Response to Bush’s “As We May Think”

When reading this article by Dr Vannevar Bush, it is important to consider that it was published in the Atlantic magazine in 1945.  He talks about the emergence of new technologies and machines like the typewriter and film cameras, and while some of these machines are now outdated, it is interesting to see how far we have come.  Also in this article Bush talks about recording data and using machines not only to extend man’s physical powers but, “the powers of his mind.”  Also since this article is from 1945 there are some things that I had no idea what he was talking about or had trouble understanding.

In the beginning of this article I found it interesting when Bush talks about how scientists are coming up with new research and ideas that we are able to publish and record easily but the problem is, “that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record.”  He further points out that the published information has a hard time reaching the few who would understand the information.  The internet has been a big help for this problem.  Going back to one of my previous responses to Wesch’s introduction to youtube, Wesch’s ideas in his video were able to reach a great number of people including those in his field, anthropology.  Computers and the internet have made it easier to sort, share, and link information.  However this article is from a time before the internet and personal computers, so it is amusing reading from a perspective where the things we use today like digital cameras and smartphones were unthinkable.  Well even my generation (born in the 80’s) was blown away by these advancements.

It was also interesting when Bush talks about Selection.  He explained this by dialing a phone number and mentions that the process takes a few seconds to select each number.  He further states that we could speed up this process by making the full selection in one-hundredth of a second, but, “No one would wish to spend the money necessary to make this change in the telephone system.”  Yet now we have speed dialing and our phones have contact lists where we no longer have to manually dial or even memorize someone’s phone number.

Going along with not having to memorize Bush states:

“Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways he may even improve, for his records have relative permanency.”

Much of this article he talks about technologies used for recording things like the typewriter, camera, and Voder all of which are tools helping extend the “powers of the mind.”  This also reminds me of a saying I heard from a friend, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.”  It is important to record data.  Our minds our fast and complex but every now and then we become forgetful and it is nice to have machines to help.  However most of the time we think machines are faster but many times they aren’t.  For example instead of punching simple equations into a calculator one should memorize his multiplication tables.  That might be a little too simplistic, but the quotation above and various discussions I’ve had this week are making me rethink jumping into all these new technologies so quickly.

Should we replace mental processes if we have the available technology?  Are we underestimating ourselves by creating machines to extend the power of our minds?


Response to Shirky’s “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone”

Today’s post is on an excerpt from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. This chapter, “Ch1:  It Takes a Village to Find a Phone,” touches on the power of a group effort and how new technologies are changing and/or expanding our social groups. Shirky describes Evan’s story of retrieving his friend’s cell phone by creating a website and gaining enough attention to get the NYPD involved.

Ivanna forgot her phone on a cab and it eventually found its way to Sasha. Ivanna asked her friend Evan to put out a flyer for her lost phone but ended just buying a new $300 cellphone. Ivanna was able to figure out Sasha had her cellphone because pictures and emails were saved on the phone company servers that were transferred to Ivanna’s new phone. When Evan and Ivanna asked Sasha to return the cell phone she said no. Jerk. But Evan was persistent and soon after he created a webpage to make this story public and he created an “army” to side with him. The story ends Spoiler Alert with Sasha getting arrested, Ivanna getting her phone back, and Evan getting freelance PR work.

Now we can discuss the rights and wrongs, fairness and unfairness but this chapter is more about how Evan was able to gain so much attention for this situation, and with a “former audience,” (people who react to, participate in, and even alter a story as it is unfolding.) he was able to get justice. This story definitely reflects this quote that Shirky included

“Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” – Archimedes

Evan’s place was the webpage and his lever were his social connections and later a big audience that attracted the media.

Another interesting point Shirky makes is without our sociability new technology would just be new technology. This is why I felt the need to summarize the the cellphone story in this post. The story itself connects us. Many of have experienced losing a cellphone or other expensive item. Without a story this compelling Evan may not have gotten the same amount of attention using the same web tools. But also Evan would not have gotten the same attention for this story without the tools we have today. We are able to increase sharing and reach the people who are interested and want to get involved. What I mean is a newspaper only reaches so many people. Having a story on the internet can reach a very large audience. People on the internet are searching, tagging, reposting content that relates to them and the internet has made it easier for people to connect with those who have similar interests.

Response to Wesch’s “An anthropological introduction to YouTube”

While this is a long YouTube video (average video: 2-3 minutes) Wesch raises a number of interesting points about YouTube and the people who use it. He talks about how we can connect to each other on a deeper level and have a stronger voice or presence through YouTube.

This website has made it easy for us to upload videos to the internet and it encourages people to Broadcast You. Through YouTube people are broadcasting a part of themselves. They upload videos showing their ideas, talents, tips, emotions and so much more. Wesch mentions the “invisible audience,” which I found quite interesting. He shows us examples of various vlogs in which most of these people are alone talking to a camera. But it doesn’t stop at the camera, the video is uploaded to YouTube where it is made public and the vlogger can have an audience. As one girl puts it, “I’m talking to you but for the time being, I don’t know who you are.” Wesch further explains that because we don’t see the audience at the time or we are often in our private room or home we can show a real side to ourselves. And while we watch others we can, “stare and see for who they are,” and “watch without staring or making them uncomfortable.” and because of this we are able to connect deeply.

I think YouTube just allows a larger audience and easier sharing capabilities. We’ve had the invisible audience notion since the camera was made and it was able to capture sides of people that we don’t usually see.

I also liked how Wesch talked about collaborations across time and space. He first mentions it when he collaborated with someone from the Ivory Coast using his music for his video. He also shows another example with MadV’s “The Message.” This video incorporated people from all over and it was interesting to see that many of them had a similar theme of oneness.  

Response to Johnson and Huberman’s Articles about Twitter

How twitter will change the way we live

In Johnson’s article, “How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live,” he describes how Twitter has become a new way for us to communicate.  One can update his status, discuss with a wider audience, and share a link leading others to an article, video, etc.  He further groups Twitter with many other products of “American innovation,” such as eBay, Wikipedia and Facebook, which have become “lifestyle-changing hit products.”  After reading this article and looking at how my friends and I use Twitter I can see how it has changed the way we live.

Twitter is viewed by many as a mini-blog limiting each post or “tweet” to 140 characters.  You can tweet from a computer, but in class we agreed that most of us just use our phones or mobile devices.  The mobility and limited characters give us more reason to post throughout the day or give status updates.  Getting updates in realtime seems to give us a closer insight into someone’s day rather than reading a diary-style blog where one recaps several events at the end of the day.

Twitter adds another dimension to how we communicate, or it has “added a second layer of discussion.”  Johnson gives an example of this from a conference he attended called Hacking Education.  There were a few at the conference discussing various issues face to face and they opened the conversation by using Twitter and the #hackedu hashtag.  By doing this they reached a wider audience and gave voice to many ideas that may not have been mentioned from the group of 40 present at the conference.  I personally don’t use Twitter to this capacity however this semester I will try to.

Social networks that matter:  Twitter under the microscope

Huberman’s article discusses how a person only interacts with a few of his/her “declared,” friends or followers.  Further with more interactions we find that these people will post more.  In my experience with Twitter I find this to be true.  I have lost personal contact with my “friends” so I don’t interact with them through Twitter or Facebook as much as I used to.  Even though I don’t keep in touch with these people they are still my “declared,” friends.  This goes with what Huberman’s notion that, “a small percentage of the contacts stored in the phone are frequently contacted by the user.”

Response to Rettberg’s “What is a Blog?”

In ch. 1 of Blogging, Rettberg goes over the many aspects of a blog to help us understand “What is a Blog?”  She discusses how one sets up a blog, various types of blogs, and a brief history of blogs.  Looking into these topics we find that there is not a clean-cut definition for a blog.  We can look at it as a medium, a “blogging software,” or a genre that calls for “frequency, brevity and personality.”  There is a common layout of 2 or 3 columns with unit posts that are arranged in reverse chronological order, yet a blog is not constrained to these commonalities.  There are always exceptions especially since the internet is always changing and evolving.  Blogs are a platform for people to be creative and with this freedom one can change up the style and layout.

How are blogs a part of Web 2.0?

In class we have discussed that Web 2.0 is essentially looking at internet as a platform for things user produced rather than information traditionally being produced by major companies or corporations.  The user can use the blog as a filterblog (post links to other sites), diary (personal “slice of life”), and a topic driven (fashion, politics, etc.).