Q&A with Sidneyeve Matrix
Dr. Sidneyeve Matrix is a professor in the Department of Film and Media who also teaches at the Queen's School of Business Executive Development Centre and for Rutgers University's Center for Management Development. She specializes in mass communications and marketing, and digital and social media. She teaches many of her classes online - she is a leader at the University in this respect - and is a sought-after public speaker and analyst on radio and TV. Sidneyeve spoke recently with Alec Ross about her work and key issues around the ever-growing use of digital technologies. This is an abridged version of that conversation.
How do you research digital culture?
I read the news and my networks. That's where I find trend stories, research reports, academic studies, and cultural conversations. Right now there is heightened interest in privacy issues online. And a lot of people are very interested in mobile technology. There is a lot of coverage of teaching with technology.
What does the “digital divide” refer to?
There are actually two divides: the first refers to unequal access to digital tools and services. Perhaps someone can’t afford to have a computer or smartphone. Someone in a rural area with dial-up internet would have reduced access relative to someone with high-speed web connectivity in the city. A second digital divide concerns digital knowledge or fluency. When you don't understand how to configure your profile settings on Facebook, you’re at risk for privacy violations. If you need a job and it requires digital skills you don't have, you’re obviously at a disadvantage vis-a-vis more digitally literate candidates.
Some of your research is about teaching using digital methods. Tell me about that.
That's been my main focus for the last few years. I want to use tools that students may bring to the classroom and use outside the classroom. I try to leverage their technical skills to meet educational ends. That means teaching with Facebook and Twitter, smartphones and online discussions.
You're a prolific Tweeter and blogger. Do you read everything you post?
I spend hours every day reading online. I probably didn't worry as much about vetting all the links I shared when I was only connected with close friends, but you feel a sense of responsibility to provide quality content when it’s posted publicly and people know you teach about digital communications.
Should internet access be considered an essential service, like electricity and the telephone?
The question is really important and yes, I do think it should be. For a few years we've been having conversations about how Canada really lacks a digital economy strategy, and trying to fund an infrastructure that's really expensive. To have high-speed connectivity all across this large country really is becoming more essential because people use the web for health care, for news, and so on. A lot of essential services, including government services, are moving online and people need to have access to them.
How well is the federal government keeping pace with digital culture? Is it even possible to keep pace?
It's probably not possible to keep pace, in terms of regulation and legislation. Those are slow moving organizations and digital culture changes quickly. But I think if we look at the different initiatives that have responded to Canadians' concerns about broadcast law, spectrum allocation, mobile phone use, and privacy, they really are trying to address all the hot issues. It's just that not everybody agrees on the best way to go forward.
What's digital culture doing to literacy?
I really thought I'd see students using a lot of acronyms and emoticons online, but I don't. The people I see using those the most are usually my generation, Gen X. It seems generationally specific. Young people, whether they're 12 or 25, they “get” that they're communicating with a doctor or professor or their parents. They are connecting digitally to their employers, places where they volunteer, and family and friends, so I think the diversity of those networks inspires them to think about audience.
Are you Mac or PC?
I have to be both. I do most of my creative work on a Mac, but many of the digital tools I use in the classroom are designed for the corporate world and I have to co-opt them for educational use. Those are PC only.My students use both Mac and PC, iOS, BlackBerry, and Droid, and that's why I do too. I want to see what students see when I’m designing digital and mobile resources for them to use on their laptops, tablets and phones.