May 12, 2007

Digital divide

Writing about web page http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2075529,00.html

We might think of research only when we read about a new scientific discovery or when people talk about the “fat gene”. However, we use research everyday. Even informally, for example, when we discuss amongst our friends where somebody bought a bag or a book.

James epitomises how kids use computers. A year ago, he mostly used his for homework. This year, though, he is heavily into iTunes, Bebo and YouTube. And he used the web to research getting a dog. “Fed up that my parents wouldn’t get their act together, I searched the internet for the right breed at the right price.” For him, “the computer has become the best place to find information of any sort”.

The point I am trying to make is that at a basic level, for “everyday research”, the internet is changing the way we do things. In addition, the current behaviour that we see in teenagers is not exclusive to them. We have all changed how we go about shopping in one way or another -or for some of us, at least how we think about it. However, some more than others have changed somehow. Some obviously see more benefits in changing, for example, saving a few pounds, saving a drive to the bookshop.

Both seemed to mirror James’s attitude to technology: it’s a tool to help them do what they want to do.

Teenagers have noticed intuitively that technology help them to do what they want to do. And they don’t even call it technology! I reckon there is a bit more of familiarity, and therefore of usability. For teenagers, maybe, technology is there and if it helps so why not. They use technology to play, to entertain themselves, to kill time, to do their homework, why not to research- as a basic survival activity “I want a dog, my parents don’t get me one, let’s find it by myself”. For a child having a dog might be a survival thing to do.

However, there is something else, if I am growing with a pc, then I am not going to be scared of using it or I am not going to think, this machine is there to replace me. However, if I have not grown with technology, I might go “what is this?” or I might reactively say or think “I am not into pc’s”, “I don’t do blogs, I am a person”, “maybe they brought this new machine to replace me as it has happened in the past with others”. Technology in the form of computers here provokes different feelings.

why his generation’s use of technology such as iPods, games players and mobile phones with built-in cameras and video – is fundamentally different from those over 30 or 40.

I feel where there is a digital divide, radically, this divide comprehend these new technologies iPods, games and mobile phones. However, for some who are over 30 or 40, it is favourable to have technology on our side as it gives us choice, for example instead of buying a movie in HTMV for £10 I will buy it in Amazon for £5. We do have options. The sad part is when we don’t even give ourselves an option.

Josh, Anna and James insist that their incessant use of technology does not make them geeks. Josh explains that “to most grownups, a geek is someone who can use a computer. To us, a geek is someone who can build a computer and its applications himself.” Neither Josh nor Anna know any real geeks, whom they consider to be rather sad.

This digital divide is changing also the definition of a geek, for older generations, a geek is somebody sad who uses computers intensively. While for younger generations it is somebody sad who builds computers and software. What worries me is what kind of specs (yes like those in specsavers but that in academia are called “paradigms”) we all have that we cannot see (or maybe don’t want to see) that internet is there to make things easier, bearing in mind that there must be a need for it or some familiarity.

To them, computers and the internet are just tools to help them communicate with their mates. They are also helping them to solve problems, collaborate with each other and create their own knowledge. Did old-time education do all of this? Adults should stop worrying and join in. That could plug the child/adult divide – at least until the next generation.


My e–book dream

Writing about web page http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2077278,00.html

One of the problems with the word “technology” is that sometimes we related it to things like gizmo, gadget or “a thingy that might not work”. We forget, I forget, that technology is a book, the kettle, the alphabet. When we forget that these are artefacts of technology, they all become taken-for-granted. They stopped being considered technology and become part of our day-to-day life. Like it happens now with younger generations now, they are growing with ipods and msn (for example), so for them these will be like for us phones, books are.

Let’s now think about “books” and our relationships with them, yes because I feel there are many kinds of relationship we can have with books. These can be at the level of pets, children, partners, god knows what else! I reckon it will be difficult for some to think about the possibility of replacing them with “ebooks”.

However, let’s come back to the younger generations, those “digital natives” might not develop the same relationships we now develop with books. It seems that they might not even have a relationship with them at all. It is argued that these digital natives not be very much used to reading and writing, some claim that for them reflecting will be very hard (when it is obvious that reflecting is a very difficult task in nature for us now).

For those who are not digital natives, we still have a choice, it is matter of taking ir or not. Why amazon gives the choice of reading “an ebook” you might be interested in buying? It might be to replicate how we buy our books in a bookshop. I have found the readers’ comments very useful as well, this will replicat when a friend or anybody recommends a book to you.

Some have actually found one good use for an ebook. For example, instead of physically going to waterstones or wherever and look for a book that the store might not have in stock, I save a ride or a walk to the shop by browsing online. I reckon it might be matter of time the e-book for changing from dream to reality. We are in changing times. For the time being however until I am given more choices, I will enjoy reading a book and browsing an ebook before buying.

It’s partly that traditional books are such good technology, even compared with CDs or newspapers. They are a little larger than the hand, extremely portable, nice to hold and look at and remarkably cheap. Yes, there is an environmental issue but most are made of cheap, sustainable woodpulp. Simple technology that works is unlikely to go out of fashion. Those futurologists of the 1960s who predicted a world of silver jumpsuits and food-pills forgot that socks, buttons and saucepans were simple technology that worked, and the same is true of books.


April 22, 2007

Happiness and PhD?

Writing about web page http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1606395,00.html

Comment about "Getting Serious About Happiness" (my motto: "don't be a zombie")

This article is about a PhD study on happiness, in the article the title is longer but in essence it is about happiness.

I found this title so ironic at the beginning, as I thought that "happiness" and "PhD" could not be in the same statement in a positive relationship. Anyway, it makes sense that people ought to spend time researching the subject. At the end of the day that is what everybody is looking for in life, more or less. However, the search for happiness is not that easy. Some of us might be too lazy, slow, scared to be happy. I have been lazy, slow and scared to be happy sometimes, I hope not most of the time. I reckon this might not be an uncommon thing. There thus is a wake up call for some who might be living their lives likes the zombies (trying to eat people) like the ones from those films we see these days. I hope to be brave enough to dare to be happy now while I am doing my PhD.

Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick-Sent-Me-High-ee according to the article) has three suggestions. Let's see if being reflective a bit will bring us a bit of happiness in return. I feel I can say something about it.

Be attuned to what gives you genuine satisfaction. Although many people assume that popular activities like watching TV are enjoyable, their own reports generally indicate that they feel more engaged, energetic, satisfied and happy when doing other things.

Nice one. A quick reaction is that sometimes what makes us happy is not sometimes entirely healthy or good for us, so one might end up being happy but dead or with a high cholesterol or with a heart attack (I see myself eating lots of chocolate or pasta with mozzarella - not at the same time though). However, this tip makes sense. Being aware of what makes us happy is the beginning. Although we might not be able to do something straightaway. I feel I would rather realise what makes me happy and try to create the situation to actually make it happen (even if I fail), than not haven realised at all.

Study yourself. To better understand their own happiness, Csikszentmihalyi says, people should systematically record their activities and feelings every few hours for a week or two. In recording your observations, try to focus on how you actually feel, rather than what you think you ought to be feeling or what you expect to feel. Afterwards, note the high points, particularly, and the low ones. Then try to adjust how you spend time according to your findings.

Good one. I see here a thing in common with the PhD process, as we hopefully should be learning bits about ourselves while we are undertaking the PhD. I reckon it is also life that gives us some hints if we are fast or clever enough to realise. It may require us to be the sort of people who actually learn from the experience -promptly (ours or somebody else's). However, I would go further and say (if possible) "learn about yourself", so much reflection without action takes me nowhere or takes me somewhere but late. However, this is easier to say or to write about than to actually do it.

Take control. Repairing unhappy conditions requires active effort. People often assume external conditions will change for the better or let chance determine their response. That's a mistake. "Get control," Csikszentmihalyi says. When things aren't right, "you have to put in the same effort you would if your business were in trouble. Just as markets move, life changes too."

Tough one. I experienced this not a while ago, when I had to give up a job, it wasn't easy. I needed to be brave enough to face people and more importantly to face myself everyday after that. I am sure I learned painful but useful lessons from the whole experience. However, it was a difficult period and time likes that would certainly affects us somehow. Maybe it will touch our confidence or determination, but I reckon if whatever action was really necessary or important it will bring us something positive at the end.


April 12, 2007

Wilfing the net

Writing about web page http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2053536,00.html

I finally found out what was happening to me. I suffer from the “what was I looking for” syndrome; which normally happens to me in real life and now it is also happening in my virtual life.

There were some symptoms, for example, when I was surfing in amazon (not the amazon) and I was looking for some books, I suddenly realised I have derived off the target and I found myself looking for some movies and books I do not want to buy…

And I thought I was being fickle or avoiding the task, maybe I was, however, suddenly it seems to be everywhere. Focus. It is not good for studies. I am telling myself, sometimes not succesfully. Maybe most of the time.

Wilfing is not in the dictionary yet, not in the online one anyway, I reckon it will be soon. I found “wolfing” meaning “to eat a large amount of food very quickly”. Virtually speaking, “wilfing” may have a similar meaning which would be “to eat visually a large amount of information very quickly, without digesting”.


January 12, 2007

Tomorrow's World?

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2007/01/why_tomorrows_world.shtml

Perhaps technology needs especial emphasis?

Well yes and no

We all have been using technology for years and years...since the human race began...however as someone said, technology has that name at first when "the artifact or whatever" is new, a novelty, and then well we forget it is technology.

For instance, I read somewhere that the alfabeth is one of the first pieces of technology we had and that because of their use and the fact that it becomes a taken-for-granted, we forgot how it started, we forgot it was technology. And maybe some didnt believe in it then, as now people do not believe in current technological developments.

And for a while, maybe always we become shocked to the word technology, we are resistant to have technology in our lives "I am not into that, I am not a geek".

So yes, technology needs a especial place, yes, but not one in which only geeks can go into, but a friendly place in which everybody can go and get something useful or a couple of very good ideas.


January 11, 2007

Games are a serious business

Writing about web page http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,1986993,00.html

...those responsible for a supposedly progressive arts festival should understand the incredible possibilities of interactive media to educate, inform and challenge in fresh, engaging ways. This isn’t even a new idea – Monopoly, of course, has its roots in The Landlord’s Game, developed in the first years of the 20th century to show how the economics of rented accommodation impoverished tenants.

Newsflash: videogames are still misunderstood and maligned in 2007 – no matter how much money they’re making, no matter how many suited soulless freaks try to turn them into franchise properties.

I reckon it is human nature, I do not know whether there is research on this, but it is our instintcs that lead us to doubt about anything new to us. Although games are not new, these have appeal amongst children and young people as these have been the most attracted to it. However, there is research in progress about the use of games on understanding abstract concepts amongst engineering students. Although games were not thought to be taken seriously they have many possibilties to help young minds to understand, engage and motivate.


Blogs versus real news

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2007/01/blogs_versus_real_news.shtml

I realise that it is positive to play the role of the devil’s advocate as a means to be self critical, for instance, I use blogs a lot but I am aware that this is not everybody’s cup of tea and that you have to get something from it in order to actually use them and play with them. I feel I learn from them and that I will use what I post or maybe others during our studies so I keep reading and posting.

However, I got the feeling that some of these reactions towards emerging new ways of communication, which are certainly more personalised and are going to change the way we perceive the news, bring “mixed feelings” but calling what is not in a blog “real” news really makes ouchh!, especially coming from a blog journalist.

How about the way media broadcoasted a version of Saddam’s execution that give us a picture that has not relation whatsoever with what really happened there and that we all got it from a couple of mobile phones, so this means that we should not take this seriously either?

Just because it does not come from a traditional means like the news at ten does not mean it is not real. For me apart from entertaining (the news at ten works better than sleeping pills for me sometimes), it is informative, I am sure you get a lot of rubbish, in blogs as you get a lot of rubbish from traditional media when hearing what people say in the news (journalists and those who make the news). However we should bear in mind that it comes from people as well.


The OLPC Wiki

Writing about web page http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Main_Page

My first reaction:

e-learning, the “e” bit goes for enhancement, it is the means, this projects for me can go wrong if there is not enough informing and practical research on how children can benefit from technology, I am sure that children’s minds are sophisticated enough to work out how the lap top can work and what can they do with it (I have a posting about an experiment in Delhi conducted amongst children with no computer literacy skills).

However, my initial reaction is that all good project needs some background, in this case children e-pedagogy. Now, if this is covered then there is a hope. Otherwise, I come from a developing country and I see that projects with good intentions end up in nothing good for the population because there is something to develop and it is the country general infrastructure and education.

In addition there the issue about the content to be learned, what children have to learn?, what we need them to know? and other questions which can be resumed to what does a country need most from its future citizens in the long term? this is something for the government in every country to work on. This is certainly something that I will come back to later on, hopefully, to see something good coming out of it. http://www.laptop.org/


Lost in technology

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6232243.stm

A mobile has become that piece of technology very useful and at the same time very frustrating, I felt a couple of times like a tech dinosour, the one that cannot understand the mobile and would like to throw it against the wall, but I decided not to get angry or frustated anymore, I am coping with the fact that my mobile is this mysterious, enigmatic and French companion that I would not dare to leave it abandoned (French as I havent worked out yet how to communicate with it yet not knowing the lingo and what can do for me apart from making urgent phone calls).

Mobiles in this country and the way that contracts work causes that you sort end up with a new mobile every year, and when you think you cracked it, then you renew your contract (it has happened with me three times now) and you get a much better one that does wonderful things (mine is a wonderful camera). However, we might not have the time to work out some of the marvellous but intriguing capabilities yet.

What is more this article suggests for instance that a mobile might even plan your healthy or unhealthy meal in the future. Cracky. The future makes us all have hectic lives and maybe our mobiles will be our personal assistants, so I see that you sort of wake up every morning and would not have to think at all. This reminds me “Little Britain”, but instead of having a computer, you will end up asking you mobile something and then you will repeat “mobile says no”.


January 08, 2007

Delhi children make play of the net

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1502820.stm

This article is about an experiment that took place amongst children who were computer illiterate. The interest was to see how able they were to work out how computers work and use some of its facilities. Children basically got on with the task straightaway and they sorted out what to do by working collaboratively. It is very interesting as I have heard about other experiments looking at how sophisticated children are when dealing with abstract problems.


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