April 30, 2009

Voting

The most current election was the first time I was old enough to place my vote. As I made my way to the polls, I was more worried about whether I could make it through the lines before my next class started, than I was about whether the polling machines would work. I had heard issues regarding machines not working 100% of the time, but I just figured it was always figured out. Otherwise, why would every state continue using them? This could be the reason this continues to happen, most people do not bother to question the machines, the people who create the machines, or those that are handling them.

After watching the movie Hacking Democracy from HBO, I realized how ridiculous it is to have simply accepted the fact that all polling machines are accurate, or that the people who are handling them are honest. It was scary to think that the people’s votes are not really determining who takes the county’s highest positions in office. In the documentary, issues of tampering are addressed, but also issues of negligence. They find votes that have been signed by polling staff in the trash. There is no reason why this should be happening. When dealing with something as serious as who is running the country, organization should be a given.
In the NY Times article, “Can you count on these machines?,” the 2000 election’s polling system is in question. Jennifer Brunner, Ohio secretary of state, has urged people to return to paper votes, in the wake of the controversy and the break-downs. Some people argue that the malfunctions typically only result in zero to one lost votes. But even that one lost vote, or that one malfunction, can lead to a great unease on behalf of citizens (NYT 70). I think that this is the hardest problem, getting people to trust the machines again. Hopefully this information won’t deter people form voting at all, in a protest of distrust.

In class we had also discussed the future possibility of voting being done all online, through home computers. There are a few of problems with this; access, reliability, and safety. Those who do not have access to a home computer may be less likely to vote, or will be crowding public libraries and computer labs. There is also the problem of reliability, people may not trust that the site is up and running. Also, hacking would also become a problem. I am not sure I would trust that the site was being properly run, or that people were not hacking in and erasing or tampering with my vote. Perhaps the best option would be to switch back to paper polls?

Chat

I grew up with instant messenger, sneaking into the basement late at night to chat with all my “friends.” I would chat with people from my school that I did not even talk to while at school. It was easier to send a message to a boy I liked, rather than confront him at school and risk rejection.

Identity can change over time and be socially constructed. Teens are going through a lot of changes trying to fit in, and trying to figure out what their real identity is. The internet, instant messaging, and social networking sites, can further complicate a teens ability to formulate a true identity. Through the internet, teens have the ability to create their personalities, their likes, and their dislikes to fit with the person they want to appear to be.

In a book done by Shayla Thiel-Stern called Instant Identity, Thiel-Stern studies the online behaviors of teen girls and their actions on instant messenger. The study analyzed the dominant cultural narratives used by the teen girls and how it attributed to the formation of their gender and identity. In the conversations she found excessive swearing, a fake sense of popularity and social status, social exclusion, heteronormative undertones, and a constant presence of fashion and physical appearance. It was found that IM was a space for negotiating sexual identity. Girls admitted to being more comfortable flirting, and having frank conversations with boys online because the risk of being shot down seemed less of a risk.

The girls also spent a chunk of time discussing fashion and their bodies. They used corporate logos as their profile picture. Through using an Abercrombie model as their main picture, they were letting others know the kind of clothing they associated with, the type of body that they idolized, and the status they believed they obtained. Now, as instant messaging becomes less popular, these similar themes may be seen in social network chats, blogs, and social profiles in general.

March 13, 2009

globalization and finding a job

As a student about to graduate in May...(SCARY) I found the discussion regarding how globalization will affect finding a job interesting. I am a public relations and marketing major, so for me globalization should help me. As the global market grows, hopefully their will be more opportunities for me to work abroad. During group panel today, many of the students said that they were interested in working abroad, or excited about what globalization offers in terms of employment. I think that we are excited about it because we do not have much of an option. Especially with jobs in communications, one almost has to be willing to travel to be a desirable candidate. As current grads, I think we are almost expected to be more worldly and expected to have a much broader skill set.

I can also see how globalization could be negative for people in terms of "offshoring." Many companies are turning to workforce oversees where they can employee people for far less. This is especially evident in the information technology field where jobs are being outsourced to india and China. Another potential downside depending on how you look at it, is the fact that many companies are turning to hiring people on a more short-term basis to save money. This could be good for those who thrive on the freelance level, but for those looking for more job security this is scary. This trend for companies to try and employee as few full-time workers as possible means that people like me who are looking for work, need to work extra hard to remain on top of the latest trends. However, temporary work can lead to full time work if the job is done well and correctly. And who says full-time employment at one location for the rest of ones life is all that desirable anyhow??!!

I think overall globalization in the job sector is just making more competition. Instead of competing for work amongst new graduates, or people in the U.S., I am competing for a job with people all over the world. It also is becoming much more necessary for people to be bilingual. I think we are beginning to see this as more elementary schools are offering language classes right away. My generation was forced with a minimal language requirement, two years in high school, two years in college. I think that we will see this increase, hopefully.

Bridging the digital divide

My generation grew up online. I use the computer for almost everything, getting directions, staying connected with friends and family, finding a job, and the list goes on and on. The internet is also my main source of political information. A life without the internet seems almost unfathomable, but the reality is that millions of people are living without it.

Unfortunately I think that many of those who have access to the internet take advantage of their knowledge of computers and technology in general. Their are many ideas on how to bridge the digital divide, however I think that the most important is education and access, which is easier said than done. While I think that the premise behind the program One Laptop Per Child is a good one, I think it is unrealistic to expect that giving children in third world countries a laptop will end the divide. Many of these children in rural parts of Africa, and India, some of the poorest countries in the world, would find the free laptop useless due to lack of internet access. These computers, as discussed during group panel today, were criticized for being not very user friendly. So combine lack of internet access, and a computer that is difficult to navigate, and I think you are left with frustrated children, more likely to forgo using it at all. Also, dropping laptops off to children in rural impoverished countries and expecting them to understand the potential benefits of using it seems ridiculous. The only way for this program to work would be to not only provide the children with computers, but also have satellite access to the internet, and provide classes that teach them not only how to use the computers but on why using them is important socially, politically, and economically.

The group presenting today said that in Africa, the government is trying to increase the number of locations available for people to access the internet. The only way to improve the quality of living in these countries is to have educated citizens, and the best way to do this is to give them access to knowledge on the web.

The problem with the digital divide is not only prevalent in third world countries, but it is alive and well in the United States. Many children and adults are living without access. I think that a cost effective way to move away from this is to have more "how to" internet class available for free within public libraries. We also need to make wireless more affordable. It is unlikely that we can eliminate the digital divide when internet access through traditional cable companies costs at least 50 dollars a month.

February 19, 2009

History of the Future

Blog: History of the future

In John J. Quirk’s article “The History of the Future,” he talks about how throughout history, people have looked to the future with great optimism. One example of this was the founding of the “New World.” He says that the transition from European influence was an experience that left people “free to realize the future without the baggage and liabilities of the past” (177). He says that this is central to the western, American belief system. I agree with Quirk that people seem to credit the future with a resolve to current problems, economic, political, or otherwise. I see this tendency to idealize the future, on a more short-term scale, when looking at educational transitions. When in high school, everybody was so excited for the future in college, and once in college the idea of getting a job and making money is idealized. We seem to have a tendency to think our current situation is not the best it is going to be, which is good and bad. I think that through glorifying the future we could potentially miss out on the great things going on in the present. Yet I think that imagining the great things to come, keeps people moving forward.

I also saw this when looking at our country’s election process. Quirk says that the idea of the future “provides a basis for faith in the essential rectitude of motives and policy in the midst of the disarray of the present” (180). I think that in politics, especially in times like now with unstable relations abroad and economics at home, people tend to look at the future for a time when all “problems will be fixed,” as a way to avoid problems with the present. I think that with the past election, people looked at the election of our nation’s first black president as a glimpse into a more utopian future, which is why I believe Obama’s branding slogan “Change” was so powerful.

In regards to technology, it seems we are never at a standstill. With television, movies, and music this is especially apparent. Movies went from VCR, to DVD very quickly, and now we are onto Blu-Ray. By the time everybody adopts, we are on to the next upgrade. We are constantly looking to the future for something to simplify or enhance our daily lives. In terms of music, we have had vinyl, cassettes, cds, and now we simply download music to an iPod.

I feel like you get to a certain age where the technological become somewhat irrelevant. My friends and I seem to be constantly upgrading our laptops, our iPods, and our television as the upgrades are presented. However, my parents and most of their friends seem to be at a bit of a standstill, my mom still has cassettes that she uses.

February 18, 2009

Keen

I felt that the discussion on the 11th on Edward Keen's somewhat eccentric theory on the media and its harm to society left most students in the class in stark opposition to his ideas. Perhaps it was the crowds general consensus that plummeted me into a spiral of silence, unwilling to voice my support for some of the Brits controversial material. I think it is comical and ironic that I will be voicing my take on Keen through a medium he has great disdain for, the BLOG. (Especially as an amateur blogger)

Although my beliefs are not 100% aligned with his views, I find them an amusing alternative to the Utopian views regarding the internet by a majority of this generation. I think that Keen's main purpose through writing his book was to create dialogue, to get people riled up and talking about the potential risks the internet can pose, which is why I do not take him to be some raging tyrant.

I especially agree with his view on citizen journalism. As a freshman, I started off with the hopes of being a journalist. However, I quickly realized this was a dying profession that people without degrees were able to fill, and for less money. I agree with Keen that citizen journalism degrades those who spend years and years of study and practice on perfecting a craft, only to have the spot filled by someone who will do it for less, if not for free. These citizen journalists may have good insight, or may be at the right place at the right time, but I think that journalism should be left up to the professionals.

In class while discussing Keen's idea that basically the "masses are asses," the argument was that Keen does not give the public enough credit, which I think holds some truth. However, a girl made the point that it was the general public who thought that the world was flat, and it took an expert to prove them wrong. I thought this was such a great point. With the rising popularity of wikis and blogs, everyone thinks they are an expert, and some of them may be. But it seems a bit dangerous to let this happen without more regulation. As educated individuals we may know to check for sources, and to critique the facts presented to us on the internet, but there are a large number who would not think to do so.

Basically, I do not take Keen's book to be completely accurate. However, I do think it is worth studying because it forces us to think, and forces us to question the technology that has become such an important part of our lives.