April 2, 2009

Optimal Number of Facebook Friends

I believe that the author of the said article makes a valid point. It is not a good thing to spend all hours of the day online chatting on facebook or other related online social networks. It is hard to have too much of a good thing but, when time could be spent being productive and or in the real world making face to face connections that could lead to positive and productive opportunities the individual should wake up and smell the roses. When doing their studies and analysis the researchers should have also looked at how many of the friend requests were being made by the individual, and how many people had requested the individual to be their friend.

Facebook can be a good and a bad thing. If I meet a cute girl at a social get together I tend to try them on Facebook. This is a good way to stay connected with them and try to meet up with them again rather than building up the courage to ask them for their number and possibly get shot down. This method is fail safe, and sometimes the cute girl may even request you as a friend which is a definite plus which assures you that they want to speak to you again. Which in turn gives you more confidence when it comes down to face to face interactions. How much more confidence? In my experience, if I see someone in the real world who added me on Facebook, I feel like I am definitely more likely to approach and communicate with these people.

I myself have 386 friends on Facebook. Do I then have too many friends? It is true that maybe 100 of those friends are people I actually see and talk to on a daily basis, and truly consider good friends. First it was myspace and now Facebook, these social networks were alien to me until about my sophomore year in high school and I did not get a Facebook account until I was in college because it seemed like everyone was asking me if I had one. I felt almost out of the loop that I did not have one. I proceeded to make my account and acquire more pictures and constantly more friends ever since. I would like to think more people have asked me to be their friend, than I have asked others to be my friend. Does that fact make me popular? The truth is, he process of friend requesting seems to be very insubstantial when it comes to actually being good friends. A lot of my Facebook friends are not my best friends. I feel like the word friend on Facebook is tossed around very loosely, giving people with an absurd amount of friends to be "social sluts" who spend all day Facebooking "hard" as me and my friends say. Facebook may and definitely can be overused as a procrastinating tool in class, when trying to do homework, or even going out to social events. Michael Wesch unintentionally stumbled upon this information while doing his study on pedagogy at Kansas State University where the study showed that many students sitting in classes they paid thousands of dollars for, were socializing on Facebook rather than trying to learn the material covered in class.
I find it really interesting that popularity has links to genes. The fact that our genes predispose us to certain behaviors is easily believable, but the fact that the so called "bad" genes seem to be making people more popular is a bit scary. It makes more sense when you find out that all these case studies were conducted on men. You always hear about the bad boys. They seem to be more fun to talk about rather than the guy who sits on his computer playing video games all day. I myself have gotten into a fair amount of trouble, but I have never attributed people liking me due to this behavior. I ask myself, does this article then promote not so popular individuals to behave more irrationally and less socially acceptable. In the past this seems to be true. Our nation was somewhat found on this principle. The British Americans stuck it to the man when they told our English rulers to piss off, and since then America has been a world leader in many aspects. In times of need or direction, people are more often to accept more radical ideas and people, as was the case with Adolf Hitler in Germany, but many times this shows to be not so beneficial to everyone as a whole. I do believe Facebook is a good indicator of social connectivity, but if what is said about going against the grain and rebel activity is true, should it not be the individuals who do not exist on Facebook be the most popular of all?

March 9, 2009

Trippin' With No Place To Unpack

What fuels our experimentation? What causes us to take that hit or drink that beer? I remember when I was three years old and I decided to write the word “butt” on a piece of paper. I then heard my mom coming up the stairs and quickly erased it with the guilty feeling that I was now a bad kid because of it. As I grew older I began to make excuses for the things I did and the new things I tried and slowly begin to “slow dance with the devil”. I was drawn to this documentation by Dimmock because it stirred a feeling inside of me that I believe many of my peers share. A false mindset that I am so much different than the addicts documented, and that I would never be able to slip as far as they had. Indulging in these horror stories helped me to realize what made them who they are and helped reflect tendencies in my life that related me with these subjects.

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February 18, 2009

What's the Optimal Number of Facebook Friends?

Who ever thought you could have too many friends on Facebook? A study by the Departments of Communication and Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University shows that a surplus of friend connections increases doubts about Facebook users’ popularity and desirability. Another study by Psychology Today Magazine showed that not having enough friends or having too many dramatically diminishes your social attractiveness. It showed that 300 was viewed the optimal number. Any more than that and you begin to look desperate.
Of course not everyone with too many friends is popular. Some people with “too many” friends may be concentrating too much on Facebook, friending people because they are desperate. They spend too much time on their computers trying to make connections where they feel more comfortable in a computer mediated setting than face-to-face interaction, stated by Matthew Hutson. But is it really that important how many friends you have on Facebook? Also most people would say, and my personal experience, is that only a fraction of those people are your actual friends and that the rest are acquaintances. Bottom line is that the number that you may have isn’t what is important it’s the reasoning behind why most people’s Facebook friend numbers come out the way they do. So what about the people that are popular? Do they really have control over this?
The number of friends you have on Facebook is not entirely up to you. It has been tested that how popular you are is based on your genetics. That’s why I don’t agree that people with “too many” friends are social sluts and people with “too few” friends on Facebook are losers. This is an issue that you don’t have that much control over. The study from Psychology Today looked at the genetics of social networks. It showed that the number of times an individual was named as a friend and the chances that those friends knew each other were both largely hereditable. However the number of people named as a friend by an individual did not appear to be inherited. Location within a network was also found to be genetic, whether people were in the center of a group or on the edges.
A different study by Psychologist Alexandra Burt also shows similar evidence. She tested the DNA of 200 male college students and the ones voted the most likeable or popular in the group were carrying a variation of a serotonin receptor gene. This gene is linked with impulsive and rule-breaking behavior. This proves that the “trouble makers” tend to be the most liked people in the group. Burt said that “What’s happening is that your genes are to some extent driving your social experiences.” This shows that if a lot of people in a social network like you and recognize you as a friend, making you popular, it’s because that’s the way you were born. This has also been backed by national data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescence Health on twins. 1,110 twins from a sample of 90,115 adolescents in 142 separate school friendship networks were analyzed. The results showed that genetic factors account for 46% of the variation in in-degree, which is the number of times a person is named as a friend. On the other hand heritability of out- degree is not significant, that is the number of friends a person names. This particular test measured the heritability of a behavioral trait by comparing trait similarity in same-sex identical twins that share 100% of their segregating genes to trait similarity in same-sex fraternal twins that only share 50% of their genes on average. It showed more similarity between identical twins’ social network structure than fraternal twins’ networks.
The research presented shows that this isn’t just a theory it has been tested it has been proven in different scenarios that the relation between how many “friends” people have in a social network like Facebook weighs heavily on their genetics. People that are frequently on Facebook may add people just to add them to make themselves look better while others are just liked more and receive more friend requests and have more friends that way. Then there are always those that have few friends on Facebook that just genetically are made that way and can’t help that they didn’t get certain genes from their parents that other “more popular” people got. Therefore how many friends you have on your Facebook account doesn’t matter and isn’t completely in your control, it’s just your genes talking.

February 13, 2009

Caught Napping

Each and every day, it is becoming more and more difficult for one to have his or her privacy. It is also becoming more and more difficult for one to DECIDE whether or not what they do is private. Pam and Tommy Lee made their own decision when they asked the question “Should we videotape this?? But as we move into the future of digital photography, we move into an age where even the most amateur photographers can take high-quality snapshots of anyone’s lives.

This issue has been brought to light by the recent inauguration photo in which Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is caught apparently napping during President Barack Obama’s speech (I will come back to why I say “apparently? in a little bit). Technologies like Google Earth are making it possible, even easy, to capture images of anyone, anytime, and during any sort of embarrassing act. This is a clear invasion of privacy. This is the ultimate advancement for “Peeping Toms?, who no longer need to climb trees with their binoculars to sneak a peek at the hot girl next door. Now, I’m not one to speak for others and their life experiences, but I know there have been occasions where I’ve woken up in the morning, needed to get the paper, and not wanted to go through the hard work of trying to pull pants on while still being half asleep. As a result of my early-morning-uncoordination, I’ve gone outside in nothing but my skivvies to retrieve my paper; this is not something I want people to see (the fact that other people don’t want to see it notwithstanding). However, if for some inexplicable reason someone out there wanted to photograph this event, perhaps for blackmail purposes, they could do exactly that!

There is an article posted TODAY by that tells a story involving Nathan Smith and Google Earth. Smith, a musician from Los Angeles, read a book chronicling the story of a lost treasure ship that sank somewhere north of Corpus Christi, Texas. While looking around on his computer he saw an intriguing pattern close to the town and drove there from his home in LA to find the treasure. The owners of the land weren’t too keen on a stranger digging up their land. Now, this case will go before many courts before being settled, but the principle of Nathan’s use of his computer to find treasure is what is important. Using programs like Google Earth to look anywhere, anytime, and for anything is sickeningly invasive. For each story involving a man innocently looking for lost treasure, I wouldn’t want to even guess how many untold, probably unknown, stories there are of people utilizing this technology for their own perversions.

The other issue I have with this new photographic device is that pictures in no well tell the entire story and situation behind the moment they capture. As mentioned earlier, this entire topic was recently made popular by the photo of Clarence Thomas apparently sleeping during Barack Obama’s speech at his inauguration. The picture shows Clarence with his eyes closed; could he not have just had them closed so that he could better absorb the momentous occasion he was witnessing? Or simply had his eyes closed just for a moment that was unfortunately photographed? Regardless of the reason, sleeping or otherwise, the point needs to be made that nobody aside from Clarence himself knows. One photo does not tell the entire story, or even part of it aside from one instant. When this type of photography is used, it is of utmost importance that one remembers that.

I am not going to suggest that things this method of photography should be outlawed; I know that there are many practical and important uses for it. However, it does need to be used with discretion. I just hope that no pictures of almost-naked me grabbing my newspaper wind up on the internet.

February 12, 2009

The Day the Newspaper Died

I think we can all agree that due to the rise in the computer age as well as the usefulness of the internet, the newspaper is dying. Nonetheless, according to many advocates of e-journalism, the newspaper of today “hardly merits a moment’s mourning, since it is not a death at all but, rather, a rebirth?. In the article “Back Issues?, Jill Lepore argues that the situation that the newspaper is in today resembles very much the threats against the newspaper during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
The newspaper business started in Europe around the mid 17th century as a means to tell their respective country about politics or trade. However, like most readings on the web, they were said to be unreliable and or if anything they bent the truth. The famous Boston Massacre, for instance, was an event in which case only five civilians were shot. However, writers Samuel Adams and Paul Revere made the incident more catastrophic. When Benjamin Franklin published his autobiography, he painted his brother/apprentice James as a brute for his inspiration in writing during his later years. It was said to be used for “a metaphor for the colonists’ growing irritation with parliamentary rule?.
As popularity of the newspaper grew, it became more of a means to attack people in power like kings or the church. Especially in the colonies, the newspaper was used to spread opinions or announce certain events that were happening that week. Benjamin Franklin, the editor for New-England Courant, had an editorial policy that said, “I hereby invite all Men, who have Leisure, Inclination and Ability, to speak their Minds with Freedom, Sense and Moderation, and their Pieces shall be welcome to a place in my paper?. Papers like these represent the bloggers of today, speaking about anything that’s on their mind.
Of course, as most opinions are, and the majority of those opinions being directed at the British, they were fought with. It all started with the infamous Stamp Act of 1765 which taxed all printers by a halfpenny for every half sheet they used for their paper (essentially one penny per issue distributed). Papers such as the Maryland Gazette, Pennsylvania Journal and the New-Hampshire Gazette were already saying their good byes weeks before the act was set to go in effect. Franklin constantly typed essay after essay about freedom of the press saying, “To anathematize a Printer for publishing the different Opinions of Men is as injudicious as it is wicked?. In response to these essays, Franklin was thrown in jail twice for doing so. Another example of this is John Peter Zenger, a printer for the New-York Weekly Journal. He printed many essays that showed the governor of New York, William Cosby, that he was “an avaricious scoundrel?. Even though Zenger never wrote an essay against Cosby, he was given the blame. However, Zenger was acquitted for the charges for proving that Cosby was the “avaricious scoundrel? that he printed.
By the time of the revolution era, the Boston Gazette, ran by Benjamin Edes and John Gill, became a great opposition against the British, “flinging mud? at anyone who opposed them. On top of that, more and more papers in the colonies saw the Boston Gazette as a role model for patriotism and freedom of the press. Soon, the British would end up reading constant insults that drove the revolution to the brink of fighting.
Even after the revolutionary war, the paper still attacked anyone that was in power. This time it was the president of the United Sates. The first to be seriously attacked was John Adams, one of Ede’s friends from the gazette. Even though he was mainly attacked for his administration and not himself, Adams was forced to act and so he created the Sedition Act. It made it a federal crime to insult Adam’s and/or his administration. After Adams was Jefferson, who too understood the true power of the press, but unlike Adams, Jefferson failed at accomplishing anything to stop them. For the first term of his presidency, Jefferson just argued with the press, making threats that he would prosecute them for any wrong doing. Of course the press knew he was bluffing and continued to “fling mud? at him. Even during his second term, the closest Jefferson did to stop the press was suggesting that each paper should be categorized by how truthful they were. Obviously this was against the first amendment and never came to pass.
The newspaper of old faced a similar task of fighting against the rulers of the time whereas the paper today is fighting the power of technology.

Born Believers: How your brain creates god

During the very hard times Great Depression the churches had a large increase in the attendance numbers. This is just one extreme example of this very common trend for the mankind. This does not mean that they are talking only the people that go to a church but could be a temple or a tea garden. Brooks specifically says churches saw an increase in attendance because he is referring to the great depression. This is true for any place of worship and prayer. The word church could easily mean the place of worship and prayer. Just like on the United States currency the phrase one nation under god, it means the figure that you as a person choose to believe in or the lack of a figure to believe in. All places of worship and prayer will see an increase in attendance during hard times in individual lives or like the Great Depression hard times for an entire country. This is due to the natural need for comforting and counseling that naturally people desire. Another example when people turn to the church for answers is during marriage when things are going downhill and the future is looking like divorce. The couples that do not want to end in divorce and loose each other often turn to church and prayer to keep them together as well as counseling. This does not ride on the reason that the divorce is failing it could be money issues, sex, or whatever that is not important. What is important is that many families turn to the church.
This is what they are trying to prove is related to science. This is strongly questionable. This would mean that somehow religion is programmed into your DNA. This also means that when times get hard that more people are more likely to attend their worship and prayer complex. Atran says that “religion emerges as a natural by-product of the way the human mind works.? This seems way more realistic. Can your DNA be programmed that you are Christian, Lutheran, or Jewish? The ways you are raised as a child and the religious beliefs of your parents have a strong in pact on your beliefs. This is just like things like personality and maturity level. The link behind people attending their worship and prayer complex when times get hard is the same idea. It is traits that you learn from example and your examples being the people around you. There is no science behind people going to their worship and prayer complex when times get hard. It is the natural process of the human mind. People looking for comforting and counseling naturally and many people turn to their worship complex for this. It is a reliable place to go and a very comforting place that you are always accepted into.

The Day the Newspaper Died

The article written by Jill Lepore is titled “Back Issues. The Day the Newspaper Died.? After reading through this article several times and trying to understand exactly what kind of point she was trying to make by telling us the entire history of the newspaper, I came to the simple conclusion that the newspaper is simply something that allows for news as well as opinions to be published in a way so that the public can read it and develop their own opinions. It seemed as though she was not trying to tell us if the newspaper is dying or not, but inform us that the newspaper has and always will be changing. In her article she showed that often opinions can be very controversial. She explained how James Franklin tried turning the newspaper into an opinion based paper. Part of the problem in the early stages of the newspaper was that many people were offended by the opinions of the writers, especially the rulers of the country at the time. I searched online to find just what exactly the definition of a newspaper is. I found out that according to, a newspaper is simply a publication, usually issued daily or weekly, containing current news, editorials, feature articles, and usually advertising. In this definition there is not anything that suggests the newspaper must be a printed copy that must be distributed to the consumer. I have come to a conclusion that the newspaper will, someday, cease to exist in its hard copy form. However, I believe that it should and will be referred to as a “newspaper? because it still contains the same principles as a printed newspaper. It seems as though the major newspaper companies realize this and are starting to focus more on web based formats.

According one article titled “Out of Print?, written by Eric Alterman, until just recently newspaper industries were classified as high-margin monopolies. To have or own a newspaper industry in a midsized American city was comparable to being able to print money. However, that is no longer the case. Since the year 1990, a quarter of newspaper jobs have disappeared. This is due to the fact that the internet has taken a lot of the work out of creating a newspaper as well as the time involved in printing it.

According to Lepore’s article the newspaper has been evolving since its start in the sixteenth century. Newspapers were only distributed on a weekly basis because it took sixteen hours to set the type. She also said that at that time they were not even called newspapers. The term newspaper was not given to them until later. She also said that once they started they became more and more popular as well as more and more controversial. This shows that they have been changing and taking new forms as well as taking on new ideas.

Newspapers are realizing that their printed forms are no longer as popular as they once were and are changing as a result of it. Once again, referring back to Alterman’s article, “the average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising.? This shows that less and less younger generations are relying on the newspaper as a source for their news. What will happen in fifty years when those fifty-five year olds are most likely no longer around? Will there be anyone left to read the newspaper? I know that I certainly intend not to get my news from a newspaper. The answer is that newspaper companies must face the internet and do all that they can to try and keep up with the trend shift. I currently live in White Bear Lake and my family gets the paper titled the “White Bear Press?. I occasionally glance through it to see if I recognize anyone in the sports section but I do not rely on it for my news in any way. About a week or so ago I was glancing through it looking for possible research paper topics when I noticed something very interesting on the very first page. At the very top of the paper in bold letters was the phrase “…Comment on stories, browse photos and read blogs.? Next to this there was a web address written. This demonstrates that these newspaper companies are realizing that they must turn to the internet in order to gain readers. It also shows that they are using this as a tool to currently make their newspaper better. They are trying to get the public interested and talking about their stories with each other. It seems as though they are possibly attempting to turn the newspaper into more of a consumer based discussion where they spark the conversations by writing an article and then rely on the public to create the conversation.

Whether or not the newspaper will cease to exist within the next few years or the next one hundred years I cannot say. What I can say is that the way trends are going now and with the decrease of young readers going the way it is, the newspaper will no longer be in print form in the future. This is not to say that it will not exist because it will in online document form. It is something that we must keep an eye on in the future as well as take advantage of in getting our voices heard via newspaper web blogs and websites.

Does Our Brain Create God?

Religion has always been a staple of society, often linking people of various backgrounds together that share a common belief. Much of the religious ideas that are currently upheld most likely have stemmed from past generations. However, unlike in the early centuries, science is now being used to affirm the existence of God. Although it is still not possible to factually prove or disprove God, scientists have introduced the brain as possibly being a tool that forms the ideas associated to religion. Science aids the idea that a person’s brain plays a factor in creating the idea of God.

Michael Brooks’ argument in the article “Born Believers,? that the current state of the person influences their level of belief, is valid. Whenever someone is in a position of adversity, for example, when an athlete suffers a potential career ending injury, that athlete might resort to prayer in hopes that the situation will be alleviated. “When we feel a lack of control we fall back on superstitious ways of thinking. That would explain why religions enjoy a revival during hard time,? notes Jennifer Whitson of The University of Texas at Austin. To reinforce this notion, Brooks mentions that during the Great Depression, “the strictest, most authoritarian churches saw a surge in attendance.? Experiencing a time of fear and uncertainty on the future stability of their lives, people turned to faith in God for assistance. According to Matthew Alper (who was referenced by Iona Miller in her article “How the Brain ‘Creates’ God), “The brain is hard-wired for mystical experiences to modify the threat of our hostile existential reality.?

Common-Sense Dualism is a term coined by Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University. This refers to the idea that our body carries out our physical processes while our mind carries out our conscience processes, or in other words the idea of matter and mind. Therefore it is natural for our mind to think about things that are not visibly apparent. For example, Brooks notes how children often create an imaginary friend that bares resemblance to an actual being but in reality does not exist. Even adults tend to create similar situations, such as when they imagine a significant other that they have yet to meet. As a result, our minds naturally tend to help us create images of things we cannot physically recognize with our own eyes. This relates to religion and God because the notion of matter and mind “appears to prime the brain for supernatural concepts such as life after death.? (Brooks). The afterlife (commonly deemed heaven and hell) is a major component of many religions.

It is a natural tendency to attempt to understand the causes of the world around us. According to Brooks, “the mind has another attribute: an overdeveloped sense of cause and effect.? People tend to refer to God as a cause or answer to the complexities of life. Basic questions such as why does the wind blow, or why does the Earth revolve the way it does is often answered by the belief God made it to be that way. We understand the basic scientific principles of nature but the question of why still tends to be ambiguosus. People will always try to answer questions, both complex and miniscule, because of their animosity towards uncertainty.

Although uncommon, some people encounter a condition known as Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE). This condition often provokes seizures originating from the medial or lateral temporal lobe. According to an online blogger who has this case, it is known that seismic activity stimulates the lobe and “can induce visions of Christ, angels, demons, etc.? If a scientific condition can induce these hallucinations, one of her ideas is that people developed religion to put this TLE into context and make it more realistic to interpret. The Middle East centers on the three religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Historically, that area has been an active seismic area. It is plausible to conclude that perhaps some of those who had religious visions or visions of God were actually affected by TLE, especially for those who encountered it before it was defined in 1985.

In recent years, science has been the main tool used to determine the significance of the role that the brain plays in formulating ideas dealing with God and religion. Brooks explains the idea of personal situation playing a role in how one perceives God. If a person is in a situation of uncertainty or doubt, they will tend to find an answer with religion. It is also customary for people to try and explain the world, in many cases, with God. Although a finite answer may not be readily available, science is being used to formulate an answer to the ambiguous question of “why do we believe in God??

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Caught Napping: I don't know where any of this is going, and don't try to know

It started out with photographers of only the highest skill level and most advanced technology being able to take pictures that one could barely determine who or what it was that was being photographed. It didn’t take long before more advanced, cheaper, and “easily available to the everyday consumer? cameras were brought out into the market, and people could take decent photographs without needing any experience in photography what-so-ever. Nowadays, technology is available that is so advanced and out of this world (literally) one might consider the ability that this equipment has gone too far, or is what one might classify as an invasion of privacy. What people have been unable to logically know and visually see have always been the things that they’ve wanted to know most deeply. However, with GigaPan images and technology used in programs such as Google Earth, anyone and everyone is able to see and know things that no one ever even dreamed of being possible.

Take the GigaPan image of President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., for example. Using a GigaPan robot, there were a total of 220 snapshots taken and pieced together to create a giant perspective of freakishly high resolution. This image, created by photographer David Bergan, has created a boatload of controversy…more than anyone could have expected. The main debate lies in the fact that with such advanced technology, you are able to see anyone’s face with such detail it’s considered eerie and a clear invasion of privacy. Many people are beginning to fear and speculate that their identity may become publicly known. On a more serious note, it raises the possibility of their identity being stolen, just from this one excruciatingly detailed picture.

Of course, with the GigaPan image, it is quite simple to be able to see someone’s identity. Zooming in to a crowd of inauguration attendees, one is able to make out each and every mug shot. However, I do not think that the possibility of one’s identity being stolen is something that needs fretting over. I don’t believe that anyone would waste their time trying to pick out a face from a GigaPan image so they can merely “steal their identity.? On top of that, I’m not aware that it is even possible to steal a person’s identity just by seeing their face. In that case, it’s possible for anyone you come across walking down the street is able to take a quick snapshot and steal your identity. The point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is that the availability of your identity to be stolen is already obtainable for anyone in just as simple a manner.

Now, another controversy brought up over David Bergan’s Inauguration GigaPan image can be observed when you zoom in just to the northwest of Obama speaking at his podium. In the stands, you are able to see Clarence Thomas conspicuously nodding off. So, what you have here is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court caught red-handed supposedly falling asleep during Barack Obama’s moment of glory. Here’s the problem I have with such an accusation. Could it not be that the Associate Justice just so happened to be unobtrusively closing his eyes for the exact few seconds that the GigaPan robot was snapping a photograph of the area? GigaPan images are not a complete invasion of privacy. Instead, I believe that the quandary is in the fact that such an image can provide a complete façade of one’s actions. Such things being known could explode somebody’s reputation into something glorious, but on the other hand, it could completely and utterly ruin it, merely because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Another program, with somewhat of the same concept, is dealing with a lot of heat lately. Google Earth allows you to zoom in and view basically and major city of the world with a crisp and clear point of view as if you were standing on a city itself. This deals with the same concept, and in turn I feel the same way about it.

This type of technology is going to keep advancing and being utilized whether we like it or not. But I do believe that some of the images one might find may be blown out of proportion and misinterpreted by anyone who sees something out of the ordinary. Lastly, I do think that these pictures only keep people hidden behind their computer screens even more so than ever now. Adding upon the fact that 60 books of information is added to the internet every second, the ability of recording these things give everyone the chance to see things with such detail that has been nigh impossible for so many decades. Lots of things these days are now accessible on the internet that a person used to have to go out and explore with their own eyes, in person, and in real time. In some sense, it’s kind of a shame, but we are living in the 21st century, and technology is a mainstream part of life that everyone must be aware of and encompass.

What's the optimal amount of facebook friends?

The optimal number of Facebook friends has been researched by Matthew Hutson. It is amazing how the Facebook network has grown in the past few years. One of the most popular features that Facebook offers is the “Add as a Friend? option. Many Facebook users desire to have as many friends as possible, so they add everyone in sight. There are, however, still users that will only add a person if they know who they are. Once someone adds a friend, the person who was “friended? must either accept or deny the friend request. More often than not, even if they aren’t familiar with the person, users will accept friend requests without delay. Many users believe that you are a loser by not having many friends. It is also considered to be a “social slut? if a user has too many friends on Facebook. Some research has shown that Facebook friends have ranged from 12 to around 902 friends, but there are many accounts that have many more friends than that. The average user has around 302 friends.
I can relate to this article because I have a Facebook account. I have an average of 500 friends, but most of them seem to be adding new friends every day. In reality, I only speak with about a fourth of the friends that I have on my account.
It is very hard to stay focused when Facebook is around. They say in the article that students and adults spend more time on Facebook not just socializing but also looking at profiles and what we call “stalking? each other. Facebook has even outnumbered the amount of users than what MySpace had.
Facebook was created in 2004, and in the year 2007 Facebook reported to have more than 21 million registered members. 1.2 billion pages are viewed each day. Facebook was first created for college students but then expanded to the high school network and other networks in 2005. After research, it is shown that a typical user spends 20 minutes on Facebook and two-thirds’ users check Facebook at least once a day. Facebook is also reported as being one of the largest websites used on the internet.
Facebook is a big distraction to many students these days because of all the things you are able to do on it. Students lose track of time and sit on Facebook to just look at their friends’ profiles. Facebook has also become a distraction in class because it is said students that bring their computer to class are either on Facebook, emails, or chat. With these distractions, it is very difficult for a student to absorb any material from class.
Facebook has extended past the normal confines of a user’s computer—it is now available to anyone who has internet access on any mobile or otherwise immobile device. Today about 13 percent of Facebook users can access their Facebook accounts through their phones. There is also a phonebook feature in which it is extremely simple to just look up a person’s phone number on your account. This can and does make Facebook very dangerous, because it is then entirely possible that someone you do not know now knows your phone number, along with your address, email address, work and educational history, etc. It is not completely a joke when people use the term “Facebook stalking?, since actually being stalked is not a laughing matter. Since Facebook has trickled down many networks, a lot of children have created accounts. Imagine a young elementary school child adding an account because it is the “cool thing to do?. This child does not know what can happen if they display too much information on their page. This child also probably does not know about child predators and molesters that would love to get a hold on any information they can to feed their sickening habits.
Facebook also allows users to add applications in which you can only view results if you send applications to your friends. Applications are just another way to add more things to your facebook and waste time. With the Facebook chat, it is also possible to view when other people are online. Both of these resources can be extremely problematic, mostly because of the stalking risks I mentioned earlier.
Over time I think Facebook will die down because a new website will take over just like how Facebook took over Myspace. But as of right now, Facebook is one of the number one websites for keeping in contact with your friends.

February 11, 2009

If you have no friends, blame your parents

An Article from Psychology today entitled “What’s the Optimal Number of Facebook Friends?? attempts to try and figure out what is the perfect number of Facebook friends, after all according to them having too many or too little can be a bad thing. What struck me most from the article was the idea that you might not even have any control of how many friends you have. It could all be genetic.

At first I was a little skeptical. I currently, as of February 11th have 492 Facebook friends, and my younger brother by only two years has only 165, and of those we only had 42 mutual friends. On average siblings’ genetic makeup is about 50 percent the same. So am I missing something here?

A study done at Harvard and the University of California in November of 2008 proved me wrong. They looked at the fact that some people had a lot of friends and others had very few, and at the same time, some people were in smaller groups of friends where everyone knew each other, and other people belonged to groups of friend where there was very little overlap between friendships. They found using a twin study that the likeliness of someone to be named a friend, and the likeliness that the friends know each other are related. But the amount of people that someone named as a friend were not related. They also found that the centrality within a group was also genetic.

One possible reason for this was explained by the “Attract and introduce model.? Basically they stated that some people are naturally more attractive than others, whether it be physical attraction or other qualities. This is something that has been long proved to be genetic. The second half of this model is the fact that some people are more inclined to introduce their friends to each other. So basically our genetics can be to blame for both our direct and indirect relationships.

There is also the idea that our behavior is what influences the amount of friends that we have. I always thought this Idea to be more plausible. After all how you act influences how many people are drawn to you. Unfortunately, other studies have been done that state that your behavior is also genetic. Alexandra Burt at Michigan State University said that “your genes are to some extent driving your social behavior.? They looked into the correlation between a gene and particular behaviors and social experiences. Burt collected DNA samples from over 200 male college students. After interacting in a lab setting for an hour the most popular students ended up being the ones with a serotonin gene associated with rule breaking behavior. So basically the people who were the rule breakers were found to be more popular.

According to research done in Computer-Mediated Communication after asking students to rate the attractiveness of someone’s Facebook profile, the most attractive profiles had an average of 300 friends. But does that really answer the question, what is the optimal number of friends? After analyzing all of the studies and research done, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter, because there is nothing we can do to control the amount of friends that we have. We are either genetically blessed with the ability to make friends and introduce them, or we are born with the gifts to attract friends with our looks or behavior. In the end, there is nothing we can do to control the amount of friends we have. All we can do is trust our genes. Maybe my brother is adopted.

February 10, 2009

We May Be Crossing a Bridge, But We're Not There Yet

At the end of Hua Hsu's article, “The End of White America?, he says that the current generation has crossed a bridge beyond the issue of race. He states that racial identity may already be outdated. I believe that it is outdated, but that doesn't mean that it will be phased out easily. Personally, as a white male, I don't see the end of the white majority in America as a negative thing at all. I'm half Italian by descent, and my Great Grandparents weren't considered white when they got here- but today, my 100% Italian mother is always considered a white woman. So, racial categorization has changed before without incident, and it will change again. Mixed ethnicity or “beige? Americans may be considered white, but eventually whiteness will lose much of its meaning as minority ethnicities steadily rise in numbers and achieve greater representation in business and political spheres. Still, while we may be leaving the idea of “White America? behind, I believe that race as a societal issue may very well persist for years even after the majority of Americans are no longer described as “white?. Simply put, it will take much more work to erase a societal issue as deeply rooted as race.

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February 5, 2009

Not the End of White America, Just the Dawn of Post-Racial Age

The America today is much different from the America in the 1950’s and 60’s from the change in technology, views on change, what’s on the media, etc. After reading “The End of White America?? by Hua Hsu, the article talks about a change that really differentiate the America today from the America in the 1950’s and 60’s. A change that gradually affects the Americans today, that change is call “the post-racial age or the end of white America.? It is a change that I do see but never think about, but believe that it is a post racial age and that it is normal.

I am Hmong, an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of southeast Asia. Hmong people were granted a life of freedom in America in the mid 1970’s for helping America fight communism in the Vietnam War. I do not feel that it’s the end of white America, but I am not white, I do not understand the meaning of being the majority of America even though I grew up going to school and being the only Asian family in a suburban neighborhood in Minnesota. In that suburban neighborhood there were no African Americans that went to my school too. About five years later, the high school in that same suburban neighborhood that I went to became very diverse, I would say that two of every five students were of a colored race.

In the article “The End of White America??, Hua Hsu tried to prove that the end of white America is coming by using famous African American hip-hop mogul, Sean Diddy Combs. He was part of the rise with hip hop in the 90’s and now is one of the wealthiest in America. One thing that really surprises me with the change in America that really shows the “ending? of white America is soon to be coming is sports in America. I am talking about the number one sport organization in America, The NFL. The NFL is a very popular sport in America. Comparing the NFL in the 60’s when the Green Bay Packers were unstoppable, African Americans were rarely seen in the NFL. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, today white non Hispanic represents 66% of America, but when watching the NFL today, I see about 60% of the NFL players are African American and/or colored minorities. Also take a look at the NBA, I see about 75% of the NBA players are African Americans and/or colored minorities.

On the night of November 4th, 2008 America found out that the next President of America is Barack Obama, a half Kenyan and a half American. That moment proved not just to the country that struggled with segregation between blacks and whites in the 60’s but also to the world to see that that was the dawning of a post-racial age in America. According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, those groups currently categorized as racial minorities like blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. This proves that the “White Supremacy? is slowly decaying as the years roll by.

I see no negative affect on being a more diverse country and I still wonder why some white Americans are so against it. The white Americans who sees it that way is holding on to too much pride of what America was use to be. They don’t realize that change is good and it happens. Like what Hua Hsu put in his article, white Americans have no culture of there own. They came to America and pretty much threw their original culture away when they arrived in America. Today most minorities are still holding on to there culture and language that they carried to America from their original country.

America has changed a lot from the 1950’s and 60’s to the present day. It is a change that I do see but never think about, but I believe that it is a post-racial age that we will go through with the next generation and that it is just a change that we as humans live through and like Karl Carter, of Atlanta’s youth-oriented GTM Inc. (Guerrilla Tactics Media) said, “We came along in a generation that didn’t have to follow that path of race,? he goes on. “We saw something different.? This moment was not the end of white America; it was not the end of anything. It was a bridge, and we crossed it.?

Google and the Future of Books

The Internet is an information highway with Google as it’s leading man. Google has started to digitize books and has recently ended up in some copyright issues with major research libraries. Robert Darnton, the author of this article, brings up the issue of readily available online libraries and how to get them readily available while still giving the libraries the credit they need. Darnton, to find this solution, decides to go back in time to try and figure out this dilemma he says, “The only workable tactic may be vigilance: see as far ahead as you can; and while you keep your eye on the road, remember to look in the rearview mirror.?

Darnton divulges into the 18th century Enlightenment period and goes on to speak about the Republic of Letters. He goes on and on in the dense voice about Jefferson and Madison and a rift between Rousseau and Voltaire. His main point being, “The founding Fathers acknowledged authors’ rights to a fair return on their intellectual labor, but they put public welfare before profit.? To sum that up Robert is saying that the system has been cheating the artists since day one, that authors have always gotten the shtick when it comes to credibility and salary.

Then a ways down in the article, Darnton talks about how the Enlightenment is now at our fingertips with the digitization of books, “Openness is operating everywhere, thanks to "open access" repositories of digitized articles available free of charge, the Open Content Alliance, the Open Knowledge Commons, OpenCourseWare, the Internet Archive, and openly amateur enterprises like Wikipedia. The democratization of knowledge now seems to be at our fingertips. We can make the Enlightenment ideal come to life in reality.? We are finally almost getting what literary minds have always craved for, except in the worst way possible.

Darnton argues that business is taking over our coffee shops, public spheres, and Enlightenment air by big businesses such as Google, and selling research books online. “To digitize collections and sell the product in ways that fail to guarantee wide access would be to repeat the mistake that was made when publishers exploited the market for scholarly journals, but on a much greater scale, for it would turn the Internet into an instrument for privatizing knowledge that belongs in the public sphere.? Darnton feels that we’ve missed out on a good thing, and have let the big businesses take over once again. Businesses are stealing even more money from authors and publishers then ever before and giving them to their shareholders. The 21st century is great, but it is definitely all about getting as much money as possible in popular revenue and targets all audiences. And they have targeted the whole scholarly community by making it easier to pay for a section of a research textbook rather than walking down to the library and reading it for free.

“An enterprise on such a scale is bound to elicit reactions of the two kinds that I have been discussing: on the one hand, utopian enthusiasm; on the other, jeremiads about the danger of concentrating power to control access to information.? Darnton’s first reaction is that of enthusiasm that this information will readily be available and at our fingertips for when needed. That Google has its best intensions at hand, such as libraries can use digital copies of out of print books to restore damaged books or even Google has come up with some system to help engineer texts for readers with disabilities. On the other hand though readers are unable to print off selections without paying a small fee, which is the same at any public library, except that the money goes to the copyrighters rather than the library. The only downfall in this digital book revolution is the effect it will have on libraries.

In the settlement Google made earlier this year, the company said their goal was to provide information access and not to create a monopoly. From this they pay the copyrighters, and most authors and publishers own US copyrights will automatically be covered by the settlement. Google is slowly proving to Darnton that they are making the Enlightenment dream come true. But it is hard not to say that Google has not already started the next big Monopoly, they have already run out smaller websites who were doing the same thing. “No new entrepreneurs will be able to digitize books within that fenced-off territory, even if they could afford it, because they would have to fight the copyright battles all over again. If the settlement is upheld by the court, only Google will be protected from copyright liability.?

Darnton ends the article with superstitions about the future and debates whether Google’s plan will blow up in their faces when they charge too much or will the achieve his dream of Enlightenment? Either way this definitely marks a new stage for the information era.

February 4, 2009

The Death of The Newspaper

“The newspaper is dead, long live the newspaper!? This statement has been seen throughout internet blogs, online postings, and electronic news sources themselves. The death of the newspaper seems to be imminent, Jill Lepore of The New Yorker claims the death of the newspaper may come “Not so soon as weeks or months, but not so far off as decades, either.? This poses many interesting questions about how this event will occur, and how it will affect the daily life of Americans thereafter. Is the newspaper really dying out? What will come in its place? Does anyone really care?

Upon analysis of Jill Lepore’s article in The New Yorker “The Day the Newspaper Died? one can gather assumptions about where exactly the newspaper is going. The answer is reincarnation. The newspaper is going online, hitting the internet to appeal to the new technologically advanced generation. It was really only a matter of time before the newspaper would conform to the internet “fad,? and it really has been a long time coming. Increase in internet newspaper blogging has been seen as early as the year 2000, and has seen 210% increases (2006 Nielson/net ratings) year over year recently. This new trend in news delivery has newspapers claiming the death of hard print as we know it.

As an 18 year old college student who has been forced to become tech savvy in recent years I wonder who wouldn’t want to make the transformation from hard news delivery on paper to easier to process, easier to access websites? It is comparable to how the early automobiles overtook use of the horse and buggy. It is comparable to how Blue-Ray overtook DVD overtook VHS. This world is moving at such a fast pace that by the time the newspaper is printed and delivered it is practically in the trash already. Things change, and I think that we should embrace the technology rather than resist it. Wouldn’t it make sense to save the paper and ink that is used to create the newspapers that ultimately end up in the trash? There is so much talk in the news lately about going green and the move to an ecologically stable system. Perhaps those talking about going green should go green themselves, and take their disputes to the web.

Bernie Hayden, Author of the web article “Recession is the End for U.S. Newspapers as We Know Them,? claims that though “the newspaper was fat with profit through the 1980’s, the industry never fully recovered from the recession of 1990.? It is unreasonable to think that print can recover during the hard economic times today let alone the recession 20 years ago. The recent trend in the massive newspapers is to outsource their workers. Imagine that, someone in India writing headlines for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Newsday from New York, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times have even recently posted for sale signs on some of their buildings. Hayden states in his article “Who is going to be crazy enough to buy those skyscrapers? Foreign investors, of course.?

According to the Washington Post, newspaper subscription has declined 1.9% over the last six months, and continues a twenty year trend of declining newspaper interest as people not only turn to the internet, but also the twenty-four hour cable news networks. These statistics allude to my question at the beginning of this essay: Does anyone care that the newspaper is indeed dying? In 1765, the newspaper was claimed dead in a similar matter, however it was met with a sense of gloom and sympathy. Lepore claims that “you can read all about [the death of the newspaper] online, blog by blog, where the digital gloom over the death of an industry often veils, if thinly, a pallid glee.? It seems as though the sympathy that greeted the claim of doomed print is nowhere to be found in this day and age. This may be because we have an alternative, more efficient, more convenient way to replace print. The people are choosing to retract their subscriptions from their local news source because they find other ways of reading the news superior to hard print.

As more and more subscribers change to the web, it is easy to see that as times are changing, people are adapting. The facts are that for every retired, technology deficient old school senior who refuses to turn to the internet there is an increasing number of young, tech savvy, and possibly even lazy teenagers that will for years to come surf the web for their news. Perhaps the newspaper is dying, perhaps print as we know it will be extinct in a couple of years, but the newspaper isn’t really dying. News is changing, it will forever be changing, and as for me, I will take my news on my seventeen inch laptop screen at a time of my choosing, thank you.

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The End of White America?

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The Death of the Newspaper

It is omnipresent; print newspaper is slowly decaying. As stated in the article The Day the Newspaper Died, by Jill Lepore, “in the eighteenth century, the death of the newspaper signaled the death of liberty,? leaving us wondering what the loss of an industry dating back to the 1640’s could mean in today’s society. In 1765, The Stamp Act was put into effect, forcing printers to pay roughly a penny for each copy of every newspaper to tax collectors- something they obviously could not afford at the time, initiating the slow decay of the newspaper. Thankfully, the print newspaper industry was not completely put out of business, however, in today’s technology-based, eco-friendly society, we cannot be so sure that this really is not the print newspaper’s last hurrah.

If the decline in print newspaper production during the eighteenth century was due to the tax on printing, what is the reason today? Though there are no concrete answers, many theories have been questioned including the effects printing in such large masses has on the environment, as well as the convenience of the conflicting WWW editions and newly popular blogs.

According to Internet: Death of the Newspaper? by Jen Lukenbill, in 2006, it was estimated that “four billion trees worldwide are cut down per year for paper alone, representing thirty-five percent of all harvested trees.? As if that is not bad enough, pulp and paper mills are said to be some of the biggest air, water, and land polluters in the country. As the “green? movement gains popularity in today’s world, it is very much possible the environmental effects are attributing to the death of print newspapers.

Another reasonable theory as to why print newspapers today are withering away is the conflict they have with the online editions. We live in a technology-based world where everything we ever wanted to know is at our fingertips. The internet is no longer solely used by elite businessmen and women for work related issues, but is rather readily available to anyone and everyone. Everything that has ever been printed as a hard copy seems to have a supplemental online version of it which can be found in roughly .25 seconds. It is said that online editions of print newspapers and blogs allow for more readership and are often less expensive to view; anyone with access to the internet can read news online for free rather than paying for the print edition at a news stand.

While the death of print newspapers in the near future is inevitable, it does not have to be thought of as a bad thing like in 1765; we, instead, should see it as an opportunity for the journalism industry to be creative and reestablish itself. As stated by Jack Shafer in The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper, “as much as people may have given up the newspaper habit, their appetite for news has become insatiable.? While the print version of the New York Times circulates, on average, one million readers, the WWW edition is viewed by roughly twenty-five million readers in the same amount of time. Old-school black and white print newspapers may be dying, however, news, itself, is thriving.

As stated by Scott Merrill in Is Print Dead?, the real, to-the-point question is this: “Is print — specifically newspapers — really dead? Or are the bloggers too focused on the bright and shiny stuff that puts food on their tables?? After researching, my answer is yes and no. Print is not completely dead- yet; however, it is sadly on its way to the grave. Bloggers, on the other hand, as well as any other person in today’s declining economy, are truly focused on making money no matter what it takes. This does not necessarily mean WWW editions, as well as personal blogs are bad things; they are actually great and give promise for what is to become of journalism.

Sadly, in the near future, the average American’s day will no longer start with a walk outside in a robe and slippers to retrieve the daily newspaper. Instead, all they will have to do is start up their new-fangled touch screen computer or newest generation of the iPhone, type in a simple WWW address, and wa-la: news. Though it may be the end of an era beginning over three hundred years ago, at least the junior high students waiting for the bus will be saved from a sometimes horrifying sight.

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January 29, 2009

The New America

When I read “The End of White America? article, I agreed and disagreed towards passages in the article. “America will no longer have a White America by the year of 2042? which I agree with, however, “there will be no white people as a race? is a statement in which I disagree with. I am in support of this article because it has sufficient information and facts that gives proof to the assumptions being made. It describes how blacks, Hispanics, east and south Asians are a huge majority of the United States population, which, even at the University of Minnesota we can see, is true. The passage also says “Blacks, Hispanics, East and south Asians will account of the U.S. population by the year 2042.? I think that this has already happened and is steadily continuing, even with the mixing of races, that those races are a huge majority of the U.S. today or will be in a couple of years.

Even the stores in big cities show that this country is not a white community anymore. Barak Obama, a man who has roots in Kenya, is now the president of the United States, which is an example that the United States is not a “White mans land? anymore. Walking around through metropolitan, even small suburb communities and through the mainstream media, the idols and famous individuals we now look up to come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds; African Americans, Hispanics, Middle-Eastern and Asians everywhere. Minnesota is one of the most welcoming states towards immigrants to come and start a life. Due to family connections, it is very noticeable to see that foreigners and immigrants are not only Hispanics, blacks, and Asians; but Somali’s as well, Minnesota being known as the Somali capital.

The information found by the census bureau in the article has been around for a while, even in the late 1970’s for Minnesota’s demographic center. The census bureau has always been very accurate about what information they put out, such as race rising, dealing with population, foreign population, and how many foreign student children are attending school. Therefore, reading facts, assumptions and estimations from the passage of the rising minority populations in the United States hold true and very probably in my opinion. “The groups currently categorized as the racial minorities will account for a majority of the U.S. population by 2042.? During the Colonialism of the Americas, many of the indigenous tribes had been killed through genocide by the Europeans and the Spaniards. Although there are many American’s today who still suffer from a phobia of foreigners, I believe that there is no way the entire population of “White? people of the United States will end in the near future.

The part I disagree about a part of the passage is that by 2023 that the “end of White America? and the beginning of the “first post-white generation? is when they said white people will not be a big race. I disagree because, even though our future will be consisted of many foreign born and americanized individuals that are of a different ethnicity, that it will not be the end of white Americans. It does not seem biologically possible for all Caucasians to just disappear like the wooly mammoth. The United States, being one of the only countries to still suffer and “practice? racism, the White supremacy, and the KKK (a top secret terrorist organization) will always be around no matter what, maybe not the same way they were 50 years ago, but in some type of manifestation. It is very unfortunate that there are still many people today who were born into, grown in and raise their children in the ideas of racism and being forced to dislike other human beings who do not “look? white. There are many “white? American’s today who even claim they are “part Italian, German, Irish, and French? and many other things, but still consider themselves “white.? Therefore, I do not believe the wording of “the end of White America? is technically correct, although I do believe that the idea of Manifest Destiny and the power of “white supremacy? will end.

A perfect passage at the end of the whole article was when it said that “this moment was not the end of white America; it is not the end of anything. It was a bridge, and we crossed it.? Karl Carter, a man that is from Atlanta’s youth oriented Guerrilla Tactics Media, said that white Americans will never disappear. White people will still be around like today except it will be different. One of the many challenges not only White Americans have to confront, but even other minorities of the United States who feel that the United States is their homeland, is that Americans in general have to become more accepting of many different types of ethnicities, cultures and races. We all have to understand that human beings, whether their dress, color of their skin, or what God(s) they believe in, that they are still human beings and should not be treated less. We have to challenge ourselves to not have a mindset of being “racist? and be more accepting and excited to have such a diverse country; that our children are the “first post-white generation? of the United States of America. The bridge that Carter was talking about was how White Americans have now crossed it and succeeded; now it is the rest of the United States to do the same.