The Candy Apple
Learning Has Changed
In my Research Ethics class we talk about how important it is to protect vulnerable populations, meaning the kind of research subjects that could be more easily taken advantage of than a typical subject. The standard groups of vulnerable populations are children, prisoners, the mentally handicapped, and the elderly.
We talked recently about Japanese relocation camps during WWII, in which 120,000 Japanese-Americans were interned in ten camps, ostensibly for their own protection against anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States. The harm was incalculable, as many of those interned were never able to recover their property later. Our research ethics question was whether anyone tried to take advantage of this vulnerable population to do medical research. I anticipated that a military type would have seized on the opportunity to find out how someone of Japanese ancestry would respond to a particular biological or chemical agent. But I also expressed a hope that the willingness to protect individual liberty would have extended far enough to prevent this sort of abuse.
I spent several hours with Google and found nothing. Zip. Nada.
For that I am glad that apparently nothing happened. I said to a couple of people that the nature of the Internet is such now that if something like this had happened, it would be out there. Even if somebody just wanted to plant a rumor that something had happened, Google would find it if it were out there. Many of the people interned in the camps were children, and are still alive today. Those who have stories to tell have told them, and so far, none of those stories has included research abuse.
There is so much garbage on the Net that we must take care not to believe something just because we have found it there. Many of the hits I got during my search were weblogs and personal observations. I’m not saying these are less reliable than more traditional sources, and at some point, all of history is really a narrative rather than a list of facts. It comforted me to know, though, that neither version of history—the “official” one nor the narrative one—included the sort of research abuse I was searching for.
The nature of learning has changed. I still like books, but it is nice to know how easy the Internet makes finding things to read. I had two projects to check out for class this week: the one about Japanese relocation camps, and the nature of an HIV registry we’d heard about. Both took some time, but after wading through the reliable source Web sites, I learned lots of stuff about both. Only two of the relocation camps were in California, for instance, even though most of those relocated lived there. One was actually as far east as Arkansas. As for the HIV registry, each state has its own, plus there’s a really large one administered by Veterans’ Affairs. They are not accessible to insurance companies, or really much of anyone else, so we don’t need to get all riled up about our privacy being invaded.
Studying for game shows the past few years has reinforced for me just how much the Net makes learning easy. When I decided I wanted a list of Best Picture Oscar winners, I had it in seconds. A map of South America? No problem. Color or black and white? With or without names of geographical features? Canadian provinces and their capitals, the table of chemical elements, 192 world capitals (I trimmed the list to 108 just to be realistic). All this stuff is easily findable and printable, and now I have a notebook full of it.
More important, it is more portable than an encyclopedia but also more up-to-date. Rather than buy a set of reference books each year, I can just check in on a set of current maps anytime I want. Someone said last month’s column was “purile,” which I had to look up, and then I could explain to the reader that while “puerile” is an adjective that may or may not apply to my writing, it is regardless spelled with two e’s.
See, even sass has improved with the accessibility we have on the Net. Onward!
Also in This Series
- On Temptation · July 2010
- Beyond Pen Pals · July 2007
- Just Because We Can Do a Thing, Does Not Mean We Should Do a Thing · March 2006
- Google Tells Big Brother to Take a Hike · February 2006
- Wikipedia Is Not the Lovefest We Thought · January 2006
- Star Trek Gadgets Have Arrived · December 2005
- The Silver Screen Keeps Shrinking · October 2005
- It’s Just Business · July 2005
- Age Has Its Advantages · June 2005
- Complete Archive