Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Please wait. Brain loading…

As I write this I have a headache (admittedly that could be influenced by the coffee, fizzy drink and tea I’ve drunk today) but it is also because of my brain being so overloaded.

My mum loves to tell me stories and anecdotes from the past, and one that gets rolled out every now and then due to my interests/ profession is that when she was growing up in the 1970’s there were classes at her secondary school that taught how to spend leisure time. The theory/ concern being that technology was going to make many tasks, previously performed by humans, automated and people would end up with so much free time on their hands they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Of course the irony is that quite the opposite has happened. With so much automated it simply leaves us free to work at a deeper level, and process more data. The work if anything, has increased in many areas and whole new jobs and industries have been created.

Back to my headache. Because of the increased ease of access to information there is often so much to process that it can feel like I need a bigger brain, or at least to be able to access more of the one I currently have. Perhaps a show of my geekdom, but often I feel like my brain is beach-balling* or occasionally doing an automated re-boot. This got me thinking about how we often seem to expect people to act like machines, despite the fact the very invention of many machines was to make life easier. And if this is affecting me, then what about those younger than me and future generations? I’m nearly 24, computers were around when I was growing up, and starting to be used more in schools. At primary school the whole class was encouraged to play a learning game called The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis. We had time to play in class, although we did have to have scheduled slots/ take turns as there were only about 5 computers for a class of 20. I also used to make cards/ invitations for special occasions using McZee (part of the Microsoft Home Kids package), I had a lot of fun in Imaginopolis! Other than that I’d occasional use Microsoft Encyclopedia or play Barbie Riding Club. By the time secondary school arrived we had all just survived Y2K and things were picking up. By the time I was 15 I had a MySpace account (despite the fact you had to be 18 back then, they didn’t ask for ID and thankfully I was good enough at maths to figure out when I needed to be born, a triumph of the education system in Jersey I guess), which then turned into a Facebook account when we decided that was ‘more mature’. My love and use of technology has flourished since then, to the point I wouldn’t be able to do much work without it and my social life would be rather dull.

As fun as my growth through technology was, it’s nothing compared to today’s children. My husband’s colleague was recently telling me about how his 3 year-old little boy uses their smart-phones all the time, this little boy is so used to modern technology he can;t comprehend screens that aren’t touch. He’ll stand there and try to swipe across the screen of a desktop computer or old portable games console with a puzzled look on his face. More than this is that if something doesn’t happen instantly in his mind it is downloading. So when his dad asks him what he wants for dinner, and he responses macaroni and cheese, he will then wonder into the kitchen, where his dad has put it on to cook, look at the microwave and ask, ‘daddy, is my dinner downloading?’ Apart from being adorable, this indicated to me that the technical mindset is increasing. Not that people are going to be better at coding/ programming or building technology in the future, although some will, but that people are increasingly expecting the world around them, including the people in it to act like machines.

I’m not trying to build a case for a SkyNet styled conspiracy or spread panic. The panic won’t come until it is too late to stop the machines. No, instead I am simply going to finish by reflecting on the possibility that machines will make possible the next stage of human evolution. That by allowing our brains to process more information they will facilitate a future where humans will evolve to use more of their brains. Perhaps at the next millennium they will look back on us and our tablet computers like we look back of cave-men and their fire.

*Beach-balling is a Mac reference to when the computer is processing, similar to the wheel or hour-glass in Windows.

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A future of eye-gouging

Firstly let me apologise for the recent spate of posts, I know it is bad form for a blogger to post so frequently if they can’t keep it up, and I do not mean to overload my readers with posts, but this is a reactionary piece and so it would loose impact if I waited.

Thanks to a tweet from a former colleague this article from The Inquirer* about a Seattle bar pre-emptively banning Google Glass from its premisses, on the grounds of privacy, was brought to my attention. I don’t want to go into whether that is right or wrong, although there are genuine concerns, exemplified in this YouTube parody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UjcqCx1Bvg

What I want to talk about is how such concerns could be dealt with in the future.

There is genuine reason for a company to be concerned about people taking photographs or videos using something like Google Glass, particularly in establishments that currently do not permit recording equipment of any kind (although there is a whole other set of problems with the fact they allow smart phones, which have this capability but you can’t realistically have a rule that says ‘no phone allowed’ for a nightclub, stadium or similar social venue). Places such as strip clubs certainly have privacy, security and commercial reasons to prevent customers from recording their employees at work. At the moment that would be relatively easy to enforce, as the design of Google Glass is distinctive. Similarly many places enforce dress codes, and  a ban on Google Glass just becomes an extension of that, with a privacy clause as well.

But what about the future? Undoubtedly either Google, or another company that releases a similar product will eventually make such devices look more and more like regular glasses. At this time how do you enforce a ban? If you ban anyone wearing glasses you are not only going to create outrage, you will also attract lawsuits for discrimination, and there is a good chance you’ll loose. So you have to allow people who need glasses for sight into your venue, in this case do you give everyone entering an eye test? Or perhaps people just have to carry around a card or wear medic alert jewellery, certified by an optician, that states they need glasses for sight. In that case do you create an underground world of counterfeit medic alert jewellery or sight cards? Perhaps worse people deliberately start gouging, or in some other way attempt to damage, their eyes in order to require glasses. It becomes an almost impossible area to fairly enforce. Even more so when, as I predict, this technology is eventually condensed into a contact lens. Then it is impossible to tell who is using it and who is not.

The only hope at the moment is that the devices are voice command driven, and so if one of your employees or a customer notices and reports someone repeatedly saying ‘take a picture’ or ‘record video’ then you can eject them from the venue. Again that isn’t easy to police (in large and/ or noisy venues you might not be able to hear clearly) and only works as long as the systems are voice command driven. If they become driven by eye movement based commands or brain waves (sounds futuristic, but I give it a maximum of 20 years) then game over for enforcing any sort of policy without simultaneously preaching civil liberties and human rights.

ADDITION: It suddenly occurred to me, forget commercial venues, what about education? How do you stop students cheating by Googling something in an exam when such devices can’t be told apart from glasses for sight? Perhaps at this stage we have to consider what it is we are testing, and whether fact based knowledge is as relevant in such a society and in fact perhaps we need to test learning skills, such as critical reflection instead.

*Link to Inquirer article http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2253751/google-glass-is-banned-in-seattle-bar-months-before-launch

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Denial is futile

When I was growing up I always thought my parents were model citizens, and indeed they are in many ways, but they are also human.

With our lives logged on social media sites, and categorised in date order, even framed in a timeline, like a personalised episode of ‘This is your life’ for the ‘digital generation’, denial is futile.

It struck me the other day, that my mother might have been able to keep up the appearance that she was a totally innocent teenager, with little photographic evidence of her life. The images that did exist were under her complete control, hidden in dusty photo albums out of reach. On the other hand when I have children my entire life, since the age of 15 (and anything prior I have later posted) will be available online for my children’s perusal. If I decided I’d like to deny that I’ve ever gone to a party, too bad, there are pictures of me celebrating NYE and birthdays, uploaded by others, some of whom I may have lost contact with. They could read through my past tweets, see that ‘mummy uses bad language’ (on occasions). I do try to keep it clean online, with employers and potential employers online I’d like to portray myself as respectable, however we are all human, and although there may not be pictures of me with my knickers on my head (not that I do that in my spare time) I still couldn’t pretend to my children that I was Snow White!

So, is this a problem? Will I be constantly undermined by my social media timeline when trying to discipline my future children? Will they turn to a life of crime because of a lack of enforceable rules created by social media? I’d certainly hope not. And indeed I see no reason why that should be so. As long as I continue to operate sensibly on social media, there will never be anything to prevent me being an authority figure in my future children’s lives. As far as them seeing my past, again this shouldn’t be a problem. Perhaps it will force me to be more realistic and honest in my parenting, and not relying on ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ I can be upfront that ‘yes, mummy may use the occasional bad word, but that makes her naughty’. I don’t believe that a parent should have to be infallible, it’s an unrealistic expectation. Of course it might sound a bit premature to suggest they will see this content whilst they still refer to me as ‘mummy’ and do not themselves use ‘bad words’, however I honestly feel that children are starting to use online environments from a younger age. Even if they do not have their own accounts, they might look at my account. I see it as an opportunity to teach them about online etiquette as, for me, this is now as important as general manners for children of the future (it’s important now and my children haven’t even been conceived yet, so who knows how important it will be by then!)

Of course this may pose more problems for those users of social media who are not careful, those who do have picture of them with knickers on their head, smoking and punching someone in the face (which is quite a picture). This could prove more challenging to be upfront about, and will certainly take strong parenting to navigate. It’s not only pictures that are a potential problem. what is your children see you bullying someone on Twitter because they had a valid opinion, but did not agree with your own? Are you teaching them that it’s okay to bully if someone is different to you? Sadly I fear that many of the individuals who conduct themselves in this way may not be that bothered about raising their children to be open minded, caring and reflective individual that contribute positively to society. For those people, it will simply make it difficult for them to use the phrase ‘things weren’t like this in my day, youngsters now have no respect for anything!’.

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Is it any suprise we are cynical?

Okay, so this might not be totally linked to the digital, but there are connections and i might make some stretched attempts if I feel it necessary.

During my lunch break I was on the Guardian website (shows you were my bias might be) and found this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/11/generation-self-what-young-care-about

Now as part of ‘Generation self’ I have a few things to say, so get prepared for a rant and if not well that’s the beauty of the internet, just close the tab containing this post!

And there you go, part of the problem. All the tab closers found something they weren’t interested in and so they just ignored it. Anyone who agrees with the point made in the post can tweet or re-tweet it (and should someone oppose your point of view raise an army of tweeps to shout them down’

But I’m not about blaming the internet, I love it! It allows us to build communities, not traditional geographically bound communities, but interest based communities.  However, it means that no longer need one engage with an opposing view, unless you feel like a shouting match on a social platform! Communicating with like-minded people is great, especially when traditional physical communities might have been built on industries that have been shifted or fragmented across the country. One of  my friends does a podcast called Unanswered, that in its most recent episode discussed the dismantling and displacement of communities for commercial gain. All of this adds up to a break down of traditional communities, but that doesn’t mean ‘young people’ don’t seek communities in the ways most natural to them.

Of course this isn’t just a case of technical facilitation. Attitudes, often beaten into my generation through the media (now available to you at all times in all location) contribute as well.  These attitudes might be a constant bemoaning of ‘students’ who are obviously just ‘dossing’ and don’t know what a hard days work is, because they are studying media. I would quite frankly like to see some of these bemoaners (usually not from the media industries themselves) take on the challenges, attitudes and pressures of a media job. Not to say they didn’t work hard, but just because you don’t understand an industry does not mean you can criticise it. Of course every industry has its own challenges, and it depends on your perspective. (Plus lets not forget, the whole point of the media is to make products look effortlessly produced. It’s not very relaxing if you know about the stressful 16 hour days that went into producing the game show (other programme types are available). But I digress.

The point is ‘people’ or ‘old people’, whatever the term is for ‘not young people’ is, have spent years moaning about young peoples’ laziness, naivety, tendency to congregate in groups, enjoyment of life and basically all the things that they have had beaten out of them by their parents. And so with this negativity constantly thrown at us, and the reality of a harder working and living environment also shoved in our faces on a daily basis, young people have given in.  We accept it is unrealistic to be idealistic about changing a local initiative, what power do we have? But this is not representative of despondence, it is representative of a change in focus. No, maybe our parents and the years that have destroyed their once idealistic views are right, we can’t change anything locally. But, with the power of the internet, we can become part of a global voice. We can join people from around the world via Avaaz, Facebook Causes or Greenpeace online to tweet corporations into at least making a statement on the issue. We can force people into being unable to ignore our constant digital and traditional barrage of messages.

So don’t think young people are selfish, yes we may have succumbed to the cynicism older generations try to thrust on us (and I think they might have been hoping we would resist and fight back) but we are community based in our own, new way. When the people around you seem to reject you, the internet always has friendly like-minded people to reassure you that you’re right. And at the end of the day all we, as humans want, is to be accepted into a group and vindicated in our behaviours and opinions!

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I don’t want this blog to become a morbid space, and I realise that my last post was on death and social media. However I find myself asking the question, how come I am fine with posting non-sense on social media, such as ‘ow, my tooth hurts’ and other useless information that even my adoring husband would find uninteresting, without hesitation. Yet when it comes to actual emotions, be those of extreme joy or sadness I suddenly think it is inappropriate.

Upon reflection I think the issues I feel are different for joy and for sorrow. When it comes to joy I am hesitant about posting as I don’t want to come off as bragging. ‘Oh look how wonderful my life is’, even though any achievements would be out of hard work or are major life events. I’m not talking about non-sense joy like ‘look how cute my cat is’, I’m refer to serious life events such as ‘I just got married’ or ‘I’m working on an exciting project’. See even in this post I feel scared about stating what the ‘exciting project’ is. Partly due to a fear of jinxing it. I don’t even like telling people in person about successes, such as starting a new job until I’m holding the contract. Out of fear that if it all goes wrong I will look foolish.

In regards to sorrow I think it is more closely related to the fact I post nonsense on social media. It feels inappropriate to share, say sorrow of the death of a loved one or friend on the same platform I post pictures of dogs dressed like super heroes. Yet, like with genuine joy, my issues of expression also extend to real life. I’ll have no problem crying when watching a TV show but I feel embarrassed about crying about actual issues, and will generally only do it around those I trust. Recently even at a funeral I felt embarrassed to cry and so simply clammed up and went silent until I was in a private space.

So I guess what the process of reflecting and writing this blog post has shown me is that 1) social media is in fact (as already known) an extension of real life and not a separate entity 2) I have some deep seeded issues that are probably better explored on a sofa than a blog.

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