The Detroit Free Press wrote an article able nanatechnology--technology for grandparents or older adults or the elderly. As a new grandmother, I read this with interest, expecting to find the assorted junk about keeping pictures of your grandkids on the computer instead of the refrigerator, but I was surprised that that's not all they covered.
Games for keeping your frontal lobes working hard, games that were fun and improved eye-hand coordination, ways to have more music in your life. All these sound good, even the kids' photos arranged in digital scrapbooks. As a grand mother--I prefer Bubby to Nana--I don't intend to use the computer at all, however. In that role, when I play with my grand children, I want to go fishing and dig in the garden. The article might have featured digital tools for old folks, but not for grandparents who are more eager to get their actual hands on real grandkids and not digital fingers on cyberspace kids.
Today I read in the paper that software companies have found a niche in which to market software to women. Seems that women make up the majority of people who scrapbook (verb, not noun) and that women have less time to get out all their stuff and make the analog versions of scrapbooks. So digital scrapbooking is taking off and women can grab a minute here and there to create digital version of scrapbooks that they can then print out, complete with text and photographs. I applaud capitalism and its search for new markets and found it particularly interesting that the format for scrapbook pages--big and square--is incompatable with current printers so HP and other printer companies are creating niche printers to go with niche software. The new printers print big square pages.
I would have thought that women might move to different aspect ratios for scrapbooking, following the standard 8 1/2 x 11, but that wouldn't sell new products, but having to print odd size pages will. Also, companies that used to sell film and who are now in trouble because no one uses film and companies that used to make prints, because people shoot more pictures and print fewer, thought up the new printer and software systems.
Curious the interplay between analog and digital media and the continuing development of niche markets. Look at the Adobe site for more specifics on how a .pdf product has moved into this new market.
May 4, 2006 NYT had an article called "I Hear Ringing and There's No One There. I Wonder Why." Seems that people think they hear their cellphones when they aren't ringing. This isn't the case of mistaken identity when the phone rings on tv and we look for the portable telephone to answer. This is an audio illusion called phantom phone rings according to the Times. A doctoral student at UCLA is writing a dissertation about the phenomenon of "techno-saturation" in modern life.
The most interesting thing in the article was that phone rings hit the same spot in the brain that a baby's cries hit--the sweet spot of human hearing, and we respond. People who have their phones set on vibrate report phantom phone vibrations too.
Do you play poker online? If you don't then log into a game at a .net site like fulltiltpoker.net. The net versions (instead of the .com versions) aren't gambling sites, so you don't have to disclose financial information to look around. To play, you assume an identity from the avatars available. These days there are avatars in different races and different genders and ages, as well as animals and images from movies. What would an analysis of avatars and poker names tell us about how games work and how people construct themselves online? I've read that on poker sites men often register as women so that they will be underestimated as players and have an advantage. Makes me wonder if real women who register as real women do have an advantage or if it goes to real men who appear as avatar women. Makes me wonder what kinds of tracking the sites are using.
Some of the avatars have so much bling they look like Las Vegas gynecologists catering to the botox set. Some sites allow avatars to show a "range" of emotions that run from normal--hard to tell what's normal in the chicken avatar--to confused. These are the smiley face equivalents of the Wal-Mart price-cutting animation. Goffman wrote about the scripts people use in everyday life--the bank, the parking attendant, the people we work with. Maybe online banking would be enhanced if we could use an avatar during bill paying or asking about a problem. There's a chance to use the confused expression available on some poker avatars.
If you haven't experienced viral video yet, you might want to explore by beginning with the Wikipedia entry and by visiting a few of the sites mentioned. The Star Wars kid viral video has already spawned a serious lawsuit. Friends of the student who made a video of himself as Darth Maul with a light saber, uploaded the video as a prank and found themselves in a lawsuit. If you google Star Wars kid, you will find scores of places where this video is available. 15 seconds of fame, whether it's wanted or not seems to be the price of playing with a video camera or a a phone that makes movies.
Actually, if I didn't have to work and it wasn't so beautiful in Minnesota in the spring, I'd spend a bit of time looking at viral videos--they give a fascinating insight into what people think is funny, what they want to share with others, what they think is worth looking at. I wish the rhetoricians of the world would do some content analysis. Anyone else a fan? Have insight into the psychology of this medium?
The other day, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran the following article:
"HUNDREDS OF WORRIED ALUMNI, employees, and students flooded the telephone lines at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday, after officials announced that someone had illegally retrieved nearly 200,000 electronic records from the McCombs School of Business. Many of the records contained Social Security numbers and other personal data. SEE http://chronicle.com/daily/2006/04/2006042502t.htm.
This makes me think that someone should recreate a company that we could hire to examine what personal data exist online about each of us. Instead of running a credit check to see if others have stolen our identity, what about a reality check to see what private information exists about an individual--something more than just googling a name or finding a police report. The cost for such a service could be low because it would be offset by the numbers of people using the service.
At the end of March, the New York Times had an article about African-Americans and their increased use of the Internet. According to a Pew survey, 74% of whites go online, 61 % of African-Americans do, and 80% of English-speaking Hispanic-Americans use the Internet. These numbers are up from 42% white, 23% African-American, and 40% Hispanic-American in 1998.
Is this good new? Yes, but as the article points out, being able to download music or IMing is not the only reason to use the Internet. Creating communities online, contributing to wikis, advertising local businesses are important uses, and research doesn't show that all of these are happing with all groups.
How can society encouage a full range of uses of the Internet by all groups? What is the role of an R1 university like Minnesota in increasing digital literacy among the poor or underrepresented groups?
Today's Chronicle of Higher Education had the following comments:
"TOO MUCH INFORMATION
E-mail, cellphones, and the Internet degrade academic labor
because they eat up time better spent in contemplation and
reflection, argue some scholars."
I wonder about this claim. Much would depend on what faculty were doing with email, cellphones and the Internet, but if we are using these technologies to interact with students and colleagues, read more about our professional issues, and give serious consideration to how technology might improve teaching--both the quality and our engagement in it and our fun doing it--and learning, then I don't think this claim is true. Any thoughts out there?
The other day I was watching what my son was playing online--Runescape. He's 12 and he was playing with 48,000 other people. They were from all over and playing in an imaginary world. I play in online games too sometimes with people from different countries and time zones, and I often wonder about them--what they think, what they do. The technology that makes it possible to have fun in an online also empowers terrorists. What do we make of this?
The Chronicle of Higher Education conducted an investigation recently showing that the student-loan industry and for-profit colleges have contributed $1-million to the members of a Congressional committee that is considering a bill to renew the Higher Education Act. What do you think of that?
Why do people create virus attacks? Why are the virus attackers generally young men? I'm interested in the motivation for creating viruses and also what seems to be a gender link. Does anyone have any ideas? Is it modern warfare? Is it political? What is it?
The U of M gets about 5,000,000 email each day from outside. Half of these are spam or junk mail. Fortunately, most of the junk mail is filtered before it hits us when we use a U of M mail account. How do you feel about spam? Should the internet be free and part of the price of freedome is hitting the delete key, delete, delete, delete??