Week 8 Cognitive Surplus

For the final week in our class, we were to read the normal assigned chapters and also watch a video that shows Clay Shirky speaking to an audience about his idea which is called cognitive surplus. He explains in the video what that is all about and how it works. Basically, it means that people are now starting to use their free time in more constructive and creative ways, versus using free time to sit around and be lazy. Another big part of the idea is that since we are in a digital age, collaboration over the internet has become enormous. Shirky uses the example of LOL cats which are simply pictures of cats with funny sayings on the picture. He explains that even though this is a somewhat childish way to use cognitive surplus, it still creates ideas among different people and allows them to collaborate on things that nobody has done before.

It actually took me awhile to figure out a good example that would fit for the idea of cognitive surplus but I think that I have a very good example: the Chive. The Chive is a website and also an app for phones that consists of pictures and videos ranging from sports to movies to almost anything you can possibly think of including just absolute randomness. The people that work there post pictures that are sent in from people around the world and everyone else that has the app can take a look at these pictures or videos. They are broken down into many different categories so they are easily accessible to the user. It has now been around for quite some time and I actually just got into the whole idea about six months ago. Now, I am looking at the Chive app on my phone nearly every day. I think it is a great way to spend some free time because you get to look at pictures and videos that can be amusing, pretty, interesting, or even inspiring. Many times, I find myself looking at the pictures and then sharing them with other friends and they usually will share something right back. It benefits me by showing me things that I have never seen before but they are almost always fun and interesting to look at. I think that it has so many different categories that it would be able to benefit everyone because anybody can go to the website or download the app and instantly become hooked on it. It literally has something for everybody.

I don’t know if I would try to contribute my talents to the effort, simply because it is a professional website that I probably would not be able to comprehend. I am only somewhat computer savvy and wouldn’t really consider getting a job in that kind of department. However, I would try to send in pictures or videos in the effort to try to get noticed by people around the world. It is obviously a longshot but it wouldn’t hurt to try and it is as simple as sending a picture or video to the people who work for the Chive.

To close out this post, I want to say what a fun and interesting semester it has been. Usually for me personally, summer classes can just be slow and boring considering the possibilities that are always around during the summer. However, I must say that this has been probably the most interesting summer class I have taken and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things in the digital world that I had no idea about before. I want to thank our teacher, Michael Cavanagh, and I also want to thank every classmate for putting forth such a great effort week in and week out. It has been fun and I look forward to using the knowledge that I have gained from this class in my future endeavors.

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Week 7

This week in Communication Technologies, we read multiple chapters from Shirkey and watched a Frontline video titled, “Generation Like”. This video was actually one of the more interesting ones that we have watched so far in my opinion because when watching it, you get to witness some young people with their reactions on Facebook which has been overwhelmingly popular among teens for the past couple years. In the video, we see teens socializing with one another but they are also all on Facebook and they are comparing pictures and how many “likes” they received. This type of behavior seems typical among teens these days because it seems that almost every young person is on Facebook (or at least the majority of them) and they think it is cool to see who is basically the most popular. Apparently they think that is what will make them “cool” or fit in amongst all the others and maybe they are right to a certain extent but is that necessarily a good thing? I personally do not think so. On the other hand, however, social media outlets also serve as places for kids and teens to vent their feelings about whatever is going on in their lives. They feel that they can connect with their friends on that kind of level and for many of them, it makes them feel more comfortable than speaking to one another in person at times. I don’t think I could ever do it personally but I guess I can understand where some of these youngsters are coming from. I’m pretty sure we were all in high school at one point and there were certain “crowds” that some people did not want to participate in or were just plain left out of.

Another way that young people have been marketing themselves or “branding” their name into society is through YouTube. This website has now been around for years and ever since it was started, many people have become worldwide sensations by making any type of video imaginable. I guess that is what it was created for though. Anyway, people realized that it was fairly simple to post a video to YouTube so it really came down to who could come up with the best ideas for a video or also who could come up with the most ridiculous video. Both points of view are still used today but it seems to me that the ridiculous videos have trumped the actual talent that has come out of some videos in the past. It has always been a mixture of both but now I think that people are just trying to tailor their act to a certain audience. It makes sense from a popularity point of view because there is no doubt that people will watch these videos no matter what the circumstance.

I think that these ideas tie into what we were discussing last week, including the ideas brought forth by Marshall McLuhan. He was so technologically savvy that I believe he would have expected something like this to happen. He knew that as technology continues to advance, society itself would become less private. For example, Facebook has things like “friend suggestions” which just basically tries to link two people together who they think may become friends. Anything that goes into most social media outlets is usually not private. I think that McLuhan would actually be slightly shocked to see how some people carry out their day-to-day lives on Facebook or Twitter because he believed that as technology advanced, it was necessary to evaluate that technology to see what would be gained and what would be lost. However, young people don’t think in this way and they just want instant gratification.

This week’s information made me feel somewhat sorry for our future leaders of the world (if I can even call them that). We live in a world today where people spend substantial amounts of time on their computers and their social media outlets. I fear that if this type of behavior continues, it will snowball into something bigger and worse. I can’t exactly explain what I mean by that but I think it is clear that we as a society, technologically speaking, are heading into somewhat of a wrong direction.

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Week 6

This week in Communication Technologies, we learned about a man named Marshall McLuhan who redefined the theory of technological determinism. We also watched a Frontline documentary titled “A Digital Nation” which was quite interesting. We also had the normal readings that we have every week so it was a week full of new and exciting information that I was previously unaware of. I want to first talk about Marshall McLuhan’s ideas and theories. When it comes to technology and how it has advanced over the years, McLuhan stated that there are four epics: tribal, literate, print, and electronic. I am going to explain these further in detail now.

The first epic, tribal, was mainly carried out by people telling stories or by word of mouth in other words. It was the only way back then that they could record their thoughts and actions because that was before many fancy technologies. The second epic, literate, began with the invention of the printing press. This was a truly revolutionary invention because it meant that people no longer had to record ideas themselves necessarily. They still could and they would also still spread ideas by word of mouth but that even still continues today. The printing press meant that books would be readily available at almost any time which meant that there was a wealth of new information to be discovered by many people. All kinds of different books began to be published and this led to people advancing their knowledge in a very positive manner. The third epic, print, began with the rise of the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was indeed revolutionary because it expanded the market in ways that had never been seen before. Multiple machines could pump out huge numbers of different items which meant that things like books would be distributed at an even higher rate. Once again, this movement in history led to advancements in global knowledge for almost all people. The fourth epic, electronic, is what we are currently in. This epic began with the invention of the telegraph which is something we learned about earlier this semester. It obviously was enormous for the whole world because people could communicate with each other from long distances which was totally unheard of before that time. It got the ball rolling for the future which would give way to updates to that product. Eventually, we would have phones for our houses and then we were able to get mobile phones which are owned by nearly every average citizen today. According to McLuhan, technology today is only possible because of these epics and how they paved the way for technological advancements in many different areas.

The readings and the Frontline video were very similar to what Marshall McLuhan discussed. They break down the epics that McLuhan talked about and they show what worked and what didn’t. They also show what changes occurred and how they affect people. With every change in epic or technological advancement, people’s lives were affected. Certain things became easier but other things became more difficult. People sort of began to take the information for granted and therefore many times did not actually absorb the information. It’s like looking at a computer screen which may have some valuable information on it but you zone out and don’t actually think about the material.

The next stop in this process is most likely mobile devices. We live in a world today that thrives on multi-tasking and getting things done on the move. Mobile phones these days can already do things that would have blown some minds years ago and they are only going to keep getting more technologically advanced. Eventually, we will probably be able to do anything on a phone that was previously only available on computers. No matter what, technology will never stop advancing and people will never stop wanting more out of all of their devices.

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Week 5- Net Neutrality

This week’s material was fairly unfamiliar to me. I was entering unknown territory if you will. The information that I learned this week was actually quite substantial and pretty interesting. It was mostly about how Internet Service Providers basically have a monopoly on the internet so they can basically do whatever they want, within reason of course. However, in some ways, some Internet Service Providers are playing by their own rules and making many people who subscribe to their company wait for their internet usage. I think it’s ridiculous because since these people are paying customers, they should be able to use the internet whenever they want and should not have to wait for any reasons. First off, the internet in today’s society is massive. Nearly everyone uses the internet and they use it multiple times a day. There is no living without it for many people and many times, the internet is involved in certain jobs. It is essential in the world today and the fact that there are still many problems with the internet itself and now service providers is very strange to me. The internet has been around for years now and I just don’t see how these service providers can act in the manner that they are doing right now.

I myself am fortunate enough that I don’t have to pay for the internet because I still live at home with my family. I do pay for the internet usage on my phone and video game system (yes the Playstation 4 has a pretty expansive internet capability) and they are actually a bit expensive but I am lucky to be able to basically have free internet at home. However, some day in the future, I won’t be at home and will have to pay for all of that by myself. I guess I would be willing to pay a little extra for better internet usage but I wouldn’t pay too much. I don’t personally think it would be worth it. Also, many people can’t even afford internet at their own homes right now. If service providers were to raise the prices, they would lose even more customers because I think some people won’t pay outrageous prices for the internet. Sure, any home with a family would need it but how about a home with an older couple. They might not find it necessary to pay a lot of money for internet and I wouldn’t blame them. I feel that if the service providers raised prices for internet usage and enough people didn’t subscribe, they would have no choice but to lower their prices or they would lose all business. The only way I would ever agree to pay more money for the internet was if it was better than before. I would want the internet to be much faster and more reliable. It would also have to prove that it could be sufficient in times where there are many people doing something online at the same time.

When I think about this topic in general, it frustrates me a little bit. I think it’s because when it comes to technology like the internet, I expect a lot from my service provider and I may actually be somewhat demanding. However, I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing because they should know that our expectations are going to be high. When people are paying money every month for a premium service, there really should be no flaws in that service and if there are, refunds must be shelled out. The internet has been in existence for too long to be having these kinds of issues. What I am saying, more-or-less, is that I would be willing to pay a very small extra amount of money for the internet but only if I see tremendous results. The internet is a service that some people don’t have the luxury of and therefore it is unreasonable to make the prices skyrocket.

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Week 4 Post

This week in Communication Technologies, we read articles and watched videos about how the U.S. government is keeping tabs on everyone by listening in on phone calls, reading emails, and other various ways of communication. They thought this would help prevent any more terrorist activities that are targeted toward the United States. They may be right, but they also may be wrong in certain aspects.

This is a highly debatable/controversial topic. In some ways, I think it may be somewhat helpful to have the government keeping an eye on things but I don’t necessarily think that they should be able to listen in on normal Americans’ conversations and be able to read their private emails. Obviously, it is a clear invasion of our privacy and a violation of the trust that we as Americans should have in each other. This may sound naïve, but I don’t personally think so. I also think it is very shady that the government won’t be upfront about this whole matter. If they want to protect us, the first thing they should be doing is being truthful, but then again, the government has so many secrets that the American people will never find out about.

General Hayden referred to a “really big idea” that basically involved cyber weapons doing our “dirty work” instead of having to use soldiers. I like the idea, in theory, but I’m not sure that this is a perfect plan. It would be nice to not have to have American soldiers putting their lives in danger but I don’t think it is entirely possible. Machines can always have some sort of malfunction while a human being can carry out a direct order much easier in my opinion. Sure there may still be mistakes and it may put a soldier’s life at risk but maybe I am just not comfortable with putting all of our trust into cyber weapons. The Stuxnet program has already failed in some ways. It is available for use for pretty much any country which means that the likelihood of cyber attacks is only going to rise. I am just afraid that if everyone resorts to cyber weapons, it is more likely that we would see more catastrophic events occur, including terrorist attacks.

In my opinion, the idea of having the government spy on our communication abilities may work okay in a short-term sense. However, I’m not so sure that it will work out in the long run. Even though technology is advancing so fast and they may have the ability to spy on us whenever they please, that doesn’t necessarily give them the right to use it. This is America, land of the free and home of the brave. However, I’m starting to think that we may not be quite as free as that statement implies. Our government may also not be quite as brave as we think if they can’t be honest with us.

I am at a virtual crossroad on this topic. While I think that it may benefit us in some ways to have the government looking out for our national security, I also think that it is possible that the bad consequences outweigh the good consequences. As Americans, we reserve certain rights that uphold our freedoms that we have in our day-to-day lives. I don’t want to give up anything that I already have and nobody should have to. I personally think that our government can find other ways to keep us secure. I can’t give examples because I am not too technologically savvy but there has to be another way of keeping us safe and secure without spying on us 24/7. I guess what I am saying is that perhaps I am not really at a crossroad on this debate. I kind of feel that it is unconstitutional for the government to keep tabs on us the way that they do and I feel that cyber weapons in a nutshell may not be the best idea.

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Week Three Post

For this week in Communication Technologies, we read about social media and “user-generated content”. The chapters that were assigned to us were once again quite interesting in my opinion and I enjoyed reading them. First off, one important fact that I learned was that user-generated content does not mean what it says until it is presented before an audience. For example, what I am typing right now on my computer is not user-generated content yet. However, when I post this response to my blog, it is then defined as user-generated content because it will be out there on the Internet for the rest of my class to see.

We also learned more about social media this week and how people interact using social media. Of course there are many different types of social media and ways to “speak” with one another while using social media. Many people use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (not so much anymore), Instagram, etc. However, the conversations that people have while using social media are much more loose and informal versus the conversations we have with people face-to-face. When we type out responses to each other on social media outlets, we don’t necessarily worry about spelling, grammar, or mechanics. We just give the quickest responses possible that are easy enough to understand but may not be understood by people who aren’t included in the conversation. But that is still not even the point I want to get across. I think the main thing I am trying to say is that meaningful conversations usually do not take place on social media and if they do, they probably shouldn’t be there. For example, when I used to have a Facebook (I don’t anymore because of how sick I got of it), people would post the most mundane details of their lives that are so unnecessary. I mean does anyone really care about what food you are going to eat today or a random thought that you felt was necessary for people to know? Probably not. I think the problem is that society has become way too attached to social media and have forgotten how to actually have meaningful conversations in person. Obviously this is not true for everyone, but it is quite true for the younger crowd in my opinion. Like I mentioned earlier, I myself don’t have a Facebook anymore but I do have an Instagram that I check every now and again. However, Instagram is slightly different than any other social media outlet because it is basically just used for pictures. Of course you can create captions with your pictures and add comments on other people’s posts, but from my experience, most people just look at the pictures that are posted. Anyway, Instagram is used by a huge number of younger people and I don’t think it sets the right example for them. At least not when it comes to having a serious conversation or being able to present yourself in a professional manner. Speaking of being professional, that is the type of information that I like to look at or receive. If I want to know about something that is going on in the world today, I would look it up on a professional website. I wouldn’t go to Facebook or Twitter because then I would probably see everyone’s reaction or what they have to say about it. Not that what people are saying isn’t consequential, but many times, people just want to give their harshest opinions about something on their social media outlets. I think the reason for this is because people think that because their not talking directly to someone, they don’t have to censor themselves which is entirely false.

When it comes to receiving information from the Internet (especially social media sites), I can only handle it in small doses. The Internet can be a source of very valuable information, but it can also be a source for false and useless information. I can only hope that in the future, we don’t become so tied up in a certain social media outlet and instead go back to a more traditional way of communicating.

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Week Two Post

Our readings and lectures for this week all had something in common and that is how people have worked together to expand our world of technology. There was the electric telegraph, a story about a missing cellphone and how the Internet was used to track down that missing cellphone, a story about a parade in New York that was aided by the use of Flickr (a website that uses pictures to link certain things or people), and then the story about the people of the “Internet Underground”. These stories all had a few things in common but the main thing is that people who may or may not have known each other came together to create something that was for the greater good of humanity.

In the lecture about the telegraph, we learned that it was a long and tumultuous process to create a technology that would allow people to communicate with each other directly but in different areas. It also took a lot of manpower and resources to put the telegraph in working order. Many different people put in so much time and effort to make the telegraph what it was and without it, we would have no telephones in any way, shape, or form. This would also mean that a huge part of modern communication would be gone (cellphones, and everything that you can perform with one).

In the story, “It Takes a Village”, we read about a girl named Ivanna who left her phone in a New York City taxi. Not surprisingly, the phone is stolen and what happens after is a chain of events that really is quite extraordinary. Ivanna tries to track down her phone and ends up doing so with the help of her friend Evan. Actually, Evan is the main component in this story. He is the main reason why they end up recovering her phone at the end of the story. He does this by creating a wide network that people get involved in. He basically posts the story of it online and how the NYPD won’t help them because the phone is considered “lost” and not “stolen”. However, many people end up rallying behind the story and assist both Evan and Ivanna in getting her phone back. It was a great story of how people who don’t know each other at all decide to come together in order to create enough manpower to help get the NYPD on the case. In the end, the NYPD is able to get Ivanna’s phone back for her and all is well.

In the chapter, “Sharing Anchors Community”, we learn pretty much exactly what the title is trying to convey. People coming together for one purpose, sharing ideas with one another in order to create something which in turn builds a community. Many different technologies would not have been made possible if it weren’t for the cooperation and determination of certain groups of people. They had to communicate with each other as a group or groups in order to reach a desired outcome. In short, the meaning of this chapter was to show that without a group of people working together on a common idea, many technologies would not exist today.

These same ideas that have been discussed in the previous paragraphs of this document also apply to the story of the “Internet Underground”. Without the cooperation of many different people that make the Internet what it is today, the Internet would just be a frenzy of information that would be too difficult to find.  Basically, the Internet grew so fast in such a short amount of time that it was almost too hard for many people to keep up with it. Now, the Internet is a never-ending global network that can be used by anyone at any time in order to achieve a desired outcome.

The main idea that is central to all of these stories is the idea of cooperation and teamwork. If you look through every story that has been discussed here, you should be able to find that central theme of sharing and working together. It’s just the simplest way of getting things done and that is how it always has been and probably always will be. One mind working alone can accomplish something good. However, multiple minds working together on a common goal can accomplish extraordinary things.

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