Our Blog as an Archive

When starting this class, I was both captivated and a little skeptical of using this blog site. I have never used something of the sort for a class before so I did not really know what to expect. I also struggle very badly in terms of new types of technology (funny considering this class topic) and do not always grasp certain things, like tagging, easily. After getting going with the blog, I noticed how laid back and easy to use it is. I really do think it is the best way to structure this class with our writings, topics, and opinions. In terms of the final assignment, I have noticed some trends amongst our classmates. Since we are able to create our paper entirely off of a topic we choose to write about, there are many topics that relate to things typical to be interested in by college students: gaming, music, cell phones, sports, etc. Although seemingly typical, the people writing about such topics are exploring something very broad and creating pieces of writing that intrigue to reader since most of us have similar interests in today’s society.

I was also very intrigued by some of the topics that I did not expect to see. For example, I did not necessarily picture someone to write about honey bees, solar panels, or neuroprosthetics.  Topics such as these differ from the ones I shared before because they are topics it typically thought about or expressed. I am very excited to read about these topics because they are all things that I did not have much knowledge about previously.

I have seen how these blog posts have developed in their depth over this semester and how topics have come about. I know personally that I would start with a topic and then find myself exploring a different branch of it than I expected. I really enjoy the limitlessness of this blog and how open ended it can be. It is rare to have a class where you can write about definite things that are of interest to you and put a spark in your mind. I love being able to navigate through this blog and wonder what sparked someone to write about their topic of choice. It not only allows us as students to express ourselves through our writing, but also to relate to others and find a new relatability to some of our classmates.

I think many of us in this class could say that this was one of the classes where you did not have to know everyone’s names or speak outside of class, but that you felt comfortable to talk and express your ideas in the classroom. I believe the blog is a big part of this and became an archive of all of our personalities coming together.  I am very excited to see what everyone has to offer in their final papers because I think we can all learn a lot about ourselves from each other’s posts and could spark future ideas of our own. I know that after getting in our small groups and discussing our topics with some classmates, I became very intrigued by the topics and could see myself exploring some of them in future works of my own.

Class Archive

When looking at the archive that this class has created throughout the semester, what really strikes me is that even though we have all received the same assignments the whole year, the range of topics that were chosen for each assignment could not have been more different from each other. For example, for the final project alone, one person is talking about bees, another is talking about hip hop, and another is writing their paper on concussions. Those topics could not be more different, yet they still explore a common theme: technological progress and its impact on how we live our lives.

This common thread is what amazes me the most about our archive – it’s incredible how many different perspectives can be used to illuminate the issues we face today. One assignment that I appreciated reading different opinions on was the one that focused on the Digital Self. It was a relatively narrow topic, which is why the different perspectives really were useful for me – they forced me to reconsider my views, and expand them. Specifically within that topic, the focus on the readings from “alone together” that some people had was something that I enjoyed reading about, mostly because it’s a common feeling sometimes (the feeling of being so connected yet so disconnected at the same time), and it was nice to see that there are common experiences between all of us, even though we do all have our own opinions and perspectives and ideas. For example, the post about the differing perspectives between cultures in respect to connection really made me think. As an American, I have pretty much come to accept that my parents want me to be continually available. I don’t speak to them every day, or even every week sometimes, but if I can’t get in contact with them for some reason or another, they tend to get very worried. However, the connection between parent and child through different cultures can be very different. In the blog post that I’m referring to, the Chinese norm was addressed. It makes me wonder if I would be different in terms of my independence if my parents were less concerned about connection. As it is, I tend to do what I feel is best, regardless of their input, but I wonder what extremes my current independence (my mother might say strong-willed bullheadedness) could reach if I had even less obligation.

Another thing that I find interesting about our archive is not even the depth or breadth overall, it’s the depth that can be found with just one post. For example, the post on mummification that was read aloud gave us a huge amount of knowledge on a topic that most of us (I assume) are not familiar with – I know that I’m not. This access to new knowledge is something that I feel is prevalent throughout our archive. There are so many different topics and different passions that we have somehow come up with a fairly comprehensive look at technology throughout time and throughout society. Considering this, I kind of wonder what would happen if we had another semester to write even more.

Knocking Out Societal Views of Concussions

For this blog post, I would like to fine tune my thesis and focus on concentrating on a single topic concerning concussions. In my last blog post, I created an outline for my paper, using a wide range of research articles and sources. This created a wide range of topics, and gave way to a diluted thesis. Going through the articles, a common theme that I found most interesting was how receiving a concussion is not as “cool” as it used to be.

The ironic part, and the catch-22 of the modern approach to head-injury, is that although concussions are going out of style, head-protective equipment is following suit. There is a social stigma to using head protection and other devices that are specifically designed for the safety of its wearer. A good example of this is wearing a helmet when riding a bike or any other recreational activity on a set of wheels. I find it strange that people are mocked for wearing a helmet when riding a bike when it could save a life. Why would someone not want to wear a helmet? I find the answer to always be leaning toward the side of social pressures and not looking “nerdy”.

This idea of concussions being “cool” of course is most prevalent in entertainment media and sports. In movies and books, characters are constantly “knocked out” by the protagonist; only to awake a few hours later, kidnapped. This is not how it would play out in real life, and serious brain damage would incur if such a thing were to happen.

The main part of my essay, and my thesis, would surround concussions in sports played in America. I would like to examine how entertainment, profit, “fun of the sport” and actually appearing “cool” factor into how concussions are viewed, treated, and policed.

Some sports are doing more than others in prevention and treatment of concussions. Football, for example, is implementing rule changes in the hopes of decreasing the number of high-velocity collisions a player is involved in during while competing. This also begs the question, where do we draw the line? At what point is the integrity of the game compromised? And, are the people who are making these decisions swayed by profit, or acting out of true concern for the players?

At some point, I believe that risks have to be accepted by all those involved. Injury is a risk we all face in every day living, and playing a sport only increases that risk, no matter the sport. People enjoy playing and watching sports for the competitive atmosphere. I do not see society doing away with high-risk sports entirely, and so, to a point, consequences must be understood and accepted.

The disparity between sports is staggering, when you look at the wide range of treatments and rules that are implemented concerning concussions. The “coolness” of concussions seems to correlate with the amount of awareness among the participants of the sport. In football, at least at the present time, there is a relatively high awareness, and concussions are no longer as “cool” as they once were. But in boxing, there are zero policies surrounding concussions, because the main goal of a boxer is to essentially give their opponent a concussion.

Receiving a concussion is damage to the brain, and yet there is so little awareness or education about the subject. Hopefully with sports and entertainment media leading the way in preventative care, brain injuries will no longer be an acceptable side-effect of a good time.

Collapse of Societies

Throughout history humans have observed multiple societies that have collapsed and disappeared, but how can we know if it will happen to us or not too? It has seemed as if history has repeated itself time and time again, from the Mayans and the Byzantines to the Roman and the Ottoman empires, they have all fallen and were not able to sustain themselves indefinitely, regardless of the reasons behind their collapse. Even though it does not sound likely and that there is no evidence that anything catastrophic may happen any time soon, we cannot see it happening anytime soon we do face challenges that threaten our existence and we need to adapt in order to avoid the same fate. Oreskes and Conway take a kind of satirical approach to analyze this possible collapse, setting themselves and the story in the year 2393. Like a 20/20 hindsight they go through what caused our society to have crumbled and become unrecognizable from what it is like today. We can identify these possible causes and factors, the problem lies in how we go about mitigating them and their outcomes. Oreskes states “by the early 2000s, dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system was under way. Fires, floods, hurricanes, and heat waves began to intensify. Still, these effects were discounted” Oreskes, N. (2014). Ignoring or avoiding these issues as if they were to disappear by themselves could be what dooms our future. So what can we do today to prevent the upcoming pitfalls using our past experience? This matter has been a subject of research by many scientists and they have come up with theories that try to explain why these societies crumbled. In essence, what we need to do as a modern society is to learn from the mistakes of past civilzations as well as make new observations of our own so that we do not face a similar fate.

Joseph Tainter wrote on his book The Collapse of Complex Societies: “With their administrative structure, and capacity to allocate both labor and resources, dealing with adverse environmental conditions may be one of the things that complex societies do best. It is curious that they would collapse when faced with precisely those conditions that they are equipped to circumvent… As it becomes apparent to the members of a complex society that a resource base is deteriorating, it seems most reasonable to assume that some rational steps are taken toward a resolution.” Tainter, J. (1988). This being stated, how do these could translate to today’s problems, and what advantages we have from these previous experiences? In some cases, resource scarcity starved whole populations, politics and war wiped out entire civilizations and economic crisis vanished powerful empires.

A big factor is the environment; societies ran out and could not find fundamental resources to satisfy their demand. As it happened to a specific medicinal herb or animal species it also happened with really important and irreplaceable resources like water. Scarcity can be a problem by itself but it can also trigger internal and external conflicts in the search and use of certain goods. For example, the Roman Empire deforestation and excessive grazing led to erosion of the land and resulted in unfertile soil. Their cities were designed to hold a certain amount of people, but their rapid growth and overpopulation led to water and food shortage. Although today we seem to find solutions and alternatives to scarce resources, we haven’t managed to find a viable one for our oil dependence and the future energy shortage. “There were very few then who questioned the view that the world was entering a future of increasing scarcity of energy and natural resources…economists ask whether an economy can maintain a positive consumption level forever, given that there is no technical development and that the production of commodities is possible only by using limited nonrenewable resources like oil. This is clearly a question of sustainability. According to their analysis it is possible to maintain a positive consumption level forever only if capital can be substituted for nonrenewable resources without technical difficulties.” Tahvonen, O. (2000). To avert a future resource scarcity and more specifically oil depletion we must focus our efforts on finding new different renewable energy resources or to perfect the ones we know to maximize their efficiency and solve their technical difficulties.

Following these problems, the second factor combines the civilizations’ growth, overpopulation and politics that caused death to its people. The Roman Empire was one of the largest civilizations the world has ever seen, both in land and in population, thanks to their great science and architecture. The Greek historian and teacher Dionysius of Halicarnassus once said: “The extraordinary greatness of the Roman Empire manifests itself above all in three things: the aqueducts, the paved roads, and the construction of the drains.” Oleson, J.P. (2008). These technological advances allowed them to grow at an amazing pace but it had its cons, war and disease. As the Roman Empire kept growing the need for resources and land increased, at the beginning they could just expand but later other cities stood in its way. This obligated the Romans to conquer land through war, causing massive deaths for both sides. At its peak, the Roman Empire covered around 5% of the world’s land and accounted for around 21% of the entire world’s population. The empire became so big that their power and army was diluted into all the different war fronts, eventually failing to keep up with their growth. This factor also generated secondhand effects like diseases, their cities grew so big that diseases spread easily and epidemics were caused. There are “equivalent” issues in our present society that are causing harm to it. The most obvious one is probably the competition between superpowers to be the strongest one, as both the United States and Russia are still making us live in a Cold War-esque environment and as China tries to overpower the rest with its economical and production capacity. Thankfully today diplomacy and politics handle discrepancies in a more peaceful way, but if the day came where a war started and nuclear bombs are involved, the Earth could be extremely damaged and we may not only collapse but also go back to fighting with sticks and stones.

The third factor is social complexity. After solving each problem some collateral damage is done to the society according to Joseph Tainter, who analyzes in his book this very interesting concept, social complexity. Every society starts out as simple social organizations that work towards a common goal and share mutual interests, but as the society grows the more complex it needs to be to organize itself. Social Complexity is a basic problem-solving tool. Confronted with problems, we often respond by developing more complex technologies, establishing new institutions, adding more specialists or bureaucratic levels to an institution. The Roman Empire suffered the consequences of its own complexity, as it thrived new infrastructure was needed, more government and hierarchical administration was implemented, and communications were essential for its survival. Through its development and the solutions to previous problems the Roman Empire became to complex to control, and its layers of bureaucracy became too thick to govern, therefore collapsing and breaking down into simpler societies. By solving problems we are then creating new ones, as Eric Sevareid said “The chief cause of problems is solutions”. Our society today is one of the most complex societies to ever exist, so this social complexity could be a real threat for our society’s survival.

Our society today possesses a huge advantage over past societies, as we have acquired and compiled knowledge and events for years to educate and prevent us from making the same mistakes our ancestors did and avoid the same pitfalls. Education and technology provide the tools for our society to improve and to allocate our efforts towards the most important issues. This same technology overcame barriers that otherwise would have meant the end of our complex society. Although this means we can continue to innovate our way out of rising trouble it does not mean it will always work or that it could backfire. For example, oil combustion engines were a fascinating innovation that resolved energy and transportation dilemmas, but years later we realize it could have been a counterproductive effort considering the alternatives we had for combustion engines such as steam. So if we have information and knowledge, and our technology is advancing at a fast pace, how can we collapse? Jared Diamond mentions in his book four reasons why a society might collapse: “…a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives. Second, when the problem arrives, the group may fail to perceive the problem. Then, after they perceive the problem they may fail even to try to solve the problem. Finally, they may try to solve it but may fail in their attempts to do so. (Diamond, p.30) He claims that by identifying them we can use them as a checklist for better decision-making in our society, that if we are able to recognize these four stages we can potentially solve them.

Our society is capable of overcoming the challenges we are facing as well as those challenges yet to come, we just cannot forget that what has happened to past civilisations can happen to us too so we will not over relax or fail to oversee them. As a conclusion, prior experience and knowledge are a major advantage that we have over previous civilizations. In addition, our innovation, technology, and broader knowledge allows us to be more capable of figuring out even the most difficult of challenges, but as we keep being successful the larger and larger our complexity balloon inflates and we do not know when it could pop in our faces. Hopefully, in the year 2393 our descendants will read Oreskes science fiction and laugh at how much it failed to depict the future.

References:

Oleson, J. P. (2008). Oxford handbook of engineering and technology in the Classical world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. (2014). The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. Columbia UP.

Tahvonen, O. (2000). Economic sustainability and scarcity of natural resources: a brief historical review. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future.

Tainter, J. A. (1988). The collapse of complex societies. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press.

Essay Outline: Travel and Technology

  1. Introduction: My experiences traveling, and my personal interaction with various technologies that both aid and inhibit experiencing a place.
  2. What does it mean to experience a place? Does it mean interacting with those who live there, making an impact, leaving a footprint? Or does it mean staying away, taking photos, looking through museums, and leaving without a trace, leaving no part of yourself behind?
  3. Moving beyond what experiencing a place really is, what do we need to do to achieve this? Do we hit the ground running, trying to see as many tourist sights as possible? It might be better to sit in a café somewhere, taking in the atmosphere, watching how people in this new city go about their day. It might be best to go to a place as mundane as a grocery store – you will probably learn more about daily life in Madrid from the farmacías than you will from visiting the Museo del Prado.
  4. Technologies that help make travel possible – the positive impact of technology on travel.
    1. The Basics: Planes, trains, and automobiles. These technologies have been around since before I was born, but they are vital. They are the things that enable me to go from Columbus, Ohio, to Europe in less than 12 hours (if I time the flights correctly). Without them, travel would be much more difficult, and impossible to maintain at the rate it is now, with people coming and going from all places at all times.
    2. New technologies: Airbnb, couchsurfing, Google flights, high speed trains, social media, Cameras. These are all technologies that help to facilitate the process of travel. They make lodging cheaper (or free!), make travel cheaper, and speed up the process. It makes traveling a more streamlined experience, one that is faster and more pleasant for the consumer. They also help to connect the traveler with their environment. With technologies such as airbnb, couchsurfing, and even social media to an extent, you are able to live and interact with those who are familiar with whichever city you are in, and it adds an extra dimension to the experience that would probably be lost if you had stayed in a beige box in a high rise hotel. Social media may also help you to give a window to those that would otherwise be unable to see certain places. Along with that, cameras in all their forms help you to remember the trip, and share the experience with people around the globe.
  5. Technologies that inhibit travel/interaction – negative effects of the influx of technology on our lives.
    1. Social Media – things such as facebook, instagram, twitter. Do our experiences become more about making people jealous, or gaining meaningless likes, as opposed to really seeing something and taking it in?
    2. Cameras – with a camera at our fingertips, does what we take pictures of become less significant? When we have a camera roll of 700 photos, what is worthwhile and what isn’t? Who determines this?
    3. High Speed Trains – though generally good, could it be said that they prevent one from seeing lesser-known areas, or the seedier sides of countries? Additionally, do they feed into the culture of instant gratification that we have built worldwide.
  6. Conclusion – final thoughts on the positives and negatives of technology when traveling, and ways to harness its power without negatively impacting ourselves.

Video Games: Violent Behavior

The concept of gaming has taken on a whole new meaning in the 21st Century. As people have adapted to the change in technology, so too has the view on video games changed. No longer are games focused on strategy and learning through thought-provoking moves; now, there is a shift toward a more violent approach with fast-paced reflex and a need for survival through violent acts. Throughout this blog I will explore the significance of the artifact, “Video-Game Controller”, which is an object used to signify the much larger scope of “Video Games” as a whole.

Technology has made its way into society and has influenced the way we live and function throughout our daily lives. One can rely on technology to wake up, obtain currency to survive, and even to protect one’s self. But one way that technology has also influenced people is through the video-game controller. As strange as it may sound, the controller can help explain why some violent acts have increased in recent decades. However; this artifact does not explicitly translate into violence, nor does it imply that it does not entertain harmful thoughts. With the advancement of technology, one must be cautious when exploring the boundaries of this artifact.

Two decades ago, the controller was nothing more than an adventure, a cognitive stimulant, to help expand the mind into a strategic way of thinking. Games like Frogger, Super Mario, and Tetris, were all games that explored the different spectrums of strategy. In Frogger, one played as a frog that had to strategically get from start to finish, without getting squashed by moving vehicles. Simply, this game was intended to test the fast, strategic thinking of the player. In Super Mario, one played as a plumber who must save the princess from the villain, who in this case was a large monster turtle. The idea of this game is for the player to dodge objects and gather coins to reach the princess, ultimately battling the villain for the release of the princess. Finally, in Tetris the player must stack blocks, fitting them together, much like a puzzle, but within a time limit. The idea here is to capture how the player thinks, in order to stack the blocks successfully. Once again strategy is the key.

As technology has changed, so has the idea of strategic thinking. Increased development has created a need for more realistic gameplay; thus, resulting in riskier behavior. For example, the characters are no longer fictional, they look and act like human beings. In recent games, the character could be a drug dealer, with the need to kill the competitor, thus murdering another human. Scholar Flaviu Pătrunjel said, “Tortures are not morally justified here…similar violent content of making a show out of implying suffering to animals and humans.”[1] Meaning, that no matter how one looks at this scenario, there is no good to come out of playing this game. The advancement in the game industry does not only effect the younger generation, but also adults who look for entertainment. One could argue that there has been a shift from learning strategies to being more for entertainment purposes.

In recent years, researchers have noticed how violent the games have become; some games focus on categories such as: war, terror, murder, need for survival, and provoking fear. News broadcasts have even warned parents of how these games can influence violent behavior in children. It is true that a child’s mind can be easy influenced by what he/she sees and hears, so it is reasonable to be cautious when allowing such games to be played by a younger audience. Furthermore, studies on psychology has examined that when an individual entertains a violent thought long enough, one can actually convince themselves that they can get away with it. Thus, adults too should be cautious when evaluating whether these games are reasonable or not.

It is evident that the video-game controller over the years has taken on a new way of living, such that, children are more interested in staying inside, playing video games than exploring the outdoors. The advancement of the controller has influenced the want to stay inside and play one more “mission or level.” One could argue that some find a need in playing these games; that this controller has almost a dominance over the minds of some; that’s all they think about and want to play. Some children would skip dinner, class, and even isolate themselves from friends to play more games. This large movement to hold that controller in hand and play one more “mission” has caused a disconnect from reality, as well as, entertaining violent behavior.

One question to wonder is, are these games good or bad? The answer simply is that it is hard to say, because there are other factors at play when violence is acted upon. One example is the film industry making movies that revolve around murder and violent acts. Another example is the music industry making music that promotes drugs and violence. Given these two examples, it is hard to pinpoint the actual effect of video games alone because of the other factors that have a similar influence on these behaviors.

Throughout this blog, I have identified the potential influences that the video-game controller has on mind of society. Video games have changed dramatically within recent decades, sadly for the worst. Even though it is hard to say whether new games influence violence; it is evident that it does not help influence kind behavior. So, as a result we must be cautious where technology is going to be in the next few decades. The morale is to be in control of your thoughts and do not let anything control you.

[1] PĂTRUNJEL, Flaviu. “Death Games And Survival Horror Video Games: On The Limits Of Pure Torture Show Entertainments.” Scientific Journal Of Humanistic Studies 4.7 (2012): 38-45. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.

Artifact Politics – Netflix

netflix_logo

What is a VHS? a DVD? It is surprising how some might not know what they are. Newer laptops don’t even come with a cd drive. When Netflix was introduced, DVDs sales have decreased greatly. What it Netflix? Netflix is a streaming media that has variety of movies and TV shows with a monthly fee of $7.99. Netflix had change the way people watch movies and television shows.

Netflix has revolutionized the TV and DVD industry. When Netflix launched in 1997, it killed the DVD and video stores. Subscribers could watch an unlimited number per month. Video stores such as Blockbuster reported bankruptcy. Netflix’s DVD service wasn’t the end of it. By having entire seasons of TV shows would allow subscribers to binge watch the TV shows. Netflix had its competitors such as Hulu but Hulu had advertisement in their videos. Another advantage that Netflix had was its expansion outside of the United States. Netflix is available in other countries such as Canada, UK, and Mexico.

To get even more subscribers, Netflix started ordering its own shows. Shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” have received many Primetime Emmy Award nominations. So what was the difference between the shows ordered by Netflix and shows shown on TV? The opportunity to watch the entire season is one of the many reasons. Television shows would have one episode each week, with commercial breaks and hiatus during breaks such as winter and summer. Netflix’s shows would release the entire season so subscribers could binge watch the entire season or watch a couple episodes a day without waiting until the next week.

I believe Netflix follows both a democratic and authoritarian political arraignment. It is democratic because subscribers get to choose whether they want the service or not. . If you don’t like it anymore, you can cancel your subscription. Also, Netflix is not the only streaming site that people have to subscribe. People can choose between different streaming sites or watching TV shows and movies the old fashioned way, television or buying the DVD. It is also authoritarian because if you do subscribe you would have to pay for a whole month. One would be stuck with Netflix for at least a month. It is also authoritarian in the video industry. It was able to cause many video stores to go bankrupt. I think that Netflix disrupted different industries but at the same time reinforce other industries. Video stores and DVD industries have died because of it but many new industries in the technological world have benefitted from Netflix. Netflix also reinforces communities and families by having a streaming site that can be shared with other family members. It created a new industry and the creative writing of movies and shows without needing to be in Hollywood. It made an online community. At the same time, it has disrupted international governances because Netflix is not available in every single country so some would buy a VNP or use programs to change the country they are in.

So what is the future for television? Netflix has an answer. According to an article from wired.com by Issie Lapowsky, Netflix believes that in 2025 televisions will have 48 million tv channels, more smaller shows that makes up Internet TV, commercials will die out, everyone will have a Smart TV, and live sports will probably be on Netflix. That is saying how much bigger Netflix is planning on growing. Netflix is known for not having commercials and as the personalization technology improves, it will be able to know what movies and TV shows, subscribers want to watch which will create 48 million TV channels. Netflix being a streaming site, it requires internet. With more and more Smart TVs in the market, people will switch to them in order to watch Netflix everywhere, from your laptop, tablet, and now TV.

In conclusion and just like how the article from Business Insiders say: Netflix started as a simple mail-in DVD service to now a powerful streaming site and with original shows. Netflix was able to expand quickly from 1997 to now. It was able to change the video industry. It created a new way to watch television. And even with competitors such as Amazon and Hulu, Netflix was able to stay on top.

Footnotes:

  1. Issie Lapowsky, “What television Will Look Like in 2025, According to Netflix”. Wired. May 19, 2014. http://www.wired.com/2014/05/neil-hunt/
  2. Veronique Dupont, AFP, “Netflix Has Revolutionized The TV Industry Several Times In Just 17 Years”. Business Insider. September 12, 2014. http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-netflix-the-revolution-that-changed-the-us-tv-landscape-2014-9
  3. Image: Netflix Logo. http://www.ranklogos.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/netflix_logo.jpeg