Wired Pursuits

Archive for the ‘"Did you ever notice that…?"’ Category

The impact of technology on our lives.

When we think about technology, we often think about all the new things that it brings to our lives. But, Brendan, a student at Chattanooga State Community College, thinks about technology differently. Brendan started wondering about what we may be losing. And in doing so came up with the great idea of archiving sounds that are “endangered” because of new technology.

Dubbed the Museum of Endangered Sounds, Brendan has a set of 18 photos that can be clicked to play the corresponding sound. Depending on your age you may or may not have even heard of some of these sounds. Think about the sound of a modem connecting, the sound of a rotary dial phone, or even…”We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed” (I never liked that lady).

You can almost see the game show now, “Name that Endangered Sound.” The cheesy game show host invites the next two contestants up to the podium, he signals for the sound to play while the two contestants hover their hand over the red plunger button in anticipation. The sound begins…a hand slaps the button…the contestant says…”A busy signal.” Woohoo, 100 points for your team.

Or, how about adding sounds to the oh so popular trivia nights at all the local bars (something us older folks would kill at).

Saving a piece of technological history.

I never though about how if we fail to capture these sounds they may disappear forever. Would loosing the sound of a modem connecting be a horrible thing, probably not. But, these sounds, or lack thereof, tell the story of the digital age; how quickly technology is advancing and with it changing the very noises we encounter in our daily lives.

Think about all the sounds we could collect by crowdsourcing the whole site. What might we learn? Do the sounds that are disappearing differ by countries? What sounds have disappears that we here in the U.S. don’t even know about? Have any sounds come back?

It’s not just sounds that are endangered (and even extinct). It’s things too.

Maybe Brendan needs to create a companion site, “Name that Endangered Thing.” After all, it’s not just sounds that we may be loosing forever, it’s also things. Think about some of the “things” that are disappearing. For example, do you know what this red thing is? We certainly have little use for it anymore now that we listen to digital music.

How about the plastic folding photo holder thingy that you used to add to your wallet? Heck I couldn’t even find a photo of one on the Internet. Which made me think that not only are sounds/things being endangered, depending on how long ago they existed (and we’re talking decades not centuries), they might not even have a presence on the web. And for many younger folks that means they probably never existed anyway.

Think about what other sounds Brendan might add to his site? What other “things” are endangered or even extinct?

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SPOLIER: It’s a spindle for a 45 RPM record (which have pretty much also disappeared).

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How do you know spring has arrived? In most places the trees start to bud, flowers start to pop up, the weather warms, and the days get longer. Well here in Happy Valley (a.k.a. State College) we have our own unique way of recognizing the arrival of spring.

Here are the top 10 ways you know it’s spring in State College.

1. Red chairs pop up outside at Cafe 210.

2. Gaggles of college kids in matching t-shirts wondering around town (the annual bar tour).

3. The fragrant scent of cheap beer everywhere.

4. Blue Natty Light cans scattered across the lawn.

5. Red solo cups impaled on unsuspecting bushes.

6. Skin everywhere (guys in shorts, girls in sundresses) even when it’s 50 degrees and raining.

7. The slap-slap sound of flip-flops.

8. A sudden increase in desperate emails from students trying to figure out how to make up for missed assignments.

9. Mattresses, broken bookcases, and the odd papasan chair without a cushion left on the curb.

10. And finally, an eerie quite hush blankets the valley as the students leave for the summer.

Not a nice title I know. But I’ve been thinking about Twitter a lot lately. Mostly just thinking, cause since I started my PhD I’ve been bad at keeping up with it.

Personally I use Twitter to tap into the eyes and ears of others who share my interests. They point me to articles, ideas, and conversations I likely never would have come across on my own. The key is to find the experts who tweet about relevant useful things you’re  interested in.

Since I’ve been so bad at keeping up, I often go back and read the stream of tweets from 2, even 3 days ago. I’m noticing some interesting patterns. I’ve tried to come up with some “twitterisms” naming the different phenomenon I’m observing:

Twitter Re-re’s: People who only RT others. They typically don’t have any original content of their own. “She’s just a Twitter Re-re trying to up her Twitter rank.”

Twitter vomit: What happens when people sign on to Twitter and spew forth 5 or more tweets in a row.  These guys typically leave their mark (so to speak) then they’re not heard from for the rest of the day. “Whoa, did you see all the twitter vomit from @lerickson today? Jeeze.”

Tweefer-heads: People whose tweets either make no sense or are totally random. “That guy is lost in his own world. What a tweefer-head.”

Twiticism: When someone corrects you or has issues with your tweet. “I don’t mind a little twiticism, but do we really need the four letter words too?”

Tweeches: People who attach themselves to everyone on twitter trying to up their numbers. “This guy has over 10,000 people he’s following and only one tweet. What a tweech.”

A “twituation”: Any highly tweeted breaking situation or event. “Check out the twituation Kanye’s got himself into now.”

I’m mulling around with the idea of putting together a twictionary of such terms. Please submit any you know of, or any you make up.

When the Internet and email first started being used for communications many complained that it would never be as rich as face-to-face communications. It was devoid of emotion, feeling, or personality. You couldn’t really get to know the person you were interacting with. But over time that has changed. Individuals have come up with interesting ways to add emotion and feeling to their communications, and new technologies such as audio and video are allowing individuals to hear an individual’s tone of voice and watch their body language and mannerisms.

We are emotional creatures.

People are by nature emotional creatures. We gain many clues to others by watching their body language, listening to the tone of their voice, and looking them in the eye. How many times have you heard the saying, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it comes from?”

With email and the Internet all that was missing in the beginning. Sometimes individuals misunderstood messages because there were no external clues to what the sender really meant. But as social beings, we have come up with many creative ways to add emotion, and therefore understanding, to our electronic communications. I’ve been lucky to be able to see these changes being used by more and more people over the years.

Adding emotion to our electronic communications.

Below is a list of just some of the ways we are putting a face on our communications (well the ones I can think of). I’m sure I’ve missed some, so if you think of others, please add them. Note that I am not including all the design tricks such as color, font, and layout that designers can use to create a “feeling” around a web page. Instead these are things that most individuals can do to convey emotion using a basic keyboard.

  • CAPS LOCK. A simple way to add emphasis. Basically the electronic equivalent of yelling.
  • Bold. Another simple way to show emphasis.
  • Emoticons. Probably the most interesting. Those pesky little characters often added to email, IM, and blog posts to convey feelings. Smile:  :-), wink ;-), shock =o to name a few. Interestingly, emoticons didn’t start with email. There were actually used on the Plato system in the 1970. But the popularity of email has made them more known and common to the general public.
  • Profile photos. Profile photos on Facebook, Twitter, and forums are great ways to send clues about personality (or hide them). Whether they are actual photos or avatars both convey a sense of the person you are communicating with.

I’ve been mulling this around in my mind for a while and the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that all the anxiety and excitement centered around social media is about control – gaining it, and losing it.

Social media, user-generated content, and an expanding set of social tools have shifted control to consumers.

Today, consumers have a voice. And because of that voice, they have gained control. They are no longer satisfied with the information organizations push at them. Instead, they are talking with each other, becoming better-educated consumers, and often banning together to demand better service or products. We’ve heard stories where they promote brands and where they bring brands to their knees.

Consumers have more control. Businesses have less.

Businesses along with PR and marketing companies have less control.

Because consumers have more of a voice, hence more control, it is forever changing the way marketing and PR companies generate awareness, drive sales, and position companies. I’ve seen the reluctance and resistance to give up control first hand. PR companies want to control the message, releasing only what they want when and where they want. A model that, in the past, has been very successful. Marketing companies are reluctant to bring customers into the conversation – “what if they say something negative?” “How do we control the conversation?”

But social media allows consumers to impact and shift the PR message and customers are already talking about companies and their brands.

Control is shifting at schools and at home.

But this shift in control doesn’t seem to be limited to business. It’s happening within school and at home.

I’ve come across much debate about the negative effects the Internet, social networks, IM and other such online social channels are having on this younger generation. I’ve also run across much debate about the role of social media in the classroom.

Is this debate fueled by issues of control? Do parents feel they are losing control in terms of monitoring whom their children interact with? Do they feel a loss of control because they don’t understand how to navigate the new wired landscape (something their kids know more about than they do)?

Some educators feel they are losing control of their classrooms because of all the distractions social media brings. Are they losing the battle for their students’ attention?

As with consumers, students and children now have more of a voice. They can post their thoughts on professors, journal about their parents, and broadcast their opinions to more people than ever before on Facebook and MySpace. They are experiencing more control and having more of a voice than ever before. It that threatening to the older generation?

Is it about control or something else?

So what do you think? Is it all about control? Is social media shifting more traditional relationships and turning things on their heads? Are consumers and the Net Generation more vocal because of this newfound control?

Every space has its etiquette – both physical and online spaces.

When I first started messing around in the social media world I found  there were no guides who’d help me learn the lingo.  And, there was a bit of the “if you don’t know how it works, you’re an outsider – not one of us” mentality.  You either had to dive in or lurk around a while and try to figure out the etiquette on your own.  At least online you have a choice.

I recently attended the C&T conference at Penn State.  Many of the sessions were in their wonderful Cybertorium – a huge lecture hall with a 1 ½ story video screen, state of the art equipment, and sound system.  It also has about 15 tiers of stadium seating.

Arriving early to the conference, as I’m a bit of a punctuality freak, there were only 2 people in the room, both in the front row.  I wasn’t sure if they were the speakers or audience members.  I had no social cues about where people sit.  Do they tend to cluster at the bottom towards the speaker/teacher?  Do they hang in the middle or stick to the top rows?  I had to make a choice, so I worked my way closer to the front of the room.

People started entering the space and immediately gravitated towards the middle and back, leaving me way up front with just a few people in my row.  Awkward.  It appeared that I had chosen poorly.  Unlike in an online social space, I wasn’t able to lurk unseen and pick up on the social cues before jumping in.  Of course, I could have left and come back later, but it got me thinking…

  • Do online social spaces allow new visitors to orient themselves before being “seen?”
  • Does this lesson the anxiety of entering new and unknown spaces?

Social media is a bit like parenting. You don’t get it until you’ve tried it.

Before I had kids and I would offer up my thoughts and opinions on pare­nting and raising kids, I often had other parents tell me that I really couldn’t understand what it was like to be a parent until I was one.  No one could explain the mental shift that supposedly happens, but I heard the same thing from more than one person.   I hated it when people told me that, and I really didn’t believe it.  Then I became a parent and I understood.

Social media is a different way of thinking and until you immerse yourself in it and your mindset shifts, it’s likely that you’ll be a bit befuddled as to what all the fuss is about.

It’s not linear; it’s fluid and multi-directional.  I think that’s what freaks people out.  You can’t diagram it or even replicate the experiences you have from one day to the next.  It’s an immersion in information that is free form and seemingly random.  That makes is a bit confusing for those who don’t think that way.

Which brings me to my second thought.

The uniqueness of social media is its immediacy.

Social media has an immediacy and urgency to it.  The conversation around a new blog post typically has about a 1 – 2 day shelf life.  Comments start the same day, but the conversation peters out by the second.

If you post a question to a forum or a social network, if you don’t get an answer that day or the next, you typically don’t expect to get one.

Tools like Twitter allow you to tap into the latest news faster than you ever could before, but if you’re not following the conversation you miss it.

It’s a live conversation that you can watch on multiple channels as it happens.  Sometimes if you blink, or forget to listen in, you’ll miss it. This immediacy makes it hard to jump into and out of and still keep up. This can also be intimidating to people whoa are just diving into social media.

Which brings me to my last thought.

Engaging in social media isn’t something you think about.

While social media is a different way of thinking, the people who get the most from it are the ones who don’t think about it.  They’ve integrated it into their day.  It’s just what they do.  It’s like checking email is for the rest of us.  It’s not something you have to remember to do, you just do it without thinking.

When you’re just starting to explore social media, following multiple blogs, keeping up with Facebook and LinkedIn, and twitting on Twitter often feels like one more thing to do in an already busy day.  Just like with any new technology, there’s a learning curve.  But if you keep at it, you’ll find you get into a groove and you’ll begin to become somewhat addicted to different tools and conversations.

Just do it.  Start listening in.

Which brings me full circle.  In order to reap the benefits of social media, you need to integrate it into your day.  In order to integrate it, it has to be something you don’t think about doing.  In order to not think about it, you need to understand that it’s a different way of thinking.  And in order to understand the new mindset, you’ve got to experience it.

For a while you may have to leave yourself a note reminding you to check certain blogs, open TweetDeck, or scan your RSS feeds.  You may have to block off certain times during the day to catch up on the conversations.

Little by little, you’ll find the right tools and conversations that work for you.  And you’ll begin to be able to leverage and learn from all the smart people out there engaged in those conversations.

To see comments, go to original post on Erickson Barnett Blog.


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