Friday, December 26, 2014

Size Clearly Matters!

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My article on February 26th 2012 from an old Media & Tech blog

A number of friends asked for my BBM PIN, well before I bought a BlackBerry and before I even knew what BBM meant. I pulled the trigger with a Bold, and it was a pleasure to own. I welcomed its familiar QWERTY keyboard, and it was perfect for tapping out text with my thumbs.

The drawback? Its size. It was my first smart phone, and even though it was dial-up slow, I appreciated connecting to the internet on-the-go. But the miniature print of articles I read was difficult to tolerate. Yes, I could zoom in, but it was a halting process and cumbersome navigation. I didn’t even try to watch videos on it.

I traveled home to Chicago, and my sister arranged for me to have an iPhone 3G.  I don’t like its touch-screen keyboard and auto-correct feature, but it’s a pleasure to read articles, look at photos, and watch videos. I turn it sideways, and it switches automatically to landscape orientation for better viewing.

Now, enter the Mobile World Congress, set to start tomorrow, February 27th, in Barcelona, and there is definitely a buzz about cool devices to be unveiled. In MWC 2012: Phones of the future The Telegraph noted a trend toward bigger smart phones. 
When it comes to the devices themselves, however, phones are increasingly more purse-size than wallet. The Samsung Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Nexus have done well at sizes at least an inch bigger than the iPhone, and a number of 5” screens are set to be marketed as phones rather than tablets – if your mobile is to stay in your pocket, you might need bigger pockets.
The challenge for mobile makers isn’t just to improve the viewing experience of its customers, but to ensure that its content can also play in larger screen formats. To this end, makers are slotting their products in sizes between a smart phone and a tablet. Their research notwithstanding, they need to find out whether or not there is really a market for that in-between space.

Assus calls their device a Padfone, according to The Telegraph. In Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 to come in 10-inch model, too, others call the 5.3″ Samsung Galaxy Note a phablet.

Ah, let the Word Play Congress begin!

Case in point, I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, over a 7.1″ BlackBerry Playbook, mainly because of size. I deal in fine art, as one business of mine, so my images, graphics, and videos must look compelling on the tablet.

After all, size clearly matters!  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cautions on Mobile Phone Effects

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My article on February 20th 2012 from an old Media & Tech blog

I just saw this on my Twitter Timeline.  The article Do Cell Phones Make Us Less Socially Minded? by Medical News Today reported on a scientific paper on The Effect of Mobile Phone Use on Prosocial Behavior.  This research is being conducted by two marketing professors and a graduate student at the University of Maryland. They caution that it’s a work in progress, and their paper isn’t ready for peer-reviewed publication, yet.

I don’t know if they themselves announced it, but apparently someone else did, purposefully or inadvertently, as the paper is now running the rounds online. A simple Google search shows several links referencing it, proof that it has indeed been published!

Much as I believe in the power of science to illuminate aspects of ourselves, our lives, and our world, I am also cautious in the face of its limitations. Moreover, I shudder at the thought of others misusing its findings or jumping to wrong, unintended conclusions. The creation of the atomic bomb, which drew on the Theory of Special Relativity and caused horrific catastrophe, haunted Albert Einstein for years.

At best, this paper should provoke our thinking, and encourage us to reflect on what we do and how we relate to each other, in this media and technology-dominated world of ours.

So does using the ubiquitous mobile phone in fact make us less inclined to think about others and do good for them?

At first blush, this paper says that, as the Diamondback Online reported. Participants were less likely to volunteer for community service, or engage in problem solving that could lead to a charitable donation. Rosellina Ferraro was one of the research professors, and hear her offer some cautious musing; a university student chimes in as well:
According to Ferraro, the results of the study could lend a bit more credence to the popular opinion that while technology is beneficial, it may have some downsides, too.

“At this point I’m a little hesitant to say what the big-picture implications are,” Ferraro said. “But it’s just something that I think it’s important to be aware of.”

Students were not too surprised with the results, either. Ali Pastor, a sophomore neurobiology major, bought her iPhone just a few months ago and now views it as both a blessing and a curse.

“I think it’s more of like how society’s become nowadays,” she said. “I think people are so hooked on technology that they forget there are problems in the world that need to be fixed.”
My own musings 

What if researchers, or more importantly charity organizations, were to reach out to us directly via the particular media and technology channels that we frequent? In this way, would mobile phone use increase, decrease, or have no significant effect on prosocial behavior?

We know, moreover, that what our friends like is more influential on our buying behavior than what traditional sales ads try to do. So what if it’s a friend encouraging us, on a mobile conversation, to join a Habitat-for-Humanity activity?

You see, we don’t have definitive or generalizable answers for these questions, yet. But the very fact that I, or anyone else for that matter, can ask these question reinforces the caution about arriving at simplistic, potentially wrong conclusions on the effects of mobile phone use!

Here’s another personal account Study: Cell phones make people selfish in The Mommy Files of the San Francisco Chronicle:
The other weekend my husband and I found ourselves in an unusual situation without the kids for a couple hours. We both needed to work but squeezed in a walk to spend some quality alone time together.

About five minutes into our stroll, his iPhone beeped. He pulled out his phone and responded to the text… and then he sent another text and another and another. Fifteen minutes later he was still fully absorbed in his phone - and acting as if I didn’t even exist.

I was annoyed and told him. He made me feel like a nag for complaining. The texts were related to work, he told me.

“Can’t you give me 30 minutes of your time on a Saturday afternoon?” I said.

And then his phone beeped again…

That’s when I should have asked, “Are you interested in volunteering at the kids’ school this weekend?”

The Maryland study indicates that he probably would have said no.
Different people are going to have all kinds of reactions to this little story. But I imagine that besides being connected on, and unwittingly absorbed with, his iPhone, he was helpful, maybe even charitably so, to whomever on his mobile. No question, however, he was flatly disconnected with, even dismissing of, his wife. So I imagine, too, that charitable was absolutely the last word she would have used to describe her husband on that fateful stroll.

Therein lies the rub. Does media and technology benefit us or hurt us? Does it connect us or disconnect us? Does it make us more likely or less likely to help others? Probably the answer is both!

For me, that’s the beauty and the complexity of media and technology.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Privacy Bill of Rights

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My article on March 3rd 2012 from an old Media & Tech blog

Even if you’re just minimally active online, privacy ought to be an issue for you. While the past decade heralded amazing platforms for media and technology, this decade is the coliseum where both David and Goliath companies battle fiercely for as many pieces of information about us as they can grab.

Social network users face mounting privacy concerns, so announces The Citizen in its article today. It references the Pew Research Center and its report Privacy management on social media sites.

First, I believe it’s our responsibility as users to know the privacy controls and policies of sites we frequent and to use these properly to serve our purpose. Second, more importantly, it’s our responsibility to exercise good judgment in the content that we upload and respond with. The same, too, for content about us from friends, connections, followers et al. In particular, I regularly monitor their tags, mentions, and posts, and I do not hesitate to delete, block or report, if something is inappropriate or unwanted.

The Citizen also mentions Obama Seeks Privacy Bill of Rights for Internet Users from Voice of America.  Hear Darren Hayes speak about this (below).   He is head of the Computer Information Systems Program at Pace University in New York.
I think that, you know, this legislation is just, it’s long overdue. I think that in its present form it looks very effective and I think that it is a step in the right direction and the average online user does need more transparency and more control over the use of their information.

I think in practical terms it’s going to make online companies more accountable for what they do. It also seeks to provide more transparency about how third parties are sharing their information and give the user, hopefully, the ability to opt out of having their information shared.

What’s also going to be important about this legislation are the penalties and fines that will ultimately be imposed for non-compliance.
So be informed, entertained, and engaged on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. But, for goodness sake, be smart, careful, and responsible as well.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Transcendence Film, Transcendence Physics (3)

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Let’s now reflect on what in particular I find so compelling about Transcendence.  It asks three existential questions, and offers stunning answers vis-a-vis the work of Michio Kaku.

What is the essence of who we are? 

Consciousness and intelligence, maybe soul and personality. Of course the whole of who we are makes us who we are. But when we talk about essence, we get positively elemental in our focus, attention and ideas. So while the body may be the most evidential aspect of who we are, by itself it simply doesn’t define who are. Clearly for Evelyn Caster, the essence of her dying beloved husband is his consciousness.

What if we were to displace that essence from one medium (body) to another medium (machine)?

Not just any machine, of course, but rather a quantum computer. Presumably this computer has enough intelligence and infrastructure to accommodate our essence. But the film suggests that it is Will Caster’s mind that makes that computer super-intelligent and super-capable. In other words, the machine in and of itself is merely a platform or a framework. Scientists and technologists have labored for decades to create artificial intelligence; Transcendence suggests that it is inevitably human intelligence that makes machines intelligent. 

Once displaced what is the nature of our new being? 

Kaku envisions us becoming virtually boundless. We can actually ride a beam of light, just as Einstein imagined in his thought experiments, because we aren’t constrained by the physical limits of our body. We can actually explore the ends of the universe, far far more capably and efficiently than any means at our disposal. In Transcendence, it is as if a hologram of the erstwhile scientist were uploaded onto that quantum computer. But it is a hologram with wide-ranging awareness, knowledge and abilities. 
Bree | The biggest threat humanity has ever faced is one of your own making, self-aware technology. Computers control our banks, our airports, our national security, our lives. Once they are able to think for themselves, they'll use this power to destroy us, unless we fight back. We can unplug from the network. We can stop the scientists who invent these machines. We can lead the revolution that will save our species. We are RIFT [Revolutionary Independence from Technology] This is just the beginning.
Reference: Transcendence Movie Quotes.

But as with many science fiction film, all of the above inviolably takes place in a human context. There will always be people, it seems, who fear technology advancement and who fashion resistance à la the revolutionaries in history. But if we were to take a film like Transcendence as a kind of self-contained debate, nay, fight, on such matters, then we give ourselves an opportunity to work through all sorts of dilemma that science fact Kaku (rf. Dreaming in Code: Michio Kaku's Future of the Mind) and the science fiction Casters (rf. 'Transcendence': Johnny Deep in a bold, beautiful flight of futuristic speculation) seem to dismiss.