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School of Comm. proposes week without web

By Jory Heckman, Staff Writer

Imagine an alternate reality in which posting on someone's Facebook "wall" involves a physical wall.

That's what School of Communications Dean Evan Cornog envisions for Week Without the Web, a social experiment to be hosted by Dempster Hall that will challenge students to continue their studies in an unplugged environment.

Students who choose to opt out of their regular Internet consumption may, as Dean Cornog has speculated, substitute Facebook's ubiquitous wall feature with a bulletin-board version of social media.

"Nothing about this is about ‘The Good Old Days,'" said Cornog in an interview Wednesday.

Putting aside Luddite morality, Dempster administrators intend to heighten students' awareness to their Internet addictions via deprivation – albeit for a few days.

Through this event, Cornog hopes that students will earn a sense of appreciation for a bygone era of communications, one in which reporters had to visit library records and databases for research.

"A journalist should think of ways to get information without starting with a Google search," said Cornog, advising students to remain cognizant of the boon of instant fact checking.

Students, he noted, belong to a generation who have spent a majority of their educational years using computers and Web tools to produce papers and projects. Weaning them off this norm may very well be too great a paradigm shift for some to handle.

Cornog conceded that Internet technology drastically improved the scope of an individual's voice, though sacrifices have been made with regards to the intimacy of speech.

"When you get into a conversation with someone," said Cornog, "it can go any which direction."

The nuanced flow of questions in face-to-face interviews provides a richer, more in-depth expression of ideas, especially when compared to the stilted format of Q&A email interviews, he said.

Consider this analogy: when looking for a particular book in the library (hopefully without the Web page catalogue!), a reporter may stumble upon another book he could use for research without explicitly searching for it.

Contingent on faculty and student feedback, Week Without the Web may very well extend beyond the School of Communication into other departments.

The Zarb School of Business should understand its own technological dependence, especially now that computers can fulfill the jobs of some brokers, said Cornog. Faculty within the SOC have conducted research on the topic of Web media consumption and hope to incorporate the event's findings into their work. "It's not an experiment for it's own sake," said Cornog.

Leading by example, Cornog will also spend the four days without the Internet.

"I know I will try my best," said Cornog, although he admitted to spending his lunch breaks admiring ads for the new iPad.

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