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Acquiring Cyberspace Citizenship

Climbing from Culture Shock into Assimilation


Contents:

Instructions: Report 2

  • 1. Data Collection
  • 2. Trials and Tribulations of Learning the Internet
  • 3. Conclusion

    Data Collection


    Obtaining a Passport

    Three months ago, I sat down on a plastic green chair and stared into the eyes of the computer screen in front of me, determined to accomplish the task at hand--navigating my way through the world wide web. I thought to myself "Me, trying to find my way through a virtual community when I can't even determine north from south on a road map?" Nevertheless, I tried to be confident in my abilities. After all, how hard could it be, right? I was going to travel while staying in the same place--with my butt planted on the green plastic chair and the computer screen my ticket into the virtual world we call cyberspace.

    As I sit here today, I realize how far I have traveled. My butt is still firmly planted, in fact--it is getting quite numb. But I have come a long way, and the trip--overall--has been worth it.

    I completed an evaluation of my feelings and experiences each time I took a trip through cyberspace. Using an evaluation form provided by my instructor, I was able to collect data on myself and my reactions to the web. The ratings were given on a scale from -3 to +3--with negative 3 being the lowest and positive 3 being the highest rating. The following is the first evaluation I made:

    September 1, CLIC Lab, Lab Exercises 1-4

    stressful +2 pleasant
    dissatisfied +2 satisfied
    wasted +2 valuable
    confusing +1 clarifying
    discouraging +2 hopeful

    I was much encouraged after I was able to complete the first couple of exercises successfully. Most of the tasks involved getting acquainted with email; I was pretty familiar with the system so my confidence grew a bit....but my head did not swell, for as the exercises got more complicated I became less and less certain of my abilities.

    Soon, spending so much time in front of the computer became frustrating. I felt that valuable time was being wasted because I had nothing tangible to show for all of the hours I spent with my beady eyes glued to the screen and my hand poised on the mouse. I was stressed because hours would go flying by and I felt I had accomplished so little. I was confused with all of the information that was being thrown at me from all directions, and dissatisfied with my progress--I felt I wasn't going anywhere.

    However, at the same time, I was amazed at the plethora of information I found at the click of a button and hopeful that in the future I would become more comfortable with this new mode of transportation.

    I also felt that although I was taking baby steps, the time I was spending at the whim of a computer was valuable. Each time I sat before the computer, I braced myself for the hurricane of information that blew toward me...and each time I left, I felt I had prepared myself just enough to deal with its force. My feelings conflicted with each other--I was a happy and sad camper at the exact same time! I was a total space cadet--feeling the way I imagined I would if I was thrown into a different country without knowing a thing about its culture or language. Its novelty was thrilling, but it was also tiresome.

    Here's another evaluation I took :

    September 14, CLIC Lab, Lab Exercises 8-9

    stressful -2 pleasant
    dissatisfied +1 satisfied
    wasted +1 valuable
    confusing -1 clarifying
    discouraging +1 hopeful

    During this session, I remember feeling utterly HELPLESS because I could not, for the life of me understand how to upload and download files. I did not grasp the concept of moving files from one place to another because I didn't allow the new information the freedom to enter my discriminating mind. One of the things that helped me from going absolutely insane was being able to complain to my classmates. We moaned and groaned about our frustrations and the problems that we were encountering....and I think it helped a great deal. We could have formed our own Cyberspace Technophobia Therapy Group. I bet if we did, the number of people who would join would be astounding.

    As time wore on, though--my feelings of stress and confusion grew less and less--as is evident in the table below. The "negative" feelings were propelled more by deadlines than the computer itself. I became more comfortable on the roads I was traveling on; the sessions became more satisfying, valuable, clarifying, and hopeful. I think two of the most rewarding accomplishments I made were: 1) seeing my work published on the web for the first time and 2) finally being successful at loading icons onto my page. These little triumphs catapulted me through all of my frustration and kept me truckin' along. Time constraints were the only factor which made navigation stressful and disturbing.

    I became more comfortable with traveling through cyberspace after a month and a half of exploring its highways. This "comfort level" is evident in the following evaluation. Being comfortable, however, does not alleviate stress. I remember feeling overwhelmed. Deadlines were approaching at top speeds and I couldn't seem to think, type, and work fast enough...and this with the limited amount of time that I could spend in the computer lab before getting kicked off when my time had expired. During this time I was glad that I understood what I was doing--that I had spent time doing the exercises.

    October 12, CLIC Lab, Report 1

    stressful -1 pleasant
    dissatisfied +2 satisfied
    wasted +2 valuable
    confusing +2 clarifying
    discouraging +2 hopeful

    After looking at all of my evaluations, an overall pattern becomes evident. Clearly, the time I have spent on the computer has been rewarding; it has become increasingly pleasant, satisfying, valuable, clarifying, and hopeful as time has gone by and it has remained that way. Positive feelings have increased or remained stable and negative feelings have dissipated.

    Because my feelings for this new "virtual" world are generally positive, I am sure I will remain a cyberspace citizen. Cyberspace offers a world like none other. Where else can we communicate with people from all over the world as equals--no colors or socio-economic factors to bind us? Where else can we find a world of information at the click of a button? I can only imagine what will be available to us in the future. I think learning about the internet has never-ending possibilities. Through the world wide web, people are able to travel farther than they ever imagined; they have access to incredible amounts of information...and best of all--the possibilities are *endless*.

    Learning about the web was a difficult process for me; I think the older we get, the harder it can be to adjust to new technology. But even though it might take some blood, sweat, and tears to learn new things, the trip is well worth it. Learning about the net is a time consuming process but I think the benefits outweigh the costs and therefore, Internet learners will find themselves persevering even in the face of profound frustration.

    Trials and Tribulations of Learning the Internet


    Becoming a Seasoned Traveler

    Key to the process of getting to know the Web and becoming a regular and lifelong cyberspace citizen is TIME. Another important factor in getting to know the ins and outs of the web is time. Thirdly, time is essential in becoming a seasoned web traveler. As you can see, I think that time is a critical factor in learning and acquiring internet skills and living comfortably in a virtual world; time is needed to adjust, adapt, and cope with the many changes and experiences that come with entering a new world. Other critical factors necessary for becoming acquainted with the Web are: 1) not being afraid to take risks and 2) being willing to explore what the virtual world has to offer.

    I read the reports of Diane Beauchemin, Rebecca Ross, Lori Morita, Shane Cobb-Adams. Each of them spoke of their experiences while becoming a cyberspace citizen--their own trials and tribulations.

    I liked Diane's approach to learning about the web; she used humor in coping with the stress and frustration she encountered while putting in her time in front of the computer.

    I related well to what Rebecca had to say. She spoke of the computer-induced frustration she felt initially. But she also spoke of the good feelings she got when something worked properly. She told of how her confidence grew as her knowledge increased. I think what was especially important in her essay was her acceptance of her experiences--both good and bad. She accepted "that [she] cannot speedily accomplish anything." Rebecca also reminded herself "that what [she] was doing [was] going to take a lot of time...and that even if [she didn't] accomplish what she set out to do, at least she would know more the next time." A good attitude to have.

    Lori also had some interesting things to say. A key point in her essay was her realization that we need to learn to adapt to technology. She recognized that technology changes every minute, but says that although it can be a little intimidating, we should not be afraid of the changes or the problems we encounter.

    Shane also had a few comments. He spoke of the affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor levels we operate on--and how each of these levels affect our outlook and mindset. Some useful tips he had for internet users were: 1) take time in exploring the web, 2) never feel like you don't understand (this will hinder forward movement), and 3) take pleasure in learning one thing at a time.

    I nodded my head in agreement when I read each of the above reports; I could sympathize with their feelings of frustration and helplessness...and smiled when they talked of their triumphs. Finding a solution to a single problem makes all the difference in building confidence and giving us the strength to persevere.

    I attribute the similarities between my experiences and the experiences of others to the sameness of our situations. It seems that we entered the class knowing nothing about the internet...and we are all somewhat intimated by new things. I think frustration is often caused by being too caught up in completing a task--we don't want to take the time to enjoy the walk towards our goals. We'd rather rush ahead to the end and bask in the glory of completion. What we don't realize is that the walk to the finish line is just as important as the goal itself.

    Only in retrospect can we appreciate our struggles. However, at the very moment we are experiencing stress and dissatisfaction all we can think about is our need to scramble out of the tangled web of frustration we are caught in. At times, it is extremely difficult--if not impossible--to take a deep breath, look around and find the most logical way out. But somehow, we manage.

    The experiences of the above students compare well to the experiences that I have had while trying to navigate through the web. It seems that frustration is inevitable when we begin to acquire new skills. Just as it is both frustrating and fun to learn a new language, learn a new sport, learn a new anything--it is also bittersweet to become a cyberspace citizen.

    I related well to Phillipe's thoughts, experiences, and emotions on becoming a cyberspace citizen. He mentions in the beginning of his report the stress that can bombard a wanna-be citizen; he mentions that not only did he experience stress, but that he experienced many different kinds and from many sources.

    Phillipe also mentions the pleasant feelings which occur "due to an occasional breakthrough". I could also relate to what he was saying here--as the smallest achievement sometimes can sometimes make the ten hours you spend in front of the computer screen worthwhile.

    I also related well to the feelings expressed through Lori's report. She mentioned that she, too, felt confident in the beginning of the course, but became a wee bit technophobic (I was right there with ya, Lori!) as the class progressed. But, alas, she writes how she was able to overcome her technophobia by remaining positive and persevering.

    Conclusion


    Becoming a Citizen

    This report has made me reflect on how far I have traveled during this computer course to reach the point I am at currently. Looking back, I can see how I have progressed and how I have grown as a result of being persistent in my travels. Even though the roads of cyberspace have sometimes been rocky, I am glad I didn't opt to take a detour out of this class. I have learned some valuable lessons--completion of a task does not always come easily; working hard makes success sweeter; triumphs can be found in the "little things"; learning never stops.

    I also learned that I can experience far higher levels of frustration that I ever could have (and wanted to) imagine. Here are some of the ways that helped alleviate my frustrations....

    1) I talked, talked, talked with my classmates. In venting our building frustration, we were able to release some of it.

    2) I learned to close my eyes and take deep breaths when it seemed like the walls of cyberspace were closing in on me. Finding ways to lower my skyrocketing blood pressure helped to decrease my frustration levels--taking deep breaths, eating large amounts of anything, and running were some things that worked for me.

    3) I also learned to take things a step at a time. Although progress seemed like it was moving at a snail's pace, it was happening.

    This class made me reflect on what makes me "tick." Different parts of my mind and body--affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor--were put to work throughout this class...and all heavily influenced the way in which I functioned. I found that when I encountered a problem I could not easily solve I became frustrated (affective). On some days, this "domain" would take over and affect my overall functioning. However, on the good days, I would pick at my brain (use cognitive skills) for solutions. I would use my thinking, instead of my mood to solve problems. Sensorimotor skills were also put to work--as I spent hours tapping away at the keyboard and staring into the computer screen.

    For future generations:

    1) It's okay to be frustrated...as long as you control it. Don't let it control you.
    2) Ask questions! Brainstorm with classmates! Form a Cyberspace Technophobia Therapy Group!
    3) Fear not.
    4) GOOD LUCK

    It will take a lot of time to become a cyberspace citizen...but if you are patient and willing to take this time, expend the energy, and persist through frustrations, you will be rewarded for a job well done by a sense of accomplishment and relief that is unique to this class!

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