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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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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‘@Lilly_Stardust has passed away’ (a musing not a notification)

I was just eating a lovely blueberry muffin when a slightly morbid thought popped into my head, will my Last Will and Testament include a page of logins?

My grandfather past away at the end of August, and my parents have been left with his address book so they can contact his friends and family located across the globe, who would not have seen the notice of his passing in the local newspaper. But it has made me think, my address book is mostly contained within my social media accounts. Therefore will my Will have to contain a page of usernames and passwords for Facebook, Twitter, Google, Hotmail etc. so that my family can contact those connections of mine far away? Could there some day be a tweet that says ‘@Lilly_Stardust has passed away’?

And once the statuses have been updated and messages posted, what then? Would my family simply delete my presence? Or would they keep them as a sort of digital grave stone, where those who can not make it to my physical burial location can leave digital flowers and cards and come to remember me? Which one would I prefer?

Of course all of this hangs on me still using social media when I pass, and as I am hoping to live at least into my 80’s this gives me several decades left to live. It is entirely possible that Facebook will not live as long as me. But surely it would be replaced with some other form of digital communication that requires passwords and usernames (if we did move to DNA or finger print technology to log in to services that could bring about some very morbid situation indeed!)

When I was 16 I did in fact exchange password details with my best friend, in order that if one of us were to die the other could turn their mySpace page (that makes me sound older than I’d like) into a digital memorial with pictures and respond to any condolences messages left. Now my online presence is even bigger, and with the growth of social media,
I am even more interconnected with others. If I go it is not just my own profile pages effected. If all my accounts were deleted today, what about the documents I had shared with others via Google Docs, Dropbox, ISSU, Prezi or SlideShare? What about all of my pictures shared on social networking sites, Flickr and Picasa? Many of these are no longer stored on a physical hard-drive they exist entirely in the cloud. Do I really want to think that when I die, everything just goes?

Perhaps my family could simply re-purpose or rename my accounts? Which makes me think of the fake Bruce Willis/ iTunes story. The whole time I was thinking, why would he have to sue Apple to leave his iTunes collection to his family, could he not simply give them the login details and let them continue to use that account? Are Apple really going to keep track of the obituaries so they can delete accounts as soon as the associated user dies? That would be a very depressing department.

I guess as with my grandfather, now that he is gone there is little he can do to control what my parents and uncle do with anything he has left behind.  But it is strange to think about that final tweet, the very last ‘@ tag’…

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Social Media: A tool box

There are many tools available within the social media toolbox, and this can often lead those unfamiliar with these “new” technologies to feel overwhelmed.

As an e-learning specialist it is part of my job to explain the magnitude of tools to lecturers. And I would normally explain them as exactly that..tools. And just like you wouldn’t get a hammer out and then decide you need to put a nail into the wall, or get a screwdriver and try to use it to hammer a nail into the wall, nor should you use a social media tool without first having a job to do. Like needing to hang a picture and then selecting the hammer.

Of course there are many pros to social media as well. Primarily the four C’s, creating, collaborating, collecting and communicating.

Creating

Social media tools allow you to create content, whether this is an image, video blog post or anything else. By creating your own content you can then share and promote that content to others. This can be a great way to gain a following or fan base and even get work commissioned. A friend of mine was an illustration student and she uploaded her work to Flickr. Through this she got commissioned to do artwork and illustrations of individuals who had admired her work.

Collaborating

Tools such as Google Drive are great for working collaboratively. But social media can also be great for finding other to collaborate with. Through social networking sites, blogs and Twitter (both a social networking site and a micro-blogging site) you can find like minded others that you may wish to collaborate with. This is particularly true if your area of expertise is very niche, and perhaps there is no-one else in your geographical area that you can work with. Once you find someone to collaborate with, you can then begin your project using tools such as Skype for communication, and tools such as wiki’s to build collaborative documents.

Collecting

As well as creating your own content on social media you can also collect that content and other content from the web. This is most easily done via social bookmarking. Using tools such as Delicious and Pinterest to collect links to interesting sites, articles, videos or images. By collecting them together in one place, and organising them through tags and categories you build your own reference source, making it easy to share information you find valuable and refer back to it at a latter date should you need to.

Communicating

Of course, most people know the communication benefits social media offers, with the likes of Facebook offering many different methods, from public wall posts, to group forums and private messaging. But other sites also offer many great ways to communicate, including Google+ which allows you to organise contacts into ‘circles’ much like the circles we communicate in during our day to day lives. so you can easily send something to all of your family members, whilst hiding it from your friends and colleagues. Google+ also offers to hang outs feature, which is a great way to video conference, particularly if you are working as a group.  Communication via social media means that your communications flow into your other uses of the sites, rather than being a specific thing such as with traditional methods like email.

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