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Category Archives: Social Networks

In the age of Shodan, cars aren’t the only targets in the Internet of Things

IOT of the Internet of Things may sound like an overblown idea. But it’s becoming a reality, despite the buzz phrase. Consider the millions of controllers in homes that are connected to common appliances such as baby monitors, security cameras, garage doors etc.

I brought this up in a class on Internet Safety, and it’s fun getting students to brainstorm what steps one could take to play it safe when you are connected to the Internet. It opens to door to discussions broader than not clicking on links and pop-ups, or using hard-to-crack passwords. There are software fixes, and there is common sense. Consider how FBI director, says he placed a piece of tape over his laptop camera, to prevent someone hacking into it.

Not many have heard about Shodan. It’s considered a search engine for connected devices – such ‘things’ devices connected to Linksys, Netgear, or Cisco boxes.

This true-life hack of a Jeep is a good way to discuss what ‘things’ might entail in the Internet of Things.

 
 

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Multi-tasking could reduce performance. But how to turn back the clock?

What would you say about findings that say multi-tasking affects ‘memory creation?’

After all, we email and text while writing reports or watching a movie, don’t we? I just read a 2016 report by Common Sense Media that looked at recent literature of Technology Addiction. here are some alarming findings. Some are red flags, needing more research.

Here are just a few:

  • Media Multi-tasking creates cognitive fatigue, and makes it more difficult for someone to create memories that can be accurately retrieved.
  • Heavy multi-taskers have a harder time filtering out irrelevant information (2009 study of college students)
  • Students who multi-tasked using a laptop during a lecture performed worse on a test, compared to students who were not using a laptop. (2013 study of college students)
  • US ‘Tweens’ (8- to 12-year-olds) spend 5:55 hours outside of school and homework using media. Teens spend 8:56 hours (2015 survey)

The reference to media in media multi-tasking, refers to both digital and non-digital media: TV, video games,social media, using the Internet, reading, and listening to music.

What do we do about these findings? Many parents do not need research to tell them that they (and their kids) must cut back. I have met parents who have taken steps such as not have more than one device in the home, and those who have a ‘digital curfew’ after, say 8:00 pm. There are even those who do not allow mobile devices and tablets in children’s bedrooms – similar to the earlier trend of not having a TV in bedroom.

I teach computers and technology, making it a curious place to discuss this. I often require students to use paper and pencil, even though they come to my Lab to learn about such things as audio recordings (on a cloud-based digital console), QR codes, and search strategies. I often get asked if listening to music while working is OK (they know the answer but think it’s worth a shot!).

Could we turn back the clock, and get back to mono-tasking?

 

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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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