Archive for the ‘Mediated Communication Class Blog’ Category

Look Up Exaggerates Damages of Social Media uses science to dismantle the claims in the viral video “Look Up” made by Gary  (aaaand no, I’m not linking to it).

They put claims such as ” We share frivolous bits of ourselves on social media, but leave out anything meaningful” up against current literature and find the claims ring as hollow as an empty keg. The sources they cite are diverse including: danah boyd, Kowert, Griffiths, and Oldmeadows article on “geek” stereotypes, the New York TimesPew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, and Deters and Mehl’s article on how Facebook can make us feel less lonely. They wrap up by citing an article from Slate.com which not only recaps technohysteria of the 20th century  but also reminds the reader of the Douglas Adams comment that any new technology will be regarded with suspicion and trepidation by people 35 or older.

Le sigh.

My generation?  We embraced 24/7 MTV and the the Sony Walkman with gusto. However,the Nervous Nellies of my youth intoned that these communication advances would erode our morals and make us socially disconnected narcissists. And now I see so many of us spouting those same arguments about computer and/or mobile media. Has my generation become our our parents at their most hand wringingest?

(Well, some of us, your gentle blog writer refuses to succumb to that kind of thinking.)

This cyberhysteria is the latest incarnation of panic over technology. Marvin’s When Old Technology Was New (1988) is a good book that tackles this topic with full force. She spells out how in the 19th and 20th centuries, electricity, the telephone, telegraph. the radio and television were subject to the same fear and hysteria as computer and mobile media is today.

Our most advanced consumer technology serves at the whim of its owners. I’m not a utopianist but a realist, we control our technology and that means that we have the lion’s share of control over what it does to us, our families and our children. On its own technology isn’t not good or bad, it’s tool and like a hammer it can be used to build or destroy.

Take a deep breath Gary, now exhale. There, that’s better isn’t it?


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Since I originally posted this back on March 14, 2012, I have been periodically checking online to see if this has been rolled out to other locales yet; I know that New York was supposed to be one of the cities they were going to roll this out to .  I have yet to see anything. I’m not sure whether it’s being kept quite to avoid attracting the kind of criticism they got in Texas.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. While it could cause people to interact with people who might otherwise become invisible, we also run the risk of dehumanizing them and viewing the “Wi-Fi homeless” as infrastructure. The best technological intentions usually have an unintended  dystopian element.  If this project is still going to roll out across the US, I’ll be watching it carefully to see how it goes.

Originally published on March 14, 2012

We have talked a couple of weeks ago about the question of whether mobile communication technologies refocusing people in public and semi-public spaces from being aware of other people they are sharing the space with (and hence, being available if the opportunity for serendipity to occur), to people focusing on their existing social networks who they are connected to via wireless technology.

This article describes an experiment that is being done in at the South by Southwest Festival. A group of homeless men and women have allowed themselves to be made into Wi-Fi hotspots for hire. The company is paying them a daily rate for being a hotspot and they are encouraged to charge users an hourly fee as well. It is not surprising that this idea has its boosters and detractors. I heard some people on the news paint it as victimizing and commodifying the homeless, stripping them of their dignity by reducing them to a mechanical device used to connect (comparatively) affluent people to other (comparatively) affluent people. Others think it’s a great idea and a way for someone who is homeless to earn money without begging or otherwise causing a public nuisance.

The PR firm that is doing this is talking about testing it out in NYC next so it they follow through on this, the next battle will be fought right next door to here.

What do I think? I think the answer will fall somewhere in the middle. I do think that there may be a few highly motivated homeless people who will be able to parley this into something that lifts them out of poverty. However, for the majority of folks who volunteer for this, I don’t think it will have a long or significant impact on their life, especially since (a) a significant portion of the homeless are struggling with addition issues (b) they will likely become targets of other people who will want to victimize them somehow to gain access or procession of the Wi-Fi device (heck, people have been assaulted for a pair of shoes).

I think at first people may be mindful of the homeless people they have to interface with to buy time. I have to wonder though that if like that barista at Starbucks, after a while people treat them more like payphones than people.

Links to news reports on this:

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