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Category Archives: Social Networks

Those social media users you hardly know

Let’s be honest. We have no clue how people (other than our closed circle of friends) use social media.

This important study is not just how social media changes people — pretty obvious in many cases. It is about how society changes social media.It was done after a 15 months study by nine anthropologists, each of whom spent that time living in communities in China, Brazil, Turkey, Chile, India, England, Italy and Trinidad.

Daniel Miller, (a prof at Univ College London) one of the researchers/authors, sums it up this way: While social media companies decide (and probably control) how users will interface with their platform, users find new ways to use the service, leaving companies to play catch-up. “They repurpose their digital worlds” transforming the social medium.

The book studied people as diverse as Kurdish users, Moslems, Chinese, Indians and more. It’s available as a book and as a free PDF. I found it interesting how Chinese users of the social platform QQ (similar to Google+) sort and evaluate friends. Or that mine workers in Chile would use WhatsApp, but are concerned that it could breed jealousy!

it is the first in a series of studies by the anthropologists. I can’t wait for the next installments.

 

 

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Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.
 

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Ranting and Whining – And you call this ‘social?

There was a time, not too long ago when social media was the place to be nice to others, and celebrate the ‘small world’ we live in.

What did we do with that?

A week seldom goes by without seeing humans whining and groaning like 14-year olds, complaining about the most mundane things, broadcasting what most people used to keep private in their petty-little spats, or rambling about the speed bumps we all face each day.

There are a 101 reasons why this is bad for us as a society – overuse of social media, that is. There’s a good summary of Why it’s bad for you here (and you probably intuitively knew most of these already.)

Just because we can screen-shot a conversation or an email, or tell our Instagram followers why someone makes us mad, doesn’t need we have to. I’ve written plenty on ‘Why Web 2.0 ought to make us more human’ but find myself having to call out those who turn this wonderful resource we call social media, into the most advanced anti-social media behavior.

 

 
 

Balloons could add new flavors to the ‘Cloud’ and Digital Democracy

Most of you know how I dislike the word ‘cloud’ as a catchall for anything accessed online. So how about getting used to balloons? As in Google’sProject Loon that has been in the works for some two years, and now is supposed to be set to launch in Sri Lanka.

It’s a crazy, heady idea. Sri Lanka will be the first country to get ‘universal Internet access’ as TechCrunch put it.

I just got back from Sri Lanka, and did an extensive train and road trip with the family. I experienced first hand what connectivity is –and is not. The new, fast highways are obviously connecting more people to more opportunities. The Telcos are providing easy-to-get (via a scratch card) low-cost bandwidth for smart devices. There is growing free Wi-Fi presence in towns as diverse as Galle, Anuradhapura, Kandy and some places in Jaffna; even on a train we took to the hill country! Access does get spotty and sluggish at times, but the appetite for connectivity is growing in leaps and bounds.

And now balloons!

Here’s why I welcome this. Not for the obvious reasons, such as giving everyone including tuk-tuk drivers or election monitors the ability to tweet or upload pictures – which could be useful in and of itself.

Education: First sorely needed bandwidth to homes, schools and offices will change the game. I was at one outstation school, and the science teachers had to use a dongle to get online. ‘Universal access’ for schools would change the dimension of how learning takes place beyond the Google search. Young people could be empowered to create content and not just consume it. It’s about time schools got a better deal when it comes to connectivity. Why haven’t the telcos given schools a better deal? What will they do now?

Political participation. Sri Lanka has demonstrated that despite the dismal examples of governance, that democracy and citizen participation works. ICTA reported recently that “Sri Lanka has shot up to 74th position in the United Nations E-Government Survey of 2014, after climbing 41 places since 2012.” Nalaka Gunewardene goes into rich detail about how Digital Democracy is at work. Beyond elections, this will affect transparency and accountability, when everyone has an uplink, a camera and a voice.

There are obviously several more examples, which some of you might like to add. Please do!

 

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Sometimes technology is NOT the answer

You might be surprised to see me talk about this topic here.

Though I’m a computer and technology advocate, (and teacher) I do make jabs at tech. Technology is meant to serve us, not the other way around. I’ve lately seen how completely ridiculous Instagram has become as pre-teens overrun the space. Classic example: a handful of 11 and 12 year-olds at a party, sending each other status updates. From within the same room!

I thought this was an age thing, until I read this thought-provoking piece titled “Technology is Not The Answer : A Student’s Perspective.” It was published in Education Week in October this year.

By a high-school junior.

He cites cases of why students need to develop personal relationships, and not just on-screen button-pushing skills.

Back to Instagram.  This is how WikiHow recommends how to gain followers.

Like and comment on pictures. Once you start following some people, take some time to Like and comment on their photos. Not only will this make the other person feel good, but other people may see your name or comment and check out your profile. If you stay active, this can lead to a steady stream of new followers.

It’s all about making others feel good?

It may be time for schools to require any student who has a phone in their backpack to  take a digital literacy 101 lesson. Maybe this is harsh, but some parents need this too.

If you don’t believe me:

  • Google the words Instagram, stupid, and people and check out sites such as damn cool pictures.
 
 

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The Internet of Things – Cool or Creepy?

Just putting the final touches to an article on the biggest, hyped concept –the Internet of Things.

It’s not difficult to grasp what this is supposed to mean –after all the Internet as we know it is nothing more than a collection of billions of things such as servers, routers, ATMs, satellites, and devices that send and receive data.

But I came across a few interesting ways this IoT space is developing, sometimes in a quiet, boring way. By invitation, or by accident we subscribe to (and nurture) the Internet of Things. Not many people have heard of the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) by some hotel chains in (get ready for this…) bed-sheets and pillowcases! Soft, fluffy things, in other words, can provide data.

Sure, in the post-WikiLeaks world, many of us are extremely skeptical about where this data will end up. There’s a bumpy spot in our passport cover that I am told is an embedded device. It is one of those ‘things’… But what about biometric wristbands? How about license plates with RFID tags?

You would be surprised what people surveyed (by Pew Research) have said about what to expect.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Hype, Social Networks, Technology

 

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Texting Vs Talking – Another View

My son was home for a few days, and his cell phone died.

The world didn’t evaporate into a mushroom cloud. You see, not being connected doesn’t faze him. “My friends all know that I don’t respond to texts immediately,” he replied when I asked him if it found  that not having a phone for a week caused him any problems. It made me wonder if Milennials have reached the turning point of incessant texting.

Just a few years ago, this was what we were hearing about 18 – 24 year olds.

  • 43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone (2010 eMarketer report)
  • More Millennials (than members of any other generation) use their phone for texting. (Pew Research)

What if people stopped staring at their phones and actually spoke to you? Would that creep you out?

What if people stopped sending you links to stupid cat (or anti-whatever) videos, and actually called you to chat?

 

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