What Lies Ahead: A Look At Information Technology

Attached is my midterm project on information technology. For this project I wanted to focus on how technology has developed throughout history and what can be said about information and communication as new innovations help better connect our world.

Peter Gruszecki Midterm


It Lost Its Utility

In the chapter I read from James Gleick’s novel, The Information, I was fascinated by the history behind modern technology and the problems pioneers such as Charles Babbage faced when developing them. Innovators such as Babbage, Leibniz, Shannon, and a number of others solved a range of issues, which in effect, set foundation for modern technology as a result.

Thinking about language, while thinking in language, leads to puzzles and paradoxes. – Charles Babbage

Developing a universal language in mathematics was invaluable to the progression of modern technology and science. Babbage, at the forefront of the crusade, played a key role in standardizing mathematical language on a global scale. Without the ambiguities, false metaphors, and confusion behind the meanings of words, Babbage was able to establish a universal language in mathematics into what it is today. “It is always difficult to think and reason in a new language…the dots of Newton faded from the scene, his fluxions replaced by the notation and language of Leibniz” (Gleick).

Something else I uncovered in the book, which I found equally interesting, was how the development of technology has affected our culture throughout the years.

Steam was the driver of all engines, the enabler of industry. If only for these few decades, the word stood for power and force and all that was vigorous and modern… Hot steam generated by burning coal and brought under control by ingenious inventors, had portability and versatility. It replaced muscles everywhere. It became a watchword: people on the go would now “steam up” or “get more steam on” or “blow off steam.” – Gleick

I found this passage of the chapter to be particularly interesting. I recognized that with any and all great technological advancement comes equal cultural influence and change. As Gleick points out, the expression, “blow off some steam,” clearly originated from the awesome power of the steam engine. But where else have we seen the development of new technology influence culture?

The search engine, Google, for example is a revolutionary resource for those with access to the Internet. As a result, it comes as no surprise that this great tool has influenced our culture and way of thinking. People now say things like: “I’ll Google it” or “just look it up on Google”. The simplicity in getting our answers online has changed our culture and the way of thinking indefinitely.

In 2006, Encyclopedia Britannica published its last printed edition of their world-renowned information resource. Encyclopedia Britannica, which has been in circulation since 1771, has now gone digital after 244 years. – Google

The print edition became more difficult to maintain and wasn’t the best physical element to deliver the quality of our database and the quality of our editorial. – Jorge Cauz. President of Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.

So what happened? I can’t even recall the last time I used an encyclopedia. The thought of looking something up in a book to me is redundant and inefficient. As George Biddell Airy once said, “the engine was useless.”

Whatever happened to the encyclopedia is the same that happened to the steam engine, the rotary phone, the typewriter, the VHS player, and what will inevitably happen to the technology we find so innovative and useful today – they simply lost their utility. As new technology takes place of the old what we find useful today will eventually make its way in the attic or in the garbage tomorrow. It’s all simply a matter of time before something new comes along and takes over.

The Trouble With The Echo Chamber Online

The Echo Chamber is something we as internet users cannot avoid. Everything is now connected, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, YouTube, Apple, everything. With all the free information i’m continually throwing at these big name companies it comes as no surprise that i’ve become a victim of the Echo Chamber. I check my Facebook and there I find to the right an advertisement that seems to know exactly what i’m interested in. My YouTube commercials are based on where I am in the world and my google search results are based on things specifically “fit for me.” So what does this all mean? Is it a bad thing that my internet experience is more personal? I think some personalization is nice since there have been a few times where an advertisement, which clearly was custom fit for me, has proven itself successful (i clicked on it). However, I feel that a personal online experience may be limiting my potential for discovering new things outside of my realm. Suppose I don’t know I love secretly love country music (I don’t) well based on the information i’ve given to google, non of which being country music related, I would have no chance of coming across something that could change my music taste completely. So is personalization bad? Not necessarily, but it would be nice to see something random every once in a while. The internet knowing everything about me is a little creepy.

Virtual Rape Is Traumatic, But Is It A Crime?

Is virtual rape a crime? In Regina Lynn’s article police investigated a rape – in Second Life. When I read this article I was just as shocked as I was amused and confused. I kept thinking, how could one possibly be raped inside a video game? Although the online world has become more advanced, and therefore more real, I still can’t justify the thought that being raped virtually is the same as being raped physically. I’m worried that the victim of the Second Life rape as described in the article is using the wrong word to describe the situation. If virtual rape were to be punishable by law what would happen? I think virtual rape is more along the lines of cyber bullying and should be “legally” treated as such. However, I do not believe cyber rape is the same as real rape. Rape is a terrible act which has life changing consequences and I feel that for someone to say they’ve been raped in Second Life is a slap to the face for those who’ve actually experienced this traumatic event physically.

Mind To Mind: Life On Screen

I believe technology will undoubtedly become so efficient that we won’t know the difference between what is “real” and what is not. However, the thought around hiding behind another virtual identity (or three) I feel will eventually diminish as technology becomes exponentially more advanced. I believe this because in the near future there will be more reason to step away from the computer due to the fact that computers will be everywhere, and in everything. As technology becomes more ubiquitous the notion of physically using a computer will be reversed, the computer will come to you. Thus, I feel that people will stop sitting in front of a desk or hide within another virtual world, simply because there will be so much more to do away from the computer then ever before. What it all comes down to is boredom, and I believe people browse the web for countless hours simply because they have nothing better to do. Just watch these videos and you’ll get what I mean. THE FUTURE IS NOW!

The People Formally Known As The Audience

Everyone seems to have an opinion these days. That never-ending lust to have your voice heard when accompanied with the internet is simply a disaster waiting to happen (this blog for example.) The media has changed. Any yahoo can post absolutely anything for the world to see. My pointless Facebook status about the weather, my Tweet directed towards someone in the same room, my trolling comments on YouTube, my Instagram’ed Italian dinner. For as long as the internet exists the list of ridiculous things we The People Formally Known As The Audience will never cease to end. Jay Rosen talks about how the public has changed from a viewing audience to one where everyone’s talking, sharing, producing, for better or for worse. In my opinion the internet is a fantastic place to gather and share information, it’s changed the world we see it today. However, the fact of the matter is anyone can post anything, whether it’s valid or not, credible or fabricated, original or photoshopped, it’s our job as the people formally known as the audience to tell the difference

Alpha Users And Communities In Politics

The article Communities Dominate Brands describes a series of events throughout a 2004 Spanish election where social media played a critical role in the outcome of an election. With the U.S. presidential election just around the corner I’m interested in seeing just how influential social media has been for Americans this year. All around me I’ve been bombarded with posts, updates, and headlines regarding the election and its two candidates. What’s most annoying however, is that every four years absolutely everyone has become an expert on politics, how this phenomenon occurs I do not know. Regardless, I feel that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and every other media outlet have played a massive role in the election. Candidates spend absolutely ridiculous amounts of money on advertising and it’s all because social media works, we know it does because we’ve seen it work in elections before. In my opinion however, all these posts and updates have become too much to handle and therefore become background “noise” on my newsfeed. Practically everything that is related to politics I completely ignore. Why? Because I feel like every 4 years social media becomes a haven for people to voice their uneducated opinions and take part in the popularity contest that is politics. Not to say social media doesn’t play a role in the election, it certainly does, I’m just simply one of the many who’s not easily persuaded by a 150 character status update.