Readings 9: Mobile Devices

26 07 2011

Always-on/ Always-on-you: The Tethered Self was a great read.  Turkle illustrates our dependence on media from an unbiased perspective.  She gives a lot of clever examples of how drastically things have changed.  She mentions how if her cell phone rings during a meeting, she knows that it is her young daughter trying to contact her; her co-workers, affiliates, clients, etc. now see her as both a businesswoman and a mother.  Before the digital age, a person could maintain a specific identity for certain groups of people; this is no longer possible.  She also mentions allowing her daughter to go on a New York City field trip and how they are ‘tethered’ together.  If the bus broke down, she explains, she’s a phone call away from help.  They would never have to resort to subway transportation, and there isn’t a sense of autonomy.  I don’t think this is really a bad thing, as children should be introduced to independence in a slow and controlled manner, not by frightening and overwhelming chance occurrences.  “The home as a media center” was also an interesting concept Turkle explores.  A current Verizon commercial advertises that the average household has 4 internet devices, which is legitimately incredible.  The American home is no longer a constant interaction with one another, but rather each family member distracted in their own individual web-world.  The image of dad on the laptop, sister texting, brother playing Xbox Live is now normalcy.  Lastly, the 72-year old woman with a companion robot and ELIZA, the robot therapist each demonstrated the deep connections humans have with machines.  The abandoned elderly lady is able to comfort herself through comforting her companion-bot and ELIZA gives feedback to our emotional issues.  Both cases exemplify the innate desire we have of feeling accepted, whether it is from others, ourselves, or something man-made.  In these instances, the artificial intelligence (or artificial emotion) is a reflection of how we want to be treated.  I now understand why the caption said that many students enjoy this article the most; eye-opening and easy to relate to.

A World of Witnesses showed the potential power of mobile phones.  Using them to conduct a legitimate and official vote for a country is a radical change.  Voting would no longer depend on those who ‘care enough’ to go out an vote, but rather everyone’s voice can be heard.  In the Philippines, huge protests were organized via cell phone and they overthrew their leader.  It gives people a chance to demonstrate their ‘power in numbers.  The other uses mentioned for mobile devices were also intriguing.  Detecting lead paint in toys or polio in poor countries is a huge advancement, especially when it can be immediately addressed.  “Autodetecting” radiation to not only recognize that there is a threat, but to also use GPS technology to locate it could be lifesaving in the future.

China Deputizes Smart Phones to Spy on Residents says a lot about how the Chinese feel about their strict government.  Having their information, location, etc. tracked by their mobile devices makes it virtually impossible for an uprising (like the on in the Philippines in the World of Witnesses article.)  I don’t know if there would be any reason for one, but taking away that possibility is equally suppressive.  People can’t even think of going against the government (1984!)

Your Apps Are Watching You – Applications on smartphones are not as safe as one might assume.  Most share info with third party companies that want to know more about their consumers.  It is disheartening that the average owner is unaware of the fact that they are being taken advantage of for the profit of a random corporation.

Multitasking Can Make You Lose … Um … Focus and The Benefits of Distraction showed two sides of the multi-tasking debate.  One on side, we are obviously unable to focus on multiple activities at once and as a result, we’re unable to focus very well at all.  The other side of the argument is that the human brain is quite malleable and that it has the potential to adapt to a new way of processing information.  The argument about Socrates fearing written word destroying oral communication has showed up again in this article and definitely reassures me that we aren’t all just getting dumber and dumber.  Each new system has a new set of pros, cons, risks and benefits.

Video: Driven to Distraction and Video: Texting While Driving had a pretty clear message: driving and texting kills.  It is virtually equivalent to driving drunk in terms of how much it increases the risk of an accident.  I’m pretty familiar with this idea and never text while driving.  I have gotten the occasional honk because of texting at a red light, though.

Digital Nation showed the solid evidence behind the inefficiency of multitasking.  People who claim to be great multi-taskers are actually quite bad at it and are even more likely to have lower analytical reasoning skills (though it’s important to note that it is correlation and not causation.)  America is, arguably, psychologically addicted to the internet; a good argument supporting this is Asia’s common concern of their teens being ‘addicted’ to video games.  The brain scan that pictured reading vs. googling was interesting; I originally assumed that it meant that google requires us to think more, but actually it is just triggering different parts of the brain.  Where reading is a calm and steady brain activity, googling is an overload that the brain may not optimally process.  He compares it to golf;  a lower ‘score’ is better.  The ‘paragraph’ style of writing that they discuss is obviously something I can relate to; I noticed that all of my reading responses were done in this format.  These are responding to specific articles, though; and usually when I write in essay format, I outline beforehand and try my best to keep it a fluent organized work.  The ultimate point of the chapters we watched was that there are ‘gains and losses.’  Our brains are going to be different, but not necessarily better or worse.




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