Archive for November, 2007

My Alter Ego is a Seagull

November 22, 2007

Online I’m not James White,  even though my name is so inconspicuous and common place that I could still conceal myself using it.  Instead,  I go by the name of Fletcher the Seagull.   Have you not read Jonathan Livingston Seagull ?  Anywho, I fly through space at the speed of Ethernet.  I soar high above mountains of information in search of knowledge that might, in fact, be useful or relevant.  But I’m never caught in this web.  I’m quick with a joke, witty with the “birds,” and there’s always fish in my bill.  Scratch that.  There’s  always bills in my wallet.  And why is that ?  Well maybe it’s because I’m out to steal your information.

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That’s me… Well not really.

Alright, seriously though I’m not after your wallet or your identity.  I said I’m not an online predator !  But this is the point – you don’t believe me because I am online, there is no physical connection, and the truth is elusive on these here webs.  Dr. Sherry Turkle explains: “the Internet links millions of people together in new spaces that are changing the way we think, […] the form of our communities, our very identities” (Turkle, 146).  She also sees the computer as a “second self,” capable of altering and distorting reality.

Whoa, wait a second.  So that makes me a “reality distorter?”  Very much so, in fact.  Turkle asserts the fact “that self-presentation is written in text [which] means that there is time to reflect upon and edit one’s ‘composition,’ which makes if it easier for the shy to be outgoing, the ‘nerdy’ sophisticated (Turkle, 146), etc.   Basically, she is affirming that the Internet can be made out to be a fantasy playground, and for an alarming amount of people, this “fantasy” culture is preferred over that of reality.

While the masses find comfort and release in the virtual playground, I tend to get queasy and feel uneasy.  The printing press never allowed for individuality like this.  So how far is too far ?  Am I actually beginning to suspect that humans have too much freedom ?  I surely hope not.  But on the other hand when I log onto the Internet and attempt to strike up a conversation there is always this feeling in the back of my head and in the pit of my stomach that I’m just being lied to.  And when this feeling arises I find it hard to take away anything meaningful from the situation.  Dr. Turkle explains this craving to morph our identities in the form of a  question:  “What does [our] behavior in cyberspace tell [us] about what [we] want, who [we] are, what [we] may not be getting in the rest of [our lives] ? (Turkle, 152)  For myself, it seems almost as if the majority of our culture is not satisfied with their real self.  Yet, instead of trying to improve ourselves, we rather hide out on the Internet under some assumed alias.  These questions are not easily answered, as they delve even deeper into the human psyche, but I don’t believe the answers to these questions can or will be found on the Internet.

James

History is History !

November 22, 2007

Where are these words going ?  And should I even bother to write them ?  These are just a few of the questions that I continually ask myself when reading and/or writing on the Internet.  Now I know these words will be here today, tomorrow, maybe even next year – but when I need them most will they still be found ?  For example, I used to keep a long and exhausted number of bookmarks on my computer.  Nothing especially important, but I had managed to keep all my favorite websites and documents in one tidy folder.  In fact, I grew to love file management on my computer – so neat and organized, and it takes up no physical space.  Ah, what an age we live in.   Seemed like all was going fine, right ?  Well it turns out that ignorance is bliss after all.  I was perusing that very same bookmarks folder the other day when I hit a link only to find that “page cannot be found.”  Arg. 

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 Oh dread.  How will I ever be able to cook that peanut butter and crocodile casserole now ?  The page was down, lost, and gone forever.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big issue to you, but let’s look at things on a grander scale.  With each and every passing day more and more of the world’s history is being transferred to electronic media, and most of it ends up on the Internet.  Now at first I thought this was a terrific idea as well.  There are many benefits to be had from this transition after all.  But then I started to think about the long run.  If everything is put onto the Internet, and the Internet is a place of impermanence – face it, it is continually changing every day – then what will become of our history ? 

Columnist and jazz critic Fred Kaplan echoes my concern when he states that “the short shelf life of electronic documents poses a serious problem for historians” (Kaplan, 119) not to mention anyone else who preserves or traces our civilizations’ footsteps.  Kaplan further states that “historical narratives can be viewed as a collective identity:  We discover or rediscover who we are by studying and reflecting on what we did.  We define ourselves as a people or as a culture by referring to the historical record” (Kaplan, 119). 

I asked earlier when I need words the most will they still be found.  According to Kaplan they might not be found at all.  “The new, paperless world has encouraged a general carelessness in official record-keeping” (Kaplan, 120).    It’s a scary scenario to imagine.  The Internet culture has abandoned the idea of the past.  The past is yesterday, only the future resides now, and the future is today.  We are turning the page on our histories and our cultures, and if this rate keeps up soon enough there will be no more pages to turn.

 Now you can blow me off in an instant – or with an instant-message – but all I really need to do is to ask you when was the last time you actually wrote a memo or a letter ?

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Here, you can borrow my pen, because writing will never be forbidden.

James

Conclusion

November 22, 2007

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I wanted to try something a little bit different – a new concept that is perhaps more cutting-edge.  In our text, online articlesare stated as being “less daring in format […] – a reflection of the formal conventions in scholarly writing” and that “although vast quantities of scholarly work appear online, the mold of that scholarship is overwhelmingly traditional” (http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/exploring/4.php).  

So with this in mind, I came up with the idea of giving you guys, the readership, both sides of the argument and let you make the decision for yourself, enabling you to come to your own conclusions.  I have made my stance, but I have left it open to interpretation.  With your participation we can create that interactivity, or connectivity, that lacks in the scholarly fields of the online environment.  I have read that the landscape is changing, but I have yet to see this in my own studies.  This site is partly an experiment in changing that landscape.

So I urge you to participate, as it will lend to my thesis.  If you the students do respond to this site then it will authenticate that the Internet does indeed possess a positive, social experience that can, not only, incite change in fields of scholarly pursuits, but more importantly reveal a strong social presence in this online culture.  If there is no response, then I will simply continue to believe that the Internet’s purpose is for self-serving ideology, and is a more isolating experience than many of us tend to believe.

Just For Fun

November 22, 2007

For those of you who choose to side with Internet as the greatest of all inventions :

– 

 Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953).  This science fiction novel depicts “an increasingly dysfunctional American society” that is set in the future and addicted to the media.  The society is anti-social and the government aims to burn all books, as books encourage critical thought, and the suppression of ideas in this culture is paramount.

– 

One perspective of the Internet revolution :

This is Theoretical physicist Michio Katu as he explains his perception of the future of civilization :

– 

Here are a few songs that deal with the plights of technology :


Jamiroquai’s Virtual Insanity


Gorillaz’ Tomorrow Comes Today

Works Cited & Links

November 22, 2007

Works Cited

Behrens, Laurence and Leonard J. Rosen.  Writing and Reading Across the Ciriculum, Brief Edition, 2nd Edition.  New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 

Kaplan, Fred.  “The End of History.” Behrens and Rosen 119-121. 

 Kyu-tae, Park.  (2007, Oct. 25).  Pros and Cons of the Internet.  The Korea Times.  Retrieved November 12, 2007 from the World Wide Web: http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=80542

Lee, Jennifer.  “I Think, Therefore IM.” Behrens and Rosen 122-125. 

Smail, Robert.  (2007).  Printing and its Impact on Civilizations, part 1.  YouTube.  Retrieved November 8, 2007 from the World Wide Web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhNx6_Lzjs4 

Turkle, Sherry.  “Cyberspace and Identity.”  Behrens and Rosen 145-153.

 Wikipedia.  “Internet.”  5 November 2007:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_internet#History

Links

In my research I’ve found two very cool Online Exhibits pertaining to the Printing Press.  I did not reference them in my work, but they are worth while nonetheless :

http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenberg/

http://www.imultimedia.pt/museuvirtpress/ing/equip.html

http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/holland/masc/masctour/earlyprinting/

Effects of the Internet on Language

November 21, 2007

One facet of the Internet culture breach that considerably worries me is that of its effects on language.  In our case it’s the English language.  Since the inception of the Internet as a mainstream tool in our society, teachers of all levels have attested to the disintegration of their students’ writing ability.  Oh the irony that our mother tongue is not related to our father fingers.  Spellcheck on the computer is one thing, even I will confess that my vocabulary and ability to spell both took a grave hit upon my introduction to Microsoft word.   (Damn you Bill Gates once more!)   However, I should stress here that writing my papers on the computer was not by choice but rather it was required by the very same teachers that are complaining of this language degradation.  Hmmm, so always remember that one hand washes the other…  But I digress.  Moving on, what’s far worse is that the Internet culture promotes writing short-cuts and slang – it has become the norm even.   It is fashionably acceptable and expected. 

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Are you as lost and/or confused as I?

Jennifer Lee, a New York Times staff writer, would concur with these sentiments.  In a piece she wrote entitled “I Think, Therefore IM,” Jennifer notes that as more and more teenagers socialize online, middle school and high school teachers […] are increasingly seeing a breezy form of Internet English jump from e-mail into schoolwork” (Lee, 123).   Teachers that she interviewed confessed that “papers are being written with shortened words, improper capitalization and punctuation, and [increased] characters like &, $ and @ (Lee, 123).   They have been dubbed the “Generation Text,” but are teens the only people that have subscribed to this electronic scribble?

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This sign says “go” to me – good thing there is no traffic

Leet, or leetspeak, oh I’m sorry – 1337 – is a highly touted form of language derived from the Internet.  It is composed of combinations of alphanumerics to replace proper lettering.  “1337” itself is the leet form of writing “elite” for instance.  Originated by hackers, 1337 is now widely used over the Internet by many segments of the population.  Personally, I would refer to it as a defining piece of the Internet culture, as it has become a language all of its own, and sought out to be learned by the masses.  Yet instead of language all I see is a micro-ism reflective of our current society.  Typically less key strokes are used to cut down on type time – so what’s another short-cut mounted onto this lazy, a-second-saved civilization anyways?  To me, leet is just another example of how the “Internet Age” has hurt society.  What’s proper English in comparison to saving ten or fifteen minutes of type time?  Our language only defines us as a people, but ignoring – erasing it – to save some time…  that doesn’t say anything about us, right?  You know what, I could have probably saved half the time typing this blog if I had used 1337 myself.  

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It’s not the candy that’s making me sick…

50 pH0r9E+ EnGL15h, 1+’S N0+ 93TT1n9 m3 @nyWH3R3. i D0n’+ w4nT +0 exPrEs5 my53LpH 1N 4 w4y +H4t R3L@tEs WitH 0TheR$ on @ DEeP3R LEv3l. wrIT1Ng I$ pHOoLi5H ANyHOW. i+’$ n0T liKe Wr1t1N9 3V3R DiD ANy+hiNg FOr Our CIvIL1Z4+i0n…


l8r sk8rz
J4M35

P.S.  The leet speak translator can be found at this here link:
http://www.kfdev.com/development/javascript/leettrans.htm

History of the Printing Press

November 21, 2007

It should be made clear that the Chinese had created movable type from tiny wood pieces in the first century AD – that’s 1350 years prior to Gutenberg!  Furthermore, the Chinese were printing books by approximately 850 AD.  However, there was one crucial factor that skewed the Chinese from utilizing movable type:  their alphabet.  The Chinese alphabet consists of over 4,000 characters.  To implement a printing press for the Chinese language, at that time, would be making their civilization take a step backwards.

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Flash forward to the early fifteenth century.  By this time in Europe the demand for books could no longer be disregarded.  This is where Johannes Gutenberg comes in.  A goldsmith and a printer, Gutenberg is most prominently known as the inventor of movable type in Europe.  He did this in 1430s, and as such, changed civilization forever.  This took him over three years to create, implementing his skills as a craftsman and recounting his knowledge of metals.   It was at Strasbourg in 1440 that Gutenberg unveiled his mechanical marvel.  By 1450 though, works were being printed at a constant rate and in 1455 Gutenberg’s greatest written work, the Gutenberg Bible, was published.  The release of the Gutenberg Bible was a monumental event for civilization, one that initiated the “Age of the Printed Book” and the “Gutenberg Revolution.”

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http://www.bl.uk/treasures/gutenberg/homepage.html

Simply, the printing press was responsible for all too many revolutions in western civilization. Gutenberg’s invention gave birth to the Protestant Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, the Scientific Revolution, and not to forget that it furnished the Renaissance with the Greek and Roman classics that beforehand were impossible to seek out.

The Printing Press had changed the world forever, advancing society like no other tool has done to this date.

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Achievement of the Internet

November 21, 2007

Consequences of the Internet :

(Based on Park Kyu-tae’s insights)

– it is the world’s largest, integrated machine

– it is a communicational network connecting virtually all computers around the world, at equal status

– allows for the reception and delievery of messages anywhere and anytime, at virtually any place and it’s all done in real time

– has created the convergence of digital multimedia, informations and communications, impacting social activity as we know it

– it was a tool created for military purposes, but grew to establish itself and excel in the domains of government and especially in commerce

– it has expanded the world of publication with new electronic forms of media including digital bookes, digital magazines, digital newspapers, etc.

– the rate of current Internet usage in the world is approximately 20.8%, it is 70.2% in North America, and 66.5% in South Korea according to World Internet Statistics

– the Internet has now become the primary tool in quenching one’s thrist for knowedge in general leisure and in the business world

– perhaps most importantly it has created communites outside of physical realms

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History of the Internet

November 21, 2007

Believe it or not, the Internet was actually created in 1958.  Perhaps even more fascinating, the Internet came to be because of Sputnik and the USSR’s space program.  The Sputnik robotic spacecraft missions’ success effectively triggered the foundation of the ARPA – the Advanced Research Project Agency – in the United States by President Dwight Eisenhower.  The ARPA then created the Information Processing Technology Office, or IPTO, a division that was headed by J. C. R. Licklider.  From his new post Licklider strongly “saw universal networking as a potential unifying human revolution” (Wikipedia). 

To undergo this vision, Licklider hired Lawrence Roberts to implement a country-wide communications network.  Joined by Paul Baron these three men went on to create a survivable network which was named APRANET.  APRANET was the predecessor to the Internet.  On October 29, 1969 APRANET interconnected between UCLA and SRI International in California – a date that is now remembered as “one of the “eve” networks of today’s internet” (Wikipedia).  From this moment on, APRANET’s network only blossomed.  By 1981 there were networks set up across Europe, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, and of course the States. 

The first use of the term “Internet” to describe a single global TCP/IP network originated in December 1974.  However it was only in 1988 that networks were deemed open to commercial interests.  In 1990 APRANET was retired and made way to for bigger networks such as NSFNET and CSNET.  These networks were better capable of managing and began linking Universities and research facilities across the U.S and Europe, respectively.  From this point out the interest for the “web” exploded in the early 1990s, and led to the U.S Government’s decision to issue management to independent organizations beginning in 1995. 

Accordingly, the modern Internet was born.

Achievements of the Printing Press

November 21, 2007

The consequences of printing:

—–> based on the Analysis of Robert Smail (cited from video at bottom of page)

– for educational purposes or for simply enjoyment

   – mass production of magazines and comics (from the 60s onwards)

– democratization of knowledge made everyone equal, and equal access to information for all

– was not restricted, ie: calling ourselves “Canadians” is due to movable print       – modern print nationalism leads to the nation state   – many social scientists claim that without the printing press Luther and Protestantism could not have taken off

– Bible being printing in different languages brought about religious differences

   – gave direct access to God, before that you had to ask someone

– economic effects of printing :

   – craftsmanship improved which led to the Industrial Revolution

   – application of standard pieces in assembly

   – skills split; paper maker, ink maker, printer, plate maker, etc.

      – this was quite close to the division of labour; increased efficiency

         – easy to see its implementations in other fields from this discovery

– environmentally friendly

– completely changed reading habits; created a mass public of readers

   – western individualism stemmed from booking reading where one would no longer need to rely on other’s opinions – one was free to form their own opinion

      – this changed our perceptions of space, time, and even of other individuals

      – the mental world shifted forever, moving forward, from this technology

Printing was the first tool that extended the human mind.