Monthly Archives: April 2012

Communication, Technology and Culture

Communication, technology and culture are three words that can be considered very different yet very similar at the same time. What is more important is the impact each of those ideas can have on the other, whether negative or positive. Web 2.0 presents a perfect example of how communication, technology and culture can be affected both negatively and positively. Today’s blog entry will examine precisely that: how Web 2.0 affects communication, technology and culture. Communication has changed rapidly in the last decade alone, but even more so in the last few years specifically.

Web 2.0 has nearly replaced numerous communication techniques of the past. “Snail mail” as it is now known has been overshadowed by social networking and instant messaging, the home phone has become obsolete thanks to video chat and Skype. Some negative aspects a serious change like this could bring include weakened personal relationships. Since we are no longer taking the time to sit down and write a good friend a letter or call our mothers one could argue that Web 2.0 is diminishing us as relational beings. On the other hand, one could argue that Web 2.0 increases our communication with others because of the various outlets that allow us to communicate.  Additionally these platforms such as Facebook or Twitter essentially allow us to always be connected thanks to smart phones and tablets. It is technologies like Facebook and Twitter that allow us to communicate and there are many other technologies influenced by Web 2.0 that have both positive and negative aspects.

Even ten years ago, there were only a handful of bright minds who could accurately predict the future of technology. At this point it would’ve been unthinkable to have the world linked together online through social networking sites. Technological changes that have allowed this to occur have changed the world forever, both negatively and positively. In the positive sense, as shown in various political protests such as Occupy Toronto or the protests in Egypt, social media can be used as a tool to organize and assemble. Additionally, the same movements used social media as a personal news outlet. Both movements could alerts interested followers of updates at the click of a button before big news stations were even aware. Although this presents a major positive of the rapid growth of technology the same statement could represent a key negative aspect as well. The problem raised is the validity of the content released through social media. In journalism, numerous fact checks must be done before releasing a story and is often written objectively. Social media remains extremely subjective and untrustworthy. It is technology like this that is changing not only the role of journalism, but the culture of society as well.

Nowadays almost everyone can be considered a ‘pirate’ or a DJ, these are just two small examples of how Web 2.0 has affected our culture. Gone are the days of simple copyright laws and purchasing CD’s. Instead users download endlessly for minimal cost to themselves and serious profit loss to the entertainment industry. Additionally, users have been remixing content to the extreme thanks to new technology that makes doing so simple for even the most casual Internet user. We have also become very reliant on technologies like Web 2.0. Instead of remembering things we Google them, instead of calling someone we Skype them and instead of writing to someone we write on their Facebook wall. The real question we must ask ourselves is, are we becoming less human due to this rapid change of communication, technology and culture?

Or

(insert computerized robot voice)

Have We Turned Into Something Worse?

– Ian McDougald

Photo: http://www.xda-wallpapers.com/var/albums/Hi-Tech/1920×1200/Human,%20Computer,%20cables.jpg?m=1298687607

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Eli Pariser: Beware Online “Filter Bubbles”

Filter bubbles are all around us. As Pariser mentions, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and many more of the monopolistic internet giants are using filter bubbles. So will the “algorithmic gatekeepers” of the web begin to remove filter bubbles? Doubtful. Today’s blog entry will examine how filter bubbles affect us as users, why filter bubbles are used by companies and conclude why it is extremely unlikely that they will be disappearing from the web anytime soon. The problem presented by filter bubbles is that “if I search for something and you search for something… we may get very different search results.” Users don’t realize their searches and news feeds are any different from another user.

Although many people don’t realize they are affected by filter bubble, it is important to understand how they can influence Internet users. In one example Pariser describes that “the conservatives had disappeared from [his] Facebook feed”. This is a perfect example of how filter bubbles can affect someone who is only using Facebook. For instance, say a user on Facebook often clicks links about the sport of hockey or converses more often with a group of friends who have a common interest in hockey. This users news feed and recommended friends will began to become focused on others who have interest in hockey, instead of basketball or other sports. At the very elementary level such an example may appear harmless, and even convenient that common people are becoming connected. But doesn’t this belittle us as social beings online? Instead of meeting new people with different interests and different ideas, we are being shown only to similar beings with similar interests. Personally, as a Facebook user and a social being, I find it much more interesting to learn about a new sport, culture or technology than to speak to someone about something with which I am extremely familiar with. The same idea can be applied to news, and as Pariser explains, users should be exposed to topics which are important, uncomfortable, challenging or even opposing, instead of only relevant. So if filter bubbles are considered to have such negative impact on users of Facebook and Google, why do these companies utilize them?

As with many companies, when keeping, what some users like Eli Pariser would consider, a negative aspect of a product their is one goal in mind. Profit. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and any other websites who are using filter bubbles are no different. The reason these companies likely enjoy filtering and personalizing what a user sees is because it allows for easy advertisement. If a users interests can be acquired based on how she speaks with friends or how she searches, the same interests can be applied to offer advertisements to the user. This type of advertising is called targeting advertising and is vaguely defined as: “advertising whereby advertisements are placed so as to reach consumer based on various traits such as demographics, purchase history, or observed behavior.” For example, if a user is watching a hockey game on television she may see an advertisement about Tide laundry detergent which she has no interest in. On her Facebook page, an advertisement for Bauer Hockey Skates may appear based on the filter bubbles that have been created. In the end, this type of advertising works extremely well for the companies because they already know that they can target advertisements based on a users interests. The user doesn’t complain either because the advertisements which they are presented with remain relevant to their interests and they are then more likely to purchase the product. It is for this exact reason that filter bubbles will remain on the web for years to come.

Unfortunately, the truth is, as helpful as Facebook, Google and Yahoo are to us as users, they exist primarily as corporations whose main goal is to gain profit. This thought is key, because this means that user friendliness comes second to profit. Filter bubbles is a prime example of this. Instead of creating the best possible experience for the user, filter bubbles create a unique and simple way to raise profit. Unless in the future a serious economic change occurs the Internet will likely only become more personalized and more filtered (if even possible). Corporations will do whatever they can to maximize profit, and do just enough to keep users happy enough to pay the big bucks. Once again we must ask ourselves… What has the Internet turned into? More importantly…

What Have We Turned Into?

– Ian McDougald

Photo: http://www.43pixels.com/index.php/2011/05/18/video-beware-online-filter-bubbles/

Works Cited

Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” By Eli Pariser. Perf. Eli Pariser. YouTube.com. YouTube, LLC, 2 May 2011. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s&gt;.

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