Archive for the ‘Class Responses’ Category

Technological Expectations

April 16, 2009


While reading article, “The World Wide Web” by T. Berners-Lee, I honestly only understood about half of what was being discussed, but I was able to grasp that the article was old news. Literally. I think it’s kinda funny—but more ironic, that while I was reading the article I was sitting in one of my classes, pretending to pay attention to the teacher but actually accessing the internet using my iPod.

The internet is at my fingertips. All day I check my email, check my Facebook, check my instant messenger. I bring the internet everywhere I go because it came equipped with my music player. The internet is one of my most helpful, most used tools. Yet, I don’t understand a thing about it.

I don’t know what HTTP or HTML is, I don’t know what it means or stands for even though I’ve read about it, I don’t want to know. All I want is to sit down, log onto my wireless internet, and get to wherever I want to go.

I think that with technological advances, we take more and more things for granted. I expect my electronics to connect me to the web instantly, when they don’t, I get mad. We forget to give credit to the people who make this stuff work. It’s such a complicated process, with actions and language that the average person does not understand. New technology is brought into society, it goes through motions: it’s tried out and either determined to be useless and thrown away, or it’s accepted. We may ask questions in the beginning but ultimately, after it becomes socially acceptable, we become accustomed to it. We don’t necessarily have to understand technology to use it. And we certainly don’t use it to understand it.

Improvements in the technology we already use are great, they make things easier for us. As every new technology emerges, we may not understand it but we must understand how to operate it in order to make it useful to us, so I guess we are learning something new.


Intelligence Through the Internet?

April 16, 2009

As I read Vannevar Bush’s article, As We May Think, it got me pondering about the whole of human knowledge—has the internet actually made people smarter than they used to be? Yes, the Internet does now encompass a significant amount of all of the information that we as a species have accumulated since the beginning and it’s never been easier to access before, but does that really say anything in terms of actual intelligence? The Internet has come a long way since the beginning. It was amazing reading the article, The World Wide Web and seeing just how far we’ve come since 1993. Nobody could have anticipated the rate of growth that the Internet would see since its meager beginnings as a tool for small-scale research and scientific collaboration.
Now it’s the year 2009. The Internet has woven itself into a hyper-complicated tapestry of information and collaboration spanning the globe. Even the people at CERN behind the very inception of the Internet could have never anticipated the growth it would see over the next few years, nevermind a decade and a half. It was funny reading about how in 1993 there was only one store on the Internet. Who could’ve seen the e-commerce boom of the late nineties coming?
But getting back to my point: the Internet is everywhere. It has crept into nearly every home in the world (at least in developed nations) and since the advent of the mobile web and wifi, it has begun to follow us everywhere. Does such easy access to the Internet say anything in terms of the overall intelligence of our generation? Has it made us lazy now that we have almost everything at a simple keystroke?
To me, it seems almost unfair to assume that the sheep herder from 1945 who knows everything imaginable about herding sheep: what kind of dogs work best, the psychology of sheep, the influence of the weather and so on, knows any less on a personal level than any member of our generation does now. Sure we’ve made much progress since 1945 and the cumulative pool of human knowledge has grown almost exponentially, but does easy access to it all really make us smarter? It’s arrogant to think that because of the privilege of higher technology and the time in which we live in, we’re literally smarter than our ancestors—but honestly, I think just that could be the case, as long as we take the initiative to take advantage of our situation amidst this ever-accessible wealth of knowledge and the unprecedented connectivity that the Internet entails.
What used to take hours of filing through books at a library or scanning reams of encyclopedia pages we can now do in seconds. With wireless Internet, bar debates can be settled in seconds flat. Never have we been more connected not only to the world, but to each other. Absorbing and spreading the knowledge that we now have access to shouldn’t be considered a privilege, but a responsibility. Not only do we owe this to ourselves, but we owe it to every member of every generation that follows—even the sheep herders.

“A Matter of Metaphor” Response

April 14, 2009

“Ellul argues that development and deployment of technology take place in an inexorable monistic trajectory because the technical comes to dominate humans thinking. This dominance occurs for two reasons. First, people are awed by technology and its apparently magical ability to work its effects upon the world. Second, and more pragmatically, technology becomes dominant because it does provide us with things that we value and that only technology can provide-powerful medicined and medical devices, climate control in our homes and workplaces, machines to reduce households drudgery, access to humankind’s accumulated experience through books, film, computers, and many other media. So compelling are these treasures that is seems churlish to argue for any technological restraint,” (Nardi& O’Day, 12).

It’s a vicious cycle. If we look at technology as a tool, then we start relying on it (even though tools aren’t meant to be relied on, they are meant to help-but that’s where the problem lies). If we look at technology as a system, then we get caught up in what is controlling what. Does technology move us along or do we move it? In Symbolic Interactionism, a communication theory by George Herbert Meade, it’s said that we act a certain way toward symbols because of the meanings that we attribute the symbols with. Applying that to technology; we wouldn’t need it if we didn’t think we needed it. For example, my parents didn’t have cell phones. They managed to get by in the world. When I forget my cell phone at home, as I’m sure many other people do, I feel unsettled all day until I get the cell phone back.  Cell phones do have a “magical ability,” as Ellul would say. They keep us in touch with the world and let us know what’s going on. If an emergency were to break out, or if something exciting happened that you felt the need to share with someone instantly, cell phones allow us to get that instant connection. The same can be said for the internet…and it can go on and on. That theory can be applied to medicine and appliances and, for our purposes, even writing devices.  But as with all things, there is a downside. Cell phones and computers cause radiation which causes cancer which causes the need for medication, which causes more radiation which causes more research which causes more internet use etc… This cycle continues, as it will continue, forever. We think technology is going to save us. We think that we can’t survive in a world without the technology that is available to us now. “The technological system is the water we swim in, and it has become life-sustaining and almost invisible to us,” (13) Nardi and O’Day state.  Technology is obviously good for us. And it’s obviously bad for us too. The same technology that is making us advance in the business and technology world, is severely effecting our environment. Global warming happens because of pollution. Pollution happens because of nuclear waste. Nuclear waste happens because we ask ourselves, “what’s better, me buying the SUV and being able to drive my friends and my things anywhere I need to? Or me buying this hybrid and not polluting the air.” Apply this to any technology, and most people will choose the former. It’s not necessarily selfish, but it’s they way we’re programmed. We live busy lives, we don’t have time to add complications into our lives.  But we can’t predict what the next moves in technology will be. Just like we can’t predict what any larger forces will do next. I’ll use the weather to further explain my point… A machine that tracks storm radar will do us no good if a tsunami washes over our cities and ruins our electricity that can’t function once they are water damaged. What would we do then? Would the survivors of the storm be able to return to their basic instincts? Would we even have any? Technology has helped us advance to be the brightest people on the planet thus far. But it’s also made us entirely too dependent on it. 
A Matter of Metaphor; Technology as a Tool, Text, System, Ecology. Bonnie A Nardi and Vicki L O’day

Technology as a Tool and a System… and my Grandparents

April 14, 2009

“Metaphors matter. People who see technology as a tool see themselves controlling it. People who see technology as a system see themselves caught up inside it. We see technology as part of an ecology, surrounded by a dense network of relationships in local environments. Each of these metaphors is “right,” in some sense; each captures some important characteristics of technology in society. Each suggests different possibilities for action and change (Nardi, O’Day 27).”

In Nardi and O’Day’s discussion of technology as a tool, text, system and ecology, this paragraph sums up some of the major points that are made throughout the essay. From a post-humanist standpoint, I can understand the metaphor of technology as a tool in that when people embrace a technology and find use in it, they view it in a context where they are in complete control of it. This is true for those who maintain technological literacy and are keen to adapt to new technologies as they become available. When one falls behind in technological literacy or maintains an overly humanist viewpoint, they are no longer riding the crest of the wave so-to-speak. Instead of being on the forefront of new technologies, they may find themselves swept up in the technology, befuddled and lost.
This metaphor of technology as a system, where one is caught up inside and enveloped by it is useful in terms of the stigma usually attached to the word, “system.” Systems generally represent overarching, complex networks, where one is more of a cog within or an observer than an actual, aware participator. When technology fails to be a tool to an individual, it isn’t that it lacks usefulness. It’s more of a conscious transition where when one fails to understand how to use a technology or fails to see its relevance, it merely falls into the background of our daily lives. To these people, certain technologies were never tools. Said technologies may not be applicable in daily life, therefore we ignore their existence and depending on the breadth of the technology (the internet for example), we may find it entering our daily lives against our will, without any way to assume control over it. This can happen not only because  we lack understanding of it, but because we can’t find usefulness or relevance within it.
I’ve seen this happen with my grandparents over the years as the computer pervaded nearly every chasm of society and my grandma was left in the dark, while my grandpa embraced it. My Grandpa worked as a construction estimator for most of his adult life and still dabbles in estimating even today. Since the 80’s, he has been working with and alongside computers. For accurate calculations, computers were abound with usefulness. When email and the Internet came about, he was able to stay on the forefront of modern technology and communicate with co-workers, contractors and suppliers. In every sense of the word, computers have been a tool to my grandpa.
My grandma on the other hand had no need for technology. She stopped working after having 2 children in the late 60’s and decided to become a stay-at-home mom. With no real need for computer technology, she refused to become a participator and instead let the technology seep into her daily life with no control exerted over it. During the .com boom of the late nineties, she was left baffled by the sheer volume of Internet-related TV commercials. Although she understood the use of these websites, they lacked any relevance to her life. Her main connection to computers was through my grandpa, who would occasionally print out recipes at her request from the Internet and bring them home to her. And so, computer technology fell into her background and became nothing more than a complex system that surrounded her, bearing no relevance in her daily life. It became nothing more than a confusing background novelty—far from a tool.

Has anybody had any similar experiences with relatives who either absolutely embraced a new technology or who have completely stayed in the dark with them?

The Remediation of 3 Personal Writing Spaces

April 9, 2009

Thinking about it, the writing spaces I actually use are not nearly as varied and diverse as the ones covered by Bolter and Grusin in their essays, Writing as a Technology and The Double Logic of Remediation. Primarily (or at least academically), I compose most of my written works in a word processor. The advent of the word processor was an evolutionary step in the technology of writing, as it was simply the next step in the technological progression of how works are composed, although nothing overwhelmingly revolutionary came about. Editing and going back to change a work has never been easier and some may argue that there are advantages to digital archiving over material archiving, although this is debatable.
The largest advantage to word processor technologies is the fact that the text on the screen is completely malleable and re-shapeable at the mere click of a mouse. Older technologies like that of the pencil and paper and typewriter discourage such flexibility, as to go back would require one to start over or laboriously touch up a work with whiteout or an eraser. Although word processing and its flexible nature may encourage the act of thinking while composing instead of thinking then composing, this is actually a much more natural progression of the thought/composition relationship. This is also true because one can generally type faster than they can write by hand and as a result, the writer’s stream of thoughts and ideas can immediately be translated onto the page—a much more natural process.
Physical paper and a pencil is another writing space that I commonly use. As a non-mechanical medium (mechanical pencils aside), the paper/pencil combination is much simpler and can be taken anywhere without the need of electricity or any significant space requirements, unlike the typewriter or desktop computer. On paper, works are easy to produce and easy to archive, although they lack the ease of editing ability that electronic writing provides.
The most significant shortcoming of writing by paper and pencil in the information age is the fact that it contrives a situation where the writing, itself is completely off of the grid; the grid being the digital nature of computers and the Internet. No matter what, unless the work is retyped on a word processor, it will remain digitally inaccessible. This is fine for most works, whether they are academic or personal, but the works are incapable of entering the revolutionary spectrum of not only the web, but web 2.0, which revolves around the collaborative nature of the internet. In this, writing on paper remains a solitary act, which there is absolutely nothing wrong with, so long as you want it to remain that way.
Lastly, I must include the quick and convenient, albeit impersonal and truncated writing space of the text message. By nature, the text message is a writing space that revolves around direct communication with other individuals as opposed to something that is considered published for the masses to read. Nonetheless, text messages are a valid writing space. The medium is quick and direct and seems to be taking s significant communicatory chunk out of the once revered phone conversation. In a world where media and information exposure is at an all-time high, the text message fits in nicely with its simple and direct manner with less time constraints and for better or worse seems to have ingrained itself in the culture of my generation.
In its less-than impromptu nature, the text message provides time to construct a response, whereas verbal communication does not. In this, it has crossed a bridge from other writing technologies like the pencil and paper and the word processor to that of on-the-spot communication, although more time is not only given for a response, but is expected.
The word processor is a clear remediation of traditional writing technologies, but borrows mostly from the typewriter, but makes up for its editing and convenience shortcomings. Both revolve around the concept of writing mechanically (with buttons) and discard the concept of the manual construction of letters. This concept of remediation by introducing writing through mechanical means extends to text messaging on a mobile phone.
One would be hard-pressed to find a correlation between the content in an essay written either by hand or by computer and the content of a text message. The text message’s informal and commonly shortened nature is a direct remediation of instant messaging technologies, which evolved alongside the internet, many years after word processing technologies were already in place. It seems to me that at the heart of text messaging as a writing space is the very essence of the electronically-written word. As I mentioned before, words on paper could now be considered isolatory, although equally significant. Something written on paper can never be sent to someone’s mobile phone (yet). After the advent of the word processor and the eventual coming of the Internet, words were easily made into electronic data, which is easily transferrable. This transferability was the revolution, whereas the actual eletronification of such writing technologies was merely a case of evolution.
When the communications revolution of the Internet and electronic text came about it was only a matter of time before our huge array of mobile, electronic devices such as cell phones, smart phones, Palm Pilots and etc. got swept up in the action of instantaneous communication. By nature, such devices are (or I should say were) limited by their actual design. The small keys and clunky text entering techniques that they entailed gave way to truncation. Text messaging became direct and short, simply due to technological limitations, although it represents a direct remediation from electronic text on computers, borrowing both from writing on the internet and the word processor—both of which find their roots on the humble piece of paper.

Remediation and Writing Spaces

April 9, 2009

Every book I read is usually written in the same writing space. The words are evenly spaced over white paper and printed in clear black ink. The font is usually at least 10 pt. The messages written in these books are always different, but the way they are displayed on the page is inviting.  As a writer, I have many personal writing spaces. The contents of my school notebooks are one, and my personal journals are another. My writing space consists of letters that I’ve formed by carelessly mixing cursive with print. They are usually written in black ink, and they have some sort of doodle around any given word.  My most frequently visited writing space, however, is electronic. It’s where everything I write is finalized. I may structure a piece of writing using the more traditional writing space of a ballpoint pen on a sheet of paper, but when I’m sitting in front of my MacBook, typing something into my word processor, for some reason the piece of writing at hand seems to automatically become more important than something I’ve scribbled on a piece of paper. The Webster’s dictionary definition of the word remediation states that remediation is the process of correcting an error. Bolter and Grusin’s definition is more the idea of taking something and refining it to make it more up to date. Handwriting and electronic writing, I think, are remediated by each other. For example, some handwriting can’t be deciphered at all-so the word processor becomes an instant remedy for poor handwriting. On the other hand, when you look at the different fonts that a word processor has to offer you will find many that imitate handwriting (Bradley Hand ITCTT, and Handwriting- Dakota, just to name a few). The two writing spaces must incorporated some parts of each other in order to build and develop.