Formerly SpringBlog

Monday, February 28, 2011

Click, Click, Click... How Did I Get Here?

Do you know what I asked myself when I was reading Human Wayfinding? “If I was time-traveled to the days of Lewis and Clark, Magellan, or even Louis Joliet knowing what I do today, would I use my instincts like these ants and rats that Morville is comparing me to or would I have a panic attack that my iPhone isn’t getting signal and there are no signs around?”

If I was thrown into the woods, mountains, desert, etc. I would not be able to tell you whether moss grows on the East or West side of a rock, would not be able to tell you how to navigate to the nearest river, and would not be able to tell you what the name of that gigantic mountain is. Our society has lost our sense of direction and instincts. The closest I got to reading a map was the scavenger hunt in elementary school and the subway map when I was in Europe. Even with the convenience of GoogleMaps, we seem to take advantage of being able to travel the streets of Europe, Asia, etc. And if we want to learn more about the Arc de Triumph, it’s just a click away. The maps continue throughout the internet. Have you ever just started clicking and clicking then realize you had no idea how you got to the website? It’s because the map connects you to the first site. The roads are the hyperlinks and our mouse are our feet.

Where's Waldo?

My class leadership was over the first chapter of Morville’s book, Ambient Findability. Not only did I actually find it interesting but I wanted to keep reading, which is very rare with schoolbooks. Ambient findability means we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime and it is just at our fingertips whether it’s our computer or phones. Morville talked about being able to be found through your phone and where the privacy line should be drawn. I wanted to go beyond the reading and examples Morville gave and I thought of the positives of findability. I thought of the plane crash that involved the two Purdue students, Tom and Tony. Well, I know Tommy and when I listened to the 911 call that was released, I couldn’t help thinking, “Why can’t the dispatch woman find his exact location? Why does Tommy need to run over a mile in critical condition when we have all of this technology?” Now, situations like this are the exception. People want to be easily found when it comes to emergencies. However, people can put themselves in a dangerous situation using the technology they desperately cling to in case of trouble…

Have you ever posted on your Facebook or Twitter, “Can’t wait to stay out with my friends all night!” or even, “Spring Break 2011 in __ days!” Unless you have major privacy settings and are only friends with the people you are going out or on the trip with? You’re fine. But, wait… you’re saying you’re friends with over 800 people? Do you talk to each one of them everyday? Do you know they’re not closet-kleptos? This is what our society takes for granted. Privacy. If someone sees you’re going to be gone for a week, your house is fair game to them. So, go have fun on spring break and then you can come back to an empty house. Hope you enjoyed that week of vacation because you’re going to have to work overtime to get enough money to replace everything. So, where do we draw the line of findability? Well, we need to be careful and keep things secret until after your adventures where you can then say, “Spring Break 2011 was the best ever!” or “Had a great time with my friends all night!"

Emergencies and businesses are the exception. What about kidnappings? Are we going to plant a chip in all of our children? Will our credit cards become bar codes that will be planted in our hand and we will just have to wave your hand in front of a laser to buy our groceries?

There really is no way to decide where to draw the line for our privacy, but we can do what we can to keep ourselves safe. Don't post when you'll be out of town, remove people you really aren't friends with or don't talk to, and don't upload pictures that show where you live.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

After reading chapter 6 of Ambient Findability (and also reading ahead on Shirky's Here Comes Everyone), I still find myself surprised to learn how much social aspects play in digital literacy.  But after thinking about it, I realize it was apparent all along.  It's kind of like owning a car—one may not realize how many different parts of a car it takes to work to make it drive.  In retrospect, the pieces are only as good as the whole; even the smallest part has a place in the system.

The social concerns of digital technologies, such as the internet, play a larger role than I had imagined.  Like McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage, certain human-made technologies are extensions of a sense.  Similarly, humans are social creatures, and will usually find ways to form new groups and collaborations.   Technology like the Internet offered new ways for humans to share, trade, and explore new realms of creativity and socializing.  The Internet made forming groups easier, and utilized the ability for humans to trade and work together—taking part in the social aspects of humanity.

I also wonder why this never seemed apparent to me before.  Social aspects were never something I thought of when it came to technology.  Initially, I imagined these technologies a way to extend our capabilities in the digital realm; a new way to experiment with harnessing new and better technology.  But these technologies are extensions of our social need, and they connect us together.  These technologies, of course, are made to reach further into newer and better artifacts, but they arose from our intrinsic need to connect with other humans.  Why didn't I realize this before hand?

The answer to this seems to be as subconscious as the idea of technology as a social medium itself.  My social needs are human, and therefore ingrained in my system.  I don't think about socializing when I'm doing it; that's just what I do.  I socialize with my parents, friends, teachers, coworkers—all in all, it's part of every-day life.  But technology, while being new and innovative, was a new way to do something I've always done subconsciously.  Now, we have new vehicles for socializing and connecting.  I realize that socializing has always been part of life, so I don't think about it, not even when it took on a new sphere of communicating.

—Lindsey V.

Kate Hill Checked In at

Until our class discussion, I had never really thought about how "findable" we are as a society. Not only that, but the fact that we bring it upon ourselves and often complain about it is what is even more baffling. With the growing technology such as Droids and iPhones, as well as social networking sites such as Facebook, we make ourselves almost 100% accessible to other people. For example, I myself just downloaded an app on my iPhone called "Loopt." It's similar to the "check in" feature on Facebook. The user can say where they are, and view a map of areas as large as the entire country and see where other users are at all times. The check in feature on Facebook has a very like purpose. Personally, I check myself in almost everywhere I go, including home. Why exactly am I doing this, I don't really know. I don't think anyone is really that interested in where I am, what I'm doing, and who I'm with. However, there are those that could in fact be interested in just that. Why do we broadcast our lives and leave ourselves vulnerable to just about anything? Below is a link showing the more positive sides of "Facebook Places."

So sure, the creators of this 'awesome' feature are of course are going to sell this it as if it's the greatest thing to ever arrive on Facebook or the Internet alone. However, if you take the time to read the comments below the video, clearly some of the users have a much different view of the new feature. Here are some of my person favorites:

"Hey they just started dinner at a restaurant in town! Let's rob their house!"

"My Stalker is gonna love this!"

"Check in = please rob me"

"You guys are f****** retards!! there is no way in hell that I'll broadcast to the world that i am out of my house so that they can come and rob me! This is outright invasion of privacy.. F****** loosers who want to shout online.. because nobody would care to listen to them in person in the first place.. too much information!! these b******* have watched the movie "Serendipity" too much.. they think they're freaking John Cusack!!! facebook= 1 step to 666 !!!"

(sorry for this commenter's profanity!)

I am not saying that I personally view these features and apps as bad things. I would be a hypocrite if I said they were. However, I think anyone who uses them, myself included, should really think about the information we're releasing. Because as I mentioned before, we often times bring dangerous situations upon ourselves.

Why do we choose to make ourselves so findable? Out of thrill? Out of enjoyment? Out of boredom? I cannot even really answer that question for myself!! Will I stop using these applications? No, probably not. Will I take some responsibility if I'm later stalked or robbed? Possibly.

How We Retrieve Information

    While reading and studying Morville Chapter 3, I began noticing more how I obtain my information. Not only do I use the internet for entertainment purposes, but I also use it to find information for my schoolwork or any other questions I may have. I'll jump on google to find out what a certain word means, or to answer a quiz question for a class. I want the quickest, most effective way to get my information possible.
    As Morville discussed many different information retrieval options that have been used, I realized I did not even know what most of them were. Our generation is so engrained in the internet and the easy way out, a lot of the other information retrieval options are obsolete. We don't want to have to sit down and really work for our information if it is just a click away.
    As technology expands, I think we are becoming overloaded with too much information. We are not able to fully comprehend many ideas at once, even though with websites containing multiple grids, we have the capabilities to see many different ideas at once. Websites such as yahoo! and msn have news stories flashing with pictures of celebrities and horoscopes. Whatever information you could be looking for is available to you, plus a generous amount more. Websites are built for the user, and to bring users in to generate money. We as a society will no longer have the needs to open a book, or study long hours to truly expand our knowledge. The quick fix is all we need.
    While I believe the internet is a great tool to have, and I definitely use it every day and am guilty of using it for a quick answer, I think we should take more time to find different ways to retrieve information. Books, journals, other sources of media are other examples that can be effective. We should "forage" out and find out better uses of information than just opening google.

What's the Future of Computers?

Chapter 3 of Morville’s Ambient Findability, was in my opinion very interesting because the issues that were discussed are extremely relevant in today’s society. The internet provides accessibility to information to almost anyone. Decades ago this was not possible; in this chapter Morville touches on how people used to have to retrieve information by using punch cards in libraries, and my first reaction to reading this was that I am glad we don’t have to do that anymore, the internet has saved us, but as I read more into the chapter and Morville began discussing Mooers point of view on information, I began to change my mind. As I reflected on the many times I have used the internet to find answers I realized that it isn’t that efficient. There have been times while writing research papers when I have tried to use google, but it never works. Instead I find myself reading through non legitimate trash. Somebody in class made a great point by stating that google is great for entertainment purposes and quick answers for things like repairing a water heater. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. In my opinion the internet and google do have their benefits and I have personally found them very useful when searching for non academic issues, example: Who was in the Superbowl in 1977. But when it comes to really gaining an understanding on a subject that is worth studying than the internet can be extremely inconvenient, probably more inconvenient than what using the punch card system would be.

Even though I agree with Mooers point of view on information, I don’t think that the problem with the internet is necessarily that there is too much information on it. As I stated earlier it is very easy for one to spend hours reading through garbage that may not be legitimate. If only google pulled us just academic databases for us when doing research. But then what would we do when needed a quick answer about how to change the oil in our car, we don’t need a scholarly article for that. This is real the problem about the internet, it’s too messy, sloppy, and unorganized. It’s not as much that there is too much information on the internet; it’s that it’s not organized efficiently.

Enter Watson; last week I watched one of the episodes of Jeopardy where two humans played against IBM’s Watson, their innovative computer. Watson played against the two humans for three days and every day he beat them. After reading Morville’s chapter 3, I couldn’t help but think about the episode of Jeopardy I watched with Watson on it. I was very impressed with how fast and precise the computer was. The speed and accuracy of the computer answering a diverse amount of questions was amazing. This relates very much to the chapter 3. So, my question is will Watson help the information overload problem that many of us can relate to like Mooers.

I personally think Watson will definitely improve the preciseness and accuracy of using computers to find information, but it’s hard to say if we will ever reach a point where computers can tell us exactly what we want to know. And that brings me to my next issue, which relates more to the article we read at the beginning of the semester about google making us stupid, will it be good for us to be able to get every answer we need from a computer. Now we’ve all seen those movies where technology takes over the world and things like that, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about; will we become too dependent on computers to find the answers for us? I do think computers contribute to us being lazy and impatient and therefore it is my hope that the accuracy and preciseness of our searches online do improve so that when I want to know how to change the spark plugs in my car I may be given very explicit and useful answers so I can master that craft, but not have the computer be so advanced where I expect it to do it for me while I sit in my living room and watch TV. So to wrap this up because I know I’ve hit on many different subjects I will try and summarize my main points. I agree with Mooers that have too much information can be an inconvenience and google is a great example of this. What the internet needs is to be organized more efficiently so it is more useful to us, but as a side thought I think it is important to keep in mind that the internet and computers do not become so advanced in their ability to give us answers that humans become entirely dependent on them.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thinking about Communication.

In Chapter 3, Morville argues the importance of communication among people in his discussion of information. He says,
"Communication is the backbone of all human society from ancient tribes to modern nations. And, information is the principal ingredient that enables cooperation to scale from clans with a few dozen members to an interconnected global economy of billions. Information allows us to communicate across time and space. From marks on bark to etchings in silicon, we're able to share observations, experience, insight, and emotion. Documents are talking objects" (47).
First of all, I love how he relates communication across all time. He talks about the earliest form of communication in ancient tribes and then relates it to our modern society. The thing that blows my mind regarding this statement is the fact that we are getting even more advanced in our communication. Thinking about where we came from to where we are now, it scares me a little bit to think about where we will be in the future. The shorthand we know today such as 'LOL' or 'TTYL' was not around all that long ago. We are becoming more streamlined in our communication, which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing, but when is too simple too much?

Secondly, it is weird to think about communication reaching across to billions of people. Not only did language start out very basic, but it didn't have to reach across many people groups. A translator is a necessary job now because of all the information sharing we do among cultures. Computers are starting to take this over and soon, if not already, we will be able to speak in one language and a person on the other side of the computer screen will hear it in their language. Does anyone know if something like this exists?

Thirdly, I also liked his description of documents- how they are talking objects. This is something that I had to ponder for a minute to understand what he really meant. Since he argues that information is shared in communication, this would be a legitimate conclusion. A document is full of information that is shared between two or more people. You enter into a conversation with the text when you read or pick something out of a text.

Going off of this, it blows my mind how easily our brains can interpret a document. For example, coniunte to raed tihs sencente and see if you nitcoe atnynhig out of the onardiry? Did you pick atinnhyg out of the txet taht smeeed wierd? If you didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, you are like most people. Researchers at Cambridge University have concluded that it doesn't matter what order the middle letters are in because as long as the first and last letter are in place, your brain will be able to decipher the words you are reading.

So information can be processed to our brains even when it shouldn't make sense. The human mind blows me away so often. What exactly is information then if we can perceive even the stuff that's messed up? What is not included in this definition? Personally, I don't think you can put limitations when defining that term. We said something like information was "useful knowledge" in our class, but how do you define useful then? What is useful to you may be completely useless to me and vice versa. So I don't think information can have limitations put on it when trying to define the term. I think it's one of those terms that we will never be able to fully grasp and I think we have to learn to be okay with that fact.


Friday, February 25, 2011

The Social Shackles

"The things that you own end up owning you." It's a great quote from a favorite movie of mine; Fight Club. While Tyler Durden might have been talking about the material possessions in your life such as clothing, furniture, and cars, I believe it perfectly describes the way technological devices influence your life. Freedom is a word thrown around a lot when discussing advancing technology. Many people would say things such as a cell phone and wireless internet have given them a greater amount of freedom than what they had before. According to the Encarta dictionary, freedom is: a state in which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses, without being subject to any undue restrictions. In regards to the first part of that definition, I would say that many people believe that these technological advances live up to that freedom. A person no longer has to sit at home to wait for important calls, rather they have a cell phone that allows them to go almost anywhere and still be connected. The internet used to be only accessible through wired connections that limited the locations where you could access vast amounts of information. Now with Wi-Fi capabilities and wireless data networks through your cell phone provider, restrictions to the web are now greatly reduced.

However, it must be noted that while these technologies empower us with a sense of freedom, it comes at a cost. Those devices capable of allowing information retrieval and instant communication whenever and wherever we want, also binds it to us. Have you ever lost your cell phone? Has your laptop or ipod ever been out of Wi-Fi range? For some people, this would cause a sense of anxiety. In our attempts to escape the undue restrictions of our phone lines and Ethernet cables, other more powerful restrictions have manifested in the social network. The need to be connected, and for us to connect at all times has led to social bonds that are hard to break free from. The question is whether this technology infringes on our freedoms, or simply is another step in the evolutionary process of human interaction.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Watson to the Rescue

Language. This is one of the problems associated with information retrieval. Peter Morville, in Ambient Findability, discusses how language hinders our ability to find things in the digital world.

Because words are “imprecise, ambiguous, indeterminate, vague, and opaque” and because spelling errors are commonplace, computers don’t know which meaning a user intends. This ambiguity is one of the reasons we may get lost on the Internet. Even though we know what we want, if a search term has multiple meanings or is spelled incorrectly, the software has no way to determine what we want.

Over the years, Google has tried to improve the precision of search results. For instance, website creators insert tags (metadata) into the HTML. But there is still ambiguity.

Morville states, “computers aren’t even close to extracting or understanding or representing meaning. For as long as humans use language to communicate, information retrieval will remain a messy, imperfect business.”

But wait! This book was published in 2005. This is 2011, and now we have Watson!

If you’re not a Jeopardy fan, here’s a bit of background information. Watson is a computer system that (or should I say “who”?) can understand natural language. According to IBM, “Watson represents a leap forward in data analytics and how this technology will impact business and industry.”

Now, we’re a few years away from having Watsons in our homes. He consists of 90 servers at the moment. But the designers at IBM are hoping that he will transform industries such as healthcare, finance, and telecom. For instance, medical records, journals, and so on are written in natural language. Having a computer that can interpret that language could transform the healthcare industry. Joe Jasinski, the program director for healthcare at IBM, thinks of Watson as “turning data into knowledge.” This brings us back to what Morville considers to be “information” (useful, valid data).

It will be interesting to see what changes take place as Watson evolves. And knowing what we do about Moore’s law, these changes may be here sooner than we expect.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Findabilty and Wayfinding

Morville defines findability in three ways, first he says it is the “quality of being locatable or navigable”, next he says it is the “degree to which a particular object is easy to discover or locate”, lastly he defines findability as the “degree to which a system or environment supports navigations and retrieval.” Morville describes ambient as “completely enveloping.” Therefore “ambient findability” can be defined as completely locatable or discoverable.

Why is ambient findability important? I think for research purposes this idea of findability is crucial. “Ambient findability describes a fast emerging world where we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at a time,” says Morville. At first I felt uncomfortable about being able to be found so easily, but then I took into consideration all of the benefits of findability. If I lose my phone or if someone steals my car, my piece of property can be located thanks to this concept of ambient findability. Also, another more common association with being found is locating a missing person by locating the signal from the person’s cell phone.

Another aspect of this concept I found interesting was how it relates to digital literacy. Online thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and other sites people can be found by only typing a name and pressing the enter key. I do not mind being found, because I am not trying to hide. I typed my name into Google and immediately found ten different ways to find me or read about me. Not only can people be found, but informative resources are becoming easier to locate. Navigating information on the internet can be difficult, often times I have given up on what I was searching because of the overflow of inadequate materials. I’m glad that companies see the problem and are trying to compensate for how information is listed when it is searched.

Have you ever experienced the same kind of problems when searching the web? Do you think there should be a limit to findability? Have you ever Googled your name, if you haven’t I recommend you see what you find. Ask yourself this, how findable am I?

“Because of poor wayfinding design, people die”

This quote from Morville’s book caught me off-guard. I had never thought about how street design or street signs affected how people or places are found. I know it seems like common knowledge, but for some reason I had never actually sat down and thought about how someone’s life could depend on wayfinding. I have poor eyesight, so when I drive I have to wear glasses. Even with my glasses on it is difficult for me to read street signs. I miss exits and turns, but I never realized how significant the problem was until reading Ambient Findability. Even when I walk around campus or to a friend’s house, I have difficulty seeing house numbers.

So my question is, if people are working on making digital literacy and information more locatable, are people working on making roads and street signs more navigable? Has anybody else noticed a problem when driving or looking for a certain address?

It's a Slippery Slope

Maybe It’s just me being a stereotypical English major, but parts of the first chapter of Ambient Findability scared me. How far is too far with technology? I’m not doing anything wrong or trying to hide from the government or anything , but I don’t like the idea that they could track my cell phone if they wanted to and the idea of a microchip implant is terrifying. What happened to privacy? Of course, this type of technology has its benefits like finding kidnapped children, catching killers and sparing people from having to actually open their mouths and ask for a drink, but my mind immediately jumps to all sorts of conspiracy theories.

What if that kind of information got into the wrong hands? I’m alright with the police finding me if I’ve been kidnapped, but I don’t want some random person off the street being able to track me down. Sure, most people over-share anyway and it would probably be easy to find where someone is at a given time, but I want to be able to make the choice. My Facebook is private and I’m only friends with people I legitimately talk to every once in a while, but even then I don’t post my address or phone number. I want to be able to make the choice for myself. How long will it be until something like the microchips is mandatory?

Will we get rid of social security numbers, birth certificates and credit cards in favor of a tiny microchip that you can take anywhere. You would never leave them at home and I’m sure there would be all kinds of measures in place to ensure that your identity couldn’t be stolen or your information tampered with. The problem is that we will never have a fool-proof system. Where there are people to create these things, there are also people that can find a way around the security measures. People tend to think of the future as “ a coming techno-utopia” ( 14) as Morville calls it. There will never be “a magical era when all our problems will fade into the sunset” (Morville 14).

Morville says we “will struggle to balance privacy, freedom, convenience and safety” (3). I think we are already struggling. People write intimate details of their lives on Facebook and blogs and then complain about their lack of privacy. We opened our lives to this and now we have to deal with it and we will continue to have to deal with it for years to come. Like Morville says, “Technology is a double-edged sword” (14).

The Limitations of Freedom

"Most importantly, findability invests freedom in the individual." (Morville)

Although this sentence was briefly brought up within our classroom discussion, I do feel as if the connection between technology and freedom is a crucial concept to ponder on the deeper level. After analyzing this idea more closely, I have begun to wonder at the limitations of "freedom."

After initially bringing up this idea, Morville goes on to say that technology has given us the freedom to access information that would otherwise have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. In other words, he meant to say that findability equals freedom to accessibility. In today's information centered world, we have access to a plethora of information about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Just think about all the tasks that would have been difficult without the use of our current technology: navigation, bargain shopping, researching, contacting others, getting degrees, searching for jobs, learning about other cultures, etc.

One of the biggest things that comes to mind is our easy access to research. We now have the potential to learn more. At the same time, this means that everyone has access to this information as well. I would argue that this makes our jobs harder sometimes. For example, I have a paper that is due Friday in which I am to centralize around an author and tie in two outside, empirical sources. I am planning to use Ball State's online database. However, my job as a researcher has become harder because everyone is now aware of the wide array of conversation already taking place about this subject matter. It is harder to come up with something new and interesting when you are bombarded with numerous ideas as is. The stakes are now higher because of the easy access. We HAVE to know more now than we ever did. Moreover, I know my teacher will have had access to these same articles and will have developed her own ideas about the topic already. If I fail to mention something or something isn't quite right, it is now a click away from her scrutiny. Therefore, even in our freedom to accessibility, we feel the pressures of this "freedom."

Moreover, the freedom of accessibility has led to limitations in privacy. It is now easier to find out information about one another. Sometimes this information is not always accurate or even flattering. Technological advancements such as Google Satellite, online banking, online shopping, and pop-up advertisements can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Our information is out there, even if we do not always want it to be.

I guess this goes to say that freedom does come at a price. Even though we now have the freedom of having more access to information, sometimes that information can be used against us. Whether it is the absence of a key aspect in a paper or stealing someone's identity, the stakes have become higher. We have to be careful when using this so-called "freedom."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Too High Expectations

I have had to do a lot of research for my debate class within the last couple of weeks. And while at the time, I was unbelievably annoyed with Google and JSTOR leading me too absolutely useless website, something occurred to me while reading the assignment in Ambient Findability.

When I read the portions of the text discussing keywords, I realized I take these couple of words or phrases and search engines for granted.

Maybe it is just me, but I expect Google, or any search engine for that matter, to find exactly what I need. I know my role in the process, I type what I am looking for in the search, and the website does the rest. And then I get irritated when I can’t find what I’m looking for.

But in reality, it is my fault. I know I expect Google to be all knowing, that it can find anything and everything for me. That’s why I use it. But if the user is incapable of searching for what he or she needs, how can we expect search engines to be capable of searching for it? Of course this seems obvious: the Internet can only do what we want it to do. But in a world of quick finds and easy moves I feel that people expect the Internet to do all of the work. And maybe that is the problem with our society. Maybe due to all of the recent advances, we expect too much of our technology.

So while everyone is asking if Google makes people stupid, I am asking if it is not Google’s fault, but rather the expectations people have for Google that is causing a “dumber society.”

Ambient Findability

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the first few chapters of this book. Not only did I like what I was reading, but I found myself wanting to read more.

Wayfinding is a concept that I was greatly intrigued by. I think that it is something our world (primarily America) takes for granted. I mean, can you imagine that instead of reading mile markers and street signs on your way from Ball State to your hometown, you looked at landmarks, tree patterns, or other natural beings? Our culture has become heavily dependent on our TomTom's, GPS gadgets, smart phones, etc. Is this something that should be of concern to us? I mean, what would you do if the battery of your GPS or phone died and you had no map on your drive to a new place? How would you know where you are, or where you're going? I would probably pull over, cry, and then look for a gas station in order to get some directions from someone working. Clearly these are instances we should be better prepared for. I wonder what the grade schools are teaching their students: to depend on maps and other landmarks, or to lean upon the gadgets of the 21st century. I wonder if the Boy Scouts still teach these practices! It would definitely be interesting to find out- that's for sure.

When I was thinking about wayfinding in terms of the world, I also tried to think of how I navigate myself online. For me, I am a Google queen. I type whatever it is I'm looking for into the Google search bar. I quickly scan through the links it provides me with. If I click on a link and I don't find my answer immediately I don't waste time getting back to my search. I'm a first page answers kinda gal. I don't mess around.

The Baldwin Effect was another aspect of the beginning chapters that grabbed my attention.

The Baldwin Effect: suggest that organisms can learn to shape their environment and consequently alter the path of evolution.

The example the book used was about how dairy farming existed before humans became tolerant of dairy products. In other words, people were drinking milk before they even liked it. To me that makes so much sense. It's kind of like how as we get older people say our taste buds "mature" allowing us to open up our minds to foods we never previously liked. The Baldwin Effect would say that our taste buds did not in fact mature, but that we just got used to the taste, making it so generations following us would also prefer the taste. Kind of a cool idea! 

This book is proving to be thought provoking and I'm anxious to continue reading. Any shared thoughts?

Is The Internet Really The Problem?

When I was reading the multimedia literature for class last week, I felt a sense of deja vu as I read about Inanimate Alice. It reminded me very strongly of something, but it took a while for me to figure out what it was. I was finally able to place it.

Computer games. Old-school computer games I played as a kid that no longer exist.

I was one of those kids addicted to Pajama Sam, Freddie Fish, and Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. Inanimate Alice had that feel to it that was reminiscent of the beginning of Pajama Sam. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, when you started a new game of Pajama Sam, he always started off reading a comic book and all you had to do was click around to move onto the next part of the story.

It occurs to me now how old it sounds to say that I played computer games. With faster internet, kids (and adults) now play classic games online instead of inserting a disc and installing the game. Kids play their games on their Wii, Xbox, Nintendo DS, and whatever other new device available.

We notice that the internet is a problem with the current generation. But what if it's all this new, portable technology that's the problem? Back when I played these computer games, I could only play them at home. Kids now can take their games wherever they want to. We use our phones to access the internet anywhere, anytime.

So perhaps, instead of blaming the internet for all of our troubles, we should instead be taking a closer look at how we get onto the internet. Or how many devices we own that allow us to access the internet. I can find 4 devices in my dorm room alone that can get me to the internet. So what's the real problem? The internet, or our numerous ways to access it?

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Creep Factor

While skimming electronic literature, I must admit I was dumbfounded. As a literature major, I'm accustomed to reading the straightforward 'left to right, bottom to top' grid that has dominated most literature styles. Throwing electronic literature, with its twists, mysteries, and unconventional style, was exhausting to my already pre-conceived version of literature.

But, amongst all the visually mind-numbing tales, I found that Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw, stuck out to me most. Much like many of my classmates, I was transfixed by the mysterious, occult story at the center of this work. Clicking on individual characters in the little village brought me to priests, strange creatures, and deeper into the story of Christian's possession. After the completion of much of the story, a Text file appears that breaks down the true story of what was thought to be a demonic possession of Christian Shaw. From this text, the viewer now has a sense of what they just watched, and also how it connected to the supposedly true story of Christian's possession.

Deviant is probably the most memorable of these stories to me, quite possibly for the 'creep factor'. As a lover of horror movies and all things scary, I enjoy indulging in anything that might give me the thrill of a good scare. Of course, Deviant didn't have me on the edge of my seat in terror, but it managed to creep me out just a little bit. Sometimes, I have found that the most obscure, harder to process horror films are the scariest, purely for the fact that I fail to understand them completely. For example, I often found The Blair Witch Project to be a creepy film simply because having only three working cameras in the film made it feel more like a home video. But because my experience in the film was limited by the less-than-polished camera work, I felt more uneasy when watching it. Similarly, many horror movies reveal their monsters in the final climax. Would Jaws have been as frightening if the shark was shown at the beginning?

Thus, I feel Deviant follows a similar path. There were no jump-out-of-your-seat scare moments, nor were there any climactic terrorizing moments where a monster was unveiled. Rather, we have a low-key story of girl who is (possibly) possessed by a demon. The audience is not in for the ride, but rather given a set of clues to distinguish the story for themselves. Because there are no Hollywood horror moments, I felt the understated creepiness of the story itself delivered enough of a scare. Sometimes, the things that scare us the most are the ones that are quiet and sneaky, rather than loud and in your face. Even now, I still have difficulty understanding the story (did the every petal have to fall off every tree for a purpose?), but perhaps that's why it remained in my memory.

Lindsey V.

Well, IS Google Making Us Stupid?

A while ago for class we read and discussed the article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?- What the internet is doing to our brains" written by Nicholas Carr. I do not know about the rest of you, but this article actually bothered me quite a bit. The truth in the article is as loud as a siren screaming out to warn us of what is to possibly come if we do not step away from our computers and get back to the real world. To so many people, the "real world" is what they see through their computer screen as everything else passes them by. I, for one, do not think that the internet is evil- I just think that we need to use it wisely without letting it take over our lives.

After reading over this several times, I started paying attention to how people actually use the internet and what sort of things they search for. After spending a weekend at home, I think that it is safe to say that my mom and dad use the internet in a positive way and their lives do not revolve around it. When I got home that Friday I told my mom that I wanted to make homemade cupcakes and asked her if she knew of a good recipe. She told me that she did not think that she had one and suggested that I look one up on or another recipe site. Great idea right? I thought so too. After doing some searching I found tons of tasty cupcake recipes to chose from. Saturday evening, my dad used the internet to get directions to someone's house by using mapquest. Genius right? I thought so too. I felt reassured after I left home because I had seen first hand that people do know how to use the internet in moderation and it is in fact not taking over their brains.

Although I felt much better, I was not completely convinced. My mom and dad come from an older generation that did not grow up with the internet so it does not seem as "essential" to them. I took a step back to think about what I use the internet for. Am I consumed by surfing the web? Has my lap top become my new best friend? I pondered for a while about what I had used the internet for just this weekend. I had not taken my lap top home so any web time was done on my mom and dad's PC in the office. Friday I had checked my email which seems pretty innocent to me, and Saturday I had checked my Facebook once when I had woken up. I can admit that Facebook is becoming a bit of a problem for me. I spend much more time looking at other people's profiles than I would like to, but then again, it is a great way for me to keep in touch with people that I do not get to see as often. The verdict: I am okay, but need to spend less time creeping on the 'book.

However, the idea of the world being taken over by computers would not escape my mind. That week I paid close attention to my roommate's computer habits and was slightly irritated with what I had found. Was she always like this? Please tell me this was just a "special" week or something. It seemed like her computer was on her lap at ALL TIMES! Either she was mindlessly wandering through Facebook or Twitter, or on a company's website browsing around for items to purchase with no intent of purchasing anything. The thing that astounded me the most was that while she was on the internet, she was watching television the entire time as well! Talk about melting your brain. I felt like this was the picture that the article was painting. This kind of behavior is the problem that needs to be addressed and changed.

After reflecting on my observations, I think it is obvious that my generation and younger are the brains that we need to be worried about. The internet is in fact completely changing the way that people spend leisure time and is taking away from activity. People become obsessed with new things and the idea of something different. I, for one, hope that this obsession is just another phase in American History; one that will eventually fade away as another new and interesting thing is shoved in our faces. In the meantime, it is necessary for those who see this as a problem to encourage these younger generations to close the computer and do something else! The internet is a remarkable invention that helps us in so many ways; but it was created as a tool, not a new way of life.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Last week during our class discussion on e-literature I mentioned this book. Many of the e-Literature featured a story within a story and this is a tangible result of that concept. I had a hard time gathering the patience to play with the the e-literature. As a bibliophile, Kindles are a little frightening.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Where's my map?!

I think I have come to a conclusion as to why I’m not crazy about hyperfiction and multimedia literature.

I was just reading the Preface to Peter Morville’s book Ambient Findability. He tells the reader that the “book should be read in linear style from start to end.” Then he adds, “You should not need a map.” Aha! I thought about that for a moment and decided that was what hyperfiction and multimedia literature are missing—a map!

A map would still allow me to interact with the literature, but it would serve as a guide or even a reference for when I get lost. I’m all for an adventure. In fact, my family and I love to get in the car and explore other places. Or we put on our hiking shoes and explore the forests around the Midwest. But whether we’re in the car or on a trail, we have a map. It provides guidance along the way. We want to make sure we find all the great spots in a town or in a forest. Without a map, how would we know? I’d hate to visit a beautiful national park or forest and find out after we returned home that we failed to see the most spectacular sights the park had to offer. With a map, I feel more confident that I’ve seen those sights.

With hyperfiction and multimedia literature, clicking hyperlink after hyperlink leaves me feeling lost in the woods. Granted, some of the readings provide a little guidance, but many, such as Twelve Blue and Deviant, leave us on our own, not knowing whether we’ve missed something.

If I only had a map . . .

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Electronic Literature

So after class on Thursday I went pursuing around the second volume of the Electronic Literature Collection. I happened to stumble upon a creation called Brainstrips. (And I apologize now because I am unaware of how to properly identify these works. Do they require quotes or underling? Grammar is not moving quite as fast as literature I suppose.) Defiantly look at it. Here is the link:

While I worked through it I was thinking about the propaganda adds of during World War II time frame. They were very striking to people and most had not seen things like them before. McLuhan talks a little about this. What you say is changed by how you say it and who hears it. That’s basically the bottom line of his book. It made me wonder, would he say the same things about these forms of literature? The one in particular that I am referencing is basically propaganda. It take something like irrational numbers and uses it to comment on the idea of divorce or rather how divorce is used and looked at in our society. People would rather run than try to talk things out anymore. The author takes subjects from math and science as well as a random group of social issues who’s titles do not match their true content. How does displaying divorce as an irrational number affect how we view it? It makes us question our values in a way that has not yet happened. Thus far, technology, specifically information technology, has been blamed for creating an uncaring, sarcastic, valueless society of broken families. What if someone had the bright idea to use that uncaring, sarcastic, valueless tone to create change? How effective would it be to use a developing form of entertainment to create awareness? I should also clarify for offense’s sake that these are not necessarily my personal opinions about society, but more my ideas on how we can use the new tools that will likely dominate our adult lives.