What technology means to me

It’s reflection time again for my Weblogs and Wikis class and I have found myself working in Prezi to create an artifact that represents the different dimensions I have learned throughout the semester.

I started compiling the materials I’ve learned about and realized a sort of pattern to the mix. So I decided to create a Prezi that shows off how technology shapes our lives – which is essentially what we have been learning about all along. There is also an accompanying blog post.

Then I noticed smaller patterns within that global topic, so I marked them down, and then stuffed in the things I’ve been working with into these sub-categories.

I am not able to cover absolutely everything I have learned in the class, as my education in the digital world has been quite extensive over the past four months. I have, however, included in the Prezi the most primary key topics, issues, concerns, etc. that I have explored.

Throughout the semester I have learned a great deal about the digital tools that are available to us. These tools continue to develop as we, as a society, dive deeper into the digital realm.

There were many topics I was quite unfamiliar with, or only knew a little about, when I started this class. My knowledge has grown into something I can utilize throughout my future endeavors. I have found new ways to present my ideas and my creativity to the world. I have also explored things I will be able to use when I start my own business someday.

Most importantly, I have learned to be more aware of the digital world and what it means to us: what it offers now, the potential for new technologies, the potential for new uses of current technologies, and how it shapes the way we conduct our lives, our businesses, and our communications.

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How Technology Shapes Our World

Advancements in technology have shaped the way we live our lives, in significant and meaningful ways. I could spend days, and numerous essay posts, talking about these changes, but I am going to try to hash out a quick and dirty post that covers the basics of recent technology use that is shaping our world.

Communication

The way we communicate with one another has changed from less face-to-face interaction and more text-based interaction such as text messaging, instant messaging, email, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Our daily lives, thoughts, and creations are being put out into the digital sphere for others to Like, comment on, and repurpose.

This concept is still fairly new, and along with the new-ness of it, comes some hardships. There are questions of privacy and ownership, as well as debates over who has the rights to create what kind of materials. Individuals are now inventors of new products, and are able to instantly publish their creative works without the needs of a publishing company. Traditional journalists are also having a territorial fight with bloggers and tweeters over the news.

Education

Another avenue that is under revision due to advancements in technology is education. The internet is becoming our primary resource for anything and everything we need to know. We subscribe to our news via RSS, Facebook, and Twitter, and we use Google and Wikipedia as the starting point for all our research.

Wikis have allowed us to collaborate our knowledge into extensive digital encyclopedias and resources. The best example of this of course being Wikipedia, but there are numerous others out there on a variety of topics, and this number is sure to grow.

Promotion

The way that businesses reach out to their customers has drastically changed. Traditional print advertisements are not nearly as effective as a post on Facebook or a viral video. The more accessible the information is, the better the company’s chances of getting a potential customer interested in making a purchase.

The innovation of social media as a new marketing technique as well as the appearance of QR Codes, has changed the entire approach for businesses, causing them to completely re-think the wheel.

Recreation

Most of our hobbies are now able to be associated to the digital world in some form or another. Photographers share their images on Flickr. Other hobbies have websites, wikis, etc. Or, a person can just share the hobby with others on Facebook groups, or talk about them in Twitter feeds. They can even add friends on social bookmarking sites and share websites about their hobbies. All forms of recreation have become a social activity to be shared in the digital realm.

Technology has also produced new forms of recreation. We now have things like YouTube, World of Warcraft, and Facebook games to keep us entertained. Even video games have gone to the digital world, offering social interactions via the internet, such as Xbox Live. Also, things like Flash Mobs have been produced out of the woodwork of the internet.

Production

It used to be that you had to be a part of a corporation of some kind to create a product or work on a project. This is no longer the case. With the idea of produsage, users become the producers. Material is presented to the masses with the intention of having it worked with and advanced. Also, the concept of crowdsourcing projects out to groups of people instead of having one individual work on it has allowed for efficient and effective production.

Revolution

Technology has integrated itself into our daily lives. Many people now have smart phones and laptops that allow them to access the internet anywhere. This has led to mobile blogging and the enhancement of accessibility of information and news.

Not all change is met with good feedback. Many worry about the negative side effects of a technology-based society, such as privacy concerns and language change. Regardless of ill thoughts, the world is adapting to embrace technology as the driving force in our lives.

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Flash Mobs: Crossing the digital/physical divide

Flash Mob at the Mall

Copyright Ryan Rose

According to Wikipedia, a flash mob is “a term coined in 2003 to denote a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire. Flash mobs are organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails. The term is generally not applied to events and performances organized for the purposes of politics (such as protests), commercial advertisement, publicity stunts, that involve public relation firms, or paid professionals.”

The first flash mob was started by the senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, Bill Wasik, as a social experiment. It took place at the Macy’s department store in Manhattan on June 3, 2003. During this flash mob, over 100 people gathered on an expensive rug in the department store and claimed they all lived together in a warehouse and they made all of their purchasing decisions together. Note that Wasik’s first attempt at a flash mob failed when the department store was tipped off.

Since then, the flash mob has hit cities all across America, and has even been broken down into sub-categories, including mobile clubbing where the participants dance to music in headphones in unusual places, and zombie walks, which is self-explanatory. There have been a few instances where flash mobs have turned sour, most notably in Philadelphia where teens have begun to riot in flash mob fashion.

There is a common misconception about flash mobs, and that is that they are intended to protest something, or is a fancy new marketing scheme. On the contrary, the very definition of a flash mob suggests that it is a “pointless act”. They are created for the shock-and-awe factor. Though the misconception is so widespread that the term flash mob is beginning to encompass more than just purposeless performances.

This Twitter feed follows flash mobs, and recently reported about a “flash mob” happening at a BP gas station. Well it isn’t a flash mob at all, it is a protest, with picket-signs and chanting. Nothing really related to a flash mob, but it has been hashtagged as one anyway.

Here is a great example of a flash mob that happened at Grand Central Station in New York City. This flash mob was created by Improv Everywhere, a group based in NYC that strives to create “scenes of chaos and joy in public places”.

What I love about flash mobs is the general “WTF?!” of all the witnesses. That is especially clear in the example I gave above. The people who are not participating in a flash mob, really have no idea what’s happening, and, as in this video, almost seem alarmed at the actions of those involved.

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OMG! Technology Causes Language Change

This week I set out to find examples of the changes in language made possible by new technologies such as social media and blogging. Most of this language shift began in chat rooms and in text messages, where quick words are favored over proper spelling and grammar.

One place I found several instances of language change was the comment stream on this Flickr photo. I noticed a complete lack of “proper” sentence structure: the comments are in sentence fragments, and are missing the correct punctuation. They also, more often than not, are missing the capital letter to start the sentence off. There is an over-usage in the exclamation point, repeated several times as if to show extreme exclamation. Finally, there is the text smiley face, constructed with a colon and a parenthesis. Here are a few of the comments that highlight these observations:

  1. Amazing! Fabulous work.
  2. aw. i agree with eveyone else antolin. there is a story to be told here. beautiful detail.
  3. What an awesome shot !!!
    You did a great work on this shot !!!
  4. beautiful detail and atmosphere antolin 🙂

Another place I noted changes in language was in the blog of a Canadian teenager called Oh Clementine. The tag line of this teen’s blog even lacks proper grammar: “where i make nonsense make sense”. Note the capitalization and punctuation “errors”.

Looking specifically at a post from 2010 about cats, I noted the usage of words in all caps, usually to simulate yelling or to stress a particular point. What is most interesting about this post is that the author has incorporated drawings in a sort of web comic kind of way. In the comic, the author uses numerous examples of language change including:

  1. OMG NOOOO!!! (acronym for Oh My God, all caps, extra exclamation)
  2. O hai! Legs! This looks like a good place to nap!!!! (O instead of Oh, hai instead of hey, and extra exclamation)
  3. *sigh* guess I’ll find a different sweater … (use of asterisks to denote an action, lack of capitalization, use of ellipses “…” to indicate break in thought)

My final example is not necessarily a change in language, but a change in the use of it. The microblogging site Twitter has led to an entirely new literary art form, microfiction. This new literary form consists of an extremely short story, in 140 characters or less. Check out Twitter Fiction for many great micro-stories like these:

  1. When I saw her, I couldn’t find words. That was a first. Eyes met. Words weren’t needed. That was a first too.
  2. Left, Right, Left, Right. My footsteps echo in the prison hall. I’ve had my last meal and now take that infamous walk to my certain death.
  3. “TIMES UP!” was the last thing I read on the L.E.D screen. Gone were the green, blue and red wires. Gone were my stylish pink wire cutters.
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The Manifesto of Social Media Privacy

The way we communicate as a society is changing. We are increasingly spending more and more time on our computers rather than in face-to-face interactions. With this transition into a more digital world, comes a question of privacy. Where we used to tell our best friend about our bad day over lunch, we are now posting it as our Facebook status, for all to see.

This idea of privacy in a digital age brings up a number of questions: what should be considered private in the social media sphere? How can you protect yourself from unwanted attention? And most importantly, how should you present yourself in the online community?

Let’s begin with a look at the big picture. There are three types of public personas a person can choose, the two extremes – everything is public, or everything is private – and then somewhere in between.

Of course, you should be somewhere in between.

Complete anonymity detaches you from what is made public, which some may see as a good thing, but others see as a bad thing. It gives people the sense that you’re hiding something, and it devalues what you have to say because it removes the social integrity of having a real person behind the product. When you desire to be anonymous, it often means you do not want to be associated with the material presented – perhaps out of shame, or out of fear of defacement.

Then on the flip side, having everything public is also a bad idea. When your whole life is made public, it is difficult to escape from reality. Not that a person should run from their problems, but more that they should be given the opportunity to choose when, and with whom they share this information.

Case-in-point: celebrities. Turn on the tv set, open a magazine, or browse the internet and you will see celebrity faces everywhere. As a culture, we have become obsessed with these public figures – everyone from politicians to athletes, and musicians to actors. What we see as a window into glorious lifestyles, they see as haunting. These individuals suffer in the public eye. Sure we get the good stuff, like how Prince William and Kate Middleton will soon tie the knot – but we also eat up the bad stuff, like Disney star Miley Cyrus taking a hit off a bong.

Rather than find yourself on the extreme ends, saddle yourself in the middle. The idea is to be in complete control of your online public persona. You choose what is placed in the social media sphere.

To protect yourself from the potential harm of making things public, be conscience of what you put out there. Think about what you’re posting, and who could conceivably see it, before you post it. If you don’t want it known, don’t make it accessible.

Side note: Even though this may seem like a no-brainer, I have to say it – don’t give out information that makes you susceptible to identity theft, such as bank account and credit card numbers, driver’s license, social security number, etc. etc. Only give this information to reputable companies in exchange for goods or services you desire. If you’re uncertain of a company or organization’s credibility, Google them. If in doubt, don’t offer the information.

A number of people have complained about potential employers looking up job applicants on Facebook. There are many potential hazards to this – they may see statuses of you complaining about your current job, or they may see drunken party pictures tagged by your friends. Again, the key is to be in control of your public persona. It is probably best to leave the job complaining off Facebook, knowing that future employers, or your current boss, may see. You decide what is made public. You post those statuses, no one else does it for you. Think about what you are making public, before it goes online.

Okay, but what about the party pictures problem? Your friends are tagging you, you are not choosing to put these pictures up. Well, there are ways to untag yourself and remove these pictures, but who wants to go through all that hoopla? Ah, might I be so bold as to say that perhaps it is not the tagging that is the issue, but maybe the lifestyle? If you don’t want to be seen as a lush, don’t be a lush. If you are ashamed of others seeing what you’re doing in the public sphere, maybe you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing – or, at the very least, stop being ashamed of it.

This brings me to the benefits of publicly sharing yourself online. Having a sort of social checks and balances helps us function as individuals. We as people generally care about the way we are perceived by others. Placing ourselves in the social media sphere is a great resource for uncensored reviews. People aren’t afraid to speak their minds online, nor are they afraid to be themselves – and you shouldn’t either. This raw, real truth, is something very beneficial to us.

I will use myself as the example this time. I recently decided to put up my art photography on the online social picture sharing site Flickr.  I was naturally nervous at first. I am very attached to my photos and I was scared that putting them online would cause them to be stolen and reused in ways I had not intended.

But then I began to think about it, why did I take these photos in the first place? Was it so they could sit on my computer, only to be viewed during my screen saver slide show after my keyboard becomes inactive for five minutes? No. I sought recognition. I entered these photos in art competitions, and had some of them published in a book. They were, whether I was readily able to admit it or not, intended for public consumption.

Being in the public eye gives us the reassurance and recognition we naturally seek – the caressing and coddling of our egos. Why take pictures, if no one will see them? Why write, if no one will read? Why do anything, if not for the social gratification provided as a result? The benefits of being in the public sphere far outweigh the consequences, so stop being afraid to share, and wire your life into the world-wide web. Times are definitely changing, and if you don’t hop aboard the bandwagon, we’re just going to leave you behind.

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What happens when you Google yourself?

It is an interesting experience to type your name into a Google search. I can honestly say my palms were a little sweaty as I did just that. Not that I have anything to hide, or that I feel like there’s stuff on the internet about me I don’t want seen, but mainly just because I didn’t know what exactly to expect.

With a unique name, it was easy for Google to dig through the internet muck and find me. The very first link is to my Facebook profile. When I click on it, there’s not much that a public person can see. They can see my profile picture, and they can see who my friends are. That’s because I have my privacy settings set to keep out potential stalkers and weirdos.

The next link that follows is my Myspace profile. This is kind of interesting because I actually deleted my Myspace account quite awhile ago. But somehow it still shows up. You can see pretty much everything I have put on there – my pictures, my information, my wall, my friends, everything. You can see in the public sphere on my [deleted] Myspace account, much of the information that only my Facebook friends get to see. Spooky. I’m gonna have to get this matter settled.

Next you will find a link to my Twitter account, and subsequently recent Tweets. No biggie there. I don’t Tweet anything that can’t be seen.

The next link is to a place called MyLife.com, which is interesting also. They are what appears to be a personal information aggregator. They pick up on what is put in the social sphere about you, and put it in one place. When you click on the link for me, a picture of myself shows up, along with my hometown, and my age. Then it says if you want to know more you need to be a member. I’m curious to see what else they have on file. My email address? My home address? My phone number?

A listing of me also comes up under a link to WhitePages.com, which is basically an online phone directory. They have address information, but it is not my address, instead it’s my parents’ which can be found by looking them up by name in any phone book. No biggie.

Then the next links are to my current job which is posted on a website, and links to articles I’ve written as a journalist on a number of different sites who reposted the articles as they were relevant to their businesses or organizations. You can also find links to the sign up sheets for the pageant I coordinate in my hometown every summer.

In a nutshell, I wasn’t shocked at the information that could be found, as most of it was intended for the public sphere, and that which isn’t (i.e. Facebook) is locked away for just my friends and family. The only exception is the Myspace thing, which I intend to get removed asap, mostly because it’s outdated, I haven’t been on the sight in atleast two years.

Now it’s your turn. See what you can find. Google yourself … if you dare.

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Showing Support for Japan Through Social Media

As of right now, the social media response to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami tragedy in Japan is limited. Those who are actually affected by the disaster are in no mood to be Tweeting or blogging right now. As time goes on, there will likely be a number of first-person accounts available to us on the web.

However, there is a significant amount of action going on right now in the social media sphere regarding Japan. Some of it is mainstream news outlets feeding information to their social media consumers, but an even greater percentage is people showing support for the devasted country. Below you will find some examples of support in social media that I have found.

By mid-afternoon the day the tsunami hit, UsWeekly, a celebrity gossip magazine, posted an article featuring celebrity Tweets about Japan. Everyone from Kim Kardashian to Slash had something to say. Here are my favorites:

  1. Ryan Seacrest: “Glued to TV watching this unreal earthquake footage out of Japan. Sending prayers to everyone affected. Unbelievable.”
  2. P Diddy: “Oh man yall see this earthquake in japan??????!!!!! Let us pray!!!! God bless Japan!”
  3. Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet: “The news footage is unreal. I know America and Americans will do what we always do. Help. Thoughts and prayers with the Japanese people.”

On a similar note, one celebrity has been tweeting about the tragedy nearly non-stop since the waves hit – George Takei. You probably remember him best as Hikaru Sulu from Star Trek. Since the earthquake, Takei has retweeted news to keep people up-to-date on the happenings in Japan. He has also been tweeting about how people can help.

The likely reason for Takei’s take to the Tweets? His family ties to Japan. By that afternoon Takei had tweeted, “Grateful to confirm that all friends & relatives, including those near epicenter, are safe and accounted for.” Several days later, when the threat of a nuclear meltdown escalated, he tweeted, “The nuke crisis affects me deeply. My aunt & baby cousin died in Hiroshima, found charred by radiation burns.”

Another interesting form of support for Japan comes from Flickr. Someone started a group called 1000 Cranes for Japan with the premise that in Japan, paper cranes are seen as a sign of good fortune and long life. So why 1000? In Japanese culture, it is said that one who folds 1000 paper cranes will have a wish fulfilled. Though the group hasn’t collected 1000 paper crane photos, the love and support can be felt by those who took the time to put a crane out for Japan.

The final piece I will touch on is the ability to donate to help those affected by the tragedy through Facebook. The American Red Cross has set up a Cause on the social networking site, where users can either donate directly, or participate in advertisements to earn donations. The Red Cross has raised nearly $200,000 this way.

And on that note, I give you this video. I found this one interesting because there are no news reporters talking, or anyone talking for that matter … you can hear sirens in the background and the crunching of things as they run into each other. If this video doesn’t send chills down your spine, I don’t know what will.

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