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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.

Impersonal The Person

March 24, 2014 Leave a comment

In her interview with Brian Lehrer, Danah Boyd discusses contemporary challenges in child maturation. Well-versed in technologies complicated relationship with parents and their children, her work bases its conclusions on anecdotal evidence with young people. Her arguments are cogent and well-researched, and present a slew of new ideas about technology. From Boyd it becomes clear that a new perspective about technology must be developed to educate both parents and children. How has the internet changed the way we mature? Clearly, the relationship between peers has been altered drastically by technology. In Boyd we hear the complicated levels of these changes: alterations both for peers in similar age groups and between peers of different groups.

Each generation relates to technology differently. The ways in which an older generation uses Facebook is drastically different from a younger generation. Despite a common platform the two groups both utilize and understand the technology differently. From this great void of understanding comes significant confusion. How do children relate to their parents posting on Facebook? What do children do when their parents refuse them Facebook access or insist they function as a gate-keeper?

As our relationship with technology develops so to will our relationship with those who use technology. Just as users of Facebook come to understand the platform, the means of understanding others who use the platform will develop. Will a sense of someone’s “Facebook-self” become more common? Are we capable of allowing someone to exist as someone else on the internet? The online world is rich with opportunities to be someone else. In these new identities an amazing wealth of power can be seized. Where confusion enters the picture is when these distinct personalities are blurred. With the use of alternative identities it becomes critical that distinctions remain intact. How do parents keep their children safe? Ultimately each family must reach their own conclusion; though, a recognition of the multiple identities of online life is essential. Disregarding this is to disregard the rules of the internet and the very reality in which we live.

 

Self-Referential Reverie

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment

In this New York Times article, Edward Snowden refers to himself using the word “spy”. Such self-reference comes after others have worked to label him with their own loaded terms. These terms run the gamut of hero to villain: sometimes “Whistle blower” sometimes “traitor”, the actions of Snowden inspire a very mixed public reaction.

President Obama referred to Snowden with a reference to his age, remarking that he wouldn’t respond to a “twenty-nine year old hacker.” Whether Snowden’s age has anything to do with his actions (is he symbolic of some generational perspective on patriotism?) remains unclear. What we do know is that Snowden sees himself as a spy and in referring to himself we gain a sense of what it is he hopes to accomplish.

What can we make of this term “spy”? The article also includes comments from Snowden demeaning popular American media in the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11 and casts himself as public advocate. Based on his comments, he seems to feel he is the “white hat” spy in this game of cat and mouse. He seems to view himself as the hero in this escapade and the general public his victims to be saved. Oddly this remains a fantasy of Snowden- while nervous from what his “leaks” have revealed, the general public has responded with a very mixed reaction. Some see him as a hero while others see him as traitor and while we cannot know what will come from what he has revealed, we can learn a great deal from how he refers to himself and what it is he feels he’s doing in doing what he’s done.

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.

The Ultimate Absurdity

March 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Pornography is the ultimate absurdest art. Private becomes public as content is created to simulate a creative act.

Absurdest art focuses on the actions of characters existing in a world without meaning. Characters within these narratives act without purpose because their actions have no purpose. Life is void of meaning and in such a world, actions take place without context. There is no meaning for doing something when no justification or need exists. In essence life is a game of chasing one’s tail until death. Why act when no result will follow? All of life is folly.

Pornography is the ultimate absurdest art. Actors within these films exhibit an intimate action for the purpose of explicit display. Actors here make explicit what is intimate and private becomes public. Pornography is understood as material containing actions determined to be private. Oddly the very components of pornography, the human organs and actions, are referred to as “privates”. In naming such items as “private” we indicate their relation to the world (they are not meant for show). Does a violation of these categorization give way to excitement? Is one aspect of pornography’s draw the fact that social rules are violated?

Nudity is the least common denominator of entertainment. If the basest goal of entertainment is to excite then the most basic spark is the naked human form. Ironically what excites us the most is that which is most common. We all possess a human body and can very easily view it in the naked form. While variations do exist, the common human form is the most common component of pornography. We are jolted by the very thing we possess and can most readily observe.

When a pornographic film is displayed in public a meta-swill of context is born: the private made public becomes public and private. If viewed in darkened rooms of theaters, a private moment made public enters a new realm of privacy. Here the individual views another’s private moment of privacy in public. Does this viewer claim his right to view the private made public in private? Dare we censor such displays? Maybe the cycle completes here: private made public returns to privacy. You can have your dirty movie but keep it in your own home. We often argue that “what goes on behind close doors is none of our business.” Pornography makes these private acts its business and draws much of its power from this violation. Private made public for your own private viewing.

Gadfly Rights: Entitlements to Speak in the Internet Age

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Does the internet give us all a sense of entitlement? Connected to the world via our computers we become more than just a user. Post on a discussion board and be read by thousands all over the world. Suddenly a simple whim spirals to a post, which spirals to a thread, becomes a forum and via social media a tiny tumult in a teacup.

All ages determine the communicative power of its citizens. Before a system of letters the furthest one could “broadcast” his or her thoughts was determined by a strength of voice. Letters gifted relative permanence (if your slate was protected). Maybe here we have the dawn of “sacred texts” as major works were easily washed away or broken and in need of special categorization to warrant extra watch. Further advances in communication expanded distance and permanence and with both increasing abilities to have a  say. With the dawn of the internet age the cadre of communication tools at our disposal gives us immense amounts of power.

Though we possess these tools, many do not take advantage of their true scheme. Just as with weapons only a small group of individual will take advantage of the items full power, communication tools have a limited use by some. One wonders whether a bell-curve distribution would reflect the use of weapons and communication tools? Do the majority of a population utilize half of the resource with smaller clusters using maximum and minimum values?

Furthermore, with the dawn of these new communication tools does a change result simply from their existence? In knowing that I can say anything to anyone do I secretly reserve it for my disposal? Is each of us a gadfly waiting for an issue to lure us to speak? Surely we all have issues that irk our blood and, if threatened in just the right way, prepared with both emotion and tools to convey our point. Herein lies the great dangers of all factors of society. Emotion + Ability = Hazard. This is perhaps the equation for all of history.

Safe in Saying Safely

June 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Dare a curator violate our perspective? The internet is often presented as a land of “silos” where content suited to one’s perspectives can easily be accessed. Easy access, some argue, leaves us less interested in differing ideas and locked inside silos of understanding. Whether the internet limits our perspectives is beyond this post. What about those sources? Whether silos or simply sources, we use internet sites as resources to gain info. Whether CNN, NPR or Fox News, we trust sites to give us info and use them as access points to information.

Why do we trust these sources? Major networks hold most of their trust on the basis of history. ABC, NBC and CBS have existed since the dawn on broadcast news. “They’ve always been there” is the argument here and source for common trust. Newcomers like Fox News and

MSNBC have proven their worth through time via high-profile stories and mention in our trusted forms. If ABC, NBC or CBS mentions you we grant value to your existence and garner legitimacy. Maybe the reason Reason.tv failed was a failure to garner major network attention. Working to function as an alternative does not mean you can disregard those who you seek to defy. Function in the system to violate and, after all, where will your audience come from if not from the very sources you despise and took inspiration from.

Media authority comes gradually but once attained must be carefully maintained. Violate your audience’s expectation and the ability to go elsewhere is far too easy. There are no second changes in the media: if you suggest ulterior goals you will lose readers. Ulterior motives can exist but one must hide them very carefully and present the desired content as desired. The audience rules.

Curators must tend their flock carefully. A content creator cannot rest on content alone. Curation and presentation are two critical tools in maintaining power. The audience trusts the curator to present the info. “Maintain my perspective” is a silent mantra playing through the use of resources. Curators who maintain tone and content hold audience. Those who fail reveal their real goals or fall victim to a failure to communicate. Clarity is simple and balance is not about equal coverage. In this world a curator’s “balance” is with tone and voice. The audience isn’t interested in objectivity of coverage. Diversity of voice means death and the only objectivity desired is voice. “Stay real for me resource, “Be just who you are when I first found you.”

Ears Beyond: Detecting Assumed Audience

June 19, 2012 Leave a comment

A curator is one who collects and distributes content to others. A more prominent role in our age of countless sources, these figures function as “content filters” from whom we seek the information we know holds value. The curator’s function (and existence) is dependent on trust: give us something we don’t want and risk losing our attention. Based on this relationship the curator must walk a fine line: present quality content and do so in a way that caters to the assumed audience. Who are these people, though; and how does a curator know who reads their presentations? Both crucial questionsmustbe answered by a curator and we can detect such conclusions on the basis of presentation.

How does a curator present certain stories? How is text styling used to convey tone? Consider Matt Drudge’s use of italics. After an initial headline, Drudge lists additional stories in italics and presents critical snippets of material in the article. We read these italic stories as add-ons, as entries not worthy of the headline role but which feature interesting info. In essence these stories have a “But, Wait, There’s More!” goal. Herein we can gather a sense of how Drudge perceives the use of his site. Not merely factual in presentation, the content presentation includes an entertainment dimension that shows Drudge’s perceived role. Drudge wants to entertain and seems gleeful in with his collection of stories. Drudge uses his “Drudge Report” as a collective statement on existence. Visit the Drudge Report and Matt Drudge has collected life as he sees it and, via styling, his sense of what it all means.

The use of apostrophes categories a term as unfamiliar. Using apostrophes triggers the reader to consider these terms as different and react to them with distance. Apostrophes can create distance and distinguish certain terms as belonging to the outsider. Strange terms from different races, younger generations or foreign culture can be placed in apostrophes to label them as strange. Drudge uses apostrophes to castigate terms for these goals and on the basis of this use we see additional details of perceived audience. Drudge sees his audience as older, conservatives and uses his apostrophes to distinguish material from outsiders for its differences. Casting these terms in this way caters to his assumed audience by presenting himself as “insider”, as an individual whose status involves an awareness of common language and the ability to use it.

Curation is power.

 

Spending Triggers: An Idea

September 14, 2011 1 comment

The best way to inspire consumer spending is to create an online store of government purchased gift cards. Such a store would feature predominantly American companies or multinational corporations whose sales would directly benefit the American economy. Under such a system, the government would create the store and act as middle man between consumer and company. Unlike the earlier stimulus package, which featured checks mailed directly to consumers, this plan would involve each individual being sent a code to order a gift card. Once the card was ordered the site would purchase and mail the card to the consumer. Each card would have an expiration date and if the amount was not used it would return to the bank for another consumer’s use.

This plan would work better than the mailed check format because it denies the consumer the ability to save the money. The online market also has the benefit of being a mini market whereby consumer demand can be maintained. Each gift card recipient has options and can choose which company he or she would like to spend the allotted amount.

Hiding in The Network

July 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Members of an extensive network, whether digital, corporate or social, benefit from an ability to duck within the network’s complexity and dodge personal responsibility. When functioning in such networks the dependence on the system as a whole creates an excuse wherein the individual can point to other components as explanation for an error. A motor vehicle is a useful analogy here: imagine a magical vehicle driven entirely by mechanical components. When this vehicle smashes into a tree can one accurately pin point the source of error? Do not all members of a system bear responsibility for the failure? Surely applying all blame on brake pads that failed to engage fast enough is an inaccurate assessment of the situation.

Beyond this ability to avoid individual responsibility, we see a dispersal of punishment to the entire system that leads to minimal punishment at the individual level. In essence, the larger the network the smaller the personal risks associated with systemic failure. One can not only deny personal responsibility for the error but also avoid the painful punishment when the system fails. When a large company fails the individual employee exits to join a new network. A lethal connection to failure cannot exist when the system as a whole is disconnected from the individual.

The British cell-phone hacking controversy is an example of these “network benefits.” Even authority figures are able to duck into a network and blame others within a network for failure. Even the head of a company, the sole leader and historical beacon of the company’s development and success possesses the cushion of “not knowing” those who failed. As the network expands personal connections disappear and responsibility is dispersed throughout the network. If individual responsibility disperses as a network expands does the network become a Trojan Horse? At what point does a network expand to a level where the individuals are not responsible for the actions and failure of the network?

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