Archive for April, 2010

The Next New Thing

April 28, 2010

Although it always seems like everything there is to invent has already been invented, we must be careful not to assume so. Before flying cars and robots come into existence, there will be many fresh new media technologies introduced which will change the way people live. We can predict the near future based on the technologies that already exist and on the way people live today (excluding 3rd world countries).

For instance, by 2010 we know that a large portion of the population uses social media. Perhaps I should rephrase that: today a large portion of the population is addicted to social media, to the point where it interferes with other things in life. Since we can’t exactly kick new technology to the curb, why not create applications or specialized gadgets (cell phones, laptops, etc.) which automatically disable the use of the internet at given times. This idea may have been introduced already but nobody has actually used it: a cell phone application which signals the phone when a person is driving and blocks calls/text messages/emails until the person has exited the vehicle. At the same time this application could notify the party who is trying to reach the driver that he/she is driving. If every cell phone would be built with this program, there would be a lot less accidents and maybe less stress for drivers (even if a driver doesn’t think its stressful).

Something which may be introduced even further down the line is a computer that will be able to read, copy, and store people’s thoughts. Since our brains send electric signals to the rest of our bodies allowing us to function, why can’t a computer be able to read those signals? Today, for example, a severely paralyzed individual (who can afford it) is able to control the movement of his/her chair with signals they send from their brains which are processed by a computer. That is the most basic form of this type of technology. In the future, there will be devices that can read anyone’s thoughts that will be able to transform those thoughts into actions or to store them to so-called hard drives. This would be useful for disabled people (deaf, blind, limited mobility, etc.) because it would help them carry out simple actions such as speaking or moving. This would also be helpful to the general public since it is impossible to remember every single thought that runs through our minds, especially if someone is concentrating on two or more things at once (e.g. listening to someone talk while looking at a computer screen). Many of our thoughts are erased from our memories because there is so much to think about and so many gadgets to concentrate on all while interacting with people. Having a gadget that can store thoughts seems appropriate.

This sort of technology may even be able to act as an interpreter. It might read the thoughts of a French-speaking individual and automatically translate them into English or any other language. Maybe even a person using sign language would be understood by someone who doesn’t know sign language thanks to this advanced mechanism. If our brains could translate/transfer our thoughts onto a computer, a world of possibilities opens up.

Privacy and Confidentiality

April 22, 2010

New Media technologies have proved to be beneficial to society, but, as with all good things, there is a down side. Issues of privacy and confidentiality arise for many people who use these technologies.

First of all, exposing the smallest amount of information about oneself online opens the door to others intruding on one’s life. For example, posting your name and address on any website puts you at risk of being robbed of your identity. Revealing the location of your workplace or hangout spots makes it easy for potential stalkers to find you. Whether you are shopping online or using a social networking website (i.e. FaceBook, eHarmony, etc.), there is no guarantee that the information you provide will not be viewed by someone who intends to use it against you. Sometimes unpleasant things, including identity theft, harassment and stalking, happen to people unexpectedly due to a lack of privacy and confidentiality on the internet.  This should come as no surprise considering the fact that information spreads vastly and travels extremely fast online. While the speed and reach is amazing, the internet is also dangerous because of those exact factors.

Secondly, new media technologies such as mobile phones and laptops (which can both access the internet) may be convenient, but it is not difficult for someone to tap into either one. It may sound bizarre, but with today’s technology anyone, even the government, can invade what is supposed to be one’s personal space. For example, hackers can easily create and pass on viruses to peoples’ computers from the comfort of their own home. Hackers can also access almost anything (pictures, history, etc.) that is on someone else’s laptop. As for mobile phones: beside the fact that the Patriot Act allowed the government to tap into peoples’ mobile devices and listen to their personal conversations (and probably read text messages, too), it is also possible that the government can track anyone they choose to. This may not concern many people, but the reality is that this sort of action by the government takes away certain rights that are promised to us by the Constitution.  Think about people who are victims to racial profiling, for example; the government may start listening in on someone’s private telephone conversations and track innocent “suspects” whereever they go. More than likely, many innocent individuals were falsely accused and suffered consequences (e.g. stress, jailtime), even though the public doesn’t hear about it. Remember the case of innocent Japanese Americans being imprisoned after Pearl Harbor? Similarly, after 9/11, many innocent Muslims living in the US were accused of being enemies. Except now, with all the new media technologies we have, those who are accused still can feel like they’re being imprisoned, even though physically they are not.      

New media makes our lives easier but at the same time can cause inadvertent complications. Whether you choose to expose certain information about yourself, or it is taken from you without your consent, the fact is that your privacy is always at risk as long as you use Internet technology. It would probably be best to keep certain information about yourself confidential and to make sure your new media technologies are secured.

Advice to Baruch College

April 11, 2010

There are thousands of students at Baruch College. It is easy to become acquainted with many new people, but whether or not a student is actively engaging in the Baruch community, it is nearly impossible to meet every single person in the school. Everyone has clashing schedules and there are a countless number of places to occupy. Due to this, it is very likely that students miss many opportunities to come into contact with other students who share similar interests and have common goals. New Media technology can help create these opportunites.  

I propose that Baruch College should create an online virtual world of student life. It should be mandatory for every student to be a part of the college’s virtual world, just as the use of Blackboard is mandatory.  Though unlike some virtual worlds in Second Life which are created as alter realities (hence the name), “Baruch Life” should be an exact representation of everything on campus. Every user (i.e. student or professor) in this virtual world should look somewhat like they do in reality. Since Baruch Life would be used for educational networking purposes, options for superficial things such as clothing should be limited.

Baruch Life would help new students adapt to the school quickly, making it easier to find classrooms and offices. Perhaps a “visit” to an office in the virtual world will, in some cases, eliminate the need to visit the office in real life, because someone “at the office” was there to help answer questions. “Office hours” could be longer this way and students would save time standing in line.

At Baruch College, every individual is responsible for their own schedule and grades. Even though students discuss with one another their problems in certain classes, their grades, etc., it doesn’t seem to make their issues any easier to deal with. Similarly, although some students form study groups or attend tutoring sessions, it doesn’t seem to take the pressure away during exams. And even though the college has clubs/workshops, the majority of students do not take part in them for many reasons including inability to attend because of work, no interest, or unawareness. 

All of the above limits students from maximizing their college experience. Even those who get straight A’s or those who participate in all the extracurricular activities they have time for are restricted by factors of reality. That is, communication with other students is limited and time cannot be controlled. A virtual world of Baruch would connect the student body in a revolutionary way. It would make introductions easy and interactions that would have never taken place before happen.

The formation of groups and imitation of classes in “Baruch Life” would help students interact with many other students who share similar interests or problems. Also, those who do well in a certain class may be able to explain the material to their classmates in a more understandable way than the professor, ultimately helping themelves study as well. Chances are, 80% of each class is in the same boat and they don’t even know it.

This type of new media technology has the potential to make every student feel less pressure and become more involved. It won’t change the fact that each person is responsible for his/her own grades, but it will help make individuals not feel like they are such small fish in a big ocean.

Our Class Wiki – So Far

April 3, 2010

I decided to create a page for New Media in the Food, Beverage, and Hospitality Industry on our class wiki. Since I work in this industry, I noticed ways in which new media is used for efficiency. For example, the POS system used by bartenders and waitresses can be considered a larger version of the iPad. I have yet to add information about this to the wiki, but I have added other content which I found in articles related to the subject.

Also, I decided to edit a section in the wiki where I found grammar and spelling errors. Under “Marketing and Advertising in New Media” I re-typed several sentences so that they make more sense. Perhaps I will find other errors while skimming through the wiki and edit those, too. With a growing number of contributors, it may be difficult to proofread all the content as it increases.

Modeling Reality with Virtual Worlds

April 3, 2010

A virtual world is just a depiction of something in real life on a computer screen. There are various uses for virtual worlds, some which are helpful and others which may cause individuals to isolate themselves from reality completely.

On one hand, virtual worlds foster creativity. They allow users to create and alter their “world” as they see fit. Although this might sound like people who do this are anti-social, it is actually more innovative than surfing through pictures on Facebook. A NYtimes article, In Room 100, It’s Sid and Nancy All Over Again, talks about the recreation of Hotel Chelsea on SecondLife. The hotel reflects the imaginations of individuals who grew up in the late 1970s, when a famous rockstar at the time, Sid Vicious, stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Sungen in Room 100 after they got high on dope. Although the Chelsea turned this infamous room into two separate rooms to avoid it becoming a “shrine”, on SecondLife it remains the same crime scene it was over 40 years ago.

In addition to offering ways of letting peoples’ imaginations sprout, SecondLife is used by companies such as IBM to train employees. The vice president of IBM stated, “New IBM employees separated by thousands of miles will be able to mingle, interact and share ideas in the virtual world before their first day on the job.” This type of virtual training may help eliminate nervousness, mistakes, and other issues associated with new employees that occur in real life. Thanks to this benefit of comfort, virtual worlds are also used to help people with various disabilities to interact with others without feeling the pressure of a real-life situation.

On the other hand, it comes as no surprise that some people let virtual worlds take over their real lives. I think this happens most commonly among online gamers. MMORPGs seem to be as addictive to some as coffee and cigarettes are to others. There have been numerous television shows that documented people obsessed with online gaming to the point that it interfered with their schoolwork, jobs, and even relationships. It’s ok to play around on the computer sometimes, whether its a game or a virtual world where you are the president, but if it causes losing sight of reality, it may be a good idea to shut off the computer.

In the future I’m sure there will be even more ways in which virtual worlds will be used to foresee, plan, train, manage, and build the real worlds they represent. My guess is that every big company in every industry will find a use for virtual worlds, whether it be for employees, executives, or the public. As far as we know, virtual worlds will be beneficial to society in the future, as long as society doesn’t get sucked in.

Social Networking

April 2, 2010

There are plenty of “fun” uses for social networking technologies, but how else can social networking websites be used? The term “networking” implies wide distribution and cultivating people who can be helpful. That means thinking outside the box and going beyond interacting with people you see or speak with on a regular basis (i.e. posting a comment to your friend’s wall while being on the phone with them).

The site LinkedIn is a good example of how social networking technology can be used for society’s benefit. LinkedIn generates opportunities for companies and potential emloyees. In an article by Frank Langfitt, Social Networking Technology Boosts Job Recruiting, company executives discuss how easy job recruiting became thanks to LinkedIn.  Shally Steckerl, a leader in online recruiting for Microsoft says, “he can scout a group of job candidates in just half an hour.” That definitely beats days of skimming through resumes, holding interviews with candidates who are not quite what the company was looking for, and calling people to see “who they know”.

There are many companies who use online social networking to improve their business. Besides recruiting, social networking websites are widely used for marketing/advertising. These sites offer time-efficiency solutions to the public: faster and easier ways to connect everyone who chooses to use them. Although with every plus there is usually a minus.

Perhaps the biggest issue thats proves to be a “dark side” of social networking is privacy. In an article titled Leaving ‘Friendprints’: How Online Social Networks Are Redefining Privacy and Personal Security, the author discusses how posting personal information online can have adverse effects on a person’s life. “When a business contact from the LinkedIn world wants to become your friend on Facebook, do you accept the invitation, giving them access to the photos on your Facebook profile from last summer’s rowdy beach party?” The article poses questions such as these, stating that posting the smallest amount of information online (e.g. your name and birthdate) can open doors for identity theft, harrassment/stalking and other complications. The privacy controls on social networking websites are questionable. And though one may think they’ve deleted their embarrassing photos after becoming friends with their colleagues on Facebook, chances are that those photos are still accessible (especially if 10 of your friends are in the photos with you, in which case they probably saved and posted the photos onto their profiles).

For the most part, I think that these technologies will offer more benefits to society in the future. It might make us less human, but time will be saved and society will, in theory, become more organized. Perhaps online social networking will even become a key tool for preventing crimes and catching criminals, but that means inevitably facing other problems.

Check Out Social Networking Sites

April 2, 2010

Nowadays, most people (lets exclude 3rd world countries) are signed up to at least one social networking site. That includes you, your parents, younger siblings, and even grandparents (given that they are competent with computers). It used to seem like a teenage fad, but in today’s society its almost crucial to be aware and involved in these sites (i.e. for business purposes). Before the MySpace and Facebok hype, there was Meetspot. This site originated from Whimit (which was for the Russian community) and became popular among high school kids. It had very limited features: a profile with the option to post your own pictures, add friends, and write comments on other peoples’ profiles. It seemed more like a popularity contest: who has the most friends/comments.  Although the site still exists, I highly doubt people are signing up anymore (can’t say I’ve done my research).

I believe Friendster was the next social networking site that caught people’s attention in 2002. Friendster has all the photo, friend, and comment options, as well as music and games. Currently (I say currently because I don’t know if it always existed) Friendster has a classifieds page for members and a “gifts” option, which allows people to “give gifts” to their friends. Honestly, I never even heard of Friendster until recently, and its no wonder because MySpace took over in 2003. MySpace had similar features to Friendster in terms of music sharing and other options, and it became more popular because it was better marketed. Also perhaps because it had a more attractive layout and name than Friendster did. “Friendster” sounds like something targeting children and the site itself looks cartoon-ish. “MySpace” is a more general name which attracts everyone and allows people to personalize the layout of their profile.

I never joined Friendster or MySpace. I’m convinced that Friendster is for children after looking at the site and MySpace always seemed interesting but I didn’t have the patience to create a profile layout, etc. I think that for aspiring artists/musicians, MySpace is a good way to publicize their work/music. Other than that, my impression of MySpace (based on my friends using the site) was not much different from that of Meetspot. People posting outrageous pictures for other people to see and comment on. Chances are that half of your “friends” on MySpace are talkin $#!% about the pictures you posted. Not to mention the drama that starts because someone’s bf/gf writes a comment to a random person of the opposite sex or changes their relationship status to “single”.

Which brings me to Facebook. A site that evolved from other social networking sites and is presently the most widespread. I think Facebook is great because it allows people to reconnect with people they though they would never see or speak to again. Case and point: I had a pen pal from France when I was in the 6th grade (because I studied French). We used to write letters to each other every couple of months; I would write in English and she would write in French (she studied English and my French teacher translated her letters). We also sent some photos back and forth, but after about 3 years we stopped writing to one another. Last year, the girl found me on Facebook! She wrote me a message saying that she isn’t sure if its me (considering she has pictures of me when I was 12) but if it is then to accept the friend request. Its crazy because now there’s no need for writing letters. I can communicate through Facebook, and get a response within a day as opposed to at least a month. She can see all my pictures and vise versa.

While that is a benefit of Facebook, there are definitely some minor negativities associated with this site. As I mentioned above, MySpace was known for starting drama between couples. Facebook sometimes sturs up the same problems (i.e. relationship status changes, friending random people of the opposite sex, etc.). Something I heard on the radio a few months ago stuck in my mind. There was a discussion about Facebook and one caller mentioned that she doesn’t like the fact that her husband found ex-girlfriends from his past on the site. This made me realize the bigger picture. Of course those who are married with children would be concerned if their spouse was chatting with someone from their past, especially if that someone is attractive. Unfortunately many people cheat on their spouses, but it would be sad if Facebook opened that door.   

I don’t check Facebook everyday, but I’m still active on the site. Here are the first things I see when I log on: some couple broke up , again (if I scroll further down I’ll see that the couple is confused b/c they just entered the relationship 4 hours prior); some people “you would never think would but did” became a couple; statuses that imply those people hate their lives; statuses that say how much those people love their lives/how much fun they’re having (intended for their recent ex to read); statuses containing useless (and sometimes gross) “didn’t need to know that” info; and at least 10 comments that accompany each. I know people who are obsessed with the site and I don’t think it is healthy nor does it make you smarter in any way. It is just organized drama. Sure I can find some interesting/funny statuses sometimes, but for the most part my apprehension of day-to-day activity on Facebook remains the above mentioned.

Since I have criticized Facebook for the statuses people post, my impression of Twitter should be no surprise. I am aware of other potential uses for Twitter, (besides tweeting meaningless info), but since a majority of people use it for “pointless babble”, I am unfavorable towards this site. There have been several commercials that have mentioned/included Twitter, implying that people are obsessed. I just wonder: am I the crazy one, or do people who tweet seriously not realize that they’re being made fun of? I wouldn’t be surprised if some people tweet “I’m wiping my a$$”. But of course, to each his own.