We all know something is wrong on the web right now. The initial optimism has evaporated leaving an overstimulated, fed and frightened humanity on the experimental Petri dish that is the web 2021. As the professor and author of the book Adam Wierzbicki points out, “this is the time for criticism, we have discovered many things of potential damage to the network ”. In Secrets steps of the web. A publication that analyzes web technology from a practical point of view, teaching strategies and methods of searching the web and the critical evaluation of its sources.
Adam Wierzbicki is a computer science professor who has worked for twenty years at the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology in Warsaw. He specializes in web technology, artificial intelligence and helps people recognize digital misinformation. And, as you can imagine, he is also the author of a series of scientific publications. So it may seem surprising that he has changed his attack and focused his attention on the world of children’s books.
Or maybe not, as he is a father and has been watching his son and friends surf the internet.
“I also have a passion for teaching programming in the primary school where my son learns. I’ve been watching him grow up and work at school from the age of eight to twelve, and I’ve also been watching his friends. I have noticed that while some of them like him, who is like a little computer, are related to technology and are very interested. But others are not so interested in it nor are they very good. It sounds amazing with kids this age, but some of them need corrective lessons about using computers. I’ve seen that there is a great diversity in kids and how they are able to use technology … Sure, they love to play, but somehow that doesn’t translate into a real mastery of technology in general .. so this is a point. The other point is the problem that children have in assessing the credibility of information on the web.
So it is with this in mind that we know Sophie, Jake and Alex. A gang of inquisitive school friends gathered for a class assignment and the search for a possibly extinct local bird species. It would not be necessary to reveal more of the story, as its progression must be followed; with all its questions, intrigues, research, debates and doubts (it’s a children’s book, but we found ourselves searching Google).
Doubt is an integral part of the plot as Professor Wierzbicki points out: “Today’s children are the internet users of tomorrow and must know how to assess the credibility of web content to make better decisions in their lives.” Doubting, thinking, searching and comparing are some of the most critical skills we need in the digital age. And not just children, but adults as well. More doubts, backed by a rigorous search and comparison of sources, can go a long way in separating facts from fiction.
Illustration of the virtual teacher by Ewelina Garbula. tajemnicesieci.com
It should also be mentioned that the virtual teacher helps friends on this journey of discovery. A handy software that answers your questions and guides your Internet search. One of the most revealing and moving parts we came across was the virtual teacher’s admissibility of fallibility: “I myself am software, but software written by a human, so I can also be wrong. “. At a time when we are turning to technology evangelists to solve problems such as climate catastrophe, rather than radically rethinking our structures and consumption patterns, it is encouraging to see this message.
“One of the things the book tries to explain is that the whole web is made by people. Not just technology, but also content. And that means web content can be good or bad. True or false, interesting or useless, wise or stupid. Suitable for children or not. “
Technology neutrality is often discussed in long, obtuse academic work or in exhibition research projects. These attempts now seem like drunken exercises when faced with such a small statement from a children’s book.
Crossing Domains only had access to a few chapters, as it is currently still being translated into English (the original Polish version will be published by Helion). However, what we have read has taken us to a world that is both familiar and a little alien. Adults take many things for granted when we cross the net and therefore rarely stop to think. This is the best known part. The foreigner is the realization that we do not know even though our trust is only due to habitual use. We both know and we don’t know. So even though it is a children’s book, we should read it all together. The clarity of the structure and the questioning in its pages can teach us all a lot.
Finally, this book was made possible by the collaborations of the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology. Professor Wierzbicki highlighted in our interview the role that Professor Ewa Satalecka, head of the new media art faculty, found in someone to design the book and its characters. A competition was organized for young art and design students and interns to submit proposals. In total there were more than 100 applicants and 35 works submitted. The jury selected ten finalists, with illustrator Ewelina Garbula making the final cut.
Get a copy of the book or explore tajemnicesieci.com for more information and to meet the virtual teacher and the gang as well.
“For the network to realize its full potential, people need to realize what the web is all about. It is an artificial environment that largely encompasses our lives: work, education, relationships, and human culture: science, but also art, media, literature. We are responsible for improving the web and there is no one to do it for us. “
Illustration of the gang by Ewelina Garbula. tajemnicesieci.com