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Technology

These are my blog entries on technology.

Ross' Blog

Follow-up to The World Is Flat from Ross' Blog

One of the few things I remember from a dreaded Macroeconomics class in a university module is that “there is no free lunch”, I think he meant that is there is always a cost involved in doing things.

I wouldn’t like to think that he meant that all situations are win-lose, but that there is a cost that sometimes can’t be explained straightaway or is hidden (I am sure that others may be able to come with better explanations and definitions, but I feel mine is good enough).

I remembered that there is no free lunch while I was reading this review of the book “the World id flat” when the reviewer is giving a definition of “flattening”

The ‘flattening’ the author is referring to is the recent removal or destruction of barriers that have kept diverse parties from completely and easily interacting or exchanging information with one another.

Although I found that this definition explains well what is meant by the author, I wonder whether other words could be used rather than these as the use of words like “removal” and “destruction” worry me as in economics it is known that “there is no free lunch”, as these things are not going to happen for free.

I feel also that this shows a negative perspective, I think the term “flattener” that Friedman uses is much more positive and it focuses on the consequences of the “change”. e.g. ipods. However if some changes are making the world flatter, there should be positive and negative consequences. From what I read in the review Friedman only focuses on the positive.

Reading

Follow-up to The World Is Flat from Ross' Blog

My bottom line is this: Open-source is an important flattener because it makes available for free many tools, from software to encyclopedias, that millions of people around the world would have had to buy in order to use, and because open-source network associations- with their open borders and come-one-come-all approach- can challenge hierarchical structures with a horizontal model of innovation that is clearly working in a growing number of areas. Apache and Linux have each helped to drive down costs of computing and Internet usage in way that are rofoundly flattening. This movement is not going away. Indeed, it may just be getting started- with a huge, growing appetite that could apply to many industries. As The Economist mused (June 19, 2004), “some zealots even argue that the open-source approach represents a new, post-capitalist model of production.” (Friedman, pp. 102-103)

I think this is a flattener that focuses on geeks or IT engineers, I dont mean it in a negative way. It is great that people develop programmes, I agree this is the beginning for them but I think the majority of us uses the information from the web and maybe publishes. The level Friedman is referring to (I undertand where he is coming from as I have an encounter with forums and chat when I was younger that have influenced the way I think about this) seems to be very advanced yet. That may be very applicable in the States or here amongst the group of software developers.

Summary

Writing about web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_is_Flat

I have just read in a blog (Doctor Bonk) a bit about a book “The World is Flat” and I found interesting how those ideas relate to education. I did google the book and found this in wikipedia. I may get the book from the library. Friedman defined some “flatteners” and according to him these are leveling the world, from a business perspective. However here I have got the flatteners that I feel have some repercussions in education.

2: Netscape: Netscape and the Web broadened the audience for the Internet from its roots as a communications medium used primarily by ‘early adopters and geeks’ to something that made the Internet accessible to everyone from five-year-olds to ninety-five-year olds. (8/9/1995). The digitization that took place meant that everyday occurrences such as words, files, films, music and pictures could be accessed and manipulated on a computer screen by all people across the world.

Here there are many points, for example, there is a change in the meaning of “geek”. In my words, before it was someone who uses pcs, now it is someone who builds pcs. The fact that more children who have access to pcs are using them may bring some changes as well. This brought the discourse on “digital natives” and et. however, it is not possible to generalise yet. Not everybody is into pcs. It doesnt depend on age.

Finally, I have heard about a project a at national level focused on digitalising doctoral thesis. This is obviously very good for PhD students. Especially because it breaks the barriers and thesis from other universities across the UK can be accessed. At a local level, this has happened at the institute where upgrade papers are online on the web so PhD students have useful samples for their upgrade.

4: Open sourcing: Communities uploading and collaborating on online projects. Examples include open source software, blogs, and Wikipedia. Friedman considers the phenomenon “the most disruptive force of all.”

I would like to know why Friedman thinks that this is the most disruptive force of all. I dont think we are there yet, this may be the case in the United States but it is not happening here in the UK yet. I may have to borrow the book after all.

6: Offshoring: Outsourcing to another country or even another continent.

Phd students may be considered in business or economical terms as goods that can be taken to other countries with a need for what they are capable of doing.

9: In-forming: Google and other search engines are the prime example. “Never before in the history of the planet have so many people-on their own-had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many other people”, writes Friedman. The growth of search engines is tremendous; for example take Google, in which Friedman states that it is “now processing roughly one billion searches per day, up from 150 million just three years ago”.

This is what I consider is the most disruptive force in the UK at least, I think I agree with part of the criticisms about the book, Friedman has obviusly written from his perspective of American (?) and his context (New York). I agree with the comment that his book may not be inclusive. However it is nice to think that communities (all kinds of them) will have a place here in the future.

10: “The Steroids”: Personal digital devices like mobile phones, iPods, personal digital assistants, instant messaging, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

I wonder why he calls all these ICT developments “steroids”. Interesting. Is it because they surprise us and we dont know where they are coming from? Is it because they come in groups?

Writing about web page http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2075529,00.html

We might think of research only when we read about a new scientific discovery or when people talk about the “fat gene”. However, we use research everyday. Even informally, for example, when we discuss amongst our friends where somebody bought a bag or a book.

James epitomises how kids use computers. A year ago, he mostly used his for homework. This year, though, he is heavily into iTunes, Bebo and YouTube. And he used the web to research getting a dog. “Fed up that my parents wouldn’t get their act together, I searched the internet for the right breed at the right price.” For him, “the computer has become the best place to find information of any sort”.

The point I am trying to make is that at a basic level, for “everyday research”, the internet is changing the way we do things. In addition, the current behaviour that we see in teenagers is not exclusive to them. We have all changed how we go about shopping in one way or another -or for some of us, at least how we think about it. However, some more than others have changed somehow. Some obviously see more benefits in changing, for example, saving a few pounds, saving a drive to the bookshop.

Both seemed to mirror James’s attitude to technology: it’s a tool to help them do what they want to do.

Teenagers have noticed intuitively that technology help them to do what they want to do. And they don’t even call it technology! I reckon there is a bit more of familiarity, and therefore of usability. For teenagers, maybe, technology is there and if it helps so why not. They use technology to play, to entertain themselves, to kill time, to do their homework, why not to research- as a basic survival activity “I want a dog, my parents don’t get me one, let’s find it by myself”. For a child having a dog might be a survival thing to do.

However, there is something else, if I am growing with a pc, then I am not going to be scared of using it or I am not going to think, this machine is there to replace me. However, if I have not grown with technology, I might go “what is this?” or I might reactively say or think “I am not into pc’s”, “I don’t do blogs, I am a person”, “maybe they brought this new machine to replace me as it has happened in the past with others”. Technology in the form of computers here provokes different feelings.

why his generation’s use of technology such as iPods, games players and mobile phones with built-in cameras and video – is fundamentally different from those over 30 or 40.

I feel where there is a digital divide, radically, this divide comprehend these new technologies iPods, games and mobile phones. However, for some who are over 30 or 40, it is favourable to have technology on our side as it gives us choice, for example instead of buying a movie in HTMV for £10 I will buy it in Amazon for £5. We do have options. The sad part is when we don’t even give ourselves an option.

Josh, Anna and James insist that their incessant use of technology does not make them geeks. Josh explains that “to most grownups, a geek is someone who can use a computer. To us, a geek is someone who can build a computer and its applications himself.” Neither Josh nor Anna know any real geeks, whom they consider to be rather sad.

This digital divide is changing also the definition of a geek, for older generations, a geek is somebody sad who uses computers intensively. While for younger generations it is somebody sad who builds computers and software. What worries me is what kind of specs (yes like those in specsavers but that in academia are called “paradigms”) we all have that we cannot see (or maybe don’t want to see) that internet is there to make things easier, bearing in mind that there must be a need for it or some familiarity.

To them, computers and the internet are just tools to help them communicate with their mates. They are also helping them to solve problems, collaborate with each other and create their own knowledge. Did old-time education do all of this? Adults should stop worrying and join in. That could plug the child/adult divide – at least until the next generation.

Writing about web page http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2077278,00.html

One of the problems with the word “technology” is that sometimes we related it to things like gizmo, gadget or “a thingy that might not work”. We forget, I forget, that technology is a book, the kettle, the alphabet. When we forget that these are artefacts of technology, they all become taken-for-granted. They stopped being considered technology and become part of our day-to-day life. Like it happens now with younger generations now, they are growing with ipods and msn (for example), so for them these will be like for us phones, books are.

Let’s now think about “books” and our relationships with them, yes because I feel there are many kinds of relationship we can have with books. These can be at the level of pets, children, partners, god knows what else! I reckon it will be difficult for some to think about the possibility of replacing them with “ebooks”.

However, let’s come back to the younger generations, those “digital natives” might not develop the same relationships we now develop with books. It seems that they might not even have a relationship with them at all. It is argued that these digital natives not be very much used to reading and writing, some claim that for them reflecting will be very hard (when it is obvious that reflecting is a very difficult task in nature for us now).

For those who are not digital natives, we still have a choice, it is matter of taking ir or not. Why amazon gives the choice of reading “an ebook” you might be interested in buying? It might be to replicate how we buy our books in a bookshop. I have found the readers’ comments very useful as well, this will replicat when a friend or anybody recommends a book to you.

Some have actually found one good use for an ebook. For example, instead of physically going to waterstones or wherever and look for a book that the store might not have in stock, I save a ride or a walk to the shop by browsing online. I reckon it might be matter of time the e-book for changing from dream to reality. We are in changing times. For the time being however until I am given more choices, I will enjoy reading a book and browsing an ebook before buying.

It’s partly that traditional books are such good technology, even compared with CDs or newspapers. They are a little larger than the hand, extremely portable, nice to hold and look at and remarkably cheap. Yes, there is an environmental issue but most are made of cheap, sustainable woodpulp. Simple technology that works is unlikely to go out of fashion. Those futurologists of the 1960s who predicted a world of silver jumpsuits and food-pills forgot that socks, buttons and saucepans were simple technology that worked, and the same is true of books.

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