Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Thus Spoke Wailin Wong…

After highlighting her article in the previous post, Wailin Wong at the Chicago Tribune was gracious enough to answer a few follow-up questions. As mentioned, her recent piece about participating in a panel at a local high school tied in nicely to some of the similarly insightful themes from Born Digital. If you haven’t read Wailin’s original article about this, please do. Without further ado, here is our Q&A:
BD: During the event you participated in, what seemed to biggest the biggest disconnect between the kids and the parents? What don’t the older generations get about social media?

WW: The biggest disconnect seemed to be parents not seeing what their children find so appealing and fun about social media sites. Some parents, of course, are members of Facebook and said they enjoyed connecting with old school friends and relatives. But many others seemed mystified at how exchanging messages via a website for hours could be fun, and worried that social media was not a productive use of their childrenai??i??s time.
BD: You cite one of the kids mentioning electronic communication as being “less demanding” than in-person communication. Do you see a possible downside to this?

WW: The ability to multi-task in communication is a good skill to have in the workplace. But some parents were concerned, and rightfully so, that the adoption of text-messaging speak and instant electronic communication could erode their childrenai??i??s spelling skills and ability to write longer-form prose.

BD: Was there anything said at the event that surprised you about how social media is viewed?

WW: One parent said she was worried that the heavy use of social media would re-wire future generationsai??i?? brains and fundamentally change their physiology. I was surprised to hear that concern, as itai??i??s one I havenai??i??t thought of before.

BD: What are the biggest ways in which social media and/or online technology has impacted your job as a columnist and reporter at the Chicago Tribune?

WW: The entire newspaper industry is adapting to the digital age (with varying degrees of success). Like other papers, we have to put a high priority on delivering news quickly to online readers. Thatai??i??s reoriented the way many of us organize our time and beat coverage. Weai??i??re also wading into social media, trying to see if tools such as Twitter are effective ways of reaching our audience. Many other journalists are doing this as well, whether itai??i??s linking to stories theyai??i??ve written or looking for new sources.
Hope you enjoyed that. I really appreciate Wailin taking the time to respond to these questions, and as previously mentioned, I highly recommend that you check out her regular columns at the Chicago Tribune.

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

As previously mentioned, this is a great place to start understanding the world of Web 2.0 and social media, especially if you were born before 1980. Authors John Palfrey and Urs Gasser chronicle and interview members of the generation born after that year to effectively demonstrate not only how they grew up with the Internet and helped change it, but also how it changed them.For the older generations: remember going to the mall, video arcade, or even to drive-ins in order to socialize? Well, this group went somewhere called the Internet to not only meet friends, but also establish their own identities. The online world is one of the places where they truly grew up and that is an important distinction that the authors really bring to life with first hand comments from these individuals themselves.
Overall, Born Digital is divided into easily organized sections, under headings such as: Identities, Privacy, Safety, Activism, Synthesis, etc. I felt that the book started off extremely strong by tackling how this generation shaped and was shaped by the Internet. This is really the key to understanding how the Internet evolved into its modern Web 2.0 form. It’s all about participation and direct communication. This movement really spred from kids and teenagers who grew up IM’ing and texting each other, and progressed to the point of managing personal profiles on Facebook and MySpace.
Also, I give the authors a great deal of credit for pointing out some of the dangers and limitations of a life online. While the obvious subject here is Safety (predators and cyber bullies receive some important discussion time), the all too often areas of information overload and the “Daily Me” are also covered in length.
These are two topics that many other Web 2.0 observers seem to regularly ignore and I was pleased to see the authors tackle them. Information overload is a pretty obvious concept to grasp, but the ramifications need to be addressed, which the authors do. What good is having nearly unlimited information at your fingertips if there is no surefire way to categorize it? Well it begins to overtake you and pretty soon you feel burned out to a point of not being able to process anything clearly. The authors warn users and those watching over them to guard against this condition and be vigilant about its signs.
In addition, concept of the Daily Me is effectively discussed. For a quick definition, here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:
The term has also been associated with the phenomenon of individuals customising and personalising their news feeds, resulting in their being exposed only to content they are already inclined to agree with. The daily me can thus be a critical component of the “Echo Chamber” effect, defined in an article in Salon by David Weinberger “those Internet spaces where like-minded people listen only to those people who already agree with them.”
This is an idea that should concern everyone online. As old/traditional media wanes in influence, individual news consumers really need to guard against merely having their views be constantly reinforced by like-minded bloggers, columnists and news sources. Providing a bulwark against the Daily Me can also present a powerful opportunity for these traditional media outlets as they attempt to cross the digital threshold and offer relevant content and services to an Internet savvy generation.
As a final thought, I would have liked to have seen the authors of Born Digital break down the generation born after 1980 into more detail. There is undoubtedly a difference between someone born in 1981, who probably did not start using the Internet until their mid-late teens, versus an Internet user born in 1991. This would have provided an extremely fascinating window into how the stunning rate of technological change is even impacting those very people classified as Born Digital.

The Changing Perception of Media

The original title for this entry was going to be: ai???The Changing Definition of Yet, I quickly realized that this would be inaccurate when you consider what the definition of the word media truly is. According to Webster’s Online Dictionary:
1. Transmissions that are disseminated widely to the public.
“Media” is a name that signifies or is derived from: “measure”, “habit”, “covering”, “ponder”, “cunning”.
Date “media” was first used in popular English literature: sometime before 1532. (references)
Etymology: Media \Me”di*a\, noun; plural Medi[ae](-[=e]). [New Latin, from Latin medius middle.]. (references)

As you can see, it is not the definition of media that is changing, but our perception of what it means and consists of. Our overall sense of the media is now stretching and evolving into something more fluid, more diverse, and far more immediate.

Of course, many forget that these transformations have always been taking place even without the effect of the Internet. The days of the Big-Three Network evening news programs steadily succumbed to 24-hour cable news throughout the past two decades and now even these entities struggle to define themselves and maintain audiences against the rapid fire quickness of the online world.

Overall, one of the first concepts that we need to accept and embrace is that the very idea of media has always been changing and growing. There is no doubt that the Internet has enormously sped up the process, but our actual perception of it has never been permanent to begin with.

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