Place theme examines use of technology

Elizabeth Stoeger, Staff Writer

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The PLACE theme for the next two years will center on individual and collective relationships with media and technology, according to the new 2016-18 PLACE director and professor of mass communication, Susan Currie Sivek.

The overarching theme will be “The Digital Society” with subthemes “The Digital Self” in 2016-17 followed by “The Digital Citizen” in 2017-18.

Sivek said the theme will call attention to, “how individuals relate to technology, how people relate to each other through technology, how technology shapes our lives as everyday people.”

The following year will investigate “the uses of technology in the government and activism, in global issues, in organizing around events and issues.”

The two-year approach is something new to Linfield. Sivek said, “We haven’t officially had a two year theme before” but this was chosen for ease of organization.

Knowing the theme for the next two years will make coordinating speakers, activities, and classes easier and less hurried.

Sivek, along with political science professor Patrick Cottrell, presented the idea and theme to a committee made up of faculty members and they found the idea appealing.

This theme is especially relevant today, given our increasingly dependent relationship with technology and especially social media.

“I think we are just becoming more and more immersed in technology. We interact with our various technologies constantly . . . and our relationship with technology and the ways that we use technology for our relationships, that’s becoming more and more significant,” said Sivek.

However, it is easier for people to overlook this aspect and become lost in the routine usage.

Sivek said she hopes that over the next two years, we are able to take a step back and look critically at our use of technology.

She said, “it’s not something that we think about a lot because it’s such a routine aspect of our daily lives and so hopefully over the next two years we’ll gain some insight into how technology is affecting us as individuals, as participants in democracy and in our world.”

The interdepartmental aspect of PLACE is what makes it unique.

Not only will the campus look through the mass communication lens at the subject but also with political science, sociology and many other departments.

With “the theme of ‘The Digital Self” and ‘Digital Society,’ broadly, there’s some way that every department on campus can find a connection to that idea.”

Linfield will soon be hiring student PLACE fellows for next year.

Linfield faculty members nominate students they believe will be dedicated advocates for the program and are then approved by PLACE Faculty Fellows. Students work with the Faculty Fellows on planning, organizing and running events.

The Common Read book for 2016 is “The Circle” by Dave Eggers.