Mobile Blessings

   The 7th Chapter of the Powers book, ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a good life in the digital age’, starts with a recap of the pandemonium that occurred when the iPhone3 was released a few years ago.  Such powerful technology. “They’re better at making us busier. Their greatest strength is their greatest weakness”(pg.122). The book points out the dilemma that technology like this delivers maximum connectedness, but that’s what makes them a burden.
There were a few pages following that about the history of ‘reading’. For 1000+ years, from the invention of written language, up until roughly the 15th century  reading was done aloud.  It was an Oral and Social skill, usually done in groups, because most people couldn’t read and books were expensive.
After that, there was another story about the German city of Aachen in 1432, and their religious relics that were only shown to the public every 7years, which caused a similar frenzy as the iPhones release. Vendors in the city sold handheld mirrors to catch light which reflected off the relics, so travelers could take the blessings with them (mobile blessings).   The mirrors are a metaphor for our phones, handheld devices meant to connect us to something bigger (and be better off because of it).
The popularity of the mirrors inspired Gutenberg to use an olive press to mass produce them. Gutenberg went on to invent a printing press to mass produce the Bible, changing the act of reading into an inward activity (allowing people to contemplate within and think for themselves).
By the 1500s, books were small and very popular, taking power from the Church, and shaping the modern world. There’s a difference between access to information and experiencing it (pg.135). How original could you be, if you never step away from the crowd? Gutenberg’s invention allowed for More ideas to be expressed to More people via mass printed books, and online media today allows people to publish their thoughts to the whole world with ease.

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building trust and appearing genuine

    Chapter 7 of the Luttrell book; ‘Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect’, is about how businesses are using photo sharing sites like Instagram, Flicker, Pinterest, and Tumblr, to further connect with customers by showing (not telling) about their brands.
Apparently, the causal/intimate  2-way interactions on social media is the way that companies build trust and appear genuine to consumers. A friendly connection, humanizing the company, being responsive to consumers, ect.
There was also a section about measuring the activity metrics of social media. I might have mentioned before (in Ch6) that there is A Lot of software created specifically for managing social media platforms (like Hootsuite, Sprout social, Buffer, and  Tweetdeck). See Brandwatch.com for more. [Top-10-social-media-management-tools] The book didn’t mention them much. These software provide a contained space for managing social media accounts, rather than managing them all separately, so you can get all your posts and analytics from one site, and create all-encompassing reports based on total social media metrics.
And then, the chapter ended with  a section about how Instagram photo contests are used to gain attention/interaction with consumers.  There was nothing ground breaking in this chapter, in fact, it was very similar to the last chapter about the 5 Big Social Networks.

Interpreting the Text

Regarding this article from Wired.com
http://www.wired.com/2016/03/fbi-now-says-may-crack-iphone-without-apples-help/
 
  The name of the article is ‘The FBI Now Says It May Crack That iPhone Without Apple’s Help’, the title itself doesn’t incite confidence. It’s more like a statement to uncertainty. Wired is a modern popular tech publisher, and the article is quite recent. So anyone keeping up with the breaking news might interpret this article as a slump in events.  A lot of things ‘might’ happen, or nothing ‘might’ happen.
A federal court hearing was scheduled for Today (March 22, 2016), so the meaning of this article (published yesterday) is just to set the stage for a full spectrum of possible outcomes.  The first paragraph suggests that the FBI ‘may be backing down’, using ambiguous wording again to postulate future events. A Justice Department’s lawyer made a comment, saying that “an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone.. [and] If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple”. A continuance was filed, cancelling the hearing, and allowing the method to be explored.
A reader might interpret this news as a strong indicator that the incident might soon be over. The article make its own interpretation of the events, saying that “the government’s move is already being interpreted as a decision to retreat from using the San Bernardino iPhone as the test case for whether tech companies can in fact be forced to help crack their own security measures.” Which was the original concern for the public, and the preferred route for all parties. I wouldn’t be surprised if an Apple insider was the source who suggested the method, just to prevent a legal precedent from being made on the subject (and to protect everyone’s future phone security).
A narrative analysis of events suggests that the FBI has made no progress on the case because of the lack of tech-ability to hack the iphone themselves, and have taken their issues all the way to the federal court for help. The competence of the FBI was previously in question; they’ve failed in so many ways to prove they can handle the terrorist investigation. These events have created meaning to how the public views the Federal Investigators. Now we all know their limits.
The article goes on to suggest that the public and other tech giants support Apple, and do not want to weaken Americans digital security with predictable Law-accessible encryptions. The citizens ideology is generally that the Government wants to keep the masses happy.  Elected officials rely on the public’s approval, and striping away things that ensure citizens privacy doesn’t bode well. The article takes a turn, and points out instances of conflict between Law and tech Encryptions, and suggests that Encrypted applications may be Law enforcements next target. Resembling a myth of good vs evil. The big bad Government wants unfettered access to all things, and the lowly citizens are resisting.

Autoethnographic Reflections on Gender

     The article Knee-High Boots and Six-Pack Abs: Autoethnographic Reflections on Gender and Technology in Second Life, by Dumitrica and Gaden,  is a piece out of  the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research (Feb2009). It focuses on the ‘gender experience’ and performance (the actions/behaviors/choices) in the game (where gender is ‘achieved’ through performance), and analyzed from a post-structuralist feminist perspective.
The article claimed that the game had accurate virtual reproductions of real places, but the people in the game were surreal. Genderless cyborg technology creates a world of possibilities, which liberates-and-reinforces gender binaries and boundaries (6).   I found the article to be a little wordy. A chunk of the article explains that people have their own personal experiences which alter their perceptions, and the researchers have collaborated for a critical self-reflexive comparison of each others understanding of virtual world gender performance (options/choices/binary gender normativity).
Both female researchers were hesitant to have female avatars out of fear of the unknown in the new environment. Observing that the avatars (both male and female) were highly sexualized to the extreme, and felt trapped by the same expectations of beauty found in real life. The concept was easy enough, and it’s similar to another article I read a few weeks ago : Just Like Me Only Better [2008], by Fragoso and Rosario, which was about avatars in virtual environments and how they embrace contemporary ideals of beauty.  Both articles were about how technology has allowed us to present a more attractive westernized version of ourselves online.
Online avatars  in games (both male and female) are usually highly sexualized. Most games with humanoid avatars ONLY have conventionally attractive options. Slim and muscular, with nice hair and symmetrical features. Their avatar features are more contemporary and  have higher expectations of attractiveness than found in real life, because it’s not real, and there’s very little effort from the gamer is needed to maintain the appearance. In real life, IF it was possible to drastically change your physical appearance in just a few minutes with very little effort, don’t you think that everyone would choose to be unreasonably attractive?
The article mentioned that the research was presented from a post-structuralist feminist perspective, which might be skewing the findings toward how uneasy women feel by being portrayed as highly sexualized. The issue being that being extremely attractive in real life is often a hazard to women, and invites harassment.

Hegemony & Ideology of Girl Scouts

Ideology is a set of ideas, a set of positions you take towards the world, a set of beliefs. The Girl Scouts program advertises the idea that  members will  “have tons of fun, make new friends, and go on fantastic new adventures”. If I analyze the websites (text, pictures, and layout) the organizations ideology emerges as: ethical and structured activities for the character development of young girls.     The program centers around the ‘girl scout leadership experience’ resulting in making the world a better place. The site boasts  a hierarchy of traditions, involving  legacy badges, and 5 levels of Scouts in their “big, powerful sisterhood”. Their mission statement is “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place”. They also have a Promise, and a Law, which supports patriotism and religious morals.
What we see presented in websites like this, are re-presented to make us think it’s real. Realistic photos of girl scouts staged to portray the organization a certain way. An image of an ethnically diverse trio of girls smiling and laughing, might just be a hopeful re-presentation to demonstrate that this organization is accepting of all races.  The history section of the site  tells of the Girl Scouts origins,  which began in Georgia 1912, as an outdoor educational program for youth, to “prepare girls to meet their world with courage, confidence, and character”. A realist would consider the year that the organization was formed, and wonder if it had been formed to complement the Boy Scouts (formed in 1910).
Hegemony  is  believing  ideologies that serve the interests of the powerful, but make the masses think it’s also in their interests. It is the set of ideas ‘the powerful’ have that are unquestioned, but get the consent of the masses who are needed to make sure the ideas succeed, even if it’s not in everyone’s interest.  The truer these ideologies feel, the more power they have (and the more like ‘common sense’ they appear). Having never been a Scout myself, the only exposure I’ve had to the Scouts is when I see them selling cookies. It’s possible that their organization relies heavily on everyone accepting their Ideology, as they’ve presented it without question, to perpetuate their Image as a wholesome activity organization for girls. Once everyone believes the same thing about the organization, it has power, and Even If no one has ever seen the activities themselves, people will still believe.
Ideology works best when it just appears to be ‘common sense’.  This site is presenting a certain view, and has an effect on  the resulting belief that everyone has about the organization. To help point out the ideology of the Girl Scouts organization, a statement that would never be allowed on the site, would be “we use children to sell cookies!”, which IS technically true, but it goes against the commonly believed Ideology of the organization [which is a non-profit].

http://www.girlscouts.org/ (Links to an external site.)

Interpreting the News

I have interpreted an article about the [now current news] Apple FBI iPhone case, 3/2016, titled ‘Congress is disturbed by the FBI director’s lack of tech knowledge’. The title itself paints a picture of an inept Federal agent, and possibly mocks the incident itself. A serious event became a waste of time because of the FBI Director James Comeys poor grasp of technological know-how.  The article sets the stage for the audience by introducing the situation, “the FBI and Apple faced off in a Congressional hearing and answered various questions fielded by members of the House Judiciary Committee”.
This type of representation in the news could bring the qualifications of the FBI into public view, who may interpret the meaning of this article to be that   the chief    of the most relevant law enforcement agency in the world is ‘incompetent’.

This article is unique in that it centered on the politicians and leaders involved, and not the Apple Company. Binary interpretation switches over to the success or failure of the Congressional hearing, the knowledge or lack of technical understanding of the people involved, the progress or lack of development on getting information off the  iPhone .
The American ideology is to trust the qualifications of the people and agencies involved in with the governing and security of this country. But this article has several dialog lines, back and forth, between the congressmen and the FBI director, which shatter the reality-representation of how qualified the general public believes the leaders are. Several comments were made in the article about the FBI director. About how he was declining to answer several questions, giving non-satisfactory responses, failing to understand the questions, lacking knowledge, and failed to summon assistance to help him with the responses. None of which generates confidence with how the public will view the agency.

2: http://bgr.com/2016/03/14/apple-fbi-iphone-encryption-comey/

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The 6th chapter of the Powers book, ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a good life in the digital age’, starts with a story about finding joy in watching old videos online, and how it’s not as relaxing as a stroll outside because it’s still hooked up to the distracting buzz of the internet. [This chapter is in a section titled :“Beyond the Crowd: Teachings of the Seven Philosophers of Screens”] People find it hard to escape their busyness, the same as they did 2,500 years ago in the days of Socrates. They crave it, and when they are without it, they seek out ways of staying busy.

Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, advisor to Emperor Nero, believed that the primary mission of philosophy should be to offer people practical advice on how to live better (pg. 108). Fend off the crowd to cultivate inner self-sufficiency (pg. 110). Seneca observed 2 aspects of restlessness; first of which is the ceaseless need to travel, and the second is way people consume information (pg. 111). Seneca noticed that [after the invention of written words] people started gobbling up literature, racing from book to book, never taking the time to develop familiarity with the ideas of great writers.  Just sampling, never processing, and becoming obsessed with reading without much contemplation.

Apply this  ‘crowded connectedness’ to the 21st century, and focus on ways to block out the distractions that our mobile gadgets eagerly provide, inducting us into ‘crowd mode’. I find it fascinating that the invention of written language ~2,500 years ago had the same impact that mobile devices have today. Mobile devices distract us so we never really absorb new information, but still feel the need to frantically consume copious amounts of information.

The Big 5 Social Networks

The 6th chapter of the Luttrell book; ‘Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect’, is about the Big5 social networks: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn , and Pinterest. I’ve previously complained that this book has too many lists, and this chapter is no exception. The second page of the chapter (pg.102) has a 5 point ‘plan’ for starting and maintaining a social network presence.
Followed by a few pages about ‘how to operate a business with Facebook’, using the features, measuring stats, ect. Then, several pages are about the distinct features of Google+.   And on .. and on..  branding with Twitter, showcase on LinkedIn, campaign with Pinterest.
Basically, how to Share, Optimize, Manage, and Engage with the customer base, across several social networks. I’m noticing some major trends with how  businesses are supposed to present themselves online, and are expected to be consistent across all platforms. The platforms are all a little different, so for exposure purposes, it would be beneficial to be on all of them, and have a strategy plan.
Some of the sites have administrator panels that show page activity  analytics. But the chapter fails to mention that there are A LOT of softwares created specifically for managing social media platforms (like Hootsuite, Sprout social, Buffer, and  Tweetdeck). See Brandwatch.com for more.[Top-10-social-media-management-tools] These software’s provide a contained space for managing social media accounts, rather than managing them all separately, so you can get all your posts and analytics from one site, and create reports based on metrics.
ALSO. I’m pretty sure no one uses Google+.

The Soul is a Flying Chariot pulled by Winged Horses

The 5th chapter of the Powers book, ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a good life in the digital age’, is the start of section two , “Beyond the Crowd: Teachings of the Seven Philosophers of Screens”.  This chapter starts with a story about Plato’s teacher Socrates, wandering out of Athens with a friend, into the beautiful countryside, while having a discussion about sex and the emotional complications of love.  Then, the chapter changes gears, and  focuses on  the private human connection aspect of the story.
The book pointed out that the inventions of: talking and pictures, brought humans out of isolation, and onto a path to truth and enlightenment (pg.87). The book then draws parallels between  5th century BC Greece, and 21st century digital age; how digital screens are now the core of all interaction, happiness, and knowledge. “Skillful life management yields wisdom and happiness”(pg.92). Socrates didn’t care for the invention of written words, because it’s frozen and fails to evolve with discussion.  I imagine that people today disapprove of new technology for confusion/anxiety related reasons.
I enjoyed the soul metaphor about the flying chariot with the good and evil horses, because it confirms that humans have been experiencing the inner turmoil struggle for  ~2500 years.   (see the picture) Regardless of different times and technological climates, the issue is always about the philosophical goal of the individual trying to make the most of life, and find balance (pg.100).

Hamlet's Blackberry by William Powers

Socrates famous philosophy metaphor about the soul being a flying chariot, from pg 91 of Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers

Last year, I took a class that focused heavily on the teachings Socrates, specifically a comparing and contrasting of Western and Eastern Philosophy. Unfortunately, that class was formatted poorly with confusing terminology, and focused around How the philosophers would ponder a subject (their query process). This story about Socrates taking a walk  and chatting with a friend is much easier to understand.

Connecting across multiple media platforms

The 5th chapter of the Luttrell book; ‘Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect’, is about how corporations use self-publishing tools to connect with consumers, across multiple media platforms with organized content.  The start of the chapter pitches the idea that “information is the key to holding any customers attention” (pg.83), and touches on several publishing methods that corporations can use to interact with consumers.
Blogs are the most frequently used self-publishing tool, but corporate blogs are poorly strategized, so they’re only trusted by 16% of consumers (pg.85). Successful blogs make everything about the consumer, and nothing about with marketing. Dell, Southwest, Starbucks, and GE, all have effective corporate blogs that follow a 80/20 rule (80% fun engagements and 20% product marketing).
I mentioned about the last chapter, that I don’t much care for the presentation of this whole public relations section. It seems to be comprised of nothing but lists.
The chapter continues with a 10 step breakdown for dummies, of how to properly manage a corporate blog. Get a team, with a purpose, have an audience,  and a personality, have meaning, on a schedule, with guidelines, curated, and promoted. The chapter then swiftly transitions into: Podcasting. Which is an audio recording, like talk radio, that consumers can download and listen to. Then there’s a list of some podcasts relevant to content in the chapter; PR podcasts, marketing podcasts, social media podcasts, ect.
Live internet radio shows, is another method for people to directly talk to businesses. The book recommends it as a nice “accompaniment to any social strategy” (94).  The chapter then touches on wikis, which aren’t fully explained, and I hypothesize are participant driven events, sponsored by companies, that are published into webisodes or something.
All and all, the point of the chapter was to socially integrate public relations, so customers can have a more personal experience with a brand.