May 1, 2009

Adolescent Girls in a Facebook World

My younger sister Alexis is twelve years old. If asked what she did in her free time she would respond with one word: Facebook. Although my parents and I do not agree that the social networking site is consuming every second of her life, maybe I am exaggerating, there is little we can do or say to stop her. I guess when I look back to when I was her age I used AOL Instant Messaging to communicate with my friends, but it was far less public and advanced (with photos, videos, etc.) than the new networking site Facebook.

Although there are privacy settings on the site that allow the user to pick and choose who they want to view it, my sister’s profile is open to all of her friends, and today in the world of Facebook, most friends are only acquaintances. One of the concerns people had in one of the Frontline videos we watched in class was that adolescent girls and boys could be targeted and located by sexual predators online through social networking sites. This isn’t so much of a concern as it is for me than it is for my parents. One of the reasons I am not worried about my sister being located through her Facebook account is through the way she set it up and created her profile.

While my sister’s profile is open to friends and even friends of friends, her profile is made up. She doesn’t even have her real last name. Instead of Alexis Dorfman, her birth name, she made up a profile named Alexis Baker. On top of that, she does not put out any personal or contact information besides her email. This way if even if a sexual predator did want to look her up and find her they would not be able to locate her. Overall, when it comes to my sister being protected on the Internet through Facebook I think she is doing quite a good job.

April 28, 2009

Do we live in a world so technologically driven that it would be ideal to be part machine?

In the last five years, the world has become more dependent on technology than ever before, at least from my experience. Everywhere I look people are either on their cell phones or computers. Whether it is in the car or in the grassy knoll area of the U of MN, people are constantly “connected” with technology. The question I like to ask myself is how am I or am I not benefiting from technology? Of course I benefit from technology in some way; I am able to connect with family and friends across the world, which is amazing, but at the same time, technology has caused a mental addiction...one that I am not so proud of having. I have to admit I have become dependent on my cell phone over the years. I constantly have my cell phone on me, from the second I wake up to when I go to sleep; it’s as if I am part machine. Would it actually be ideal to be part machine?

In my opinion, I disagree with even being “connected” to the world through the Internet, cell phones, or other technology, all the time. I feel that it takes away from the mystery and excitement of life. While I am grateful that technology enables me to communicate with my family and friends at any given time (granted that they are connected as well), I have become dependent of it in a way that is not necessary. Having a cell phone with me 24/7 completely dictates the way I go about my day. It takes away from being in the present moment; a component in life that I believe brings excitement and opportunity. I enjoy being spontaneous; life is interesting when I do not where the road is going up ahead. On the other hand, technology takes my mind away from the present moment and places it in the future, thinking what I am going to do next, whom should I call, and where should I go. Without this technology, primarily cell phones, I do constantly look at the time and figure out who I am going to see where and at what time, I just do it… in the “now”.

In this technological driven world that we live in, no matter how much our society depends on technology I do not believe there will be a point in life that being part machine will be ideal. It might be helpful to have quick access to technology at any time to communicate, accomplish, etc, but I do not believe that being part machine or being constantly connected to technology is ideal. In fact, I think being constantly connected with technology will create such dependence that life will no longer be as enjoyable as it was without it.

March 13, 2009

Bridging the Digital Divide

While we are becoming more dependent on the Internet across the social, political, and economic planes, it is essential for governments and communities to bridge the digital divide. I think the most important elements that need to be established to bridge the digital gap are infrastructure, education, and affordable computers. The first step governments and communities need to take involves implementing a large area-based, high-speed wireless Internet. I think developing nations such as Africa need to bypass old technology and jump straight to newer technologies like satellite connection. It doesn’t make much sense to put landlines and optic wires in place when satellites provide the same function at a more effective and cheaper level. Setting up satellites will offer more coverage across urban and rural regions at a less expensive price. In addition to satellite technology, I believe wireless Internet needs to be put into service in all urban areas. This will enable all people, despite their income, to have Internet access anywhere in the city.

The second step governments and communities need to work on, and we are seeing it become more prevalent, is to educate people how to use computers who do not know how. Having community centers where volunteers and professional teach the public how to use computers is a great way to start. Whether it is age, race, or income, all people need to learn how to use computers. Today, if a business wants to be successful and efficient they need to utilize the Internet to spread their service or product around the globe. For this reason, it is absolutely necessary for everyone to learn how he or she can use and apply computers and new technologies to their everyday lives.

The last step that needs to be done is the accessibility and expense of computers and new technologies. There have already been initiatives that work on providing low-income families with the hardware needed to be a part of the Web. The one laptop per child program is a fantastic way to help low-income children own and learn how to use a computer. I think other agreements should be made between the government and corporate computer companies to lower the cost of computers for low-income families.

As our world is revolving around the Internet, it is fundamental that everyone is educated and has access to computers. These three steps can work to bridge the digital divide and make our world a more functional place, socially, politically, and economically.

A Dependent World

Over the past few years I have become more and more dependent on technology. Whether it is socializing on Facebook three times a day, text messaging my friends at two in the morning, or simply checking Web CT for updates in my classes, I am constantly connected to the world of Web 2.0 technologies. The thing is, I don’t want to be. I don’t want to carry a phone on me or have Internet access all day. I don’t want to rely on cell phones or computers to structure and plan my day, I want to do it myself, free of these technologies. Although I admit the Internet and other Web 2.0 technologies have helped me network and become a more informed and participatory citizen, there is a part of me that wants to be free of it all. The hard part is, I cannot let go. I like being able to get a hold of my friends at any time of the day through the phone or Internet. I like to be updated with news every second. I like to hear opinions from others across the globe. As countries all over the world begin to communicate every matter from news to business to entertainment, the dependency of technology is growing rapidly.

After watching the video clip of Kevin Kelly’s discussion of the future of the Internet, it made me think how dependent future generations will be of technology. I do not want to imagine a world where all things including humans are connected to the “one machine”, as Kelly refers to it, constantly. I do not agree that every material thing on this planet will have a computer chip and be connected to the machine. Humans will become part of the machine, a transparent body and mind that anyone will be able to read. There will be no privacy, freedom, or personal control. If everything is a part of one machine what will happen to the mystery of everyday life? If all “things” are connected, we will have the ability to know everything about anything all the time. Physical interactions will disappear as communications are being sent through machines. There will no longer be the desire to go out and shop at a mall, work at an office, or visit friends’ homes. All interactions will be done in the digital world. Humans will be an extension of the machine, rather the machine an extension of humans.

February 19, 2009

Government usage of New Technologies Prove to be Effective

Is our government up to date with technology? Has the Obama Administration started to utilize new media and technology to spread information and interact with the American population? New technologies have been developing at such a rapid rate it seems that our federal government has been falling behind...until now. The TIGR (Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform) team has already started to implement new technology within the Obama Administration to operate more effectively within itself and with the US population. According to one of the experts who serves in the TIGR team, " Technology can help make the deliver of services much more effective and efficient, in terms of providing benefits, tracking progress, and providing a transparency to the public about the performance of programs." TIGR works with a diverse group of individuals including workers from experienced federal consulting/policy firms, and large innovative companies like Google, Microsoft, and IBM. TIGR has already developed innovative applications for the government to interact with American citizens more effectively.

One of these applications is called the Citizen's Briefing Book, which enables the American public to share its expertise and insights with the cabinet heads, and President Obama himself. It operates through one of the Obama Administration's new websites change.gov. The URL is http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/wrapping_up_the_citizens_briefing_book/. TIGR is working on various other ways integrate new technologies to make the government more effective and efficient. One of the new technologies (cloud computing) that is going to be implemented in the next decade is going to be one of the most important technological transformations the government has made Andrew McLaughlin (part of TIGR team) claims. Andrew says it is extremely important because it is dramatically cheaper than old-fashioned computing and is much efficient. Cloud computing is efficient in the way that it is done all on the internet, instead of downloading an application, making phone calls, and meeting in person.

At a time when critics of technology, like Andrew Keen, say new media technologies are destroying our future, economically and culturally, others are working to save it. This is the one of the first instances in American history where citizens are interacting with the administration of White House. I think this is a really great thing. Through new implementation of technology in the political realm, democracy is becoming more of a reality than an illusion.

How keen is Keen?

I think Andrew Keen, author of the cult of the amateur, made some really good points, but are his media predictions of the future going to come true? Is printed newspaper really going to disappear? What about magazines? If not, how are the reporters, editors, and publishers going to make money when all their readers and advertisers are doing their business online? As Web 2.0 technologies give amateurs and experts an equal voice our economy, culture, and values are being destroyed. At least that is what Keen thinks. I do not necessarily agree with Keen that these things are being destroyed; I believe they are neither changing for the better nor the worse (as of now that it).

Right now it seems like we are stuck in a transition where new media is taking over (with endless amounts of user-generated content), but I do not see it to be such a bad thing. Although newspapers, magazines, record companies, television, and other media institutions are taking a financial hit, new media institutions such as Google and Yahoo are flourishing. I am not saying that is quite a good thing, I am just stating that there are media companies that are doing more successful than ever. And why is that? Because they have adapted to accommodate our populations (through the internet and Web 2.0 technologies). As Charles Darwin says, " It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. "

As our culture changes through technology and our world becomes more "flat", as Thomas Friedman describes, traditional media institutions need to adapt as well. You cannot expect a bird to fly the same during a clear, sunny day, or during a tornado. In order for traditional media institutions to stay alive, they have to adapt and move online (and we are seeing most of them doing so). There are a few questions that arrive: Are future generations going to want to have traditional media part of their everyday lives, or is traditional media not going to be efficient, and purposeful? And are new media institutions going to allow for traditional media companies to adapt, or are they going to provide the same service for free? I guess we will wait and see what the future brings.