Perception Is Reality

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

David Clare writes a blog ‘The PR View’ at www.theprview.co.uk. David studies Public Relations and Marketing at the University of Lincoln. In his third and final year, he will graduate at the end of May this year. David wrote a dissertation on the uses of Twitter in Crisis Management and has a deep interest in the use of Social Media for Public Relations.

What Happened

On Tuesday 12 January, at 16.53 Haiti time, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. This was quickly followed by two aftershocks, measuring 5.9 and 5.5 on the Richter scale.

The first aid relief didn’t arrive till two days later, by then an estimated 100,000 casualties were reported.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Pete Codella, of Codella Marketing has an interesting video up on MyRaganTV about online newsrooms:

What Every Media Site Should Have

I am a very strong advocate of online newsrooms and I understand that generally having a presence online is one of the best things you can do. Why is this? Well, One of the reasons is that it costs close to nothing to build your brand online, specially with free social media services. This is especially great for students attempting to stand out for prospective employers.

There’s many other reasons that Pete Codella himself highlights in the video as benefits of having an online presence, and no wonder he has a successful, unique service, called NewsCactus. Just look at what NewsCactus clients are saying (navigate the website, as you learn more about the service).

However, there’s some things I disagree with. For one, Codella says,

“the more baskets your information is in, the more opportunities you have to rank high…”

It’s marvelous if a company can put its eggs in multiple baskets. But it only works when the company has enough eggs to show. More baskets mean less eggs per basket, and the less visible they are.

If a company uses all the social media and uses their website or other online presence as a center point of consolidation, this is good. But there are two issues that one must take into account:

  1. Can you keep up with the need to constantly update your various presences with relevant information?
  2. Is it feasible, or even necessary? In other words, do you have a following, or a target market that you can reach by expanding across the multiple networks.

It should go without saying, that a company must build its multiple networks one by one (or simultaneously if it is affordable, and meets the conditions mentioned above.

It is a really progressive idea to get involved in all facets and be everywhere, but in a situation of crisis, it may become much more unmanageable.

A simple example is the very prominent Australian bank, BankWest. BankWest has multiple YouTube accounts. EverydayOlympics has been stagnant for over a year now, and HappyBanking has been quiet for an equally long time. This is the same with their Twitter account.

The idea is, if it doesn’t need to be done, don’t do it. It’s Ockham’s Razor of sorts. And while I admire Pete Codella’s unique online newsroom service, I believe that being ubiquitous doesn’t work all the time.

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve made a post. But this one marks significant importance in I believe both the developed and developing worlds. Jeff Howe, the author of the book on Crowdsourcing has recently released a video about the topic. This gives great insights into his book, into how our societies are now functioning and possibly, how they will steer both economies and creativity. It reminds me of the story of how Prometheus stole fire from the Greek Gods and gave it to the humans. A product or service no longer runs in a trickle down hierarchy. It has rather become a democratic process, reminiscent of ideas of cyberlibertarianism by professor Langdon Winner.

I had a little conversation (if you would like to call it that) with Howe about critiquing crowdsourcing and it became an entire thread on his blog which made me feel like a million bucks all over the world.

Without further wait, I present to you, Jeff Howe.

Just now, I stumbled across something very interesting while browsing my faculty’s webpage at York University.

The article related to the new Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS) and finalizing its official name. I came across a picture (below) which was apparently taken from a security camera. The text reads, “Students review course offerings online.”

Surveillance Image at York University

Catch my drift, yet? What is an image from a security camera doing on the website? Did these people know they were being recorded and that their images will be used for publicity? More importantly, the camera has clear view of the monitor screens as is both visually and textually evident (as the title reads). What are the terms and conditions of surveillance at a private institution and what constitutes fair use?

While the individuals faces are not visible, most of their body features are including hair, built, and gender to name a few.

We live in a supposedly post-modern society where surveillance is important not only to keep track of individuals to provide for them (think national censuses), but also to protect them from themselves. But how far are we willing to compromise rightful privacy (the data entered on those systems are personal bits of information, the keyboard is visible and so is the screen) for the sake of the institution’s benefit?

If I were in this picture, or any other picture, I would feel like a voluntary inmate. Is the use of such images ethical?

This reminds me of an article I once read on Blog TO about Justification of CCTV wher a York graduate was arrested in a rape case. I’m pretty sure Chris Orbz (the author of that article) will be really interested. And I’m interested in what he has to say.

In recent times, in light of the increase in sexual assaults at York, the senate decided to pass a budget for an increase in the CCTV coverage extending to all the exits and entrances of the residence buildings of both the Glendon and Keele campuses. Orbz says, “…and CCTV can be wielded as a weapon as much as a tool.”

The York University Security Services website states, “Cameras generally cannot be utilized where there is an expectation of privacy.” Why then was a camera pointed straight at a personal data collection and transferring terminal?

Culture Jamming

 

Recently, I read an article regarding culture jamming by Kalle Lasn. Broadly speaking, culture jamming is our “belligerent attitude” towards authority, or our instincts to go against authority where information flows from the “powerful to the powerless” in a trickle down style. Culture Jammers are then those who take big risks and commit themselves to “small, spontaneous movements of truth.”

Lasn states that culture jamming may be relatively new term, but it is an old movement. Take for example the punk hippies movement, the Surrealists, Anarchists, and so on. However, the most important movement is the Situationist International founded by Guy Debord. These individuals believed that the reflexive way of acting and reacting, living and existing in capitalist societies were killing the “real” way of living life and concentrated on the “novelty” as a way of life. The SI spoke of the everyday way of life (advertising, tv, and commodity consumption) as “spectacles” and were thoroughly against it.

So without, getting into too much detail, what do these jammers do in order to revive the authenticity of life? In order to break free of this mass-culture, what do you do? The idea was called derive or “the drift” which was borrowed from the Dadaists but was defined by the SI as “locomotion without a goal.”

You float through the city, open to whatever you come in contact with, thus exposing yourself to the whole spectrum of feelings you encountered by chance in your everyday life. Openness is key (Kalle Lasn).”

Lasn talks about Marcus’ idea about the “democracy of false desire,” that is how our society and all the media in large offer us the illusion of choices, however, in actuality reducing them to a select number of products or commodities such as action movies, political scandals, ball games, and so on.

Fast forward into actual practice, Lasn talks about Demarketing Loops. Uncooling what is considered cool now and bringing back the authentic version of life. No more Nikes and Calvin Kleins, privately owned media, fast food, cars, and essentially, consumption. So, not buying basically means not buying into consumer culture, which losens the grip of corporations on us as “consumers (Lasn).” Downshifting into the slow lane of life, thinking green, consuming green, thinking about social costs and benefits, family life, and so on. The more you have does not equal to more happiness or joy. Forget McDonalds, make your own burgers. Walk into a class room lecture dressed as a professor (in a satirical way, ofcourse) and talk about educational propaganda. Or wake up in the morning and jump into a tub full of water and ice. Shocks the body, doesn’t it?

This is exactly what Lasn talks about. Jumping into the tub is a mindful, spontaneous decision and doesn’t follow the mentally learnt schemas of culture and society.

Basically, then, we want to “reverse the spin cycle… Demarket our news, our entertainments, our lifestyles and desires – and eventually, maybe even our dreams” that have been constructed by the media. Everything is a simulation of life: a hyperreality, where the goal to be achieved in the capitalist system is so ideal that it does not exist except by enhancement through digital technology.

To read more on Culture Jamming, click here. Then take action.

Okay, so I just have a sealed box of the iPhone lying around 1.1.2 8gigs and I need to get rid of it because I dont have money for food 😦 I got it for $580 *including custom fees* and so if you want it, please let me know 😦

 Oh I’ll teach you how to unlock it too 😀

We live in an age dominated by computers and the internet. Words such as cyberspace, information highway and technology are ingrained in our minds. However, we need to understand how these advancements in human civilization work, and embark on a discourse as to whether these technologies really do dominate our lives and what other factors come into play. This paper discusses three authors and how they address these questions. I will discuss their key points individually, find common ground between them followed by the argument I find most convincing.

In the article “Cyberlibertarian Myths and the Prospects for Community,” (Winner 1997), the author discusses cyberlibertarianism and the problems associated with it. Cyberlibertarianism is fundamentally the libertarian ideology of complete civil liberty, applied to the internet. A key element of cyberlibertarianism is of technological determinism. According to the theory, “we are driven by necessities that emerge from the development of the new technology and from nowhere else.” Winner opposes the idea that as individuals, we have no influence or social choice about the adaptation of technologies. According to Winner, cyberlibertarianism does not take into account key social and political concerns such as who will gain or lose from the transformations of society due to networked computing and what will eventuate when power is concentrated amongst a few large firms (oligopoly).  Cyberlibertarianism is also notorious in its blatant rejection of “attempts to guide technological development in ways shaped by publically debated, democratically determined social choice” (Winner 1997).

Professor Winner goes on to outline a few dilemmas of cyberlibertarianism, one of them being related to online communities. In cyberlibertarian philosophy, one’s goal online is to be connected to other people by virtue of shared interests. Yet, in actual communities this is very difficult. The philosophy ignores completely the problems underlying society, obligation to the community, diversity and what to do about the underclass (Winner 1997).

Winner asserts that we need to take into account complex communitarian concerns “when faced with personal choices and social policies about technological innovation.” We ought to elucidate important moral and political consequences of technology rather than to overlook them and study the problem domains surrounding ideas such as community and democracy and the effects on communities of networked computing (Winner 1997).

The second article, “Cyberspace and the End of Politics” (Mosco & Foster, 2001) talks about two organizations namely the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) and the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and how these institutions have promoted certain myths about cyberspace, one of them being the end of politics. As the authors put it, “Myths are stories that help people deal with contradictions in social life that can never be fully resolved…and provide ’euphoric clarity’ by eliminating complexities and contradictions (Mosco, Foster p.219).” Myths about cyberspace, then, are independent of social relations because they remove the problems associated with communities, helping people deal with contradictions in such a sphere. The authors criticize the idea that myths particularly with regards to cyberspace disregard the social and political institutions (Mosco & Foster, 2001).

Mosco and Foster assert that according to the myth, the end of politics in cyberspace comes from the end of vertical relationships (hierarchy) to a move to horizontal society. Everyone is on the same level of power as opposed to having some who are higher up in the hierarchy than others (Mosco & Foster, 2001).

The authors go on to talk about information technology and capitalism. The idea according to the myth is that these two can “end all injustice and create a world where all are equally free to pursue life as entrepreneurs.”  We get this idea in the Winner article with drawbacks such as cut throat competition which is completely overlooked in these myths (Mosco & Foster, 2001).
Another aspect Mosco and Foster discuss is myths of origin. They explain this by talking about how the event at Cheyenne Mountain led to a myth being born. The key concerns, as the authors put it are not about the SDI and its feasibility, but rather that a myth was created, carrying in itself the notion of end of politics (Mosco & Foster, 2001).

In “Internet Research: For and Against” (Agre, 2004) the author looks at the internet and its place in institutions from a technical standpoint. The author’s argument surrounds the topic of distinguishing internet research from other studies of technology and why this distinction is made (Agre, 2004).

Agre asserts that computers are distinctive in their relation to discourse about the world. He talks about the social shaping of technology and the “presuppositions that a technology can make about people who use it” He gives examples of the solar-powered lamp and the VCR and how the designer “tried to enlist the user into a certain social role.” Agre states that computer science needs to operate on discourses in order to see and understand the social controversies surrounding them. What the author is then trying to convey, is that technology does not exist independently, or disembedded of social and political institutions, rather he states that “social forces shape technology all the time.” Discontinuity or a sudden change in history is a false notion as it “trivializes a complex reality.” To this effect, the doctrine of technological determinism is flawed (Agre, 2004).

The author claims that an innovation will only be grounds for change when it is aligned to certain values or principles of institutions. This shows that social and political factors cannot be discarded as they are integral to the process. Agre says, “An application may fit better into an organization if it is aligned with the existing ecology of practices (Agre, 2004).”
Agre concludes that “the internet has disserved us, teaching us a false model of institutional change.” Essentially, he claims that the internet is not as much a revolution as it is an evolution in how institutions function and the concept of democracy (politics) still persists (Agre, 2004).

If we look at the above discussed authors, we see that they indeed share common ground. Their basic argument is this: technology and the internet in particular, are not divorced of society and politics and to assert so is to be naive. Technological determinism and the idea that life on the internet is disassociated with real life are incorrect affirmations. These authors, then, are opposed to the utopian ideas of the internet, insofar as they create and sustain myths related to it and discount the reality that there are problems associated with such that are completely neglected. There are however, differences in their analyses, in that, they look at the problem from different perspectives. Agre approaches the topic from a technical point of view whereas Winner’s approach, although somewhat sarcastic, is socio-political. He talks directly about the internet and cyberspace. Mosco and Foster approach the discussion from a political and cultural perspective, discoursing about the internet through the concept of myths. Although they do not seem to provide solutions to the problems, or ways of thinking, they do a good job at demonstrating the problem of myths through examples of the PFF and the SDI.

The argument I find most convincing is that of Winner. The argument is straight forward with sufficient background on the topic with several examples. The concepts were fairly easy to relate to. The most important thing however, is that the author provides solutions, or at least encourages one to think differently about the accepted views of the internet. He asks questions then leaves us to answer them in light of his argument about the cyberlibertarian theory. This makes Winner’s reading and argument very effective, not only for the social science community, but also for the general public.

The internet is an integral part of our lives whether it comes to the individual user, to an institution, or to society as a whole. However, it does not exist on a separate plane, and it is erroneous to say that it operates independently of society and politics. Myths have been created which disregard the complex reality, trying to propose a simple solution. We have to understand that these myths are fallacious and that society is not technologically deterministic.


About the Author…

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Adventist hospital, I grew up in a city where on one side I experienced poverty and oppression, while on the other I had the good fortune of Tabish Bhimani being a member of an upper middle-class business family...more...

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