web culture

A culture is largely transparent for its natives, many everyday ideas or behavior just seeming "true" or "normal." For this reason, many people see their native cultures with full clarity only when they travel to foreign places. This experience of perceiving the veil with which culture paints reality also occurs when people immerse themselves in new microcultures, the smaller culture groups within a single dominant culture. These microcultures may be based on regional belonging, gender, ethnicity, age, race, occupation, education, or other factors that influence attitudes, values, beliefs, and world view.

While most people would immediately recognize the above groupings, many may have a hard time accepting that the web is a cultural space with attitudes, values, worldviews, and norms that may diverge from mainstream culture or clothe it in different behaviors and objects.

Digital natives, those who've grown up with the internet, probably experience much of web culture as transparent, while digital immigrants, those who've come to the digital world as adults, often experience a kind of culture shock. This, I believe, is behind much of the cultural isolation and miscommunication between digital natives and digital immigrants.

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who this site is for...

Over many years, I mentored colleagues teaching online for the first time. My younger mentees were often familiar with technology but new to teaching, while older colleagues with teaching experience were often unfamiliar with the web and even resistent to the idea of online work. The digital disconnect between these two groups was socially isolating for many faculty and destructive to the institution.

I've experienced the same digital divide in my own social circles. Relatives or friends not on facebook often miss out on photos, events, or news. Those not on email often lose touch. Even those who've gotten children or friends to set up their computers have been left in a strange environment where they don't feel competent or comfortable.

This site is for digital immigrants who want to feel competent and comfortable on the web.

using the internet: security and privacy

Most web users are concerned about internet security and privacy. Popular television shows, movies, and novels exploit this concern by presenting dramatic accounts of hacking attacks or security breaches. The daily news exploits it by presenting sensationalized stories of digital break-ins and identity theft.

Stories of hack attacks and digital crime succeed in distressing people not because of an inordinate danger in the digital world, but because of their unfamiliarity with this world. They don’t know the digital environment the way they know their physical environment and therefore cannot accurately assess real threat or the measure of protection necessary to achieve a desired level of safety.

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networks & layers of protection

While there are many possible layers of protection that can or do in fact stand between you and the millions of computers and people connected to the internet, these tutorials will start with the three layers of protection you can control: your home network, your computer, and the applications you use to get into the internet.

There are innumerable opinions about what level of protection is necessary in these three areas and many options for achieving desired levels of security. There are also different opinions on which options are most effective. This topic can therefore be extremely confusing. The explanations here are just a beginning and the solutions suggested are not the only answers. Moreover, there will always be people who will say, “Not that way,” or “There’s a lot more to it than that,” no matter what you choose to do. If you’re going to become a confident and competent internet user, you can't let yourself get rattled by the controversy or conflicting opinions you’re going to hear.

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antivirus software

These applications start automatically when your computer boots. They can be configured to scan websites that you are visiting, examine incoming email for viruses, check documents and programs you download from the web for viruses or malware, complete virus checks on your computer at scheduled intervals, and perform other security tasks.

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browsers

Web browsers are the vehicles that take you to the internet. By means of your browser, you can search for information, look through video repositories like YouTube and Vimeo, make purchases from online shops, or participate in online discussions and multimedia activities.

However, although all browsers can peform the same tasks, each is built differently.

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open source browsers

Open source applications are developed by computer programmers and software developers who offer their code to other developers and to the public for free. One person or a group of people usually conceives of a program and develops an initial “build” that he, she, or they then offer for trial (beta) use and further development.

One of the most famous and successful open source development groups has been the Mozilla group, which has developed a series of software applications — from Netscape browser and its internal mail application in the 90s to such application as Firefox (browser), Thunderbird (mail) or SeaMonkey (combined browser, email and web editor) in the 2000s. These applications are developed and maintained by donated work and donated money.

Their interfaces and user knowledge bases have been translated into 70 languages and used all over the world. Open source developers aim to make net applications available to everyone, everywhere for free as well as to put the interests of users at the center of development. They also aim to create resistance to corporate or institutional entities that can corner a software or web service market and therefore make the web more accessible to some people than others. They also aim to mitigate the effects of corporate developers more interested in their own profits than in user interests.

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bundled browsers

Traditionally both Microsoft and Apple have included applications in the software “bundles” that come with the operating system that you find pre-installed on your new computer. These may include text programs, image viewing programs, simple graphic programs, browsers, movie editors, maps, messaging, or other applications. Free software bundles are convenient and money saving. However, they also designed to create a bond or even a dependency between you and your digital benefactor.

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cookies

Cookies are little pieces of text data sent to your browser by the websites you visit. Cookies complete a lot of tasks you want them to do, like storing your site preferences or keeping track of items in your shopping cart. They also complete tasks for the website, such as recording traffic and browsing activity. From this traffice information, website owners can determine which pages are visited most and other data.

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firefox: privacy & security

Firefox is an open source browser.

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safari: privacy & security

Safari was originally developed as a bundled browser.

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chrome: privacy & security

Chrome is a Google product.

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add-ons

Add-ons are modify or extend the function of your browsers in ways that the native preferences won't allow,

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ad-blockers

...in the works

 

web competency: pdf tutorials

For those of you who would rather read offline documents than use the web version, I have created pdf versions of the information on this site. To access these documents, just click here.