The future is wow

It seems like we as humans are perpetually looking forward, whether it be the advent of mechanics, medicine, auto-mobiles or flying there’s always something around the corner. This is probably a really good thing and what we owe much of our success as a species to, but I believe that as of late while we’ve been looking forward to immense technological innovations like driverless cars, space exploration/ transport, even more powerful smart devices, smart houses and more we’ve forgotten to stop and smell the roses. The roses although pretty and cool may have some hidden thorns which we haven’t fully come to terms with. In this analogy roses are the internet/ personal devices/ the interconnectedness of the modern world and the thorns are how these technologies do and will effect our society in deep and complex ways.

smartphone1
(Source: MarketWatch)

I’m definitely not the first person to say ‘hey, maybe social media etc. are messing us up a bit?’, that’s a significant portion of a Communications and Media degree. And there are of course a bunch of great academics and smart people who have written countless articles attempting to detail these effects both present and in the future. A good smart person along these lines is Sherry Turkle who said in reference to this whole idea…

“We used to look to machines for physical help. Now we feel we are missing things on an emotional and spiritual dimension and we look to the machine world”
(Svensson, Goldberg, 2015)

Technology seems to be becoming more and more integrated with our lives. Although it won’t happen maybe we should be looking around studying the effects before we run down this path into the unknown. These effects, being so complex and confusing are obviously hard to identify, study and quantify although there are some existing studies that have found evidence of our technologies negatively affecting our society. One study in particular found a link between compulsive internet use and ‘less comfort and fewer skills in interpersonal settings’ (Caplan, 2005).

As we seem to race forward to all these awesome new technologies, we will be faced with new challenges both technological and social which we will have to deal with at some point. The technological problems are a lot easier to identify and solve while the social problems will likely fester until we can’t look away. In the meantime driverless cars and personalised robots sound sweet. Also there should be more female tech entrepreneurs.

elon musk1.jpg
(Source: Boing Boing)

References

Caplan, S. (2005) A Social Skill Account of Problematic Internet Use, Journal of Communication

Goldberg, Svensson, (2015). Between Humanities and the Digital, MIT Press, https://goo.gl/BPRspe

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Sticking or Walkies

“Sticking”: As soon as the animal is stunned, it is shackled by a hind leg and then, within seconds, the large blood vessels are severed to induce bleeding (RSPCA, 2016)

“The only consistency in the way humans think about animals is inconsistency.”
(Herzog, 2010)

Western societies have an incredibly skewed image of animals. Animals seem to be lumped into different categories, depending on what we want from them and each category of animal is viewed and treated impressively different from one another.
While a middleground somewhat exists for exotic and endangered species such as orangutans, I’ll be more looking at the disparity between anthropomorphised, often domesticated animals like cats, dogs and birds to run of the mill cattle which we enjoy eating en masse.

Pets hold a special place within our culture. Often they are referred to as family, we spend thousands of dollars on their food, health, boarding and more. Funny pictures ofpingu2 cats and dogs were pretty much the origin of memes as we know them today and they are definitely still a significant part of the digital media landscape as evident by the excessive amount of popular pet instagram pages.
The anthropomorphism of animals is shoved in our faces from the get go. A significant proportion of popular kids TV shows and movies are based around an Aardvark with a school backpack and social issues kids to can relate to, or a similar variation. Me personally, I was into Pingu. Before I could walk or talk I was rolling around the house saying ‘Meh Meh’.

Adults, while pretending to not enjoy anthropomorphistic children’s shows and movies as much as their kids are able to revel in Attenborough’esque animal documentaries, giving ‘real insight into the unadulterated daily lives of the animals’. Through these documentaries people admire the awesomeness of nature and develop a deep respect and love for the power, beauty and rawness of animals getting amongst it, naturally in the wild as if we weren’t there. Although as discussed in the BCM 310 lectures, these documentaries are often highly planned and manipulated while also conveniently letting us forget about our impact on the natural environment. While across society we develop and maintain a love and acceptance of animals as either part of the family or awesome beasts, animals which shoot out milk and/ or have a tasty rump have a tougher time.

“As pets, as performers, and as literary symbols, animals are forced to perform
us our fantasies and fears, our questions and quarrels, our hopes and horrors.”
(Una Chaudhuri, 2003)

thats-okay-ill-make-lambIn general, we like to eat a lot of meat. 98% of males in Australia over the age of 19 exceed the recommended 65g daily red meat intake and this staggeringly high intake of red meat is attributed to 1/6 cases of Colon cancer (Nagle, et. al, 2015) (although the health aspect is another issue altogether).  Two reasons I believe we manage to change our views regarding livestock are firstly that we are able to disassociate our ‘meat’ to living animals and secondly, on a personal level we’re happily naive about the whole thing and would prefer not look. When you buy pork from the supermarket neatly and tidily, packed into containers in 250g increments it’s hard to connect it to the pig/ pigs that were born, raised, breathed, thought and had emotions until they were sent to the abattoir and dismembered. Not only does, the packaging and processing of meat make it hard for us to make this real world connection but also it’s hard to look away from a cultural norm. The biggest thing that influences the meat industry is the supply/ demand set by us. While everyone has different understandings and opinions on the matter I feel like many people are happily unaware of the more gritty origins of their tender steak loins (no judgement from me).

I’m not vegetarian and I’m not sure if I ever will be. While I know the information is out there detailing how meat ends up on our plates, at this point I’d rather not look. Besides I’m pretty busy taking care of all my pets.

References

Chaudhuri, Una (2003) Defacing the Animal: Zooesis and Performance, New York University,
https://www.academia.edu/12558080/Defacing_the_Animal_Zooesis_and_Performance

Herzong, Hal (2010). Some we love, some we hate, some we eat : why it’s so hard to think straight about animals, HarperCollins Publishers Inc, https://goo.gl/kqd1Bk

Nagle, Christina M.; Wilson, Louise F.; Hughes, Maria Celia B.; Ibiebele, Torukiri I.; Miura, Kyoko; Bain, Christopher J.; Whiteman, David C.; Webb, Penelope M. (2015). Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to the consumption of red and processed meat., Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health, https://goo.gl/vXQ7gr

RSPCA (2016). How Are Animals Killed for Food?, http://kb.rspca.org.au/how-are-animals-killed-for-food_477.html

Poverty Porn or Poverty Awareness?

The resounding popularity of programs such as SBS’ ‘Struggle Street’ has raised questions as to whether or not we as a society are watching these shows as somewhat of a guilty pleasure, enjoying the suffering and hardships of families and individuals of low socio-economic backgrounds for our own entertainment or self-esteem bolstering. If this is true, we as a society suck.

struggle street (Source: SBS, 2015)

Gay Alcorn, a Guardian journalist wrote an article in 2015 titled ‘Struggle street is only poverty porn if we enjoy watching, then turn away’ (Alcorn, 2015). While the article goes on to seriously address the issue of poverty porn in much greater detail, I believe the argument summed up in the title is how we should understand and address poverty porn. While it is true, that we should be more aware of the exploitation of poverty for entertainment and money even Struggle Street in its questionable approach to presenting the issue, did put real poverty on the national stage and into the laps of comfy middle and upper-class Australians.

Poverty is an uncomfortably real issue in Australia. In October 2016, ACOSS released a new report revealing that poverty is growing in Australia, with an estimated 2.9 million people or 13.3% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line. (ACOSS, 2016) For a leading, developed country, one of the showqueens of Western capitalist society, 13.3% sucks. Which is why awareness is so critical. There is a risk and almost a likelihood, that people will be exploited as poverty is pushed as a major issue. It wouldn’t be the first time that journalists or producers exploited someone but with poverty as such a real and pressing issue, poverty needs to have a presence in the media so that the public is informed.

While it’s hard to imagine how we can help a family of 4 struggling to in rural Australia it’s important to remember our power as voters. Our elected state and federal politicians are only there because we put them there and the policies they develop and implement regarding welfare, employment, the economy and a whole bunch more are essentially our policies. With our votes shaping the poverty line in Australia, it’s important that we’re informed as best possible about the situation. And when stats and numbers aren’t doing it for us a personal encounter as digitized as it may be is a way to open our eyes to what’s really going on around us.

voting (Source: Jonathan Ng)

In summary, poverty is a very real issue in Australia that voters need to be aware of. One of the best ways to raise awareness on a widespread, national scale is through television programs. There are some media and TV producers out there who will likely exploit marginalised and not well off people which will suck and networks should be aware and strict about that as a potential issue, but I really believe that that is the way forward and effect real social change. At the end of the day its up to us as individuals, as succintly written by Mrs. Gay Alcorn, ‘It’s only poverty porn, if we enjoy watching then turn away’.

References

Acoss. (2016) Poverty In Australia 2016, http://www.acoss.org.au/poverty/

Alcorn, Gay. (2015) Struggle Street is only poverty porn if we enjoy watching, then turn away, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/15/struggle-street-is-only-poverty-porn-if-we-enjoy-watching-then-turn-away

World Vision. (2017) Why Your Vote Matters, https://www.worldvision.com.au/get-involved/advocacy/vgen-youth/why-your-vote-matters

Procrastination Buster Critique

Aims

Sage’s aim for the ‘Procrastination Buster’ was to be a resource/ utility that could “empower” students to harness their attention and “accomplish their goals”. Procrastination is definitely something that I struggle with and I know that a lot of other people do as well and I think her aim of providing that social utility was a great idea and well thought out. Sage’s initial plan was to design the Procrastination Buster as an app for smartphones, it’s main function being restricting apps. While this was a great idea I don’t think it was logisitcally planned out and led to complications and a revised plan. Although the design plan for the project changed throughout the semester her aims stayed consistent and were the strongest part of her project.

Trajectory

Likely the biggest issue with Sage’s product was the trajectory. While the aim was great, she set the bar too high in wanting it designed as an app. I heard the pitch in week 6 in which she mentioned collaborating with ‘Hackagong’ participants or her brother which I learnt fell through during her beta in week 13. In week 13 Sage presented a revised plan for Procrastination Buster which honestly sounded much better and even more functional. Unfortunately at that point it was too late to create such a resource and she noted that, if she came to that conclusion or even earlier within the semester the website variation would of been achievable and a really great resource. Sage did mention she hopes to work on the project in future which would be really useful and she could spend as much time as she needed really perfecting the site and it’s functions. While the app design was a great idea due to the fact that smartphones play a huge role in procrastination, it was too ambitious given the time frame and her lack of experience with app design.

Concepts

The concepts Sage was working with for her project were great in that they were relevant, practical and realistic.

Empowering/ down with procrastination

Sage talked about her own problems with procrastination and how that affected her uni work but procrastination is a universal problem and everyone experiences it to varying degrees. From the start, I thought that Sage’s project was one of the strongest in terms of its social utility. Not only does it sound good in theory but it actually really work. After countless personal hours wasted and discussions with friend about how procrastinations the worst Procrastination Buster definitely had the potential to become widely used and popularised not only among uni students but people in general. Uni students are definitely at the forefront of procrastination battles juggling social lives, rapid changes and entering into adulthood against looming assignment deadlines but anyone and everyone experiences procrastination and if there’s a resource that helps me combat that I’ll definitely use or pay for that service.

Specific features distract us

Sage highlighted that one of the key forces in procrastinating was technology. Modern technologies help us do more than ever but also distract us more than ever and while this point is largely agreed upon Sage did really well in not blackballing technology but zoning in on the features that distract us, specifically apps. Although Sage moved away from this app idea as she it was “too intrusive” and “too hard to code” I think that concept was great and a good foundation for the project.

Assessments

Sage’s revised plan focused more around the concept of assessments and how we manage our workflow. While I did like the app idea, the assessment focus seemed both more realistic and favoured among students who were wary of an over intrusive app. The aim of the project was essentially in empowering people to get these assessments done, so refocusing towards an app that breaks down assessments into trackable, achievable goals was a really smart move.

Methodology

The biggest aspect to note regarding Sage’s methodology was her process of ideation. She had range of really great ideas concerning her first project design which she obviously put a lot of thought into which included nominating blocked apps with unlock breaks, parent lock, gps verification, analytics, emergency unlock and even a paid version with extra features which was designed based on evidence that it’s best to study in chunks. Between her presentations she went through the process of ideation/ redesign which was informed by her own attempts and more research, most notably she did a survey of class members regarding their procrastination habits. While she didn’t have much to show in terms of a product, she was honest and open about it and obviously let her ideation/ research process honestly inform how she restructured it.

Beta demonstration feedback

Although Sage didn’t have a product to present for her beta demonstration her presentation was succinct and honest and it seemed really achievable as a future project. As cool as the app design would have been the second design in the beta was much more achievable, less intrusive but still held true to the great aims and social utility she began with. I honestly hope she makes the site soon as I’ll definitely be an avid user I think the new direction was a good move in that it’s less intrusive, is accessible from different devices and you can aim the site to be more resource/ community based.

Suggestions

Sage mentioned she wasn’t sure whether she would design the site with the accounts feature. My suggestion would be to make sure that uses user accounts, one of the strongest aspects of her later design was that there was the potential to create a community with the focus of beating procrastination where people can share their own opinions, tips and resources. Without this account feature the site, while useful wouldn’t be something people would want or need to return to.

After creating the website the Procrastination Buster can go anywhere whether that’s an app format or designed for education systems or more. As the project expands Sage could definitely look at collaborating with institutions like the university so that it can be designed as well as possible and reach a large number of people.

The Internet of Things

To explain my meme finale, it’s referring to the incessant notifications I get from Google asking, when I go a shop with my phone in my pocket, location services on and when I get home, I log onto my laptop and it’s asking me to review my experience at the shop. Not cool Google, track me and my shopping habits, fine, but just don’t make me overly aware of it because it’s terrifying.

This is a bit of a cathart for me regarding my increasing anxiety about the ever increasing ‘Internet of Things’, which is essentially the interconnectedness of our technology and how they communicate. The ‘Internet of Things’ opens a bit of a pandora’s box, calling into question our memory, creation, materiality and existence. While this interconnectedness is great in many respects, I’m not sure how much I trust the companies behind these products. Companies such as Google, who’s primary form of business is in gathering massive amounts of data, the more personal the better.

I’m overly keen for automated cars which work in an integrated network, smart homes with talking fridges and personalised music playlists coming out of nowhere but I think the ‘Internet of Things’ is expanding too fast to keep our rights to privacy in check. Anyways talking fridges > privacy.

 

Dark Fiber

If I ever do anything terrible I’ll make sure not to post it online. The net is honestly a bit of a screw fest of shady people with bad intentions. While I was more than happy with the internet early this afternoon the research I’ve done in the last couple hours has brought out a subtle fear that I’ve always had that the internet might be a terrible place.

Between hackers, cyberwars and little to no chance of erasing history it’s a bad place to mess up. Coupled with this is the bitter sweet aspect of anonymity. While it allows for a great deal of freedom, anonymity also allows for a great deal of fraud and confusion. Whether it be fraud, theft or false flag attacks it’s somewhat commonplace on the net.

While I guess our great, lovely, beneficial technology being our undermining isn’t an entirely new idea *see  ‘Terminator 1 – 7’ or ‘The Cold War’, it’s easy to forget and our own cyber security/ safety is largely in our own hands.

Digital Resistance

So to explain my meme, ‘Bad Luck Brian’ = Bad luck United States/ NSA. Specifically referring to the Snowden leak. While I’ll dodge talking too much about the ever expanding monitoring by governments it does heavily tie into the idea of ‘digital resistance’ and it’s roots.

As our society becomes increasingly digitized, the reach of hackers is extended, giving an impressive amount of unsolicited power to anyone with minimal tech and the know-how. As a wise man once said ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ – (Uncle Ben, 2002).

The power of hackers is evident in modern society, whether it be the recent US election hack, Snowden leak or one of the plethora of other Wikileak leaks. The stigma of hackers has rapidly changed from edgy teen hooligans depicted in the 1995 film ‘Hackers’, to the criminals stealing my card details to foreign governments influencing our election.

One thing that has remained has been the polarised opinion of hackers within society. While there are hacker role models such as Julian Assange who idealise hacking as the great truth unveiler there are bad hackers or are more inclined towards the ‘anarchy’ roots of hacking. It’s impossible to have a black or white opinion in regards to hacking/ hacktivism and it’s only in the middle ground where we can facilitate a discussion which begins to address to the ever growing number of hackers prevalent in our society.

 

Social Network Revolutions

So my latest Oprah meme is definitely more positive than the others but with good reason. Social media has revolutionised the way we revolute.

As of 2015, there are 3.2 billion people using the internet [1]. That’s a lot of people who are able to view, share, comment on and like content they likely wouldn’t of otherwise seen. Social media as a tool for social upheaval and change is evident in an incredible number of cases from the Arab Spring uprisings, Ferguson riots, annexing of Crimea and many many more. Of course there are downsides to our newfound interconnectedness such as increased surveillance, mass misinformation, a deeper (but shrinking) digital divide and more but on the whole things are going good.

The role of politicians in most democratic societies is to carry out the will of the people. As we’ve seen time and time again this often hasn’t gone to plan for a number of reasons which I wont even attempt to address but social media has been, and is increasingly an awesome tool to quantifiably understand the will of the people. Political parties such as the Australian party Flux are championing the pinnacle of how digital social technologies could play into politics. Digital social technologies wont be the centerpiece of our democracy anytime soon, but it’s interesting to see their ever increasing role in our political system and their potential for rapid, widespread change in many social arenas.

 

References

[1] http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/press_releases/2015/17.aspx#.WAnPGIXY5mp

The Transformation of Journalism

Citizen journalism has grown as a phenomenon since the advent of the internet. Data has grown as at exponential rate and a significant proportion of that content falls under citizen journalism.

As trust in media conglomerates declined, produser friendly platforms such as Twitter appeared as white knights. Quick, easy and in bulk these platforms allow anyone to share and repost content which is transmitted to the world. This has allowed for previously unheard stories to go viral, ugly truths to be uncovered and in general just a whole lot more openness in the world as every story becomes live and every opinion is heard. The mass accessibility of platforms like Twitter is both their greatest strength and greatest weakness. Every story and opinion is accessible but there are so many that a huge number of these tweets and stories are in the lost in the digital sea.

As a result of this, data aggregates are key in our new digital age and while content has rapidly lost value the value of organising data has skyrocketed

Apple iOS vs Google Android

In 2012, over 91 days, Apple sold on average 645,000 iOS devices per day. Sorry these stats aren’t more up to date but I think this still speak volumes about Apple’s market saturation.

While there are more Android smartphones sold than iPhones, Apple has managed to create a significant, closed garden community with a passionate fanbase. Google’s Android software is an open source operating system allowing awesome freedom for developers and users alike.

Staying within the confines of the Apple world is comfortable, easy and integrated with others but their products are super limiting and impressively expensive. Recently, after many years of iOS use I bought an Android in place of an iPhone. Honestly, as much as I want to sound like a super hacker it was almost all down to price. The One Plus X I purchased was $349 rather than dropping $1000+ on an iPhone. After an initial bit of OS change inertia I started to become aware of the new found freedom I had in Android, downloading gameboy emulators, changing my ringtones to hilarious recordings and super quickly taking audio and videos on and off my phone.

While I know I’m only scratching the surface of what I can do with my phone it’s pretty sweet so far and I’m certain I won’t be returning to the pricey comfort of Apple anytime soon.