Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Internet: Turning Information Into a Way of Life

One of the main points that I made within my response to the final questions is that the internet provides us with so much information on so many different topics and in so many different formats that it could tell us almost anything at all that we want to know, and so, therefore, turns information into a way of life for some people.  Having the universe at your fingertips is alluring, and one could spend all day every day just surfing the vast amounts of knowledge (and when I say knowledge, I don't just mean scholarly journals.  Blog posts and cat videos are included here) and plugging up one's brain with it.  In fact, many of us do this much more than we'd probably like to admit.  Postman explains how the telegraph turned information into a commodity, but since almost anyone can get access to the internet somewhere or another now, do you think that it has taken this commodification and broken its spell, letting loose the internet on the world, available to all?  Do you think that this is likely to cause more and more people to become enchanted with it and turn it into a way of life, or simply keep the internet used only as much as the telegraph or telephone were/are at the peak of their usage?

Another main point that I made was that, since there are so many different formats and types of information available on the web available at mere clicks from one another, users can often overlook the source that information comes from or even what kind of information it is (scholarly journals, blog posts, etc.), making more scholarly and educational materials seem commonplace, and therefore become a natural part of an internet user's life instead of something they just look up for a school project.  They may start reading such things for fun, given they focus on a topic that interests the user, and, in this way, the internet may function, at times, to integrate people into the intellectual community even though they are just surfing the web and reading for pleasure.  Does this seem to be a plausible conclusion?  What do you think about it?  Has this happened to you?

What do you prefer?

While re- reading our take home final a thought occurred to me. A question that is asked is "What kinds of conversations does the internet permit?" Which made me think - what source do I use more to express myself. I personally have a Facebook, a Twitter and two different emails. So, which do I use more to connect with people or to express my views. Well I tend to use Facebook for group events, but I use Twitter to send out short blurbs of something that I think are funny or something that I find frustrating. But I honestly am not sure of which one I use the most.
My question for you is: what type of online media do you use the most - if at all and what are your thoughts?

Just my thoughts on the Postman quote

I'm just going to state my thoughts that ran through my mind as I read this quote from Postman.

First of all, he states that it's overrated. At the time, the computer probably was, but that was because it couldn't do much. Now, it's very underrated because it can do more than we ever imagined! I would love to hear his opinion about technology today. He'd probably have a heart attack, haha.

He goes on to say that people have given it their "mindless attention; which means they will use it as they are told, without a whimper." People aren't told to use computers anymore. They choose to. Throughout my college career, I had the choice to use pen and paper to take notes and/or to use my computer. I'm kind of oldschool, so I chose paper for the first few years, but then I realized how much quicker I can type than write, so I eventually switched. I read an article from another post on this site earlier today that was the thoughts of a guy who had walked away from the internet and his computer for a year. He enjoyed it at first, but discovered that it's not that we get bored easily. It's that we have started using computers to combat boredom or to kill time. In other words, we choose to spend our lives on them.

Postman ends his quote by saying computers have "created at least as many problems...as they may have solved." This is interesting to note because we have created many solutions to many problems over the years. Technology has made people closer, has improved the quality of life through life-saving surgeries and such, and has answered many questions that would otherwise never be answered by a single person/group of people. On the other hand, we have made things more complicated for ourselves in some cases. We have changed the way our brain thinks, for example. We think in short snippets most of the time, as opposed to the past when we could sit for hours and listen to Lincoln and Douglass debate (to use Postman's example).

As I stated above, and as others have mentioned, it would be extremely interesting to hear Postman's point of view on today's obsession with media, internet, and technology in general.

The Power of the Internet

As I was looking through the blog and working through the final I was pondering this and wondered what you guys thought...

When Postman talked about the telegraph he said that it made people care about all the things that were happening across national and international borders, rather than what was taking place in their neighborhood alone.  From the reading it seemed like his opinion was if this news had no impact on your life that it really wasn't necessary for you to be knowledgable about it.

I was thinking about some examples, and I think that in relation to the internet, obviously there are connections there.  We see news from all across the world by a simple click of our mouse.  But is it relevant to us?

I follow a few bands on Twitter from the UK and I noticed that even though they were far from Boston, during the tragedy that took place they were sending messages to people here.  One of the band members is an avid runner, so I see the connection there, but do you think this only affected them because they have relation to the topic?  Or does the connecting power of the internet create more empathy between individuals despite distance?

Slacktivism: just how bad is it?

Last week, UNICEF posted a video on their YouTube channel that addresses one of the themes that has come up during our blog discussion: slacktivism.

As others have discussed, the Internet fosters a culture that addresses problems through minimal effort. This phenomenon includes:

...signing Internet petitions, joining a community organization without contributing to the organization's efforts, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages or altering one's personal data or avatar on social network services. (Wikipedia)

The UNICEF video is designed to address slacktivism through a short, emotionally-loaded narrative from 10-year-old Rahim in a nameless third-world country. Their message is, "Likes don't save lives. Money does." In other words, if you care enough about an issue to like it on Facebook, you should at least donate money to it.

Ironically, this video will be liked, upvoted, and shared through social media. It does nothing but raise awareness and spread a message. Is this video a hypocritical form of slacktivism? Instead of spending their money on producing videos, should they focus their efforts solely on helping children?

I don't think so.

It's extremely important to raise awareness about issues. Even doing the bare minimum by spreading the word helps raise awareness by a little bit. Even if a person doesn't physically contribute, they may spark the interest of someone who will donate their money and time.

Let's face it: we're all occupied with our own lives. Many of us simply don't have time to go out and solve our world's problems. If that makes you feel guilty, then find a cause to donate time and/or money to. There are plenty of people who have devoted their lives to causes we're interested in. It's their job—help them do it. Yes, you'll still be on your butt in front of a computer screen, but you're still doing something.

Ultimately, the problem lies in public's perception of contribution and a general lack of critical thinking. This results in many users believing in a Facebook fairy who donates money based on how many likes a post has.

I think the first step in solving such a problem lies in education (*cough* Postman *cough*). There are far too many digitally illiterate users who spend hours on Facebook everyday. Fixing the problem is a different story—one that I'm not equipped to answer at this point in time.

So what do you think about slacktivism? Do you think it's all bad? Are there good forms of slacktivism? How does it affect public discourse online?

Just Something I Wanted to Share

I wanted to share this article with the class, because it's incredibly relevant to what we've been talking about this semester.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/1/4279674/im-still-here-back-online-after-a-year-without-the-internet

In the article Paul Miller discusses his experience after "taking a year off" from the internet. For a whole year, he went completely without internet of any kind, sticking to snail mail, regular phones, etc. Surprisingly, what he found was that it didn't change him the way he thought it would.

He thought that going without the internet would benefit him, giving him time and freedom that he never had before. While this was the case at first, it didn't last. Soon, he was as lazy without the internet as he was with it.

This reinforced what I've felt like was a central issue in this course: do we use the media, or does the media use us? In many ways, I agree with a lot of the discussion we've had on the idea that, as Marshall McLuhan said, "All media work us over completely." In many ways I think we are controlled by the media that we use.

However, I think this article presents an interesting case for the idea that media is also a tool, and that ultimately it's up to us how it gets used--positively or negatively.

The article doesn't take long to read, so I suggest others check it out. I'm curious to know what everyone thinks of it.

What is the Internet? OR Post Your Answer to Dr. Donnelly's Final Exam Question so I Can Steal It and Use It for Myself.


The Question:

“What is the internet? What kinds of conversations does it permit? What are the intellectual tendencies it encourages? What sort of culture does it produce?”

The Correct Answer:

It’s difficult to define exactly what the internet is because the internet can be so many things to so many people.  To prescribe it with any single definition would be to pigeonhole it.  So instead of giving an absolute definition of the internet, I will simply describe it in my own capacity.  In my experience, the internet is primarily a device for communication.  Whether it be through blogging, shopping, or networking, it’s difficult to imagine using the internet without communicating with others in some way.  This can serve many great purposes.  Personally, the use of the internet has improved my skills as a writer, reader, and critical thinker overall.  I’ve also gotten really good at Facebook creeping.

With all of the communication permitted (or perhaps necessitated) on the internet, however, it is also has its limits.  The internet does not permit face-to-face interaction, no matter how near it may be to replicating it with tools like Skype and Facetime.  For this reason, the communication that takes place on the internet is oftentimes relatively impersonal, which in my experience, sometimes gives its users an almost false, and perhaps dangerous, sense of security.  All too often I see people, on my Facebook feed for example, viciously arguing and attacking each other over any given issue.  I cannot help but ask myself, would they be arguing in the same fashion in face-to-face interaction?  My guess is usually no, they wouldn’t.  This is because the internet can serve to detach its users from each other.  When we cannot see the other person we’re communicating with, we cannot directly see the consequences of what we say.  Indeed, the long held notion that most communication is conducted non-verbally may hold a great deal of truth, and removing it from the equation could be harmful.  The internet’s detachment may embolden some users to such an extent that they could say something truly harmful to somebody else, and they may not necessarily even know it.  Furthermore, there are unknown implications in how internet communication translates into face-to-face communication.  Can the sometimes vicious nature users take on the internet carry over into face-to-face communication?

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Seriously though, I'm interested in how others decided to approach this--what did you come up with?