COM 341: Week 8 – Cognitive Surplus

This week we were asked to identify a collective effort on the internet that fits the description of a meaningful cognitive surplus. At first it took me a while to come up with one but I think that most social network sites can be an example of cognitive surplus. I say this because some social network sites are used to give and receive information. Social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are tools that people use to connect and spread vital information to peers.

I think the greatest collective effort that I’ve seen on the internet that fits the description of a meaningful cognitive surplus would be blogging. An example would be this class. We blog to express opinions on certain subjects and comment on each other’s blogs to share thoughts and ideas. Blogging goes beyond this class. If you search for anything such as a recipe, or how to train a pet or anything, you can find a blog that could possibly help. People blog for several different reasons. Some people blog to express how they feel, others blog to share information and discuss topics with other people online. Some bloggers post for personal enjoyment and some well-known bloggers are paid for their posts.

I benefit from blogging because it gives me an outlet to express how I feel and connect with others who may feel the same as I do. I also find a lot of great recipes from blogs on the internet and great home décor ideas as well. Blogging is a great hobby and a great way to spend time on the internet. A blog post can reach someone who is seeking advice and could help them in a major way. As stated in previous posts, I have a Tumblr account. I fell in love with Tumblr in high school and I’ve been hooked on it since then. On Tumblr, I feel comfortable posting what I want without judgment because I know there is someone out there who feels the same way as I do. I use Tumblr as an outlet and a way to connect with friends and receive information. The pictures and videos on Tumblr make me laugh when I’m sad, and I learn about world events and new music.

I actually feel like I am already contributing my talents through blogging for this class and blogging on Tumblr. I am expressing my opinions and sharing information. I believe I incorporate a lot of user generated content into my posts but I hope one day that my posts will reach a peer and help them in a way that changes their lifestyle or point of view.

There are really no existing projects that I feel needs to be changed or improved in order for me to participate or contribute. The social network sites that I now participate in are just fine to me. I am involved on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and they all are a comfortable place for me to express how I feel and relate to others to spread and receive information.


COM 341: Week 7 – “Generation Like”

This week we were assigned to watch PBS Frontline: Generation Like. Some of the content in the video blew my mind and the rest I could actually relate. The video began with youth taking about the importance of likes. As the video progressed, I started to understand why this generation felt that way. Douglas Rushkoff interviewed youth to get their perspectives on why likes on social networks were so important. Some mentioned empowerment. When I think of the word empowerment, I think of confidence and control. Living in a world of technology and social networks, I know people in my community who uses likes as empowerment and even looks at it as a self-esteem booster.

For example, the social network of Instagram is all about likes. People post pictures and videos just to get likes. Why else would you post something on a social network? No one posts a picture or video without expecting it to be liked by someone else. Likes are a sign of attention and for some, affection. Some girls post pictures and video exposing more skin than necessary to receive likes and compliments and guys do the same thing as well.

I used to think that social networks were a way to stay connected with old friends and far away family members, stay updated on news, and to possibly network with employers. Today, I look at social networks as competitions for attention. Every time you turn around, there is a new video or picture that the world is talking about, whether it is a cute little boy arguing with his mom or a picture of Kim Kardashian in a bikini.

This generation is obsessed with becoming famous through social media and becoming the most liked person. They’ve been witnesses to how popularity on a social network can change a person’s social status and income and everyone is trying to get famous from social networks. I mean, who doesn’t have a YouTube channel now? Everyone on YouTube is doing the same thing and trying to see who can do it better and who will be noticed by more people. There are millions of videos of people singing, dancing, doing skateboard tricks, makeup tutorials, and the list goes on and on.

As stated in the video as a Hunger Games reference, you survive by how many people like you. The movie Hunger Games is based off the novel where people are put into an arena to fight for their lives. They can be sponsored, but they have to be liked by someone in order to be sponsored. The Hunger Games is actually a big metaphor to our society today. This generation is obsessed with likes and believes that if you’re not liked, or getting likes, you don’t really matter.

I think that Marshall McLuhan wouldn’t be surprised by this at all. In fact, I like to believe he predicted it. He divided the history of humans into four epochs: tribal, literate, print and electronic. I think this would be his idea of the electronic epoch. As he predicted, we have become less personal with each other compared to the tribal epoch where there used to be face to face conversations and actually listening to each other’s voices.

As for the “older folks”, I believe they are conforming to the world of technology simply because they don’t want to be left behind. Older people are learning to use technology because that may possibly be the only way to connect with younger members of their family and it could be their way of keeping up with world news and politics.

COM 341: Week 6 – Technological Determinism

This week’s reading was based on Marshall McLuhan’s Theory of Technological Determinism. Technological Determinism can be defined as the changes in modes of communication that cause cultural change and shape human existence. The definition of Technological Determinism can also be explained in this quote, “We shape our tools and, they, in turn, shape us.” This simply means that we as humans create tools, and in turn, they redefine us as a people and as a society.

McLuhan classified media as either hot or cool. A hot or cool medium is basically based upon how we act and react upon it. Hot media are high-definition channels of communication, photographs and motion pictures. Hot media packages a lot of data in a way that requires little work on the viewer’s part. Cool media’s low definition draws a person in, requiring high participation to fill in the blanks. In short, hot media requires little to no work and cool media requires work.

Marshall McLuhan was definitely a man before his time and if you think about it, he basically predicted the future of communication. He was a 60’s media figure, a Canadian researcher, an academic, and theoretician. He divided human history into four epochs: tribal, literate, print and electronic. The tribal epoch was very acoustic and all of the senses of hearing, touch, taste and smell were developed far beyond the ability to visualize. After the alphabet was invented, the literate epoch approached. The literate epoch made it possible to write. This means that people could leave their tribe and still be connected and informed by written letters. The print epoch made it possible for the phonetic alphabet to expand. With each epoch, was a new technology used such as the phonetic alphabet (literate), printing press (print) and the telegraph (electronic). Marshall McLuhan said that “the age of print had its obituary tapped out by the telegraph” because the telegraph was the first electronic communication device invented by Samuel Morse. Unfortunately, Marshall McLuhan died in 1980, before he could see the world of technology we live in today. If he was alive today, he would probably add another epoch to his theory of human history. The added epoch would be a combination of both print and electronic. This epoch would represent today because even though there is a heavy use of electronic media, print is still used today too. The world has not yet turned all electronically yet. We still send letters and handwritten cards, and read physical books, newspapers and articles.

Events and issues of internet use in this generation were explored by Rachel Dretzin and Douglas Rushkoff in an episode of Frontline’s Digital Nation. Most of these issues are explained by Marshall McLuhan’s theory of human history. The main epoch that was explained was the electronic epoch. In the episode, there were students of all levels, college, high school, and grammar school being observed and interviewed. In Korea, there was a PC Café that caused death due to over usage of computers. There was also an Internet Rescue Camp that helped children convert back to connecting with peers and engaging in outside activities.

This week’s readings and media were very interesting and opened my eyes to the way that technology has a great effect on us. Although the quote says that “We shape our tools and, they, in turn, shape us”, I believe that our communication tools have taken a greater effect on us than we have on them. I depend on the internet daily for several different tasks but my internet usage has not caused any severe medical issues or has caused me to be sent to an Internet Rescue Camp. The students that I saw in the video amazed me but the woman who basically quit her job to play a video game all day took the cake. Although our generation uses technology a lot, I still believe that we are still in an epoch that is a combination of print and electronic because of the little print we still use today like books, newspapers and magazines.

COM 341: Week 5 – Net Neutrality

This week’s readings and media focused on Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is defined as internet service providers enabling access to all content without favoring or blocking any particular websites or products.

This week, we were asked to put ourselves in a particular situation where two internet companies start charging more for each other’s traffic and it filters down to us having to pay more for our internet or service access. This raised the question of would we be willing to pay more – significantly more – for internet activity we do now for free or for a low cost?

I personally say no. Although the internet plays a huge role in my life on a daily basis, I will not accept paying more for internet activity that I do now for free. I like to save as much money as possible and only buy things that are essential and beneficial in short and long terms. I use the internet on a daily basis but if it came down to paying less money, I would adjust and limit myself to my internet activity. Higher prices and poor quality service would cause me to scale back and use less of the internet. I expect certain qualities from my service provider. The only way that I would consider paying more for internet service is if the service is being upgraded to something quicker and more accessible than the service I already have. If I pay more for internet service, I expect it to be easily accessible, fast and reliable. When I pay for something, I think of the quality and how beneficial it is to me.

Although I rely heavily on the internet, my breaking point is much lower than others might be. When I feel as if I’m being manipulated out of my money, I opt out and find a cheaper alternative. My breaking point would be if I actually chose to pay more and don’t get the service that I expect. If I’m coming out of my pocket and still not satisfied with what I’m paying for, I will pull the plug. If I’m paying more for a better service and I’m not getting the quality that I paid for and expect, I will the plug with no hesitation.

This question really raises another question of how important internet access really is. Depending on who you are as a person, you may not use the internet as much or you may use it very often. Whether you decide to pay more or less for internet access really depends on how often you use it. Someone who doesn’t use the internet as much would not be willing to pay a lot for it because they may look at internet access as a privilege and not an essential. Another person may look at the internet as an essential and makes it a priority to access on a daily basis. This person would possibly pay more because of how important internet access is to them. I believe I fall into the category of internet being an essential but I am not willing to pay more.

The internet is a very important invention in society. I and many others value the internet and all of its capabilities. Others may not use the internet as much and don’t really see the benefits. Whether you view the internet as a privilege or an essential, internet access should not be extremely expensive.

COM 341: Week 4 – The United States of Secrets

This week’s readings and videos were focused on a very interesting and controversial matter. Majority of the readings and videos provided for this week focused on the United States government spying on Americans and lying about it. After the tragic event of 9/11 occurred, the United States government began a program that monitored Americans’ phone calls and email activity.  The United States government took action monitoring Americans’ phone calls and emails without any kind of warrant in order to prevent another terrorist attack.

This became a controversial matter because some argued that it was unconstitutional to spy on the American people and some government officials such as the Senior Manager of the NSA, Thomas Drake, was kept out of the loop. Even when questioned about spying on the American people, James Clapper lied under oath claiming that the NSA does not collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans. After seeing this, I became indecisive about my position on this matter. I do believe that the United States government has monitored Americans’ phone calls and emails to ensure safety and prevent another tragic event from occurring. I believe that that is the only benefit from the United States government’s watchful eyes on Americans’ phone use and email activity so I would not say that the benefits outweigh the wholesale loss of individual freedom and privacy seeing that I recognize only one benefit.

My position on this matter is a very confusing one. While I do see the purpose of monitoring Americans’ phone calls and emails, I do believe that it violates individual privacy and freedom. As long as the United States government is monitoring with a certain limit, I would have no problem with this method of keeping the American people safe. The thing that confuses me about this program is the lie to cover it up. If the United States government is using this program for the good of the people, why lie? If this program is helping to prevent another attack, then it should not be a secret. I consider myself in the middle when it comes to this matter because I can understand both sides. I understand that the program is meant to protect and prevent future attacks and I also understand that this program could be considered as illegal and a violation to individual freedom and privacy.

What General Hayden refers to as a “really big idea” is the concept of the United States creating cyber-weapons to do our “dirty work” on our behalf is a bad idea in my opinion. Just like us, other countries can develop their own cyber-weapons or advance ours and use that against us. It is very risky. Besides the fact of this possibly turning against us, it would be a good idea. It would be a lot cheaper and safer for our troops. If this is secured to a point where it couldn’t be accessed, enhanced and used against us, it could definitely be a possibility.

This level of privacy and/or security is definitely a concern for me as it should be to all Americans. 9/11 was a very tragic event that ruined many Americans’ lives. Our government is actually putting forth effort to protect its citizens even if that means monitoring phone and email records without a warrant. I believe that if it was an easier and more legal way of collecting data in order to protect America, the government would go that route. After 9/11, I understand why the United States government would want to monitor Americans in order to keep them safe to prevent another 9/11 from occurring. I am just still confused on why they lied about it; possibly because they were collecting data without a warrant. I believe that if the NSA just explained that they were using this program to protect the American people, they would have been okay with it. As long as this program is used to protect Americans from another attack, it should be okay.

COM 341: Week 3 – User-Generated Content on the Internet

Reflecting on this week’s readings, I have had quite an experience with user-generated content on the internet. I had to first find a legit definition to “user-generated content” and came to the conclusion that it is a form of sharing media with peers or an audience. I have used the internet growing up and still use it today on a daily basis. I don’t believe that I am addicted to the internet or social media but my life would drastically change without it. I wouldn’t know as much information about far away friends and family, celebrities, new movies, etc. I use the internet and social media as a resource for information and as a tool for communication with friends and family.

Throughout my 20 years of life, I have had many email accounts, one Facebook and MySpace account, an Instagram account, a Twitter account and a Tumblr account. Email has always been a great way of communicating for me. It’s an easy way to receive and send out information to a specific person or group. I have had a Facebook account since I was in the 7th grade. As stated in the first blog post, I am an early adopter of technology and my close friends are as well. I use Facebook as a tool to communicate with family and friends, close and far away. Back in 7th and 8th grade, I had a very heavy presence on Facebook. I slowly decreased my use of my Facebook account as I entered high school. Today, I still use my Facebook but not that often. I rarely post statuses and only occasionally post pictures or share videos on Facebook. My MySpace account may still exist but as of today, I don’t use it at all. My presence on MySpace was very heavy back in elementary school and I lost interest in it after I graduated from 8th grade and entered into high school.

I created my Instagram account my freshman year of college. After getting bored with it, I deleted it. I have thought about recreating my account but I’m not sure yet. I created my Twitter account my freshman year of high school. I used Twitter as a way to communicate with my high school friends in and outside of class. I also used Twitter as a resource for information. It was always something new and exciting on my timeline that regarded politics, music or celebrity gossip. I deleted my Twitter account then remade it because I felt disconnected from my friends and I also felt that I was missing out on information that Facebook didn’t provide. My Tumblr account was another account that I created my freshman year of high school. I love spending time on Tumblr and getting information on politics and new music. I also enjoy the pictures people post and share. Some pictures are pictures of animals or fashion. The videos posted on Tumblr are either informational or funny, or both. Of all of the social media that I am involved with, I would have to say that Tumblr is my favorite.

I do have to admit that I use a great deal of social media. I’m not addicted but then again, I could be in denial.  I don’t really watch news stations so I use social media as my resource for news. The people that I befriend on social media occasionally post news and politics, mainly things that effect people of our age range and generation.

I wouldn’t say I have an “internet media diet” but I try not to use it when I need to focus on something such as a project at work or a project for class. I know social media is a great resource for information and a great way to communicate with friends and family, but I will get distracted very easily. I try my hardest to refrain from social media when I am at work or when I need to get work done.

Social media is both a blessing and a curse. Although social media may sometimes distract me, I am grateful for it because it plays an important role in my life to help me give and receive information with family and friends.

COM 341: Week 2 – The Development of Communication Technologies

After reading the assigned readings and listening to this week’s lecture, I have come across new information regarding the history and development of communication technologies that we use today. While reading and listening, I identified three common similarities and challenges that different inventors faced while creating communication technologies. The first similarity I noticed was the dependency of other/previous inventions. Inventors relied on previous inventions in order to enhance and inspire their invention. Each inventor depended on another inventor in order to advance technology. For example, once the electric magnet was created, two more inventions became established. In order for inventors to advance technology, they have to take a previous invention and experiment on how to enhance it.

Another similarity I identified among the inventors while reading and listening was funding needed for advancing technology. Each inventor and invention needed money in order to develop. For example, Morris reached out to Congress for financial assistance in order to advance the electric telegraph. Depending on others for financial assistance in order to experiment also ties into the third similarity I identified.

The third similarity I found was the need for community. Community building played a big role in technology and still does to this day. Inventors rely on communities not only for financial assistance but also to further communication technology. What good is an invention or website if no one uses it? As much as people depend on technology today, the advancement of technology depends on us. The beginning of technology began with us thinking of how we can communicate better. Human beings and technology depend on each other for advancement. It’s a win-win relationship. Technology advances with the help of humans and humans advance with the help of technology. An example of this would be the story It Takes a Village to Find a Cell Phone. This story is the prime example of how technology and the internet can help solve a problem such as recovering an important possession such as a cell phone.

Many people would say that losing a cell phone is not the end of the world because it is something that can be easily replaced but it all depends on your relationship with technology. I personally found this story to be very interesting. Reading how Evan went to great measures to recover a cell phone that wasn’t even his baffled me. After reading, I analyzed and came to the conclusion that it comes down to the principle of the matter. Someone loses something, you find it, and you return it to the rightful owner. This was not the case. I was amazed at how Evan used technology to bring his friend, Ivanna, her phone back and get the culprit arrested. This story is an example of how community plays an important role in technology because this simple issue could have been ignored if a community of people never paid attention to it and went on with their lives.

If Evan had never viral with the story of the lost cell phone and gained such a large audience, recovering Ivanna’s cell phone would have just been a lost cause. With such a large community of people following the story, Evan got enough attention and advice to take matters into his own hands and eventually took the issue to the NYPD. At first, Evan had trouble trying to get the NYPD’s help retrieving the cell phone because it wasn’t technically stolen. Evan tried to report the phone as stolen property rather than lost and the NYPD wasn’t allowing him to do so. Evan updated his website informing his supporters of the unfair treatment of the NYPD. With the help of his supporters, Evan received the NYPD’s help. The NYPD noticed that this cell phone was a big deal to not only Evan but other people as well. Once the NYPD realized this, they took the lost cell phone situation seriously and not only helped Evan recover the cell phone, but arrested the culprit as well.

Today, we depend on technology for many reasons as they help us advance in everyday life. This week’s lectures and readings helped me to realize that technology also depends on us. I learned a lot about the history of technology and the relationship between humans and technology.