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Online Exclusive: iCulture with Dr. Kathleen Scherf

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Welcome to the age of ego-casting, where information is available when and where you want it, and the best part: you never have to hear anything with which you disagree.

On Tues. Sept. 26, Communications and Culture Dean Dr. Kathleen Scherf spoke about the revolutionary iPod and some of its cultural impacts as a part of the university's Ruby Tuesdays, a free lecture series presented monthly and open to the public.

"Our culture manifests features that, cumulating over the past 60 years, have facilitated the creation of what I'm calling iDentity and iCulture, " said Scherf.

In an evolving mediascape, information is changing to become increasingly mobile, accessible, and of most concern, more filtered, commented Scherf. While some might think of podcasts as a convenient way to get better news or information, Scherf also pointed out some of the potential dangers inherent with the growing pod-culture and pod-people, including a more fragmented society.

"The Daily Herald is now becoming the Daily Me," said Scherf.

If culture is a kind of social fabric, than devices like iPods and TiVo create a filtered existence, and this kind of fragmentation can lead to things like people separating themselves from the rest of society, or students not connecting with each other as much on campus, said Scherf. To illustrate this, she used some of Apple's advertisements of the black silhouettes rocking out to their iPods to reinforce this idea of an 'absent presence.' The only thing that is present in the ad, noted Scherf, is the iPod and the ubiquitous white headphones.

"The filters and devices used to make all this information manageable…are isolating people into niches," wrote Tralee Pierce, a journalist for the Globe and Mail.

On the other hand, Scherf also talked about some of the positive potentials of the technology, including iUniversity, which the U of C has implemented recently. Students, or iStudents, can now take several courses via podcast, including iEnglish 231, icommunication studies 201, isociology 201, and ichemistry 351, where lectures are downloaded online, and students can meet once a week for a face-to-face discussion.

Clearly, not all courses could be offered this way, said Scherf, but for some instructors, it has worked better.

Ruby Tuesdays are held once a month, and students and faculty are encouraged to come out and enjoy an evening of listening, opinions, and conversation. The lectures are held at The Siding Café & Bar, located in Art Central, 111, 100-7th Ave SW.

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