Digitally Literate #212


Built for Plan B
Digitally Lit #212 – 8/31/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #212 of Digitally Literate.

In this newsletter I distill the news of the week in technology into an easy-to-read resource. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

This week I shared the following:


There is always a Plan B (4:55)

One of the greatest sources of anxiety and despair is the feeling that there can only be one answer to major problems we face: one ideal job, one ideal lover, one ideal way of life. But we should consider the extent to which there is always, just below the surface, a Plan B available.

Flexing our mental Plan B muscle hugely expands our sense of safety and spontaneity.


Gamergate comes to the classroom

This post made it around the Internet last week to a great deal of debate. The byline to the article is “Students used to be blank slates – but now they arrive with agendas.” Judging by some of the criticism of this article…I think some people read just that title…and didn’t carry on to the article itself.

The article shares the challenges of teaching students when they might come to class looking to start a confrontation and harass others.

Now educators face new challenges: teaching responsibly, while also safeguarding themselves from the very kids they hope to help. “You develop this self-preservation intuition,” Ruberg tells The Verge. “You have to know what’s happening so that you know how to protect yourself.” As misinformation and hate continues to radicalize young people online, teachers are also grappling with helping their students unlearn incorrect, dangerous information. “It has made a lot of us teachers more cautious,” they say. “We want to challenge our students to explore new ways of thinking, to see the cultural meaning and power of video games, but we’re understandably anxious and even scared about the possible results.”

I do not believe that students come into my classes as blank slates. Much to the contrary, I think they come in with a wide variety of experience, opinions, and perspectives. My job is to teach my content and the facts associated with it. My hope is to provide a safe space where all students can share their “slates” and learn from one another. I also regularly am inspired and learn from them.

My Life As a Cautionary Tale – Probing the limits of academic freedom

This post shares the events that led Steven Salaita from a tenured position in a higher ed institution to driving a school bus to make a living.

In a somewhat related story, Rachel McKinnon, a professor from the College of Charleston, faced a wave of backlash for a series of tweets posted last week.

I probed these questions in a publication in Hybrid Pedagogy which examined the challenges of serving as a public scholar in digital spaces.

How much freedom of speech should educators have in public spaces?

YouTube, Which Remains Exhaustingly Inconsistent, Reinstates Several Banned Far-Right Channels

YouTube seems unwilling, or unable to moderate some of the troubling content on their network.

YouTube started last week by quietly indicating that they would remove violent or mature videos that were targeted to kids. Three days later, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained why the service leaves up controversial or even offensive videos. Not long after Wojcicki’s comments, banned several far-right channels.

Once again, we have questions about the limits of freedom of speech, and the rules that govern them.

Designing Communities for Kindness

This post was shared by Adam Procter last week after I relayed information about the GamerGate post I shared above.

The post shares how Kitfox Games designs spaces outside of their games to interact with each other, and perhaps the development team.

Their community development philosophy focuses on the following elements:

  • Rules – social structure to influence & shape behavior
  • Mutual understanding & expectations – boundaries between everything/everyone
  • Norms – Creating acceptable ways of communication
  • Sincerity & trust – Facilitating cooperation through trust
  • Home – Coziness to enable low pressure, interpersonal connections

These elements have merit as you consider your own interactions with others (online/offline). They also help guide the development of social spaces where you exist.

I’m excited to check out the upcoming Steam game by Kitfox, Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to).

Audiobooks or Reading? To our brains, it doesn’t matter

In research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the Gallant Lab at UC Berkeley scanned the brains of nine participants while they read and listened to a series of tales from “The Moth Radio Hour.” After analyzing how each word was processed in the the brain’s cortex, they created maps of the participants’ brains, noting the different areas helped interpret the meaning of each word.

This new evidence suggests that, to our brains, reading and hearing a story might not be so different.


You’re not lazy, bored, or unmotivated. Just Do It!

You’re connected to the Internet. You have an unlimited supply of information, and cool stuff to consume online. This is of course topped off by this newsletter. 🙂

We may think that we’re bored, lazy, failures at life…but perhaps the problem is that we’re not focused. With this glut of information, we are incapable of sitting in silence, and focusing.

Perhaps if we tinkered a bit with our perceptions, and learned to sit in silence. Perhaps we can take guidance in the “Just Do It” advertising strategy and get things done.

Niklas Göke, the author of this piece, shares the need to have a theme for each year…instead of a goal. His theme for the year is “focus”. Let’s follow along.

Thanks to Doug Belshaw for sharing this post earlier this week.

enter image description here

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Blaise Pascal

digilit banner

The new Tool album came out this week…and I’m loving it. I’ve been a huge Tool fan for years and saw them multiple times while in college.

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Say hey with a note at or on the social network of your choice.


  1. Aaron Davis
    September 1, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    It has been interesting listening to the new Tool album. It led me to relisten to Undertow and Ænima. I could not help compare.
    A part of me wondered if the music had become somehow historical. For me the album lacks some of the intensity included in past albums. However, I also wondered if a part of the experience is based around my current listening muscles. If I am honest, I listen to a lot of pop these days. This means that listening to a brooding ten minute rock song or a lengthy ballad that Lana Del Rey offers can come across as uncanny.

    • wiobyrne
      September 7, 2019 at 11:20 am

      Hey Aaron, I’m thinking the same thing. I chatted about the album a bit last night with some friends, and they all didn’t like it. Said that it sounded like the band hadn’t been playing for a decade. 🙂

Leave A Comment