Social Media in the Classroom

Who are These People….


I have seen a number of documentaries on the topic of Wiki Leaks, Edward Snowden, even a few on the hacker group Anonymous, However, there was an interesting twist to the Netflix documentary: We Steal Secrets.

Before beginning, I feel That I can claim that I’m relatively up to date on the news.  I source my news from different countries, knowing that anything in English probably has a spin, and different perspectives.  I try to ensure that what I know (think) about the world is as accurate as possible.  On the whole I believe myself to be well informed…,however, I am beginning to see a difference in being informed and being aware.

Perhaps it is more the importance of trying to keep the medium from being the message?

The art of the post, the tweet, the documentary, are all contributing to a renewed and polished idea of what information is and how it is transferred, and inferred.  While watching  I was interested to find that the individuals depicted seem to change according to the way they were presented by the producer/s of the film

Before continuing a preface: I don’t believe that anyone can ever know the whole story of an event as complicated and dynamic as either the Wiki leaks event or the myriad of events they exposed.  The level of deceit and the complexities of these kinds of events are simply of too grand a scale for individuals to apply absolute terms like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.  rather much like my reflections on this film, we need to continue to develop and reform our understanding based on careful and active consideration of information (not to be confused with facts..which are even more slippery), as well as a dedicated open minded pursuit of new or alternative views.

Bradley Manning

Perhaps the most dramatic shift was who Bradley (now Chelsea Manning) was.  Using text as dialogue to represent the discussion between Manning and Adrian Lamo really depersonalized (for me) Manning’s character.  Difficult to feel empathy for a soldier stationed in Iraq, who is transferring data onto a Lady Gaga CD.  However as the film progresses, and the true character and emotional state that Manning was in while this was happening, really began to supersede the content.  It seemed almost metaphorical that he ultimately had his ‘secret’ outed by Lamo.  As the facts, or perhaps more importantly ‘whole story’ evolves the viewer realizes that this is a human with great access to information, but unable to manage the responsibilities that access entails.

Adrian Lamo

Another complex portrayal of an individual who at first is portrayed as somewhat of a positive player in the stemming of the flow of this confidential information.  However again, as the film progresses Lamo is moved from the role of whistle-blower to that of (not intending to trivialize) ‘tattletale’.  By the end Lamo is made out to be someone who sold his confidant out, perhaps even a traitor to those in the digital / hacker community.  Yet at the end we again are shown that this decision came at no small personal or professional cost.

Julian Assange

The main character…the lynch pin…. the hero?  All over the world Julian Asssange is/was seen as a liberator of information.  Someone who puled back the curtain to show us what really happens when big governments do ‘stuff’.  While less of a extreme of a shift the producers definitely seemed to turn Assange from the role of leader of a new era of information, liberator, to one of dictator, and manager of information.  Moving from one that was seen globally as perhaps what the future may hold for a standard of openness and lack of secrets, to a cloistered, international criminal and potential sex offender.

The Power of Information

These basis of this global event featured nothing other than humans, making good/bad decisions.  It was more a story of the human condition, than it was about information.   It is very easy to vilify the characters that are presented to us, in tweets, documentaries, Facebook posts.  We form opinions, and then disseminate them, solidify them often more as fact than simply opinion.  The challenge for us as the consumer of information, then producer, is to remember that behind this digital representation is a person, often with an agenda.   it seems important to always attempt to keep these two things connected and forefront. Perhaps it is not then the information itself that forms our understanding, but intention with which it is presented.

This is a vital point for us as well as our students to recognize.  Differentiating between intent, and information is a skill that all travelers of the interweb need to become skilled in.  Rather than being led to believe things we can start to determine understanding.



Author: 2014shaunhorsman

Teacher seeking to better implement and understand the role of technology in the classroom... and outside the classroom.

3 thoughts on “Who are These People….

  1. Nicely done on the reflection! I love your point that the “medium is the message” works at multiple levels in something like a film. Choosing to make it a film is one message, but how characters are portrayed changes the message also. Totally true. I actually had an assignment kinda like that in first year university. We were to find two articles about the same thing (connected to religion since it was Religious Studies 100), then discuss the different portrayals, what was used, what message was being sent and how. You did a great job of picking out how shifts in portrayal were accomplished. So do you think the producers/writers saw heroes in this? Or were they trying to lesson the hero-ideology? (I haven’t had time to watch it, so I’m relying on your impressions.)


  2. Wow! Thanks for the response. I didn’t really think that I would get a response on a blog post…. I thought I was leaving these in the wrong place or something.

    I am unsure as to the intention of the producers, however, I would like to think that the onus lies in the viewer to interpret the meaning… of course that gets to be a ‘shifty’ thing when watching any documentary as we only get to see what we are shown. What I took form this documentary is the human component of the event.

    I think that sometimes we as teachers get stuck in the content and lose the reasons we teach things to kids. When we reflect on the issues we address everyday, current events or historical versions of what has happened in the past we risk forgetting the why and who of our ‘content’. I think that this is an important thing to remember when we foray into the internet. The stories and information we work with are organic and the meaning, as it is interpreted, is the same. History (recent or distant) changes as we read or interact with it, I think the same should be true about how we work withing the internet. What is best for our students is to teach them to be always critical of information and medium. As information becomes more plentiful, our understanding, or interpretation, must also be.

    I don’t think there were heroes in this documentary, but I do believe, (hope) that the intention of the producers was to provide enough information to allow the viewer/s to take the information and see a human component in it. This is something that I do believe is missing often in that which we consume, an understanding of the people behind the ‘facts’. If we were to do this, on a regular basis, much of what we see on the web would be tempered with an understanding that there is more to the story than the facts often reveal.

    I guess if I have learned one thing from this class on social media is that it is indeed that… social. When we look at social factors, we have to take into account the person, their experiences, their reality, before assuming that we know what is the real story, and subsequently how to generate our opinion on it.

    If you ever do watch the documentary (it is interesting and I would recommend it) I would appreciate your opinions on the ending, in particular those on the ‘snitch’ Lamo.

    Again, thanks for your comments…


    • You were totally doing it right! I think some people just got caught up in what was posted to Google+ and never went to the blog hub. I know if I didn’t post my post to Google+ I didn’t get as much (or any) response.

      I like your interpretation of the human component. And the issues with teaching history to students! Nicely put. A friend just posted a link the other day about the fact that Gandhi was actually a misogynist and rather racist which is so often wiped out of what students are taught or shown. Your take reminded me of the discussion we had after that.

      I agree with you about the reflection on this class. The social factor of almost everything is huge these days.

      And I definitely will try to check out the documentary!


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