provided the framework for my investigation of technology's effects on society in general.

I was not able to produce any original work relevant to my general inquiry in either of these two courses. In my rhetoric course and in my geography course though, I wrote multiple papers on the topics I mentioned in the first paragraph. I have set up a place to post my work online. Here is a brief description of each paper and a link to its location.

1. Michael Jordan, Wikipedia, and Internet Rhetoric - This first paper is what started my investigation into information and communication technologies. It was written for my Rhetoric course. It reviews several websites, including the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Wikipedia has become immensely useful to people from all walks of life. In this paper I compare the ethos of Wikipedia to other "credible" websites. In the end, I conclude that Wikipedia is just as reliable, if not more reliable, than traditional sources of information.

2. Communication and Information Technologies in the Developing World - This paper, written for my Geography of the Developing World course, examines the effects that technologies, like mobile phones, have on developing economies. Massive inequalities exist between the developed and developing worlds in terms of access to information. This translates into inequalities in many other aspects of society, most notably economic development.

3. Soma - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 - I wrote this three part short story independently over the course of the semester. It is a mythological tale about a young man who is transported to a mysterious castle located in orbit around the earth. The nature of reality is questioned when 1000 origami cranes become real live birds. Experiencing art is elevated to a new level, which raises questions about the digital age and the rise of alternate online realities.

This collection of my work is somewhat incomplete. A significant presentation about the development of communication throughout the ages is missing. Also missing are several essays which are not all together relevant to the theme of technology's effects on society.

As I look back on this semester, I feel I have grown as a student and as a person. It is my pleasure to share with you the fruits of my labor this semester. One thing that I have learned at Elmhurst College so far, is that what college aught to be, is a community of students dedicated to pursuing knowledge in any way possible. I feel that online communities will soon become the epicenter of modern education. Until that time comes, I will continue to advocate for the internet as the most effective means of sharing information.


-Kevin Lepore

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