Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Allure of Memex vs. The Tethered Self

Dodge & Kitchin's "Ethics of Forgetting" piece, which describes Vannevar Bush's 1945 work "Memex," correlated well with Sherry Turkle's "The Tethered Self."

The Memex is "a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged initimate supplement to his memory" (p. 7).

I felt as though Dodge and Kitchin held a favorable opinion toward the Memex, and cite several real-life benefits of the fictional device: enhance workplace productivity and enjoyment of everyday life, enhance memory recall for the elderly or the ill, and allow people to monitor their health conditions and many other aspects of their lives.

I wonder, though--and I'm thinking from Turkle's point of view here--if a complete digest of every minute detail that a person has ever done, available for recall at any moment, would truly benefit the quality of their life. Turkle does point out that younger people, namely teenagers, find a sense of comfort and belonging with living a tethered life. Adults, on the other hand, feel increasingly stressed and dismayed at being constantly tethered to work and media devices.

I think that a great distinguishing factor in Turkle's finding is that adults are saddled with many additional responsibilities which are increasingly being encroached upon by media. These responsibilities are usually distinct to adults: parenthood, work, debt and money management, etc.

In my opinion, I feel that the Memex would greatly exacerbate employee stress, and would decrease workplace productivity, not increase it, as Dodge and Kitchin assert. After all, you don't need direct playback of a fun family event or meaningful life stage to remember that you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Google Cultural Institute

FYI: I just came across this tonight.

I find it fascinating how culture is now being saved and stored online. It has moved from the typical oral and behavioral form to writing that is stored and communicated digitally. What's next?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Social Media and the Problem with "Authenticity"

I found the responses from boyd & Marwick's study of Twitter absolutely hilarious.

  • "when I tweet, I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately. Pure expression of my heart." (7) Wow, it only took this person 65 characters to make me barf!

Seriously, though, I don't think that there is very much content on Twitter that consists of more than #whyiloveselenagomez and other fodder for E! TV's "The Soup." Authenticity? I am doubtful.

It reminded me of an incident I had the other day regarding a young man--who, for the sake of his reputation and my outpouring of mercy shall remain anonymous--who had posted a photo that I recognized as a photo from the popular site Passive Aggressive Notes. The thing is, he posted this photo (and then proceeded to respond to comments from his friends) as though he himself had taken it. I, acting as the distributor of online vigilante justice, posted the link to the original photo on the blog and nothing more on his post.

Not surprisingly, he removed my link the next day. But not before I took a screenshot of the whole incident. Again, showing mercy, I refrained from posting it to FAILblog.

But it goes to show the very feeble attempt at "authenticity" that social media offers. I mean, how truly open and honest can one be in 140 characters (even if they're not stealing a photo from a joke blog)?

Alternative Uses for Technology (Just for Fun)

My German teacher sent this to the class and I couldn't resist sharing. Even though it's in German you don't need to understand the language to appreciate it...

A sad surprise.

This week's reading on 'overconnectivity and surprises' fit in well with another conversation I was having for my international marketing class. Last week I was interviewing a past-citizen of India and she was speaking of the role the internet and the connectivity it brought with it in India -- especially the rural villages and towns.

Historically India has not been a very connected society. Each state, town and village virtually has their own language/dialect, traditions and practices. Though the overall culture is ultimately the same, it was likely that if you move from one village to another you would be unable to communicate with its inhabitants -- knowing only the language of yours.

My interviewee explained that the internet has brought some of these villages the ability to connect -- maybe not so much to one another, but to the westernized world. The young particularly seek out the brands and trends of the westernized world and connect based on those. I wonder how long it will take for the unique languages and traditions of India to be lost to the connectiveness of the internet.

If I read the article correctly, I think the use of the internet in India is causing a positive feedback loop, and forcing a grossly underconnected society to become overconnected (please correct me if I am wrong). I wonder how the culture in India will look in another 50 years with a new generation in command and possibly even more ways to stay connected.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Get reborn by social media (inspired by a TED talk)

The article about Twitter and imagined audience really interests me with some of its research findings, especially the one that points out that people who have few followers on Twitter would treat their posting updates as a live dairy of their lives. This is an amazing thought!! Day by day, we never really look back to see what a trace of lives we have left on all these social media sites. If one day we connect all the dots together, we would be able to see what we have been through or who we have been, at least who we have been "trying" to be. We not only imagine our audience, we imagine ourselves too - as educators, as trend explorers, as social queens.....

I also found this TED talk that discusses how our online social networking behaviors are creating and reflecting our personalities and lives. The idea that we can be "re-created" after death somehow through all our past social media experiences is really interesting. Check it out!

Depth vs. Breadth

My sophomores are currently reading Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher.  The novel addresses many issues that have value to teens - racism, the idea of "fitting in," bullying, ways to communicate with authority figures... and connections and understanding.

My students have not finished the book yet, but today we discussed some if the sections that first hint at the significance of the title.  In a conversation the narrator, T.J., has with his dad, readers learn that whale songs can be communicated for thousands of miles in the ocean.  The author hints at whales being able to share all of their experiences with all other whales - so all whales understand the joy, sadness, angst, love, depression, etc. that other whales are singing about.  The author contrasts this with a group of outcasts - teenage boys who for various reasons do not fit in at their high school (one is the only minority, another is obese, another a "nerd," another brain damaged, etc.).

In today's conversation, we talked about what kinds of things we share with other people and in what contexts.  We talked about social media and what teens share online - this really made me think about Miller's "New Media, Networking and Phatic Culture."  Students argued that their status updates, tweets, etc. could travel just as far as the whales' songs.  However, students also admitted that stories with real emotional power (like the stories that some of the characters in the book shared with each other), most people would only share with two or three close friends.

In the upcoming chapters of Whale Talk, the author has the narrator exploring the idea of how whales communicate even further.  The narrator asserts that because whales' voices travel so far and all of their experiences are heard by all other whales, that "whale talk" really means truth and connections - real experiences.  Readers are left wondering what the world would be like if people communicated more like whales.  Would there be less judgement if we knew the pregnant teen's background?  Would the special education student get bullied less if people knew how much he hurt?  Would someone have a kind word for the student sitting alone in the cafeteria if they knew his mom was an alcoholic?

However, social media are not going in the direction of "whale talk."  They seem more quantity oriented than content oriented... and I appreciate the point that people do use social media as a way to simply feel connected to something - to assert their presence.  I'm wondering what my students will say about their views on social media and the themes of the book as we continue discussing.

Commenting and the new Phatic Communication

The links I'm writing about below really relate more to our last class, but I think we can think of them in therms of the new phatic communication.  Newly, we think of this "phatic communication" of light, social only communication.  Recently, there was a move at to begin to "curate" comments among select users rather than allowing anyone and everyone to communicate.

You can check it out in this article where Nick Denton of and fame takes in a recent SXSWi panel about commenting in the new age:

“The most interesting comments, they don’t come from people with Klout scores. They don’t come from people with a history on our sites,” Denton said.
The ultimate goal of the new system, Denton said, would be to attract people like American Apparel’s Dov Charney or NBC’s Brian Williams — who are at the center of news on Gawker sites — to chime in themselves." (click here for source)

For more on the story, check out's article here.

What do you think?  Should comments be curated to make the message "smarter" or should they be allowed for anonymous, free posting for social purpose?


I really felt for the overconnected article, because I believe that we are overconnected. It seems that as technology advances, we become more reliant on our computers. I remember when technology did fail at my retail store once I was lost having to check customers out the "old fashioned" way. If we as a society are functioning in a way, where we rely heavily on technology that has potential to make us unstable ourselves. The video below is of a college student admitting that he is overconnected, but arguing that despite being overconnected he feels as though he has to. He believes that he misses out on something if he is not constantly connected, thus rendering him feeling uncomfortable/unstable without information. 

I believe relationships also have become more unstable because of being overconnected. We are constantly talking to others and becoming unhappy in our own relationships. Below is an example of how relationships can struggle because of being overconnected. Jealousy develops, and it becomes difficult to believe your partner. Partners may also pay more attention to being connected rather than working on their relationships.

I believe that being overconnected can leave a society unstable in more than just economic ways. It extends to our personal relationships and our ability to do things outside of the technology/internet. Though we can be unstable, I believe that technology does make it easier for us to stay connected to others and manage our expenses, but at what costs?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The perils of overconnectedness

In chapter two of William Davidow's book, Overconneted, he discusses both positive and negative feedback in a society. Specifically, he talks about how positive feedback in an overconnected society can amplify the over connectivity, causing it to continue to compound. Thus, inevitably, the physical society will struggle to keep up with the over connection and collapse. On a smaller scale, we can see in our everyday life. Whether good or bad, the over connectedness seems to be compounding.

This broadcast news story discusses results from a recent study on the over connectedness of teenagers and young adults and what all of it will look like in 2020:

Are We Over Connected?

It's quite interesting to think about how all of this will look in 10 years. Researchers seem to think there are both positives and negatives. One of the negatives that sticks out strongly to me is that they note, "quick choices with very little information." I think that, as all of the overconnectivity compounds, this will be more and more the case.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Phatic Culture and Youth

I was intrigued by Miller's article about new media and "phatic culture," in particular when considering how youth communicate with each other in modern society. Especially Miller's caution that phatic communication is more than just saying a lot without meaning anything at all: "One should not assume that these phatic communications are 'meaningless,' in fact, in many ways they are very meaningful, and imply the recognition, intimacy and sociability in which a strong sense of community is founded. Phatic messages potentially carry a lot more weight to them than the content itself suggests. [...] The overall result is that in phatic media culture, content is not king, but 'keeping in touch' is" (p. 539).

For those of you who have children, younger siblings or relatives, you may agree with me when I say that I often feel perplexed by what I see youth posting on Facebook and Twitter. I am a mentor to an eleven year-old girl (I don't have any children and no younger relatives so this relationship sums up my contact with the current tween society) and 91% of what she posts on her Facebook wall reads to me like meaningless crap. After reading Miller's article however, (especially the quote mentioned above), a light bulb went off in my head.  I have been toying with the idea lately of bringing up the nature (or lack thereof) of what she posts on her Facebook wall (not to accuse her but rather to try to make sense of it all), but good ol' Malinowski and Miller reminded me that there could be more meaning attached to the random utterances she posts than I can see. In her eleven-year old world where Facebook appears to be a primary method of asserting oneself among one's peers, just posting something, anything at all, seems to be a way of saying "yes, I'm still here" and responding (whether by emoticon or "like" or any other manner of response) seems to be a way of saying "I am also still here and we are friends." Below is an example of one of her recent posts:
(Censored to protect the innocent!) Regardless, I wonder if networked society has encouraged phatic language to become more commonplace or are we just more aware of it now because it seems to dominate the realms of social network communication?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I just had an old acquaintance (who I actually knew in real life before we became Facebook friends - ha!) post this interesting tirade of disenchantment with the values that Facebook perpetuates: (WARNING, SALTY LANGUAGE AHEAD!)

I have had many friends attempt to "leave" Facebook before only to be successful and ultimately come crawling back in their shame for the desire to stay "connected." Going back to subject of phatic culture, what about those who promote a backlash against it (such as my acquaintance above who could have gotten out what he wanted to say with much less verbiage). Will phatic culture win out, and less words and less meaningful social exchanges and relationships become more, or will there be growing discontent with phatic exchanges? 

March 26, 2012: As an update to my previous post, the Facebook acquaintance mentioned above finally decided to post this (less than a week after he wrote the rant about abandoning Facebook for good) "After further consideration I am going to just turn my facebook account onto "low". I'll be here, but I won't be present very often, if you need to get in touch with me, please email me, skype me, or call me. thx-RWR"

On thing this whole situation has caused me to ponder is, what will be the "next big thing" when Facebook fades away? In the U.S., so many people's lives are so heavily invested in Facebook that I wonder what could come next that would surpass and overtake Facebook?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homeless Wi-Fi Transmitters

Random post

A marketing agency touched off a wave of criticism and debate when it hired members of the local homeless population to walk around carrying mobile Wi-Fi devices, offering conferencegoers Internet access in exchange for donations.

What do you think? Is this wrong or an opportunity for the homeless?

Put Down Your Phone

This post is not about this week's readings. It is about a personal experience that relates to some of our discussions in class.

I was in Kansas City for the Radiohead concert on Sunday night with my husband and a friend. Our friend kept taking photos and video on her phone throughout the whole concert. It was very distracting.

Towards the end of the concert, she leaned over and asked why they hadn't played Separator yet. I told her they already played that song. She was so busy documenting the concert, she wasn't really experiencing it. She actually missed her favorite song.

We talked later about how the documentation is rarely ever as good as the real thing. It is tough to convey a dynamic experience like a concert through photos or even crappy video.

That being said, here's one of her photos.

A down side to filtering?

After I was a few pages into The Daily Me I began to develop questions and concerns that never arose before (well… to me at least). Being raised in the generation I am, I have been constantly surrounded by technology, as well as the increasing dependence on it. I can’t really think of how technology could negatively affect a society… I mean it makes us get things done faster, often times simplifies, and allows us to communicate with people all over the world instantaneously. It’s now that I wonder how the filtering of content could lead to stagnant views in a democratic society. Like mentioned in the article, conservatives will view conservative communications and neo-nazis will view neo-nazi communication. Could this actually lead to a greater society problem of increased racism and a larger divide?

I also have thought a lot about how this positions a democratic society in comparison to societies where the government already filters the content for the population. Will the democratic society become more vulnerable because it is separated in ideals, views, and knowledge? While there is an increase of “town hall” type websites and experiences… the filtering of content leads to such a “me-centric” attitude, it almost asks the question, why would people look at something they were not interested in?

Monday, March 12, 2012

KONY 2012, the Shifting Power of Media

In the article of the Revenge of Publicity, Barney and Darin explained how the road of justice is paved with more and better information and communication and how the technologies such as web 2.0 applications enables new forms of user-generated, multimedia content and social networking utilities. Truly, these platforms allow us to get multi-access to information, and generate millions of petition and vote. I think the most moving campaign which draws the support from Web 2.0 application is the campaign KONY 2012.

Have you ever heard of Knoy? if not, that means you are not addicted to social media enough.  

The video is about 28 mins, but worth watching. 

The video spreads across social media all over the nation and has been put the subtitle in many different languages. Now, over 75,000,000 views on youtube shows how powerful social media can be.

Also, this is a interesting social movement that involves activities with audience without traditional media. Traditional media is always used as the gatekeeper and decide what informations can be made onto the news, but have limited power to act independently. However, Kony 2012 is a great example of how this power is shifting. 

A 29 min video shows about Knoy's story: "a rapist, a kidnapper, and an amok". However, the justice hasn't been done because he is "invisible". Thus, the purpose of this Kony 2012 campaign is to make him famous. It is a renewed sense of hope and possibility of moving the agenda of power around. This movement has somehow impacted the hierarchy and privilege of mass media. Now the social media allows independent groups to gather people around talking about the issues, and then forced traditional media to pick up the story. This substantial leap has called for democratization of information access and provided a platform for people to speak out--on Facebook, twitter, or what ever people can spread the information. 

A video of KNOY 2012 campaign reported by ABC news

Updated March 13:

Another voice could be also found on internet: the campaign of Kony 2012 is wrong and misguiding. There is also a facebook page called "Defense Kony 2012". The freedom of Web 2.0 allows everyone to speak out, but can we speak out wisely and unbiased? Can social media confirm the reality of the news before it message was widely spread? These are still big questions left for us to think before throw the trust to "invisible" public.

But one thing I could see from the different opinions about Kony 2012: because the democracy of sharing information, we are able to publish, forward, share, and doubt, which is the most important thing.

The Digital Divide

The international digital divide is large and growing everyday. Yes, some third world countries are catching up but there are others that just can't. And at the rate technology is expanding in these developed countries: U.S.A., Japan, China and other European countries, it becomes increasingly harder for these lagging nations to catch up. But even within these developed countries, there are many who do not have the resources to communicate. And for the life of me, I can't imagine what it would be like when technology has advanced to the level when areas in these developing countries cannot catch up, let alone communicate with the rest of the world. Do they then become obsolete, because they cannot participate in the conversation/communication? Because rest of the connected world cannot communicate with them, therefore they do not exist? Or will history repeat itself and these backward groups be able to catch up? Though, I fear that technology is advancing at too fast a pace this time. Some organizations are making moves to bridge this gap. But is it enough? Are they reaching out to everybody? I have my doubts and my fears.

Here are some videos I found on the Digital Divide:

I apologize there seems to be something wrong with the volume in the middle of this video. But I could not find another with the same information.

Government filtering or self filtering

As I read “The Daily Me,” I was thinking a lot about the internet filtering in China. It’s not a secret that the government of China has a longstanding set of policies restricting citizens’ exposure to information. I remember I have learnt that media has the responsibility to tell the truth, but the Chinese government always attempted to prevent the spread of unwanted contents which disappointed Chinese people for a long time. I think it’s acceptable to block some organizations’ websites which intentionally spread malicious information to citizens, but people should have rights to use social networks, video sharing services and blogs.
It’s amazing to know that more than 2600 websites are blocked in China under the censorship. ('s_Republic_of_China ) I have no idea why they block those social networks and even the Google Documents. I really have good online learning experiences with Facebook groups, blogs and Google documents, but these could never be used when I back to China.

This quote from The Daily Me, “filtering is inevitable, a fact of life. It is as old as humanity itself. No one can see, hear, or read everything. With respect to the world of communications, moreover, a free society gives people a great deal of power to filter out unwanted materials. Only tyrannies force people to read or to watch.” As we know, technologies today give us the ability to filter what we want to read, see and hear. Do you think strict government filtering is necessary for today’s society? What do you think about the balance between government filtering and self filtering?

At the end, I want to share an interesting story about a Chinese famous video-sharing website, Youku. We can’t watch some of the videos on Youku in the Unites States. It just like we can’t watch videos on YouTube in China. Ironically, we can see the slogan of Youku is “The World is Watching,” but when we open an video here it said, “Sorry, this video can only be streamed within Mainland China.”

My personal assistant.

As I read this weeks reading I couldn't help but think of my Iphone 4s

The reason that I thought of my phone, was because with the technology I am able to limit so much as far as what information that I see. Smart phones allow people to download apps based upon their interest. For me I have games, wallpapers, and of course social media as main apps on my phone. I don't have certain apps like the example of not having baseball or the news. I only select apps I want based on my interest. I think smart phones have further extended our ability to choose what we want and allows us to do this right at the edge of our fingertips.

Do you think customizing and limiting information is a negative thing? Or do you think that this allows us to get more in tune with the things we actually enjoy?

Social Media Filters

Filtering networked media is becoming more common. Social media is often critizied for being noisy, so filters have been developed to avoid the clutter of information to make networked media more personal. Like “The Daily Me” stated, the power of a free society gives people the power to filter out unwanted material.
Facebook actually builds their network in a way that increases noise (news feed). To solve this problem, go here, then create a list, and add names to the list.
Twitter lists are a wonderful way to segment your Twitter network. Create your lists, Then the next level is to start a Hootsuite or Tweetdeck account and search for keywords within those lists.
Google caught on that users want to filter, so they built it into their site. Simply utilize the circles function in a similar fashion as you would Twitter lists or Facebook lists. 

Pew Internet Study: Social Networking Sites and Politics

Thought some of you may find this interesting:

Networked Media: Democracy in Action or the Blind Leading the Blind?

It was Sustein's writings this week that really caught my attention. In particular, the idea of "the Daily Me" seemed to speak most to the touchpoints we all have with networked media on a daily basis. Sustein's "Four Big Problems" corresponds well to "the Daily Me," as I will elaborate on here briefly.

While reading through these texts, I thought of a few salient examples from my own interaction with "the Daily Me" recently.

- First of all, I think we have all seen the "KONY2012" video circulating around the internet, growing in popularity at explosive rates. I have not watched the video, but I have been impressed by its effect on people I know, and more importantly, of course, on my Facebook and Pinterest pages. I think that, in a sense, the example of the KONY2012 video illustrates what Sustein was saying with the notion that "a well-functioning system of free expression must [expose people] to materials that they would not have chosen in advance" (p. 8, "The Daily Me"). Think of it this way: Without networked media, what are the chances that KONY2012 would have been viewed by so many people?

As a side note, I wonder how affective pure exposure is in the sense of mobilizing democratic action. Again, I think KONY2012 is a good example; we will see how long its lifespan on social media lasts, and if any government intervention at all will occur because of its popularity.

- Secondly, I offer the recent example of the fervor over the birth control mandate. After a few days of seeing it on the news and--more frustratingly for me--my social networks, I found myself increasingly polarized on the issue, something that I had not previously sought out discussion on. I began to filter the messages I received from the media so that I would not need to hear the differing opinions unless, of course, I felt like being angry that day. I feel like this not only exemplifies what Sustein was saying about the increasingly common nature of people to filter out only the messages they want to hear and agree with, but also Sustein's notion of the "Four Big Problems."

Because I chose for a time to only attend to news items on the mandate that aligned with my particular opinions on the issue, I feel that I encountered those Four Big Problems. Certainly, when people filter their life so as to only encounter messages that agree with their beliefs, amplification is an issue: polarization ensues, and we encounter egocentric bias. Hidden profiles are also extremely salient here, as people tend not to want to disclose information they have that might go against the group, especially on such a heated topic. Cascades and groupthink are also at play in the formation of the Daily Me, because who--for example--would go against such a reputable source as Fox News?!

After reading and reflecting on Sustein's writings, I believe that the internet often exacerbates these problems rather than resolves them, as I encountered with the mandate example. Although the internet could provide a multitude of varying information and opinions on the topic, I tended to pay more attention to results that conformed to my own particular beliefs.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Game Change

As I read the Barney article, I kept thinking about the new movie about Sarah Palin called, Game Changer:

"Whether it is post-Habermasians attempting to flesh out the exacting demands of discourse ethics and the sort of public spheres necessary to support deliberative practices, critical media scholars painstakingly documenting the pathologies of capitalist, patriarchal, and racialized political economies that condemn media systems to democratic failure, or the countless political actors who struggle daily to materialize something resembling fairness, diversity and integrity in the media environment, on thing is clear:  the road to democratic justice is paved with more and better information and communication" (p. 91).

 So I'm posting videos of the trailer and a Chelsea Handler interview with Julianne Moore (the actor who played Palin).  I really only want you to watch from 1:33 to 2:40 on the Julianne Moore and Chelsea Handler video.

Basically this movie, Game Changer, brings to light the problem with "movie star" politicians.  Is our political system truly paving the road to democratic justice with "better information and communication" when elections tend to favor candidates with the most charisma, stage presence, and good looks?  Especially in the 2008 election when the media catered to the theme of diversity. Is information really valuable when we risk electing uninformed individuals to represent and manage the future of our country?

This quote from the Barney article also reminded me of a YouTube video my dad sent me with his constant warnings of the demise of the world thanks to upcoming generations who "don't know anything."

"To imagine that the potential of the computer age for democracy lies in the accessibility of information to individual citizens and voters who will be moved by the millions to petition and to vote more wisely than ever before is to imagine what will not be -- and it is to exercise a very narrow democratic imagination in the first place" (p. 92 - 93).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

...the real message lay not in the behavior bit in the collective action.

"...the real message lay not in the behavior but in the collective action." (Faster and Faster, p 167)

This partial sentence really got me to thinking about the power of group action over individual action. I thought to myself first about how this is human instinct. Just remember when you would try as a child to plea your case to your parents about needing a piece of candy saying "but my sisters want one too...I'm not the only one.". Then my mind went to how the newest devices allow us to create a "group" so efficiently these days. The article had many great examples of how groups are used for political or protest reasons. I was trying to think of another way in which we are using collective action to make change...

The only thing that comes to mind is the creation of what id call "reaction groups" on social networks -- like Facebook. we see a lot of groups pop up after disasters (i.e. shootings, tornadoes, etc) pleasing for donations and support, or local tragedies (i.e. children with cancer, families with out-of-work parents, etc.). It seems that the "virtual collection" of these people is what makes the biggest impact (awareness, perhaps?), versus the actual purpose of the group to provide aide. Maybe I'm stretching this a bit, but doesn't it seem that when you run across a "reaction group" on Facebook you give it the proper thought and consideration regardless of whether or not you choose to larticipate in their cause?

I was trying to think of an example that fits well with the passage above regarding the collection of like-minded people as the threat, not the group's action itself. Like I said, this might be a stretch in that regard.

What do you think? And can you think of any other/better examples of collectives that garner action?

Stand at Attention.

I really liked this piece, personally. Bias implied.

I have been contemplating this idea of "attention" recently (before the article), and have been trying to apply it to some of my social activities.

As a reference point, this old song crept into my mind:

This one is a bit more problematic for me. Particularly the song in juxtaposition to the choice of scenes. But, that's the point:

"...skillfull management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience, from mood to productivity to relationships."

One area in which I've been focusing attention is on my leisure time. I enjoyed the personal section on the details of her year with cancer in that I found it highly approachable with regards to savoring the everyday. Appreciating a walk or a movie or a comment like "Have a Nice Day."

I've trying to savor some "down" time. Specifically... (wait for it) bowling! So, I hit the lanes every Friday. Order a pitcher of spirits and bowl and chat with my friend.

As an exercise, I've been focusing on all the component parts (technique) of bowling so as to learn hook or curve bowling, just for fun. Here it is in slow motion, both a 4 and 5 step approach.

Anyway, nothing special or dangerously erudite, just a personal reflection on attention. Bowling has actually helped me set good boundaries with time away from responsibilities and giving "attention" to tecnhique has been good practice.

Responsible Journalism

A friend shared this link with me and I thought it was relevant to many discussions we have (aside from being pretty awesome).

This group is setting out to reinstate long-form journalism, and I think it's fantastic. They make some really valid points about news today... rapid-fire bits of info that pepper our sense, reaching us through a haze of advertisements that are trying to compete with the news. (There's some irony there, I think... advertisers might like to think they are piggy-backing off of a news site's reach and simply giving people access to information they might want, but really they are also doing everything they can to distract from the main news. And news sources eat it up for the revenue - almost all sites have ads above content.)

I am a dinosaur like Megan... I champion long-form literature and journalism, and you don't want to get me started on my thoughts about reading online:) I'm actually interested in doing doctoral research in this area and I'd love to start a nonprofit someday or work with an organization already working to change ever-decreasing interest in long-form reading, especially in youth. Relating to our articles, I think dedicating this time is becoming increasingly difficult. "Choosing the Focused Life" talked about essentially working out our brains to be able to focus better, which is great, but I think that will only get more difficult as the media environment continues to develop. In Nick Carr's "The Shallows", one prominent graduate from Florida said something to the affect of this: "Why would I ever read a book again when I can just Google it?"

Is long-form reading a lost cause? I see benefits, and research has proved them, but is there any chance of making people (especially youth) see that? And is it something developing cultures should think about as the skip the print era and go straight to digital? How will their individual development differ?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Random thoughts from a late night, short attention span

Our generation can’t pay attention.

 “Those who are growing up in "today’s networked world and counting on the Internet as their external brain will be nimble analysts and decision-makers who will do well," some experts told Pew [researchers]. But others "expect that constantly connected teens and young adults will thirst for instant gratification and often make quick, shallow choices."

Richard Lanham’s “Stuff and Fluff” mirrors this sentiment. With the advent of the Internet and Web 2.0, he describes the seemingly perpetual challenge facing current advertisers, marketers, bloggers and social media enthusiasts alike—which is, how do you break through the clutter and get noticed? Information, after all, “doesn’t seem in short supply. Precisely the opposite. We’re drowning in it. There is too much information to make sense of it all”  (p. 6).

This then, I think, raises the question as to whether we can ever really have too much information. Sure, democracy is nice, but are we better off unplugged and in the dark at some point? I, personally, have struggled to write this blog among the competing forces of Facebook and Bethenny Ever After that are calling my name. 

Also interesting to me, though, was Lanham’s early questions about the validity of the information sources today. Gone is the era of beloved “antiques”—as “the hunger for stuff is paralleled by a hunger for style” (p. 3).

A likely culprit here: The iPad. (Damien gasps). Society’s one-stop-shop for all things life, news, social media, and Words With Friends related these days—what else do we need? Devices like this have increased, distracted and diversified our consumption of information. Sure, we might still access the New York Times online--but the stories compete with random, intrusive and irrelevant commentary at the bottom of the page. Music info might originate from NPR, but we only see it from a biased RT on Twitter. Many of us often find the screens littered with live updates from the 2 seconds we set the device down. Info. is. everywhere.  

Ending personal thought: I was recently made fun of for buying a tangible CD instead of purchasing the digital copy of the album on iTunes/Spotify. Now, I like the "collectible" nature of the shiny, durable CD case (WITH the lyrics and fold out poster included, of course). In a world where we are all so addictively IV-ed to technology and electronics, am I (and, likely Lanham) the only dinosaur that still does this? Same with books--do the words not seem more real when you're thumbing the actual paper pages?  

…Looks around the silent room awkwardly. Ok time for this loner to go!

A little experiment

With all this talk about networked media in the past few weeks in this class and my marketing class, I decided to do a bit of a personal experiment. After grocery shopping at Hy-vee, I noticed while bringing in my groceries that my milk had leaked all over my trunk. Upon go inside and checking my receipt, I also noticed that the cashier had also charged me for the wrong kind of grapes (not the sale one that I bought), meaning my grapes cost me a whopping $7.

After discovering this, I tweeted a relatively harmless post showing my disappointment:

"Just went to @hyvee. They charged me for green grapes instead of red and the top of my milk fell off in my trunk. #fail :("

Within six minutes, I had this response for Hyvee's twitter account:

"Could you please tell me which location this happened? Thank you!"

I tweeted back the location and a couple days later received this tweet:

"I have spoken with the store director. Please email us for details. Thank you!"

After emailing them, I received an email from the store director apologizing for my negative experience and offering a refund of my grapes and reimbursement to have my trunk cleaned!

What would our world look like if every company were connected to its consumers in this way? Would we be more satisfied shoppers, or would we simply continue to expect more and more from those we do business with? As our world becomes more and more networked and instantaneous, will small businesses that do not have the capacity to keep up with this ever-changing technology be left behind?

Focus Matters.

“You cannot always be happy, but you can almost always be focused, which is the next best thing.” 
                                                                                                                          -- Gallagher, Winifired

The article “choosing the focused life” reminds me of the topic I had last semester in Interpersonal Communication class. Talking about divorced family and its influence, there are significant differences among different people when they deal with divorce-related issue. This article makes me think that for those people with negative attitude towards divorce and feel depressed about it, changing their focus might be a good way.

In China, majority of people feel shamed about telling people their family divorce. People in the divorced family sometimes will be judged unfairly, which negatively affect the children’s life.  I think in western countries, such kind of issue also exists. After reading this article, I am thinking, although divorce sometimes is not the perfect solution of the marriage or family, society at least do not have to focus on judging those people too much. Once people do not focus on such disappointing issue so much, the influence it caused will be reduced correspondingly.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Gil Scott-Heron was a member of the Black Panther movement in the 1970s.  He was a soul and jazz poet that focused on spoken word.  This is probably one of his most famous works where his call to action is to act now and stand up to the prejudice and racism in society.

I have seen several other takes on his words, about the revolution will not be televised, but tweeted, updated and checked-in. Eluding to the social media tools of today to start a revolution.  I think Scott-Heron was spot on, about the revolution not be televised, but how we see revolution today is much different than Scott-Heron would have ever dreamed.  He passed away last summer and I wonder what his thoughts were to the rise of Twitter and Facebook in revolutions like the Arabic Spring.

Be Still and Pay Attention!

"Attention's selective nature confers tremendous benefits, chief of which is enabling you to comprehend what would otherwise be chaos. You couldn't take in the totality of your own experience, even for a moment, much less the whole world. Whether it's noise on the street, ideas at the office, or feelings in a relationship, you're potentially bombarded with stimuli vying for your attention. New electronic information and communications technology continually add to the overload. By helping you to focus on some things and filter out others, attention distills the universe into your universe." This passage from the Gallagher reading is starred and underlined in my copy. This article came at just the right time for me. I've been reading and meditating on this concept ever since our discussion last week regarding the "space of flows." Someone I know well, believes silence is not only golden, but imperative. I read this passage in his blog last week. "Constant sound has a way of slowly draining the body, mind, and spirit of some of its most salient elements. As it pertains to sound, when we head down the slope of 'more is better,' I fear we often neglect to ask where we’re headed. The soul of humanity was not wired for constant frenzy or stimulation. When we ignore this inherent wiring, we become wounded in some of our deepest and most significant places. The thing is – we don’t often realize the damage until later, and then it is often difficult to subdue. It is similar to someone who gets “so busy” doing something, that hours later they realized they’ve skipped meal(s), and they are starving. I am confident we recognize the sensation of physical hunger – I’m not nearly as confident we recognize our spirit’s cries for nourishment." (used by permission) 

Gallagher goes on to talk about two ways of focusing: bottom-up attention and top-down attention. She quotes a David Brown Op-ed piece from 2008 to describe Tiger Woods' ability to focus. I've attached a link to the entire piece here: Clearly, things have changed for Tiger and I suggest those have changed his focus. However, the point remains.

My question to you and myself is how do we tune out the noise? I have a friend that has given up NPR for lent. Unusual right? I mean, NPR? Really? Her explanation, "I am hoping the extra quiet will lead to greater introspection and reflection on spiritual matters." When I asked if NPR was the loudest thing in her life, she said, "Not the loudest, the noisiest." Maybe that's the answer. Maybe we ask ourselves, "what is the noisiest thing in my life and do I have the courage to give it up?" 

Quick Decisions

I read Shirky’s “Faster and Faster” right before boarding my flight from Minneapolis back to Omaha this weekend.  I showed the gate agent my ticket while still thinking about the passengers from Northwest Airline’s flight 1829 and “Three hours passed, then four.  The lavatories began to smell, then clog, then leak.”

After boarding my packed flight, the flight attendants closed the doors and our captain welcomed us aboard… an announcement followed shortly by disappointing news that our fuel latch was broken and that the flight attendants would need to unlock the main cabin doors.  Our delay was expected to be 30 minutes.  There were three passengers behind me – a Creighton law student, a UNMC student working on both a medical degree and a business degree, and a cooperate consultant.  The three agreed that the UNMC student was to blame for our bad luck.  Apparently, he was once on a plane that sat on a runway for 8 hours before being cleared for take-off.  The cooperate consultant could not believe that the passengers of the UNMC student’s flight did not get compensated by the airport in some way.  The student responded with “eh.”

The student’s grunt of apathy really made me think about one particular issue presented in the article – social media allows the more apathetic and the more timid to become protesters in their own right.

“Faster and Faster” really showed the changes that social media can force to come about – from a Passengers Bill of Rights for airline customers to college banking overdraft fees, from democracy activists in Cairo to flash mobs in Belarus.  Shirky showed that the speed and power of social media really can be used for positive social changes.

I think that the amplification of the less dedicated and more timid (or fearful) voices of change seems like a great power.  However, is there anything we should be concerned about by the ease with which online petitions can be signed?  Gleick’s “On Internet Time” reminded me of those FedEx commercials (see below) – but if we’re all expected to make decisions at this fast of a rate, are we really thinking?  Or are we just going with the flow?  (I’m also just thinking about a protest that high school students participated in when I worked in another school district 6 years ago… the cause was worthy, but many participants didn’t really get the purpose for the protest.  When the TV news crews interviewed these particular students, they ended up making their cause seem less cohesive.)

New Era of Warfare

In the "Fluff and Stuff" article, the author describes how the "video game universe aims to make players into acute and swift economists of attention." This combined with the "real-life military training migrating into electronic theater, as well as military weapons poses some interesting possibilities. Apparently, the combination of sophisticated information, gaming (in a sense) and military warfare is already happening.;contentBody

Stuxnet: Computer worm opens new era of warfare

By the fall of 2010, the consensus was that Iran's top secret uranium enrichment plant at Natanz was the target and that Stuxnet was a carefully constructed weapon designed to be carried into the plant on a corrupted laptop or thumb drive, then infect the system, disguise its presence, move through the network, changing computer code and subtly alter the speed of the centrifuges without the Iranians ever noticing. Sabotage by software.

O Murchu: Stuxnet's entire purpose is to control centrifuges. To make centrifuges speed up past what they're meant to spin at and to damage them. Certainly it would damage the uranium enrichment facility and they would need to be replaced.

Kroft: If the centrifuges were spinning too fast, wouldn't the operators at the plant know that?

O Murchu: Stuxnet was able to prevent the operators from seeing that on their screen. The operators would look at the screen to see what's happening with centrifuges and they wouldn't see that anything bad was happening.

We know from reverse engineering the attack codes that the attackers have full, and I mean this literally, full tactical knowledge of every damn detail of this plant. So you could say in a way they know the plant better than the Iranian operator.

Coffee Shop Culture

When reading this week's articles, especially "On Internet Time" by James Gleick (1999), I kept thinking back to this article I read last week about how coffee shops will take over our world as we become less physically social and operate more solely on our laptops.  The article, from December 2011, is called "In the Future Everything Will Be a Coffee Shop" by Stephan Gordon.  He writes about how our workplaces and universities and book stores and retail stores will become coffee shops as we can do more on our laptops and become more connected to our laptops.  It will be fascinating to watch how retail environments and work places evolve to fit the more connected atmosphere.

Gordon links to an excerpt of a presentation by the fascinating Steven Johnson (find more about him here) talking about the beginning  of "coffee house culture."

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn: Pros and Cons of Social Media in Education

In less than a decade, social media has had a tremendous impact on the world around us. Businesses of all sizes can leverage platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to build large, engaged communities, raise awareness and drive footfall. Equally, social media empowers consumers to make smarter decisions, engage with brands and demand better customer service.

Social media is also playing a significant role in the education system, with many schools and universities eager to adopt the use of these tools in the classroom. Managed correctly, these channels can be a great boon for students. But poor understanding of the medium can result in a low level of maintenance and interaction, which can be detrimental to student satisfaction and engagement rates.
Bottom line? The best practices for the use of social media are as relevant in education as they are in business or anywhere else – do it properly, or don’t do it at all.

This infographic from Online Universities takes a look at the pros and cons of social media in education. Essentially, it’s nearly all pro… as long as the school is making the necessary effort.
 By: Shea Bennett

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Being more connected, but in a vulnerable way

 “The unavoidable delays in volleys of business communication before fax, before FedEx, and before E-mail, served as pauses for thought. A lawyer could reconsider a rash piece of mail while it was in the stenographer’s out-box. Decision could ferment during accidental slow periods.” (On Internet Time, Gleik)

While it is true that “being connected” promotes shared awareness among people, and makes collective actions of physically dispersed groups more feasible and powerful (Faster and faster, Shirky), “connectedness” also makes us more vulnerable in terms of dealing our personal relationship. That’s why I really like this this passage above in the Gleick article because it sharply points out the drawbacks that the seemingly perfect advanced technology and communication tools have brought to our lives, especially in small group relationships.

“Connectedness” is a direct result of the development of social tools that enabled us to do everything in a speedy manner; it is also a central theme of today’s societies and lives. We want everything as fast as possible, because we think we have more important things to do than spending time waiting, for anything. We think we are more productive and efficient this way. However, have we really done more meaningful things using the time we saved from leaving a Facebook message (instead of making a phone call) or online shopping (instead of shopping in stores)? No. We just leave more Facebook messages and shop at more online stores.  As Gleick says “The sate of being connected makes them more efficient –maybe even more nimble. Sadly, it also makes them feel busier – maybe even overloaded.” The simplification of life facilitated by technology is not always a good thing.   

As for as I witnessed, the sate of being connected also makes our interpersonal relationship vulnerable. People check out their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s Facebook page everyday and get fidgeted if they see some “suspicious” or “vague” replies, or tagged photos, or simply “friend requests”. We get annoyed when friends don’t reply our text message within ten minuets. The other day, I just got a little angry with my dad because I waited for thirty minutes to Facetime with him but he couldn’t connect to wifi. How did we become such impatient and insecure while ten years ago, we could wait for a week to speak with our parents over the phone or wait for months for an oversea postcard to arrive. It is true that we are more connected, but such connectedness, while amplified our network with others, also weakened our bond with the ones that really matter to us.