Response to the Virtual Class Essay

While I have worked on Google Docs for class projects and assignments in the past, yesterday’s exercise of a completely crowd-sourced, virtual essay was a first for me. Initially I was skeptical about how the process would work, and thought that it would either result in utter chaos or with individuals answering unrelated questions without any true collaboration. Despite being slightly overwhelming at times, I thought that overall the exercise was a positive one, and that contrary to what I thought would happen, there was a fair amount of virtual collaboration between individuals in crafting responses that naturally fit together. Additionally, at least in the A-K document, there was little interaction using Google Docs’ chat feature, and most of the edits seemed to occur somewhat organically. The overall exercise made me think of a virtual discussion based class, where a professor’s questions would be answered online and in real-time, with students able to comment on others’ posts and give other types of feedback remotely. Maybe this is the next step in eliminating the fear of speaking up in public that continues to be an issue for students. Another aspect of the crowd-sourced essay that I found interesting was the discussion that the A-K document group started below our responses. Those comments noted some similarities between the exercise and The Circle, namely the fact that everyone could observe and potentially monitor the other members’ level of participation. The discussion drew similarities between Google Docs and The Circle’s PartiRank program, but it also expanded further and highlighted the potential for other uses of individual’s data, much like how Eggers presents some of the innovations in the novel. Specifically, someone brought up the point that Google could analyze one’s writing style and sell it to colleges and hiring agencies, presumably to build a more comprehensive profile for an applicant. Although these comments were extraneous to the overall objective of the assignment, it was interesting to get some realtime feedback from other participants. While the group was very aware of the connections between the exercise and Eggers’ novel, such an experiment would be interesting to conduct with people who are unfamiliar with The Circle and some of its major social implications.