It takes a village….

Here_Comes_EverybodyHello everyone, we have reached our last week of the semester.  Yay!!!  It seems like it has gone by quickly when you look back at it.  This week we have several readings from Shirky, a lecture video as well as a small TED Talk video from Shirky.  Shirky discussed in the chapters as well as his video about about the promise, the tool and the bargain that is required for projects to find success.  The promise is really just the “why” someone should join a particular cause or event.  Shirky talks about how most people have many things taking up their time so the promise must provide an incentive for them that is better than what they are already doing.  He suggests a strategy that would make joining the group easy, create personal value and subdivide the community.  The tool is what you use to spread your message and your promise.  Some tools are good but may not be good for a particular idea.  He talks about how it is hard to decide which tool is the best because each circumstance is different.  Twitter may be good if you want your message to be public while blogs and emails may be better in other times.  I like the analogy to the tools used by a carpenter.  To ask a carpenter to name the best tool he has would be hard because the use of the tool is dependent on the task.  A hammer may be his most used tool but it would be ineffective at removing a screw.  The bargain is more complicated and can only be done after the promise and the tool.  This is like the deal that you make with your customers in order to achieve success within the project.  In the video, Shirky defined cognitive surplus as a representation of the ability of the world’s population to volunteer, contribute and collaborate on large, sometimes global, projects.  His examples are the Ushahidi project, the earthquakes in Haiti and in Washington DC to track snow pickup.  In all of these instances, everyone involved knew about the issues at hand but no one person knew all of the information but with the help of everyone, they could map out what was happening. 

We were asked to give an example of something that we have seen that would fit the description Dateline_NBCof cognitive surplus.  I watch Dateline NBC pretty much every week.  There is one example that stuck out to me that I always see on the show.  Whenever someone is wrongfully convicted of a heinous crime like murder, someone usually creates a website or Facebook group whose sole purpose is to bring forward information about the crime to free the convicted person’s name.  Recently Dateline aired an episode that showed two brothers that had been convicted of murder.  They had served more than two decades in prison.  They had given up all hope on ever walking free again.  Long story short, through the power of the Internet, social media and numerous very strong willed people, the brothers received a new trial decades later and were released from prison.  They do the same thing when the community feels that someone has gotten away with murder.  Usually someone creates a website for a victim that people can post comments as a way to remember them and bring new information to light about the case.  It is easy to see what the benefit of this type of website would be.  An individual could get online and post something that they saw from a particular event that might be that missing piece that police have been looking for.  There have been a few examples on the show of how this has actually worked.  I would definitely lend my time and information to this type of site if I felt I could help bring out the truth.  This example follows the same pattern as Shirky describes with his cognitive surplus definition.  This type of site would offer a promise, tool and a bargain.  I like how Shirky spoke about technology having a communal value and a civic value.  Communal value is something that a site like Flickr would have.  You can get on there and enjoy the pictures.  A site devoted to gathering information to help someone who has been wrongly convicted has civic value.  It is not just being enjoyed by the people using it at the moment, it is helping make the world (or at least the area) a better place.  It has been fun having class with you all.  See you down the road.  -Derek

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Always Connected

Like buttonHello everyone,

Week seven of an eight-week course is underway.  We have almost made it.  This week we were to read four chapters as well as watch another disturbing video from the folks at PBS Frontline.  I find all of their videos entertaining but none of them leave me feeling good about the direction our youth is headed. 

FrontlineYou can relate a lot of the techniques in the video to the readings.  The Generation Like video and the Shirky’s chapter Fitting Our Tools to a Small World had several similarities.  Shirky discussed how small group communication is much more connected.  If you are sitting around a table with six other people, you have no choice but to be at least a little connected to each person.  The opposite goes for large groups.  You are less connected to each individual but you have a potential for a larger amount of connections.  Some social media sites like Facebook and Dodgeball are examples of this.  When I had Facebook, there were many people that I was “friends” with that I wouldn’t talk to if I saw them out in public.  I would get a friend request from someone who shared multiple mutual friends and I would accept their request.  The Frontline video showed the same thing, except with “Likes.”  Teenagers with video blogs would encourage people to like their particular show or product.  The amount of likes they received would amount to more viewers.  They would then collaborate with other people with a large amount of followers or likes and this would correlate to more views for everyone.  It is similar to Shirky’s chapter because all of these people are connected but in a round-about way. 

The Chapter 5 reading was informative.  It started by talking about a study of day cares that originally had no “punishment” for picking up their child late.  After a short time, they put a charge in place for parents who did so.  It was a small fee but it should still detour the parents from picking their child up late, right?  Wrong!  The amount of parents that did so increased dramatically.  The parents did not see this as a punishment and instead saw it as a fee for service.  When I think about this, it makes sense to me.  I would never take advantage of the nice lady that watches our children by picking them up late, but if she imposed a small fee for picking them up late, it might be worth it to me to do so on a day that I had a doctor’s appointment or a few errands to run. 

This chapter also talked about the Invisible College.  In short, they shared information and findings with each other.  They passed what they had learned to others in the group and, in turn, became much more informed than the alchemists who kept their information more secluded from other’s eyes.  He also talked about a college student who created an online study group that his college deemed to be cheating and tried to expel him.  He argued that he was doing nothing more online than would be done in any college library.  This is essentially the same thing that we are doing in this class.  We are tweeting our notes out to the rest of the class to see.  I feel that it helps me learn by doing this as well as by reading other’s notes. 

The passing of information is what I think is great about the Internet.  The website that was discussed in our reading that allowed people with the same diseases to communicate with one another is a great example.  Where doctors may hide some information as a way to make more money off patients, these websites are passing along information free of cost.

We were also asked how McLuhan’s ideas would fall into this week’s information.  I think that the way we are using the Internet would solidify his beliefs.  He talked about how we are becoming less physically connected as we pass through each epoch.  In the Tribal Age we were more personal and spoke face to face with one another.  As we abruptly passed from one epoch to another due to new technology, we have become more and more private even though we are growing more and more able to be connected. 

I know I have sounded like an old man several times throughout this course but I feel that our youth is getting less able to communicate interpersonally each year that goes by.  I can’t imagine what it will be like when my 4 year old is 24.  Have a great week and enjoy the cool weather while it lasts.  -Derek

Technological Determinism

250px-Marshall_McLuhanHello again everyone,
This week’s media and reading was eye opening. I didn’t really like watching the PBS Frontline video. There were too many people in that video that I wanted to grab and shake some sense into. We had a few readings from Shirky and a reading and a lecture about technological determinism.
We were asked to discuss how some of the stuff that was talked about in the media and readings can be explained by McLuhan’s theory. McLuhan came up with technological determinism. He decided that history was divided into 4 different periods. These were the Tribal Age, the Literate Age, the Print Age and the Electronic Age. He felt that we transitioned into these different ages very abruptly. These abrupt changes were caused by a new technological invention. The first was the phonetic alphabet, then the printing press and finally the electric telegraph. As these inventions came about, they changed our culture. He claimed that these channels of communication were the primary factor in why our culture changed. He had several nice quotes and one-liners. One of which is “We shape our tools and they in turn shape us.” One modern day example of this is the cell phone. Our on the go lifestyle is the reason that cell phones were created. Once they were created, they have shaped us and changed the way we do things. Every website has a mobile version. Almost any bill can be paid by mobile bill pay. Another nice quote that he had stated that “The medium is the message.” This would suggest that the words spoken are irrelevant but it is the medium used that speaks the loudest.
220px-Douglas_RushkoffHe has some good points that relate to our readings and the PBS video. Watching that video irritated me. McLuhan talked about how these different technological breakthroughs changed the way we act as a society. We used to communicate more face to face when we were in the Tribal Age. Then we become less reliant on face-to-face communication when we could read in private thanks to the printing press. Watching the video just showed me that we have become more and more private even though we have technology that allows us to be instantly connected to one another. It was disturbing to see the rows of youngsters in Asia that line the video gaming stores. The same can be said about the Army store that allows kids to come in and simulate being in a war-like scenario by using the virtual simulators that they have.
We were also asked to discuss how McLuhan’s theory would extend to the Internet and mobile devices. I think that we have already gone past the Electronic Age and have steamrolled our way into the Mobile Electronic Age. It was discussed how television (which was the largest piece of technology in the Electronic Age) is already starting to decrease in terms of time spent. Things like the Internet and mobile devices are increasing in its place. McLuhan categorized mediums into being either hot or cool. What I would consider hot, he actually called cool. Mediums that are cool require effort from the recipient to decode. Television is considered a relatively cold medium by these standards because you cannot put on a TV program while you are doing something else. To get the full information from the program, you have to sit down and immense yourself in it. This is why the radio is considered a hot medium. You can put on the radio while you are cleaning house or cooking and still get the full effect. This is why radios are allowed in cars and TVs are not.
For the reasons listed above, I feel that mobile devises and internet would be considered as cool as a medium can be. Even more so than TV, mobile devices and internet require your complete focus while you are using them. This is why mobile devices have been outlawed in many states while you are operating a motor vehicle. The Frontline video stated that you are 23 times more likely to get in a motor accident if you are using a mobile device.
I think that one of the best quotes that I read in this week’s reading is “we are becoming tools of our tools.” When we have a new technology, we need to decide what this technology will correct and what will it erode. To me, it seems that even though we have more communication technology today than we ever have, we are becoming more and more solitude than we ever were. Everyone is always on their phones talking to someone or playing a game with someone but our face-to-face communication has diminished. I hope that someday this will not be the case. I am not against text messaging or mobile usage, I just think that we need to bring back more interaction that is personal. I hope you all have a great week. -Derek

Net nuetrality

Hello again,

Tom_Wheeler_FCCThis week we learned about a fun little topic called net neutrality.  Before this week, I wasn’t familiar with net neutrality.  As it stands now, network providers don’t (or aren’t supposed to) stand between users and the content.  Some people are trying to change that.  The example that was given in the CNET video is that of cable television.  As everyone with cable TV knows, you pay for a set of programming and you can only watch the shows and use the features that you pay for.  This is one example of how they are trying to regulate the Internet.  This is an idea that I will definitely never get behind.  I feel that this goes against the whole purpose of the Internet.  One of the experts on On Point talked about how the Internet is not the same free range and wonderful thing it used to be thanks to regulating net neutrality and government eavesdropping.

We were asked to discuss what our breaking point would be if these large companies want us to pay more money for the same services that we now have for free or cheap.  Before I answer that I want to tell you that I have had more than one class with Professor Cavanagh.  He has talked about his disgust and disdain for Comcast in another class that I had with him.  After this week’s media and readings, I can see why.  Companies like Comcast are causing a monopoly and are able to extort money from other companies as well as the users.  Our media and readings told us that 96 percent of Americans have two or less providers to choose from.  Comcast and Time Warner don’t offer service where the other one does.   John Oliver jokingly said that this is like a drug cartel deciding not to sell on the other dealer’s turf.  These companies can make more money by not competing with one another and creating a monopoly in their respective areas.  For me, I think my breaking point would be lower than most others would.  I am not completely reliant on the Internet and I would have a hard time paying for something that I get free now.  If these large companies went the same route with internet as they do with cable TV, I think I would cut back drastically.  I use the Internet a lot right now but I would be able to find ways to reduce my use rather easily.  I think there are many things that I would still need the Internet for.  Many companies are giving you breaks on cost if you pay online and receive your statements online.  Paying bills would be my main use for internet if they started charging higher rates.  At this point, many people are reliant on the Internet and would probably be willing to pay whatever the cost is until something gives.

It was said in the John Oliver video that ending net neutrality would allow larger companies to flourish while John Oliverholding back the smaller ones in the process.  Another example of what they want to do is allow a fast lane of sorts for people who are willing to pay the extra money for it.  As they talked about in the Tom Ashbrook On Point discussion, there is no faster version of the Internet out there that has just recently been invented.  This means that they are essentially holding back on the speed of the Internet to you unless you are willing to fork over some extra coin to get it.  I heard several times throughout the week’s information that they will not be allowed to force people into slow internet lanes.  However, this seems exactly like what they are doing.  One man something along the lines of do not think of this like a slow lane and a fast lane, it is more like a fast lane and a really fast lane.  That reminds me of when restaurants stop calling their drinks small, medium and large.  I was at one restaurant whose drink sizes were medium, large and extra-large.  You can call it whatever you want but the smallest size is still a small and the slowest internet speeds will still be slow, by comparison at least.  Plus, aren’t companies already doing this?  My wife works from home and she is required to have a certain upload and download speed at the house.  The first package that we got through our internet provider wasn’t fast enough so we had to pay another 20 bucks to get the next faster service.  I understand supply and demand but I think that these large companies are getting away with highway robbery.  This is a topic that a lot of people should be concerned with.  I hope this type of regulation never gets past.  I hope you all have a great week.  -Derek

Eavesdropping on Americans!

Hi everyone,

This week we had a plethora of videos and readings to keep us busy.  I found them to be very interesting.  A lot of what was shown discussed the government spying on people and then apparently lying about it.  They talked about a few people at the NSA that tried to come forward with little to no luck as well as the part that Edward Snowden played in this whole ordeal.  I can honestly say that I didn’t really keep up with the whole Edward Snowden fiasco while it was playing out.  I really learned a lot that I didn’t know by watching the videos.

National_Security_AgencyIn the first part of our blog, we were asked whether we think the benefits of the domestic spying program outweigh the wholesale loss of individual freedom.  I am somewhat torn on my feelings about this.  I was in the Marine Corps for five years and I feel that the United States should be a free country, and I am sure every other American feels the same way.  Many people have fought and died for the freedom of our people.  However, I also think that if our government has ways to keep us safe from attack, they should probably do so.  My issue with what was going on in the video is how the President and NSA officials were lying about what was going on.  I always believe that if you feel what you are doing is right, you wouldn’t have to lie about it.  There are several examples of dishonesty amongst the Government.  For example, the order was not written by the President’s lawyer.  It was written by the Vice President’s lawyer.  This was something that was out of the ordinary.  Senior Manager of the NSA Thomas Drake was left out of the loop about what was going on.  When he went to General Counsel to express his feelings about the Program, he was simply told that it was legal and that he shouldn’t ask any more questions.  Another example of something like this going on was when Thomas Tamm came forward and said that he was going to the press.  He was told that whistleblowers don’t normally end up well.  When it came time to sign the order again, they had removed the Attorney General’s signature block and had it signed by someone else.  These examples all tell me that the Government knew that what they were doing was not entirely up to snuff.

So, with all of that being said, I feel that if the Government is going to be examining what people are talking about, they can’t use these backdoor, strong-arm techniques to do so.  If it is within the law to use this type of surveillance, then I am ok with them doing so.  If what they are doing is unconstitutional and/or illegal, then I don’t agree with it and there should be checks in place to be able to question its legality.  I think that the long-term consequences of the Government continuing to act above the law is that we will slowly lose our democracy and the people will feel that they have no say without fear of repercussion.  If that happens, then what separates us from a dictatorship?

Michael_HaydenSecondly, we are to talk about what General Hayden referred to as a “really big idea.”  I don’t like the idea of using cyber-weapons to do our fighting for us.  It sounds like a good idea on the surface.  We could disable another countries technology similar to what Stuxnet did to Iran’s uranium plant.  However, malware like Stuxnet can be downloaded and redirected.  General Hayden stated that when you use an actual weapon, like a bomb, the weapon is destroyed.  When you use cyber-weapons, the weapon is still intact and can be used against us.  I think that if it wasn’t for that fact, this would be a good idea.  We wouldn’t have to put our troops into harm’s way and it would probably be a much cheaper way of battling with our enemies.  However, if all we are doing is giving our enemy a weapon that they can improve upon and in turn use against us, I think we are just opening a barrel of monkeys that we don’t want to open.

I really enjoyed this week’s information.  I can honestly say that I learned a lot and the videos were somewhat fun to watch.  We are about halfway done with the semester.  I hope everyone is having a good, albeit busy, summer.  -Derek

User-Generated Content

Hello again,

MarkZuckerberg-cropThis week we were to discuss our experience with social media and user-generated content.  I learned a lot about this topic from this week’s reading.  I learned that user-generated content is a way of sharing media with one another.  This is not just writing a Word document and then leaving it on your desktop.  It is not considered user-generated content until it is shared with an audience.  This week’s readings talked about how much “information” is out on social media.  A lot of this information is nothing more than a small group of people talking to each other as if they were talking around a table.  To an outsider looking in, this conversation would not make sense and seem like nothing more than useless blather.  However, the people involved in this group tend to understand what is going on.  I thought the examples that the book gave were funny and rather spot-on to a conversation that you might see on Facebook.  They were merely one person telling someone else that they heard the other had gotten wasted the night before.  I don’t have Facebook anymore but I can remember conversations like this going on when I did.  This type of conversation is what I consider to be a good quality but also bad quality about social media.  What I like about it is the fact that a someone can get online and speak with a group of their “friends” about the day to day goings on in their lives.  Your true friends probably share similar interests as you so they can relate to what you are talking about.  This is also what I didn’t like about Facebook.  It seemed as though this type of information is the only type of comments a lot of people would post.  When I would login in the morning and go to my newsfeed, I was bombarded with information about what each person had for breakfast, how tired they were, or what they had done the night before.  I didn’t feel that there was any real “news” shared that I just couldn’t live without.

I may be in the minority of the class by saying this but I really don’t have any experience with user-generated content.  I was never one to post anything even when I had Facebook.  I would occasionally wish someone a happy birthday or send a friend a private message.  I cannot think of anytime that I actually posted something other than a few new pictures of my kids for family to see.  So I guess you could say that I was more a Facebook stalker than a Facebook user.  I mainly used it as a way to check out what others were up to.

When it comes to news, I would have to say that I prefer professionally generated news.  Social media is good for passing some small town news that wouldn’t be readily available anywhere else online or any other news medium.  The downside of that is people tend to jump to conclusions about what happened rather than actually knowing the true story.  For example, there was a man in my neighborhood that passed away a few years ago.  There were people talking about what happened to him before the police cars had even left his house.  There were at least three different stories that I read on Facebook about him.  One was that he took his own life.  Another was that he died of a heart attack and the third story was that he had drowned in a pond behind his house.  This type of news reporting is obviously not very reliable.

My favorite quote from this week’s chapter is “Surely it is as bad to gorge on junk as it is to starve.”  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that everything posted on social media is junk.  I think that it is a very useful tool to connect with others and share information quickly.  I just do not believe that people use it as effectively as they could.

I did like how the reading talked about the more “famous” you get, the harder it is to communicate with people regardless of the medium used.  It discussed how Oprah_Winfrey_at_2011_TCAOprah couldn’t connect with even a fraction of a percent of the people that try and communicate with her.  There was a lot of good information in this week’s reading and I really enjoyed it.

Have a great week!!!! -Derek

Aside

The Telegraph vs the Internet

Hi everyone,
I hope you all are having a great second week. I really enjoyed reading our first week’s blog about the differences people have in the way they adopt technology. As for the readings and podcasts this week, I am glad to have learned a little more about inserting media and links into our blogs. We also read this week about the people who helped bring about the electric telegraph and some of the key people involved in making the Internet into what it is today.

Electric Telegraph 1809 from Wikipedia

Electric Telegraph 1809 from Wikipedia

I think that there are several similarities between the invention of the electric telegraph and the Internet. I believe it is relatively obvious that both of these inventions were brought about as a way to share information with others.
People involved in creating the telegraph faced opposition and criticism from outsiders, as did the people involved in creating the Internet. There are a few examples of this in our readings for the week. Whitfield Diffie faced some opposition from the NSA. Whit Diffie wanted privacy so he came up with a way to encrypt information so communication could be secure. Diffie drove to the headquarters of the NSA in Ft. Meade. They did not want to allow this to happen. One example of this with the telegraph is when Congress did not want to fund Morse to test out the telegraph on a grander scale. One representative said, “Congress might as well fund research into mesmerism.” The bill was passed by a narrow margin a few days later. Although they did not want to allow this to happen, they made sure to state that they received free use of this in case it did actually work. I think this is funny. This shows how little our Government has changed in all of these years. This seems like something that could happen nowadays.
There was a large amount of time and effort spent developing their respective inventions. William Fothergill Cooke spent days laying out over a mile of wire throughout a friends office to see if he could get it to work over a long distance, only to find that it would not work with the Voltaic style battery that he was using. He stated that this took a physical and mental toll on him. All of the men involved in creating the Internet set aside a lot of time and energy to do what they set out to do. Linus Torvalds sat down on his Christmas break and created an operating system that would operate like Minux. Even though this did not require the same physical excursion that the telegraph men went through, it still required quite a bit of a commitment.
Another similarity between the two groups, is the fact that once they got the initial ball rolling, it took off like wildfire. Our podcast discussed how once the telegraph was established, it took off so fast that it was nearly impossible to keep up with it’s size. They stated “no schedule of telegraphic lines can now be relied upon for a month in succession” because “hundreds of miles can be added in that space of time”. The same can be said regarding the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds and Marc Andreesen (with the help of Eric Bina) completed all of their accomplishments between 1989 and 1993. I think this is an amazing feat.
I really enjoyed the video of these men about the Internet and the podcast about the telegraph. The article that I enjoyed the most was the one about the woman, Ivanna, who lost her phone. The amount of support that she and her friend Evan received once he created the blog shows the true power of the Internet and the public. Even twenty years ago, I don’t this this would have been possible. The fact that he could drum up enough support to strong arm the NYPD is nothing short of amazing. Anyone can get there story out there for the masses to see. As the story stated, this comes with some downsides as well. We are in an age of instant access and that comes with some ups and downs.

Introduction

Hello, My name is Derek Mann.  I am a Communications major.  I am 32 years old.  I currently work as a caseworker for the State of Illinois.  I am married and have two daughters, 6 years old and 4 years old. 

After reviewing this week’s readings, I would say that I am part of the late majority when it comes to adopting technology.  I think that some of this is because I don’t want to spend the money on something that I don’t necessarily “need”.  I am not going to spend my money on the newest technology for a few reasons.  One reason is that I would rather let some other people try it out first.  If some of my friends try it and really like it then I will be willing to give it a shot. 

Another reason for this is due to the fact that technology seems to get cheaper the longer it is out.  For example, when flat screen TVs first came out they were thousands of dollars.  Today, you can go to Walmart and get one for a few hundred dollars.  Something else I don’t like about buying new technology is how companies use planned obsolescence when creating new products.  When Apple comes out with a new IPhone, they already have plans for another one up their sleeves.  I have always been the kind of person that is content buying the older version of a phone or tablet when they are on sale because of the new one coming out. 

I currently don’t use a lot of new technology to communicate with friends, family and colleagues other than the few faithful ones like text, phone and email.  I had Facebook a few years ago but got rid of it because I only seemed to use it for games and wasting time.  I do think that I would benefit from some of the other social media sites.  I was in the military and I think that using social media would be a good way to connect with these former friends and colleagues. 

Another technology that would be beneficial for me is video phone calls like face time for example.  I have family that lives out of state and I think this would help connect with them better than email or phone calls.  Especially now that I have children and some of my family only gets to see the kids roughly once a year. 

I took this class because I think this is an interesting subject and I feel disconnected to some of the new communication technology and social media that people are using today.  I told myself that I would never have a Twitter account but I guess this class made me a liar.  I look forward to class and interacting with many of you.