Category Archives: Responses

Social Media Hell

This post is in response to the first half reading of Dave Eggers’ The Circle. Published October of 2013.

Upon starting this book, and being introduced to Mae and The Circle, I found it exciting, fun, and the sort of place I wanted to work. Then the story gets progressively more interesting, and darker.

The parts that I found exciting was the sorts of freedoms and gifts such a company can give to its employees. They aren’t so much as lavish as well thought and well practiced efficiencies meant to extend the employee’s life and improve their health.

What really started hurting this future story for me was the increasing invasiveness of social media. Being social for the sake of being social. It seems almost insane. Perhaps I value substance over breadth.

I think the characters themselves are a reflection of their lifestyle. They act like they are all brainwashed. Giddy and itchy at the smallest of things, but when it gets to the deeper darker levels, there is no care paid. It is interesting how some of the characters come in pairs, but both of their personalities are identical. And don’t get me started on the intense and unreasonable mood swings. These people are so sleep deprived they can’t think straight for themselves.

The lengths that Mae was required to increase her social standing, is mind numbingly audacious. Perhaps this is where I start showing my old man stripes and start drawing lines. I’m sorry, but there is a part where you loose your humanity for the sake of managing it all.

However, I can think this differently and approach it from a different perspective. What if I grew up in this time where Facebook was a memory and this company has replaced them, and phone companies, and stores altogether. The Circle is the single most powerful and influential company on the planet. It is Google plus Tesla plus SpaceX, plus any number of universities. Ultimately you don’t choose to work at The Circle, you choose to live The Circle. The Circle is a Lifestyle. Yes, you work there, but you have to pay for the technology and conveniences that only they can provide. It’s like some huge social experiment in a society where nothing is secret and to demand privacy would be treason.

Their openness towards each other forces truthfulness. It requires awareness of each other’s emotions and desires. It demands a greater attendance to your neighbors and how you can best provide to a society. I see value in this philosophy. I value privacy. In a way it is sacred. In a world where privacy becomes less and less, it can be valued more and more. There will come a time where even our minds can no longer be safe refuge for your most private of thoughts. I accept this to be an inevitable truth in the pursuit towards better mediums of communication.

As the mediums of our communications evolve, so will our society to match it. Perhaps we have yet to reach the very height of social media. I’m not sure I would be able to keep up with such a demand. There has to be a point where a person can only take so many inputs. Perhaps we can handle more, but it has to be trained and developed, and the only way that can happen is if the technology pushes us. Even so, the wider you spread your attention, there is only so much depth one can have. These characters are shallow because of their lifestyle. Well connected, but unable to go any deeper then the barest of facts and the business at hand. It is disturbing how drone like they are.

Next Industrial Revolution

This post is in response to the following video: Chris Anderson: Makers – The New Industrial Revolution

There is a certain sense of liberation when you own a 3D printer for yourself. It is literally a game changing device that has brought me joy, and access to being able to manufacture what is in my mind into reality. Chris’ descriptor of placing bits into atoms is fairly apt.

I had no idea that digital manufacturing has gotten as customizable as it has. If it is as flexible as it says it is, then we are talking some serious technological adaptability. My mind has been resting on the concept that factories were still fixed. While robotics have replaced a large chunk of manufacturing labor forces, I understood them to be as varied as their tasks were. This meant specialized hardware, and very specific demands. Tesla’s automated multi-purpose robots are amazing.

I think far ahead, and imagine how having just one of these would be an amazing concept. A multi-purpose construction system. Built in 3D printer, Built in CNC, Built in Laser cutter, as well as drill, welding, forming, bending, screwing, bolting, and whatever else you need that thing to do. Just one of these would augment human power by factors.

Another aspect that I love about this, is the concept of singularity and this. If the manufacturing equipment is so powerful, and adaptive, then in theory the computer can analyze designs, modify it to enhance the operational design, and built it. Could an Artificial Intelligence improve our technology, and even invent that? Once computing power exceeds that of the human ability, we may find this answer.

I have seen glimpses into this world on websites that offer 3D printing services. Upload your design, they print it, and then mail it to you. Simple, efficient and short lived. However it gives access to that person who never would have been able to.

The Maker Shops that Chris was mentioning sounds like a dream, and is something that I have been considering creating for Bangor. What I did not consider was the addition of a workshop in conjunction to advanced manufacturing systems. Now I must consider having two separate locations. The DownTown storefront, restaurant and micro manufacture, and a more urban workshop where all the tools and equipment are.

I think it is really important to supply these resources and abilities. There are incredible amounts of ideas and possibilities out there that do not get the opportunity to see the light of day. It is almost criminal to keep all that locked up. If you have thought about it, most likely someone else has as well. In the end, it is who can get to the resources first that is the real winner in any race of innovation.

I see value in Chris’ vision, and proof. It is essential, and will expand the possibilities to be able to tackle problems we haven’t even discovered yet.

Mindfulness in Design

This post is in response to the following video: Simon Norris on Experience

Simon is exactly right concerning the subject of user experience. It is extremely important to consider the humans that are using the product. Being aware of how that product is being used in a variety of times and places goes a long way towards understanding how the product should work.

What I found interesting was the concept of making distinctions between physical experiences and digital experiences. Given that our current society is very much inclusive in the internet with many of our tasks. What we would normally do in the real world we can do digitally as well.

Simon brings up the other point in how the same retailer would have completely different experiences between their online and physical stores. Where the store experience is so much better, that the user does not want to use the application or website. However, knowing that the customer may want to use the app while in the store may allow the user an additional tool to navigate and compare the products.

This sort of mindfulness has been part of my own mindset for a long while. When I redesign kitchen at the various stores I work at, I consider very seriously how the space is used, and who will be using it. Knowing the needs of those you are working with is imperative in being able to design an experience that fits their needs and desires. Once those are met, then the worker is more effective and efficient at their job. It reduces stress on their mind, and their body. The customer is better served as we know where things are, and can easily access the product when the need for it arises.

Understand the customer’s needs. Understand the customer’s requirements. Understand the limits of ability. Understand that time moves forward, and we have to consider what could disrupt our future actions. These anticipations are important towards a successful product.

 

image is a screenshot from the video

Robotic Teachers

This is in response to an article titled “When the Teaching Assistant Is a Robot”. Published in the October 28th, 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Only as an assistant. The human element in education is much too important. Unless we have fully fledged self aware artificial intelligence, I cannot accept technology as a replacement for education.

I fear that this places me at something of a hardliner when it comes to the subject, however. I would be willing to change my mind, so long as the technology is human like in its behavior and thoughts.

At this point in our technological development, robotics are unacceptable for the human experience portion of a child’s education. They need that interaction, and they need that empathy that only a human can provide. Humans must choose to help, and to sympathize. Humans have emotions and capacity to gauge other human’s emotions. This is imperative when it comes to context, or realizing that a different method of explanation is required.

As a teaching assistant, I think it is wonderful. It holds no hours, and has no emotions when it comes to menial questions. It has all the patience in the world to address student needs and questions. In a text based format, the technology is sufficient to address student’s needs while maintaining a facade of humanity. As students learn to learn, the teaching assistant can become more of a tool. A reactive dictionary, or search system. Much like Siri, Cortana, and other such assistants.

Until the technology is capable of addressing the emotional component of a person’s education, I can’t see it being useful at that level. Technology is ever evolving and it will be interesting to see what results from this experiments and others that are similar to it.

image from here

The Internet Of Things

This is in response to an article titled “The ‘Internet of Things’ Faces Practical and Ethical Challenges”. This was published in the October 28th 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This brings up the same questions that I had concerning the subject. While I was aware of the concept of many common items becoming “smart”, I have only recently been aware of the term “Internet of Things”.

I have two minds on this subject. There is the old geezer me that says, Why? My toaster was just fine as a toaster. My fridge keeps my food cold. I know how long it takes me to get to the store, and I know when to shop so that my checkout is fast. Why do I need to have all these things innovated for me? As a particle human being, I can’t say that I agree with the smartening of things. I understand that by allowing our technology to become so invasive into every little thing we touch, we some how ease the human experience. Allow us the opportunities to explore thoughts and creativity rather then waste our lives on mundane actions. This is great and all, but I think those mundane things are what help to create the human experience as well. By removing the human from the action, we remove the empathy, and awareness of how that action came to be, and maybe even why it happens at all. I believe that there needs to be an awareness of one’s environment in order to be able to fully understand life.

My other mind things this is very interesting, and spurs the futurist in me thinking forward. What happens when the internet is included into everything? Where the internet knows you so well from past behavior, that it will be able to predict your actions and needs, and in theory meet them before you realize you will need them. A society that is sufficiently capable of doing this would in theory be so advanced, that menial labors and mundane tasks are all automated. Anything from agriculture, energy production, and manufacturing. The technology would be capable of self modification and research. This would in theory be the point in which technologically we would have passed the singularity of computing power. This type of society would be able to pursue other tasks, such as exploration, scientific discovery, or spreading of religions, or whatever it is that is important that far into the future.

Today however, this is a very precarious point, and leaves us open to invasive cyber tactics that would hurt us significantly. Or it would allow tyrants to oversee the actions of all their citizens to ensure compliance. Stalking, and war would be redefined. This is a very fragile thing we are doing, and I believe we are treating it more as a toy then as a real potential. Most people don’t know what to do with it, or what its impacts are.

My personal fear, is that it will remove the human element from a process. When that process has no human involvement, apathy becomes prevalent. We become dependent on it. There is no longer emotional investment in the object, or service. Then we take it for granted. It becomes part of our lives, and accept it. Then we forget completely how to do that service, or how to make that object. We forget how to make it happen, and become completely reliant on the system. If that system fails, then we fall. When I look forward to that glorious civilization of discovery, I feel sadness. Those people who are asking such massive questions, forget that their are important smaller questions for themselves. And if that technology were to fail? That civilization would be doomed to their ignorance.

 

image from here

Arab Spring

This post is in response to: NPR Article and New Media and Conflict after The Arab Spring

These two postings would normally be as separate, but since their content matter is on the same subject, I have chosen to combine them into the same lengthy response.

When I first heard about The Arab Spring, I felt that I had not heard anything about it. However, as I read further, I began to draw connections to events that I was hearing about. They drew my attention more strongly as I worked with an Egyptian transplant at work.

With this association, I tried to look at the protests and events from his perspective, but I truly found that I lacked knowledge or understanding to get an idea. This reading helped me gain a bit of a better quantity of perspective, and gave me some insights into how this sort of event could occur, and how some failed.

As I read about the events, I tried not to be biased to thinking of the middle east as an unadvanced society. There are many primitive technologies in use with the more advanced technologies slowly becoming pervasive as time presses forward.

What we had was technological advanced urban areas verses rural primitive areas. As the paper pointed out, most of those that participated were young, educated, urban persons. Traditionalists would be found in rural areas, and generally would also be of an older age. Just as we find this divide in our western culture, it has to exist in the middle eastern regions.

So why were there failures? I think it comes down to this specific divide. The older more traditional peoples would be constrained by their view, and experiences in their regime based environments. In theory they would have more fears, and respect for the authority that their younger more energetic counterparts lacked.

So, we have the young urban against the traditional rural. This sort of polarization does not do well to influence a positive and consistent outcome. When the people are united against the government, is when they succeed as a people.

There is another effect that I want to touch on that I noticed. With the use of social media as a method of communication, we return to the Little Boxes concept. Where there are networked communities that interact with each other. This creates very niche like cells where people of very specific mindsets can come together and interact. This establishes a stronger emotional connection in the participants. However, those who are outside that box of thought and emotion, are left without that emotional zeal. The rebellion deflates without this influx of emotional energy and support.

I would like to call this the Romeo And Juliet effect. When people come together, become strongly energized, and engage in their protest. The protest is hard, intense, and sometimes violent. Then the protest dies out, burnt out from the energies within, or beaten down like a fire by the government.

What I found interesting in the paper, was the fact that they never really gave any hard and concrete conclusions or associations between the protests and social media. What the paper seemed to say more, was that there was a lack of evidence as we have not yet collected that evidence. Therefore, we are still left with the question as to whether social media can influence the government, or its people. We still need more data.

As social media becomes more prevalent and invasive across the world, I think we will see stronger ties to events. For example, American political elections taking place are mired with social media. It is used to promote, defame, and spread news, ideologies, and perspectives.

It is important to be aware of those perspectives, and what they mean to the person that holds it. Often times, we see the reason for their actions or beliefs simply by looking back at events that have influenced them. Then consider, how you would have reacted given those same events.

The Arab Spring, is an interesting phenomenon that took place in a partially developed region of the world, were modern conveniences mix with rural tribal ideologies. As examples have shown, new media is borne from old media, and sometimes requires old media to support it.

So, is it the message or the means by which the message is conveyed? I think this is perhaps the most important question of the lot. Is the medium pertinent here? Again, I can only refer to the paper’s conclusion, We need more data. It will be events such as The Arab Spring that will help us gain a better understanding of how society is influenced by Social media and the new media that will come after.

 

featured image from here

New Media Distinctions

This post is in response to the first chapter reading of: New Media and American Politics

 

This book is nearly a decade old, and still speaks to the energies of change. Published in 1998, it had no way of knowing what today’s media would have turned out, and even specifically said that exact thing in regards to it’s entry concerning the internet. In fact, this book had much more information about radio, and television, and how they have changed the political scheme.

The timing of this reading is coincidental, even perhaps deliberate. The acceptance level that social media and news media has reached a very strong high. In fact many news organizations use social media to distribute their news now. With the ability of the users making real time feedback to that news is perhaps the one distinction that makes social media, the new media.

It really all started with ‘user reviews’. Users creating feedback to a product or service. With social media developing alongside this, the two slowly became to meld into the same general concept. What has resulted is a steady media stream going to the consumers, and a steady stream of feedback going back to the media producers.

The two have shaped themselves around each other so strongly that it legitimizes the coverage by either source. It is interesting to see the evolution of the internet’s effectiveness in American Politics. With candidates being active on social media, and social media being a source of information and questions for debates and polls.

Going back to a previous reading about Little Boxes, I feel that this is one of the sources of contention that we are experiencing in our current election cycle. With so many sources, and so many different views, it is easy for a person to find a news source that fits their views and beliefs. This in turn gives that news source to speak to an audience that wants to hear them. The mixing of reality and fiction become common place. Where fiction and reality exist at the same time. Perhaps this is the next New Media. Where the virtual experience and the reality experience blend into one. A merger of both where people live hybrid existences concurrently. What are the consequences to this world?

Without getting to far into personal political views, I think it is safe to say that this election cycle presents a preliminary view of what this world would be like. Where people choose their own facts, and their own reality, allowing that reality to be come prevalent then what truly is the reality. This substitution is dangerous in the wrong minds, especially when those minds are in power. Right now, the people have the power. Many of them unsure, uneducated, or blind to their own realities. There is a lack of a big picture, long ranged view with the public. Issues that should be relevant, and concerning are ignored in favor of satisfying their entertainment, or desire for ignorance.

Watching people respond to simple questions concerning how our politics work, or who is in office is painful. So many examples of people who don’t understand. They even state that perhaps they should understand, and should pay more attention. So there is a certain amount of guilt associated with this ignorance, but nothing is done to enhance the understanding of the subject. Social media has created this valley of ignorance.

The user is allowed to choose their sources of information on whatever topics they desire. Should that person desire they can have a live stream of information on everything equestrian. That person’s involvement in it can be very strong, and the breadth of knowledge that person can consume is nearly unlimited. However, this person is then negligent of current events, warnings, or lacks knowledge on changes in governments, or know who is even in charge.

We can become so focused on our primary goals that we forget that there is a society that depends on our involvement. Not simply walking into a poll to mark off who we want, but to actively engage and learn who we are voting for, and not just taking ourselves into account, but also what our society needs.

Is social media to blame? No. It enables this. However, social media used in proper moderation, and with a variety of feeds, it can be a powerful tool. Comparing news sources, and understanding different perspectives is just as important as being aware. In this respect, social media is a priceless asset to the informed and conscientious citizen. If not only to learn of the candidates, but to also get an idea of the views and opinions of those around you, and around the country or world.

Much like in the examples of The Arab Spring, one event can trigger another very quickly. The effects of those events can further trigger other events. There are many such tensions that exist around the world. Knowing how one event could potentially effect another is important to know the full effects.

Social media has completely changed how Americans go to the polls. It may be for the good, but also for the worst. It is all dependent on how the people use it, and how others react. The consequences of our acceptances of this technology is a corporate democracy ruled by a stateless mass citizenry.It almost sounds like the beginnings of a post apocalyptic novel.

The Welles Complex

This post is in response to Documentary – American Experience – War of the Worlds

 

Looking at society as it was in those times, I can only imagine the fear, and anxiety that those people were experiencing. This had become the time in which people were starting to receive live broadcasts about things that were going on in the world. Before this, we relied on newspapers and telephones. With the radio, broadcasts were able to be made in real time.

I think this is one of those times were people were truly beginning to be aware of the concept of information overload. So much news in a short amount of time was mentally stressing. The depression that led to the fear and anxiety as constantly fueled by the constant reports.

Orson was a master crafter of stories and theater. He understood how he had to try and capture the people of whom he wanted to entertain. The concept of creating a solid period of silence during the broadcast as novel, and created a tension that made it hard for the listeners to ignore. However, this man really just wanted to tell a story.

I found the citizen interviews to be an interesting look into the society of the time. There was a significant difference between the males and the females. The women all generally seemed very on edge and anxious. Fiddling with their hands, laughing mid way through their conversations. There was a level of timidity. On the other hand, the men seemed calm, relaxed, at ease. There is a tremendous canyon of how anxiety is expressed between the two genders.

Context is probably one of the most important take aways here. From the modern day perspective, we can look back on that night and be perplexed with how people were so taken in by something so simple. Society takes their collective fears and shapes how they react and perceive facts. It can also shape what they consider are facts as opposed to what is fiction. This acceptance of what they consider to be fact created a physical reaction that would never have existed.

So, in this matter, we get to see evidence where reality is shaped by the minds that perceive it. What does it matter if it does not exist, it exists in the mind of one person, and that idea can infect another person, bringing to reality what never was.

I draw a great many parallels to today’s society. We are fearful. We are anxious. It may not be in the same way, as the way we communicate it has changed. As the film described the social-economic atmosphere of the time, I started to feel very sad. In fact, that was probably the most emotion that I had throughout the film. It expressed a very crushing depression, and fear. It is shown differently, and is primarily treated with medications now. However, I think the internet has helped allow a great many to express themselves.

There is a powder keg just waiting to be active. There are a great many stresses in the world currently all pulling on each other. When one actually looks and goes about witnessing what is happening, it is easy to feel that depression and fear.

My next comment is in no way bashing religious institutions, so please do not hold that against me. The predominant religion in America was christianity at that time. How this faith has spread was through the use of ignorance in the people. Traditionally for many centuries, illiteracy prevented a great many people from being able to read the bible for themselves. They relied upon the church to interpret and read it for them.

This was a very strong box that the church could stand, and potentially help to sway the masses to a way of thinking by reinterpreting scriptures. This created a reliance and trust in an authority figure. It is my belief that that very similar effect was attributed to the radio. It enabled many people of varying educational levels to be able to learn of the world. The radio was an unquestionable resource for that information. It is this unquestioning reliance that caused Welles’ play to take on a more serious tone.

The biggest reaction that I could see was the feeling of betrayal. The radio was their one source of information, and they trusted it implicitly. When they heard the the martians were invading, they had no reason to deny it. It was the truth straight from the air.

So, what is it that we as modern day Americans trust so implicitly in which this could happen again? Would it be through intent or by accident? I’m not sure that I actually know the answers to these particular questions myself. In the case of Welles’ production, many of the elements that made his play so believable, were made up at the last second.  By chance, and stroke of thoughts, Welles’ sparked a reaction that was greater then could have been hoped for.

The Waves of Innovation

This post is in response to: “The Influence of Radio and Television on Culture, Literacy, and Education.” Written by Deanna Stefanyshyn and Julie Kendell

The radio is relates to the telegraph, in that the new medium was not wire, but electromagnetic waves. I can only imagine the feeling of the discoverer’s and inventors as they found a way to cut the tether that is the wire. Suddenly the manner in which we communicated was ripped apart. I can only imagine the fear of the wired operators for their futures. Radio removed the infrastructure required to maintain communications. It destroyed an industry of wire making.

Continue reading The Waves of Innovation

UX Design Speaker

Today in class, we had a speaker that works at a startup. His primary focus on the job was programming, but had a great deal to speak on when developing a user experience.

Many of the same themes played out in this discussion, and they are things that I have already personally considered. Some of it is again, common sense. He spoke a great deal on the design processes, and what it meant to develop a product for a customer.

I think that one of the most important lessons that most students could take away is the concept of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. A lot of what we do as new media specialists involves dealing with the unknown and just learning it. I think the speaker’s story about how they started out not knowing anything about IOS programming was a good punctuation mark to that concept.

Technology keeps changing, and we have to keep learning and developing. That involves getting into situations that we may not have all the information on. It may require that we involve ourselves in an area that no one else has documented. It may require us to make a new path. Project orientated learning makes the most sense, and forces us to evaluate what we do and do not know.

Having worked for a little over 11 years, there are great many myths that exist, but shouldn’t be heeded. Understanding what you are doing is not necessary. It is the ability to develop the understanding and willingness to continue, no matter how difficult. Once again, we are even reminded that working with others is imperative. You cannot develop a User Experience by yourself. A single perspective is not enough.

If you are designing for others, you have to include others. Thus, no person is an island upon themselves. They must collaborate.