#11: Unplugging

Part I.

So today, I unplugged from my phone and the Internet for twelve hours. It started off great – but quickly went downhill.

I liked the experience for the most part. But it very clearly showed me how dependent I am on the Internet and my phone.

It started off well enough. I let my phone serve as a clock, calendar, and music player but turned all other services off. I was able to get to my first meeting with almost no hassle.

I had to cheat though because I needed to look up an important address to send my transcripts to so I had to use my internet for that. I thought about how lucky I was I didn’t have classes or it would be a lot harder to go without Internet.

My trust was tested as well since I had to trust that my ride would be there when I said to be since I couldn’t text them once I was done.

I noticed that I was more bored and would get my phone out to pass the time idly. But I would put it back up. I didn’t realize how often I did this before.

In the end, I decided to take a nap until the twelve hours were over. However, once I left to my next meeting I walked out and locked the door…leaving my keys inside my now-locked apartment.

I quickly realized my mistake and knew that it was over. I couldn’t last the day. I ended up calling my mom to bring my spare car key and texting my roommates trying to work out a solution since they were both at work. All right before a meeting.

I didn’t give up so I put my phone back on airplane mode until 9 PM since that would complete the 12 hours. Clearly, I had failed to go the entire time without my phone/Internet.

I felt good about the experience though. I was able to relax more and enjoy being in the moment. It sounds corny but it truly felt that way. I felt less stress for sure and I could tell this is true because once I turned on my service again and my missed notifications started popping up, I began to feel tension and stress. Having an empty notifications bar was oddly relieving.

I wasn’t too surprised about my use of technology. I knew that it was an integral part of my day seeing that my schedule and email are on there and not being able to access Internet really sucked. A lot of my homework is done using the Internet so I had to rely on reading and writing what I could.

I felt that interpersonal communication vastly improved when I was disconnected from my phone. I am a serial “phubber,” especially around my partner. He’s complained that I am bad at multitasking but the video in class showed me I just concentrate too much on my phone that my ability to talk out loud at the same time suffers. Now that I was forced to be unplugged, I realized how being “phubbed” felt. Most of the times where I would idly reach for my phone was because other people were on theirs and I felt left out or bored.

It felt slightly liberating to have my partner’s full attention and give my full attention back. He knew I couldn’t use my phone so we were able to really spend quality time together.

I would definitely do this again just for the peace of mind.

Part II.

I’ve learned a lot throughout this course especially in regards to the early histories of communication technology. I wouldn’t have known what commtechs were before this course.

The theories we learned in class were things I had known but couldn’t put a name to (displacement theory) or things that I wasn’t surprised to learn were true. (The 80/20 rule)

I didn’t know how complex the regulations were surrounding Internet. I didn’t know about net neutrality or spectrum space or how companies collected information. Those were all surprising things for me to learn, especially in regards to Axciom, but all the more reason to stay updated on legislation and FCC regulations.

Communication technology has tremendous impact on society and our lives. It’s not an immediate effect and they don’t all happen at the same rate but ultimately those that pass the “chasm” have lasting impact even if they die off later on. Without VHS or wired telephone we wouldn’t have a lot of the new gadgets we enjoy today.

This class has caused me to think more critically about the technology that I use daily as well as think about how and why things got to where they are. The future of technology is hard to predict but with the content I learned from this class, I can at least make a reasonable prognosis. And really, as consumers, that’s all that we can do in the ever-evolving world of communication technology.

 

 

 

 

 

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#10: Social Media

Social media now has millions of users worldwide. There are blogs, social network sites, podcasts, discussion forums, video and photo sharing sites, wikis, and even product review social media sites. Youtube dominates as the #1 social media site with Facebook as the #1 site for time spent.

I grew up and saw social media rise and die. I used Myspace back when it was super popular then moved on to Facebook once it became clear Myspace was dead. Instagram and Twitter came next and eventually Snapchat. I’ve had Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, Linkedin, and Hi5 accounts.

Now, my time is mostly spent between Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. I also use Youtube but mostly to watch videos and not to socialize. I use all of these in different ways. Facebook is mostly to get updates on news, stay connected to family, and keep track of events happening around me. Snapchat and Instagram are apps that I use to stay connected with friends and post more freely on.

Since starting college, however, I have begun to cut back on my social media use. Now that classes, homework, and extracurriculars take up more of my time, I don’t have as much leisure time to dedicate to social media. I uninstall everything except Facebook and Snapchat and messaging apps during the semester so that I don’t waste time.

When I was in high school, I had a lot of leisure time to browse Tumblr and Pinterest. Now those accounts sit untouched. I only use Twitter during breaks. The reason why I cut back is because more is at stake than before. I have more responsibilities and my grades are more important than ever. With the increasing spotlight on privacy issues, I also don’t want to put more personal information out there since I don’t always know where it’s going or who can see it.

In many aspects, social media enhances my relationships with people. I’m better able to find things we have in common and stay updated on people’s lives. I’m not the best at maintaining contact but social media lets me stay aware of my friends and family and know how they’re doing. I don’t necessarily think it gives more relationships with less quality depending on the type of person you are. I tend to only accept people I know but some people try to expand their networks as much as they can. In that case, it can lead to shallower relationships. The quality of relationships depend on more than social media interactions.

Although most people would agree that social media is a way to improve interpersonal human communications, it can also be used for awful things. Cyberbullying can have real-life effects and even lead to suicide. As we discussed earlier in the semester, social media is a form of disembodied communication and people type things they wouldn’t say  in person.

Another way social media can be harmful is when fake news or rumors are spread. Increasingly, fake news has risen as people become more polarized on issues. People become more inclined to believe fake news and don’t think critically.

There is no grand solution to these issues as the Internet is a complex thing to regulate. However, a way to combat cyberbullying is by taking it seriously and believing people when it happens. By trivializing cyberbullying, affected people are less likely to report it and this enables perpetrators. Educating children in school is another good way to combat cyberbullying as well as having real-life consequences for perpetrators. Legislation would be a good avenue of change.

Additionally, if traditional news reporters and journalists were more inclined to criticize and call out fake news, it would help the masses be able to think critically and spot fake news. Currently, reporters entertain the idea that fake news could be real news and spend a lot of time debating whether or not they’re true. With a change in the way the media handles news, this could influence the way people think about information on social media. As always, education plays an important role in equipping people with the necessary tools to recognize the legitimacy of information.

Social media is another commtech that seems far from phasing out. Although individual sites may soon decline – Twitter – the prevalence of social media in our society seems to indicate that it is far from going the way of the VCR. Individuals may choose to disconnect but for each of those gone, there are much more to take their place.

(Next blog I will disconnect from the grid and see how it goes. Here’s another Parks and Rec clip to commemorate.)

 

#9: Privacy

Just last week, congress overturned a regulation that would have required Internet service providers such as Comcast, Verizon, and Charter to get consumer’s permission before selling their data.

I became increasingly concerned about my own privacy once I was a senior in high school. As I kept getting e-mails from services I didn’t remember signing up for, I realized that my younger self had quite recklessly put my information out there.

I came across an info-graphic that detailed how to find your information and delete it from various sites. I tried to follow the instructions and delete some old accounts but the more I tried the more sites I encountered. One of the things I remember the most is the graphic saying that it was nearly impossible to delete all your information from LinkedIn. I resisted signing up for it until I came to college and was told multiple times that it was necessary to have an account to be successful.

In the wake of congress’ decision, I’ve thought about using a VPN service. I worry most for my financial information now that I am more independent of my parents. Identity theft is scary.

When I use social media, I try to be cognizant of the information I put out. I am a private person naturally so it translates over to social media. I especially try not to share any familial information for their safety.

I don’t think about privacy implications all the time but it makes sense to not put my entire routine on display. It’s also really annoying when people post every detail of their lives.

People don’t realize the danger there is in posting every bit of information about yourself. We have no idea where the information goes. We should be very concerned about the implications of telling the world everything about ourselves and family.

People regularly get their information stolen. Sometimes people use others’ pictures to pose as them (catfishing). Beyond invasion of privacy, there is a more insidious consequence of having our information sold to the highest bidder. It could impact our ability to get healthcare because companies could see if you have a preexisting condition. Servers are always vulnerable to attacks and the possibility of our personal information falling into the wrong hands is alarming.

With the government encroaching more and more on our personal lives, it’s more crucial than ever that there be protections for citizens/consumers. We also have to be aware of the consequences of making our lives available to the public. “Big Brother” is around us more than ever before and now we have to protect our information the best that we can while we still can.

#8: Video Games

most-popular-video-games

From Mario Kart to Resident Evil, video games have become a staple of modern society. Video games are far more than a mode of entertainment, they have become a billion dollar industry available on TVs, PCs, smartphones and tablets.

The video gaming industry has had a profound impact on not only American society, but global society as a whole. Prominent players can compete with people from around the world in tournaments and receive thousands of dollars in sponsorship and donations. Companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony make millions in revenue each year. South Korea has a huge gaming scene that may be a reason why the Internet speed is so fast. Video games are also a vehicle for socialization, projecting images and stereotypes to people of all ages.

In regards to business, video games have pushed companies to vertically integrate their functions. Software companies like Microsoft have gone into hardware via the Xbox. The opposite is true too, for example, Sony’s EA. Distributer Google hosts thousands of games on Google Play as well as Apple on the App Store. Vertical integration has proved successful for these companies and they show no sign of stopping. These companies have adapted to the effects of the principle of relative constancy. When households spend more on video games and equipment, they spend less on DVDs, CDs, radio, TV and so on. Therefore, companies expand their reach by making content or gaming hardware.

The content of video games has also been a hot topic of debate. Like TV, many people are questioning violence depicted in video games. As mentioned before, video games are a tool of socialization. Many have come under fire for their depictions of women, violence, and other cultures.

I’ve seen that many games are based on a foreign invasion where you are a patriot fighting back. These games subtly instill nationalism and can be argued that they also desensitize users to violence and war. There have also been controversies over the depiction and over-sexualization of women in games as well as the treatment of female players in the gaming community. Many times, games take place in foreign lands where the depictions of people and landscape can be negative.

Although concerned parents and some members of Congress are pushing for more regulations, I doubt these will pass any time soon. Instead, it’s up to users to push for accountability for video game producers.

Video games are far more than entertainment or hobbies. For some, it’s a way to make a living. Gaming culture has become a subculture in the United States gaining increasing spotlight with the wider diffusion of games. Globally, competitions bring people together from opposite ends of the world. In the US, gaming continues to influence the way we see ourselves and our relation to others through socialization. Video games have become a staple of our culture and will continue to stay that way for years to come.

 

 

 

 

#7: First Contact

It’s really hard to pinpoint the memory of my first experience with a PC or the Internet. I can think of a time when I was in 3rd grade where I would go over to my friend’s house and watch her play on her PC. We weren’t allowed to be on it for long. This trend continued, where I would be in contact with PCs through friends but we had limited amounts of time that we could be on it.

The internet was slow and so were the graphics but it was the most fascinating thing.

It wasn’t until fifth grade that we got an old desktop computer. It was big and clunky with no Internet access. I could only play Minesweeper or the pinball machine game or try and entertain myself with Microsoft paint. I didn’t spend too much time on it.

It wasn’t until sixth grade that my family bought a laptop which was nice for its time. It had a webcam and DVD player. Initially, I still didn’t have internet access but soon my begging paid off and my parents got WiFi.

Once able to connect to the Internet, I was amazed. I was able to watch YouTube videos and access hundreds of games. To my parents’ chagrin,  I went from being a heavy TV watcher to a heavy Internet user – a perfect example of displacement theory. Since the laptop was portable, I was able to stay up late at night and read or watch movies.

My parents had gotten the laptop so that I could use it in middle school for projects and homework. Having internet access at home truly helped. I didn’t have to walk to the library anymore or pay to print. I was able to do it all at home.

The Internet and PC have definitely made my life easier. Once we purchased smart TVs, I was able to access Netflix and Twitter on my TV. My parent’s decided to “satellite shave” and cut back on our Dish package. They even fancied the idea of cancelling our TV package altogether but the cons outweighed the pros so we kept our subscription.

We have talked in class about sports being a major benefit to TV service providers. This was a major factor when we debated whether or not to cancel our subscription. My dad wanted to be able to watch soccer and boxing in real time. My mom wanted to be able to watch the news when it aired. So we slimmed down our bundle instead and kept Internet.

Since then, the Internet has diversified my entertainment options. It’s impossible to really communicate the full scope of the Internet’s impact on my life. For one, it has made communication much easier with people from different countries. I can talk to my family from Mexico way easier than in the past. My parents also cut the international talk option from our phone plan as WhatsApp lets you text and call through the Internet. (An example of the theory of relative constancy, we pay for internet using the money we saved by cutting international talk.)  We are better able to share memories and keep in touch which is really important to us.

In summary, the PC and Internet have really improved my lifestyle. However, it has also been a test of my self-control since it is very easy to procrastinate with all the information and entertainment at our hands. It’s hard to remember life before computers and the internet and it’s even harder to think about them going away in the future. These are here to stay for certain but how we use and regulate them will continue to change.

 

#6: Terrifying Technology?

Is technology created by the young for the young? Do the young thrive without instructions and reckless abandon? Are we afraid of technology or of getting old? These are questions I hadn’t really thought about until I read Viktor Koen’s article in the Wall Street Journal.

Being someone born in the late 90s, I grew up alongside technology. I remember when the clunky Nokias became sleek iPhones. I remember when the front camera was added to iPods. I remember the awe that I felt taking my first picture on one.In  fifth grade my teacher told us that in no time laptops wouldn’t have keyboards anymore and they’d all be touchscreen – I found it hard to believe. It’s been a fast ride to say the least.

Not knowing how to work tech gadgets isn’t something I’ve encountered. The article made me think about what it will be like once I do have that experience. Already, I see major differences in the way my siblings and I were raised. I will never, for anything in the world, understand why musical.ly is so popular and entertaining for them. I loved Vine but cringe when I see famous “viners” try to stay relevant.

I think the article makes very interesting points on schema and assimilation and adaptation. These are especially valid when relating to technology. However, I think some people will inevitably have more trouble adapting than others. My parents had to adapt to American culture and as a result, American technology. Others have different abilities that could hinder them from adapting to newer technology.

Millennials will be an interesting group in regards to how we will adapt to technology as we age. We already revel in the nostalgia of the 90s and love to buy ‘antiques’ like record players.

If the only constant is change, how will we keep up?

Like Koen says, the moment you choose to stop growing, your world will begin to shrink. Especially in an increasingly multicultural, diversifying world. It’s hard to predict if what he says will really happen to today’s youth. Maybe technology will become so simple that it will be like second nature to adapt to it.  Maybe we’ll actually be able to maintain an equilibrium. That remains to be seen.

Hopefully future technology is accessible to more people around the world, of all abilities. I predict that increasing accessibility will increase our inclination to interact with new waves of technology so that we may communicate with people we hadn’t been able to communicate with before.

Technology will continue to be created by the young, for the young but maybe more of us will be able to keep up.

 

#5: A Blog About Blogging

Blogging has become a popular way of communicating over the past decade. It even has spawned a hybrid genre of “vlogging” which many people have taken to in order to expand their reach. People of all age groups from all over the world can blog and see others blog.

Personally, I think blogging is a valuable source of information depending on content. I enjoy reading travel blogs because it is an opportunity to read about an honest experience vs reading from a tourism website. I started blogging last semester and I find it enjoyable even if I don’t have a wide reach.

A lot of blogs provide information on improving one’s lifestyle or focus on reviewing a wide array of things. Tumbr is an example of how popular blogging can be, especially among millennials. Blogging has had an impact on society in regards to the way information spreads. Journalists and professional reviewers have slightly more competition. People don’t have to write a letter to the editor in order to share their opinions. Blogging even impacts the way people make money. Now, popular blogs can get ad revenue or endorsements. Many people have made careers out of endorsing and reviewing products. I expect the practice to remain steady with more people favoring vlogging since it has more revenue streams and popularity.

However, in many cases these platforms can become cyber-cesspools which Ronak Patel describes as “websites, blogs, and social networking sites frequently used to demean other people.” It is true that Internet sites have evolved into forums for posting rumors and/or hate speech about individuals and sometimes entire groups of people.

Although blogging has provided some benefits, there is a danger in giving everyone the “power to publish.” The book review mentions that all the authors in Part II came to the consensus that in the era of the Internet it is easy to spread false rumors. This is painfully topical given the election where fake news was all over the Internet.

It is especially dangerous when you have a large portion of the population that cannot discern fake news from real news. A well-educated population would not have such a problem but given the lack of critical thinking, false rumors can have dangerous results. People also have confirmation bias where they will interpret new evidence as confirmation of preexisting biases, beliefs, and theories.

Regulating hate speech on the Internet is especially tricky. The Internet has less regulation compared to other media, at least in the United States this is true. The Supreme Court has extended First Amendment protections to the Internet which makes it difficult to legally prosecute someone. However, people have taken justice into their own hands by boycotting events, products, companies, etc or calling the attention of employers.

Still, hate forums are a danger especially to minority groups. Many women receive hateful threats when they voice an opinion and hate groups have even gone as far as spreading personal information. This provides an extra layer of danger since personal information can result in a physical attack.

It is good for people to have the freedom to express their opinions. However, there is no protection on other people’s freedom to call you out when it disrespects or attacks another person’s existence. The spread of fake news blogs highlights the need for better education and critical thinking skills. Of course, it also shows the need for basic human decency.