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  • What Makes Something Good?

    Posted on February 28th, 2012 lisskane 1 comment

    I am going to be completely honest in that I have had a super crazy week and didn’t have a chance to absorb these week’s readings as closely as I would have liked. But as I was skimming over “The Media is the Message” by McLuhan, in between studying for my chemistry test, sorority initiation and preparing for my alternative spring break trip in Nicaragua, what caught my eye was the comparison of modern science to apple pie and small pox. When first reading the quote from General David Sarnoff

    “We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.”

    I completely agreed with this statement. Computers and technology aren’t intrinsically good or bad. It is how we use them and what we use them for that should determine their value and virtue. If we use them for progressing research or knowledge, they are good. But if they are used for hacking or stalking, they are bad. But then as I read the next couple of sentences I changed my mind.

    Can apple pie not be named good or bad, except in the context of its use? As a major foodie and owner of the biggest sweet tooth possible, I disagree. Then continued with smallpox virus. Is that not good or bad? Does it really just depend on how it is used? I sure can’t think of a whole lot of ways it could be good. But then again, what about firearms? Couldn’t they be bad or good? Depending on their use? I think they could.

    I also found myself drawing a comparison to philosophy Morality and Justice lecture today. We have been talking about virtues. What makes virtue virtuous? Is it that is is seen as good? What makes something good? Also, how does a person become virtuous? Does trying to be courageous give you courage as a virtue. To what degree must you have courage to be virtuous? We talked about that people are born with the the ability to be virtuous, but they are not automatically virtuous. Thus, being virtuous is not for or against nature. It is not unnatural to be virtuous, but it is not immediate. I think of this similarly with computers. They have the ability to do good, but they are not necessarily good. The same goes with technology being bad.

    Ultimately, I am not sure which side I completely agree with. I keep flip flopping around, but I think it must depend more on what kind of object we are talking about. Personally, I think I do believe in the computer’s case, it does depend. I am going to stop rambling now as I am afraid I’m too tired and not making sense, but needless to say this piece has caught my interest/sparked some thinking and I am excited to look into it in more detail in class!

  • Information TO GO

    Posted on February 23rd, 2012 lisskane No comments

    Last night I read the prologue and first chapter of “World Wide Mind” by Michael Chorost. It really caught my attention as I was able to make many immediate connections with my own life. Mostly, I was struck by the prologue “A Dead BlackBerry”, pointing out not only the accessibility and portability of so much information that the BlackBerry gives us,  but also how much we rely on such devices on a daily basis. When I read “Personal Dynamic Media”, I immediately drew the parallel of the similar theme of portability that the Dynabook would give us.Kay/Goldberg could only guess what a portable device such as the Dynabook would give us, how it would affect us and how our society would benefit it. There was prediction of how helpful it would be, but while reading World Wide Mind I realized how big of an impact similar versions of today’s “Dynabook” really has on us. There is literally endless amounts of information we can carry around with us when we carry a device like a BlackBerry, Droid, or iPhone. I can’t even begin to count how many times a day I use my iPhone to look up the current weather outside, reread my emails so I know which room I’m meeting someone in, look up a lunch schedule, a due date, a word’s definition, a gym class time, a person’s name or birthday I forgot. The list is endless. We carry with us this resource whose value and capabilities of informing us are endless. If I forget my phone at home I literally feel lost and alone. I feel like I can’t do anything, like I am incapable. I act like my phone is my life line. I use my phone as my watch, my means of communication, my calculator. I use it to look people up, to contact teachers and friends. One point I found extremely interesting was that one day, maybe even in the near future, it will be considered rude to not google someone before meeting them. The thought of driving a far distance without a phone is terrifyng. What if I got lost and didn’t have my GPS? What if I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t call someone to come get me? Carrying a smart phone gives you access to almost any information you would ever need. It is connecting us to the rest of the world where ever we may go. It’s a pretty amazing idea if you really think about it.

  • Are we on Information Overload??

    Posted on February 17th, 2012 lisskane 4 comments

    http://www.salon.com/2012/01/01/are_we_on_information_overload/singleton/

    I came across an interview with David Weinberger, a senior researched at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, about his new book “To Big to Know”. In his book he attempts to answer the question if the Internet is causing us to have an information overload. The internet has transformed knowledge, but it what way. This interview relates almost directly to a lot of the topics we have been covering and I highly suggest you all take a look at it. I found it extremely interesting and gave me a couple new views on the internet’s impact of human knowledge.

    Weinberger first talks about how in today’s digital world, facts have been replaced by “networked facts”. With this transformation we have entered a new golden age in which technology has finally caught up with humans’ endless curiosity. There is an endless supply of information out there and now all we have to do is find it.  With all this growth in available knowledge, he claims that it also changed the way we look at experts and brilliant people. He claims that the metaphor the “smartest guy in the room” is outdated. With all of the knowledge at everyone’s fingertips, intelligence can’t be purely based on how much knowledge an individual knows. In today’s world we must change the metaphor because now it is the room itself that may be the smartest. That may contain the most knowledge and information.

    He talks about how today instead of trying to cultivate smart people, we need to look beyond the person and look at the network in which they work and live. We need to work now at building up and creating smart networks and systems, smart ways for people to gain knowledge and become smart themselves. We need to work on the Internet’s intelligence as a gateway to human intelligence.

    Another piece I found interesting was how information is filtered or dispersed to the population. Information filters work differently than they have in the past. In the past there were physical filters, only a certain number of manuscripts were published and book books that never made it to the library. Today we have digital filters. Weinberger says that “Digital filters don’t remove anything; they only reduce the number it clicks it takes to get to something.” Meaning, that in this digital age, we filter forward instead of out. Nothing is removed, everybody’s ideas and all information are still out there, but the really significant hard-pressing information is moved forward, more visible to the public eye. And not only is it all out there, but it will always be out there. Where data keeping may have been a big task in the past is now easy and automatic.

    Something we talked about on class Thursday was hyper linking. Weinberger’s next topic caught my attention because it related almost entirely. He talks about the advantages to networked thinking. When you are reading a book you cannot easily pop up another book when you want to look further into a certain aspect of the first. But on the Internet, in the middle of reading one persons information they can link to someone else’s information. The author can give the reader more knowledge to absorb and explaining how his information is different from what it’s telling you to read next. Some people may not like this. They may think that hyperlinks interrupt what you are currently reading. So some authors may still prefer paper and books. But the thing is that even they can’t avoid their work being discussed and linked to. Chances are that one of their readers will find the material worthy to share or have an opinion or argument against their piece. So chances are that a reader is going to share their thoughts via the Internet. Thus, it is very probable that writer’s thoughts are going to end up on the Internet through someone else’s actions.

    The interview continues with several more topics like this, discussing how the Internet is affecting our knowledge. And whether it is a positive or a negative effect. I loved reading Weinberger’s stances and views on the topic and realize how many of the same views students in our class have thought up and brought up on their own. It is also interesting to see new ones and bring in new ideas to what we have already discussed. Again, I think this was a really cool interview and you should all take the time to read it over!

  • Metaphors

    Posted on February 14th, 2012 lisskane 1 comment

    As I was reading Nelson’s Computer Lib/ Dream Machines, I came across a few metaphors I found rather interesting. They are not completely related or in any sort of order, but I thought they were worth sharing.

    The first metaphor I saw was “But the main idea of this book is to help you tell apples form oranges, and which way is up” (303). I think it is awesome that Nelson found so much importance in the computer being a tool everybody can use. He wanted there to be a resource that people could use to learn the most important basics of using a computer. Even if computers were just for experts, they would need to get to that level If people can not understand the basics, there is no way they will ever advance and become a skilled user. The computer is not something that is immediately black and white to everybody and it’s great that Nelson acknowledged this and took the time to explain it. With anything you learn in life, you must start at zero knowledge and the computer is no different.

    The next metaphor I came across was “It matters because we live in media, as fish live in water” (p. 306). I thought this was an insightful way to answer the question “Why does media matter?” or “Why should we learn about media?” Nelson wrote this piece in 1974 and claimed that media was essential and foremost in our everyday lives. If the comparison to media being all around us made sense back then, it makes even more sense now. Media is interlaced in every area of our lives, even areas that may not be immediately obvious. That fact that it is so prevalent in today’s society makes educating the public on media a priority. It is important to learn because we must be able to design this media or “water” that we live in. We need to be able to understand it and be able to improve it and change it in ways that benefit our society. In today’s world there is no ignoring media or pretending that it is not there.

    The third metaphor I looked at compared the way our education system engrosses us in knowledge to dog food. “If everything we ate were kibbled into uniform dogfood, and the amount consumed at each feeding time tediously watched and tested, we would have little fondness for eating” (310). The section that this was in, about our education system, is where I found the most relevance to my life. I often think that there is a problem in the education system in that it stifles our education and what we learn. There is such a strict agenda that schools must follow, with the exact materials we must learn and an exact way in which we learn it. With such extreme structure, I find that students “learn” for their grades and not for their own knowledge. I believe that education should be about inspiring students to learn what they want to and find important in the world. The subjects we learn in school should be starting off points and inspiration, not strict walls in which we must subside. I thought the comparison to dog food was interesting in that it is true that when education and learning is fit to such a specific mold, we lose a desire or spark to go after it. Food is such an enjoyable thing. Everyone likes different types and categories of food. Food is something people can experiment with and search in directions of which they like. If we were all limited to a mundane type, eating and food wouldn’t be such an exciting and enjoyable aspect of our lives.

     

  • Tools

    Posted on February 8th, 2012 lisskane No comments

    As I read Engelbart and English’s essay I was thinking about how important of a tool the computer is to us. Not only is the computer a tool, but there are thousands of tools within the computer and internet.  All of these tools made to make some task simpler and more efficient Everywhere around us there are tools to make our lives easier, better and more productive. In our everyday tasks there are tools to help up finish faster and to do a better job. The tools and resources are there, but I feel like a lot of the time they aren’t used to their full potential. Tools can take something from basic too powerful. It can change a small advantage into a huge one. Whether it’s that because people choose not to, don’t know how to use them or simply don’t know they are there. Tools can be extremely useful, but if we aren’t educated on how to use them or what they even are, they are completely useless. We all now have brand new delicious accounts. When I searched delicious in delicious (recursion?) I came across a link that explains its tools and how to get the best use out of your account. I thought I would share with you the link so that we can all learn and be aware of these tools and thus use the site to our full advantage. I know for myself I am not entirely aware how to use the site and so I thought if it is useful to me, it might be useful to a few others as well 🙂

    http://www.assortedstuff.com/stuff/?p=286

     

     

  • Allowing for Creative Freedom

    Posted on February 6th, 2012 lisskane 2 comments

    While watching the Engelbart’s demonstration I was struck but the idea he talked about in the reading about how “this flexible cut-and-try process really did appear to match the way you seemed to develop your thoughts.” The word processor gives users the ability to let their thoughts flow creatively and quickly. There is no need to worry that what you are writing is wrong or doesn’t make sense. You don’t have to be constricted by the permanency of your thoughts. The quickness of typing allows you to get your thoughts down almost as quickly as you think them. When all of your thoughts are down you can easily go back and delete, modify and rearrange. I thought about every paper I have ever written for school or emails I have sent and how many times I went back over it, changing and critiquing until it satisfied me. Sometimes going through and deleting whole paragraphs or sometimes just a few words. In fact, I am doing it as I write this blog post. The expansion that came with this ability to edit your own thoughts in such an accessible and convenient fashion is astronomical.  I never really think about its convenience, since it is what I am used to. But if I were to be given an essay to write and was only allowed to use pencil or paper, I would be sure to notice the drastic difference. It would seem inefficient and restricting. The process would seem unbearably slow and my fingers would itch for a keyboard. Which pointed out how much truth there is to Engelbart’s argument that once you are aware of advancement it is beyond frustrating to go back to more primitive modes of operation. You begin to feel restricted and impatient with the slower and older method.  You are stuck noticing the lack of efficiency and how much more productive you could be with your hands on the improved option. Needless to say the word processor was an evolutionary invention in terms of the growth it gave. It drastically changed our communication, learning, efficiency and thus our world in a remarkably positive direction.

  • Our Education System: What Are We Really Learning?

    Posted on February 2nd, 2012 lisskane No comments

    Grades. What are they really? What do they really tell you about a student and their work. Does it show you how smart they are or how much they work? What is an A really? How do you really know if you understand something? Should education be driven by grades or learning? Is education driven by grades or learning? I feel as if people want to believe that education is driven by learning. But I fear that from what I have observed from myself and my peers that somewhere in the system of education our priorities shifted. Our success in our education system is so based on the grades we receive that we often overlook the real reason we are in school. We are so focused on the next test, the next grade, that we ingest what we need for our grade and don’t develop it enough to actually gain knowledge on the material. It is almost as if the education system is abused. We have found a way around doing what we were really there for and have instead learned ways to make it appear as if we have learned. You can look at my almost perfect GPA, but when I think back on what I got from each of those credit hours, I am not so sure. I have been so focused on getting the “grades” I need to get into graduate school instead of getting the “knowledge” I need to succeed in graduate school. Is there a way around this? Can we change the way students look at their education? Is there a better way to educate. How can we augment education? How can we add to it to make it better? How can we help the education system grow?