Tag Archives: netcom2011

Techno-intuition

Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228).

I think that the key to success with the creation of a new piece of technology is to make it as intuitive and easy to comprehend/learn as possible. That is, the key to mass-market success. There are plenty of examples of games and devices that are complicated to learn, but rewarding once you get the hang of them. I would argue that learning to type on a QWERTY keyboard is one of these things– it’s so counter-intuitive since the letters are in a seemingly random order. It was basically a mistake that we got stuck with such an inefficient letter-layout, but despite many attempts to invent new keyboards, the fact is that “no one wants to take the time and trouble to learn a new keyboard, especially if it isn’t convincingly superior to the old” (Darryl Rehr, 1996).

It seems though that Web 2.0 pioneers are in such steep competition that they are forced to make sure that their products/websites/devices are easy to use, due to the abundance of new technologies being invented all the time. And as I stated at the beginning, one of the best ways to engage your consumer is to make something accessible and useable. Indeed, with the permeation of technology into our everyday lives, people just want to be getting on with being busy and creating things, whilst having “almost perfect tools and services at their disposal” (Lialina, 2009).

People are comfortable consuming what is familiar to them, and there is also a kitch charm to having something technological be reminiscent of old media forms.

A good example for me would be the use of ‘notes’ and ‘sticky notes’ on Apple products as widgets and apps.

Macbooks come with notes on the dashboard, an alternate screen on which you can have other handy things like calculators and converters. Here’s my dashboard for you to see:

Something I notice about these notes as well is that they come with a very hand-writing-esque font, which I interpret as being yet another way in which new media cloaks and naturalises its features by “disguising them within those of older media” (Lui, 2004)

In addition to this, the iPhone has plenty of variations on the classic ‘sticky note’ idea, making use of the familiar convention of a brightly coloured square of paper on which you can write to-dos, lists, and anything else that you fancy.

Apps such as this one: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sticky-notes-pro-alarms-bump/id317468456?mt=8 make use of the classic notes idea but enhance it with features such as alarms and bump notifications, which make use of the fact that it is indeed a virtual note on a highly capable iPhone, and not just a piece of paper.

I think the entire touch screen of the iPhone/iPad model is incredibly intuitive, and this is one of the things that has contributed to its success. There is talk that the next generation of phones may involve ‘e-ink’ technology, and be flexible like paper:

While it is an interesting design, I don’t find it very natural to have to memorise a sequence of bend motions… I think that most people would take the touch-and-go nature of the iPhone any day!

References:

Lui, A., ‘Information is Style’ in Laws of Cool: Knowledge, Work and the Culture of Information, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 195-230, 2004.

Rehr, D. (1996). Why The QWERTY Was Invented. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from The QWERTY Connection: http://home.earthlink.net/~dcrehr/whyqwert.html

Lialina, O. “Vernaculr Wed 2” in Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied (eds) Digital Folklore Reader, Stuttgart: Merz Akademie, 2009, pp.58-69

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Facebook says NO to homophobia

I am completely astounded by the amount of support gained for a Brisbane couple whose advertisement for Rip&Roll condoms was pulled by Adshel. It was deemed to be promoting an risky and unhealthy type of sex, and apparently depicted “an act of foreplay”.

The photo in fact does nothing of the sort; the two men are fully clothed and merely sharing a loving embrace, while many ads of near-naked women go unnoticed in this day and age.

The indignant couple created an event on facebook that was used to rally support against the homophobic move, and it currently has a whopping 59,767 attendees, and counting. In fact, in the time it has taken me to write this blog post, the number has increased by another 4000 people!

Facebook users that showed support for the reinstatement of the ad were called upon to complain to Adshel, in the form of phone calls, email, writing, or anyway they saw fit.

And success! The decision to pull the ads has been reversed due to the overwhelming amount of complaints and the revelation that the original complaint was in fact homophobic, and conducted in representation of the Australian Christian Lobby.

If this isn’t proof of the fact that internet users can be mobilised to form a strong political community within hours, then I don’t know what is. The democratic access to ideas that social networking mediums such as Facebook allow is something that I’m incredibly grateful for. It is so great that not only were we able to make an impact in the real world through collective cyberspace action, but the discussion and debate that this event has sparked is sensational. It has brought homophobia back on the table as a political issue, and adds fuel to the fight for gay marriage rights and equality. Go internets!

facebook and google take over the world!

In light of my blog about wordpress’ monopoly over blogging, I thought I’d discuss my feelings towards the other two main websites that I use; Facebook and Google.

Companies such as Facebook and Google enjoy domination in the social networking and search engine realms respectively, and this is obviously a very good thing for business. I have watched them slowly trying to branch out into other realms too, with Google’s successful Gmail function too.

This is obviously a good thing for these companies, but what about the individual?

Monopoly over different aspects of web behaviour causes us to be funnelled into certain websites and certain behaviours.  For example: before I joined Facebook, I used to trawl the web for entertainment, visiting many different sites and exploring a diverse range of content. Now the time I spend on the web is mostly limited to Facebook, since it is so highly interactive and easy to use. This isn’t a bad thing, but I do lament the days when I used to actively search for content that I enjoyed.

Alternatively, this streamlining of internet behaviour could be a really positive thing. It allows me to connect with people around me better, since they are using the same websites as me. If I google something interesting, I can be assured that my other friend using Google will be able to find it too.

And lastly- while Facebook has a monopoly over the time that I spend on the internet, it does facilitate my interaction with cyberspace in an incredibly positive way. I can ‘like’ the pages of websites/companies/projects that I enjoy, and receive updates from them when they have new content. I’m exposed to the content that my friends enjoy via the newsfeed, and often enjoy viewing the videos that they watch, and the websites that they visit. This has proved a way more effective way to browse the web than a generic Google search.

While it does creep me out a bit that Google reads my emails and that I get strangely relevant advertising in return, I don’t mind so much. They provide a quality service and I think Gmail is truly innovative and excellent.

As I said in my post about wordpress, I do always hope that there will be competition though, and so that we can keen seeing great things from Google and Facebook.

Email Hack for Dell Customers

We place a lot of our trust in computer manufacturers and web providers, giving them our personal information overtime we use their services. Even if we trust them to not intentionally misuse our information, they are still fallible and open to hackers.

Just yesterday Dell sent out an email to customers admitting that their first and last names and email address may have been exposed to an unauthorised entry into its email services provider Epsilon.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/dell-australia-impacted-by-epsilon-email-breach/story-e6frgakx-1226034878214

It’s terribly unsettling when this happens, and reminds me that it isn’t only Facebook that we have to be concerned about. The lecture on Privacy, Ethics and Reputation was a big wake up call for me, and now this Dell hack has left me equally concerned.

But what choice do we have as individuals? It seems impossible now to shut off from cyberspace, despite our vulnerability and powerlessness. Perhaps the course of action is to be as prudent as possible with the information we disclose, and just hope for the best…

Ready, set, connect!

I have really enjoyed learning to use WordPress this semester. It’s intuitive, clean, and pretty customisable. It was interesting to hear in today’s lecture, ‘Revisiting WordPress’ (week 6) that WordPress has such an ‘open source monopoly’, and I wondered how this came about and what it means for user agency.

WordPress is, according to Technorati’s 2010 ‘State of the Blogosphere’ report, the most popular blog hosting service, being used by 40% if all people who responded to the survey. 78% of respondents also reported that cost was the most important factor in their decision-making process about which blogging host to choose (Sobel, 2010). This is the first reason I believe that WordPress is so effective. It is a free, quality service, that is accessible to so many people.

Not only is it accessible due to its cost-free nature, but it allows, as Helmond argues, users to write “posts in a graphical user interface” which is “less complex than directly writing posts in a database” (Helmond 2007). This is one of a number of features that makes WordPress so accessible to the average person. It helps you to create stunning, professional-looking blogs with minimal effort.

Indeed, website creation used to be limited to those with program coding experience. WordPress has now however created an even playing field for web users, giving more people a voice than ever before. With a homogenised website for the creation of blogs, even the skills of blog creation are easier to share. For example you can google any WordPress problems you may have, and there are a wealth of forums discussing them.

Thus, with technical hurdles out of the way, it is far easier to connect with web and express yourself, with information-sharing more democratised than ever before.

Sure, we aren’t able to get into the nitty-gritty coding of our blogs, but I don’t see this as a big loss. I would argue that while the masked database leaves us with less user agency individually, it counteracts this negativity by the fact that it has brought more individuals into the world of blogging than there would have been otherwise. This is most certainly a positive thing. As Paul Graham puts it in his piece on Web 2.0:

“The most dramatic example of Web 2.0 democracy is not in the selection of ideas, but their production…the top links on Reddit [for example] are generally links to individual people’s sites rather than to magazine articles or news stories.”

I don’t have any objections to it having a monopoly over other blogging sites. I feel like our access to the blogosphere is streamlined now that we mostly all use the same blog host. I applied for a new job recently for example where I may need to help manage the website. And guess what? They use WordPress. Thank god!

I hope that there will always be alternate sites so as to encourage competition, forever prompting the dominant sites to be innovative and efficient. At the end of the day though, having standard forms of blogging helps individuals to make sense of the sprawling mass of information available on the World Wide Web, and better facilitate them to create a systematic and accessible online identity for themselves.

References:

Graham, P. (2005, November). Wed 2.0. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from Paul Graham: http://www.paulgraham.com/web20.html

Helmond, A. (2007), ‘Software-engine relations’ in Blogging for Engines: Blogs Under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations, Amsterdam, Netherlands: University of Amsterdam

Sobel, J. (2010, November 5). HOW: Technology, Traffic, and Revenue- Day 3 SOTB 2010. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from Technorati: http://technorati.com/blogging/article/how-technology-traffic-and-revenue-day/

 

Snooping or Saving the World?

Start at 0.26 stop at 0.39

Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices.

“When people have control over what they share, they are comfortable with sharing more. When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected. In a more open world, many of the problems that we face together become easier to solve. ”

Zuckerberg’s impassioned (well, the words are at least)  speech about the benefits of Facebook and the new privacy functions is positive, yet bordering idealistic. His optimistic worldview is reluctant to empathise with the vulnerability individuals feel in a world where not having Facebook isn’t really an option, especially among young people.

It is true that a liberalisation of information may help solve many problems, but at what price? The problems of privacy invasion seem more steep for most individuals. For a website the relies on the input and distribution of personal information, it’s clear that they will do anything to beguile us into uploading more of our lives, including making privacy controls easier to use.

Further to that, what world problems are actually being solved by strangers knowing that I like pokemon, or the knowledge that two of my friends supposedly met at an event that they both clicked attending to on Facebook?

Facebook weighs so much into our lives these days and has, as Anne Hill of Huffpost Tech puts it, ” forever altered how we conduct our relationships” (Hill, 2011). Most people feel like pawns in the game that Zuckerberg is playing, as we follow along blindly as he makes changes to the way we interact with people and groups on Facebook. A good example of this is the recent changes to groups; it may be for the better, but it has exposed to me to the enormous way in which Facebook is capable of changing our everyday lives. Not only that, but it is argued that the new group format is designed mainly as a better way of tracking our relationships with other members, that the company will thus “use your behavior in Groups to better understand these relationships.” (Van Grove, 2010). This opens up a whole other host of privacy issues, as Facebook may attempt to sell this inexplicit information to advertisers and other companies.

Either way, I think it’s still possible to use the social networking site to your best advantage, as long as you really do take control over what you share. Guides such as this really help with making sure you are an informed Facebooker:

http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-privacy-new-2009-12

It all comes down to being proactive and making the most of the information sharing sites out there. This may involve a bit of self-censoring and active engagement with the subtle changes that Facebook makes to its design, but it’s worth it. Despite their issues, I still think it’s better to have them than to not.

Watch the screen, don’t let it watch you.

References:

Van Grove, Jennifer. 2010, “New Facebook Groups Designed to Change the Way You Use Facebook”, 3rd June at <http://mashable.com/2010/10/06/facebook-groups-2/&gt;

Hill, A 2011, “It’s Not Just About Privacy: Facebook’s Growing Problem”, Huffpost Tech, 2nd June at <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-hill/its-not-just-about-privac_b_868507.html&gt;

Zuckerberg, M 2010, “On Making Privacy Controls Simple”, The Official Facebook, US, at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWDneu_w_HQ&gt;