Just this week we read and talked about feelings of being obsolete. While the inherent purpose was to discuss the evolution of technology and digital spaces, I gravitated to my own person concern and woe. I instantly responded with the moment that my then high school freshmen sat in my introduction to journalism class and had no idea what several of my pop culture references were or meant — such as my very consistent retort: Oh my lanta.
I’m a pop culture junkie. Like it is something I pride myself on.
But in those initial moments of that hot August, just as the academic year was in its infancy, I came to the conclusion that how I interacted and engaged grew to be more middle-aged or geriatric for the budding baby journalists that sat before me. I began to venture into the obsolete.
To me, one of the most critical takeaways from the work I’m doing for this fellowship is that technology may become obsolete but the skills I’m gaining won’t. I started this experience concerned about the ethics of big data and having to challenge myself to be more okay with the idea that big data doesn’t mean big issues. Rather, I’ve found that it provides a different perspective. I learned the basics of R to work with this large dataset, but the foundations I gained can help me make data analysis, cleaning, and organizing easier regardless of the dataset size or method.
I learned to ask questions about process, not outcome. With Nikki’s guidance and support, I’ve been able to grasp how digital tools can help shift my time and attention, thus improving my productivity. My proclivity for organization also improved with new opportunities to use technology to enhance my database building, coding, and thinking. I even had a wink and a nod suggestion that if what I’m doing doesn’t work out I could have a future in the information sciences.
But most importantly, I’m not obsolete. What I do and have done has the power to help others, which inherently means I won’t ever be obsolete. That should be my goal—to use what I’ve learned not to bow down to the technology gods but to make a difference in the communities I hope my research can serve. If anything, I certainly am walking away from this experience knowing that I’m far more capable than I originally gave myself credit and that’s a difference-maker in itself.