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Posts Tagged ‘data’

“TV bad”, TV says.

December 29, 2014 4 comments

When we watch “Beavis and Butthead” we mirror the characters. We sit in front of a screen and watch two young men staring at a screen. This mirroring is unique: many books feature characters reading and songs will often reference music and its power to influence. The “ars poetica” is a form of poetry specifically focused on the art of poetry writing. Meta-thinking is reflective on the act of thinking.

In some forms of this “meta-art”, the art comments on itself. A dystopian television show like the UK’S “Black Mirror” warns us of technology’s development despite being the product of a complicated network of technology devices. Film and television often feature dystopian narratives that warn us of our interactions with film and television. Such “finger wagging” warnings urge we caution further development by casting narratives that suggest the dangers of “what could be”.

Are such critiques limited to film and TV? Do books exist that warn the reader of reading? Have songs been heard that warn the user of listening to music? One struggles to find examples. Film and TV are unique in their use of the medium to criticize the medium.

The Misuse is the Feature: Cognitive Tech & Action

December 29, 2014 1 comment

Technology can be categorized into two distinct categories: “cognitive” and “non-cognitive”. In the “cognitive” camp I place items like Facebook and Twitter, which prompt the user to interact with its features. A user of these sites is asked to share their thoughts. One is capable of sharing every thought, desire and idea on the site and it works to encourage the user to do so. The user must choose the level of interaction and one could very easily (and many often do) over-share or over-interact with the site. One could very easily destroy a reputation by publishing every thought on Facebook. To fully interact with the site means to respond to its prompting to share fully. Every half-thought idea, emotional impulse and desire becomes fodder for its prompting and if shared material for public consumption.

In the other category, which I call “non-cognitive”, I group items like cars, cooking equipment and material we often see as tools. These items do not prompt us for their use. The microwave does not display a text encouraging you to use it and the car doesn’t honk to encourage you to travel. Among these devices is an in-built limitation that leaves the user to determine interaction. Though one can very easily do damage to a reputation with these tools (for example a car driven dangerously) the level of hazard is lower than the items in the “cognitive” tools category because the user is less influenced by the actual technology.

My suggestion is that the “cognitive” tools are dangerous because their development outpaces our psychological ability to understand the correct way to use them. One must learn to use Facebook correctly. This learning includes an increased awareness of the material suitable for public consumption and the boundaries therein. One should not share secrets or security information like passwords, bank codes, etc.. on these mediums. We learn just what to share.

Such learning though is not automatic and many do not develop these skills or choose not to use them. Commenters make rash and vile commentaries on the internet but in public maintain a calm, cool demeanor. Would these commenters act the same if viewing the video in a public theater? The user chooses the level of interaction. Wisdom comes in learning how to use the technology and gaining the skills for correct use. Many will not gain this info or will choose to disregard these skills.

This disregard for proper use is common with all technology. An ancient technology like alcohol or sugar continues to be misused despite centuries of use and consideration. One can incorrectly drive and destroy a home with the technology of fire. This challenge of learning proper use is common to all technologies. The distinction remains; however, with the “cognitive” versus “non-cognitive” technology: prompted by “cognitive” technology we are forced to develop skills in spite of its asking. This technology form doesn’t want us to filter our interactions. Perhaps the evidence of our struggles with this form are in the constant slew of comment boards and “over-sharing” where a user misuses the technology. Cognitive technology is dangerous because it battles our development of skills.

A Paradox of Resources

November 15, 2014 Leave a comment

In The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss observes a paradox of resources:

It is possible to have too much of a good thing, in excess most endeavors and possessions take on the characteristics of their opposite. Thus, pacifists become militants, freedom fighters become tyrants, blessings become curses, help becomes hindrance, more becomes less. Too much, too many, and too often of what you want becomes what you don’t want. This is true of possessions and even time.

Disregarding its excess of commas, the statement is a powerful idea. To have too much is, it seems, a dangerous condition. Are we vulnerable with too much stuff? Can freedom or happiness somehow transform from treasures to cherish to hazards to avoid? For Ferriss, this is just the message and in reading his quotation note both warning and suggestion: find balance in your life.

In considering this paradox one can develop an extensive list where the idea rings true. All emotions fit the bill and one need only watch thirty minutes of television to see the desperate search for emotional control on display. Too much fat and too much gray; the calamities are endless. One wonders if with each repair appears another hole to patch.

Likewise with our objects which acquired with desire become objects meshed with leash. We link ourselves with cell phones and stress ourselves with an abstract sense of “connection”. One is “up on things” when each headline has been considered and each message sliced with reply. The “Inbox Zero” concept is some desperate need for clarity. Can we clear the air from all this stuff? Does our data run the day?

One wonders how our data is existence. We are measured in all contexts be it place or time or context. Imagine a dinner party where from market to dessert we are spilling forth our data. From the market where our discount card’s bar code connects our purchase with our demographics to the dinner where some wayward guest posts photos to Facebook. The internet knows where we are…and were…and often where we’re going.

Title Tales

January 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Legitimacy is a difficult nut to crack. “Too legit to quit”? Then your skills should go unquestioned and success always assumed. To be “successful” is a relative state. In those whose dreams have been accomplished and whose goals achieved it’s easy to assume it was guaranteed. Far harder to consider those whose dreams went unrealized. The successful don’t dream more accurately.

One’s dreams are not another. In the accomplishment of one exists a source of shame for another. Cook a great meal and your status as a chef is established. Lose the butler and the home and the service known for ages and successful meals are more reminders than indulgences.

For many the battle to achieve legitimacy is difficult. Our terms for certain roles in society are vague. What is a musician? Can one be called a writer if he simply scrolls some sentences? Must a writer be published to be considered a writer? These minor details must be defined by the individual. For some the act of writing is enough, while for others publication is foundation. Ultimately each individual must come to define life’s titles as he or she sees fit. Language fails us…again.

Impossible to Luddite

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Technological change comes fast. Consider the number of phone numbers you held in your memory a decade ago. Was it more? How has GPS affected your ability to give directions. Many often respond with “Do you have GPS?” when asked to give directions. Technology changes who we are and how we live.

But what of those who loathe technology and instead desire “good old days”? Is anyone capable of existing in a world divorced of technology? Technology is everywhere and impossible to avoid. From grocery stores to libraries every location in society has been affected by technology. One cannot be a Luddite now.

Perhaps most profound about technological change is this inability to avoid it. We need not own technology to be affected. Pew reported in 2013 that just 56% of Americans have smart phones. What of that 44%- are they floundering alone and lost in their world without a data plan and killer apps? Does the user of the “dumb phone” flounder in a world without GPS and data plans? Of course not. Technological change is inherent and profound.

When In Abscence

October 1, 2013 Leave a comment

A daily norm of behavior brings one into a routine of appearance and performance. You arrive at your job, do your work and leave for home. This cycle of function works to justify one’s existence. Don’t appear and the cycle is broken.  Suddenly one’s absence provides an opportunity to think again. Don’t appear and a new paradigm opens in your absence. “If he’s never here then do we need him?”

Adjustments take hold and suddenly the adjustments made to accommodate one’s absence become routine. A great hazard comes in simply not showing up. It’s often claimed that “showing up is half the battle” and indeed we can learn quite a bit from this simple phrase. People put a lot of value in the physical appearance of another. While one might be completely useless or even damaging to a situation, the sheer fact that one appears has a power to it. The act of “making an appearance” is one of the most useless, but viable evaluation on our society.

We might consider the very construction of this “making an appearance” phrase. Unpack it to see this verb of “making”. What are we creating when we appear? It is merely a physical existence in an organization? Is it merely a presence or actor playing a role that is developed.

Don’t appear and we learn to question your value. If you go away for a day we learn to work without you. Time’s progression creates a snowball of conundrum when one is not around. Oddly one’s best defense against dismissal is to simply show up. Even if one’s work is completely trivial the mere physical presence allows one to appear to be important. One may be an unused gear or even a detrimental part the machine but simply being part of the engine provides a basis to exist.

Mismeasurements

May 25, 2013 1 comment

Executives tasked with creating a network of programming must measure its consumption. Determining popularity is essential when deciding what material remains in production. Limited resources demand that only the most popular material exist, but how does one measure this popularity? Most often it is a  quantitative measure of reception: how many viewers are consuming?

Contemporary technology has made this measuring process far more complicated than in decades past. What was once a living room of one television has become a world of multiple devices. Among the many locations where today’s viewer engages with media are game consoles, smart phones and set top boxes. Rich variety means greater access to viewers but one in which measurement is difficult.

Ironically, a piece of content that becomes popular with collective groups suffers from poor measurement. Viewed in mass, a program seen from a single device may entertain a mass of hundreds. Are these multiple eyes measured? Often not as the single device means single viewer.

Most important in the measurement process is a realistic understanding of inherent limitations. If it is not possible to accurately measure something is it best to abandon the attempt? Perhaps a better technique is to develop a more realistic perspective. If we cannot know exactly are we best served by an acceptance of the most realistic? When certainty is impossible we need not resign ourselves to the displeasure of ineptitude. Limited though we are, what we can know does have value and our best perspective is one based on everything we know.

Of A Clout

May 16, 2013 Leave a comment

An oft-quoted but poorly associated phrase urges us to “measure society by how it treats its weakest members.” And yet how to consider this term “weakest”? Do we speak of the mentally weak? The physically weak or those unable to conceptualize a concept of “weakness”? Perhaps in our own inability to define “weakness” we expose the very weakness we detest. Too often we frame existence in binary terms: good v. bad, happy v. sad, normal v. abnormal.

Ironically this need to frame things in clearly polar terms exposes our weakness of understanding. Too limited to understand the relativity of situations we narrow thinking to categorization. Groupings aid understanding by providing justifications of discrimination. Item A belongs in Box A. Item B remains a part of B because of feature X, Y, and Z. Making sense out of nonsense is a necessity of existence and yet what of the dangers of such actions? How might such simplification sacrifice progress or worse yet damage progress made?

In working to establish categories for life we extoll a certain clout. We are rulers of domain, framers of our world view and some abstract form of carpenter from which we nail firm a hobby-horse of life. We call this work “perspective”, the uber-personal sense of what is and what will be. Despite our limitations we make a world from what we sense. Didion wrote of stories as necessities from which we frame our existence. “We make sense” from these behaviors and though feel powerful suggest less a greater strength and more an enthusiastic embrace of ignorant indifference.

Possessive Presentations

May 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Contemporary existence is one of constant content creation. Recording capabilities of modern technology create a world where every moment is recorded. Unintended stars of videos become viral memes if fate decides to strike. Though often cast without intention, desire or even awareness many become figures in the videos and images of others.

When I attend an event I do not desire to be photographed. My neighbor does not desire to take my photo, but in snapping an image of home plate my figure is included. What right do I have to decide the status of this image? Can I ask it be deleted? Modern technology creates a conundrum of possession. Though often unaware, we are victims of constant surveillance. From the cell phones, tablets and cameras our every movement could be tracked. Visit a particularly photogenic location and the chances of being recorded increase significantly. Indeed one who visits any site where phones are in use and the chances of being recorded are present. One cannot escape the potential of being recorded.

We often resolve this issue by considering possession. The individual who owns the device that capture the image holds the power to decide what happens to the material it creates. Is this correct? Does the content created by a device automatically possess these rights?

In some cases we extend the rights and responsibilities of the creator to the creator. The food which poisons belongs to the chef. The bullets which kill belong to the gun owner. Links bind material with material. May we extend these same ideas to recorded content?

The internet presents a new challenge to this issue. An image exists in multiple domains online- ever living and spreading, one cannot know where or who is viewing or manipulating the image. A bad plate of food remains on the table and the bullet must eventually fall.

The internet and contemporary technology demand a new set of rights for human beings. If recorded, the individual must be given the opportunity to decide the fate of the recording. To provide the recorded with this ability to suggest is the ethical responsibility of the recorder. If I catch you with my camera I should let you know and offer you an option. If present and easily identifiable you have the right to decide.

Human Tool Reflections

March 23, 2013 Leave a comment

That which we use defines us. In our tools we see both need and solution. Hold a hammer and support within your hand a remnant of a problem solved. What can be learned from our tools? Do we see our priorities in our devices? It is our selections that tell the story. Preference refers to selection and the process by which need became desire and desire became reality.

The sense of “choice” and “taste” comes more from popular notions of selection and less from actual quality. What is a “choice wine” but one that has been selected by another. Does the expert palette serve the general tongue? Expertise and specialty does not suggest the ability to provide a greater experience by all. In one’s acute senses there lies little beyond a personal skill. Just because you can taste the difference doesn’t mean that I can.

What can be learned from our choices? Does a preference for a certain brand suggest some deeper need? Might one’s avoidance of a brand suggest an attitude of belief? One recent development in consumer behavior is a consideration of a company’s ethics. Many of today’s consumers happily choose a sub-part product if its competitor’s ethics are less than desirable. Bad actions and cruel policy tarnishes even the greatest product.

Social policy is now connected to consumer behavior and as tools reflect who we are so to does the expressions that surround it. Now it is less what type of hammer but what we do with it. You might make a great chicken sandwich but if your policy on same-sex marriage offends me I’ll go elsewhere. I like your discounted craft supplies but your attitudes just put me off. Yes, your products are amazing but the way you make them makes me sick.

Today’s better product is measured less in terms of quality of production and more in the who and what the surrounds the device. Bad policy and action is far more powerful than great innovation.

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