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Final Assignment

Question:

When publishing changes, so does society. Investigate and compare the impact of two publication technologies, one pre-1900 and one post-1962, on a specific aspect of society (e.g. education, politics, creative industries, science, entertainment, social relationships).

Publishing is the process of producing and disseminating literature or information, so that it is made available to the general public. The ways in which information is published has changed due to technological developments that have occurred. The different forms of publishing that have developed over time have had a huge impact on society, particularly in the area of education. This impact can be observed by comparing two different publication technologies, one that was developed pre-1900 and one post-1962.

One of the major forms of publication that had a huge impact on the world of publishing was the printing press. It’s a machine that transfers lettering or images by contact with various forms of inked surface onto paper or similar material fed into it in various ways. It’s used for printing many copies of text on paper. The printing press was first invented in 1440 by a German man named Johannes Gutenberg. He invented a printing press process that, with refinements and increased mechanization, remained the principal means of printing until the late 20th century. Gutenberg’s method of printing from movable type, including the use of metal moulds and alloys, a special press, and oil-based inks, allowed for the first time the mass production of printed books (The Great Idea Finder 2007).

A printing press

 Picture Source from (Glogster 2010): http://www.glogster.com/media/3/6/99/2/6990225.jpg

This major development allowed for the spread of literacy, also spurring on the development of universities. By the 15th century, even with an assembly line approach to the production of books, supply was no longer able to meet demand. As a result, there was widespread interest in finding an alternative way of producing books. In order for the possibility of mass production of books, there were other areas that needed to be developed first.

A ready supply of suitable material that could be printed on was required. Manuscript books were written on vellum and this material was used for some early printed books, but vellum was expensive and not available in sufficient quantity for the mass production of books. For print technology to become widespread, it was necessary that the practice of making paper and the progress of European paper making industries became established.

As the printing press allowed for mass distribution of information, this impacted on education immensely. It helped scientists and scholars spread their ideas, as was seen during the Renaissance (16th–17th century) and the Scientific Revolution, where scientists were finally able to make their ideas available to a much larger audience. At the time, only high ranking officials and rich people could read, because materials were very scarce. However, after the books were made easily accessible to the general public because of the printing press, more people had the urge to learn to read. This resulted in a more intelligent European society, and also encouraged further Renaissance works of art (The Great Idea Finder 2007).

Prior to the invention of the printing press, individual scribes would hand write the text leading to inconsistent writing and grammar. However, the mechanization of the printing press achieved more regular spacing and hyphenation of the print, consistent spelling, grammar and punctuation (McLuhan, 1962). The printing press gave writing a consistent look and feel.  This consistency of language rules enabled readers to more easily interpret the author’s writing and intentions. The consistency enhanced the overall reading experience (The University of British Colombia 2004).

Over the long term the printing press increased literacy by making print available to the general public.  Prior to the printing press, books were very expensive because it was such a difficult and time consuming task to hand-scribe a book.  Therefore only the privileged were able to afford books and only a small percentage of the population knew how to read and write (The University of British Columbia 2004, cited in McLuhan, 1962, p. 207).  With the invention of the printing press, better quality of books were published and since they were able to be mass produced, the expense was reduced, making books more affordable to the general public.  It is estimated that by 1500 there were fifteen to twenty million copies of 30,000 to 35,000 separate publications (The Great Idea Finder 2007).

The invention of the printing press greatly increased literacy

 Picture Source from (Trevor 2010) http://theanxietyofinfluence.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/literacy_1_3.jpg

The printing press transformed learning.  It transformed the relationship between teacher and student and the way research was undertaken. Previous relations between masters and disciples were altered. Students now provided with updated editions, especially of mathematical texts, began to surpass not only their own elders but the wisdom of ancients as well (The University of British Columbia 2004, cited in Eisenstein, 1979, p. 689). It also changed the way students researched and wrote.

Many writers credit the printing press as a catalyst for the profound societal and cultural transformations that began to occur in the 16th century. The printing press became a new communication medium and allowed information and opinions to be spread across countries.  According to McLuhan (1962), the printing press was responsible for the Industrial revolution, the rise of nationalism in Europe, and the use of perspectivity in art. Eisenstein regards the printing press as an agent for the development of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of modern scientific thought. (The University of British Columbia 2004, cited in Jensen, 2001).

As mentioned previously, the technology shift from the manuscript to the printing press increased literacy by reducing the expense of publishing books and making the process less time and labour intensive. Printing press technology altered education by making books available that provided a new visual aid to learn. Additionally the printing press served as a catalyst for many world movements and events by providing an effective way to disseminate political and religious views.

Religious and political views could be shared easily because of the printing press

 Picture Source from (UNP, n.d.) http://www.unp.me/attachments/f15/6414d1234753481-politics-and-religion-religionpolitics-764320-1-.jpg

In less than 50 years after the invention of the printing press, fifteen million books had entered the world, whereas in the past, scholars would have to travel long distances to visit a library to access twenty hand-written volumes (The Great Idea Finder 2007).

Printing and publishing used to mean the same thing, but now with the introduction of digital publishing, their meanings have changed. Previously, the only way information could be disseminated was in the form of print. But now, with the introduction of digital publishing, information can still be published without being printed. For example, anything on the Internet is published, but it’s not printed. This change in definitions also shows how much technology has changed the way we disseminate information. The printing press used to be the only form of publishing. Now, with the invention of the Internet, there are numerous ways to publish and one of them is discussed below.

Twitter, a microblogging and social networking site, was developed in 2006 and is currently impacting on education. It enables its users to send and read messages called tweets. Users can also follow other people to receive tweets from a particular person or business. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user’s profile page. Twitter is focused on real-time delivery of information.

The more people you follow on Twitter, the more information you receive

 Picture Source from (Tech N’ Marketing, n.d.): http://technmarketing.com/blog3/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/twitter-follow-me-post1.jpg

In the world of digital publishing, people are more concerned with how quickly they can distribute information rather than the quality of information. Digital publishing has raised society’s expectations of the immediacy and availability of information. For example, E-books are revolutionizing the way people read books. E-books are becoming very popular because they are quick and easy to access. Twitter is also based on this notion of immediacy of information. Twitter has made it possible to distribute information to a wider audience; a global audience that can be read by anyone from anywhere in the world (excluding those countries that have censored Twitter). Twitter also distributes different mediums of publishing as it can provide links to other websites whereas print is unable to do that. For example, video, audio, text and images are all different ways of providing information.

Twitter is a network as every node (user) within the network is connected to all the other nodes. According to the Actor Network-Theory, if one thing changes in the network, it changes everything else. All the actants involved in this network are constantly changing: the human and non-human. The users, relationships, information, links and maintenance within Twitter change, and any change in one of these actants changes another actant. For example, if a user of Twitter follows someone new, this changes their relationship and what information and links they will receive on their feed. With so many people following others, maintenance needs to be done to keep the network functioning to it’s full potential. Such actor-networks are “potentially transient, existing in a constant making and re-making.” This means that relations need to be repeatedly “performed” or the network will dissolve (Actor-network theory, Wikipedia 2011) . Therefore, for Twitter to develop, grow and function properly, people have to keep using it, which is no problem, because Twitter is constantly growing.

Twitter is a network

 Picture Source from (Odden 2009): http://www.toprankblog.com/2009/02/12-twitter-stream-aggregators/

Twitter also archives all of the tweets ever written on the service (social archives) even though access to all these tweets is limited for users. It is important to archive as it keeps a record of the past which teaches us about the future and shows how we’ve grown, developed and changed as people and as a civilization. However, it seems that people are less concerned with archiving because everything is focused on the immediacy of information and what is happening right now. Twitter definitely encourages this “what is happening now” mentality. On the other hand, Twitter is also encouraging people to archive without them knowing as everything they write is archived and people are publishing more than they were before because it is so easy.

As Twitter is a relatively new way to aggregate and distribute information, it’s keeping people more informed than ever before. It allows people to participate in publishing, moving us from passive consumption to participation, it enables expression, allows for multiplicity of voices and viewpoints, keeps us informed, encourages and facilitates creativity, develops our social relationships, allows us to collaborate with people we haven’t met face to face and makes everything really accessible.

People have argued whether social networking sites such as Twitter have a positive or a negative impact on education. A recent survey that was conducted proves that Twitter helps to improve active participation and engagement by students, resulting in a more productive and positive impact on education (Enterakt 2011) .

As the results of the info graphic show (below), the experiment of using Twitter for students helped in more engagement compared to the controlled environment of a traditional learning system. Since Twitter allows for constant on-going  discussions, it is a useful tool when time is so limited for a class session. It allows students to discuss and ask questions that they would’ve asked in class had it not been for the limited class time (Enterakt 2011). Twitter allows for more time to discuss class related material, increasing the learning experience for students. Twitter also promotes writing as a fun activity. It fosters editing skills, develops literacy skills and gives students a chance to record their cognitive thinking and then use it to reflect on their work. Students can also use tweets to send out questions to fellow classmates while taking part in classroom activities.

Infograph taken from (Enterakt 2011): http://www.enterakt.com/social-media/impact-twitter-education-infographic/

Original Source is Master Degree Online: http://master-degree-online.com/infographic-college-students-is-twitter-hurting-your-grades/

Twitter also allows for the possibility of collaboration between schools and countries. Students can tweet from their phone as they come across real-world examples of what they are studying in class. It also encourages more participation in group work as it can be used as a tool for assessing opinions about the topic to be discussed allowing for better project management.

It’s also a service that is good for metacognition, which is the practice of thinking about and reflecting on your learning. Metagcognition has been shown to benefit comprehension and retention.

Twitter is useful in conferences when not everyone can attend, as thoughts about particular sessions and activities with others at the event can be shared with those who aren’t at the event themselves. Twitter allows information to be organised and enables people to give quick updates and give links to relevant resources. Higher education is using the technology to send information to students in a more timely manner.

Twitter encourages virtual classroom discussion by using @username, which directs the tweet at the intended recipient whilst allowing every student to also see it. It creates a learning experience which increases motivation to want to learn.  Twitter can also be used as a reference service in libraries. People could follow a Twitter account to learn about library events, new books, or get responses to library user questions.

Twitter keeps track of conversation students carry on a particular topic, it’s fun and gives students more insight into what’s going on in courses, it connects people that one would not have met otherwise, it builds an educational community and it gives quieter students a voice so they too can participate.

Teachers also benefit greatly from using Twitter. They can use it for disseminating publications and materials, locating original sources of ideas and give feedback to students to improve their thinking and skills.Twitter generally encourages professional connections, allows for informal research, storytelling, class chatter, allows you to follow a professional, to get feedback on ideas, programs, make appointments, gives event updates, gives live coverage of events, builds trust and builds a community (Grosseck & Holotescu 2008).

Tweeting during class is becoming popular

 Picture Source from (Dybwad 2009): http://mashable.com/2009/10/23/twitter-class/

Microblogging at conferences seems to be an additional way of discussing presented topics and exchanging additional information. It is not limited to the face-to-face audience or the location of the conference. Twitter allows virtually anyone to actively participate in the debates and topics being discussed. Several conference speakers and attendees are using Twitter for various purposes. Communicating and sharing resources seem to be one of the most interesting and relevant ways why people tweet. Other microblogging practices in conferences include following parallel sessions that otherwise delegates would not have access to or would not receive such visibility. Content attached to tweets was reported to be mostly limited to plain text and web links. (Reinhardt et al. 2009).

Twitter seems to have become a relevant part of one’s informal learning. People in areas such as career services, librarians, computer sciences, students, educators and researchers, in general, are starting to use the microblogging approach to enrich their knowledge and simultaneously widen the scope of their personal networks. As Stevens et al. (2007) state, “the value of Twitter is the network” and, therefore, in the learning and connections one can make while contributing to a spontaneous pool of ideas, pointing to numerous links and resources (Reinhardt et al. 2009).

Even though Twitter has undeniably had a huge positive impact on education, it has had some negative effects as well. Twitter can be a distraction to students if they tweet while in class as it takes their focus away from ideas presently being discussed. It’s time-consuming and can be considered rude if the student is tweeting in class while the teacher is speaking. Also, a tweet will only be picked up by the people in your network, therefore the potential response rate is going to be fairly limited. Twitter is also a service that can be seen as addictive and at times serves no educational value. It can be used to intrude on a teacher’s personal life by students and the 140 character limit could lead to bad grammar from students.

Twitter is viewed as a distraction by some

Picture Source from (Follow The Bottle, 2010): http://followthebottle.com/featured/is-twitter-just-a-big-distraction/

There is also a lack of privacy with Twitter. You can set your account to private, but this limits the many uses and benefits of Twitter, and if it’s set on public, anyone can read your tweets and anyone can follow you. People also argue that it affects our attention span because it’s a distraction, as there is real time information coming through the feed non-stop, also causing information overload. Additionally, there is a tendency for people to only associate with others similar to them, known as homophily, limiting the network to grow further.

There has been concern from teachers that kids have been texting in class and now they are tweeting too. A recent survey showed that those who had Twitter accounts actually had lower grades, but happened to be more socially adapted. Reading a bunch of abbreviated headlines does not necessarily give all information that is required to understand the information in its context. It’s like scanning the newspaper and only reading titles and believing this is enough information to understand what the article is about when it is not (Winslow 2009).

It is evident that the field of education has been impacted by the different ways in which information is published. By comparing two different forms of publishing, the printing press, invented in 1440 and Twitter, invented in 2006, it is clear how far publishing has come and how much it’s changed the way we teach and learn. Society seems determined to spread as much knowledge and information as possible and with the development of digital publishing, it looks like this is the way the world is heading.

References

Enterakt 2011, “Impact of Twitter on Education [Infographic]”, date accessed, 6th June 2011, http://www.enterakt.com/social-media/impact-twitter-education-infographic/

Grosseck & Holotescu 2008, “Can We Use Twitter for Educational Activities?”, Elearning and Software for Education, Bucharest, Romania.

Idea Finder 2007, “Fascinating facts about the Invention of the Printing Press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440”, date accessed, 5th June 2011, http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/printpress.htm

Reinhardt, W., Ebner, M., Beham, G., Costa, C., 2009, “How People are Using Twitter During Conferences”, Creativity and Innovation Competencies on the Web, Hornung-Prahauser, V., Luckmann, M., (Ed.) Proceeding of 5. EduMedia conference, p. 145-156, Salzburg

University of British Columbia 2004, “The Impact of the Printing Press”, date accessed, 5th June 2011, http://educ.ubc.ca/courses/etec540/Sept04/arthurp/researchtopic/index.htm

Wikipedia 2011, “Actor-Network Theory”, date accessed 6th June 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory

Winslow, L., 2009, “Twitter’s Impact on Business, Education, Other Social Networks, and Driving Skills With No Hands”, Ezine Articles, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://ezinearticles.com/?Twitters-Impact-on-Business,-Education,-Other-Social-Networks,-and-Driving-Skills-With-No-Hands&id=2363626

Pictures

Dybwad, B., 2009, “University Makes Twitter a Required Class for Journalism Students”, Mashable.com, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://mashable.com/2009/10/23/twitter-class/

Enterakt 2011, “Impact of Twitter on Education [Infographic]”, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://www.enterakt.com/social-media/impact-twitter-education-infographic/

Follow The Bottle, 2010, “Is Twitter Just a Big Distraction?”, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://followthebottle.com/featured/is-twitter-just-a-big-distraction/

Glogster 2011, “Gutenberg’s Printing Press”, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://golffanatic.glogster.com/gutenbergs-printing-press/

Odden, L., 2009, “12 Twitter Stream Aggregators To Make You Smarter”, Top Rank Blog.com, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://www.toprankblog.com/2009/02/12-twitter-stream-aggregators/

Tech N’ Marketing, n.d., Mobile Tech, Social Media and Online News, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://technmarketing.com/blog3/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/twitter-follow-me-post1.jpg

Tevor, I., 2010, “The Anxiety of Influence”, WordPress.com, date accessed 9th June 2011, http://theanxietyofinfluence.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/literacy_1_3.jpg

UNP, n.d., date accessed 9th June 2011, http://www.unp.me/attachments/f15/6414d1234753481-politics-and-religion-religionpolitics-764320-1-.jpg

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Visualisations: Simplifying Information

In today’s world, there is just an abundance of information. How are we expected to process and absorb all this information when there is just more and more to remember and learn? Well, there is a very effective tool we can use to help us remember information, put information into a context and help us find patterns within data. These tools are called visualisations, which are visual images or a mental image that is similar to a visual perception.

Sometimes our minds cannot pick up on data that is in a table, full of figures and numbers. What do these numbers actually mean? Is it good or bad? We need to put these numbers in a context that we can understand. Using visualisations is a very effective method for doing this. For example, if someone said there are 3,200 tigers left in the world, that figure doesn’t mean much if you’re not aware of how many tigers used to be here 40 years ago. Then, if someone told you that 40,000 tigers existed in 1970, that gives you a clearer understanding that the number of tigers that exist have rapidly declined in the past 40 years. But to illustrate further and allow people to understand how drastic this decline is, a visualisation becomes a very effective tool. Take a look at the visualisation below. It puts things into perspective and makes evident how seriously endangered tigers are:

Depicts 3200 toy tigers (the frame of the image), equal to the estimated number of tigers remaining on Earth. The space in the middle would hold 40,000 of these tigers, equal to the global tiger population in 1970.

Zoomed in: The frame of the above visualisation.

Picture Sources: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/9596/chris-jordan-running-the-numbers.html

 Video form of Chris Jordan’s Tiger Visualisation:

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/videos/chris-jordan-project-year-of-the-tiger.html

Visualisations create an association between data and the external world. That is why they’re so important. Raw data means nothing to people if they can’t see how it relates to the world they live in. Visualisations are able to bridge the gap between data and its relation to the world.

In terms of science visualisations, they allow us to visualize things that we wouldn’t ordinarily see, such as microscopic organisms, geology simulations and human anatomy for example. It’s very useful for scientific research as visualisations strengthen our knowledge in areas that we otherwise wouldn’t have known and understood. The link below provides a visualisation of the human brain:

http://www.thevisualmd.com/media_gallery_slice.php?idu=11660&idc=792

Visualisations affect the way we interpret information. They give us a greater understanding of how things function, gives us insight into any patterns that are evident (but make it much easier to see these patterns visually) and put things into perspective and help us see the bigger picture. They also make the invisible, visible. For example, telling us how much carbon dioxide is in the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t mean much to people within the ‘public sphere’ because there’s context. But if a graph shows the level of carbon dioxide has increased over the last 50 years, it puts the data into a context, and from this we can see the level is increasing every decade, allowing us to see that the current carbon dioxide levels have been unsafe since the mid 80s.

Picture Source:http://co2now.org/

Another major advantage with visualisations is that they keep us intrigued and interested in what the data is trying to tell us. For example, RSA use very effective visualisations during lectures on various topics. I was fascinated with the level of technique involved in creating such a unique visualisation and it definitely kept me listening when usually I would’ve diverted my attention somewhere else after a while. Below is a visualisation of a lecture about language.

Visualisations allow data to be assembled into one image that can easily be interpreted, making it easier to absorb and remember information. The human brain will always find it easier to remember an image rather than figures and facts in the form of words and numbers. With today’s world having more information than ever available, it’s no wonder visualisations are becoming more popular.

Bibliography:

Anon. (2009) ‘Data Visualization Activism: Showing the Trends in Global Temperature’, Information Aesthetics: where form follows data, <http://infosthetics.com/archives/2009/12/ data_visualization_activism_showing_trends_in_global_temperature.html>

Anon. (2009) ‘The Global Warming Skeptics versus the Scientific Consensus’, Information is Beautiful, <http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/climate-change-deniers-vs-the-consensus/>

The co2now blog, <http://co2now.org/>

Leggett, Hadley, (2009) “Best Science Visualization Videos of 2009′, <http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/visualizations/>

RSA visualisations, <http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/>

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Visualisations: The Tool to Learn New Information

Information is everywhere. With the revolution of the Internet, information is highly accessible too, with almost any topic readily available for us to read. Sometimes information can cause information overload, and be too overwhelming for readers to absorb properly. This is why expressing information in a different form and different content can be a good idea. Visualisation can be very effective, making it easier for readers to understand a point and absorb information more accurately.

Visualisation can take shape in many forms. It’s a tool that captures data and information, and reorganises this data into a visual piece. It can be any kind of visual experience. It makes taking in data much more exciting and can improve people’s perceptions of certain data. The most interesting visualisations are when they make the invisible, visible, allowing people to look at data in a different light, in a way they’ve never seen it before (I’ve placed an example of a clever visualisation piece at the end).

The explored readings this week discussed very insightful visualisations. For example: dashed lines. It’s such a known visualisation, yet is used as so many functions: it allows us to see hidden objects, portrays temporal movement and portrays pathways. Lines are used everywhere as a form of visualisation, and different lines mean different things. Dave Gray of Xplay and Communication nation hit the nail on the head with his description of using lines in visualisations. He said, “I think of lines: double-line, solid, dashed, dotted. Similar to typeface conventions such as black, bold, regular, light. It’s a matter of emphasis. The thicker and more solid the line, the stronger the emphasis” (Timo 2006).

Another effective visualisation is laying photos next to each other to allow for comparison. For example, to inform people of what 200 calories looks like, a very effective visualisation is by gathering different types of food which are all 200 calories, allowing people to compare how much of one type of food equates to the same amount of calories as another type of food. The example can be seen below:

Different Foods, All Containing Exactly 200 Calories

 Picture Source: http://sweettater.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/picture-14.png

The reading of Plato on, ‘art and illusion’ explores whether visualisations are indeed truth, or an image of truth. The main point from this reading is that images are not the actual truth, but they are a representation of truth; the most accurate way of portraying reality without it actually being reality. Here is an excerpt of the conversation (Plato n.d.):

Str. A resemblance, then, is not really real, if, as you say, not true?

Theaet. Nay, but it is in a certain sense.

Str. You mean to say, not in a true sense?

Theaet. Yes; it is in reality only an image.

Str. Then what we call an image is in reality really unreal.

I think that some very effective visualisations are ones that are interactive. They create a new level of understanding as the viewer has to interact with the visualisation, releasing new information. The only problem with these interactive visualisations is that it can be quite confusing whether you’ve read and seen everything. At times, I’m not entirely sure I’ve read everything, and I get lost and am not sure of which stage of the visualisation I’m in. This allows for the possibility of skipping vital information and data. The Vectors Journal Editorial Staff mention this as a problem, “It is in the nature of interactive projects that you can never really be sure that you have read every word and seen every image. This is especially true of The Virtual Window Interactive, which requires patience and experimentation in order to experience it fully” (Editors and Friedberg, Anne 2007).

However, the interaction allows for better understanding and structure of the data, which is a big plus. Below is a very insightful visualisation of which countries use Facebook the most. It also gives a clear understanding of how connected everyone on Facebook is. Paul Butler, the creator of the visualisation (an intern at Facebook) wanted to see how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends and wanted to show which cities have a lot of friendships between them.

A Visualisation Showing Who Uses Facebook Around the Globe

 Picture Source: http://www.bricoleurbanism.org/

References

Arnell, Timo (2006) ‘the dashed line in use’, <http://www.nearfield.org/2006/09/the-dashed-line-in-use>

Infosthetics, n.d., ‘how does 200 calories look like’, <http://infosthetics.com/archives/2007/01/how_does_200_calories_look_like.html>

Plato (n.d.) on ‘art and illusion’ in ‘a snippet of a dialogue: Theodorus – Theaetetus – Socrates – an Eleatic stranger’ from Sophist, <http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/plato/plato-sophist.asp?pg=34>

Editors and Friedberg, Anne (2007) ‘The Virtual Window Interactive’ Vectors, 2(2) <http://www.vectorsjournal.org/index.php?page=7&projectId=79>

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

WikiLeaks: Good or Bad?

This week we are focusing on the organisation WikiLeaks. Firstly, what is WikiLeaks? It’s an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks and whistleblowers (Wikipedia 2011). They claim their main objective is to expose oppressive regimes Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but they also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations.

This week the debating question for our group regarding WikiLeaks is:

WikiLeaks gives power to the people.

The main argument for WikiLeaks is that it provides a voice for the people, allowing citizens to have access to information they have the right to see. What could be wrong about exposing oppressive governments and regimes?

People think it’s their right to see the information that governments and corporations have hidden from the public. If there wasn’t anything wrong with the classified information, then why would it be hidden? WikiLeaks is only exposing what these corrupt organisations don’t want the public to see, but as a democracy, we have a right to do so, and this is what WikiLeaks is achieving. It allows us to see extra information that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen, allowing us to form our own opinions on certain matters, which definitely gives power to the people.

On the other hand, there have been cases where it’s putting lives in danger by releasing certain information. Perhaps these governments and corporations have a legitimate reason for hiding certain documents from everyone else. For example, WikiLeaks put American troops in danger (Muhammad 2010) .

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that since WikiLeaks began to publish these diplomatic reports, they are harmful to American troops stationed on four continents, as they exposed vital American positions (Muhammad 2010) .

In the opinion of American officials, this publication is equivalent to arming terrorists. In order to demonstrate what these positions may be, American officials say the cables that were published include ongoing negotiations throughout the world, communications with countries in Europe regarding the establishment of new American military bases, recruitment of spies to chase al-Qaeda, current action against Iran and the position on Iraq, as summed up by more than 400,000 documents, as well as around 70,000 documents about Afghanistan (Muhammad 2010) . The image below shows how many cables WikiLeaks has leaked recently:

WikiLeaks and the Many Cables It Releases

 Picture Source: http://iamnotarapperispit.com/2010/12/wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-arrested-in-london-on-sex-charges/

WikiLeaks is a danger to global peace and threatens American lives all over Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world. This is in no way, giving power to the people. (Here is a video below regarding WikiLeaks and their publishing of certain documents about the war in Afghanistan:

WikiLeaks also damages U.S. relations with friends and allies across the globe. In 2010, WikilLeaks released sensitive U.S. diplomatic files that the Obama administration said could damage U.S. relations with friends and allies. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests”. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world” (Washington 2010)

The release of confidential communications about foreign governments will probably erode trust in the United States as a diplomatic partner and could cause embarrassment if the files include derogatory or critical comments about friendly foreign leaders. 

“When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact,” Crowley said (Washington 2010).

When WikiLeaks started to publish classified documents of detailed correspondence between the U.S. State Department and its diplomatic missions around the world, there were mixed reactions. Some western government officials expressed strong disapproval and criticism, and condemned WikiLeaks for potentially jeopardizing international relations and global security. The leak also created interest from the public, journalists, and media analysts. WikiLeaks received support from some commentators who questioned the necessity of government secrecy in a democracy that serves the interests of its people (Wikipedia 2011).

The question has to be asked why certain information is classified. Is it because governments and corporations want this information to be buried and hidden because something illegal or unethical has been committed? Or is it to keep citizens safe and not jeopardise citizens’ safety?

 Reference

Muhammad, A.,13 Dec. 2010, “WikiLeaks and Its Negative Effects on America’s Role”, Watching America, http://watchingamerica.com/News/82422/wikileaks-and-its-negative-effects-on-americas-role/

Washington, Nov. 24 2010, “U.S. Warns of Likely Harm from WikiLeaks Release”, CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/24/national/main7086416.shtml?tag=mncol;lst;1

Wikipedia 2011, Wikileaks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks

Wikipedia 2011, United States diplomatic cables leak, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_diplomatic_cables_leak

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Access To Information Has Never Been Easier!

One of the main points that I understood from the readings this week is that technology is affecting the way we live and function as human beings. It’s not a case of technology changing and humans watching this drastic change. The fact of the matter is, if technology changes, humans change too.

With technology also comes new ways of living life. Technology is changing us socially, whether we like it or not. It’s inevitable. Technology has the power to change the way we live our lives: the way we socialise, what people know about us and the way we process information. Social media websites allow us to socialise with people we’ve never met before, from all over the world and from different walks of life. We can chat to people who have the same interests as us, going by what they put on their profile for everyone to see. We can learn so much about a person without even meeting them! This was not at all possible just a few years ago. There is concern that these social media websites are causing us to become anti-social. We’d rather just type to people instead of meet with them face to face. This prevents the development of social skills and has been a worry amongst some, because technology is changing the social aspect of society. Technology has also caused a problem in the area of bullying. There are more opportunities now for people to get bullied online, known as ‘cyber bullying’. It has become such a major issue that there have been campaigns to put a stop to it. Here is one below:

 

Publishing has allowed a whole new social lifestyle to emerge that has become the norm. This has brought some good points and also some bad ones to the table. Publishing has allowed us as a society to communicate, store and organise thoughts, theories, information and knowledge. People can express their opinions, acquire more knowledge, research and learn. It has eradicated the barrier that used to exist to access information.

There are however, some bad points of this digital revolution. We are now more aware of how much personal information we make public. It can become quite dangerous if someone knows all your personal details, as they could use this information to steal your identity, or stalk you etc. But on the plus side, you are able to connect with people who have similar interests to you.

Because there is so much information available now, this has made us lazy as human beings. We don’t have to retain information the way we used to. Our memories aren’t being used as much because we don’t have to remember anything. All facts are being published and accessing this information is so easy. So, this gives us an excuse to forget information. For me personally, it has at times caused information overload because everywhere you look, there is more information to be read.

All this available information can cause information overload

Picture Source:

http://aiimknowledgecenter.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/07/16/information_overload.jpg

There is also speculation that all these technological advancements have made our attention spans worse. There are so many distractions, so much information available in the one place (the Internet) that we only navigate to the information that interests us. In my opinion, I don’t really see this as a major issue. The mass amount of information that is available to us hasn’t shortened our attention spans, rather, we just choose to read information that is of interest to us because it’s readily available, and this has always been the case. Why do children like looking at colourful picture books for hours, yet they can’t sit still for two seconds to solve a maths problem? Because to them a colourful picture book is way more interesting than a maths problem. It’s just human nature.

A children's book is far more interesting than a maths problem

Picture Source: http://carinbondar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/book-hungry-caterpillar.jpg

Why read boring material when there is readily available material that interests you? The only thing that I think is a concern is that with online publishing, people aren’t usually heavily engaged with information they read online because they usually have another window open that is a distraction. So in a way, they are ‘half reading’ both texts but are never fully engaged in either one.

The Commons in relation to publishing is also an issue. Should publishing be open access? I think it should. Everyone has an opinion and if they want to share it with the rest of the world, why shouldn’t they? It’s everybody’s right to publish whatever they want, as long as it’s their own work and not someone else’s. If it is someone else’s work, then they need to be acknowledged for it. Different forms of publishing such as file sharing, P2P and niche music sites allow people with similar interests to give and receive files, videos and audio to each other of the similar subjects they are interested in. This allows people with similar interests to find published works that would have been difficult to find.

 

File sharing has allowed people with similar interests to share published works of those similar interests

Picture Source: http://www.life123.com/technology/file-formats/file-sharing/peer-to-peer-file-sharing.shtml

Publishing nowadays seems to make a lot of knowledge and information available for everyone to access. But should it really be this way? Does anyone own this knowledge or information? I personally think that knowledge is something everybody has the right to acquire, but at the same time, if you are acquiring knowledge from someone else’s hard work, they should perhaps be acknowledged or be compensated in some way. I think the fairest way to display information these days is to have basic information accessed for free, and if anyone wishes to increase their knowledge further, then they can pay for the extra, more in depth information. This is already being done in the music industry. The site www.bandcamp.com have promoted and exposed some musician’s music for free, but for a higher quality version of a song, people need to pay. I think this is quite an effective strategy to deal with the commons and publishing, because ease of access to information will always be here and there will have to be a strategy put in place for this current grey area.

Bibliography

Kinsley, Sam (2010) ‘The Technics of Attention’, Paying Attention <http://payingattention.org/2010/10/12/the-technics-of-attention/>

Kinsley, Sam (2010) ‘Tiziana Terranova—The Bios of Attention’, Paying Attention <http://payingattention.org/2010/09/07/tiziana-terranova-the-bios-of-attention/>

Kinsley, Sam, (2010) ‘Day 3 > Michel Bauwens’ Paying Attention, <http://payingattention.org/2010/09/09/day-3-michel-bauwens/>

Rock, David (2010) ‘New study shows humans are on auto pilot nearly half the time’, Psychology Today, <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/201011/new-study-shows-humans-are-auto-pilot-nearly-half-the-time>

Robin Good and Michel Bauwens (2010) ‘From Open Business Models to an Economy of the Commons’, Robin Good, <http://www.masternewmedia.org/from-open-business-models-to-an-economy-of-the-commons/>

Yoffe, Emily (2009) ‘Seeking: How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that’s dangerous’ Slate, <http://www.slate.com/id/2224932/pagenum/all>


 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

We Need Archives!

The readings this week have further focused on archives and the concept ‘archive fever’. I find all this talk of ‘archive fever’ very interesting. With technology advancing, there are more and more ways to publish, and with most forms of publishing being digital, it creates more instances where people will publish, therefore creating more archives. Almost everything is being archived and documented. People are now blogging and using various social media websites to write every little thing they do (Facebook and Twitter). In this way, more and more archives are being created (even though some are difficult to retrieve). These social media websites help us see how we’ve changed or what we liked doing in the past.

Archives allow us to see how we’ve progressed as a society, how things have changed, and how to improve ourselves. They tell us what’s ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ our culture. What this means is, if something isn’t preserved and archived, how do we know if it existed? There isn’t any evidence, therefore it has left our culture and history forever. Archive websites such as http://omeka.org and www.apartheidarchive.org allow us to easily access documents, images and articles about certain topics and the history of particular topics. This is done to preserve records of our history so we don’t repeat mistakes of the past and we can better ourselves for the future. I think this is a very important point and this is why archives are so important.

We can learn from our mistakes by looking at archives

Picture Source: http://www.mta.ca/library/archives/index.html

I discussed my next point in my last post, but I’d like to repeat it. The problem with archiving online publications is that they’re unstable. By that I mean that anything published online can be changed, edited, altered or deleted at any time quite easily, so if a web page hasn’t been archived before it’s been changed, then a part of history has been lost forever.

Even though online publishing has allowed us to produce more archives than we otherwise would have, it has also created a desire in everyone to have the most updated and recent information. We want and expect the most up to date information because we know it’s possible and it’s in the now. Who wouldn’t want real-time information? It keeps our knowledge of the world current which is great. However, there is a bad side to online publishing. It has reduced our interest in archiving because information becomes outdated in a matter of hours. This begs the question: Is our interest in preserving the past dwindling? Are people now only interested in what’s happening at this very moment? This seems the case with the popularity of Facebook and Twitter. A lot of valuable information could be lost and forgotten if people aren’t interested in archiving.

The good thing about online publishing is that it’s made us archive more than ever. Because it’s so easy to do, everyone is publishing things they wouldn’t have ordinarily published, allowing for more archiving. Before the revolution of online publishing, it would’ve been too time consuming and difficult. Now, there are numerous ways to archive: saving files, tagging, bookmarking, emailing, writing on social media websites and adding pages to Favourites. So, in summary, online publishing has made it easy to archive, and easy to access archives too!

Although, I’ve always wondered whether posting messages on social media websites is a form of archiving because I wasn’t sure if we permanently lose the messages we write. Well, I know for a fact that Twitter stores and saves all our Tweets, which makes it archiving. Take a look at the video:


However, there is a slight problem with archives. They allow us to look into the past and keep a record of the past, but ask yourself the question: is it really a record of the past? To me, it’s a trace of the past, not the actual past. You don’t know any of the circumstances surrounding the archive. It could look like one thing, but mean something different (this applies more to photos and images than perhaps writing). For example, let’s just say that there is a photo of someone smiling at their birthday party. This would infer that the person is happy at the time the photo was taken. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were happy. They could’ve just been smiling for the photo. The photo portrays the person was happy on their birthday, but they could’ve in actual fact just smiled for that split second to look happy in the photo, but be miserable for the rest of the night.

How do we really know these girls were happy on the day the photo was taken?

Picture Source: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3532/3741086396_da49369ae7.jpg

It’s a bit of a far-fetched example, but it works to explain my point. Even if this point is valid, archives tell us more about the past then we would have known if archives didn’t exist, which is why we need them!

Bibliography

Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’, mattogle.com, December 16, <http://mattogle.com/archivefever/>

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Technology Is Changing The Way We Live Our Lives

The readings this week have focused on the Actor-network theory and how this theory would apply to technologies, humans and the social. The theory seems to emphasise the idea that all these things are interrelated, and if one things changes, it changes the others within the network. For example, technology is constantly changing before our very eyes, and it’s changing the way we do things as well. There are more and more technologies available to enable easy publishing, anyone can publish and information is becoming available to anyone who wants it or has access to technology.

All the actants involved in this network are constantly changing: the human and non-human. All the technologies: computers, laptops, the Internet, Ipads, E books, Kindles, Nooks, Blackberries and mobile phones are slowly replacing paper, ink, books, journals and printed works. This change in the network is changing other parts of the network: humans and the social, how we interact, how we complete certain tasks and how we live our lives.

 People are now able to access information with the click of a button wherever they go. People used to talk to each other face to face, because that was the only option available, but now it’s more convenient to text, email, Facebook or Twitter someone. Any change in technology affects the human way of life and social interaction. If you ask someone today if they could survive without their phone or the Internet for a few days, their answer would most likely be no, or at the very least, they would admit they would greatly struggle.

It’s not only difficult for the individual to stop using such technologies because that’s all they’ve ever known; it’s also the world itself and the rest of human civilization. Technology advancements have changed the world forever: how people communicate and the daily routines of individuals. All these technologies are seen as the norm of how to do things. If you transported someone from the 21st century to the 1950s, they would struggle, because the technologies of the 21st century weren’t being used in the 1950s. The person wouldn’t know how regular daily tasks were done in the 1950s without the technologies they’ve known all their life.  You can’t contact your friend through any social media site, email them, or text them. All these ways of publishing didn’t exist back then.

Technology in the 21st century has made it easier than ever to communicate with each other

                                       Picture source: http://lolzombie.com/tag/facebook/page/2/

As publishing is so easy now, people seem to publish every little thing that goes on in their lives through social media websites. This sometimes makes it difficult to start a conversation when meeting someone face to face. Have you ever tried so hard to think of a question to break the ice, and you finally think of something to talk about, but the other person responds with, “Oh yeah, I heard about that on Facebook…” *Insert awkward silence here*. And you think to yourself, should I even go on?

Or you’ve been that person who has said you’ve heard about it on Facebook, and you’re not sure if you should’ve mentioned that you’ve heard about it or not. It just seems to make the whole conversation and relationship with the other person impersonal, shallow and fake, when potentially there could’ve been a strong connection.

Social media websites have made it more awkward to talk face to face with someone because they have diminished the conversation starters you would normally bring up

             Picture source: http://www.thedatingrulebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/awkward_silence.jpg

According to the Actor-network theory, such actor-networks are “potentially transient, existing in a constant making and re-making.” This means that relations need to be repeatedly “performed” or the network will dissolve (Actor-network theory, Wikipedia 2011) . So, for technologies to continue to develop, grow and change, people need to keep using them. People need to continually use technology for it to stay within the network.

There are the few people from older generations who have not succumbed to the pressure of using new technologies, because they never used them when they were growing up, and see themselves as too old to start learning how to use them now. This is an example of a conflict in the network.  

As publishing changes, so does the way in which we live our lives. If we want a book, we don’t have to leave our house (E-books). To talk to our friends, we don’t have to even hear their voice (texting, email, Facebook, Twitter). To publish something ourselves, we don’t have to meet with a publisher and we can let everyone know what our opinion is on a particular subject (the Internet).

People also feel comfortable publishing things they ordinarily wouldn’t publish in real life on the Internet because they can remain anonymous.  This has allowed us to discover new things about the human psyche and discover more about ourselves, pushing human civilization forward with ideas, concepts and knowledge.

The ease of publishing nowadays is also creating more archives, but at the same time, these archives can be easily lost. As the Internet is a major platform for publishing, web pages can be edited and deleted permanently without them being archived. In a way, we have lost a piece of history if we are unable to retrieve a web page that was once made. There are also other ways to archive e.g. Facebook, email, text messages and Youtube. As long as they’re not deleted, they’re archives, because you can retrieve them at a later date. Archiving is important as it allows us to see how our civilization is developing, who we are and what our culture is etc. With all these new technologies that exist, archiving electronically is becoming more common. I myself am more comfortable with archives being in print form as I still see it as more permanent if it’s physically there. I also think people are sometimes forgetting to archive things nowadays because a lot of publications are electronic, even if it’s possible.

References

Actor Network Theory’ (2011) Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory>

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized