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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Common ground in the age of technology

I coat. Not that I mind only having to wear a shell or vest around campus, but as a native Minnesotan I have to admit that I’ve been feeling a bit off balance. Perhaps that is the 8th week talking, but I am just saying. Anyway, “hi” Carleton. Happy Friday. Hang in there. The last time I wrote I was arguing for the political agency of the everyman and the necessity for information about the influence of corporate money. I promise I won’t go as heavy this week (sort of). As of late I have been thinking about the idea of common ground as it pertains to human relationships. It is at this point that I have to give credit for borrowing my prompt from Professor Terrance Wiley’s religion course. Additionally, it is important to note that the context in which this prompt was given was in regards to black/white, male/female dichotomies. Yet, this question followed me outside of the classroom this week as I traveled up to Macalester College to a J Street event about Israel, Palestinian and a two state solution. There I found myself again thinking about common ground – this time literally. I was and remain ambivalent to the premise of common ground and more importantly the lack thereof. Namely, I feel that most common qualifiers are misnomers and artificial constructs. As a product of rural Minnesota monoculture I was raised in context that greatly valued synonymous people far beyond the idea of having things in common. I think that my settings were a double-edged sword: I now have a veracious curiosity in others, but I also admittedly have cultural blind spots as a result of growing up in the prairie. Studies have shown those same blind spots are forming within American society – no longer a result of geographic, cultural, or societal causes but instead stemming from technology. It is like the Carleton bubble, but way worse in its implications. The idea is this: as our society has increased expectations and productivity, time has acquired increased value. Simultaneously, the roles of technology and more importantly algorithms which intentionality tailor your online experience (without your consent) have caused us to experience a narrower worldview. The end result is less time spent with ideas and others who are dissimilar to ourselves. This trend can be better explained by reading (or Googling) Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble but to put it simply: we don’t have time or information to consider common ground or challenges to our identities. So what does that mean for a broad-minded bunch of goofballs like us? Well for one thing I take this phenomenon as a personal challenge and incentive to meet people and appreciate their “otherness”. Whether it be the white/black, male/female constructs posed in the class room or international relations between Israel and Palestine, realizing and valuing the common ground of humanity is of the utmost importance. People are beautiful. Call me a hopeless romantic for saying it, but hey, it is 8th week. Instead of emphasizing how much work I have I am going to try and be intentional in interacting with people.

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