Blog Post

Freedom vs. Quality


We are members of a class at University of Maryland, called Networked Intelligence ( This semester we are wrestling with ideas about how networked technologies and our information-rich worlds change the way we learn, live, and collaborate. In response to a wonderful letter that Dr. Davidson sent us, we will post a weekly blog that summarizes the big thoughts from our own peers’ writings and class discussion. Please feel free to connect with us and add to our networked learning.

This past week we read the first 4 chapters of Clay Shirky’s book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.  Two major themes that were discussed in class and in our class blog posts were quality and freedom.  How much are we – as educated Internet users – willing to sacrifice freedom for quality or vice versa.  Very often, people want both but rarely can that achieved by websites.  For example, with many blogs and networking sites the freedom is very high but it leads to a lower quality of posts.  Trolls were one negative quality of too much freedom that was discussed in our weekly posts.  When people are hidden behind a screen and keyboard it makes it easier for them to say out of line comments that really are completely unnecessary.  This causes back and forth fights through comments which often leads to a diminishing of quality for the website.

Another idea that was seen in the first 4 chapters was the idea that most things are good in moderation, and that includes the Internet and other media.  Just as drinking too much can become harmful to the body, using the Internet and other media too much can be harmful for the human psyche.  Absorbing in social networking can be good for socializing purposes but too much of it can make someone socially inept in person.  As a result of the freedom that the Internet and current social networking models bring us, we have been able and allowed to indulge in these media. This is one of the reasons why moderation is needed, as too much Internet and media can lead to an addiction, which is one of the earlier topics we covered.

Just as importantly, there was a thoughtful discussion of Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation for people. A consensus was formed that intrinsic motivation was the primary motivator for people in general. It was also found that the freedom of the Internet facilitated intrinsic motivation, as it made it easier for people to act on their motivations and engage with others.(Jennifer) Furthermore the high freedom of the Internet was upbraided for its ability to spur social change. (Pamela, Traci) The movement that surrounded the social media activity of the Arab Spring was a prime example of the power of Internet freedom. Due to the freedom users have on the Internet anyone can hear them and together people can “decide what [they] want – collectively” as Traci says.


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