April 2008


Michael Wesch is an anthropology professor at Kansas State University and has made a series of videos with his students that address some of the issues we have discussed in our exploration of digital ecology.

This one in particular made me thing of a lot of points brought up in the classroom (some directly, some indirectly).

This video has come up in several different contexts for me in the last year. On one level, this is a video about students, “how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.” But it was created in the collaborative context we have discussed this semester – real time edits to a Google Doc. And what it reveals is a student body inextricable from the technology they utilize and that surrounds them. In fact, technology is a huge focus in this video.

My favorite quotes:

“When I graduate I will probably have a job that doesn’t exist today.”

“I will write 42 pages for class this semester. and over 500 pages of email.”

“I am a multi-tasker. (I have to be).”

Me too.

In the past few weeks, friends of mine have been buzzing about the new(ish) facebook chat application.  Launched less than 2 weeks ago, facebook chat does not seem to have gained much momentum in terms of popularity.  I have yet to been “imed” (a slang term meaning messaged via an instant messenger) by anyone on this chat, nor have I taken the opportunity to use it myself.  I wonder why this application has gone basically unnoticed, at least to my knowledge?

 

I believe that instant message users become very comfortable with their messaging service and it becomes difficult to switch over. Also, it seems that instant messaging is a more involved internet practice, whereas checking facebook is almost as popular of an activity as checking your email.  So will facebook chat gain as much momentum as facebook itself?  Or is communicating directly with peers non-appealing?

I came across an article in the NYT yesterday about GTA IV sales and Take-Two Interactive’s (the game’s publisher) stock market value. What intrigued me about the article is the fact that GTA IV’s sales are already soaring. Having played GTA since its entry in 1997, I’ve always been interested in what functions it serves. While it is a very fascinating and dynamic game that provides gamers with an in-depth story line, I’ve often times seen gamers dismiss the plot line and missions in order to “play around” and simply steal cars, run people over and cause a ruckus. I myself can attest to the fact that I’ve played the game in this way and for that reason I’m interested in the issue of how technology enables us to live out taboo fantasies. This is an issue that’s been the underpinning of many of our discussions in class. (We explored the issue in talking about Second Life.) But I’m curious to hear what other people think about the point at which these technologies stop being an effective outlet for us to explore/play with our fantasies and starts being a proponent of negative consequences/actions in real life.

A couple weeks ago I came across an article in the Times about a fight between teenagers that was filmed and put on YouTube. The article brought to mind an article that I read last semester about the same kind of circumstance. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/13/nyregion/13video.html) I am continually shocked when I read such articles. Primarily, it is incredibly upsetting that these fights occur but moreover it astounds me that teenagers are uploading videos of themselves being violent towards other teenagers. It is a clear indicator that not only are they unaware of the consequences of their actions but also that they feel somehow rewarded by posting their poor behavior online. The first example of this kind of behavior that I encountered was in my senior of year of high school. There were a few students from a nearby high school that were arrested and given MIAs and MIPS (minor in attendance and minor in possession). Soon after their sentence, they stole the district court sign and took photos of themselves drinking in front of the sign. They later posted these photos online with an angry caption belittling the judge. When the judge was doing research for a speech that he had to give, he came across the photos and the students were sentenced again. I am curious to hear what others think about why individuals are inclined to post such things online in such a public sphere.

The radical evolution piece has been the most enjoyable read thus far in class. I think Joel Garreau got it right when he said that technology is deeply linked with culture and values and that it follows what is happening with these two instead of the other way around. As self -proclaimed capitalists we are competitive by nature. This means that we want to be the best, have the best and be capable of rendering our children in a similar manner. This competition creates the growing demand for humans to be re-engineered.

 Though most of technology has been geared towards the military, athletes, and those who are disabled or diseased, the time has come to design humans that are neither of the above. This raises many ethical issues, as we have already discussed in class. What does it mean to be “genetically engineered”? Well part of the issue comes from cost. If this advantage is not given to everyone, it might cost large income and social gaps-two problems that already plague America. If some are genetically engineered to be smarter, faster, etc. and others are not, it creates an unfair advantage, especially if the reason everyone cannot have access to this is only the exorbitant price attached to such treatment.

 Lets look at the example of getting into college. We already have read and discussed how difficult it is becoming to get into America’s elite colleges and universities. Having perfect GPA’s, awards, extracurricular activities etc. are not enough to distinguish oneself in the academic world. Harvard alone turned down over 5,000 applicants with the above. Well, what if a student is genetically engineered to think faster, process information better, sleep less and perform overall at a higher caliber than a student who is not? The college doesn’t care, because they are getting the better student for their university.  The student who isn’t boosted with extra stuff is the one who cares. This has large social implications.

 Race, class, income, and other things already separate us. Garraeau would agree that although technology is an overall good thing, it does have its drawbacks and severe consequences. I think he has proved beautifully that technology another aspect of our lives that has the potential to act as another bridge, and divide us further.

 

As I was walking through town yesterday, I came across a very interesting flier. The flier [which was posted in an assortment of areas (on the ground, on poles)] depicted an open cell phone with a text message on the screen. The text reads: “Text Msg: Message: I wanted to do this face to face, but now you know. I don’t want you to work here anymore. If you want to talk about it we can, but my decision is final.” I am completely unsure of where this flier is from or what it’s actually about, but it raised some interesting questions for me. I know we’ve discussed the topic of text messaging in class once or twice before but it’s a significant topic that I’d like to explore a bit more.

The flier immediately struck me for two reasons. 1) While it seems absurd to fire someone via text message, the idea really isn’t that outlandish these days and 2) The flier itself displays how removed we have all become. It is a drawing on a flier of a text message on a cell phone screen that is conveying a message that one would normally think of as needing to be communicated in person. The second point really sat with me and made me reflect on my own experiences with this dynamic. (By this dynamic I am referring to the use of text message to communicate very personal/intimate/important information.)

Although it’s embarrassing, I am willing to admit that I’ve had many very significant conversations via text messaging. For example, I once conducted a “what are we actually doing with each other” conversation via text messaging. What strikes me as being more absurd than the fact that I actually had this exchange with someone is the fact that at the time I didn’t think of how bizarre it is to try to talk about such a complicated thing over such a detached medium. But these types of interactions occur on a daily basis now. Text messaging has become such an integral part of our social landscape and our ways of communicating with one another. Cell phones have continuously developed to adapt to consumers’ growing desire for easy text messaging (QWERTY keyboards).

I’ve only recently become much more aware of how often I use text messaging to engage with people and, moreover, how detached that engagement is. A couple months ago I started conversing with a friend over text message and he replied “If you want to have an actual conversation, call me.” I was startled by his response and jokingly referred to him as ‘an old man’ who wasn’t quite up to date. But more and more I’m making a conscious effort to call instead of text.

I think it’s very important to ask ourselves what text messaging has done to the way that we interact with each other. Most interestingly, what are the politics of interaction that have emerged out of text messaging (or even facebook messaging for that matter)? I’ve always found these politics to be very fascinating. For example, if person A messages person B at 7 pm, person B feels inclined to wait X amount of hours or days before responding, for fear of seeming overzealous. Certainly, not all messaging threads work under these circumstances but I’ve certainly seen a good handful of these kinds of interactions. What’s most upsetting about all of this is how it translates to our ways of interacting with each other in person. I have definitely noticed with certain friends from back home that our communication becomes solely text based. I haven’t seen incredibly strong support for the statement that I’m about to make but I’ve experienced a decent amount of change in the ways that people who I know interact with me because of the development of text messaging and facebook messaging, etc. There is a certain freedom and ease with which things can be said over these mediums that in turn, I think, inhibits people from expressing themselves freely in person. It’s a shame and I wonder what any of you think can be done to remedy its effects (other than the individual working on their own to bridge the gap).

When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web: Public Profiles Raise Questions of Propriety and Privacy [Washington Post, April 28] addresses the topic of school teacher’s profiles on social networking sites.

We know that potential employers use the internet to find more about job applicants—but what about when you already have the job? The dynamic relationship between students and teachers is being redefined by the internet. The article questions:

“Do the risque pages matter if teacher performance is not hindered and if students, parents and school officials don’t see them? At what point are these young teachers judged by the standards for public officials?”

The article portrays young teachers, not more than a few years out of college, who have committed major faux pas on their respective Facebook and Myspace profiles. Principals or superintendents have taken legal action to suspend or expel teachers for personal websites or YouTube videos. The rationale is the public school teachers are civil servants and should represent themselves in all aspects of their life as such.

Although I value free speech, teachers do serve as role models to their students, so I would caution over posting risque items, or at least blocking them.

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