Goodbye to COMM200!

Once a week for two and a half hours, I sat in the same seat, next to the same person (Ben), and listened to lectures and presentations about the pros, cons, and possibilities of using new media. I had known Ben before the start of the semester, but everyone else was an unfamiliar face. Over the course of fifteen weeks I learned different reasonable outlooks on technology, I learned that I was surrounded by a classroom full of passionate and interesting peers, but most importantly I learned about the way a communications course, or any course for that matter, should be run.

Many of the readings from the syllabus, such as “Is Google Making us Stupid” or “To Catch a Predator? The Myspace Moral Panic” originally lead me to believe that the tone of the course was anti-new media. But the diversity of students in the class made it possible for open ended discussions, many of which lead to heavy criticism of the articles. I really appreciated the level of comfort I felt in voicing my opinion, without feeling like I could be wrong. Every class should have that same level of respect from student to teacher, teacher to student, and students to one another. 

Another aspect of the class that I appreciated was the extensive opportunity for group work. The article presentation and the new media artifact required each group member to heavily trust and rely on each other for a good grade. Ben and I randomly recruited Rianne to work as a group of three, unaware at the time that she would become a hard worker, hilarious team member, and great friend. We actually had fun working on our presentation about the syllabus readings, and I’m not just saying that to win grade points on this blog post. We put in equal work and respected each other, so much so that we decided to work together again on the new media artifact. The video we created, Sh*t New Media Users Say, was so much fun to create and promote. I really enjoyed getting to know Rianne along with the other people in this section. Everyone has their own interesting story once you finally get to learn about them. 

As I move on from this class, I definitely plan to change the way I use new media. I’ve made this decision based on my experience with the New Media Fast, class discussions, syllabus readings, and blog postings. This change won’t be to become less dependent on technology. Quite the opposite actually; I plan to utilize new media and the internet to its fullest potential. Many of the readings from the syllabus show an obvious resistance to the growing popularity of new media usage. But the fact remains: we are in the age of technology, and new media prevalence is going to keep increasing regardless of how we feel about it. As an advertising/public relations major, I’ve decided to use these facts to my advantage and get my name out there on the internet in attempts to brand myself for future employees while showing a thorough understanding of different types of new media. The idea started with this blog, which I’ve already sent to people as a portfolio of my writing. I recently expanded my brand to Google+, LinkedIn, About.me, and twitter. I’ve included links to those sites below. My group presented on Clay Shirky’s article “Ontology is Overrated.” In this article, he points out that the internet is one big mess of information, but it is designed to work efficiently under that condition. I’m excited to incorporate new media further into my life in the future, crediting part of any success to COMM200.

For the last two and a half hour class period of the semester I sat in the same seat, but this time I was surrounded by familiar and friendly classmates, listening to confident presenters give their honest opinions and experiences about our final Digital Artifact Project. If this isn’t a sign of a successful communications course, then I don’t know what is. 

Jessica Furman – Google+

Jessica Furman – LinkedIn

Jessica Furman – About.me

Jessica Furman – Twitter

Lambda What?

I had never heard of LambdaMOO until this assignment, and in all honesty, despite this passionate writer’s apparent love for the program, I’m still not clear about the concept after reading the article. What I’ve gathered is that LambdaMoo is an online chat room virtual reality, but that it works with text only rather than avatars. 

Before I elaborate on my opinion about this program, let me offer a background on how highly I value communication skills. No, internet lovers, not communicating through a computer screen. I strongly believe that being able to effectively communicate with others face-to-face is one of the most important skills that a human can possess. Strong people skills help you to build meaningful relationships, make connections in the business world, and leave a relevant impression on everyone you meet. I came to Loyola last fall without knowing anyone. I had to move in with three girls I had never met before and start from scratch meeting people and building friendships. Now, eight months later as I’m getting ready to leave for the summer, I can confidently say that the biggest lesson I learned was how to be comfortable opening up and communicating with others. The skill of face-to-face communication will benefit me far more than any math problem or exam. 

That being said, the informational article on LambdaMoo actually made me sad. The author writes “This really begins to cultivate the real world feeling” and “Get ready to be able to hold a conversation!” What I would like to ask the author is.. if a person is striving to attain the “real world feeling,” then why don’t they go into the REAL WORLD and have some face-to-face interactions! I can guarantee that the person will benefit more from a conversation that involves speaking and eye contact rather than just talking. I don’t mean to be insensitive; I’m sure many people aren’t comfortable with speaking in person, in which case LambdaMOO would be a great place. But if I could offer a piece of advice to anyone who comes across this article, it would be to face your fears and talk to someone. In person. It helped me greatly and it will help you too. 

Below I added a photo of some of the friends I’ve made at school. Introducing myself to them and holding a conversation has made me the communicator I am today.

Image

Short, Sweet, and to the Point

I’ve been passionate about writing for as long as I can remember. I used to come home from grade school and write fiction stories in a beat-up yellow spiral notebook that I found in the back of my closet, and I’d be praised after showing the final products to my family. As a result, I’ve also always been confident in my writing abilities. But my first real work experience as an intern with a non-profit organization taught me that people in the business world have no interest in reading pages upon pages of “fluffy” words. I was told one day by my boss to write a press release about an upcoming event, and despite my lack of experience, I got right to work writing down everything I knew about the company in long-paragraph form. I was happy to march back to her desk with a two page report in hand.

Needless to say, if you have any experience with press releases, I underwent a pretty extensive revision process.

Turns out, my boss preferred to read news that is short, sweet, and to the point. She told me that journalists and readers of the news would agree and no one would read an article as long as the one I had written. I couldn’t find my finished product online, but a  very similar press release about the same event can be found here.

This same “short and sweet” theory is perfectly exemplified by Twitter. In a humble 140 words or less celebrities, businesses, and “regular people” alike can communicate anything from a new business venture to what’s for lunch today. Julian Dibbell, in the “Future of Social Media” article, explains that there is not one answer to the question “why use twitter?” Different people have all different reasons for tweeting, but a major one is referred to as microblogging. A tweet is a short and concise way to send information only to people who have an interest in what you are saying, and Dibbell refers to this form of communication as a low-maintenance way to make connections with others. The article is a bit outdated, as Twitter has grown exponentially since it was written nearly two years ago in 2009. Dibbell asks is Twitter “something bigger than a niche pursuit?” I think we can agree that, judging by its continued popularity, the website was indeed a profitable and useful idea.

A few weeks after my press release incident with the non-profit, I was asked to create a video about the organization to be entered into a contest. I created the video along with another intern, and the first round of the contest entailed receiving as many views on YouTube as possible. We used tools such as twitter to show our work to everyone we knew. Not only did we win the first round (proving the wide influence of twitter), but we won the entire contest, earning a grand prize of $6,000 for the charity. I posted the video below to be an example of the power of a twitter account.

Invacare Contest Video

 

Wikipedia: Anyone Can Do It

Britney Spears

According to Stacy Schiff, Wikipedia has become the seventeenth-most-popular site on the internet ever since it’s launch in 2001. With an open editing process that enables anyone to feel like an important contributor, this statistic is not surprising. What did surprise me about the article, however, is that Wikipedia is a non-profit organization. It carries no advertising (which I’d never noticed before) and has only five employees.Founder Jimmy Wales is on a mission to successfully produce an accurate, free, public encyclopedia using collective knowledge. 

Wikipedia is known by teachers around the world as being non-reliable, as it can be edited by anyone at any time. When I created my free Wikipedia account I was prompted through various steps and instructions. One of the steps in the tutorial talked about editing. They didn’t give any punishable guidelines, but they “recommended” that any editors only add information that has been previously and reliably published, and also that they cite their sources. When I read this I discovered the reason this site is so popular. People like to feel powerful, and Wikipedia lets them do just that by trusting them to do the right thing, rather than forcing them to do so. In the link included above, Britney Spears’ page has been edited over 200 times, or at least over 200 people have cited information that has been edited. 

I love the line in Schiff’s article that says Wales had “developed a system that does not favor the Ph.D. over the well-read fifteen year old.” Wales says of his editors “I don’t care if they’re a high school kid or a college professor.” This radical way of thinking is the reason why 200,000 users are registered to edit on the English site, and why we are getting closer every day to having an accurate and trustworthy online organization of knowledge.

Texting: Effects on Our Youth

The above photo showing a toddler’s fascination with a cell phone is  perfect transition into a question that many people want to know the answer to: is texting negatively affecting our youth? As a student in a New Media class and as the big sister of a teenager who would rather send a text than have a face-to-face conversation, I am also curious to find the answer to this question. Although I believe it’s necessary for youth to be technologically literate, studies have been done to prove that excessive texting comes with its fair share of  risks.

As I planned my strategy for finding answers to this pressing question, I couldn’t help but think back to Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid.” My first thought was to Google “kids texting,” which isn’t exactly the most academically correct way to research. After refining my search to “kids+texting+effects” on Google Scholar, I found a few articles that I believe would be helpful in researching the topic.

Acquired Cognitive Behavior Changes

The link above leads to an article about studies that have shown a less accurate response in cognitive function tasks for kids who use their phones excessively. The interesting part of this article is that the studies also show a faster response rate, which can display an advantage of technological literacy.

Kids Connected, Parents Concerned

This second article highlights the possible dangers of excessive texting, including loss of focus and troubles with spelling. This article would be helpful and interesting in research because it refers to excessive texting as an “addiction,” something with which I would agree, and it also offers real-life experiences with the problem from a fifteen year old texter.

Effects of New Tech

This third link leads to an interesting article that would benefit a researcher. The author recognized concerns of adults that new technology leads to isolation. He then weighs these concerns against opinions of skilled therapists. Based upon research, these opinions will be valid and beneficial to a research paper.

Finally, the link below leads to a YouTube video voicing some common concerns about texting as children. (I found this link by searching “kids texting” on YouTube; sorry Nicholas Carr!)

Late Night Texting Affecting Teens Health

Dangerously Competent: Youth Access to the World Wide Web

“Alyssa Fletcher commented on your status update!” This is the message I saw displayed on my iPhone before sitting down to start this post. As a college student, I most often have my cell phone and lap top near at hand.

I’ll gladly admit that I dramatically rolled my eyes at the word “technopanic” at the beginning of Marwick’s article. As I read on, I was pleased to discover that Marwick seems to share my opinion that panic over the “dangers” of technology  has been exaggerated over the past two decades. Passionate “Mommy bloggers” publish non-credible opinions all over the internet about what can happen to our youth if the government doesn’t restrict access to social networking websites considered “harmful to minors.” The question is, what exactly does “harmful to minors” mean anyway? Politicians continuously try to pass laws creating barriers on the internet, but the Supreme Court still has yet to come up with a definition for the term.

Before I continue my argument, be sure not to confuse me with some crazy liberal. When I become a mother, I sure as hell don’t want my six year olds looking at cyber porn or meeting strangers on MySpace. But I do believe that restrictions are being made on the internet for the wrong reasons. As Marwick mentioned, the movement is more of a “fear of modernity” rather than a fear of predators.

Children are becoming increasingly literate when it comes to technology, and adults feel threatened by their knowledge and the power shift that can result from it. For this reason, the media publicizes all of the bad news that comes from websites, especially MySpace. We have seen countless stories about predators meeting up with and causing harm to minors, but many of these stories have proven to be inaccurate. In society today, almost everyone we know has some kind of online account. With such a large population of people using the internet, there is bound to be some percentage of people who are using it for illegal activity, just as in the offline world.

It’s time for pre-technology era adults to face the facts: new technology, especially social networking, is part of society. Kids are going to use it and going to continue increasing their digital competancy. The teen in the link below has encountered extreme fame and success through his knowledge of posting videos on the internet. If you think technology and social networking can only cause harm, please take a look at the video by clicking the link, and then tell me you don’t want your children to be as digitally literate as they can be.

Justin Bieber

 

A Delicious Discovery

Anyone who works with or uses the internet on a regular basis knows the frustrating feeling of not being able to remember which password variation matches up with which website. I can say firsthand that the number of online accounts is overwhelming, and I haven’t even been introduced to half of them. I was reluctant to create a Delicious account for that reason. I didn’t want another username/password combination to remember and I didn’t have time to sit around and teach myself how to navigate a new site. 

But Delicious is easy. In fact, my technologically challenged mother could probably teach herself the ins and outs of an account. Upon sign up, I was prompted to drag an icon to my bookmarks bar that I just have to click whenever I find a website that I want to add to my links. I immediately tested it out by looking up a video I had watched earlier about the Susan G. Komen news. Sure enough, all I had to do was simply press the button and the website was linked to my page. I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of this site and I definitely see myself using it into the future for any articles or websites that I find interesting. 

While I don’t want to fill my “links” page with a bunch of garbage or mindless articles, I had to add a link to a fashion website I found. It takes snapshots of people on the streets in various cities, which will be a useful tool for me before I pack for trips or go shopping. Now that it’s on my page I can access it at any time. 

My Delicious account can be found at http://www.delicious.com/jessica_furman. .

Another site I introduced myself to this week is Google Reader. I first subscribed to wired.com, whitehouse.gov, New York Times technology, and Forbes Tech Information. But after seeing how easy it is to have all my articles sent to me, I also subscribed to fashion blogs such as Vogue and Europe Street Style, and finally CNN.com to keep up on breaking news. 

Response to Introduction of “Program or be Programmed”

“We don’t make TV; we watch it.” This quote by Douglass Rushkoff in the introduction of “Program or Be Programmed” is one that I found to be most interesting. Watching programs like Digital Nation leads us to believe that we are taking full advantage of the technology offered to us. In fact, many of these programs suggest that we are taking “too much” advantage, which is leading to our reliance on technology. But in this intro Rushkoff offers the theory that most humans don’t realize the extent of possibilities offered by new technology. For example, we think we are utilizing the full potential of the television by watching it, but few of us know how to make a television. Similarly, we use computers for a majority of work and entertainment, but many of us do not know how to program.

This problem is not new. Ever since the creation of the alphabet lead most people to listen to the literate instead of learning literacy themselves, we have seen this pattern take place. Only now, in the age of technology, is this problem becoming dangerous for humans. Rushkoff points out that humans are limited to the knowledge our brains can hold, but new machinery has an unlimited capacity of knowledge. The “We don’t make TV; we watch it” theory shows that we are always one step behind the capabilities of technology.

It truly scares me that we face the possibility of one day being much less smart than the machines we use. Programs like Digital Nation give a bad name to the over use of technology, but I believe that it’s necessary to be literate when it comes to technology so we can fairly compete with machinery. I agree with Rushkoff’s suggestion that humans should “rethink the limits of the human mind.” While computers seem to be smarter than us, they really only mock our thought processes. If we use our minds to their full potential, we won’t have to worry about being surpassed by machinery.

The article “What’s New About New Media” says that new technologies are always coming about. If we don’t want to be “outsmarted” by technology, we must take full advantage of all the new media we encounter and begin to “make TV” rather than to “watch it.”