Saturday, April 25, 2009

Technophobic v. Concerned Citizens

As this course has continually reaffirmed - new technology means a new set of ethically boundaries must be produced.  The doctrine produced by the transhumanists on the surface seems overwhelmingly agreeable.  Why wouldn't we want to advance technology to its full capacity for our benefit?  Unfortunately there must be some type of system of accountability but into place in order to regulate how this technology is being used.  After browsing through the various principles of the transhumanist doctrine, I found this particular piece to be quite interesting:

"Transhumanists think that by being generally open and embracing of new technology we have a better chance of turning it to our advantage than if we try to ban or prohibit it."

The notion being "open" and "embracing" this new type of technology sounds great and progressive in nature but it does not leave room for refinement.  Does that mean if one is cautious in how robots are being used they are automatically "technophobic?"  This is not fair. Just because someone wants to make sure transhuman technology is being regulated does not necessarily mean they are against its ability to progress.  As mentioned before, there must be a set of ethical guidelines put in place before this technology gets into the hands of someone with the intent to do harm.

I believe the first step in making sure that prohibitive measures are not being viewed as "technophobic" is to educate the public.  For example, the nuclear missile crisis of the 1960's scared a lot of people because it was such an unknown technology.  Nuclear power can and should be used but the threat it poses if used in warfare is life-threatening.  Even today, the thought of Iraq having possession of nuclear power was enough to bring the U.S. to invade.  Therefore, if the public and advances in transhuman technology is kept transparent we can all sleep easily.  With this being said another passage from the transhuman doctrine struck me as interesting:

"In planning for the future, it is mandatory to take into account the prospect of dramatic progress in  technological capabilities. It would be tragic if the potential benefits failed to materialize because of  technophobia and unnecessary prohibitions. On the other hand, it would also be tragic if intelligent life went  extinct because of some disaster or war involving advanced technologies."

I suppose the last sentence referring to the threat of losing intelligent life as a result of new technology is exactly what I discussed prior.  Unfortunately this only one sentence out of many included in the doctrine that addresses this matter.  This issue of malpractice is too big of an issue that if not addressed appropriately in the doctrine may hurt its effectiveness. The next few years of transhuman development should be interesting but the public must take up the responsibility in ensuring that we are protecting ourselves.  We should not be labeled as "technophobic" but as concerned citizens.  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Counter Argument to Avatars aren't "real" blog

Though I agree with many of the things said in the blog about avatars not being real, there are many aspects in which I disagree. I, myself don't participate in the whole second-life and having an avatar character, however I do believe strongly that people become addicted to such advance internet technology and interactive games. As we have discussed earlier in this year there have been numerous amounts of incidents where people have either been arrested for child neglect or committed murder off of internet technology, such as games. Hence, serious gaming. With this said I feel there is a strong correlation between one's emotions and the situations that one's avatar is put in. Because people are living these "fantasies" of a surreal life that they wish actually played out in their real lives they become connected. In a sense it can be thought of as a self-identity disorder. They become so consumed in the life of their avatars that they forget how to detach themselves from the virtual self. It is for this reason that I'm not surprised about the case where the woman felt emotional distress because her "text" character was raped numerous of times by others in the chat-room. To some this becomes a reflection on them and raises questions about what may be wrong with them for others to dislike or have so much hatred toward them to do such things? Words can do so much to a person, think of the young girl who was on myspace and told to kill herself by several of her "friends" and later on that evening her mother found her dead as a result of suicide. I would just like to know how you all feel about second-life and avatars. Do you think there are ways to detach yourself from the virtual? Is it even possible to become so consumed with the virtual that it reflects in reality?

Also, to end this semester I was just curious how others felt about this course and would you recommend it for others? I personally REALLY enjoyed this class and the professor. I didn't think coming into this class that it would engage me as much as it did. Coming to an end I'm glad I chose to take this class as my philosophy. It's truly a philosophy class like no other! I definitely would recommend it for any undergraduate to take before graduating.
One of the many fascinating things that we have talked about this week is the world of technological singularity or artificial intelligence. I truly believe that one day, these inventions will change our lives in ways we can only imagine right now. We have all thought about having a robot to help us with our homework, a robot to clean our house or room, or even one that could tell jokes (maybe?). I think that the idea is unbelievably interesting as well as a little frightening at the same time.

Most, if not all of us have seen the Jetsons. We know about Rosie, the “nanny robot” who takes care of the children and cleans as well. What is a Rosie really existed? We brought this option up this week during the presentation. Would this be something you would entrust the well being of your children to? What if something went wrong such as a mechanical malfunction or battery situation…and your toddlers were left to roam the house unattended! Being a father myself, this makes me nervous to think of leaving my daughter, who is prone to mischief, alone with a robot that could malfunction at any second. Along the same lines, there could be a situation where the robot could do a better job than a babysitter. Teenagers often do things while babysitting instead of putting the needs of the children first. This could be as potentially as dangerous as the robot malfunctioning.

My brother has a Roomba robot that vacuums his floor and a Scooba robot that mops his hardwood floors. He simply pushes a button before he leaves for work, and when he gets home, the robots have cleaned and mopped the entire house. It is truly an unbelievable feat to have a robot clean your floors. If you told me as a child that a robot would clean my floors one day, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. That would have been 50 years away I would have told you. I look to the future and wonder exactly where we will be in 50 years. Will we have robots that can “think” and act for themselves or will we not have any robots more than what we have? Will we have reached the top of our technological curve? I think that this will not happen because if we remember, the US Government truly contemplated closing the Patent Office in 1899 because they thought that everything had been invented! How far have we come…

Has Artificial Intelligence Gone too Far?

As the group from Monday presented on Technological Singularity, they brought up the topic of Artificial Intelligence. As technology continues to advance at an exponential rate, is it going too far? Programmers and scientists are creating non-biological hardware that is smarter than human intelligence (aka robots). There are benefits from this, as we discussed in class but there are also disadvantages.

Artificial intelligence hardware is able to have similar to superhuman levels of computation and execution. Therefore they can replace jobs of real life human beings, ranging from dangerous jobs to even the common day jobs. For example, robots can replace dangerous military jobs and tasks which can remove the injuries and casualties of human beings. These robots can also replace common day jobs like babysitters. Some debate that these robots are more consistent and efficient, preventing from external variables to influence the care of the child. A real life babysitter can invite their boyfriend over and decrease their awareness for the child. Plus robots will not have the fatigue that a human being would have. These are some of the advantages, but do they out weigh the disadvantages?

The real problem with artificial intelligence and robots is the removal of real life human reactions. Robots are not real human beings, they are machines programmed by high tech hardware. These robots do not have emotions like human beings and this can cause a lot of issues within a society. As technology is advancing at such a fast rate, it has been predicted that these robots are going to pass human intelligence. This is where my concern about artificial intelligence appears. I feel that there should be no reason that something that man creates should be smarter than us. The concern I have with artificial intelligence is that they can adapt a mind of their own, in which people will be unable to control them. This might not happen soon, but it is a possibility in the near future with the way technology is advancing. So what are everyone else’s thoughts or ideas of artificial technology? Do you believe that the benefits outweigh the costs? And do you believe that Technological Singularity is unavoidable in the future?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "Post-Human"/Tech. Singularity

Vernor Vinge defines Singularity as a time in the future when society, science, and economy are changing so rapidly that people will not be able to predict or conceive of anything after that time. (Singularity is largely dependent on how technology is developing at unprecedented rates, in areas such as nanotechnology, neuroscience, and Artificial Intelligence). This rapid technological advancement is making some argue that technology and machines will inevitably triumph over human intelligence. For example, in the article, the author asserts that from the progress that he has observed in computer software, he would be surprised if something superior to human intelligence is not created after 2030.

2030? That's only two decades away. But considering how our society cannot function (or some have truly internalized that we cannot function) without reliance on some sort of technology, perhaps I should not be so surprised by this estimated time period. Nevertheless, will not serious ethical and moral implications prevent, or at least, put off, that time in our society when artificial/technological intelligence is considered greater and or more valued than human intelligence?

And what if something greater than human intelligence is created? Will there no longer be the need for improving one's mind or investing in one's education? As said in the group presenations, if the valued intelligence in society is solely determined by one's technological capabilities-- will not the poor, or those who cannot access or invest the greatest amounts of money in this new artificial technology--be left out in the cold and unable to access knowledge?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Avatars aren't real

I, Avatar by Stephen Mark Meadows raises some interesting ideas about how humans interact with avatars in an interactive game. The idea that the actions of your avatar and the resulting consequences effect the player's emotions doesn't seem illogical. Anything that goes right or wrong will effect our emotions. It is no different than doing well on a test or in a sport. If you play poorly that is the action you are responding to, I don't believe that people are actually affected by the notion that their avatar is poor, or can't accomplish something or even dies. I think that what the emotion is a response to is the players inability to win or achieve in the game.
In class during the second life presentation we talked of how “gangs” had taken over certain parts of second life, even creating guns so that you would have to exit and resume second life to continue. I don't actually believe, though it seems true on the surface, that if someone is crying because their avatar is being continually killed or hindered from achievement in the game, they are not sad over the poorly pixellated avatar, but on the fact that their own enjoyment they are getting from playing is being compromised and thus their achievements are being thwarted, not their avatars.
The idea that you can be convinced of things, even murder or other crimes, by another avatar operates on the same level as the previous thought. It is not an avatar that is convincing them, the avatar acts like a phone or instant messaging. The player being convinced by the player doing the convincing using an interaction between avatars, like two cell phones.
I do think that the idea that the pleasure one can derive from the interactions of his or her avatar can be wholly satisfying. For example we talked in class how severely handicapped people said that playing second life was a chance for them to escape and fully realize a lot. I am not saying that the pleasure still isn't from the players own since of accomplishment, even in the pleasant scene of drinking wine on a cliff with a friend they would be proud of themselves for making the friend, but the avatar can allow some if not all people to achieve certain things that are physically or mentally impossible in real life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Citizen Journalism: So Easy A Citizen Can Do It.

I am a journalism major. I've spent the last four years or so learning a trade, much like Medical students train to be doctors and English majors train to be English teachers (kidding...kinda.) And this isn't the greatest analogy in the world but imagine how journalists must feel about the concept of citizen journalism, where regular people without professional journalism training cover events for news organizations. How about citizen doctors? Again, perhaps a weak analogy.

And there's the tension: The old boys in the newspaper club are having a little trouble with the idea that just anybody can do what they do. (People who, for one thing, never had to pass the UNC J-school's notorious Spelling and Grammar exam or Media Law class.) But while the editors of a dying industry scoff, as they once did with readers' comments and blogs, popularity for the idea of citizen journalism is growing, and thus, some of those editors and news organizations are having to jump on the bandwagon. Think I-report on CNN. Even the Washington Times is moving in that direction.

So here's the question: What do you think? Would you trust any ol' dude to go to an event and then turn around and objectively and correctly tell you what happened?

Well, let's look at the Huffington Post. The site published its Citizen Journalism Publishing Standards this week, just in time for its extensive coverage of the anti-tax tea parties that swept the nation this tax day.

The standards read like an introductory lecture from one of my journalism professors.
You know, fact check, name sources, don't opinionate, use correct spelling. And actually ask questions, as in, do some reporting.

"Interviews conducted by phone or in person will be an essential part of every story," the site states. "After all, you're not writing an essay but reporting on an event."

The problem is the contradiction. These citizen journalists are being asked to do objective reporting on an event dominated by the right for a site that is considered by many in the traditional media to lean a little too hard to the left.

When Politico reported Arianna Huffington's defense of her site's citizen journalists -- “Everything we are asking citizen journalists to do is purely journalistic." -- the comments section below that article swelled in retort.

"Every Huffpo 'reporter' will say it was a bunch of right wing anarchists who don't like having a black president," one post read.

Check out the Huffington Post's Tax Day Tea Parties Page. It's hard to differentiate between the citizen stuff and the pieces they found on other sites, but buried somewhere in there is proof. Proof that citizen journalism may or may not work. And proof as to whether or not I have wasted four years and thousands of dollars to learn a trade easy enough anyone can do it.

- Alexander T.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Brave New Second Life

Second Life’s entertainment value has ensured its rapid and vast growth. This growth has changed Second Life into a virtual world with amazing new capabilities.  The ever-expanding Second Life population has led companies to consider providing a Second Life shopping experience similar to that of real-life.   This mimicry of real-life experience is creating a world from which real-life problems are arising.  As we saw in class, real Second Life issues are ever-increasing; crimes encouraged by the internet’s anonymity, such as prostitution and pedophilia, are threatening the Second Life society.  This raises the question of whether to regulate Second Life.  Should there be a Second Life government?  The psychologist from the video that we viewed in class suggested that Second Life be shut down as child predators are acting out their fantasies in the virtual world and then doing so in real-life.   Would shutting down Second Life for all because of the abuse by some be considered a violation of people’s first amendment by taking away this collaborative creative expression?

There may be a way to keep Second Life running while discouraging acts of Second Life crime.  Maybe there should be a police force, judges, lawyers and the like.  It sounds absurd, but at one point Second Life did also.  If actual retailers bring their stores to Second Life, then shoplifting could be introduced into this virtual world.  Could avatars walk out with stolen goods and then be stopped by Avatar security guards and policemen?  If a Second Life government is created, then what real-life people would be considered good candidates for these positions?  Could it become a real government official’s role to perform their real-life duties on Second Life as well?  Would the government be global and would the laws mimic those that govern real-life?  What about the punishments for committing a crime?   Would they occur to the actual individual or his or her avatar?

If this government were to be created, then this would mean that identification of some sort would be necessary.  How might this effect privacy?  Would this identification system leak over into the rest of the Internet?  Might it be more beneficial to a Second Life gamer to have what Lessig refers to as a “least revealing means” system where only select information such as age is revealed, or a “one-card-shows all” system where information discloses your true identity by revealing information such as your name, address, and profession?  How might this change in the code that Lessig discusses effect people’s Second Life experiences as well as experiences on the rest of the Internet?  Furthermore, might an identification and regulation system change Second Life’s appeal, or do you think that people will continue to want to engage in this virtual community?  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lessig's "Code is Law"

In his article, “Code is Law”, Lawrence Lessig explores many intriguing and controversial points that clearly relate to our lecture in class on free expression and, more importantly, that affect our own lives daily, as we are products of this technologically advanced era.  As we learned in class, Lawrence Lessig is the main contributor to creating a theoretical framework for the dangers and pitfalls regarding the way that the Internet is developing regarding free speech.  He argues that throughout history, people have always been obsessed with protecting our rights and liberty, meaning “freedom from government”.  Every age “has its potential regulator, its threat to liberty”.  Because the government isn’t completely and directly involved with regulation of the Internet, however, Americans, who are obsessed with their Constitutional rights, have not perceived this threat to be quite so invasive—until recently, that is.  Lessig argues that the code of cyberspace is changing, and with this change inevitable comes change in the character of cyberspace.  He is worried that the rights that we value and take advantage of every day—our anonymity, free speech and individual control—will no longer be protected.  The nature and features of the Internet, however, make it nearly impossible for the Government to regulate.  But the regulator for us in the age of cyberspace is code—that which sets the terms on which life in cyberspace is experienced—and that is what we should be really worried about.  If theses rights were to be taken away from us in any capacity, people would surely be outraged and consider it a serious breech of their First Amendment rights.

Many people view the fact that the Internet is nearly impossible to regulate based on the very nature of this special medium as a virtue, as it protects their freedoms and liberty.  The problem with the unregulability of the Net, however, is that many people don’t regard it as a virtue when it comes to offensive and inappropriate information that appear and can be proliferated throughout the Web (e.g. Nazi speech, child pornography and Internet commerce).  Many people believe that there is nothing that can be done because the Internet, by virtue, is unregulatable.  But others are seriously concerned with the future of regulation and how that will infringe upon their rights.  Thus, we (as Americans) must weigh our options and determine what we value more regarding the Internet, security or freedom/liberty?  What do you think?  Do you worry about young children (perhaps, your children in the future) viewing inappropriate material on the Internet because there is not enough regulation?  Or are you more concerned about your Constitutional rights and protecting your freedom? 

Lessig argues, “the code is not fixed.  The architecture of cyberspace is not given.  Unregulability is a function of code, but the code can change…other architectures can make behavior on the Net fundamentally regulable.”  So, the future lies in the architecture of the code.  The question remains as to whether or not there is a balance that can be struck when it comes to regulating the Internet.  Can experts make it so that regulation can be flexible or individualized?  Do you think that the concept of certification in cyberspace is realistic and would, in fact, work?  Ultimately, Lessig believes that “the choice about code and law will be a choice about values.” 

Thus, we must consider whether or not we should play an active role in determining this code, since it will naturally dictate our values in the future.  Herein lies another fundamental problem with the issue of code regulation.  Because our era is “skeptical about self-government” and “obsessed with leaving things alone”, people believe that we should leave the Internet alone and keep the government out so that it will develop naturally on its own.  Within this argument is the essential fact that the code both regulates and implements values on its own, whether we want it to or not.  Therefore, “our choice is not between ‘regulation’ and ‘no regulation’.”  Coders will always be regulating cyberspace, but it is our choice whether or not we want to be involved in this procedure.  Should we leave it up to the technological experts (coders), or are we so concerned about infringement upon our rights that we must take part in the development of the Internet as well?  And how much control should we be granted?  The bottom line according to Lessig is that “the law of cyberspace will be how cyberspace codes it, but we will have lost our role in setting that law” if we do not seriously consider the effect that the Internet has on our Constitutional rights and values.  




Friday, April 10, 2009

Digital Manipulation in Photojournalism

This week one of the groups presented on digital manipulation. They spoke in part about the role of digital manipulation in photojournalism. I want to expand on this a little bit. As a journalism major, I've had to take an ethics class where we discussed the the controversy surrounding digital manipulation in the photojournalism world. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and opinions, as well as parts of the National Press Photographers Association's code of ethics, which is the standard to which photojournalists are held.

In general, digital manipulation is to be kept at a very minimum in photojournalism. the NPPA's code of ethics states the following:
"Photojournalists operate as trustees of the public... Our primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand."

"Photographic and video images can reveal great truths, expose wrongdoing and neglect, inspire hope and understanding and connect people around the globe through the language of visual understanding. Photographs can also cause great harm if they are callously intrusive or are manipulated."
"Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects."

These three excerpts directly address the question of digital manipulation, I think. They are not technologically specific, and I don't think they need to be. I think that the way in which they simply state that photographs should be "accurate" and not "manipulated" beyond the truth of what could be seen by the naked eye, serves as enough of a guideline for photojournalism.

Photojournalists that are formally educated at a journalism school would, of course, learn this code of ethics. Most photographers in the professional world would also learn about this through the organization that employs them. While there are no laws that punish or fine a photojournalist that does not obey these rules, that photographer does face the career-busting risk of being publicly defamed. Once a photograph is revealed to be misleading or dishonest, that photographer will have trouble finding work. For example, well-known Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj significantly manipulated several photographs during the Israel-Lebanon conflict of 2006. Several bloggers discovered the manipulated photos and Reuters subsequently fired Hajj and removed all his photos from their Web site.

This is great example of how photojournalisms are still held accountable for their actions by the public. Digital manipulation is largely looked down upon in the photojournalism world, as it changes images and the truth they seek to convey.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blog as Future News Medium + Other Blog Related Issues

During the blog discussion, Thomas brought up a question about blogs being widely adopted/accepted in the future as a news medium. The economic recession is hitting hard across the board and as we've seen over these last few months, an increasing number of newspapers are closing down to keep from losing even more money. But what does this mean for the future of news reporting? Even if we can say televised news will remain safe, what about printed news? I certainly think that newspapers will start turning in greater numbers to an online and/or blog format because it's so much more cost effective. And as Thomas mentioned, non-mainstream sources like The Huffington Post are getting more popular. Also, The Huffington Post actually hires reporters and people to help keep the site running smoothly, so unlike some blogs there is money involved.

I think the issue of money is an interesting one, especially since the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 only protects bloggers who earn a significant amount of their income from blogging. Do you think it's necessary for a blogger to be earning a salary for them to be considered a journalist? If so, why do you think this? I don't feel money needs to be involved to yield accurate results. As Amber mentioned, bloggers who do investigate and report news tend to be somewhat of a specialist, if you will, in the field for which they're reporting, whereas a reporter for a newspaper doesn't always know that much about the topic on which they're writing. This is isn't to say the opposite isn't true (blogger doesn't know about the issue and the reporter does) but I still think it's something to be considered. And if your information is accurate, why does profit matter so much? I know ad revenue is the main source of income for newspapers, but this isn't really the case for blogs.

So, what do you all think about these issues? I know some of this was talked about a little in class but I feel there's still a lot to be said. Additionally, since we didn't get to it during our presentation today, I was just curious how many people here use blogs as a news source? If so, are you using them for "serious" news (political news, business news, etc), entertainment news, both, or something else? Personally, I use blogs for entertainment news because I follow artists from Korea and Japan and the medium of blog serves very well as a place where everyone can share all that they know and/or have translated. If you use blogs, what attracts you to them? And if you don't use blogs, is there any particular reason why? I realize some people may just have no need for/interest in them, but I am curious if anyone actively dislikes them?

Digitial Manipulation: To eat or not to eat?

With today's presentation of Digital Manipulation by the group in class, I was really surprised at the degree of some publications make in changing their images to make it look "perfect." When Thomas said something to the extent of "publications will change images solely on the basis of the expectation of perfection," I couldn't help but see that mere sentence resonating throughout our entire society. So much of our society expects perfection that we even take our day to day life images to the extreme by manipulating them to appear perfect. Considering that digital manipulation is characterized by color correction, lighting, and red eye correction, it seems evident that we are talking mainly about images of real human beings that are somewhat distorted from their own selves to make these people look more "perfect" to be presented to the public.

The pro-manipulation side of things essentially sites the main idea that if digital manipulation was institutionalized or restricted, it would be a breach of the first amendment under the free expression clause. This seems to be a legitimate argument from a clearly artistic standpoint obviously (as it this fact still upholds digital manipulation age we see today) but lets be serious---many of these photographers are using these images to distort reality to present the public with a product or image that is not a good representation of what reality is. The fact that children are so profoundly affected by the images that are so readily available on the internet and even riding around in mommy's Town and Country clearly is a problem. I believe the presenters said that something like 80% of elementary school aged children actively diet? That is just absurd. Sure, some people are inevitably going to be overweight and will need some dieting and change of lifestyle to be healthy, but the overwhelming numbers of girls (and boys for that matter) in middle school and high school that have body image disorders is incredibly disturbing. We as a society are always going to gawk at famous people (I mean i'm not gonna lie, looking like David Beckham wouldn't be so shabby) but the physical message sent through the media of images of these people is clearly distorted- so much to the point that they look like they have no problems at all. This is widely known to be untrue as we all know that no one is perfect, but the perpetuation of this idea of perfection time and again overshadows our perception of these people to the point that we begin to believe (even if subconciously) against our intuitions.

So, what I took away from what I learned today about digital manipulation is a disdain and disgust for the byproducts of it in our society. The effect on children, our overall mood, the swaying of public opinion, and the loss of public trust are all factors that I can identify with in thinking about digital manipulation of images. I'm not all negative towards it as some photos that are clearly not meant to influence our body image I can see as art and cool ( ). I do think that we need some sort of governing body that justifies photography, especially in relation to body image, doesn't need to be perfect to be sold or used in publications.

What do yall think? Is digital manipulation a good way to access the media presented to us? Do you think that digital manipulation is to blame for all of those staaggering statistics or are thier other factors? If it's restricted, would that be a major breach of our free speech or would it be "for the greater good of the common people"? This is a big deal in American society I believe and I think its a great topic to further discuss as we move forward in this ever-evolving technological age.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Impact of Globalization

The economy is constantly becoming more global and less local. Globalization is the driving force behind many of the technological advances of today. IT outsourcing is a result of globalization where multinational corporations have made it feasible for American companies to send hundreds of thousands of jobs to India. The companies exploit workers and take advantage of cheap labor, which is a widely known negative aspect of outsourcing IT. Regardless, it still happens and millions in profit go to the companies that outsource their IT. This is a result of the increasingly cheaper cost of information technology that has allowed for globalization to exist and to be so easy.

The cost of overseas calling has also significantly decreased. I have a huge family and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins that live around the world. I remember when I was younger and we barely spoke to them over the phone (land lines) and when we went to visit family in India and needed to call back home my dad had to leave my aunt’s home to go somewhere that had overseas calling capabilities. Things have changed so much since then, because we call our family members more frequently, with ease and the cost of the calls are significantly cheaper.

Virtual offices are also used more frequently because of globalization. Individuals communicate more over the phone, email, video chat, and other communication technologies. The rentable spaces for virtual offices and the actual virtual workplace environments are perfect for global companies. They increase the number of global companies and expand the reach of many companies. Is this a good thing? Is globalization occurring because of the technology available or is the technology a result of globalization? Is it happening at the same time? Does it depend on the situation?

Globalization is a huge issue today, especially because of the state of the current economy. Do you think that globalization is positive? Negative? or both? Is the technology that allows for the global economy more destructive in the long run or helpful for people/ societies?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Voice Mail, a thing of the past?

All this talk about virtual offices, outsourcing, second lives, and twitter got me thinking about the instant-gratification world in which we live. Though we have yet to discuss cell phone technology in the class, I think it is especially relevant as we discuss how technology can impact our daily lives. I started thinking about my own life and how I, too, have become impatient enough even to check voice mails when they're left on my phone. I often simply call or text the person back and get straight to the point. A friend of mine even called me today, left a voice message, then realized who she was dealing with and texted me the same information she left in her voice message. What did I do? Text her back.

A recent New York Times article echoed my sentiments. We've become, evidently, "voice mail phobic," and the burden of pressing the "playback button" and actually enter a code often ties up our hands. When we finally get to the message it's usually filled with a "Hey Emily, It's (insert name here), give me a call back. Thanks!" Beep! Now, is that really worth my 1.5-2 minutes spent to reach a goal of voice mail boringdom?

According to Yen Cheong, a book publicist in New York, it takes 7-10 steps to check a voice mail message versus the 0-3 for an email. Others in the article note voice mails are "just totally an ineffective communication method, almost ancient now." Other research shows that people take longer to reply to voice messages than other types of communication. Verizon reports that over 30% of voice messages are left unlistened to for 3 days or longer. This is opposed to the nearly 91% of people under 30 who respond to text messages within an hour. People are also 4 times more likely to respond to texts than to voice messages within minutes.

Cell phone companies are starting to cater to the dying of voicemails. The Visual Voicemail, which comes standard on iPhone and others like it, displays a message in a visual in box and allows users to listen to messages one by one and in any order. PhoneTag converts messages into typed texts and automatically delivers them to phones or email inboxes. PhoneTag founder James Siminoff states "Voice mails are totally trapped info." Google even plans to introduce "Google Voice" which will centralize all messages from the phones that people own (mobile, home, office).

Regardless of new technology available, I think this growing trend is indicative of a generational gap. Older folks talk and talk (proof: the 4 minute long message my mother just left me...) while the younger people text and email. Others remark "there is something nice about hearing people's voice." I agree, but there's also something nice in not wasting time.

So my questions are thus:
How do you feel about this? Do you still value the voice mail? Do you prefer to text?
What are the greater implications in our lives... is it affecting the way we communicate with our loved ones and friends?
Is it due to a generational barrier or simply those who are more tech savvy?

Finally, here's a link to the article. Enjoy!

Is Outsourcing IT Ethical?

I was one of the presenters for the outsourcing group in this weeks presentation. Having done the research, mostly for the side that supports IT, I realized that I had a bias towards that side and found it hard to see it any other way. The presentation focused a lot on whether or not outsourcing IT was ethical or not, but it was hard to figure out what the majority of people thought. The main points from the pro-outsourcing side touched on a companies responsibility to their main stakeholders; ie. the shareholders, customers, and employees. While the anti-outsourcing side discussed the practical aspects of outsourcing including the effects on local communities and the loss of knowledge that might come as a result of outsourcing a particular sector.

We also spent a lot of time talking about the ethics of outsourcing, and whether or not it is unethical to outsource or unethical not to outsource. The first ethical theory that we discussed was act utilitarianism and how it is difficult to choose a standpoint because of the number of situations and the complexity of the variables that go into each. The next two theories were rule utilitarianism and Kantianism which provided a good debate as to how each would address the situation of outsourcing.

First of all, I want to ask what you think a companies main responsibility is? Is it to maximize profits for their stakeholders, or is it to serve the people of the community in which they operate? Also, do you think the benefits of not outsourcing outweigh the benefits of outsourcing to America as well the World as a whole? And finally, do you think the issue of outsourcing can be reduced to fit into an ethical theory, and if so which one and which way do you lean?

Can you be productive working from home?

Working from home is not a new concet, but a new trend regarding this topic is that, due to the increase of information technology, there are more people working from home than before. It is now more likely that coworkers communicate via e-mails, instant messenger, teleconferences and Skype rather than hold a face-to-face meeting. This is especially true for companies who have branches all over the country, or who even have international offices.

Some people question whether it is just as productive to work from home as it is to work in an office. Working from home takes away any face-to-face contact an employee might have with clients, managers and coworkers. If someone is not in a work environment, it may be easy to get distracted, either by children, television, cleaning the house, or the urge to go back to bed. People who work at home have the freedom to do whatever they like without the watchful eye of a boss. There is also the question of what to do when there is a problem. Do you call in a special face-to-face meeting, or do you just handle the problem over the phone?

On the other hand, many people think it is actually more productive when a person works from home. These people are less likely to miss a day of work if they are sick or have an appointment. They can easily do their work from the convienience of home, at any hour of the day. When it is easier for workers to schedule their personal lives around work, it reduces stress and increases morale. When employees work from home, a company is able to save costs on office space and supplies.

My mom has the luxury of being able to work at home as well as go into her office if she needs to. Some days she goes into the office to take important calss so she is sure not to have any distractions, or if she needs to talk to a coworker about something important. Her superior lives in Minnesota, so communicating on the phone or by e-mail is the most convenient thing for her to do. She admits to being distracted by being at home on some days, but the ability for her to easily schedule appointments and run errands around her work schedule gives her the motivation to finish her work on time. I was looking online and found a Web site for tips on how to keep yourself focused on work when you work from home. Some of the tips were: get dressed for work every day rather than staying in your pajamas, keep a designated space in your home for work, set certain office hours and plan your work day ahead of time, take breaks, make sure you have good lighting and a healthy atmosphere without any distractions.

We've heard from a group presentation about the positive and negative effects of working at home, and I want to know what you guys think. Is it just as productive? Do you know someone who works from home and if so, how does it affect them? Would you like to work from home?