Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Are You Stuck In A Digital Divide? How Technology Is Separating Society

With the Rapid Evolution and Popularity of Technology, How Can We All Keep Up?

Between the two readings, Mobile Phone Problems and Kevin Guidry’s article about a “digital divide” or “participation gap,” some key issues were highlighted with how technology is affecting us, but also whom specifically it affects.  According to an article on Edutopia, the digital divide is “the gap between those individuals and communities that have, and do not have, access to the information technologies that are transforming our lives.” Although the article on Mobile Phone Problems indicates the 88% of Americans own mobile phones, Guidry’s article enforces the fact that this still leaves a large population of people who do not own their own computers or have Internet access at home. The negative aspects of this digital divide are seen in the workplace, with those that have no computers being underemployed, less educated, and Black or Hispanic.

The divide translates onto our college campuses, too. Guidry notes that according to a 2007 EDUCAUSE Core Data Service survey of 994 institutions, 65.1% of students used their own computers. This leaves about a third of students with no personal computer access. There was also a difference found between the number of computer owners between public and private universities, with the more affluent schools having a higher rate of computer owners. Based on the Pew Internet article about Mobile Phone Problems, non-white cell phone users encounter every problem more frequently than their white counterparts because cell phones are their primary phones or Internet access.

The Digital Divide Causes a Participation Gap, and Some Users Are Already Getting Left Behind. What Does This Mean For the Future?

Not only are there disparities with who has access to what technology, but also what kinds of experiences each user has with each technology. Guidry defines a “participation gap” as something that happens when different experiences yield different skills, predilections, and comfort levels with different technologies. It is not longer a matter of who has what, but how much time and access each user has. In a study with American teens, those who had unlimited access to the Internet used Facebook and MySpace differently than those that had limited access from public locations like schools or libraries.

As technology continues to grow, new things will become available for consumer use. Considering the rapid growth and popularity of smart phones, the traditional phone may soon only be a phone found with those that cannot afford the pricier alternative. In addition to the growing popularity of these phones is the growing amount of uses of them. It seems as though everything can be done on our phones now, from reading magazines to keeping our plane tickets. For those that never own a smartphone, will the traditional media die out and leave these people behind? Is it possible that one day in the future all newspapers and magazines will be online, and therefore limit the possibilities to access these materials without technology? It seems as though the push towards a total technology takeover is happening, and we must be wary of who we exclude from this change in society. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cell Phone Video Could Make You the Next Big News Story

The Evolution of Technology has Given Us the Power

With each new day, it seems a new form of technology is readily available for the public. Since the invention of the World Wide Web in 1991, it has been rapidly progressing to become the major way in which we communicate and share information. New devices have made this sharing even easier, with technology like desktops, laptops, mobile phones, and now iPhones and iPads. We are in an age of citizen journalism, where anyone with access to technology has the power to create the news.

With Just A Phone in Hand, We Can Reach the World

Because of the popularity and accessibility of technology, it’s become possible to control the news with a device in the palm of your hand. More and more, news stories have sprung from online YouTube videos that have been recorded on a bystander’s iPhone. This year, a news story about a 68-year-old bus monitor being bullied by the students got widespread media attention after the video was posted on YouTube. Once the story gained recognition, support for the woman and criticism for the children came pouring in, and the children could have faced charges had Karen Klein wished to press them.

Instances when altercations or injustices are caught on camera can have detrimental effects on the reputations of the individuals involved. Many times they can have no idea they are even being filmed, and in the case of a Cleveland bus driver, his actions captured on cell phone video cost him his job, and definitely tainted his public image. A passenger on his bus recorded him punch a woman in the face, and proceed to physically throw her into a seat. Like the bus monitor video, this video went viral on YouTube and gained media attention.

It’s Not Just the Public Caught On Camera; Even Your Private Videos Can Be Leaked

While both the bus monitor and bus driver cell phone videos were taken by the general public and featured common people, important public figures can also fall victim to the cell phone video leak, even when they were taken on their own phones. Just recently, a video was leaked of U.S. defense contractors in Kabul, showing them highly intoxicated on the job. The video was taken by another employee and has sparked outrage, and even a criminal investigation. It is strictly prohibited by the military to use alcohol or other illegal drugs as a U.S. contractor under what is called General Order Number One. The startling video contains the intoxicated men wrestling and guzzling vodka, with firearms both on them and around them, as well as showing the company’s medical officer unable to respond to a request for help after using a prescription anesthetic. Due to what was captured on the video, the contractor, Jorge Scientific, has taken “decisive action to correct the unacceptable behavior of a limited number of employees” and many featured in it no longer hold their jobs.

With This Kind of Accessibility, You Could Be the Next Big Reporter

The numbers have it: almost 85% of American Adults (18+) are owners of a cell phone. 

According to poll results published on CNN, the majority of U.S. citizens who own a cell phone own smartphones, and these are the phones that can really create news due to their vast amount of features and ever-growing amount of apps. With this kind of power, virtually anybody has the opportunity to record, capture, blog, tweet, or post about an event that can translate into the next big news story. Anytime you flip on the news, you can expect to see a news story that features either a video or a photo taken from a cell phone. Oftentimes, the photos leaked are malicious and the videos posted are defamatory; however, it is possible that an act by a good Samaritan or a photo that shows a good moment can be published as well. Because we hold the devices, we hold the power. With this power, we can shape our own news and publish what we want to be seen or heard. Not only does the popularity of cell phone use affect our news, but also the popularity of our online technology like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or our personal blogs. With these platforms, we are able to speak our minds and share our stories. Unlike face-to-face communication that is restricted to those that you know or may physically encounter, the web gives us the chance to share and communicate with people we may never know or see. There are an enormous amount of connections able to be made between users from any part of the world, and these connections spread like wildfire, and talk creates news. The ability to connect with not just our friends, but also with the general public, has redefined traditional journalism and launched us into a new era. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Digital Overload: More Harm than Help?

It’s a well-known fact that we are living in an age of technology. Our generation is defined not only by our technological advances, but also the applications of them. In an interview with Katie Couric, William Powers, author of “Hamlet’s Blackberry,” shares just how this technology is impacting our lives, both positively and negatively. Surely we can all be grateful for the ease with which we can now organize every aspect of our lives, including appointments, contacts, maps, Facebook and Twitter, all held in one hand. However, Powers book and interview serve to raise our awareness about the overuse of these “screens.” Powers says that we have adopted an approach that says the more connected to these devices, the better, a phenomenon he calls “digital maximalism.” I think Powers raises an important point when he says that these screens do great things, but by constantly living through them we are only scratching the surface of the emotional intelligence we have through face-to-face communication.
I was interested in the statistics Katie Couric shared that, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll, 1 in 7 married people said the use of PDA’s causes them to see their spouses less, and 1 in 10 people said they spent less time with their children under the age of 18. Powers goes on to talk about how technology can prevent deep thinking. Our brains can make more associations than even the best computers, he says, but that it can only happen if you have the time and space. Because of our lack of focus in today’s age, we’re lacking this deep thinking like that of Socrates. The digital overload we are experiencing is suffocating our ability to learn, rather than supplementing it. An article on NPR notes that “the average person today consumes almost three times as much information as what the typical person consumed in 1960,” based on research from the University of California, San Diego. In the same article, it is reported by The New York Times that “the average computer user checks 40 websites a day and can switch programs 36 times an hour.” Powers himself notes that he began to notice his inability to keep his focus on one book, something he used to be able to do. Although many people, myself included, claim that multitasking is possible; it really isn’t possible to do multiples tasks to their full extents.
It isn’t only the general public that is immersed in this overload of data. An article on “The Phoenix” notes that “at the last count, the US government owns or leases about 2100 data centers, and spends about half of its multi-billion dollar IT budget on digital storage.” The US Census Bureau alone holds more information than all the libraries in the nation combined. Powers brings in an interesting quote, calling the media “restless energy of the hunted mind.” I completely agree with his notion that digital connections are wonderful, but if used to excess they can be harmful. In an ideal world, technology would be used in balance. However, the novelty of newness is an instinct that draws us to overuse and crave all the new information and technology. I could identify with Powers when he spoke about dropping his phone in the water on Cape Cod and panicking, thinking that I would probably have a panic attack if this were to happen to me. Although there is obvious evidence that this age of digital overload is harmful and needs to be put into check, I don’t think people have the capacity to unplug themselves from the digital world because of the immense amount of reliance we as a generation have on it.