Sunday, February 29, 2004

After reading everybody's posts, it seems that as long as we recognize which types of discourse are best suited for the internet, and which are best suited for face-to-face interaction, we can get the best out of both.

Face-to-face is good for the kinds of communication I talked about in my last post, and the internet is good for the kinds of communication that nick and hoa talked about.

That seems to be the best way to look at it.

I find the issue of civic engagement interesting (Lew Friedland was actually my reporting prof last semester). My class was focused on community reporting, and the main focus was on actually going out and finding the civic and opinion leaders in the community and talking to them. I met people who were deeply involved, many at a grassroots level, with issues that deeply concerned them. Most of the people I talked to were older, with grown children, and these were issues that they had been involved in since they were in their twenties and thirties. They hold community meetings, and conduct most of their business on a face-to-face level. These are people who are actively engaged in their community. I did see as much of the involvement from younger generations in the community.

At the same time, I look at the involvement of my generation in the Howard Dean campaign, and their amazing engagement on a more national level. "The Dean Connection" (which I suggest you look up on Lexis Nexis, it's really good), was an article in The New York Times magazine, that looked at several individuals who gave up their lives as they knew them, packed up and dedicated themselves to the campaign. Local meetings were organized all through the Internet and blogs. People would meet to talk about Dean and how he had affected their lives. When the article was written, there were over 900 unofficial Dean groups. The grassroots organizing for the campaign was unlike any campaign I had ever heard of before.

As we can see, the Dean campaign has lost its momentum. But perhaps the organizing factors of the campaign can influence future civic engagement. Could something similar happen on a local level, with the right organization. Local blogs about community issues, could potentially increase civic engagement. People may start out participating from the comfort of their own home, because involvement on the Web is a lesser investment. But that may encourage them to organize outside of the Blog or chatroom, which could perhaps increase involvement.

I agree with Nick that online discussions having a certain quality. WELL as an example, many people take part in that "virtual community" and have some benefits. Parents can share experiences in taking care of children, especially when they have problems in health. With a short time, parents can gain knowledge that they haven't got before by other parents in the world. I want to explain more clearly, in case you have many friends who know the information you need. If you write letters and send to them even by Federal Express, it will take longer time to have information back. If you are research in particular field, online discussions provide you not only a huge of information but also up-date information. In my view point, the most advantages of online discussions is saving time, money and collecting many sources of information.

In response to one of Derek's posts, I completely agree with the fact that emotion is completely restricted when conversing with others online. Although some people may consider it a great means of communication, instant messangers and other ways of communicating online can be quite frustrating because you are unable to see nonverbal cues which are specifically directed toward different emotions. Online discourse is seen as a great way of communicating for certain individuals, but people need to step back and take a look at how uncertain it really is. Communicating with people face to face is by far the best way to interact with people instead of relying so much on the internet. For instance, it is even starting to effect large corporations, replacing conference meetings which could actually create miscommunication for unnecessary reasons.

Although I am a bit of a procrastinator, I feel it worked to my advantage in waiting to post my blogs. After reading the different articles assigned, along with the responses, I would like to make a comment discussing the Habitat which Josh also responded to a few days ago. I agree with this section of the article because I personally think cyberspace is completely made up of the actors who interact within it. The technology behind the internet has obviously initiated interaction in cyberspace, but I think the people interacting online everyday help to advance and define the several different options it has to offer. If it weren't for the actors within cyberspace, several things would be unable to take place online.

As far as what Derek was saying about "The Sims" and the like, I have to agree that there is little benefit to be derived from it.

I worked the night shift for two years at a sorta-techie job on the west side, and I worked with a lot of social outcasts/computer nerd types. I befriended a couple of the guys who worked there, but it immediately became clear that once you got them away from a computer screen, they had no social experience whatsoever. They all played "Sims" for at least three or four hours every day, and one of them frequently missed work or stayed up all night in order to "upgrade" his character. They had little to no interest in doing anything that didn't involve a computer.

The more they played the game, the less they interacted with others. The less they interacted with others, the more cynical they became of people in the outside world. The more cynical of other people they became, the more they played the game. And so on.

Civic engagement, as well as everything else, goes right out the window with these guys. Politics, religion, social issues all go right out the window. They feel so alienated from those types of discussions that they eventually just stop caring and invest more time in the games. It's a self-catalyzing system, and it's not pretty.

Today's Habitat

Speaking of a "multi-user persistent environment," like Lucasfilm's Habitat that we've been reading about, what do you all think about the US military building a second Earth? At first I thought this was completely creepy (I had visions of the military making huge decisions based on an inadequate simulation of "real world physics" and human interactions), but now I wonder why I was surprised and appalled (because I realized that they probably do this all the time).

I guess a major difference between this simulated world and the Habitat is that the latter didn't attempt to predict human interactions, but instead allowed those interactions. This new project to simulate the world seems to go against the lesson that Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer noted in their paper about Habitat:

The essential lesson that we have abstracted from our experiences with Habitat is that a cyberspace is defined more by the interactions among the actors within it than by the technology with which it is implemented.

The military's simulated world seems to be relying on the technology, particularly because they intend to "model real world physics" to create simulations, instead of focusing on facilitating real human interactions.

Andrea — tell me that this isn't personal (or this or this). It's not the same as face-to-face communication (which I'm guessing is what you're comparing online communiation to). However face-to-face comunication also can't hold many conversations in parallel, circumvent time with its asynchronicity, nor reach as wide of an audience. (Can you imagine holding a conversation with 4,000,000 people? I can't.)

The benchmark here isn't face-to-face conversation, it's conversation in general. There are too many different ways for us to communicate to hold everything in the light of face-to-face.

I think it is so true of what Derek said about feelign no emotions in the internet. I feel that you can't have a true response to anything on the internet b/c it's so impersonal. I like what you said about writing in all caps to show anger. The same goes true for instant messenger. Now they have little smily's for you to express what you are feeling. But by no means does that indicate what the persons face is saying. My favorite is when you know someone is mad at you on IM when you don't respond right away, b/c they write to you hello....hello!! The many exclamation points do me in! I think people are just taking for granted the ease IM and the internet give to us.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

I agree with what Paul said about "Surveiller" term. I think people do want to live a fantasy life so to speak. They want to have a hidden personality. And by being on-line, no one sees who they truely are. So they don't have to be true to who they are. The anonymous surveillance is in interesting concept. They want other people's input on their views, but don't want to risk being the outsider. I think "Surveiller" is complety true and the Sims offers people a chance to live a different life without the worries of the real world.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Derek said: is creating fictious people and controlling every aspect of their life turning people into introverted control freaks?

Control is an intersting concept. Foucault wrote a book titled Discipline and Punish. Only Foucault was French and "Discipline" is the translation. Foucault's word was Surveiller. One sided surveilance, the translators argue, is a mechanism of power relations, the ability to control through seeing w/out being seen. I think this is an interesting analogy for the web in general. The one-sided anonymous surveillance. It's why people have pet blogs they check daily, for no real reason. In this sense, I think the Sims has nothing to do with people turning into control freaks. Instead, I'd argue, people have always been "surveillers," that is, control freaks, and the Sims has managed to allow them to do it without actually controling any "body".

Paul Medenwaldt

In defense of the blogosphere in general and the memes issue in particular, it seems naive to think that we should dismiss online discourse as "terrible" simply because X percent of the discourse breaks down into meaningless-ness. Much of face-to-face interaction is equally meaningless, simple social mores that won't go away. "Cold enough for you?" is just one shining example. Now, it could be agrued that sychronous cyber-discourse is terrible. But as far as asynchronous discourse goes, frankly, the blogosphere does that as well as any medium thus far.

Paul Medenwaldt

Chapter 5 of the Telcom/Urban book.

The authors write about the 'fluid, anarchic, and parodic' dynamic that characterises post-modern social relations and the friction that is often created when cities try to 'sell' themselves by whitewashing all the grit and the grit doesn't like it. An example of that, to me, is the controversy (perfectly justified) spawned over the 'blackwashing' of a student at a UW football game for a university publication a couple of years ago. UW has yet to finish apologizing. But anyway, what I'm interested in is what they further talk about, the gap between signifer and signified. This gap has grown increasingly, and Roland Barthes has written eloquently about the problems arising from it. My question is, while the gap continues to grow, at what point do the two cease to be related, and instead become two seperate identies. This question becomes more pertinant in the Habitat sense: at what point do the Avatars quit signifying real human beings and become "Pac-Mans" as the authors say, destined to die a thousand deaths.

Paul Medenwaldt

Rheingold is a brilliant guy. I wonder though whether or not he has the same view of "virtual community" today that he had when he was writing about the WELL. In his new(er) book Smart Mobs he seems to "get" that virtual communities no longer need to be tied to a single "location" (website, etc) but instead typically cover many different sites which share a tightly woven structure of links back and forth to each other. Much as technology has served to remove the constraints of time and geography from communication in general, the few short years since The Virtual Community was published have seen a rise in the "distributed online community" -- basically a removal of the pseudo-geography of the web.

These distributed communities are essentially self-selected intersecting topic networks of sites. Each site remains entirely unique (and typically the brainchild of a single individual), yet becomes part of a greater whole as its author discusses various topics. It goes back to the idea of "user control." A site which requires you to be "on it" (like the WELL) affords its users less control than a distributed community does -- if for no reason other than the requirement of "being somewhere where other people are as well" has been lifted.

Jessica said:

And I think that online, just as offline, conversations depend more on what people put into them than on the technology that communicates it...

Which I think is a fantastic way to look at online communication in general.

The second topic I would like to raise, is the question of whether not games such as Habitat, or probably more appropriate for today "The Sims", are healthy. I have seen in other posts how people have organized crimes among other things with the game, but even taking a step back from that, is creating fictious people and controlling every aspect of their life turning people into introverted control freaks? The only benefit I have really come up with thus far is that these people are not breeding and thus living vicariously through children, because they're too busy building fictious houses and going to fictious proms.

The concern I have is that people are going to lose all sense of social engagement in a "real" sense. As annoying as the people out in front of Library Mall are (trying to get me to sign up for something I don't care about), I know if they were not there something would seemingly be missing. I believe it was last semester in J201 we had a guest speaker, Lew Friedland? who explained to us how civic engagement is in a nasty decline. Is this a concern to anyone else?

Because I write my posts offline and don't publish them immediately, I didn't see Nick's post before I wrote this. I haven't had time to think about memes much yet or look into his other links, but I definitely will. But here's my post anyway:

The Habitat is a good example of the differences between user/computer interaction, and user/user interaction via computers. An example of the first is SmallTalk, which was mentioned in the article about the Habitat, and comparing these two made if obvious that the complexity that human communication creates changes a lot. Also, the Habitat shows that communication is limited or changed by the medium.

This and a post by Chris made me consider what our expectations for online communication are. Though I think there are places online where quality conversations are taking place (ex. Sometimes scholarly blogs like ( PurseLipSquareJaw, or the
( Free / Open Source Research Community -- just a couple that I can think of right now), there are of course limitations.

But what are we looking for with communication online? There are definitely conversations online that aren't as high of quality, as Chris mentions. Banter on chat or some blogs is not all there is online, though it's often easy to see -- but it's the same offline. Even parts of cyberspace that are supposedly reserved for serious conversation may not be as conducive to discourse in some ways, but there are advantages. For example, some freedom from both time and geographical constraints, and also more control over revealing true identity.

So when I wrote that communication is limited or changed, I meant that the limitations are changed --
there are just different limitations on communication online, and different circumstances will determine what method of communication may be appropriate.

And I think that online, just as offline, conversations depend more on what people put into them than on the technology that communicates it -- for a couple of examples: whether there is a peer review
process, or whether people revise their online communications as extensively as those for offline communication could make a huge difference in the quality of discourse online. It depends more on the human input, and less on the technology, though the Habitat example shows that there are definitely lessons to be learned about the technology that supports communication online.

Note: Sorry about the manual links -- no buttons in this version of Mozilla available in the Memorial Lab and manually entering HTML wasn't working for some reason ... yeah, probably human error:)

In response to Kirstin's post from earlier this week about the stories of leukemia, suicide, etc. I don't think you can feel anything close to the emotion of the people telling those stories when you read them in an online "village" or message board. I think emotion is the greatest restriction on Internet communication (email, IM, etc). THE ONLY THING WE'VE ESTABLISHED IS HOW TO MAKE IT SEEM AS THOUGH WE ARE YELLING BY PUTTING THINGS IN ALL CAPS!!! (which I was whispering in my head as I typed by the way, but you had no idea of this irony...)

As far as online discourse goes, it's just straight up ill. For those of us who have just the slightest sarcastic disposition, things said online are often taken entirely out of context or have a tendency to make the author look like an idiot. How about sympathy? Compassion? Love? It's all in the mind of the reader, not in the emotion of the sender. Completely bogus for any sort of real sense of feeling.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with those of you who have voiced your opinion that online discussions aren't of a certain quality. Perhaps I might agree with your claim if you limited what you were talking about to just discussion boards or chatrooms, but there's another "place" (hardly geographic) in which discussions of amazingly high quality come through and that's the blogosphere. Basically the blogosphere can be thought of as the ecosystem in which memes compete to be the top of the food chain. The best -- highest quality typically -- memes cut it, and the worst disappear never to be seen again.

Discussion boards are too limiting, there isn't enough room to let the ideas "roam the board" so to speak and find all the right people to discuss them -- eventually it's Godwin's Law and the discussion falls apart. In the blogosphere, however, the memes travel from blog to blog and are constantly exposed to new ways of being interpreted. Eventually they can cover the entire blogosphere and be discussed by those individuals most capable of furthering their existance.

Okay, so that was a bit off the beaten path of things we've talked about in this course. Are memes really entities unto themselves? That's more than debateable especially as Dawkins originally penned the idea. But from a sheer "how can I grasp what's going on here?" point of view the analogy works.

I used to think that cyberspace and mass media are going to break human beings relationships down. But It seems something changes in my mind when I have read the first chapter of the book"Virtual Community". For the WELL, it is amazing that the people's relationships are more human than ever. In fact, most of people of virtual community are strangers. You will never know that kind of person in that area if you did not take part in WELL. You will never have a lot of friends as you contact via internet to WELL. And you are supported by many online friends when you have to face problems. These supporting might work or not but in term of encouraging, it is really wonderful. I mean, in case your child has a health problem, information that you have from online friends may be helpful or not for you child. But seems you are more ready to face the reality.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Habitat Thing:

Most interesting thing about this article to me was that the designers sounded a bit surprised that someone would want to sit and dissect Commodore 64 code just to gain some real or percieved advantage in the Habitat space. I thought, 'well no kidding'. It seems naive to think that a designer could design a system so "perfect" that no one would want to creep around in the nuts and bolts and deconstruct it. Indeed, this may be part of the reason people "enter" the cyberspace in the first place. There is a literary analogy that can be useful here. They call it suspended disbelief, the idea that even though you KNOW that there are no Aliens, you still feel tense when Sigorney Weaver is getting drooled on in Aliens 3. The writers of the Habitat thing seem to think that members of Habitat didn't like it when they were allowed to see the little man behind the curtain. I think that finding the little man behind the curtain, seeing the zipper on the Alien suit, is preciesly the motivation of many of the Habit users.

Paul Medenwaldt

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I agree with you Josh, online discourse is awful.

Just look at any instant messenger program -- how many times has someone misunderstood me (and not just because I can't write...)? How many times have I said something that I maybe shouldn't have because the medium is so anonymous ... you're talking to a name, not a person. Maybe this will improve if we get video, sound, something to make online discourse more human.

As an information source, online discourse is just as bad. People deride the media for slanting this or that way, but it's all we got to make the world seem cohesive. The "mainstream media" is what makes sense of the world around us, enabling a common background as a foundation for argument. Social movements sometimes go under the radar, but the media is all we got. The alternative is much worse.

And yet, we're moving to that alternative. A place where someone can tune out what bothers them Brave New World style, or flip it around 1984 style. What people assert is a blip, not paid attention to when the next story or argument comes along. Most amateurish information sources such as blogs, bulletin boards, the Drudge Report, etc ... traffic in rumor, sensationalism and speculation to get the story/argument out there, rather than getting it right.

In an ideal world, we could have a dominant idea brought forth through the internet's users, all having dialogues, to create a dominant idea -- sort of like open source. However, it rarely works out that way, as people have different motivations in seeking media. And there's no group to gauge the dominant opinion. So we're left with extreme polarizing opinions, scattered about, reaching around frantically in the dark, or a mainstream media that doesn't allow new ideas much airtime.

On a user level, we're left with people who shout you down in bulletin board or seek out hyperbole to further an ideology or belief in place of truth. As satirist Juvenal said, will shouldn't take the place of reason ... but that seems to be the case in most online information sources.

So I guess here's my questions...Josh asked if we can carve out a place where intelligent discourse can take place. My question is, do we want to? Or, is it like the paperclip again, we have to suffer the bad things about current technologies because it's a stepping stone for something better. Is what's better, less anonymity and ... more accountability? If so, what'd be lost -- would you kill your boss in Habitat, for instance? Post a ranting post to a weblog if your name was attached? oh i guess i did that one...

Kristin's post about people perhaps sharing too much information about themselved online is interesting... when I read about how Rheingold found information on how to get rid of the tick on his daughter I thought it was great that there was an information network like that, and I would think it'd follow that the guy posting all about his kid with leukemia would be good. That way, if someone else had similar problems they could relate to his story or find useful info from it. But it is weird, as Chris later mentioned, to share so much personal info online. In some ways it seems easier to divulge personal things on the web, because it seems disconnected from our "real" selves and we can be somewhat anonymous online, with pseudonyms and created identities. At least, I think it probably did in the beginning, but I wonder if this is changing now -- there seem to be more ways to have your "true" identity revealed online (through your IP address, for example).

First off, thanks Nick for expanding on my initial post. Here's my second post:

In Chapter 10 of his book, Rheingold discusses the possible cons of our increasingly virtual society. One idea he brings up is the cheapening of discourse, in which real argument and debates are non-existent. He borrows from Neil Postman and claims that technology has forever changed the very way we converse by substituting short cuts and special effects (features of the technology itself) for meaningful discussion and thorough arguments.

All you need to do is take a quick look at the average internet bulletin board to understand how accurate this statement is. When you are speaking to someone in person, or even over the phone, you feel a certain obligation to answer their questions directly, and respond to their arguments directly. But in the virtual world, this obligation is absent. On bulletin boards (such as people constantly dodge questions that, if they answered, would reveal a fault in their logic. Instead, they ignore them and either make more statements affirming their position or simply insult the other person's intelligence (which most people wouldn't even consider doing in person). After all, they can always just close the browser window when they read something they don't like. The result of this is more people holding false beliefs.

As a philosophy major, I obviously place a great deal of faith in rational, thorough discourse between people. The virtual world, however, seems to have little place for this. If this is the case, does anyone have any ideas as to how a place could be carved out in the virtual world for this kind of discourse?

To Josh's point where he quotes:

The essential lesson that we have extracted from our experiences with Habitat is that a cyberspace is defined more by the interactions among the actors within it than by the technology with which it is implemented.

I'm taking a very constructivist approach to that statement. I think that it's getting at is the idea that we discussed in class earlier in the semester -- that of the competing views of how humans should interact with technology.

There were those who believed that what computers (or any other sort of information technology will do here) brought to the table was the opportunity to build man-machine relationships. This is the idea of the "verbal interface" for generals or executives who couldn't take the time to learn to type and so on. It's the concept of the "application" where you interact directly with the machine -- not necessarily another individual.

Then there're the folks who think that computers exist to connect people. Email, weblogs, newsgroups, discussion forums... these are all places that connect people via computer rather than connecting people to computers.

The above statement to me is a fancy way of talking about connecting people to people by computers. It does ignore the idea of connecting people directly to the technology, which may or may not be short sighted depending on your particular views. Personally, I believe the real power of technology is in its ability to foster person to person or person to "many" (audience, readers, whatever) connections.

Are games like Habitat healthy? The designers of Habitat created an environment where people can interact just as they do in the real world. There's something to be said for interacting in the real world where there's actual talking and actual money ... and no hardware concerns. It seems a little ridiculous that Ultima Online players sued for the network lagging (NMR). CNN recently had a special on the darker side of the Sims Online, and the brothels players run, crime rings people set up, etc. A link to a story which brings up similar ideas is here. As people increasingly devote more time to these online games – auctioning off their Sims money on eBay for real money, depositing their money online w/ pay pal, and ordering a pizza online – where’s the point where we’ve gone too far?

Rheingold asserts that cyberspace may be a new third place, replacing the meeting places that we lost "when the malt shop became a mall." Political scientist Robert Putnam said exactly the opposite, and I tend to believe him. Sitting at home, meeting with a group that shares your interests is ... easy. You lose the understanding and common bond that is necessary for civic engagement. The more we disassociate ourselves from society with our individual activities, the more the groups which knit together our geographic communities disappear. No matter if it's a bowling league, as Putnam states, the effect on our society is felt because communities cease to operate without groups to hold it together, no matter these groups are political or not.

As more people sit at home, look at their screens, and imagine a community based more on interests and less on geography, do we lose the sense of a common, local, bond – necessary to carry out a political will? What happens to communities and democracy when people express their opinions in an electronic forum (on anything -- not just politics), rather than in their town hall, coffee shop or church group? As a result, will politics and communities become more national and global as people connect based on interest and less on geography -- movements and political will being expressed in donations to Howard Dean and involvement in the enormous instead of a vote for the local school superintendent?

I think a link to the story Josh was talking about, is here but I'm not sure

And if anyone has Charter cable and gets the Sundance channel, check out e-Dreams, it was pretty good but nearly the same as

linky linky

Ok, this is unrelated to the readings, but if anyone wants to link things (or use bold or italics) and is using Safari or IE 5.2 on a mac, you can't see the nice little buttons at the top and some other stuff in Blogger. You could put the HTML in manually, but the nice little buttons are available in Mozilla. I don't know if other browsers don't support these Blogger things, and does anyone know about camino?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Yeah, I thought the same thing Kirstin. If my son had cancer, I don't think I'd log in to a bulletin board and spill it all to a bunch of strangers. Some of the topics in the teen section looked especially personal – things that the teen may not be ready or wanting to share, especially to an anonymous online audience. But, I agree with Rheingold that these groups are an aid -- not a substitute – for regular life. For those like Blair, however, this wasn't so clear and his behavior didn't fit with those who used WELL as a tool to anonymously connect to information and users. Bringing the online world into the real world may break an unspoken etiquette. So... doesn't this make online friendship/dating services a little worrisome? For instance, in chapter one of Virtual Community, he describes a guy whom he saw was much different than his antagonistic online persona. In creating our virtual selves, do we assume what we wish -- or think -- we are? Can online services somehow address intangible qualities that make someone attractive? For every one that finds love/friendship online, there may be another who skimmed over their soul mate's online profile because they didn't like their favorite color or height or something. Will computers ever closely approximate what constitutes a human relationship? Or, as the LucasFilm article points out, is focusing on content (rather than the medium) a wrong-headed because of its static, dictating approach? They seemed to focus on the arena users interacted in, allowing users as much freedom as possible to build tools to enrich these interactions.

In the article in The New Media Reader, I found it interesting in their 2nd Principal is Communications bandwidth is a scarce resource. But yet go onto say that you always want more due to supply and demand. They are essentially saying that this will forever be a debate. As technology grows so to will the desire to fill that demand for space in cyberspace.

In Lucasfilm's Habitat the "players" are allowed to shoot people and steal from them. And they are not getting caught or punished! I know it is just a game, but come on! If this is supposed to be like real life why was facing the law not put into the game? Another thought is this games impact on children. Are kids allowed to play it becuase parents should be worried about this computer game. They shouldn't fear just video games.

Now moving into Telecom and the City: I don't understand what Marley and Robin's said "new media conglomerates are creating a global image space, a space of transmission that cuts across the geographics of power, of social life, adn of knowledge, which define the space of nationality and culture." Isn't that what all monopolies in this country already do? Conglomerates are all the same, doing the same thing making money, and creating a culture. Why is it so important that National monoploies are being replaced by integrated global marketplace for digital media? In my opinion, integrated is just a different word for conglomerate!

Hey everyone. This is my first post for this week's discussion:

One quote that I found to be particularly interesting from the Habitat article was this:
"The essential lesson that we have extracted from our experiences with Habitat is that a cyberspace is defined more by the interactions among the actors within it than by the technology with which it is implemented."

I thought this statement was very insightful and accurate. I started wondering, though, is that only because I know relatively little about the technology itself, and therefore focus my attention primarily on the people using it? Is it the case that the technology plays just as important a role as the actors, and technically-challenged people such as myself choose to ignore it? After all, the technology that implements the cyberspace does set limits (though often not clear ones) on what the people can do with it.

I suppose I'd just like to hear something from those in the class that know a lot about the technology on the statement. Is it for the most part true, or was it only true for the habitat experiment? That's all, I guess. Cheers.

New technology at home

An article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday was about the home of the future ("Inside the Home of the Future"; unfortunately, you do need a subscription to access the article online, though you can get an abstract through Lexis or look at the print version in the Journalism Reading Room). The vision of an "electronic cottage" is definitely alive and well, though the reasons behind it seem to be more practical -- this article focused on how technology and telecommunications can assist the growing elderly population to continue living independently.

I was reading Ch 5 from Graham and Marvin at the time that I found this article, so I started wondering about how this article fits with their discussion of the possible positive and negative results that new forms of telecommunications in the home might have (especially p. 209-213). Graham and Marvin seem to present two sides -- either new technology will be great, providing information at all times even in the home, or it will be a negative force, causing isolation as people work and shop more from their homes, and leading to polarization between people who can afford the technology and those who can't.

The WSJ article, however, gives what I think is a more plausible view, in which technology is used to assist what we already do, not to change our lifestyles completely. For example, a monitor in an elderly person's home could report their levels of activity, which could be accessed by a family member who does not live with them. If the activity levels drop significantly, someone could call the elderly person to find out what was going on. Concerned family members might check on an elderly person who is living by themselves often, but this monitor may provide an additional peace of mind without intruding too much on anyone.

The technology behind most of the examples listed in the article was based on "machine learning," and there were several examples creative uses of wireless communication. These kinds of projects seem to be a different vision than that which is presented in Graham and Marvin -- the book considers the home as a terminal, receiving information, but these projects allow people to interact with their homes, other people, or even give off information to preselected service providers (such as medical information, grocery orders, etc.). This is in contrast to the examples given in the book of people choosing and accessing services directly from home (for example, viewing ads online, shopping on the web), or working from home. The projects described in the article are of how people can send out information to specific, regular recipients, rather than primarily receive information as in the "Home as a domestic 'network terminal'" section of the book (p.209-212).

More info on the projects described in the article can be found at:

MavHome Smart Home

Home Guardian

Another point to consider: Even Graham and Marvin are "sceptical of the claims that this is some sort of complete revolution in the nature of home life (p. 209), and they note that smart homes seem to be "technologies in search of applications." I agree with them that these technologies (especially as presented in the WSJ article) won't change the nature of home life, but I wonder -- is assisting independent elderly living the application that will push these technologies into more general use?

The first issue I would like to raise comes from the very beginning (p.184-5) of Chapter 5 of Telecommunications and the City. The piece that I entirely disagree with comes from Paul Virillo, who says, "solid substance no longer exists; instead a limitless expanse is revealed in the false perspective of the apparatuses' luminous emission. Constructed space now occurs within an electronic topology..."

To say that, "solid substance no longer exists", Virillo must be entirely out of his mind (not to mention this was written in 1987 before the average person even had a personal computer). Solid substance is everywhere you go. People continue to work their jobs in the city, sitting in a leather chairs at office buildings in cities around the globe.

Is the virtual world a "limitless expanse" as well as a "false perspective of the apparatuses' luminous emission"? It is very easy to question whether anything can actually be "limitless", and to offer an example of what exactly I am proposing I would recommend taking a look at the cartoon on page 191. A limitless entity would not require someone to make a choice between that entity and something else, because limitless implies being all inclusive. What I am trying to say is that we can not virtually drink beer. We can not virtually exercise, take a shower, or eat dinner either.

As far as a false perspective goes, I am unable to question the reality of our messages. They exist in a physical sense, but for all we know someone's little brother, dog, etc. are actually posting under their identity. A perspective is a view, which is essentially an opinion, and opinions are not necessarily right or wrong (true or false). Also consider that there is no barrier that prevents this from happening in the so-called "real" world either. We tend to live with a feeling of mutualistic truth, or just "taking someone's word for it". This same feeling holds in the "virtual" world, more or less because it is simply a creation of the "real" world.

Virillo's final mistake, which I have already mentioned is the idea that "constructed space occurs within an electronic topology". This just the opposite of the way things actually are. How would virtual space even have been created without constructed space, whether it be the garages where Excite was born, or CERN, where Berners-Lee created HTML.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Another topic that I would like to discuss from Rheingold was the amount of personal sharing on the virtual community. Was anyone else as surprised as I was at how much these people knew about each other's lives, all from posting to the WELL? The story of Gabe's leukemia, Elly's trip and illness, and Blair's suicide were all so detailed, Rheingold could say he KNEW them, even though most of their discourse was online. How much can you share with someone online, someone who you don't know as anything more than a screenname? At what point are you giving out too much information? How does this relate to the proliferation of online dating services (i.e. and now, Friendster) that we see today?

In Rheingold's chapters from "The Virtual Community" he brings up third places, and the possibility that online web communities could be considered third places. In my community reporting class last semester we used third places a lot as a base for learning about what the community's concerns are. It was also a great place to catch up with civic leaders. Are these virtual communities really third places? If so, how can reporters tap into these third places and learn more about the "community'? How would/has this changed reporting?

I have 2 ideas about my preview projects:
1. I'm interested in studying the relationships between cyberspace, telecommunication and social and cultural life of the city. I will compare and analyze them by my view points. I have to read a lot of materials to have an overview about these issues and have some summaries.
2. I also like to study the history and development of the World Wide Web through the documents in some specific countries or in general.

In chapter 5" The social and cultural life of the city" in the book called"Telecomunication and the city" of Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin, the authors concentrated that some upper classes could benefit from the advanced technologies while others (minorities, poors,..) could not because of the cost. I totally agree with the authors that cost of modern technologies could influence the life of the society. In my country-Vietnam, cost of telecommunication are rather expensive for people. The Department of Telecommunication have many rights in doing many things, I means in the past, in my country, telecomunication and services were monopoly and the prices were very high compared with all countries in the world until many people asked Gorvernment for omitting the monopoly and decrease the prices of telecommunication services. And now the situations are better, people can choose many types of services from many companies of the country. And the result is Vietnamese people have divesified services and the resonable prices in telecommucation. For example: using internet at home were expensive and now the middle class can reach of it. More over, poors can go to the internet services for using internet with the cheap prices. But It takes time to have this.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Project Ideas:

1. Surveillance issues with the internet including cookies and tracking software, i.e. the selling of "lists" by marketers. How does this affect us as consumers? How are our tendencies being recorded-in what ways and how are they used?

2. Security and the Internet--How secure are "secure" sites? What is the frequency of online theft? How prevalent are online scams? How has security of the Internet evolved? Are our purchases online truly secure? Did problems with security bring out security issues/secure sites?

Both of these ideas are in the planning stages so any feedback from anyone would be appreciated!

Here's an interesting article about bloggers in Iran taken from CNN:

The media is heavily censored there, and blogger accounts are a great way for Iranians to communicate their opinions, thoughts, etc.

This could be part of a good paper topic - something about how cyberspace can liberate those who are forcefully isolated (essentially in an intellectual prison) from the rest of the world. Just an idea.

Enjoy what remains of the weekend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

2 project ideas:

1) I am thinking about doing some research on the topic of "clicks and mortar". More specifically how this new form of conducting business impatcs our society and economy. This interests me because right now I have the "pleasure" of working in retail and I am curious to see how the future of this may shape up.

2) My other idea is centered around the digital revolution. I would do research about the previous revoultions in American and their impacts on everyday life, society, etc. and then compare those changes with the current revolution. This interests me because I am curious to know how digital our society can actually become, knowing that some parts of civil life can not be displaced in a digtal form.

Both ideas are sort of in a period of infancy, so any inputs or suggested directions from anyone would be helpful.


I visited the Memorial Library InfoLab on Monday from just before noon to around 2:00. This is what I noticed:

- There is a line for computers right after classes are dismissed, and the lab opens up 5 or 10 minutes before the next round of classes start. It seems that a lot of students must come here between classes.
- IBMs are far more popular than Macs. Many people choose to wait in line for an IBM rather than hopping right on a Mac.
- Nearly a third of the people in the lab are either in the WiscMail program or have it minimized.
- No cell phone rings are heard in the lab, but a few people can be seen quietly speaking on their phones. So, either they called people, or they had their phones on vibrate and answered them.
- Several people bring coffee and water bottles into the lab. They walk right past the lab monitors, who don’t seem to care, even though it’s prohibited in the lab.
- Overall, the lab monitors don’t do much. They talk amongst themselves or surf the internet for the majority of the time. A few times, a person comes to the front desk with a problem, and the monitor goes with them to their computer. They seem to be relatively helpful in these cases.
- One person plays Yahoo! Games for the entire two hours that I am there. It makes you wonder why some people bother coming to the computer lab.
- Another person sits in front of a computer and reads the newspaper for a half hour while people are waiting in line for a computer. Seems rude to me.
- Three or four people can be seen buying clothing online, while about 10 people are searching for flights online over the two hours at sites like expedia, orbitz, Travelocity, etc. Probably buying tickets for spring break.
- About a third of the people have headphones on, presumably listening to music.
- Many people are logged on to Webct, working on online classes.
- Only about 25% of the people in the lab ever work on a paper.
- I don’t see one person using Netscape. Everyone uses Internet Explorer.

That’s about it.

Possibilities for a paper:

For my paper, I would like to study current academic library involvement with the development of learning spaces in cyberspace. The learning spaces that I am interested in would be for the purposes of scholarly research and would include the creation and storage of knowledge and access to it. Specifically, I think this would include wikis, forums, or blogs in conjunction with more traditional library technologies, but I'll have to do more research on what is currently being used and shows promise of further development.

Two possible paths for this paper would be in one of the following forms:
Research Paper
I could limit the type of learning space technology (ex. only study wikis) and do more extensive research on it. If I focused on this for my paper, I could first briefly trace the historical development of this particular learning space throughout the development of cyberspace. This would include identifying some key characteristics of cyberspace and hypermedia; for example, I could consider how the liberation from time-space limitations (at least some of them) facilitates learning. An overview of the general mission of most academic libraries would fit in there, too, so that I could compare the motivations behind 1. cyberspace and 2. academic libraries, and then see where they overlap. As a concrete example of these motivations, I would discuss a specific wiki that is being supported by an academic library. My thesis would have something to do with my belief that the development and ubiquity in academia of cyberspace is an opportunity for libraries to become more visibly interactive and involved more closely with the learning process, and I would try to make recommendations about using the type of learning space technology that I focused on in the paper.

Review Paper
By focusing on a comparison of about two specific projects that are currently being supported by academic libraries I could review the status of libraries' involvement with cyberspace and learning spaces technology. I know that NCSU State Libraries have a couple of wikis, for example, and I could compare these to the learning spaces in cyberspace at another library. This paper could be a comparison of different types of learning spaces, including the benefits and problems with each, especially keeping in mind characteristics specific to cyberspace. In this paper, I would explore technologies that are being developed by academic libraries in greater depth, summarizing the history of their development. This would likely include markup standards (ex. TEI and EAD), as well as programs for the creation and display of virtual collections (text-based and/or image-based).

I realize that these are not really two topics for a paper, but I'm just plain old really excited about this topic (everyone else excited about it, raise your hand!). So instead of two topics, I tried to twist the one into a research paper or a review paper, and this is what I came up with. Honestly, I'm partial to the research paper -- I like having a thesis, but we'll see how it goes. I also know that I'm not including the "equality/equity/justice issues" part of the assignment, so I hope this is ok.

The following notes were taken in the College Library 2nd floor computer lab between 12:30PM and 1:30PM on Tuesday February 17th 2004.

The Lab Visually
The computer lab is large, with wall-sized windows on one side. The rest of the décor is “academic” in style as brick walls interspersed with pegboards and glass-fronted offices make up the rest of the surrounding structure. There are at least three sets of furniture owing most likely to concessions to various budgetary constraints and unexpected growth spurts in terms of the volume of computing power necessary. The lab is divided into three main areas: Macintoshes, Windows computers, and “DV” stations – the latter no doubt indicating the machines have more power and the extra input devices necessary to process digital video. There are roughly twice as many windows machines as there are Macs, with a grand total of a probably 100 individual computers. At this time, almost every Windows machine is taken and approximately two-thirds of the Macs are being used.

The Sounds of the Lab
The whole room has the same auditory feel as does a snowy night. The white noise generated by the hundred-or-so workstations has the effect of dampening all sounds emanating from a distance greater than a few meters. There is very little conversation occurring anywhere in the room. Unlike most other rooms I’ve been in on campus lately, there are very few people sneezing or coughing. Possibly the humming computers are limiting the range from which I can hear such noises. Aside from the computers themselves the rest of the audioscape is composed almost entirely of mouse clicks and keystrokes, with the occasional rustling of a backpack as someone gets up to leave.

The People Themselves
The lab users are almost entirely made up of members of the undergraduate population at the UW, falling most likely into the age range of 19-24 years old. Some of the people don’t bothered to take off their coats or backpacks. These people are generally in for a quick email check and then leave right away. At least one of these individuals however was there for the full hour of my observations. He was browsing the Web for most of that time.

What are They Doing?
The lab occupants are almost all browsing the Web. Some of the most common sites include: My Yahoo!, Wiscmail (not technically Web browsing, but they are using a Web browser to access the content), Madcat, various “Bulletin Boards,” and one woman was noticeably shopping for knee-high boots on an ecommerce site. Those students not working on the Web were almost all using Microsoft Word. There were a few individuals using graphics software such as Adobe Photoshop or page-layout software like Adobe InDesign. I didn’t observe any students using instant messaging software, but my view was limited to roughly half of the students at a time.

Who’s in Charge?
The lab monitors were almost entirely doing homework or reading books during the hour I spent in the lab. Occasionally someone would go to the desk and ask a question, but either technical help was never needed or the question only necessitated a short response as the monitors never left their desk. There appeared to be a floating “administrator” who would wander from one “out of order” computer to another. He appeared to have gotten through five machines in need of repair during my time in the lab. I did not see any computers with out of order signs on them when I left.

project ideas

1.The Browser Wars

Compare and contrast 2 books about the microsoft vs. netscape conflict.
Look at both sides and consider both arguments

2.Internet advertising and Travel

the travel indusry is on it's way up, but not without reaching a rapidly growing audience on the web
travel agents are rarely used now because of the internet, so how can the travel industry effectively use the internet. Is the travel agent field on its way out because of teh internet. What is more efficient for travel research, using the net or meeting with a travel agent. Will travel trends change in result of internet use-will more people stay in specific internet friendly resorts, will less people experience the quaint bed and breakfasts they happen to run into? What drastic changes with the vast use of the web with travel cause.

Computer Lab

The college library computer lab is a busy place with a vast array of uses. Many enter the lab with a distinct idea of where they're going. Some head to their favorite computer, and if it is taken they sit at the next closest computer. One man actually grabbed his "favorite computer" (left the one he was working at) after a person left. The main destination determinant in finding a computer is the Mac-PC distinction. I saw one person move from the mac section to the PC section, but that was the only cross-over.

There is a lot of movement, as many people get up to print, go to the bathroom, or head to the open book cafe for a snack. There is a lot more food in the computer lab now that they've added the snack cafe. I noticed this in the beggining of the year. Many people are snacking on chips or candy, one person is eating a sandwich, and most people have some sort of beverage at their workstation.

The sounds are muted, as people who are eating are clearly trying to chew quietly, and phone conversations are, for the most part, kept at a wisper. The occastional loud cell phone ring is the most significant noise. Many people offer looks of disgust to a girl who's cell phone blasts an annoying ring. Then it takes her four 'rings' (of the Popeye the sailor man theme song) to finally answer it. Many people are clearly annoyed.

As I work on designing my advertisment for UBS, I notice I'm 'clicking' a lot and I begin wonder if I'm bothering people. Using photoshop tends to involve more clicking and I'm concerned-for about a minute-that I'm annoying the people around me, but then a girl near me answers her cell phone at a regular-non-wisper-volume and I'm over my concerns.

The smell of the lab is indistinct, all I can really smell is my own gum, but I have a considerably insensitive sense of smell compared to most people I know. It is interesting to note that the seperators at the Mac stations seem to allow the person to feel more privacy, while the open station people seem a bit more self aware.

A person walking into the lab stumbles and drops a book, almost everyone looks up. I almost feel bad for the girl, it was not a very warm welcome into the lab.

My computer lab observations:

I sat in the second floor computer lab at Helen C. White for an hour in the afternoon on a Wednesday. The first thing that surprised me was how busy it was. I've only ever been in there on weeknights, which are definitely busy. I had no idea this many people used the computer lab during the day. All of the Windows computers were full, like many other people wandering around; I had to settle for a Mac. The frustrating part was that a lot of the computers had people's stuff at them and things were open on the screen, but no one was sitting there. Apparently no one is worried about getting his or her stuff stolen. A lot of people were walking around, either coming or going, or collecting things from the printer.

The first computer I sat down at was actually not working. I felt a little stupid clicking the mouse several times before finally getting up and finding a different computer. I can probably guess that I wasn't the first to sit at that computer, find out that it didn't work, and not tell the help desk. There were students at the help desk talking to the employees while I was there, so apparently some people are brave enough to ask for help. One of the staff came and helped the girl sitting behind me who wasn't sure how to get a Powerpoint file onto her disk. After helping her he wandered around for a few minutes, looking to see if anyone else needed help.

One thing I noticed while attempting to make observations is that it is difficult while using a Mac.

In the area where I was sitting, each computer user has his/her own cubicle, and you can't really see what others are doing. The Windows computers are fairly close together, and there isn't any sort of privacy or division between them. I had to crane my head around the corner in order to look at what anyone else is doing.

A lot of the people at the Windows computers at the right side of the room were typing papers. A bunch had books out. While some at the Windows computers right inside the door were writing papers, they seemed to be frequented more by those who were coming and going more quickly. They were checking e-mail or searching for things on the Internet, (several of them using Google). One girl looked like she was making travel plans, on Expedia or a similar site.

I also found that more of the Mac users tended to be working in the special applications. One guy was using Dreamweaver and another with headphones on was in a different program I hadn't seen before. Most of the Mac users seemed to be more comfortable using the Mac than I did.

For the most part, the computer users all seemed to be students. One older man came in and sat at the computer behind me, but was there for less than five minutes.

I always find the environment interesting. Except for the sound of typing, there wasn’t a lot of noise. A couple of people were talking, but not many. I think the computer lab is 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the library, probably from all of the technology in the room. There is always the overwhelming hum of the computers. That combined with the fluorescent lights can definitely give a person a headache. Not a place that I would choose to study, but it apparently works for a lot of other students, because it is definitely pretty busy in here.

At 3:00 in the lab in College Library there is never a moment when people aren’t moving – walking into the lab with furrowed brows like they’re on a mission, leaving the lab in a hurry or strolling with a friend, or moving to or from the printers. Most of the people who walk in scan the room, like they’re checking out the people or looking for an open computer. No one hesitates about heading to the left or right of the lab – people know whether they want to use a Mac (on the left) or Windows (on the right), and even though they scan the other side of the room, they don’t give it a second glance.

The first thing to do when you get to the computer of your choice, if we follow the example demonstrated in this lab, is to get situated. This may include one or more of the following: remove hat, scarf, mittens, jacket, gloves; pull out papers and pens; get phone out; get out Pepsi and granola bar and place them carefully slightly behind the monitor just far enough back to not catch the attention of lab workers but not too hidden so as to appear uncool and concerned about getting caught. Logging on to the computers is often unnecessary, because users don’t always log off. Email is the top priority when spending time at any computer, and is often checked before any other activities begin.

The main activities that users appear to be in the lab to perform are text-based. There are a few people using web design programs or draw/paint programs, but most are reading and writing. The most used programs appear to be web browsers (people checking email, WebCt, Google, reading the news in various languages, etc.), and Microsoft Word. Probably fewer than 10% of the applications available on these computers are currently being used. Everyone uses Internet Explorer (why?). Everyone has IM open. Ok, I’m generalizing a bit. But not much.

Time spent in the lab varies, and there seem to be three types of people here. In order of time spent in the lab from least to most, the first merely walks in with all of their outdoorwear on and bookbag, and they stroll over to a person who is sitting at a computer, apparently right in the middle of a big project and working hard. The two people chat a bit, perhaps laugh, and suddenly both are walking out together. The second type of person spends some time in the lab, maybe working on a specific project or just killing time between classes. This type of person pulls out a pen and paper when sitting down and sometimes gets up to print something off at the printers located in the middle of the large room. They seem to spend about a half hour to a whole hour here. The third variety camps out in the lab. They have several papers vying with the keyboard for space, definitely a pen, and sometimes apparently require a Pepsi and granola bars for sustenance during their stay here. Even this group can be divided in to those who appear to be working on something that is for some reason due, and those who are working on personal projects. The people camping out for personal work seem to choose computers in the corners of the room, preferably where no one can see them but they can see others, and they put on large headphones. If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse at the monitor of this type of lab user, it will be riddled with open windows of several programs.

Whether staying for an extended time or just to pick up a friend, all lab users contribute to and experience the environment. The keys click, people cough, sneeze, talk to each other and, more often, talk on their phones, which ring, beep, or play songs. The computer fans hum, especially the Macs, and chairs squeak and clack against the tables. Lab staff moves in and out of offices, slamming doors. People who walk in swish by in their coats and sniffle after coming in from the cold. There are many people who obviously come in and out during the day, yet the lab appears clean on first glance. After looking closely, though, there is dried soda under my keyboard and crumpled papers at our feet. Part of what makes the lab look clean is that the computers are fairly new and in neat rows, the lighting is good, and the room is large and open.

I observed about 50 people at the second floor lab in Helen C., 6:23 pm on a Sunday night.

There are many more people in the Windows side of the computer lab, and they get up after about 10 minutes – either to print or to get off a computer. Also, a couple people use their cell phones while doing their homework, something that a couple users don’t appreciate based on their heavy sighing.

Newspapers are strewn about the lab, but no one reads them. The newspaper in front of me has web addresses and call numbers for books. A user reads a book while a screen saver dances the time around his screen. About a quarter of the guys in the lab listened to music through their Dell PC’s; no one is doing this on the Macs, as they don’t have a headphone jack in the front of the computer’s tower. Two users drink those $3 Naked juices available in the café on the first floor, although beverages are prohibited in the computer lab. One user eats a muffin, drinks a drink and writes an email – almost simultaneously. Nearly everyone hunches over in their chairs, forwards or backwards.

One user is going through, casually looking at the latest news. Someone else is in a chat room using AIM express, while looking at scores on Others browse the internet erratically, constantly bouncing back and forth from their work in Microsoft Word. One girl uses both applications simultaneously, copying and pasting information from a museum Web site. There seems to be several people reading internet pages in different languages. I think the language is Chinese, but I’m not sure.

Microsoft Internet Explorer has an auto-complete that fills out the web address for what other users have inputted. To see what everyone else is looking at, I went to and saw what came up – mostly job searches and about 40 searches on earthquake articles. There were no internet sites visited that contained earthquake articles, so I’m guessing the search didn’t go so well.

A small group is camped around a computer, facing someone who does what the group wants. This guy has a tough time doing what everyone wants at once and the process is extremely slow-going. The project looks to be something involving PR. One girl is very outspoken and seems to know what she wants but is unable to convey how to achieve it using the computer. Another user seems very computer literate, but does not add any ideas. When the group makes a mistake on the computer they laugh and the tension level of the activity drops. Others who make mistakes on their computers sigh heavily and seem to get upset …

This scene happens two times while I’m in the lab: a girl walks in, sees a guy she knows. She walks over, and stands next to the guy using the computer and starts talking. Her facial expressions seem amplified, as if they are competing for attention. Every laugh and smile is kicked up 20 notches, which elicits sighs from surrounding users. The guy constantly looks at the screen, so the girl talking is forced to look around the room while talking – at all the other people looking at their screens.

After watching people in the wall/mirror, I realize it’s somewhat transparent and a couple girls are looking at me funny from the other side, so I quickly leave …

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Memorial Library Computer Lab
2/16--8:30-9:30 p.m.

*Approximately 91 computers
*Mostly working on papers surprisingly--rough estimate of 70%--perhaps because it's late and people enjoy procrastinating?
*No lines at all during my time--little action going in and out--most staying the entire time
*Many people stare around a lot, especially those working on papers (again procrastinating??)
*Those checking email seemed more focused
*Some gaming going on even though it's not allowed (2 gamers)
*Approximately 40% listening to music either plugged into the computer or on personal CD player or MP3 player
*More on PCs than Macs--no empty PCs, plenty of empty Macs
*People get VERY annoyed when disturbed--i.e. people talking on cell phones (even though not allowed) and loud talking and gossiping
*Much quieter overall than my experiences at College Library computer lab
*Most people pretty self-sufficient--no tech help seen at all
*Word processing done in MS Word (most were using this)
*Only one person on messenger service (AIM)
*Of those using the internet, saw no Netscape Navigators--all Internet Explorer
*MANY had food and/or drink even though it's clearly not allowed
*No group projects--again I usually see a lot of these at College Library
*Only about 5 people left in the time I was there--much different than the lunch hour when I've popped in before

Final Project Proposals

For one of my final project ideas, I have decided to thoroughly look at the advancements of the internet throughout the past 10-15 years. When people first started browsing the web, they were extremely limited to what they were able to do. Now we have opportunities such as banking online, shopping and even applying for future jobs. These types of advancements have all arose so quickly, I would like to research to see how and when these types of features started being produced to be accessible to us online. For example, who decided to bank online and what bank chose to develop a website first. I would also look at shopping, online dictionaries and even encyclopedias to see which were first and how they have advanced throughout the past decade.

My second idea includes research on how the internet has affected news media around the world. I plan to research the history of large newspapers and magazines and how their businesses have been affected either positively or negatively. For example, I would be interested in seeing statistics for the amount of New York Times bought 15 years ago to now. Do they have more online subscribers or have their sales decreased as a whole because the internet users are looking through different search engines and news links to find the same type of information. Overall, I would try to make an effort to compare and contrast the differences in three to four newspapers or magazines to see if they have changed drastically since the internet has developed and advanced into what it is today.

I chose to observe Memorial Library’s computer lab Tuesday evening around 5:45 pm. When I entered the lab, the majority of the computers were in use, leaving about three or four, which were unoccupied. Before sitting down at a computer I decided to take a walk around the lab, observing what others were doing at their individual stations. From my observations, the majority of students were either using email or searching the web. I observed about six or seven students working on actual word documents which I assumed were school related. One person was actually working on her resume, from my observation it looked as if she was updating it.
When I finally decided to sit down, I chose a computer in the last row to the left so I could observe all others entering and leaving the lab. I decided to check my email so it was not so obvious I was just there to observe everyone in the lab. By 6:10 there were two students waiting in line for computers because the lab was full. An interesting observation was that no one was willing to use the 5 Macintosh computers at the stations where you would need to stand in order to use the computers. So as the line started to increase, these 5 computers were sitting there unused, but nobody was willing to stand and use them for whatever reasons.
Throughout the hour I spent in the computer lab, it was quite interesting to observe how many people were actually using the computers for personal use other than school related reasons. I observed several students shopping online, reading newspapers online, and looking at sport schedules and scores. Within the hour, I only observed 1 person ask for help with a printer which did not seem to work. Otherwise, the only other reason students went to the front desk was to ask to check out a laptop, which happened a total of three times within the hour. Overall, the computer lab was quiet except for different cell phones ringing. I counted a total of four different cell phones which went off in the hour. This really surprised me because I expected the number to be higher than four. Out of those four, two students decided to exit the lab to talk on their phones, whereas two students decided to talk while staying in the computer lab. One student was respectful and talked quietly, whereas the other student became obnoxiously loud when talking and laughing for about five minutes. I observed a few dirty looks, although nobody chose to comment on the fact that she was talking so loud. As I decided to exit the lab around 7pm, there was no line, although only two or three computers were available. From my observations, Memorial computer lab is quite busy and several students choose to use the computers for personal use.

2 paper ideas:

(1) Missing Time - Every gadget we create via our technology seemingly saves us time, from the microwave (for cooking) to the escalator (for walking) to the Internet (for nearly anything you can think of). The basic notion has always been that our technology will allow us to spend less time working, cooking, etc., and more time with our friends, families, or simply recreating. And yet, in the year 2004, Americans work harder (more hours per week) than ever. Where has this time gone? Has technology simply lifted the bar up in the business world, causing competing firms to maintain the same work schedule? Is it the case that technology actually wastes our time by encouraging us to do superfluous things we wouldn't even consider if the technology wasn't around? Are humans, and in particular, Americans, simply hard-wired to work nearly non-stop throughout their entire lives? In the paper, I would look through the literature to find evidence (if any exists) to answer those questions. I suspect that there is some truth to all of them. I would also like to evaluate the contention of the “utopian” theorists like Kalman Toth in Telecommunications and the City (as well as Arthur Clarke) that in the distant future, our technology will do all of the work, and we will simply relax.

(2) The inevitability of the internet - I understand that, to some degree, what we call the internet was bound to come about at around the time it actually did. However, was it inevitable that the internet was to arise in the United States? Also, was it inevitable that the internet was to be as consumer-friendly as it currently is? While trying to answer these questions, I would have to address the importance of the American universities that were responsible for nurturing the internet in its infant stage (ARPAnet), as well as the importance of individual nuts (geniuses/nerds) like Berners-Lee in the creation of the internet.

Those are my ideas. I will post my library findings tomorrow before class.


Topic Ideas

The cyberspace and the soul. I’m interested in the identities of users of cyberspace. It seems very interesting to me that the “soul” exists for many people, despite the fact that it has no physical manifestation. Cyberspace is exactly like the soul in that there is no physical space there, but nonetheless, cyberspace is, as Sterling writes, not real but it is genuine. This will be a review. I’d like to bring Foucault’s analysis of the soul into this as well, “The soul imprisons the body.” What happens when somebody “goes” to cyberspace? Is there any “body” in cyberspace? How does cyberspace relate to identity in terms of the public sphere?

News Online: Why do some newspapers make you pay for their online content and some don’t? How do “Hard Copy” newspapers like the NYTimes stack up against totally online news sources like Slate? Who goes to which more often? Does how much money you spend on your website make a difference? How about circulation? Does print circulation necessarily automatically translate into website traffic? And the money a newspaper spends on its online “presence,” does that necessarily translate to traffic?

Paul Medenwaldt

6:30 – Enter Wendt computer lab. This is my lab, I’m here all the time. At this time of day it’s practically empty, which for Wendt means 6 people, 7 if you count me, on a total of 30 computers. This part of Wendt is almost always empty, partly because the engineering students (Wendt is the engineering library), all have special computer labs in this building with more expensive software and bigger monitors. There are no women using these machines.

6:33 – Just across from me, a guy with a Nalgene bottle reaches down to check his cell phone. Part of the reason I come here a lot is that it’s probably the most quiet computer lab on campus. Nearly half the people in this library actually leave the building to use their phones, which I consider a pretty astonishing number these days.

6:45 – Behind me, a guy in a black leather jacket packs up his things and leaves. It takes him about 45 seconds to get everything together. Eject zip disk, detach headphones, put everything in backpack, put on hat and coat, and walk away.

6:56 – A guy in a green jacket sits down behind me. It takes him about 5 minutes to get set up. Log in. Attach headphones. Insert CD. Check Email. CD boots up in Windows Media Player. Find Song. Minimize Media Player. Continue checking email. Finally, he must have finished, because he went to a site titled “American History 102.” I assume this is why he’s here.

6:59 – Two people walk by chatting and Nalgene bottle looks up at them, watching them pass. One guy keeps walking, the other peels off into the lab to talk with another guy in a blue sweatshirt. They whisper quietly for about three minutes. The guy walks away.

7:02 – A big guy with blond hair walks in and sits down.

7:05 – Another blond guy sits down. I get up and position myself among the bookshelves, a place where I can see his monitor, but his back is to me, so he can’t see me.

7:10 – I return. I would have observed longer, but how long can you watch a guy check email? Anyway, one interesting thing I saw was that he sat down, logged in, signed on to WiscMail, opened a message, then took his coat off. What if there was no message? Would he still have taken his coat off? Anyway, on my way back I did a quick survey of what everyone was doing. There are now seven people other than me in the lab, all men, all aged approximately 18-25.
Person 1 (Gray Hat): Some sort of message board, I think he was looking at a band’s website or something.
Person 2 (Brown Sweater): Yahoo Games: Literati
Person 3 (WiscMail): WiscMail
Person 4 (Big Blond): Microsoft Word
Person 5 (Nalgene): Instant Messaging, with Microsoft Word in the background.
Person 6 (Pen Mouth): Microsoft Word
Person 7 (Headphones): American History 102: Paper Topics
7:16 – Nalgene Bottle gets up, leaves for several minutes, and returns (appx 7:18). I assume he went to the bathroom, and briefly wonder if he washed his hands. I hate public keyboards for that reason.

7:19 – A guy in a red Wisconsin Hoodie sits down. He takes off his coat, then logs in. My UW, then to WiscMail.

7:22 – I do another quick survey of the place and find out somebody sat down while I wasn’t looking. He’s on Yahoo Mail. I walk around to figure out what everyone is doing.
Grey Hat: Still the message board. FFForums it’s called.
Brown Sweater: Still Yahoo Literati
New Guy: Yahoo Mail
Red Hoodie: WiscMail
WiscMail: MSN Messenger open over Microsoft Word
Big Blond: Microsoft Word
Nalgene: Still the Microsoft Word and IM
Pen Mouth: Microsoft Word
Headphones: American History 102: Civil War to the Present

7:30 – Another guy sits down, blue jacket. He keeps it on.

Final Tally: There are now 10 people other than me using the computer lab, all men aged 18-25. A total of 11 people have used the lab in the last hour, none of them women.

Paul Medenwaldt

Field Observation
Memorial Library InfoLab 02/17/04(Wisc Primary) 5:30pm-6:30pm
The Memorial Library InfoLab has 21 Macs, and 81 Pcs, one of which is allowed only for printing, therefore I did not count it as one of the general computers in the room. Of the 21 Macs, 5 of them have no chairs, but they were still counted, as they were general purpose (mainly for stop-and-go email checking, I assume). It also has a copy machine and a vending machine for Zips, CD-RW, etc. Although not busy during most of my observation, the copy machine became quite busy and had a waiting line for the last few minutes or so. There were also dehumidifiers placed In the center of the isles placed there for the sole purpose of making me, and others I am sure, trip.
Generally speaking, the Infolab is pretty solemn, and apparently it is preferred that it stay that way, as I received glares when using an inside voice to talk to a friend. During the hour, not a single cell phone was heard, as cell phones are not allowed in the lab. It is likely that phones were set on vibrate. Food, drink, and game playing are also prohibited, but, as one might assume, there were many rebels drinking diet coke and playing games. There is very little interaction and talking amongst users, unless it is for assistance on printers, which are usually not functioning.
Many people stayed for the entire hour or close to it, while others stayed for an average of 20 minutes or so, just enough time to check emails and write replies.
Among the activities that people were involved in, email was definitely the most popular, with word processing and research/online classes running second. Email was quite often on Wiscmail, with very few yahoo and hotmail users, as one might expect. Many people were doing homework on spreadsheets or on WebCT. In regards to instant messaging, contrary to what I had assumed, there were no AIM or Trillian users. All messaging (only about four or five users) was on Yahoo, MSN, or some strange videoconference/text message system (maybe it was the new updated AIM?) Despite the “No game playing” signs in the lab, there were people playing multiplayer games, like “party poker” as well as so Japanese games, solitaire, and of course, one snood player. Other people in the lab were reading the news, doing programming, or shopping. Only about four people listened to headsets while on computers.
6:00 – 42 people, 2/21 Macs, 40/80 PC’s.
6:15 - 57 people, 3/21 Mac users, 54/80 PC’s.
6:30 - 61 people, 6/21 Mac users, 55/80 PC’s.
The most entertaining observation I made during the fieldwork was a monitor that had a split screen with two windows. One of them was a picture of John Kerry, and the other was a picture or Tori Spelling. Above them were the words “Bad Plastic Surgery.”

Ah yes, my hour reign as the creepy guy watching everyone in the Helen C. 2nd floor computer lab has begun at 6:38pm. Fresh off of my Nutri Sci 132 mid-term appearance, I'm ready to just sit around for a bit and see what people actually do in computer labs.

I've picked a spot in the Mac section, somewhere near the middle of the room. Less the reflective walls on both sides of me, I'd have a great view of everyone tooling away, but I don't. The computer on my left is currently available, but I don't think this will last long, as there are less than a dozen macs open, while most of the Windows machines throughout the lab are in use.

Most of the stations in the Mac section have the bulky old CRT monitors, while the Windows ones have mostly 15" LCD monitors from NEC. My station is one of a dozen or so Macs with the same LCD display. The keyboard is a nice transparent job from Apple, and features the similarly designed optical "Pro Mouse", also made by Apple

Upon taking my seat, the woman to the right of me gave me the evil "your rotten music is too damn loud" glare. Interestingly enough, she has headphones on herself, though I speculate that these are only for show. She appears to be making an attempt at creating the world's most delectable baked good, as her screen is covered with various pictures of cakes, pies, and other pastries.

Down in the Windows section, there is a girl doing some homework, making some kind of data table or the like. Her neighbor is hammering away on a Hotmail Account (apparent because of the rainbow colored butterfly) in between looking up entries in a dictionary. I also spotted an older vampire-looking woman barely in sight over in the Windows area, however she caught me watching some of the people around the lab, so now I'm really thinking twice about walking over there to see what's she up to.

A guy behind me is drinking from an unlabeled green plastic bottle, something which I'm guessing contains some kind of hard liquor. He's working with Adobe Illustrator but appears to be having some difficulty with the program, as he's leaning back frustrated with his hands over his face. This may also be because whatever is in that bottle is disappearing quickly.

On the front side of my desk, there is a girl with her back to me on a rental car website, perhaps lining up a ride for Spring Break, which seems an eternity away from me right now.

After thirty minutes, all of the people I have observed so far are still here, which is surprising, because my pre-conceived notion about computer labs is that they are a quick in-and-out sort of place, where student and staff exchange quick emails, before hiding somewhere in the library with a ton of reading to do. People may be staying because they don't have access to a computer in their dorm or apartment, they don't want to do their reading, or perhaps because it's so much cooler to email your friends from the computer lab than from your own computer.

Nobody seems to be working on group projects, which I have seen in previous trips to the lab, this is probably because there are many computers all loaded with software most students can not afford, and also because most bedrooms on campus are already crowded enough, without trying to have a five person group sit in there around one computer.

At about the same time, someone sits down at the computer to my left, and the guy with the empty booze bottle departs. He's the first person around me I've noticed leave, and it's been almost 45 minutes since I arrived. My CD has just ended, so I must pick another one, giving me a great opportunity to check out some more of what's going on.

There are three lab assistances up at the desk near the door, if needed, but they seem to be doing some homework as things are running smoothly throughout the lab. They have not done a whole lot around the lab for the duration of my stay. I started lightly tapping the beat to Radiohead's "Kid A", which clearly ticked off a few people around me, who were working very hard looking at pictures of cakes and sending emails with dictionaries on their laps.

It has been just under an hour now, and while I am still here, I would just like to make a couple statements about this assignment: First, I feel very intrusive. It seems that if this assignment does not make you feel a little bit awkward, you just might be a stalker. Second, I think it is interesting how much the activity of what people are doing in here varies. A few people are sitting with a friend and talking a little bit while working or surfing, while others are more introverted, sitting with headphones on, or almost in a trance hard at work.

Sunday Feb 15th, College Library 5pm
As I walked into the computer lab, only 1 PC unit was available. I quickly located myself there and began my observations. As I looked around the room, a majority of the people were primarily there for writing and checking e-mails. I did notice quite a few of them were hotmail accounts. The next biggest group was writing papers or researching items for a paper. As I saw quite a few of them go back and forth between MS Word and the internet. Some of them seemed frustrated b/c I heard a great deal of sighing and stretching. I also noticed that these people get destracted easily. Anytime there was a remote sound close to them, they quickly checked out what was going on. There were 2 groups working on a power point presentation, but I couldn't tell what their project was about. Then there were an occasional few using AOL IM. I heard some snorts and giggles coming from these people. The last group of people were playing yahoo games and listening to music. There were no books next to them, so they were clearly there to play games. Then I went into the Mac section. Hardly anyone was using them. The 6 people that were there were mainly surfing the web, checking e-mails, and playing games. I did notice one girl writing a paper. Then she suddenly she got up, clearly frustrated and saved her paper to a disk and moved over to the PC stations to see if she could finish her paper there. (By the way, she took the computer I was at) Then at the Help Desk there were a guy and a girl. At first they were both just doing something with their computers. Then the girl went to the back, and the guy started moving stuff around behind the desk. One person did come and check out a laptop. Over in the DV stations all the computers were full, but I couldn't tell what they were working on. One girl was using the scanner. It looked like a design project of some sorts she was working on. This was the end of my obersvations.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Research Project Ideas

1)In the 1984 novel, Neuromancer, science fiction novelist William Gibson introduced the concept of “cyberspace.” Nearly twenty years later, advances
In the area of technology and computers have since redefined the aforementioned
term. Thus the objective of this research project is to report and analyze how the concept of cyberspace has changed over the years.

2)In Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media, Robert McChesney and John Nichols propose various courses of action to combat the consolidation of media by large telecommunications conglomerates. Through a book review and by using other sources, the intention here is to analyze the validity of their solutions.

Week 5 Assignment

Date: February 10, 2004
Time: 2:16-3:16 PM
Location: Computer Lab, Second Floor, College Library.

Description: After arriving at the lab, I tried to use a PC, but, as tough as it can be to try to get a PC at that time of day, I had no choice but to head to the Mac section of the lab.
Unlike the PC wing, where one would have been lucky to find a unit without a user, the Macs were as abound and plentiful as the sterile smell of the place. I also noticed that the old monitors had been replaced with NEC flat monitors. There were about ten units available, but only four users. Before sitting down, I decided to walk around to see what these four users were doing. Two of them were using the Internet (surfing). Meanwhile, the other two were doing homework; one was typing something using MS Word, and the other was using MS Paint-like software. There was no noise, except for the unmistakable toc, toc, toc sound of keyboards being struck. After sitting down, I decided to read the sports news of the day. At around 2:35, the quietness was gone, as two guys who just couldn’t shut up came to the lab. Not that it mattered anyway because no one else other than me seemed to notice. They were not using their units at all. By 2:57, those guys finally hit the road. Only five people, myself included stayed around. I then decided to take a walk to the PC side of the lab. The place was packed, as no unit seemed to be available. There was no talking here, just the clicking of keys. I went back to my Mac and checked my Email. By 3:10, more people started to arrive. They were trying to get a unit to work with, so many came my way. I then decided to leave the lab. As I left, I noticed that the four users I encountered an hour before were still around.

Project idea #1 - We hear of Ted Nelson, Berners-Lee, etc. and their visionary contributions to the development of cyberspace/internet. All these great men made many contirbutions at various locations around the world, but were there women involved in the development of these computer technologies? If there were, who are they? What did they do? and why are they excluded from mainstream acedemia? What are women doing these days in the field of online computer development?

Project Idea #2 - No clue yet! possibly something regarding the bizarre and multiple uses of the internet that were unpredictable to developers, such as Campaign fundraising, Presidential campaign blogging, ...or the MP3 phenomenon...Internet pornography....and what the FCC has to say about all these things,

Assignment week 5
I spent an hour in computer lab of my school-School of Library and Information Studies.
At 10.00 a.m, there were 3 people and they used computers for printing the articles in Library reserve for their subjects. They were very concentrated to their work. No one taked to each other. It was really stressful since every people were thinking about the subjects and assignments.
The class room is next to computer lab and when the class had a break, many students went to computer lab to check emails and find some information. They talked about the class, the subjects and the assignments which are coming soon. They also drunk water and ate food. The environtmet's lab was warmer, activer and more comfortble. At that time, there were 15 people in the lab. It was really noisy. Some students were trying to complete the assignments and they stayed at lab more than an hour. For those who had a break from the class room, they just stayed about 5-10 minutes cause they had to return to the class. The environmet was quieter when students went back to the class. 2 other students went to the lab for printing the materials. After finished their work, they went out. In the lab room, there were 4 students who were typing the assignments. The environtment was really quiet.The time was 11.05 a.m.