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What’s higher education all about – it’s all about opinions

John Kelly has a piece in todays Irish Times calling for a review of higher education.  Some aspects I agreed with and some I rather didn’t.  But this post isn’t about my opinion, or at least, not overtly my opinion on what higher education is about?

The end of the article had a “have your say on this article on irishtimes.com”.  A-ha, the joy of the 2 way online world. Any interested Joe Soaps can post their opinion on what is published in the print edition.

I logged on and had a look. There was just one comment, but what a comment!  It was from Disillusioned Lecturer.  S/he starts with “Oh give me strength”. Then, s/he goes on to wonder why there is a call for yet another taskforce / committee spending more scarce resources on more bureaucracy, adding to lecturer’s work and administered by those not in a position to be administering them.

But, this post is not about Disillustioned Lecturer’s opinion either (even if very interesting).

It’s about the concept of opinions!

  • I love the way the Internet allows airing of such opinions. Anyone (ok, admittedly within reason) can log on and give their twopence worth and have it read. Long gone are the days when journalists had all the power. Now, they have to somehow accommodate the views of Joe Soaps. At the very least, they need to be cognizant of them.
  • I’m often struck by how the first comment is a list can set the scene for any other potential comments that might follow.  In this case, there’s only the one comment. Why? Is the tone and content of this comment such that Disillusioned Lecturer has said it all, is difficult to argue against, or something else?
  • Are commenters more or less likely to comment on an opinion piece of journalism or a factual piece of journalism? Why might this be the case?
  • Should opinion pieces have a place in “news” papers. Can someone’s opinion be classified as news?
  • How informed does an opinion have to be before it can be considered to have any weight?

A post about opinions, that ends up asking questions about opinions – what’s your opinion?

Should questions always be posed of opinions so that said opinions are made as robust and reliable as possible?  What role might the 2-way interactive nature of the Internet play in this endeavour?

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Celebrity endorsements….

… are usually cringe-inducing. Think Andie McDowell telling you about cream to make your skin look younger, a whole range of sports personalities telling you that Nike are the biz, James Bond sporting a designer wristwatch, perfect-skinned actresses and models telling you on behalf of L’oreal that you’re worth it, etc, etc.

A possible reason is the lack of authenticity. I’m not a hairdresser and I struggle to do the vanity thing. Result, all the L’oreal in the world isn’t going to turn my hair into that of a Desperate Housewife (or equivalent).

But every now and again, a celebrity endorsement comes along that the celebrity isn’t paid a penny for. They are barely aware of their endorsement. They are doing what comes naturally, using products because they want to  and because those products are useful to them in aome way.

A perfect example is Stephen Fry’s use of the more social of web 2.0 social technology. Read all about it here. The interview is informative and worth a read. Here are a few insights that struck me –

  • He tweets because he wants to. He has 103,000 followers. On the one hand this makes him one of the worlds more popular twits (have I got the lingo correct?). But on the other hand, the personal touch is lost. How can he keep in touch with everyone.  What depth of communication is taking place. Or have I got it all wrong? I should be taking it for what it is – a micro low level of conversation but yet allows much to be said between participants.
  • Journalists don’t have as powerful a role any more. Celebrities can get in more direct contact with their fans and cut out the intermediary as it were.
  • To be truly real, the internet needs its red light district or equivalent. It has to have the good and bad and everything in between. Without them it is a poorer experience.
  • The absurdity of snobbishness gets a look in. E.g. if your email address is hotmail as opposed to a customised domain then you might not be taken so seriously. Yet, the “on the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog” idea comes into being. On line no-one knows if you are black or white, young or old, tall or short, male or female, etc.
  • Very interesting take on the disemvowelment of texting. Its nothing new. Back in the olden times when paper and ink were precious, abbreviations were common. Every part of that expensive page had to be used, and so ‘yours’ became ‘yrs’.
  • No-one is chucking their books in the bin just because they’ve invested in a computer. The 2 can exist side-by-side. Ok, I’m not so sure of this one. What about that electronic book reader that I keep talking about? Of course, the fact that I don’t have one (as yet) speaks volumes.
  • I love his idea of half-expecting to see wavy red and green lines under words mis-spelt in printed text. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take the head out of the computer for a little while.
  • Time is truly moving on. The average web surfer now has more information and power at their fingertips than legions of kings and queens in previous centuries. Of course, what we do with and how we use this easily obtained wealth of information is another questions altogether.
  • The web and its treasure-trove of information can be archived for the enjoyment of future generations.

Stephen Fry – what a guy. Much more than an actor and a quiz-show host.