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Archive for the ‘Reading reflections’ Category

Christensen’s vision of a wireless world of data is spot on in my opinion. The convergence of voice, data and video in one place, whether it be at the home computer or the smart-phone, will leave telco and cable providers rushing at each other in full battle mode. Both services will have to eventually carry the same services. Whether it be VOIP or transporting conversations as text messages, this convergence means that at last all means of communication can be on hand anywhere you go. With Apple’s iPhone we see the rudimentary beginnings of this convergence. If one were to add local WiFi capabilities to the iPhone as well as software akin to Skype, the telco’s would lose a lot of their relevance. Why go through the hurdles of long distance charges, area codes and country codes, when all you need is an AOL screen name that you can select and instantly chat, share video and text message for a relatively cheap price?

It is possible that telco’s will inhibit WiFi capability as well as the ability to use VOIP programs on a smart-phone in order to protect their existing networks. On the other hand, I don’t see it being too long until a smart 18 year old somewhere in the world unlocks these abilities in a phone or a Chinese company breaks this potential OPEC like stranglehold and releases a phone that can do it all. In the long run it may be better for the telco’s to admit that their network business may need to be cannibalized in order to expand into new VOIP spaces.

The only downside to convergence with the smart-phone at the center, is the physical limitations of the phone itself. Some things just can’t be done well on a tiny screen. Gaming, movies, word processing and design work come to mind as applications that are ill suited to the physical limitations of a smart-phone screen.

It will be interesting to look back ten years from now on our present day confusion. Perhaps a holographic projected screen will overcome the limitations of the current smart-phone?

Questions:

1. How will the smart-phone disrupt the laptop and pda markets?

2. How can WiFi be provided as a public utility? And if it is will it be regulated?

3. How long until hackers find vulnerabilities in our smart-phone systems and further compromise privacy and financial security? Will this dampen adoption?

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Thank you Fluffy for your enlightening comment.

This brings me to my questions based on reading #6:

1. With politics mobilizing on the web and with an exponential increase in anonymous participants, will meaningful discussion get buried under useless or inflammatory commenting?

2. With freeping of Internet polls and the lessening of the online poll’s relevancy due to this abuse, will the online poll die out or be overhauled with improved fraud detection?

3. The virtual landscape of the Internet is limitless. In this way it is unlike a finite ‘commons.’ How will a new definition of the Tragedy of Commons take this into consideration? Is it necessary to have a 2.0 version of the Tragedy of the Commons at all?

ps. I accidently erased my questions when posting before because I was looking at the word count without them. I then posted sans questions, then looked at it again just now and re-added them. My apologies for splitting this entry into two bits.

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The theory of The Tragedy of the Commons states that a commons such as the air or the sea would be hard to protect because each person’s negative impact would not directly affect that person, while the gain from polluting each, such as getting rid of garbage or emissions, would directly benefit that person. In the end, the individual negative impacts would eventually destroy the commons making it unusable for anyone.

In the digital age we are finding that the commons now extend to the virtual landscape of the Internet. This was really not a problem in the early years of the Internet when there were few ‘polluters’ and many positive ‘contributors.’ With the exponential rise of Internet use by the world’s population, we are beginning to see the first stages of Internet pollution and the degradation of the Internet commons: spam email, computer viruses, mass emailings of jokes (fun for you, maybe not so fun when you get 20 a day yourself) and the nefarious pop-up ad. So far society has created technologic solutions to minimize these things, however eliminating them may be impossible.

This brings me to the newest form (or maybe an old form in new clothing) of Internet pollution: ‘freeping’ of Internet polls and forums for political reasons.

From the Urban Dictionary:

“To slew or cheat an online poll by repeatedly voting (clearing cookies, using proxies) or to make a blog appear to be commented by numerous posters by the same means. (From the practices of the Free Republic or “freepers”)

One political group that has become nefarious for this is the Ron Paul campaign. Whether Ron Paul is aware of this or not, numerous polls have been ‘freeped’ to show a wildly unbalanced voting pattern in favor of Ron Paul over any other candidate. Sometimes as many as 30 separate votes will come from the same IP. In other cases, numerous fake commenters will stack a comment section in favor of one candidate in a coordinated attack.

Welcome to politics on the web!

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In Gilleard, Hyde and Higgs paper, they discuss how English people over 50 tend to use the Internet as a substitute for geographically based community. Because of limited mobility, older people tend to connect more closely to thier geographical location over time. With the Internet being inexpensive and accessible to those that are physically limited, Gillieard states that older people are using the Internet as a means of transcending geographically bound communities.

Some of Gilleard’s findings are not that surprising to me and are perhaps improperly correlated. In one instance, Gilleard finds that the poor and less educated tend to attach themselves to their geographic community more so than those who are well educated and middle class. This finding would seem rather obvious since both money and a minimum education level are prerequisites for complex internet use and access to online communities. However to say that people are completely substituting geographic community with online community is quite misleading. I would argue that the opposite is true.

In Seattle many online communities such as West Seattle Blog actually support local identity. In a photo project I am working on about fixed gear bicycle clubs, I have found that members organize themselves online for events that happen locally. Without an online component I do not see how the fixed gear community, being especially small, would ever organize a large enough group for a regualr event. I imagine there are many other geographically based niche groups that would not exist without the community building provided by online communities.

APA Citation Regarding Community and Technology

Dhavan S. et al. 2002. Nonrecursive models of Internet use and community engagement: Questioning whether time spent online erodes social capital. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 79(4), 964. Retrieved November 6, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 319151711).

In Shah’s ‘Nonrecursive models of Internet use and community engagement: Questioning whether time spent online erodes social capital’ he claims that frequency of Internet use is positively correlated with civic involvement. With increasing access to better information about political events, community events and social events, the average citizen is actually creating more social ties than those that are being eroded by online community. Shah states “Internet use may promote social interaction and civic engagement because it allows users to reinforce social bonds, gain knowledge, and coordinate their actions to address joint concerns.” It’s true that we have lost ‘face time’ in the modern world, but to lay the blame on online communities rather than other factors such as increased workloads and urban sprawl is narrow-minded. Online participation may in fact lead to renewed social connections in an increasingly fast paced world.

Links:

Fast Friday Fixed Gear Club

Seattle Social Network and Gallery Party Group

West Seattle Blog

South Park: Make Love, Not Warcraft

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In my later years, I will one day sit down with my grandchildren and tell them that I was part of an online community based entirely on text and linux commands. They will look at me in shock, wondering how I could communicate without neural-linked sensory rooms. Or something like that. But I will say, “Way back in 1996 I had an IBM 386 and I would rush home from school to connect to my local BBS (Bulletin Board Service) to chat with people and play TradeWars.” Although unsophisticated at the time, the online communities I used when I was a child allowed me to broaden my horizons beyond suburbia.

With the advent of the modern World Wide Web built on html and flash, I find myself using online communities in much the same way. I guess the only big difference for me is the way in which online communities have filled every type of social, educational and technological niche. When I have a back spasm I can go online and find communities focused on back health, with forums for people to discuss what works and how to feel better.

Lately I have come to see online communities as extensions of off-line communities. On sites such as Meetup.com, people can use the online forums to plan meetings between like-minded people that would have been impossible to organize even several years ago. The networking power of the internet allows society to organize in ways that are not dependent on time or geography.

The only kinds of forums which I really don’t understand are the ‘big-boards’ that Virginia Heffernan discusses in ‘The Hong Kongs, New Yorks and Tokyos of the Internet.’ I imagine there are now people who live their social lives almost entirely online. These ‘big-boards’ are perhaps where they ‘live.’ For me they are too diverse, too unfocused. It would be like walking around aimlessly in New York, or Sao Paulo without a map and no friends. Maybe I’m on the wrong side of the generation gap. Or maybe my real life is too interesting. I’d like to think so.

Questions:

1. At what point will virtual communities outweigh off line communities in terms of participation?

2. What kind of conditions must exist for people to perhaps abandon online communities in some kind of ‘back to nature’ type movement?

3. What kind of psychological effects will massive online communities have on the youth of today? In five years? In ten years? In fifty years?

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Reading Reflection #4

Reading Gilmore’s article made me think one thought: “Whoa! This guy is really behind the times!”

I think it’s interesting that Gillmor thinks the newspaper will be the place people go to first to interact with the news. Internet media agencies that have no earthly ties (as in having to actually print something) have a huge financial advantage over traditional media. ‘Hyperlocal’ blogging by normal citizens, draw audiences that most papers would kill for. The West Seattle Blog attracts 66,000 views a month. It’s two years old. They may well hit the 80,000/month mark within a year.

Let’s compare this to traditional local media:

My local paper in Coeur D’Alene has a staff of around 200 people, a half million dollar budget and doesn’t approach the West Seattle Blog in terms of viewers. My local paper has a huge region covering multiple communities with only 40,000 views per month on average.

Here is the key differential between the old and new model: the West Seattle Blog is run by three people, with a budget of $500 a year. If that doesn’t turn heads at major newspapers then I feel they should rightfully go under the bulldozer that is called ‘citizen journalism.’ Many newspapers are going to have to find what skills they have that are truly special such as in depth reporting and special access, and use them to do what ‘hyperlocal’ citizen bloggers are doing but even better.

Gillmor talks about farming out news reporting via a cooperation between local papers and citizen journalists. The problem here is, what does the newspaper offer in return? A clumsy website and user interface riddled with advertising and snippets of AP articles? I’m sorry, but many citizen blogs and websites are much more elegant, focused and attentive to their audience than the traditional, overworked, underpaid, under-equipped, often unprepared newsroom. It is not only the cost and efficiency of citizen blogs that seem so compelling, it is also their fresh and focused web design.

Questions:

1. How can local media engage their community better? Is the future of national print media to do more in depth reporting on local news rather than cover the whole field?

2. How will local and international print media be consolidated in the near future? Is there room for multiple carries of international news stories?

3. How can a news organization afford to pay its reporters when you can get multiple reports to choose from for alomst free as in the case of OhMyNews.com?

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Reading Reflection #3

Two main themes are expressed in Tom Standage’s book The Victorian Internet. The first theme is that there is a slow process of adoption for new communication technology. A certain threshold of public acceptance, lowered manufacturing costs and deregulation by the government are all needed before that technology can thrive. The second theme is that a disruptive technology ie. the Telegraph, can alter the communication landscape quickly leaving non-innovative companies like the Pony Express in the dust, while creating momentum for other technologies to emerge such as the Gold Exchange, one of the first ‘remote’ monitoring systems for the Stock Market.

Bush’s ideas of increasingly complex and unified methods of data organization were incredibly prescient, and very much tied to Standage’s first theme of the long road towards a new dominant communication technology. In effect Bush guessed at how people would be able to organize data as they saw fit and create more intuitive and associative trails of information for others to learn from and build upon. Bush saw this new ‘Internet’ with ‘hypertext links’ in 1945! For Bush it would be a way that innovators could share information and all would gain from blazing new trials of associative research rather than each person re-inventing almost the same exact thing over and over, as in the case to the telegraph. By sharing research, the inefficiencies associated with the history of telegraph technology could be partially avoided.

Christensen’s ideas are closely tied to the second theme in the Victorian Internet, where in this case the ‘rules-based’ design of semi-conductors, while providing more efficient means of semi-conductor design and production, reduces the cost of entry to new specialized semi-conductor companies, therefore diluting the power of the semi-conductor incumbents like Intel. In the case of the telegraph as outlined in The Victorian Internet, traditionally highly skilled and highly paid telegraph operators were eventually replaced by less skilled worker’s as the telegraph technology became easier to use. When the phone replaced the telegraph, even less workers were needed now as code was replaced by direct speech between two people.

Questions:

1. At what point should a company start surveying the innovation landscape and re-focus efforts (time & money) on the “next-big-thing?”

(Some publications during the late stages of the telegraph, such as the ‘Telegraphers’ Advocate’ became the ‘Electric Age’ in anticipation of a new media landscape.)

2. With the semi-conductor market becoming easier to enter, will semi-condutor companies refocus large amounts of capitol in a new direction such as Quantum Computing in order to create a new less saturated and capital intensive market?

(The semi-conductor ‘pie’ is already fairly sliced up. Why not create a whole new ‘pie’ that is much harder to take from, such as experimental computing methods based on quantum mechanics and string theory?)

3. The Telegraph, Telephone, and Internet all existed side by side for quite a few years. Sometimes a disruptive technology does not entirely wipe out the competing technology. How can a company continue to maintain an older technology while making a foothold in the next technology? At what point do you let go of one rung and grab the next?

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