Assignment 1 – Gardner’s Cyberinfrastructure

Cyberinfrastructure is something more specific than the network itself, but it is something more general than a tool or a resource developed for a particular project, a range of projects, or, even more broadly, for a particular discipline.

— American Council of Learned Societies,
Our Cultural Commonwealth, 2006

This opening had me far beyond confused, but after reading Gardner Campbell’s article, I think I have a decent understand of his idea of a ‘cyberinfrastructure’ (though where that word comes from I don’t know) and how it can relate to my life and the lives of those around me, both in college and out of it. Speaking with friends who have already graduated, every now and then they talk of an assignment or project they worked on, were proud of, and wish they still had access too. I feel the same way about some high school papers, and of course with hindsight 20/20, wish I had saved them somewhere other than school computers. All the work they expected me to do was finished, but once it was done it didn’t seem to matter anymore. A personal space, one for each of us to call our own, would be helpful in not only preventing some of that regret, but also show our personal growth over time. And what is more, we would be able to do so as a community of people – aka the entire human race. Watching youtube videos from Japan and Ireland and Australia, facebooking with friends met years ago and sharing in those experiences, twittering with people we have never and probably will never meet – all these interactions create a community, and communities lead to progress. As the possibilities for growth increase exponentially, so too should our motivation to seize those opportunities.

However, with growth comes new responsibilities, and with responsibility comes the potential for downfall. Fifty years ago, there was no such thing as ‘identity theft’ and hacking into email, facebook, bank accounts online was not a fear because they simply did not exist. While the advantages of a cyberinfrastructure are tremendous, so too are the possibilities of it falling apart. The psychology major in me says today’s youth are already lacking the abilities to communicate well with each other due to the abilities to hide behind computer screens or obsess over video games, and having too much of our lives focus on computers does not necessarily lead to progress. This ‘bag of gold’ as Gardner calls it, may also come with a few rusty pieces in it and we need to be wary of them.

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