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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Power of Ideas

What an influence one idea can have on the world.

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it which obliges every one; and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it that, being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”
--John Locke “Of Civil Government”

This idea about people having "certain unalienable rights" (US Declaration of Independence) fueled great changes throughout the world, especially the French and American Revolutions. Just watch the videos below to get a quick idea of the influence this one idea had on these two nations:

But it doesn't stop there. The Internet and Protocols have brought these ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the forefront again. Kristen Cardon wrote a great post about the effect the internet has had on the world, which made me begin to wonder just what kind of effect the internet will continue to have on the world in the future, and if it will change the ways governments are run around the world.

Ramtin Hajimonshi posted views on how the internet is effecting the world, and does a wonderful job speaking about dialog on the internet, and how we can speak with those from all over the world. The internet is spreading ideas like wildfire, and as we have seen from history, ideas change the world. What do you think will happen?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What a Class!

So far, my experience in this Digital Civilization class has been challenging, but very beneficial. There are many things about history that I have never really studied or thought about until I got to this class. I had never heard of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Painter"; or John Milton's "Areopagitica". I had never heard of Thomas Hobbes or his Book "Leviathan". To be honest, history and me have never really gotten along well. However, I think that the topics we are covering in this class are really interesting, and they are able to keep my attention. I love learning about the ideas of those from history, rather than just the dates and facts themselves. I think it is a wonderful way to focus and delve deeply into a very important aspect of the past.

On top of that, I love tying the computing aspects of today into our learning of the past. I think this is truly what history should be about: looking to the past, comparing it with the present, and looking at how the future might be by comparing them. For example, looking at how the Catholic Church regulated the information that people were able to access, and how Martin Luther and others wanted to liberate information to all people was really easy to compare to the Open Software Movement in our day. This class has really opened my eyes to how Computers in our day can be compared to many of the revolutionary thoughts, ideas, and inventions of the past.

As far as the digital literacy goes, I LOVE this aspect. I was really skeptical about it at first. In fact, I was pretty opposed to it. However, it is opening my mind to better ways of connecting with people in order to learn. Recently I've been thinking about how effective this sort of learning and collaborating will be when I'm a math teacher. To be able to connect with other math teachers from all over the world and share ideas will be a HUGE advantage to me in the future. It is also wonderfully helpful in this class. I'm really enjoying Diigo, because it allows me to keep track of the websites I have highlighted, liked, and even commented on. Writing in a blog is also a convenient way to share the information I'm learning, and a wonderful way in which we are able to connect with the other people in our class, and others from all over the world. Blogsearching has become a wonderful tool that I am really beginning to enjoy. It takes me to new ideas and places that I never would have gone to through a search engine like Google. It even sparks new ideas in me that I then want to share on my own blog. For instance, when we were talking about the Printing Press, Ariel made a comment on my post Printing Press=Internet Press?, which then sparked me to write another blog post about books becoming obsolete. (See Books and Printing Becoming Obsolete?) I love the "research-post-comment-gain new ideas-post again" model that is happening in this class. I think it is a wonderful way of collaborating and discussing the things in class. Other tools like Google Documents are also making it wonderfully easy to share the information we gather with the class and with the world in general.

I think this class is fantastic, and the ideas we learn here will be beneficial to all of us for the rest of our lives.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Could EVERYTHING eventually become free?

Well, I'll answer my own question. I think not. The internet has changed the economy of many things related to information. Newspapers have seen a dramatic decline. Most periodicals have moved to publishing online. Things like Facebook, Yahoo, and Google offer many free services. Yes, the economy of the internet is fundamentally different from Adam Smith's view of Capitalism. But, that does not mean that the general trend of the online world will eventually apply to all aspects of life.

There are many services in the world today that are performed by people that cannot be free. It just doesn't work. Even services online offer the "free" tactic to get you into their system, and then they begin to bombard you with "premium" offers that cost money. This is the way a big chunk of Facebook's money is earned, as stated in Fred Wilson's Blog (see Freemium and Freeconomics) Wilson also states this at the end of that same blog:

"The Internet allows an entrrepreneur to enter a market with a free offering because the costs of doing so are not astronomical. And most entrpreneurs who take this approach will maintain an attractive free offering of their basic service forever. But that doesn't mean that everything they offer will be free. That's the whole point of freemium. Free gets you to a place where you can ask to get paid. But if you don't start with free on the Internet, most companies will never get paid."

This is the economy that the internet has created. Most companies online must offer some sort of "free" service or product, but then charge for more of the elite and "cool" gadgets and services that the site has to offer. In fact, when looking at it this way, isn't the internet just following the model of free samples that food companies offer? Isn't the internet just following the model of free cell phones that cellular service providers offer? And maybe, just maybe, the internet is actually more Capitalistic than Chris Anderson makes it out to be.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Organizational and Collaborative Learning

"These being the dangers in the process of human reason, the remedies of them all can only proceed from the real, the mechanical, the experimental philosophy, which has this advantage over the philosophy of discourse and disputation, that whereas that chiefly aims at the subtlety of its deductions and conclusions, without much regard to the first groundwork, which ought to be well laid on the sense and memory, so this intends the right ordering of them all and the making them serviceable to each other." (Robert Locke; from "The Preface")

This quote from one of the early members of the Royal Society and the New Science helps us to begin to understand that collaborative efforts are not something new. The Royal Society made great leaps in working together on specific projects, namely science, to further our knowledge in the matters. 

Denis Diderot was able to bring together ideas from all walks of life to create an encyclopedia; not just from his own knowledge, but from the collaborative efforts of many. "We declare, therefore, that we have not had the temerity to undertake unaided a task so superior to our capabilities, and that our function as editors consists principally in arranging materials which for the most part have been furnished in their entirety by others." (Denis Diderot; from "Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot")

Today, we have the internet, where we have collaborative databases with a wealth of information. Crowdsourcing websites like Wikipedia have revolutionized the way we can collaborate knowledge. We have ways of organizing, sharing, and editing information that the early Royal Society and Diderot probably never dreamed of! In fact, as we move more and more towards Open Access information, traditional encyclopedias will be out of date.

With this wealth of information does drive us to a question, "Does this make us smarter than our own good?" With so much information pertaining to the world and how it works, it becomes very easy to forget God, and that He created us. Even Diderot said something similar: "Thus, nothing is more necessary than a revealed Religion, which may instruct us concerning so many diverse objects. Designed to serve as a supplement to natural knowledge, it shows us part of what was hidden, but it restricts itself to the things which are absolutely necessary for us to know." (Denis Diderot; from "Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot") We cannot know everything, and therefore need to be careful not to think that we CAN know everything.

"But to be learned is good if they hearken 

unto the counsels of God." 2 Nephi 9:29

My Avatar

No, not that avatar. I took some time on and created an avatar, which, in internet and computer terms, refers to a cartoon character online that you create and design in any way you want. Curious as to what the word "Avatar" means, I began to look things up to discover how it applies.

Avatar actually comes from Hinduism, and refers to the descent of a deity to the earth in some incarnate form. ( Usually the avatar was something other than human, however it could still be human.

Interesting that we use this term to describe another "form" of ourselves in the digital world. But it is not necessarily how we look, but maybe how we believe we would look based on our likes, personalities, features, and wants, etc.

Then, looking at it from the view of all the "Open information" discussion we have been having in class, I wonder if, through Avatars, we will actually lose something in not being able to see the person face to face. Does it taint the information we receive from that person when all we can see is a cartoon version of, well, whoever they want to be?

P.S. You can see my Avatar at the side of this Blog Page.

Human Understanding

"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2 Nephi 28:30)

"He that attentively considers the state of a child, at his first coming into the world, will have little reason to think him stored with plenty of ideas, that are to be the matter of his future knowledge. 'Tis by degrees he comes to be furnished with them." (John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding)

We don't gain knowledge right off the bat in life. We gain it a little at a time. However, the internet has rapidly changed the way that we can learn new things. With things like open access, open data, and open science, we are now able to collaborate together and learn better from each other, all over the world. It truly is amazing what we can do now. The fact is, we don't have to know everything all at once. With collaborating over the internet, it makes thousands and even millions of different minds and viewpoints available for all of us to look at, and learn from.

These ideas truly are amazing!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What type of Government is Best?

Thomas Hobbes view of what a Government should be in "Leviathan" poses interesting ideas. Hobbes believes that we, as humans, are pretty base creatures, and that we only do things to profit ourselves.

"So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory." Leviathan Chapter 13

Hobbes believes that man is only driven to do things out of competition, diffidence, and glory. We want to eliminate competition, and get gain; we want to boost our own self esteem to feel safe; and, we want to achieve glory to have a good reputation. Hobbes also believes that whenever you do anything for someone, it is in your best interest, because you want something:

"Whensoever a man transferreth his right, or renounceth it, it is either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself, or for some other good he hopeth for thereby. For it is a voluntary act: and of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself."

Hobbes therefore argued that man needed strong, centralized government, otherwise wars would arise out of the nature of man. He believed the best form of government is a monarchical one, where everyone is given laws to follow out of the interests of the Monarch, which actually benefits everyone.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, and many centuries after Hobbes, in our day and age of open technology and the internet, some have argued that the best form of government is an open government, where law passing and legislation would be able to be scrutinized by the public. Where all government action would not only be under the eyes of a monarch, or parliament, or congress, but under the eyes of all those interested in the Public.

However, my view of a perfect government is somewhere in between. I don't think we are base creatures who only do things out of our own interests, and I don't think that having a monarch is the best form of government. I also don't think it is the best idea to have all government information out in the open, for it could easily compromise national security. I believe the best form of government would be a true democracy, and I think our founding fathers of this country truly were inspired by God in the establishment of it.

Learning to Use Diigo

Because of class Tuesday, I decided to do one of my digital literacy labs on Diigo, set up an account, and start using this tool. So far, I have really enjoyed it. It makes doing research on the internet a whole lot easier to organize, and keep track of. I was able to set up a profile, give a little information about myself, and I was able to find Dr. Burton on there, who I am now following. I think this is a great way to share information, and websites that you have discovered, and I can't wait until we get the class Group going on Diigo.

If you would like to start following me, go to Diigo, set up your account, then, in the search box, type in "Kevin Watson" and click "search for Kevin Watson in users". You can then click the follow link, and begin following the pages that I bookmark, highlight, and post sticky notes on. I love this tool!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Consume, Create, and connect

Margaret Weddle helped us to learn about Cloud Computing in her Consume lab. Cloud computing refers to what has happened with the internet. When you download a file to the internet, that file goes to the "cloud". When you upload a file from the internet, you are uploading it from the "cloud". Cloud computing is beginning to make Local Networking within companies more and more obsolete. Instead, companies are just using the internet to store files, so that they can be distributed even quicker. A great example of cloud computing is Google Documents. You upload a document to Google, and then that file goes into the "cloud" of information. People, from all over the world, can then upload the file and look at it. It is definitely quite an amazing concept.

Jeff Whitlock helped us learn how to upload videos to YouTube, which neither Margaret or I knew how to do. In order to use what I learned, I quickly loaded a funny video of me getting hit on the head by a branch onto YouTube: Funny Video

I taught our group about BackChannel, what it is, and how we can use it. Here is my PowerPoint for it:
BackChannel PowerPoint

Thanks for the great Digital Literacy Lab Margaret and Jeff! I enjoyed it!

Open Information

As the Protestant Reformation began, questions began to circulate as to how much information the people should receive, and how much information should be withheld.
Martin Luther was one that was an advocate for giving information to the people. The people in his day received all of their information from the Catholic Church. They took what the Catholic church gave to them, and did their best to live it. Because of literacy and the problem with obtaining copies of the Bible, many did not know anything other than what was given to them by the Church. Martin Luther studied at Erfurt University, and began to realize the corruption that had developed in the Roman Catholic Church. After being transferred to Wittenberg,  Luther's action of nailing 95 theses onto the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg started a revolution of thought as to what information should be given to all people. The Printing Press then spread the news like wildfire, and the Protestant Reformation began.
See Protestant Reformation

People other than Luther also advocated a freedom of speech. One of the most noteworthy was John Milton, and his polemical tract, Areopagitica, in which he states,
"[T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"
Milton argues that with free speech, truth and falsehood will be mingled together, but truth will always overpower falsehood. Whereas, if we begin to censor everything, truth may be what is censored, and falsehoods will run rampant.

In our day, open information is much more available. The internet, free software, and "Open access" websites have made it possible to spread information in a matter of seconds, rather than weeks. With this comes a wonderful opportunity to find truth, and wonderful new ideas. However, we also need to be ever more cautious, because there is plenty of falsehood out there.

"Young people have lost that deference to their elders on which the social order depends; they reject all correction. Sexual offenses, rapes, adulteries, incests and seductions are more common than ever before. How monstrous that the world should have been overthrown by such dense clouds for the last three or four centuries, so that it could not see clearly how to obey Christ's commandment to love our enemies. Everything is in shameful confusion; everywhere I see only cruelty, plots, frauds, violence, injustice, shamelessness while the poor groan under the oppression and the innocent are arrogantly and outrageously harassed. God must be asleep." (John Calvin)

What an interesting view on life in Calvin's time; and how interesting that it reflects our day and age. Be careful out there in the digital world.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Books and printing becoming obsolete?

Ariel made a wonderful comment on my last blog post, and it actually ties in with one of the blogs that I ended up looking at about printing. I went to the Los Angeles Times blog, and found this article about the Guttenberg Project, and digitalizing books.

Digitalizing books

To be quite blunt, I'm scared that physical books will become obsolete in the future. There is a special something about holding a physical book in your hands, and turning the pages. Maybe it's the finality that comes when you finish the book. Maybe it is the fact that the book doesn't glow. I don't know. I'd actually like to know what others think...

What do you prefer? Reading books off of a computer screen or a Kindle? Or reading a physical book?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Printing Press = Internet Press?

The invention and coming forth of Guttenberg’s printing press was a monumental pivot point in history. No longer would reading be confined to monks and rich scholars. No longer would a book take days to copy. No longer would it be difficult to read based upon the handwriting of the copier. The printing press made reading available to even the lowliest of persons. The printing press was a key element to a religious reform starting. It was a key element for people beginning to stand up to monarchic governments. It was a key element in many Revolutions, especially the American Revolution.

“In the late fifteenth century, the reproduction of written materials began to move from the copyist’s desk to the printer’s workshop. This shift, which revolutionized all forms of learning, was particularly important for historical scholarship. Ever since then historians have been indebted to Gutenberg’s invention; print enters their work from start to finish, from consulting card files to reading page proofs. Because historians are usually eager to investigate major changes and this change transformed the conditions of their own craft, one would expect the shift to attract some attention from the profession as a whole. Yet any historiographical survey will show the contrary to be true.”
(Cambridge University Press 0521845432 - The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Second Edition; Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. Excerpt)

Is this true for the information revolution of our day, the internet? Do most of us look at it as an anomaly, or do we really consider the impact that it is having on society, and the learning process of today? Can we consider the internet as big of an impact on the future as the invention of the printing press was in Guttenberg’s day?

Consider the way the internet has revolutionized learning. Consider the fact that the internet has made information and reading of materials more readily available to the world. Consider the fact that the internet is fueled a lot by commercial interests of our day, much the same as printing was fueled in Aldus Manutius’ day. (See Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance)

I hope you can see the interesting correlation that I see.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Feature!

So, I saw this on, and decided to set up my profile on I also got the opportunity to post a link through my blog, which is right in the top right hand corner of my blog now. This looks like a fun new way to share my beliefs about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Check it out, and maybe take the time to make your own profile.

This was inspired partly by this class, partly because my homepage is, and partly because I got into some interesting discussions with Humanists on religion over the weekend.

P.S. They have to review everything before it can be posted, so it may take a while before all the information comes up.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Humanism, not Secular Humanism

Many of the ideas of humanism I agree with a lot. In fact, I believe man has accomplished many great things throughout history. Many things from Greek and Roman philosophy, science, and art. Inventions that have bettered our lives. Men like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, George Washington, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, and on and on. There have been many accomplishments, achievments, and "wins" among humanity that we, as humans, can be proud of.

The internet, especially, has made sharing information quite easy. Tools such as search engines, chat rooms, blogs, online resource databases, even translation tools like Babelfish, have made sharing information across the globe possible, if not downright simple.
Pico Della Mirandola even wonderfully stated in "Oration on the Dignity of Man": "Imagine! The great generosity of God! The happiness of man! To man it is allowed to be whatever he chooses to be!" We are agents unto ourselves. We are free to choose our path. As is stated in the Book of Mormon by Lehi in 2 Nephi 2:27 "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." Man truly is great!

But, we must be aware, that if we are not careful, we may slip into Secular Humanism. When we drift into secular humanism, we begin to take God, the “Supreme Architect” as Mirandola called Him, out of the picture. In reality, what makes man great is his potential: as spirit children of God, we are endowed with divine potential. When we focus too much on what man has accomplished, we lose the true knowledge of who we really are. Humanism, in itself, is good, as long as we remember that all gifts and inventions we have received come from God through inspiration and bestowments of knowledge.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Voice of the Spirit

In light of all the talk that we had on technology and using it in my Honors 202 class yesterday, I thought it might be nice to ask the question: "Can you be sucked into technology and the digital world too much?"

Consider those who spend more time chatting online than talking to their own family. Consider those who text more than calling someone on their phone. Consider those who spend more time in the "World of Warcraft" world, or another digital world, more than they do in their own life.

With all this technology, it does give us a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow, but at the same time, it can be detrimental to the relationships we have if we get sucked into it too much. It can also rob us of true knowledge, when we delve too much into the unimportant things. To help make my point, watch this new Mormon Messages video with President Faust's wise words on the voices we listen to today:

Voice of the Spirit

Just a warning to us all not to get too wrapped up in the digital world that we miss the most important messages around us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 it possible?

Many people believe that Thomas More's "Utopian" society would be one in which there are no problems at all. A place where there are no worries, and everything is perfectly wonderful. A place where there are no giant oil spills, but where the environment and technology are perfectly aligned. A place where everyone has a perfect life made for them, as if you were given a perfect life in "The Sims". A sort of "heaven" if you will. But is this ever really possible? And would we want it to be?

Problems and challenges are a way of learning. Even in More's society, he stated that they were "thus filled with a love of learning." Questioning the world around us, and solving problems, is what helps us to grow. It gives us purpose. It gives us a reason to live. Progression. It is the goal of every human being. It is the reason the Renaissance happened. It is the reason that the ideas of planetary motion changed multiple times. Trying to understand how the universe works and gaining a knowledge of truth is something that we, as humans, will constantly have a drive to do. Leonardo da Vinci even spoke of true learning, and how it comes through experience in "The Painter".

If there are no challenges and problems, how could we progress? Many views of heaven look at it as a place where there are no troubles or complications, and everything is just perfect. But that is not my view of heaven. Even God has had worries, problems, and concerns. In my view, heaven is a place that I can learn and grow, and be with my family (especially my wonderful wife) forever. I want a place where progression does not end; a view which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has of "Heaven".