my five minute brain dump about technology

Below is my five minute stream of consciousness on where I see technology being in grad school years from now, or perhaps not a new distance future?

What Would Graduate School Look like in a Technology-Rich Future?

 People are going to expect more and more from your time, because everything is can be done so much faster. The only problem I have is, I don’t have a good enough imagination to conceive of specific examples of making the writing and reading process quicker. I supposed that some sort of voice-to-text or thought process-text technology could make the writing process even faster than manually typing. For reading, would be too distant to think that we could just download material to our brain. Perhaps I just don’t’ know enough about the conjectures of technology to know whether or not that is actually a possible thing. But since grade school I remember people talking about, “wouldn’t’ be great if we could just learn by osmosis” and they definitely have that scene in the matrix. But then what is learning? What is it to “know” something if everybody can do it. Of course some people have those same thoughts now about the internet. People 20 years ago, if they wanted to learn something about the a random subject, like Buddhist colonies in Tibet, they would have to go to the “stacks” and hope that the library had a book on that subject. That person would then have to read that book, and to really know it he/she would probably have to find even more books, or perhaps even travel to that place. Now knowledge is available to everyone, well anyone that chooses to find it and put it up there, instead of looking at cat videos. And let’s be honest those cat videos are freaking awesome, and entertaining. What are we using technology for? I recently started to playing some dragon game. Who am I? But then I think that individuals understand knowledge, everyone can have it, but what we do with it will even further be reliant on a unique, creative aspect of it.

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should I include Donna Haraway?

My current research project is looking at how feminism is visually construed on Instagram. What kind of images are being posted that reflect how feminism is thought of today? I believe this is a way to look at how 3rd Wave Feminism is thought of today. I am using Instagram because I believe looking within a digital medium is also part of this contemporary engagement. And this medium is also very visually based, which is what I’m interested in. What images are connected to today’s feminism?

However, even though I am interested in a digital medium, I also working within a frame that sees the digital and the nondigital as a fluid state, particularly in today’s age. Because of this I am using critical theory and visual studies that traditionally may look at photographs, although a few look at new media forms.

Many times when the digital and feminism are connected that it is with a cyborgfeminism lens, which is not exactly what I wish to do. In my literature review I want to go through an understand of cyborgfeminism, and what it does bring to 3rd Wave feminism, but also state that this is not how I will be interpreting the Instagram photo posts.

My question is that many cyborgfeminists include Donna Harway’s Cyborg Manifesto, however, for what I am using cyborgfeminism for I don’t believe Donna Haraway says anything specifically for my project. But can I even mention cyborgfeminism without Donna Haraway?

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Research Flow Blues

I was looking at the calendar last night, and realized that there is not that much between now and the end of the semester. It’s my first semester in graduate school, and if I’m going to survive still remains to be seen. I’ve got major research projects in nearly every class, and I’m beginning to lament the fact that I still don’t a process or a system for producing research. Or at least one that I’m aware of. I’ve always researched, I wrote, and then something magical happened and I had a research project or paper. Magic. That’s how research happens.

But the level that I’m in now, I’m realizing that it might be do or die when it comes to developing a work flow that works for my scattered, unorganized way of working. It’s not all of the writing and researching that I have to do looming over my head, that is getting me to think about this, but a really great blog post that we had to read in my digital self class. The post, “Embarrassment of riches: Managing research assets,” was written by Miriam Posner. I’m hoping that through some discussions and class and some of the tips from the article that I might be able to steal some great research flow ideas. The problem is though that everyone’s is going to be different, you kind of just have to figure out what works for you by trial and error. Well, for me I’m hoping to do less of the error side. Which is why you learn what other people did wrong, and just not do it.

One thing that I have seriously implemented into my baby academic life is Zotero. And I would highly recommend, if you aren’t already using a site like Zotero or EndNote to compile sources, do it now. I organize my folders by larger subject matter (Feminist Theory, Digital Studies, etc.) and then into their individual projects. I realize that as my graduate school career goes along that I will be making organizational adjustments as I need to. The other really great thing about these systems is being able to store your notes on a paper or book, along with the citation information.

What I’ve been doing is while I’m reading an article, I take notes in word, and the copy and paste them into Zotero when I’m finished. I only take notes on an article if I know for sure that that an individual article or book is going to be helpful to me. There is no need to waste valuable time, so always do a quick read through of the article first.

Hopefully, as time goes along that I’ll be able to develop even more techniques and strategies. Wish me luck.

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Siri as transsexual, transnational?

I find that it extremely interesting in the phenomenon of gendering technology. The best example I can think of is the iPhone’s Siri. A phone is of course an inanimate object, but I believe many of us think of our phone, especially when utilizing the application of Siri, as female. When someone asks me if I know how to get somewhere or if I need directions, I’ll sometimes say something like, “If I don’t know, Siri will know, she’ll get me there.” Siri also makes our phones not only gendered, but also more like a person. The voice doesn’t belong to a static robot.

But I should clarify that Siri is female in the United States, Australia  and Germany, but is male is the U.K. and France. I find it extremely interesting at the cultural research done in each country and culture in order to determine which voice would be most appropriate for each one. Previously, I had only assumed that all iPhones came with a female Siri. This article from Tuaw gives some possible explanations for why our phones in the United States are female.

Some of what they talk about is that previous research has been shown that people just like more female voices than males. Apparently this is something that starts in our mother’s womb as Sande in the article reports. It can also go back to the fact that many Americans are used to getting telephone assistance from females, because back in the day telephone operators were traditionally women.

Which I can’t help but to question this residual tradition still being perpetuated in our technology as women being the place of assistance. Jobs such as telephone operators and secretaries, although they showed the beginning of women moving from the private sphere to the public sphere, still placed them in aiding and abiding men. So my question then is to ask, how far have we really come in American culture if subconsciously still prefer to here a woman’s voice in the role of assistant?

Perhaps I am reading too much into it. But there is a reason that Apple chose to put a male’s voice in some countries and a female’s voice in others, and I cannot help but to ask why? It seems that eventually, just like GPS voice directions (which are also set to a standard female), we will be able to change Siri’s voice in to suite our own gender and accent biases. Not that I am saying by being able to change a robot’s voice from female to male that it will culturally change anything. What I am saying that we should look at our cultural preferences and biases as a way to read between the lines of our own culture.

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my own personal recommendation for a healthy body of literacy

Perhaps it’s the romantic English major, maybe it’s just my own personal nostalgia, but the idea of the extinct paper book scares me. This fear is only heightened by the fact, that I am getting more and more used to digital books, and finding them, in some cases, more helpful. My academic purposes, having things digital, makes it just so much easier to look things up if I can’t remember exactly where I read something. The thing is that wasn’t even something that I knew I had a problem with, until the technology came along. In the history of technologies, it seems that many times we don’t even realize that we need something, or that something could be easier, until something comes along that does it, or makes our lives simpler. But I have to ask to what cost?

As with everything else in life, there are gains in loses that come with technology. Those gains and loses will be different for person to person. For me, as I have stated, my gains are simplicity of research, but also, portability and access. However, I feel the loss of an art. And not just the art of the book itself, the cover art, typography, the putting together of an artifact by a whole processes of craft, but the lose of art that a person can create with it. What makes art, art, is the ability for people to find experience within it. What makes a book come alive for me as a piece of art is not only the content written within it, but the experience of the experience of a book. Or not just what is intangible, but the  tangibleness of a book, what it does to your senses. The smell of a book, the smell of the ink, the smell of old pages, the smell of new pages, the way your body curves around a book reacting to its shape, length, weight, being able to actually touch the pages. All of these things create ownership of a book, it makes it yours, you have given yourself over to it, and it has given itself over to you.

That’s why I support that ebook are fine, sometimes, like fast food they are easier to grab and get what we want quicker. However, but in order to maintain a healthy literacy diet, like the recommendation that half of your grains should be whole, I say that half of your books should be printed. Let’s keep the tradition alive. I don’t know want to live in a world where my grandchildren don’t know what the hell a book is.

And one last point, nothing decorates a house more beautifully than filled bookshelves.

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Security Scares

This past weekend I went to visit my mom in North Carolina, so I found myself watching Dateline on NBC. Usually, I don’t have much time to watch any T.V., you know grad school probs. But I was intrigued by a story they were doing on a writer for Wired that got hacked and lost all of his passwords for all of his online accounts, including being locked out of his iPhone. It ended up that they were just trying to get hold his Twitter tag, @mat. Clearly by this simple Twitter name, this guy was one of the early adapters and plus his status of working for Wired, he was most definitely not ignorant about hackers and online security. One of the passwords that they were able to crack was 19 characters long with letters and symbols.

This news story got me to thinking about my own online identity security, and the pitfalls that I have when it comes to passwords and things. I was going to name steps that I was going to take to enhance my online identity, but then I realized that would also be giving step-by-steps about what accounts I have and what weaknesses they may or not have. So I’m just advocating for you to research and conduct your own online security analysis and find out what steps are best for you. As they stated on Dateline, it’s not like we can just quit the internet, but we can make the best out of the situation.

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procrastination, there’s an app for that

Smart phones help us do so many amazing thins, all in one small, convenient, and mobile device. I am usually checking email, updating my files in dropbox, reading books on my Kindle app, etc. However, I am more often using my phone as a venue to procrastinate from work. I have apps to my social media sites, e.g. Twitter and Instagram, which I check constantly. But now I have found a new app to ensure that I am just as unproductive as ever. The little demon app is called iFunny. It is hilarious and addicting. It’s just a collection of funny, strange, and entertaining pictures, and you just scroll through them. And then you scroll, and scroll, and then pretty soon you look up, and you have lost 30 mins of your life that you will never get back. But you can’t delete it, because it wants you to look at more funny pictures. And even the ones that aren’t that funny, you have to look through, so you can get to the funny ones.

Like most other things that I go through on the internet, this will just be phase. I can totally quite whenever I want to….

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the days of week as seen in Instagram

So I’m always curious about how things start on the internet and social networking sites. For example, on Instagram there are specific pictures that you post depending on the day of the week. I’m learning more about these as I get more involved, either that or they are just being created more and more. And depending on your interests and hobbies, there might be different ones. But here are the ones that I have figured out so far:

#mancrushmonday

#womancrushwednesday

#throwbackthursday or #tbt

#feministfriday (I think that one is more of the special-interest kind, and not as main stream.)

I’m trying to figure out more, if anyone knows of any, I’m going to try and add on to this list. Maybe I’ll make a challenge to myself to a whole week of these daily hashtag pictures.

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Technology, a supplement to the classroom not a replacement

I know that a lot of people talk about with the rise of digital technology in the classrooms that there isn’t the same need for the traditional classroom, with teacher and students in the same room. Online classes are getting more and more popular, and they cost universities a hell of lot less money. I am here of course to throw in my two cents that the level of education is just not the same. Personal, in-class discussions are what have made my educational experience so rewarding and fulfilling. Perhaps in lower-level classes there may be more of an economic need, as class sizes continue to rise, along with our tuition bills, but in the higher-level classes I would definitely argue that the personal connection is infinitely more valuable. Where are my statistics you say? I don’t have them. I’m not an expert in the “field.” Just an expert student. Take that as enough for now.

However, I do believe that some digital technologies have the potential to be a great supplement to almost any classroom, even the most traditional ones. One example of this is my Composition Theory class. The class is a small graduate class of about 6-7 people, and it is so great because of the intimacy and the discussions that we can have every Tuesdays/ Thursdays at 12:30. But we have had the opportunity to Skype two authors that we have been reading, and another connected to the field. Now it also helps to have a professor that is established and knows all of these great people. However, if it weren’t for the technology we wouldn’t get the chance to bring in these kinds of people into our discussions, and be able to ask questions, when otherwise works are left up to the reader’s interpretations.

Skype isn’t the only technology that teachers are using to enhance the classroom experience, but it is important to note that their is still the classroom experience.

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