Author: emilybeaupre

Buggies and GPS

When I looked through the schedule for the Digital Ethics Symposium I was shocked to find Approaches to Amish technology use: The body as an optional, ideal communication medium. What do Amish people have to do with technology? Lindsay Ems of Indiana University conducted research on how the Amish community handles the pressure of an increasingly digital culture. The discussion was fascinating. Oftentimes, small communities like the Amish are forgotten about when we talk about the impact of technology on the individual. How can an Amish community sustain itself in a world like ours? The speaker before Lindsay, Sara Perry referred to the wild side of the internet as being a “crux of productivity.” If this is true then how could one consider the Amish community to be productive? Lindsay provided some background information about the Amish in order to create some context for her findings. I was surprised to see just how little I actually knew about the Amish. For example, the communities are diverse, each have different ways of handling digitalization. Due to the increasing prices of land, the Amish have struggled finding ways to make a living such as making furniture. Lindsay also said that the Amish community is growing and currently the number is around 282,000. I had no idea of this large scale.

From my limited understanding of Amish traditions, nearly everything modern is forbidden including technology and music. These stereotypes are completely wrong. The Amish use computers in their businesses. The libraries have computers, which members of the community use to check email, and some even have Facebook! Lindsay spoke about Amish teens who have cellphones and send text messages. Apparently, some Amish use smartphones in the same way we do. By far my favorite image is of an Amish man sitting in a buggy programming his GPS, which is also allowed by the community guidelines. As it turns out, the Amish are almost as connected as us, who knew?

The philosophy behind their technology use is what sets the Amish apart. Community is one of the most important factors in their tradition. They recognize that the world around them is increasingly dependent on technology. One of the men in an Amish community said that, “We want to control our technology, not be controlled by it”; with this philosophy in mind, the Amish have allowed technology to become a part of their lives but are not dependent on it. In order for certain technologies to be allowed, they must bring the community together. Television, for example, is still banned because it isolates an individual from their family. Telephones are allowed, but not inside the home, instead they are kept in outhouse-like structures. While some may view the Amish communities’ decision to isolate themselves from mainstream society as strange, my experience during the media diet project has shown me that technology has been both a blessing and a curse. By limiting their exposure to digital culture, the Amish have minimized the detrimental effects technology has on community. I think all of us would be better served if we were more skeptical of “progress,” by emulating the Amish and asking ourselves if our use of technology is bringing us together, and making sure we do not become a tool of tech.

Do you think it is naïve of the Amish to forbid technology like the TV, which can provide helpful info in a time of crisis?

Did you know the stereotypes of the Amish were so erroneous?

A second life

My experience signing on to LambdaMOO marks one of the most frustrating experiences ever. Getting into the mindset of the game was not difficult. I took it forgranted that people actually live in the MOO. Before we all jumped in, I was already concerned what the regular players were going to think about fifty strangers showing up on their front porch. While my experiences gaming may have prepared me for the alternate reality of the MOO, I was completely thrown for a loop when it came to the control system. The instinctual systems that I am used to had done little to prepare me to interact with a program like LambdaMOO. In fact, my experience in the MOO reminded me more of programming than of gaming, this is likely due to the fact that on my PC the MOO was a white on black universe.

When I logged in later, I found, as expected, users were a bit friendlier, answering my cries for help. Although it was more difficult with MOO than in the other games I play, I found myself imagining the other characters in my mind’s eye. As the characters gradually because more realistic and their personalities fleshed out, I found myself smiling in real life along with my avatar in the MOO. In retrospect, I really was myself in the MOO and I can understand how people can be more connected to their online friends than with their friends in real life, because as Rushkoff says, “we bring our humanity with us into the digital realm.” In a place like the MOO users can feel free to express themselves completely without fear of sharing unpopular ideas or truly being themselves. That’s why a rape in cyberspace is so emotionally disturbing. Common excuses like her skirt was short, she was asking for it, don’t really apply in the MOO and so when someone is raped it’s not their body but their soul that is violated. Before having played the game, I didn’t really understand how attached one could get to a character/avatar that we couldn’t see. Now I understand that the fact we use our imagination to partially understand the characters makes it all the more intimate.

Did you find yourself imagining the setting and people in the game?

Based on your experiences in the MOO, do you think that it is possible to create “real” friendships online?

2014: A Space Odyssey

The RFID utopia is relatively small in comparison to its dystopia. The pros of the technology are quickly consumed by the cons. In case you were wondering, RFIDs are chips which allow information to be transferred along radio waves. According to Wikipedia, multiple books can be checked out all at once without even opening the front covers in libraries that use RFID technology. My new passport has an RFID chip in it which has the same information as my passport, meaning that I can check myself onto an international flight using a kiosk, no more lines! My friend Morgan’s Michigan drivers’ license has a chip too. It allows the state to check on Morgan’s location. This could be helpful if she were kidnapped. Or if the government were trying to keep tabs on Morgan. RFID chips are how many farmers keep track of their livestock. It’s about the same thing with a human being…right? In fact, some people are choosing to have the chips implanted. According to Andy Greenberg, “The practical appeal of an RFID implant, in theory, is quick authentication that’s faster, cheaper and more reliable than other biometrics like thumbprints or facial scans.”

 

But how safe is our data? According to an article by Annalee Newitz for Wired magazine, it is not that hard to hack these RFID cards to gather information. Not only can hackers access your information, but they can also duplicate the signals. This means that hackers can gain access to your hotel room by merely bumping into you. How long before we are all required to wear RFID badges like these Texan students? Like Kayla, in The Bar Code Tattoo (one of my favorite books growing up), those of us who refuse RFID implants or badges may face serious consequences. While this may seem far fetched or even paranoid, what was once considered sci-fi is quickly becoming reality. As members of Generation Y, it is our responsibility to consider the consequences of ‘easy access.’

Can Twitter Become a Serious Public Forum?

My thoughts on Twitter are extremely biased. I do not use Twitter very much because I don’t think that these bite sized thoughts don’t have much going for them. I do not like to use Twitter because I find the most updates to be asinine and because of the difficulty of having a worthwhile discussion in such a short space.

Dibbell says, “by forcing users to commit their thinking to the bite-size form of the public tweet, Twitter may be giving a powerfully productive new life to a hitherto underexploited quantum of thought: The random, fleeting observation.” Sure, a series of observations can be very helpful in order to describe an event. However, when taken out of context these observations can work against us. For example, could you imagine what Twitter would have looked like on September 11, 2001? The bombardment of information true or untrue, complete or incomplete would have been overwhelming. Any attempts to wade through the swamp of updates would have been nearly impossible. Twitter requires us to be at least succinct if not clever and enlightening. My experience composing thick tweets showed me just how difficult a task this is. Using word shortcuts, converting web addressing via tinyurl.com, and forgoing proper punctuation for the sake of attempting to communicate ideas is difficult, particularly when the idea consists of more than our breakfast lattes. Dibbell warns, “Sure, it’s easy to dismiss Twitter because of the content… But that would be a mistake.” Julian believes that Twitter has the potential to be more and cites TV as an example of a medium, which though dubious at the start has become a force for social change. While mindlessly tweeting can be fun, successfully composing a tweet with multiple layers of information is hard, especially if we try to do so without linking to an outside source. I don’t believe that Twitter’s 140 characters can replace TV or news websites as a public forum for discussion. However, I do believe that a witty tweet (see below for example), can stimulate theories and ideas, which can be elaborated upon in other platforms.

New Media Memoir (Blog #1)

Emily Beaupré

The first time I remember using a computer I was pretty young. My parents are on the older side and are not particularly computer savvy. The computer in our house was used mostly so my father could write his dissertation to get his doctoral degree in political science. If I was lucky enough to get to use the computer, it was to play Pajama Sam for at most an hour. I began to lose interest in the computer as the levels of Pajama Sam got too difficult. I returned to playing with my dogs outside and watching cartoons. Later on, in about fourth grade, I started to use the internet. It was neither computer games, nor MySpace that brought me back to the PC, it was the dawn of AIM.

On page fifteen, van Dijk states that, “After a period of habituation, the quantity of informal and intimate communications in computer networks increases. Eventually there arises a (sub)culture of electronic communication with new norms, language, and behavior.”

I’d always had trouble in my keyboarding class. I was never particularly interested in typing anything, but the prospect of talking to my friends without having to call them on the phone had me revved up and ready to give this computer thing another go. Things went pretty slow at first, during this habituation stage, I had to actually use what I’d been taught in keyboarding class. Then one day it all clicked, my hands magically knew where to go. My muscle memory kicked in and now I could successfully participate in my online conversations. I quickly became acquainted with instant messaging culture and language like ‘lol’ and ‘omg.’ I learned the difference between ‘brb’, ‘bbl’, and ‘gtg’ along with the standard wait time for each.

As the glossary of emoticons increased, so did my feelings of connection.  I became more involved with my friends because I didn’t have to call their house and ask if Grace and Claire were home, with instant messenger my phone shyness wasn’t a problem. I could talk to my friends about the latest episode of a TV show, just minutes after it had ended. I didn’t have to wait until school the next day to get the scoop on what happened in Degrassi the night before! Learning how to type opened the door to communicating with my friends and that was just the beginning.

On page three, Gitelman and Pingree discuss on page three, “the notion that because of their greater transparency, new media supersede their predecessors…”

While I agree with this statement on the most part, I believe that the idea needs to be developed further. The arrival of instant messaging in its various forms has superseded the telephone despite the fact that instant messaging is arguably not as transparent as a phone call. In order to use an instant messenger like AIM, one had to boot up her computer, type in her username and password, see if a friend was online, and then type out everything she wanted to say. This whole process took about ten minutes whereas calling someone on the phone only takes about two. On the phone, it’s a lot easier to tell how someone is feeling- it’s very transparent, with instant messaging we have to work to interpret emotions and while emoticons help, miscommunication is very common. Still, we prefer instant messaging to a phone call. Perhaps the phone’s transparency is what drives people to use an instant messenger, a medium that allows us more control over how we are perceived. Furthermore, this same reasoning could be applied to the steadfast popularity of instant messaging despite the advent of Skype.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think about the theory proposed in the final paragraph? Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of any other reasons why instant messaging is still popular despite the transparency of phone and Skype calls?
  2. Do you remember when you first heard about or used Google? What was it like?

This article gives some insight into how new media has and has not affected our generation’s values.