Digital Wisdom




These words remind me to two events taking place under a classroom circumstance. 


First, when I attended a Narrative Journalism course conducted by George Washington University professor Janet Steele in Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in 2017.

Ms Steele insisted to refrain from using powerpoint in her two-day course. She took a marker to expound elements of story and scribbled some pointers on the whiteboard. She made it clear that in most times, compelling storytelling came from strong narratives rather than the knack in the skill of digital means through flashy powerpoint presentation. Digital wisdom in this case is related to the wisdom to say "No" to using digital means while putting the most important thing upfront and sideline unimportant issues. 

The second event is when I conducted myself a class on video blogging for a junior high school in Tangerang, Banten. 

My class ran very well in the first three hours when I did not let the students to have their cellphones during the class. Those children suddenly turned into ‘wild digital animals’ when I let them carry their smartphones to do assignment to produce their first video blogs. They played around to the limit I could not control. They digressed, they were distracted, they played games, they chatted. I witness how hard for these digital natives to acquire ‘digital wisdom,’ to fiddle with their gadgets first for their assignment.   

Nearly 20 years ago, tech pundit Marc Prensky wrote in a 2001 article, In 2001, I"Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants," reminding us that the distinction between the two generations are becoming less and less relevant years in years out. Prensky coins the term “digital wisdom”, a twofold concept that refers both to wisdom regarding the use of digital tech to access power beyond innate capacity and to wisdom in the prudent use of tech to enhance human capabilities. Our literacy in using tech tools doesn’t necessarily mean prudent use of tech to enhance capabilities. 

Cyclists who religiously trust their passage to follow interactive map directions on their smartphones to evade busy streets may end up to city lakes. In short, smart and skillful use of tech is one thing, but intuition, good judgment, problem solving abilities and a clear moral compass is another thing. Tech won’t replace them. However, “in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced human,” Prensky writes. 

Learning from my own experience, keeping up with state-of-the-art new tech becomes a necessity in today’s social conversation regardless your areas of industry and businesses. However, simply to catch up with new innovations by updating ourselves new tools, new apps, new social media platforms sometimes become a mission impossible. We end up losing our tracks and directions, busy of learning technicalities and forget to pause and raise priority questions: “Why we learn all of these?” and “What for.”

Indeed, only few digitally enlightened communities may have ventured to an uncharted passage of new social learning that grows rapidly in the spirit of collaboration, while nearly entire the population are  sometimes left out to find their own ways in the tech race. 

by Damar Harsanto


Photo of Westminster, Source: The Telegraph