Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Something that has been brought up in class is the idea of electric documents replacing printed, paper documents. What a crazy idea, but yet not too far fetched. It was not long ago that everything was printed out on paper, but now it seems as though nearly everything is sent through email or can be pulled up online and filled out through the Internet. The biggest change that has impacted me is job applications. Before, you always had to walk into the place of employment, look nice and chipper, reach out to shake someone’s hand, and ask for an application. Now you can roll out of bed with your hair looking a hot mess and fill out a formal job application for a professional job without it even affecting your chances of getting hired.
Thanks to the Internet, there are all kinds of improvements being made. But are they really improvements? Or is it just another way to contribute to lazy America? Sure, filling out a job application does not seem like such a huge deal, but what about things like online classes? Some people are literally taking college classes online to receive credit. They never even have to step foot inside of a classroom or interact with a professor. This may seem great, but aren’t we eliminating one of the most important lessons that are taught in any class? Face to face interaction is being lost and people’s social skills are being flushed down the toilet! However, this is a great concept for those busy individuals that want to make a comeback and get their degree while raising a family and working a full time job. It saves the time of driving to and from class and allows you to work at whatever speed you want.
Some things still remain in paper form, however, and I do not really picture them changing soon. Some of our most important possessions are printed documents. Our drivers licenses for instance is something that we take everywhere with us and rely on to identify us when needed. Our social security cards are often essential documents that we may need for various things. Even birth certificates that are printed to prove that we exist are on paper. We cannot even enter or leave the country without that valuable little packet of printed-paper known as a passport. Our country has literally been transformed thanks to paper documents. The Declaration of Independence, possibly one of the most important documents EVER, changed the United States forever. A piece of paper did! It’s crazy to think about.
So are printed documents superior to an electronic version staring back at us on the computer screen? Sure, it is more tangible and something that we can hold and file, but electronic documents can be saved on a hard-drive for all of eternity without worrying about it getting a creased edge or coffee stain. I do not think that one is more superior to another, but I do think that it is often necessary to have that printed proof and verification of certain documents. People like to hold things. It makes it more real. I do not think that we will be eliminating paper documents anytime soon, although I can’t say that I would have ever predicted college students taking their classes from the comfort of their own beds! Do you think that computers are replacing the long lived printed document and sending it into extinction, or is the tough paper document here to stay?!
The time I spent in Haiti made me think of how much technology I use on a daily basis and how much information I am exposed to. In all of the works we have read we have debated the topic of whether we are too reliant on technology, and if society is becoming less and less personal. Before leaving on my trip I would completely agree that I spend too much time on the internet, social networks, news sites, and of course my phone, but in Haiti this is not even an option. In Haiti unless you have some money to visit an internet cafe 40 miles from you town or village, you have no source to the outside world other than word of mouth. Although most people are in what I would define as extreme poverty they do have cell phones, but the phones are soley a means of communication between people. I definitely did not see any smart phones.
I am arguing that our technology advances and exposure to all kinds of information is a good thing. Anything can be abused and overused.
Over the course of the trip we became very close to the two interpreters that were with us for the week. We often talked about differences between the U.S. and Haiti and some of the things both of the interpreters did not know were astonishing. They are both well educated for Haiti's standards and smart, but the lack of information they recieve boggled my mind. For example, one of the interpreters was not aware that there were black people in the United States. Something just as simple is that is not widely known in Haiti. Most people do not even know there is a world outside of Haiti. Another example of the lack of information would be that I was not aware of the Japan Earthquake until I arrived in the states on Tuesday. The lack of information is truly mind boggling. Haiti has been under corrupt dictation for hundreds of years, but hopefully the current election will make some changes and improvements for the people of Haiti. The nation can only hope, they don't have anything else to do but hope, and maybe in the future they will released from their bubble and into a globalized society.
Monday, March 21, 2011
What has led to this transition and change? Simply the emergence and popularity of social media as well as accessibility. Many jobs are becoming obsolete whether its intentional or unintentional. Today, everyone who has access to the Internet can be their own journalist. You don't even need a college degree or GED to publish your thoughts and opinions for the whole world to see.
The Internet is an information hub. It has great potential and can do incredible things. It turns the hierarchical approach to business on its head, starting from the bottom up instead and letting the users rise to the occasion. Poptent is a great example of this. If client needs a commercial or visual to promote their product or business, Poptent turns to its user base with your ideas in mind. The client can choose from a variety of user-created videos to purchase for the furthering of their own business. Jacob Fenley also touches on this idea in his blog post: Crowdsourcing: The Ultimate Amateurization.
It's interesting to think about all the fields that are becoming or might become unspecialized. It definitely plays a role in the future of our children and their children. What can they go to college for that can't already be done my the masses. Technology is constantly advancing, and in the next 30, 40 years or so the reach of social media will be a vast one. Will teachers lose their jobs? Like I said and keep saying, it's interesting to think about and even scary at times. In my opinion I think that there will always be a need for some specialized instructor. The human to fix the robot if you will. But we won't really know until we experience it for ourselves. Until then all we can do is sit and wait and make the most of the situation were in.
Our discussion about the levels of social activity that Clay Shirky outlined in chapter two made me rethink some of my previous viewpoints about what I expect from people's involvement in the online social community. To refresh people's memories about the social ladder that Shirky discussed, he broke down that involvement into sharing, cooperation, collaborative production, and collective action. Each level was seen as rungs on a ladder, being organized in a way to go from easiest to hardest. It seemed that many people in the class were of the opinion that all participants in the social web should at least attempt to climb this ladder, and become more involved by way of putting more time and effort into an endeavor that might have a greater impact on society. This impact may be in the form of a labor union, a group forming in order to petition a law, creating an informative Wikipedia page, or connecting to people who would offer their time for charity or disaster relief. In those ways, I can understand why people would hope for the climbing of this social ladder, as this no doubt injects positive and real involvement back into a community or society in general. However, should we totally discount the importance of sharing? In many ways I believe that sharing should be looked at as a valuable and useful tool in the social web, and not just seen as a stepping stone to more important social involvement.
To take the recent tragedy in Japan as an example, sharing had an extremely important role in many ways. Videos of the disaster spread quickly, giving us a great understanding of the magnitude of the quake and proceeding tsunami. Information about friends and relatives whereabouts was able to reach a vast number of people through sharing, allowing them to be found. Firsthand accounts of the devastation were posted on sites such as reddit, which allowed for people to understand exactly what they were going through. Sharing no doubt has its limitations, but what we must keep in mind is that the other rungs on the ladder suffer from its own downfalls. Do I believe that a climb up this ladder should be in order for some people? Of course. What I am trying to point out is that people who are simply content on sharing should still be seen at times as a valuable and useful tool that can promote positive influence.
The story of Ivanna’s lost phone in Ch. 1’s Here Comes Everybody can be compared to so many other stories that resulted from the collaborative effort from those with a shared experience in this decade. What began as a common story of a phone getting lost in a cab, resulted in a homemade detective pursuit among a large group of people previously unknown to Ivanna and led to the recovery of her phone and an experience. This story framed the future of collaboration.
To Write Love on Her Arms would be one of those stories. TWLOHA is a movement about reaching out to others that started on the Internet. They began with a simple myspace blog that generated stories from teens from all over the world about dealing with depression and substance abuse. With these stories came the heartfelt thankyous to the site’s creator for giving them a place where they didn’t feel alone.
In stories like Ivanna’s TWLOHA and many others there’s a declaration of the phrase ‘power in numbers.’ None of these events could have taken place if there wasn’t a way to connect to so many outside of our zip code simultaneously. At all other times in history we were limited to location. Today, our world can be as big as the world itself and what that can accomplish is mind blowing.
Even in the simple stories I’ve recounted these collaborative movements left considerable impacts on individual lives: these people were understood. These people not only had someone to listen, but they also had support. They received help from others in way they could never accomplish alone. When you can have a large group of people come together with a mutual understanding, change can occur. It can occur anywhere in the world, at any time, by anyone. This is the power of connectivity. This is the power of understading.
"Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." - Ryunosuke Satoro
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Its amazing what the Internet can do. After the first two weeks of this video going viral, it had an amazing 8 million views and after the past week, it has more than tripled to a jaw dropping 28 million. Seeing the power of social media puts me in awe and disbelief. The only problem with this instance is that: what significance does this have? Who cares? Sure the video is funny and the fact that it's supposed to be completely legit makes it even better. But why are we wasting our time and energy on this, a pointless music video? The Internet has a vast potential and incredible capability, so why are we wasting our time and breath over some funny video? The same goes for the whole Charlie Sheen news. I hear people quoting him in class and every other hashtag is "winning". But who cares? Obviously Americans and anybody else who utilizes social networks and media. Why can't we put as much effort into the awareness and intervention of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan? Imagine what we could accomplish if we focused our efforts on helping out a devastated country instead of this video. I think we need to step back and look at what the Internet has done for us. It is an amazing tool that has the potential to do great things if used correctly, but instead we waste our time on Rebecca Black. Now I posted the video on my Facebook wall so I can't say I'm so self-righteous, but I also have been trying to help out any way I can with the victims in Japan by supplying baked goods to the bake sale which donated the funds to disaster relief. I think we need to get our priorities right as Americans and set an example for others to follow. Individually there is only so much we can accomplish, but we have the tools to band together and make a difference. We can't sit around and make excuses anymore, because we have the tools at our fingertips, now all we have to do is get our priorities straight.
There is no doubt that we are in a transition period. From factory workers to the robots that have taken their place, we are entering a technological age, and turning back looks slight. So, we must deal with our reality. A few years back we experienced a revolutionary transition period that initially led to an up rise in divorce: women entering the workforce. During the feminist movement women were aspiring to careers outside of the home. This financial independence meant that women didn’t have to be married for financial support.
Initially, this lead to an increase in divorce as women became pickier about how they chose to live. The children of this generation felt the painful consequences of divorce and since then the rate of divorce has decreased. May we say, lesson learned?
With connectivity comes information, and with information comes responsibility. It’s true that technology comes with freedom that can lead anywhere from a life of convenience to losing the value of privacy, but as we adjust to the medium, through trial and error, we will learn how to attain balance. This new medium not only allows us to be connected, but also to work within a spatial environment, limitless in space, unlike the linear reality we live in.
Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. –Ayn Rand.
Going off “The Good Thing About Facebook”, people can really unite and spread the word about a disaster as big as Japan. The world knew about the earthquake and tsunami within a few hours not only because of the news, but also because of social networking sites. However, worldly problems like Japan are not the only disasters that plague Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.
When the “Rainpocalypse” hit Indiana, the Animal Rescue Foundation in Muncie was flooded. The helpless cats, dogs, and a few pigs were trapped in cages trying to stay above water. Though none drowned, the entire rescue center was under water, which ruined the food, medical supplies, and so on. I volunteer there on a regular basis and had already started following them on Twitter (@munciearf). As soon as it was safe, the owners and regular volunteers raced to ARF to evacuate the dogs and cats. Through constant tweets asking for foster homes, every animal was put in a foster home within the day. They also started tweeting that they needed food, medical supplies, cleaning supplies, and general help. People started re-tweeting to their own followers to spread the word and within the week the Animal Rescue Foundation had hundreds of volunteers cleaning up the rescue center, dropping off food for the animals, and spending their own money to replace the medical supplies.
Being able to contact people through these social networking sites has given them a chance to help others in need. It really shows how connected our society is even though we don’t realize it. Whether it’s a disaster like Japan or the Animal Rescue Foundation, Shirky does a great job in saying it brings everybody together.
As I was reading the blog “Gossip Girl”, it reminded me of so many websites I have encountered over time. People feed off of scandal, gossip, and rumors. Here are a few I’ve seen:
collegeacb.com – A website that has anonymous posts by sorority and fraternity members that bash a certain person or post a comment that can be read by all. Most are very mean and I would not want to put on here, but the posts sum up to which sorority is the best, which is the worst, and same goes for fraternities on campus.
postsecret.com – A website that allows people to anonymously, well, post a secret. It allows them to get it off their chest, but gives others satisfaction in scandals.
@oceanUP – A twitter account that updates it’s 92,000 followers of what celebrities are doing, where they’ve been, where they’re going, and posting pictures/videos of them walking out of buildings. This allows readers to indulge in gossip and rumors of others. @oceanUP tweets gives their followers an immediate update so it’s always new and changing when they get wind of a celebrity’s scandal whether it’s true or not. Just something for people to talk about and spread.
Again, these websites give people an inside look on others lives to satisfy their own need for gossip and scandals.
The Internet: Is it a new outlet of the entrepreneur? This is a place where anyone can go and be heard. There are no resumes, recommendations, or qualifications for that matter. Here, it’s not who you know, but what you know.
In Ch. 3 of Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody there’s a story about a former politician who loses his career because of a questionable statement he said at a party. At first this story went unheard because the reporters at the party found it unimportant. A few days later though, a blogger had recounted the event and it had caused a stir on the Internet. His reaction led to a reaction among reporters and in the end the politician…well…had lost his ethos.
Why is this story important? Because if this was 15 years ago, the only way this man could have made as big of an impact as he did would be to acquire the formal education of a reporter and then find company that was willing to give him a chance. With today’s technology our voice isn’t trapped within the walls of formal education.
It’s true that source credibility has been a complaint of many who use the internet to search for information. This is a new medium that doesn’t discriminate against anyone’s opinion, and that includes your Uncle Carl who has had a half built time machine in his basement for the last 30 years.
But as we’ve seen in the example of the blogger who destroyed the opinion of a politician, if you do have something valuable to offer, here’s your chance. Why should there be such a thick line between the hobbiest and the ‘professional’? Knowledge is an interpretation of life experience and those who assume authority on anything will find out, like the reporters, that even that is subjective. This new medium allows an opportunity to see things from different angles and hear more voices than the select few who followed the path of the industrial era.
“Sometimes I'm confused by what I think is really obvious. But what I think is really obvious obviously isn't obvious...”-Michael Stipe
What StumbleUpon does is this:
- Records you personal interests: Do you like philosophy? Art? Music? Flash Games? Liberal Politics? Conservative Politics? Cartoons? Relationship Help? Pretty much anything you can think of.. put a check by it if it interests you!
- Start Stumbling: Click on the stumble button and you will be taken to a website that corresponds to one of the interests you checked. (All of this is done by user submission)
- Submit: Did you Google something interesting and think that others might enjoy reading it? Click the "Like" button on your StumbleUpon toolbar and fill out a review along with tags. Now, anyone who Stumbles on pages with those tags will come across the page you reviewed! You are submitting to the Stumble process, and thousands of others do every day.
Shirky's social-semantic web ideas parallel StumbleUpons entire idea: Articles YOU choose are articles other people read, just tag them!
Along with Shirky, Morville would be happy to see StumbleUpon's ability to constantly retrieve information that the user finds engaging and interesting. I have Stumble'd upon many pages I've turned into ideas and papers for classes, and all with barely doing any searching.
StumbleUpon is a great way to find all sorts of information and multimedia that you are interested in, but it does have a down side. With the ability to click ONE button and have an unlimited number of websites that you really do find extremely interesting, you can lose a lot of time. And I mean a LOT. Don't believe me? Try it out yourself!
No, its not technically a problem, but it does lead to horrible commercials (okay, this one was sort of funny).
Actually, this is a great of example of the rising amateurism and crowdsourcing in Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody. In his book, Shirky mentions the loss of professionalism (e.g. Photographers with websites such as Flickr, and Doctors with WebMD) as a result of user based, amateur contributions.
Do you think it is important or wrong that a professional (Commercial Director?) lost a job working for a Super Bowl commercial because of user submitted commercials like this one? I think it is an interesting question.
Human powered Search at its finest? Let's take a look:
Google uses an algorithm to base its search results. Often times this works great, however it is also easily manipulated and isn't always the most reliable. If everyone searching "Apple Sauce" is clicking on a link that takes them to a website to buy apple sauce instead of researching it, then the first result is going to be a website to buy apple sauce. However, on Stumpedia, you would find that people click on the site to buy apple sauce, click to "bury" it, and then "bump" a site they were looking for. This provides users with a more refined search experience (supposedly).
The truth is, with unmonitored "user" based search results, its even easier to manipulate the results. The main problem is that Stumpedia has practically no web traffic. It's interesting, but the number of people who use Google every day pretty much dwarf those visiting Stumpedia. When you search, you will find that many sites have only been given one bump. If you bury it.. it's gone. If you search "Evil Badgers" and bump sites that all pertain to the food guide pyramid, the next person searching "Evil Badgers" is going to have a hard time finding anything that actually relates to badgers while they are surfing through pages of "bumped" food guides.
There are positives and negatives to both approaches, a social-semantic, user based web; and your run of the mill top-down view. However, I believe that if user-based searching sites such as Stumpedia had more traffic to their sites (which would give them more user-based monitoring) then they may be much more useful and powerful in the future (like Wikipedia).
People across the country were shocked by this website when it first came online. Spokeo allows you to search someone's name and gives pretty interesting results. When I searched my name, for example, I found a picture of my house, names of my siblings and parents, and for a small fee ($5 I think?) I could also get a full report on my wealth, neighborhood, etc.
While this is all "public record", and is technically available to the public (and always has been) I believe that the EASE of finding this information now makes it a bigger problem. A stalker in California, for instance, could have every bit of information on someone in New York by just paying $5 for detailed results (And then a plane ticket...).
I think that while we are trying to come up with ways to make finding things easier, we need to realize what "it" is that we are making easier to find. That can include anything from private information pulled from blogs, social networking sites, and profile pages to public records like criminal backgrounds, financial situations, etc. I think we may be making the wrong things easier to find...
"Backtrace threatens Anonymous operatives" (TG Daily, Mar 18th 2011)
EPIC2014 provides a pretty extensive history of the internet, makes somewhat accurate predictions about the future and some far off ones as well. Shirky talks about the decline of the newspaper and this movie touches on what we discussed in Chapter 2.
I came to this cabin with my friends for a vacation away. And instead I’ve been stressing about the internet access. How am I going to do my homework? How am I going to have time to write this out on a cell phone? What if I wouldn’t have dished out the money to buy a smart phone? My mistake was I had automatically assumed that there was going to be internet access UP IN THE MOUNTAINS. Not my smartest moment. But with internet access being available in planes now, I guess it wasn’t too much of a leap to think it would be up in the mountains. It made me realize that I expect technology to be at my fingertips whenever I need it. Instead of me using the internet, this time, the internet used me. This weekend was supposed to be a getaway, and instead I’ve been trying to convince some of my friends to go to a restaurant and sit with me while I used their wifi. Not only did this remind me of Morville’s Chapter 1, when he discusses the uses of smart phones, when he says “I’m sitting on a beach in Newport, but I’m not entirely there. My attention is focused on a device that rests in the palm of my hand.” Which rings very true to me right now. I am sitting in an amazing cabin with my best friends, and I am stressing about the internet. Here’s my blog about a real experience that proves my addiction to the internet, and how you cannot escape it, even when you are trying your best to.
Twitter, Flickr and similar websites where you can upload on-the-go are great when you want to get the word out fast. In situations like the Indian Ocean Tsunami that Shirky talks about briefly, it was great. Right after the disaster happened, people were able to post photos and videos showing what was going on in the aftermath. It saved countless lives and helped people find out about loved ones without waiting the days it would take to get media coverage.
This is not really the norm, however. Sites like twitter are primarily social sites. There are more posts about everyday things than anything else. This isn’t really a problem. I certainly don’t care if other people want to spend their time updating their Facebook status or tweeting.
The problem is when tweeting or something similar becomes more important than actual people, conversations and events.
I went home over the weekend and my sister told me about a fight that broke out at her school on Friday. There were only students around at the time and just like in the movies everyone was circled around the two boys. There were countless people that could have easily interfered without hurting themselves or the two boys, but everyone was too busy videotaping it on their phones, tweeting about it or encouraging them to do anything about it. No one even told a teacher. When they finally broke up the fight, one boy was unconscious and according to several bystanders, he had been knocked out in the first punch. She found out later through a mutual friend of the boy who started it that he had picked the fight so his friend could tape it and put it on facebook and youtube.
This kind of thing happens all the time. Just a few days ago, I read an article about this very thing entitled “Kids Doing Stupid Things for Attention.” The author talks about the things people, primarily teenagers will do and put on the internet to get attention.
I do not know what we can do to keep that kind of thing from happening. I’m not proposing that we shut down the sites because that would be ridiculous. It is not the internet or the sites that are causing people to do these things, it’s us: their viewers. Every time we visit the sites and laugh about the videos with our friends, we are perpetuating the cycle. If these kids didn’t get the attention, they wouldn’t do it.
In chapter two of Shirky’s novel he discusses organizations and how the biggest hurdle for organizations to overcome is the complexity of humans. We all have different attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and values and when there is a group or organization that consistent of a large number of people it’s somewhat amazing that many organizations are able to be successful and achieve the goals and complete task that they are working towards. Shirky claims that groups with 20 members will struggle more than groups with 5 members with completing a task because more people in a group means more individual opinions and beliefs and those issues complicate matters.
After reading this chapter I couldn’t help but think about the United States government. We live in a democratic society meaning the people have a voice and our government is supposed to serve the people. The US government is extremely large; there are two senators from every state and there are 435 members in the House of Representatives. When a bill is being passed in the government it goes through many hurdles before the final decision is made on the bill; often times this process can take a very long amount of time, therefore change in our government is an extremely slow process. The main reason for this is, and I think Shirky would agree, is that there are hundreds and hundreds of different people with different beliefs that affect the outcome of decisions being made in the government.
One issue I think we are familiar with is our military involvement in the Middle East for the past decade. I think it’s safe to say that majority of American civilians agree that the government should pull our soldiers out of there, this is an issue that I have heard debated a lot, especially 3 or 4 years ago, but yet we still have soldiers over there. Now I’m really not trying to be political, when it comes to our military involvement in the Middle East I do not know enough information about what is going on over there to give an opinion that should be taken seriously, but I do think this issue serves as a good example to Shirky’s claim that organizations with a large number of members struggle to gets things accomplished. Many people argue and say that we should pull our soldiers out of the Middle East, but because our government is so large, any type of change or action takes a very long amount of time.
Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington does a good job of showing the tedious process of what a bill goes through to be passed; at times this process can be so tedious that it almost seems inefficient. What makes the process tedious is the complexity of people that is why it is much easier for smaller groups to make decisions than larger groups. The point I’m trying to make with this post is that I agree with Shirky that the larger the group or organization the harder it is for that group to get things accomplished and I think our democratic government is a great example of this. Change is slow for our government because of all the people involved.
So how does social networking play into all this? Well because of social networking it is much easier to form groups now. So does that mean that social networking will make groups more efficient at getting things accomplished? I do not think so, people will always have their individual opinions and beliefs and those affect the decisions we make, whether or not we make those decisions online or face to face.
Is more really better? That is something we have to ask ourselves in today’s world of excess or abundance. We seem to take pride is over indulgence that we can hardly remember what it was like to be without something for even a short period of time. In addition to asking whether we really think that more is better, we need to examine whether more is really feasible or possible.
AT&T recently announced that they would implement overage charges for what most people would consider unlimited data plans. To me this hardly seems right since our society is so focused on constant supply of information and always be available. We are almost trained to use everything that is available to us on a constant basis, but here comes along one of the biggest internet and cell phone providers in the country talking about overage charges. Last time I checked, unlimited didn’t have a cap on it. So much for unlimited. It is great in theory, but the corporations will look for any way to charge those who use “too much.” This begs the question, what is too much?? AT&T says that 150 gigabytes per month is too much. Maybe to someone who checks their e-mail periodically and perhaps visits Yahoo for their daily news. What about a student who is in need of a constant internet connection for uploading, downloading, collaborating of documents and files for school and projects? 150 gb’s goes by pretty quickly then. Just the other day I collaborated on a Google Docs file with two other people in order to jointly create a research brief for a class we are in. These types of scenarios are becoming more and more prevalent, and the usage amounts that we require will only continue to rise.
To be clear, AT&T isn’t the only company who is talking about these things. Issues like Net Neutrality are also of concern in a similar fashion, but other cell phone providers and internet providers are talking about overage charges on what should be unlimited plans. We as consumers should be concerned about these things because they will affect us more than we know. Probably not everyone will use that much information through an internet connection each month, and that is alright. But as technology progresses the number of people who require capabilities like this will only increase. Then who is to say that 150gb’s is too much?? Again though, we are taking AT&T at their word when they set a limit for us like that. We pay them, correct? Why do the consumers not get a say in where these limits should be set? We have allowed the corporations and businesses to control us by ignoring these types of things. So much for Brave New World, there is nothing brave about being mindlessly controlled by the United Corporations of America. Technology is where the new battlefield in people’s rights will be fought. It is high time we start acting like that is the reality that it actually is, and stop pretending that technology is only consumed in cast amounts by nerds and tech. junkies. Computers and the internet have many real world applications that will only further be limited by the corporations in charge of them if we the citizens do not protest and stand up when limitations are set on us.
If the government were to limit us in some way, shape, or form—we would protest. When the corporations do these things—we assume they know best and allow them to get away with these things. It’s called playing right into their hand.
People are convinced technology will destroy the future. Look anywhere and I’m sure you will find someone who feels this way and is more than willing to tell you why your use of technology is making you a worse person. They might even cite Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” as proof that we as a society are being destroyed bit by bit through the evils of technology.
I beg to differ.
It is the people’s apathy and lack of understanding for the technology that causes this breakdown in society. I am all in favor of Twitter constant stream of information. I am also able to intelligently choose who and what I want to follow and pick what I choose to read out of the entire stream of information that is available. The lack of choosing intelligently what we follow is the main problem. There is nothing inherently bad or evil about the constant stream of information that we have with a piece of technology like Twitter or Facebook. The information, the technology—it is neutral. Depending on how you use it, that’s what causes it to be labeled as good or evil.
People want to blame the technology because it is an easy target. A scapegoat. We feel like we need something to blame because we are unable and unwilling to face the fact that we are what cause the change between good and evil. Useful or wasteful. In “Brave New World” we are told that the sensory overload of information will cause us to be controlled. We won’t care what is important or not; what is happening in the world around us. We have to catch our game shows and reality TV. Check E! News for the upcoming story to which you just have to pay attention telling a great story that everyone should hear. We have allowed ourselves to be overcome with trash TV and useless information instead of editing what we see. The lack of self control that we have is not the fault of any technology. A computer only reacts to the commands that a human inputs, if a human inputs a command to Twitter to follow a specific profile then Twitter will do so. We do not have A.I. (and even if we did it would still be completely human created), computers do not have inherent intelligence—they only have what humans allow them to have. The Cylons do not exist, capable of creating their own ships and rebuilding themselves (again though, they were manmade).
User input is always the determining factor when computers are the subject. Coding, commands, clicks of the mouse—all things that humans control. With this fact in mind we can see that there is nothing inherent in a computer’s actions; whereas a human’s actions could be based off of a peer or parent’s previous actions or reactions, etc. Computers just do. People do based on their culture.
Part of the human culture seems to be the act of not admitting fault, one I’m sure many of us are guilty of in some form at some point in time, and looking to place the blame in another direction. When we can admit that we are at fault for our sensory overload, then we can begin to fix our mistakes.
We can all see that society has changed greatly in the last 20-30 years. Leaps and bounds have been made in the areas of technology, science, medicine, etc. These things are evident. But what is the effect of these changes? The study of media ecology is one of great interest to me because it examines how we change ourselves when new technology is implemented in our daily lives. Like Shirky says in Here Comes Everbody—“revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behaviors.” This is media ecology in action, people changing themselves in order to adapt to the new technologies that now surround them.
Let’s take a step back though so as to not get ahead of myself. Ecology is the study of environments. It is defined as, “the branch of biology dealing with the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment, including other organisms.” Ecology, also called human ecology, in most cases examines how humans interact with their environments and what effect they have. How do we affect the oceans, forests, jungles? Is our affect positive or negative? These things can change from environment to environment, but there is always the element of change. Adaptation. “Society adopts new behaviors” depending on where they are located in the world. Someone who is accustomed to living in the dessert would have to change their living habits in order to survive in the arctic. This seems obvious, but the parallels to this example are not always so cut and dry; therefore it is important to remember the key differences in an example with much harsher differences. In summation, this idea of ecology and studying how humans interact with their biological surroundings can easily be applied to technological environments with the rise of social media.
There are many types of environments that exist within social media though, and they can all have their own distinct ecology. Twitter and Facebook and Myspace are all prime examples of social media today. These are probably the most well known and most used examples, and they have many similarities. They allow interaction with other people, messages, status’s, information being sent and received. Although employing different methods they all strive to accomplish the same goal—to connect one person with many others. Here comes that key example to remember though. They all seem similar and all fall under the same broad title of social media, but they each have their own ecology. To further illustrate this point I present a simple task. Three examples of purposes for social media will be presented, and I want you to tell me which one you would place with any of the three social media sites in this example (Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace).
1. struggling musician is looking for a way to use social media to create hype for his band.
2. middle aged person is looking for a way to get in contact with a long lost high school friend.
3. business is looking for an edgy new way to use social media to keep customers informed about their great deals.
Ok so now tell me which scenario you would place with which social media site? (Spoilerz: If you said 1=Myspace, 2=Facebook, and 3=Twitter—then you are right!) Why is this though? From an outside perspective they are all social media sites. They all intend to connect one individual with many others. They all provide a stream of information. They all have followers, connections, and friends. They all use the color blue in their color scheme (blue is a cool calming color which invites you in and makes you feel welcome). And on and on and on and so forth. With so many similarities how can they be so different? The ecology of each social site is completely different. Although they use many of the same methods, they intent with which people use them is completely different and the way that they disseminate information varies greatly. What was it that Shirky said?, “revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behaviors.” Each site comes with a different set of behaviors and etiquette than the other.
These types of things may not always be apparent or obvious at all, especially to someone who is unfamiliar with all social media in general. Knowing the difference and being able to understand how and why things differ is powerful information, and can be the difference between finding your audience and completely missing them.
Know your media’s ecology. Get results.
Before spring break, we discussed Peter Morville’s book, “Ambient Findability,” in class and had a few readings from it. This book was very insightful and really got me thinking about how much things have changed over the past few years. One of the things that really pulled me in was the history of the Internet. It is so crazy to think about how much the Internet has changed from when it first came about. I realize that I have been alive to experience the many changes that the Internet has undergone and I think that it is so cool to reflect on the experiences that I have had with it. Today, kids expect to be able to click on their Internet browser and immediately be taken to wherever they want to go. We have no patience anymore and if that browser does not open and connect immediately, we become frustrated and annoyed.
It is funny to think that when I was in elementary school, we did not really use computers. Since then, I have interned in several elementary schools and find it almost humorous to see that some schools have an ample supply of Mac Book computers for every student. On these computers, students follow along with the teacher on the over head projection screen as he or she leads them to search and browse the Internet for various things. During one class, fourth grade students were directed to a site about the Holocaust and each had to select a person who was sent away to a concentration camp. The names were hyperlinked so as soon as they chose, they clicked the link and were taken the next page where they learned all about the person and continued to click from link to link to learn about what happened to them and their family. It was so amazing to me to see such young students using the Internet to enhance learning and although at first it seemed silly to me, the computers were an excellent tool for the exercise and really had a huge affect on them.
When I was in elementary school, we would get to go to the computer lab once every two weeks and usually spent our time completing simple computer games that were designed to enhance a lesson. Often times when we were done we were allowed to play The Oregon Trail, a computer game that everyone my age seems to remember playing when they were young. I do not know if Oregon Trail is still available as a computer game, but it was very basic and simple, yet something entirely new and exciting to us. In middle school we started to use computers for a lot more such as typing papers and doing research, but the real phenomenon for people by age was AIM- AOL Instant Messenger. AIM was slow and basic and took a while to connect but it was a way for my peers and I to keep in tough with one another.
It is seriously amazing to me how much the Internet has progressed, and Morville really made me think about that. The Internet did not just magically appear one day and change everything. It slowly but surely has progressed to where it is now and has indeed changed the way that we live. It is so strange to think that at one point, the Internet was a club that only certain people, people who were interested enough, used. I have a feeling that if I would have been at the age that I am now around the time that the Internet made it’s debut, I would not have been interested, just as many people were not. It took a while for people to catch on and get used to such a new and unusual idea but it has definitely caught on now.