I have decided to re-post this lesson plan that I originally posted in December of last year. In re-posting it, I am forgoing the doom and gloom I offered in the introduction of the original post. A better attitude is needed. It is our duty as citizens to raise our voices in response to bad policy, so consider this my own humble contribution to the Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.
This post serves as a little mini-postmortem on two difficult class sessions in my “Frames, Claims, and Videogames” course. There are multiple overlapping reasons why these class sessions were difficult for me. One is that my lesson had to pivot strangely from seemingly-academic debates on the definition of games to a sudden dive into matters of harassment in game culture. Harassment itself is, needless to say, a difficult thing to discuss in class. It becomes exponentially more difficult when one is teaching a class with a high percentage of international students, many of whom (thanks to the registration realities of late-scheduled courses) have no particular interest in games, and who simply cannot fathom the cultural forces that align to drive a certain subset of American men to use things like changing conceptions of videogames (videogames!) as an opportunity to harass women online. I mean, how do you explain this, really—to anyone at all, let alone someone completely on the outside of American “gamer” culture?
I won’t go so far as to claim that my approach to this material was entirely successful. (The class did not, for instance, become a platform for thoughtful discussion in the same way my unexpectedly post-Trump-election lesson on the politics of American comedy did.) It was, though, a learning experience for me, so it’s worth sharing some details.
Well, unlike other lessons I could name, this particular lesson plan wasn’t disrupted in real-time by the incoming Trump administration. But it will certainly be different if I ever teach it for an Intro to Mass Communication course again.
Let’s be clear: net neutrality is dead, dead, dead. There were already reasons to be worried given AT&T’s zero-rating shenanigans in the run-up to its attempted merger with Time Warner. Since then, presumptive future head of the FCC Ajit Pai has quite clearly stated the Trump administration’s plans to destroy the current FCC’s valiant attempts to enforce net neutrality. It is an idea whose time has passed.
Why even post this, then? Will anyone teach a lesson on net neutrality in the future? I don’t see why not. Presumably people still lessons on labor unions, despite the fact that those barely exist anymore. And perhaps, in a perverse way, net neutrality’s death will mean that more people actually will understand what it once was. Once it’s gone, the ISPs’ noise machine will presumably move on to other targets, meaning that perhaps there won’t be quite as thick a slurry of blatant misinformation to fight in the future. (Although I disagree with the political right in this country on most issues, I have to say that I’ve never seen such basic confusion on the other side about what the conversation is actually about than I have around the issue of net neutrality. The points made against it are incoherent, because they often simply pretend it is something it is not. Seriously, outright falsehoods and mirror-universe projections in this area have been endemic.) In any case, it’s still worth fighting the good fight, and keeping students informed of what might have been.