Let’s Change the World…One Blog at a Time

First and foremost let me say that I went into this class expecting something completely different. What I have experienced over the last 8 weeks has truly been eye opening in so many ways. I have looked forward to the Frontline videos more so than I ever thought I would and have already watched others just to gain more information that I’ve been depriving myself of. I’m sad this course is over but I’m appreciative to the knowledge that has been given to me over the summer and the kick in the pants to be more cognizant of what is going on in the world around me.

Brenna Westlake in 2011
Brenna Westlake in 2011

The first community action project that came to mind when I read the questions regarding cognitive surplus was that of the meaningful efforts provided to the blog Blessed by Brenna, started right here in Springfield, Illinois.  A brief background about this blog – Brenna Westlake was born in 2011 with a severe skin disease called Harlequin Ichthyosis. She went through horrible blood infections and had to undergo major surgeries and her parents didn’t know if she would make it or not. Courtney, Brenna’s mom, began posting on Facebook asking for prayers and for the support of her family and friends. The posts quickly circulated throughout the community due to shares, posts, and eventually attracted major networks such as CBS.  Her blog, Blessed by Brenna, has made it global allowing for other families to reach out to her with their experiences with the rare disease. What started out as a plea for help and prayers has turned into a collective effort and all because people cared enough to do something about it.

Tie that all in with what we have learned and what you can easily see is how cognitive surplus has gone to work in the Westlake family. Just like the start of Ushahidi and Wikipedia, all it took was one person with an idea. Last week when we discussed Generation Like and how there is obvious power in that little blue and white thumbs up, we saw it more so in the concept of companies trying to promote themselves. However, causes such as Brenna and others of the like (i.e. non-profit organizations, Animal Protective League) can utilize social media for a collective benefit. Whereas I may not benefit personally from sharing the Blessed by Brenna blog or the current needs of the Sojourn Shelter, I am indirectly helping someone else out there which is what Shirky calls our civic value. Individuals volunteer in food shelters to help others for example, but what it also does is it fulfills that gap inside all of us that urges us to do good and help out our fellow peers.

Brenna in 2014
Brenna in 2014

It is fascinating to me how we have progressed from the Pony Express and the electronic telegraph to being able to video chat with groups across the world and make a YouTube video go viral in a matter of seconds.  When Marshall McLuhan introduced the theory of technological determinism,  I believe his reaction to current social media takeover would not be that of surprise. However, I think he would shake his head at the waste of resources and bombardment of non-talented material that circulates the internet currently. Nonetheless, when there are sites like the Brenna Facebook page that turns global and attracts more medical research and provides funding to that research and families, I think that is something that warrants a pat on the back to the development of technology. Courtney Westlake’s Facebook page now turned blog provides a variety of information daily along with updates on her daughter and family.

365 Firsts - Check it out!
365 Firsts – Check it out!

As for an existing project, I have been following the development of a former classmate, Travis Cox and his Instagram blog, 365 Firsts (I urge you all to go check it out and follow him). When he graduated from college he set out to spend the next 365 days doing something new every single day and this began back in May of this year. What started out as just friends and family following him has turned into a large following and a recent article where he was interviewed by the State Journal Register. He now has close to 900 followers and it grows every day with more and more people from all over the country finding out about it as he sets off on these new adventures. This social media experiment uses the collaborate tools that we learned about from Shirky with the addition to benefits not only for the creator but for all of his audience.

Some of his most moving “firsts” have included: registering to be a bone marrow donor, leaving water toys next to a random family’s vehicle in a parking lot on a hot summer day, leaving a nice note and few dollars on a stranger’s car, and joining freerice.com. Now the best part of this project is that he urges all of his followers to do the same or similar things to help others selflessly. It would be great to see him send random news stations across the country his blog and information on why he is doing it. If more projects such as these that embody both communal and civic value can be implemented and brought to the mainstream social media sites for more young eyes to see, I could see a large shift in how kids spend their free time. And on top of that, if more parents bear witness to these small acts, they too can make it family oriented and provide better more educational ways to spend time with their children instead of in front of the television or their iPhone. Instead of being sucked into the world of online gaming or spending hours sharing and retweeting their favorite movie’s information, kids could be out in the real world helping others while still being able to blog and share with the world their thoughts and feelings.

Donating food to the APL
Donating food to the APL

Technology and social media in general can be such an instrumental tool for changing just the little things in this world all the way to creating huge mediums such as Wikipedia that is used worldwide. While I don’t agree with the amount of time and increased lack of interpersonal skills that has taken place especially in this new generation, I do feel that with enough push in the right direction and more people like Courtney Westlake and my friend Travis using it for the benefit of not only themselves but others, that it can lead to a very promising future. 

Look at me! Look at me!

I haven’t quite figured out yet if this generation is increasingly self-absorbed along with being insecure or if they are impressively creative and tactful. The reason I bring this up stems from the Frontline video, Generation Like. When the film first started, we witnessed a group of teens sitting around their computers socializing all the while critiquing Facebook pictures and comparing each other’s “like” popularities. These teens are learning how to market themselves online, but what is it actually benefiting? Will this fill a void of loneliness? Maybe. Will it make someone with low self-esteem feel better? Yes and no. When considering these questions, I have to think back to the popular phrase floating around Hollywood, “no press is bad press”. The same can be said of online users (if they know how to do it right).

During Rushkoff’s interviews, the term empowerment was used quite regularly. Giving young adults a voice when before they may not have had one is one benefit to our technological advancements. Similarly as we read in Culture, when Shirky described the Invisible College he noted that “they had one another” and this sums up what I believe social media for most kids is achieving today. Where some may be rejected, not well liked or seemingly invisible, certain mediums give them a place to connect with other like-minded kids and express their feelings, ideas and emotions without the fear of abandonment or harsh judgment. This merging of similarities (or fan bases in some regards) as the film portrayed is an excellent resource for them to begin working together and collaborating as a team.

Social Life takes on a whole new meaning
Social Life takes on a whole new meaning

Now on a different spectrum, we have the lovely topic of monetary gains. As we witnessed, a lot of these young minds have latched on to these possibilities and made them work for their own benefit. As this pursuit of fame and status is enacted, we are seeing a decline (or at least in my opinion) in the actual talent that is coming forward into the limelight now. According the Rushkoff, genuine talent seems to be “beside the point” anymore and risque and ridiculous YouTube videos take the lead above all else. But this is how these kids (Tyler Oakley) for example are making a name and “branding” themselves in today’s society. All you need is someone with enough ambition, time and enthusiasm. Compare Tyler to what we read about from Shirky and how the Dean Campaign brought forth its message in the most exciting, energetic, and technologically forward way possible. It seems irrelevant that he did not win because the impact he made shows how just the right amount of tools can propel you into a lifetime of status. In the chapter, Fitting Our Tools to a Small World, Shirky talks about the Dodgeball software and how it connects friends or friends and grows from there. This is very similar to the craze that has taken place on line with these young kids featuring other aspiring YouTubers to gain more likes, shares or retweets. The more shares or subscribers that guest appearance earns them, the higher the probability of earning a corporate sponsorship.

Mfw.+small+it+was+funnier+in+my+head..+small_4f510b_3753186Tying in McLuhan to this mix and his theory of technological determinism, I feel he had such a grasp and comprehension of where we as a society could possibly go that nothing that has taken place would astound him or make him rethink any of his ideas. Shirky talked about the Friend-of-a-Friend network and how it has helped build our social circles. A perfect example of this exists on Facebook through their “friend suggestions”. On a side note, I find it amusing that the term acquaintance is barely used in dialogue anymore and everyone is assumed to be someone’s friend just because they are labeled that on social media sites. But what Facebook does is a form of investigating (just as Google does with their advertising placements) through our recent activities, travels, friends and work experiences, is search out people who we may know through even just 1 mutual friend. I don’t know how many times I’ve received a friend request from someone I had never heard of before and when I asked them how I knew them they said “I don’t know you but Facebook thinks we should be friends”.

I feel very old intermixed with today’s younger generation. Even though I am 27, in relation to all that has transformed in technology, I consider myself out of the loop. In Generation Like, we were informed that “standing on the sideline is not an option” and that the “like” button is the way of the future. Facebook is currently valued at $142 billion dollars!! That is 9 zeros people!! And this is coming from us, the consumers, the social media addicts. All those companies who give away prizes, trips, free products or concert tickets are marketing their products through mediums we use every single day. We click their like buttons, we share their statuses and we subscribe to their newsletters in the hopes of winning what is most likely an unattainable prize all the while shoving more money into their CEO’s pockets. The girl in the video who was obsessed (no better word to use here) with the Hunger Games is a fitting example and prime target for these companies. She stated that she spends 4-5 hours every day sharing and retweeting and that it “makes her feel like a worker”. Of course it does, that is a part time job! The company is raking in the money and in return she is graciously given more sparks to add to her online cart.

online-brandingLooking at these young minds and seeing their successes ranging all the way from YouTube sensations like Oakley to social media giants like Zuckerberg, makes me both leery and optimistic. This week’s material was almost like a ping pong board for me because I see the obvious benefits that can come from online branding and marketing; however, I cringe at the sight of distasteful material being glamorized and promoted instead of meaningful and educational information.

 

“In Technology We Trust”

This week has been the most interesting so far with the videos and readings we were given. I know I say that every week, but this time the information was literally mind blowing for me. I have so many notes that I want to talk about in this blog, but unfortunately I’m going to have to limit it down quite a bit.

Technology is shaping us, creating us and transforming us into a generation, as Professor Mark Bauerlein wrote, the “dumbest” we have ever seen. A virtual world? Really? That I will get into later…

Ok so Technological Determinism is the basis for this week’s blog. Marshall McLuhan truly was a man ahead of his time and summed it up perfectly when he stated that “most of us have yet to understand that the world will never be the same.” Well isn’t that the truth! PC Cafes in Korea actually causing deaths because of over usage of data and proclaiming it a psychiatric disorder. Internet Rescue Camps reverting children back to playing games outside and communicating with peers…yes I said outside, shocking I know. It’s sad that I consider myself with old fashioned ideals and I’m only 27 years old!

It feels as if this all happened overnight. I see my little cousins playing on their iPhones and iPads and not knowing how to communicate effectively. I actually asked one of my close friends this week after reviewing the material, why he allows his 4 year old son to have a Kindle. He answered it simply; it keeps his son occupied and is convenient. That is the problem! We have students saying that they “can’t remember the last time they read a book” as we observed in the Frontline episode Digital Nation. And another point in the film is the lack of family dynamics. You even see the narrator describing her evenings in the dining room. I remember dinner was the time to sit around the table and talk about your day and bond as a family unit. What is this lack of attention teaching young minds? That it is ok to be disrespectful, out of touch and self-absorbed now? These mediums are what is changing every aspect of our lives.

To add to that last point, I agree completely with the lecture on Technological Determinism and how we are becoming a society that lacks sensory awareness. When walking down the street or even in the park, aren’t most people buried in the screens of their phones anymore? Nature isn’t even being listened to or observed. And stretching from that point, what about when passerby’s actually waved or said hi to each other? We can’t even enjoy the little things anymore without technology creeping in at any time of the day. In the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon in Chapter 24, it expresses the concern of technology eventually controlling us and that was in 1986. Fast forward 27 years and our cell phones cause immediate reactions regardless of the setting: dinner, exercising, movies, driving. This technology (phones and TV for example) should be a hot media allowing us still to focus on other things while still being productive. However, it seems it has immersed us into a cold media where we are like zombies and not cognizant to the world around us. It’s as if we are fearful that if we don’t respond right away, the message will somehow disappear into cyberspace never to be retrieved again.

One of the quotes that caused me to use a little knowledge tucked away from my interpersonal communications class, was from McLuhan when he talked about words not being as important as the actual medium. He said that content “plays a distinctively subordinate role” The same is true of verbal and nonverbal communication. Nonverbal is always more important and telling than verbal. For example we can be upset with our partner but smile and tell them that you love them all the while you have your arms crossed and roll your eyes as you walk away. What I’m getting at here is that these mediums that are more important are causing huge changes in our society throughout this Electronic Age. If you go anywhere there are large groups of people anymore, what do their nonverbal messages tell you? That their devices are more important than you. That what you have to say isn’t as important as a text, email or website. Is this how we want to raise future generations?

In relation to future generations, I saved the best for last, and I’m referring to my utter disappointment in companies like Second Life and IBM. Phillip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life, sees his virtual world as being a positive and a growing experience for individuals. I have to disagree completely. His strive to “solve technologies problems of separation” in my opinion is actually causing even more of a separation. So if a person wants to have a bigger house or a better job or a larger circle of friends, all they have to do is create more avatars or click the option for a mansion instead of a ranch. This is supposed to calm that inner want and dream within a person? The time that a person spends creating this virtual “hot media” world could actually be spent in the real world working a few more hours and adding to their savings account. If a person strives for more friends, why not go out more and join a volunteer organization? This society has turned lazy and has completely adopted the “I want it given to me” mentality.

Not only does Second Life infiltrate your personal life, but now large and prominent companies like IBM are replacing human interaction with avatars. The movie Up in The Air portrays this advance in technology perfectly as it shows you can’t replace the real life with the virtual life. Human emotions and true connection cannot exist entirely over a computer or telephone screen. This week disturbed me and I truly fear for the future if more companies like IBM take heed of this virtual, separation state of communicating and living much like the military has already begun. We need to ask questions. Will this create a lazy military? Will we feel as safe from attacks in the future if we are funding a military of gamers and office personal? I know I won’t…

I’m Not A Dingo I’m A Sloth!!

Yes, I know John Oliver was referring to Thomas Wheeler when he referenced a dingo, but the revelation I made after reading our articles and watching our videos this week is that the government must think we as American citizens are all sloths. And I chose a sloth because they are notorious for doing nothing, for letting life just happen around them and go about their days. Doesn’t this sound a lot like what most Americans do when it comes to news we hear? Last week we learned in great detail the extent the government and NSA are willing to go to hide the truth from all of us, now we learn of more freedoms possibly being taken away from us. The American people are going to snap one day and I truly hope we all get out of sloth mode and turn into the dingos causing the government to run while holding their tails!

At the beginning of the semester we were asked whether we were early adopters or laggers and I’m one of those who wait for something to come out for awhile then research it until my mind hurts to make sure I’m making the most informed decision. Well the same went for me in regards to the internet. I did not have internet in my home for years because I didn’t find it necessary to pay for it when I could just run up to Starbucks or use it at my work. Not until this summer semester started and I had online classes did I find the necessity of paying a monthly bill of $20.

Extortion. That is the theme of this week and it was reiterated in the On Point podcast. Just as the caller Jim from Boston pointed out, the consumers would not be getting faster internet, we would have the same speeds as are offered now on Comcast’s website at different prices. I personally do not like how Comcast (whether they admit to it or not) have a monopoly over all other companies. It is scary to hear that their company has so much political power in Congress and they are an entertainment provider!

If, and let’s use that term loosely in hopes it doesn’t happen, net neutrality ceases to exist and companies are forced to pay more for providing services I will change some of the services that I use regularly due to their convenience and lack of pull on my pocket book. What I fear is that the companies that will be affected most are the ones I use religiously that are a necessity. What is going to happen when Universities and Colleges start getting charged? We all know that UIS utilizes several different companies within their website to receive video feeds, information, grading, etc. I am willing to pay up to a certain point but what is that point exactly? It’s hard to pinpoint, but I know that I would not want to spend over $50 a month to access the internet. (Let’s hope that last sentence wasn’t one that is getting spied on by the NSA!!)

I go without watching TV, don’t need to see YouTube videos, and could do without some forms of social media so I don’t think an imposed fee would affect me as much as it would others. Now please don’t get me wrong, I still do not agree with it by any stretch of the imagination. Our freedoms have slowly been plucked from us like chicken feathers for the past several decades. The idea of competition is what keeps our country growing. Unfortunately larger corporations over the years have dwindled down the existence of what we call “mom and pop” stores and we are stuck with companies like Wal-Mart and Target, Comcast and Time-Warner, Hy-Vee and Publix. This all can revert back to the concept of shopping local. In order to keep society running strong we have to have healthy competition. Having Comcast monopolize completely in multiple aspects of this nation will only lead us to even more of a dictatorship.

Consequently, what am I or anyone else going to do about this? Most of us will not do anything we will just sit back and cross our fingers hoping for the best, case in point, very sloth like. Just as the videos told us, nothing will change in our favor unless a larger public discussion is adopted. How else would the VOTF grown to over 25,000 members in its first 6 months if it hadn’t been for public action and use of technology? I do plan on voicing my concerns on the FCC’s website as instructed and urged by John Oliver. You’ll never know if your voice will be heard unless you try right? Just like the lottery. You can’t win unless you play!

I always feel like somebody’s watching me…

Privacy Caution
No Privacy!

I truly view myself as a uniformed citizen now after watching these videos and reading the material.  I always knew Big Brother had his eye on us, but I didn’t realize it was to this magnitude! When weighing the pros and cons, I have to say that may stance is heavily leaning on loss of privacy and freedom. In a broad sense I do understand the initial reasoning behind the beginnings of information tracking; however, I feel that over time that tracking has turned into much more than it originally sought out to be.

In the article Blowing a Whistle, Thomas Friedman couldn’t have been more accurate and straightforward about our government:

“The question is more fundamental: Is government accessing the data for the legitimate public safety needs of the society, or are they accessing it in ways that abuse individual liberties and violate personal privacy – and in a manner that is unsupervised.”

When NSA’s‘ The Program’ was leaked by Edward Snowden, the true exposure of what the government was up to fell into the laps of all Americans. Not only were citizens informed of phone call, internet and email tracking, they were made aware of a program called Prism. Nine internet companies (Facebook and Google for example) were supplying the NSA with Americans personal content, especially social media. This last part is where I have a problem…now let me explain.

Red Flags
Are they really looking for these?

In the documentary on Frontline, United States of Secrets, when Google was interviewed regarding webpage tracking, a comment was made that “every search is an expression of intention.” From here we have to assume that the NSA is looking for terrorist like searches or material that can be harmful to others. I’d like to revert our attention to a few months back when the mass murders occurred in Isla Vista, California by Elliot Roger. This young man had utilized the internet, social media and even email to reach out and provide nothing but evidence on a platter to the government of his intentions. If the NSA was truly looking for terrorist data, don’t you think that would have triggered numerous red flags? And this example can be made in regards to several instances such as this. So what/who are they really looking for?

Computers
Do we really want this making decisions for us?

On an opposite spectrum we have the lack of privacy existing within malware applications that suck all of the data from every possible medium, especially through Bluetooth. When listening to the Flame podcast, I was highly disturbed when I heard about this virus actually calling its home base once it had infiltrated the system and making decisions on its own! Technology and I don’t have a very close relationship, but I will say that when I hear a technology based application has a mind of its own that freaks me out quite a bit. Then I watched the video on Stuxnet from 60 minutes and all I kept seeing play through my head was the movie Eagle Eye and how the computer system took over and took control of whatever it wanted. The film used the phrase “sabotage by software” which is and should be a grave concern.

Every article I read and every video I watched all had the underlying theme of government involvement. However, our lovely Feds consistently deny every possible connection they may have. This spans from Stuxnet to Flame and on to ‘The Program’. In the chapter Personal Motivation, they explained how Wikipedia relies on a wide range of skills to perfect an acceptable entry. I used a little bit of comparison after reading that section to how the NSA utilized many different departments to undergo ‘The Program’. They chose meticulously who was going to help in the implementation process and who would even know about it in general. One question kept coming to my mind though and that was in reference to Edward Snowden. The Frontline film told us that he was a high school dropout who somehow wound up working for the NSA. How exactly does that happen? When I was younger I had looked into working for the FBI but found that the qualifications and steps to even apply were so vigorous and they only accepted the elite of elite. To tie this back to Snowden, this young kid was stationed in Asia and was able to get access to all of these highly classified documents. If the government is so concerned about monitoring traffic, communications and basically our every move, how do they let something of this magnitude actually happen?

Whistleblower
Some leakers are for our benefit!

Utilizing cyber space to take over our “dirty work” I believe is going to bite us in the rear, for lack of better words. Already the step by step instructions for creating Stuxnet are online, anyone can search out how to build a bomb, you name it, and it is online. With the media broadcasting every tidbit of information (some accurate, some not) not only do we see it on American soil, but the rest of the world does too. I think our government is relying too heavily on technology and not enough on common sense and proper defense strategies. What scares me the most is that we will be the ones that suffer. We watched as Tom Drake was nearly sentenced to life in prison after being framed by the NSA, we witnessed our Presidents lie on national television whether bold face or through omission and we were made aware that “whistleblowers” don’t end up too well”.

Mad Cow Protest South Korea
Teenage Girls Protesting For Their Rights

While it bothers me that Big Brother is constantly watching my every move, what concerns me is that they are following me and others like me instead of focusing their attention on the ones they ought to be tracking. Just like the protest of young girls in South Korea from the Means article, I fear there will be a revolt by the American people when enough is enough. However, I think the outcome wouldn’t be in our favor as I can assume the NSA and government will not go down without a fight.

“i Haz a Problm wit sum media”

What a great week of study! I thoroughly enjoyed the readings and found myself continuously jotting down notes to use for this week’s blog post.  Social Media is at the forefront of our lives whether it is to keep up with family and friends, to discovery DIY solutions for your home or simply using a filter to make the sunset look even more spectacular. All of this “user-generated content” is unique, personal (yet public), and consistently growing.

Celebrity Selfie
But first…let me take a selfie

I dove into the Facebook craze my senior year of high school, but didn’t use it religiously for at least 2 years after creating my account. I remember how status updates were only text and very rarely would a picture be posted. The idea of “selfies” would have been comical and even video sharing, especially off of YouTube would have just had me shaking my head.  Now, as you scroll through your news feed, you are bombarded with pictures, videos, quotes, lists, news articles, advertisements and even job postings.

 

Instagram
Instagram Collage Using 16 Different Filters

Instagram is a social media outlet that I use occasionally, but do not seek out 1,000’s of followers as some of my friends do. Currently I have 66 followers and I’m following 67 people; however, I’d say that only 30% of them are active on the site. I find the different filtering options interesting much like the example used in Publish, Then Filter in reference to Flickr and the use of “high dynamic range” photos to several exposure options for one shot.  Mostly I use Instagram to capture the landscape or to add a little something unique to a picture with friends.

A theme that has become all too prevalent (in social media especially) and rather frustrating to my English meticulous self, is the lack of grammar and proper communication.  In the first few pages of the article Publish, Then Filter, numerous examples of comments, postings and blogs were provided that proved how lackadaisical people have become in their online presence.  One person composed (that term is used loosely here) through the weblog site Xanga, “Hey every1 srry i havent been on a while i have…” to broadcast her recent activities to friends and followers. Even as I was typing that last sentence, my spell check was going haywire trying to auto correct every grammatical error. What I find hard to understand is why this influx of social media in our lives gives individuals the excuse to sound illiterate and uneducated online?

Another frustration that I have is the prevalence of news articles that spike emotions and comments from their outlandish stories. I have several friends on Facebook who are notorious for posting inaccurate information ranging all the way from politics to celebrity deaths. Most of these stories (or rumors) can be busted by the website Snopes, which is a mecca for proving articles true or false. People who keep themselves uneducated in global and even local affairs are quick to assume everything they read is 100% truthful without doing the legwork.

Lolcats
LOLCats – They’re Everywhere!

I had to laugh (no pun intended) as I read the section in Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus that pertained to Lolcats. As obsurd of an idea as “Cheezburger” cats can be, this is the sad reality of current social media. While I applaud the success and fame that the creator of these internet memes has made, I have to ask if we are dumbing ourselves down too much? I read an article a while back involving the top googled images on the web and captioned cat pictures was in the top 3.

For reasons such as Lolcat, I do not have a very “healthy internet media diet” as has become the social norm. I use the internet not to patrol entertainment websites or search for funny videos; I utilize it mostly for school research, travel information and staying connected to family and friends through Facebook primarily.

Reporter
How long before this is a career of the past?

What I fear, and for good reason considering my major, is that social media and information sharing in real time will replace reporters, news anchors and television news stations.  Reverting back to the story of the creation of Ushahidi and how accurate its representation of real life events in Kenya were, it makes me wonder if online blogs and picture sites will take the place of professional reporting and leave it entirely in the hands of concerned citizens and those who happen to be in the right place at the right time.

So much has changed online and through all media sources that we almost have to just sit back, enjoy the ride and accept the fact that change is inevitable and you can either be an early adopter or a lagger who is left in the dust…

Codes and Blogs and Trunks Oh My!

Splat Map
Internet Splat Map

How do you even begin to know what all those lines mean? That was the first question that came to my mind as I watched the lecture on the Internet and the splat maps. Then we moved on to the data pipelines and trunks and the United States appears to have a giant yellow growth coming from the West that expands across the Atlantic Ocean! The growth of technology over the past 200 hundred years is mind blowing to say the least. These innovators and early adapters who streamlined us into the 21st century exhibited bravery, intelligence, fearlessness and motivation. All of the individuals we studied possessed similar attributes and regardless of the era, were presented with parallel obstacles and experiences.

Listening to the “Internet Underground” lecture, I honed in on the use of specialized jargon and how it was different for each technological advancement. The electric telegraph boasted terms such as electromagnetism, currents and trunks that the majority of individuals would not understand unless in that profession. Similarly, the internet today is just as complex as it was in the 1800’s for some to understand. We have terms such as http, IP, TCP, html all of which look like a clump of letters from the alphabet to most. Deciphering these acronyms and terms and creating fluid language for all to understand was what Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds and Whitfield Diffie did through publishing that information for free on the internet.

Whitfield Diffie
Whit Diffie “The Code Guy”

Not only was language a barrier, but some also faced government and organizational hindrances as well. Whitfield “Whit” Diffie, who was noted for the creation of the public key, confronted the NSA in order to allow for the publication of his public key encryption. I can imagine how unnerving presenting in front of the NSA would have been for someone who is going against societal norms. Similarly, Samuel Morse experienced the same confrontation with his electric telegraph. He asked for the assistance of Congress and finally won the right to a $30,000 experimental line. In a more modern day setting with the story of Evan and the Sidekick, he utilized technology in the forms of social media and the internet to proposition and challenge the NYPD. Yet again, technology won and the NYPD followed through with Evan’s wishes.

Linus Torvalds
The Linux Kernel Man

Community building was imperative in the implementation of Linus Torvalds’ Linux Kernel. As the lecture stated it was the “largest collaborative effort in history” and it was all made possible through the internet.  The four individuals that we discussed all offered their ideas for free and from this, greater products were introduced, more effective ways of navigation were created leading to more in depth analysis of procedures through the eyes of thousands of other experts.  Evan’s blog became of whirlwind and overnight success, one that I’m sure even he did not expect, especially over a missing cellphone. Community building, as we read, took on many forms, mostly positive; however some were negative. When you involve thousands and even millions of individuals and invite their opinions to an online forum you are creating a community of diversity that can be both beneficial to your cause but sometimes detrimental. On the far end of the spectrum, that community built through technology was sending Sasha (the thief) threats on her and her family’s lives, numerous insults to her appearance and intelligence and now a lasting stigma that will follow her around forever.

Mozilla Firefox
“Mosaic Killa”

Overall, these differing technologies correlate with one another on the simple basis that they are/were ever changing and adaptable. The telegraph, Mosaic, Linux, the internet and cellphones, to name a few, have all progressed through countless changes, updates and discontinuations to leave us with an end product that either builds upon the original design or takes with it valuable bits of information to begin the next technological advancement. I found it interesting in the lecture to discover that Mozilla Firefox was coined for being the “Mosaic Killa”. You look at the screenshots from the original webpages and while you see similarities you realize how complex what we work with on a daily basis truly is. You can think back to when we learned about the Pony Express and how it would take days or even a week to retrieve information clear across the country and the concept of having to wait (which in current society is intolerable). Then you compare that experience to the examples of Flickr and how individuals were posting pictures and updates from within catastrophes to alert the world of either their status or those around them. While these advancements may seem frightening at times due to their readily available status, if used properly, current technology and that of the future is bound to provide for an even greater way of life and a platform for continued intellectual development.

Technology: Friend or Foe?

Hello Classmates,

Another day at the office
Another day at the office

My name is Cassie Mattson and I am 27 years old and a Communications major and Marketing minor at UIS. I currently work full-time in business aviation (a job that I was lucky enough to have fall in my lap) and have been taking night classes full-time in order to earn my degree as soon as possible. I tend to operate more effectively with more on my plate and a full schedule as I tend to be highly disciplined and organized and when I have free time I tend to be lackadaisical about most things. This is my first online course at UIS and I’m looking forward to earning credits while still having flexibility in my schedule during the summer.

In regards to technology, I admit I am a far cry from an innovator or an early adopter. My specialty has been in the realm of the late majority. This I determined is from my indecisive attitude towards most avenues in my life. I am the type of person who will research a product and its reviews relentlessly in order to make the most informed choice so that I am not disappointed in the end. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally broke down and purchased my first smartphone. Mind you, I did not do this willingly, just as the text described ‘my kind’ as being pressured into conforming. I had just purchased my first home and did not have internet access and was reluctant in signing my money away to yet another monthly bill. Even today I do not have internet or cable/satellite at my home, which I am thankful for considering I view television as a time waster for myself when I could be doing other things outside or around my house. To my benefit, the smartphone (Samsung Galaxy) is large enough and fast enough that whatever internet needs I have can be met in the palm of my hand tacked onto my phone bill. I admit that having access to everything so conveniently makes me wonder why I took so long to jump on the bandwagon.

Social Media I utilize daily to communicate with friends and family, especially with those who I do not see regularly except for holidays or special occasions. Again, I was a late bloomer when it came to sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Not until two days ago did I ever have a Twitter account nor have the intention of ever beginning one. This could be due to my lack of understanding of it or of the irritation at constantly hearing about celebrities and who is tweeting what and when. Only two of my friends are active ‘tweeters’ and when they show me their pages my head always tends to hurt because I don’t understand the reasons behind some of them. I’m remaining optimistic though on adopting Twitter into my social media family. Nevertheless, it stands as one more medium of what I view as wasted time in the grand scheme of things.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Technology definitely has its advantages, but also poses negatives that are becoming apparent especially in the younger generations. I remember reading a quote by Albert Einstein that basically stated he felt technology would encompass our communication and we would breed unintelligent people. I’ve noticed how quickly time can slip away from you as you catch up on your timeline of friends every day and I can’t help but feel lazy and unproductive. Not to mention, it has been researched and studied that social media has the tendency of causing higher rates of depression due to lifestyle comparisons amongst your peers and I have to admit I am guilty of this feeling. One question that I raised recently came after receiving my invite to my 10 year high school reunion. Is it really necessary to attend reunions anymore? I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I come from a small town and I graduated with 40 people. I am friends with 80% of them on Facebook and keep up with their lives through pictures, posts and videos. The old need for seeing if someone gained weight, had kids, or became uber successful doesn’t mean as much as it used to since we already know most everything going on in their lives at any given time. This again reverts back to wise Einstein and his prediction of current generations.

Just as we read this week about Social Information Processing, the challenges for some technological methods are influenced by who we surround ourselves with. The example was used for the different computer types, Macintosh or Windows, and I can vouch that my entire circle of family and friends utilizes Windows-based systems. However, not until I began classes at UIS did I come in contact with individuals who praised ‘Macs’ and Apple products. You asked what technology we would be willing to incorporate into our lives and learning how to use a Macintosh system I believe would be a benefit. I have heard of programs within Macs that sound much more advanced than those on Windows. I have strayed from adopting this technology just for the sole reasons of not wanting to take the time to learn and not wanting to be the ‘odd man out’ in my circle of friends.