Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Were my great grandparents digitally literate?

Although my great grandparents never had the internet or social media, I believe they were as digitally literate as someone could be in the 1940s. Recently I have finished putting all 10 hours of silent video captured by my great grandfather to digital format. He was an amateur film maker and spent countless hours filming and putting together these videos which I only vaguely knew about until recently. This has made me wonder what the definition of "digitally literate" actually is. Will our great grandchildren view us as digitally literate or will they say we didn't have enough technology to truly be digitally literate?  In my head, I would say that to be digitally literate means to keep up with the social world, to strive to learn what you can with what you have. Just because you don't have tons of resources doesn't mean you are not digitally literate. The African man who used the one computer in his village to find out how he could make his plants grow better through science blogs is much more digitally literate than the teenager who spends ump-teen hours a day on Facebook and other useless activities on the web. From what I have seen in the videos I have watched, my great grandfather strove to be on the cutting-edge of the time and to use what he had for good purposes. I believe that it was this time and these desires in the 20th century that paved a way for the want and then need for a digital world. People want to communicate better. Just think of how many inventions have came about because someone wanted a better way to communicate, made it, and then everyone wanted to use it. There are countless examples and will only be more in the future. For my great grandpa, the best way he saw he could communicate to the future was through his silent films. Now my wife and I have begun a video blog, inspired by his desire to show us his life. I am grateful he was digitally literate enough to do it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reflecting on the semester

For the last day or so I have been thinking about this blog. I feel that I am more a follower of the blog then a poster and that I have learned a bit about a lot by having it. I have tried to keep things relevant but have not had much success. I believe I began preaching open learning. This was because our group presented on the first day and I got excited about the possibilities. I still am excited but the subject changed as I found that there were many people talking about open learning but no one with any real ideas for a project. At least, none that could feasibly be done by our class.
Next came open government. I enjoy following politics and I feel that there is a giant void in our society of people who don't care at all. One group presented about it an I tried to take it and run. The problem was, run where? This time I had an idea that would work and we could do. The problem was that it was not grounded in history. I made a few shallow attempts to do so but it felt empty. I could talk to people in person about my ideas but when it came to the digital world no one expressed interest. I even joined an e-government group on linked in and posted a few of my ideas with links to my blog but nothing caught. And thus it is that I am beginning to change ideas again. I haven't decided on anything specific but I am trying. There are times when I feel involved with the class  but for the most part I feel separated and unable to connect. I guess I will continue to formulate ideas and attempt to gather social proofing but I don't feel successful quite yet. Part of the process I guess.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

organization of information


This week I am focusing my attentions on public libraries and how they effected history. Something I quickly found was that the Boston library is often considered the first real public library in America. It opened in 1854 and came out with a statement of purpose which describes many philosophies which I believe could be modified and made to be the statement of purpose for the internet. Major points of this statement are:
  • There's a close linkage between knowledge and right thinking;
  • The future of democracy is contingent on an educated citizenry;
  • There's a strong correlation between the public library movement and public education; and
  • Every citizen has the right of free access to community-owned resources.
In the 1890s Melvil Dewey took libraries to a new level as president of ALA(American Library Association). When running for this office his slogan was, "the best reading for the largest number at the least cost." His chief desire was to standardize and organize everything the library had to offer. It would be interesting to have Melvil Dewey back and to see what he would do with the internet. When I start searching for things on the internet I often feel that I am in an unorganized library. Stacks and stacks of knowledge everywhere with only a few ways to shift through and find what matters and what can be trusted. Is there any way to catalog the entire internet? I have no idea but I know there are some people out there with ideas. By the time I am old and grey maybe the internet will be well organized and straight forward and we will all wonder how we ever found anything of use before.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who would you vote for?

I understand that the political field has changed dramatically since the founding fathers ran against each other for office but this has made me curious. Who would I vote for in elections of the past with no hindsight? I think that along with a 'pick your candidate' game it would be interesting to see who else you are similar to throughout history. I admire Abraham Lincoln immensely but would I have voted for him when it really mattered? Also, do I generally believe in things which match candidates who are good presidents or bad presidents? I think it would be a great gamification exercise which would link and teach about past and present politics. Something I feel college students know much too little about.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Knowledge is Power

As a class we are still trying to figure out a project but I am just going to pretend like we are going with the idea of my last blog post. I think that this coincides extremely well with this weeks discussions on the 18th century and information.  Newspapers in this era began spreading information in vast quantities. By 1814 there were 346 newspapers in America and with the advent of the "penny press" in the 1830s, news was booming. As a testament to this, voter turnout in and before the 1836 election was below 60%. Suddenly in 1840 80% of voters got out to vote. 1870 then brought another jump in numbers voting as the 15th amendment guaranteed the right to vote to non-property owners of any race. While this still excluded women, it vastly broadened peoples need for information. The industrial revolution put this spread of knowledge on steroids and by 1880 there was a reported 11,314 papers. 

Looking at this graph you also see a large increase in recent voting percentages. I believe that we can help this along by helping the spread of information quickly and decisively. We can use digital media like news papers were used to inform people who are used to learning quickly.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

More thoughts on voting

Today we had a discussion about voting and ways to get college age kids to be informed and care enough to vote. Our group was the "vending machine" discussion focused around getting people informed. The main issue  is that getting informed takes time and time is the most valuable resource for people our age. That is why we decided that telling people who they would vote for based on a series of questions would be the best way. Anyone could take this poll about what their ideas are about certain topics and then the program would tell them who they are most likely to vote for. There are many problems about this which would have to be addressed.

  1. The questions could be misleading. They would have to be extremely carefully worded in order to convey each parties platform. The best way may be to have a question posed to each candidate and then the voter chooses between their 1 paragraph responses. 
  2. The candidates may overlap on many issues. One way to overcome this would be to output percentages of each candidate rather than just one person.
  3. It could cost a lot to put together especially for our class. The best way I think that we could deal with this is to make it web-based. We could put it up on college websites making it easily accessible and editable.
  4. Some people know a lot about politics and some people do not. The questions would have to vary from core values to specific topics with an option to say, "Not an issue I am concerned about."
  5. More problems to come.
While there are problems we would have to hammer out I believe that this could be extremely effective. The possibilities go much further than just the the presidential elections as well. How many people know anything about their local elections in their city/county/state? I would argue that this is a much bigger problem than the presidential election and something we could begin to help fix. We could apply this to elections or any type of vote held and drastically increase our public participation. Please, as you see more problems with this post a comment with the problem and an idea for a solution. I will try to keep this updated and add in the ideas to this blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tron & Advertising

This weekend my wife and I watched Tron for the first time on Netflicks. While a little cheesy for my taste, it did have some interesting points on openness. Should programs be free to users? Are we headed to a more open or closed world? Can companies put their main product out for free and still make enough money to keep a job? I would say yes and we have to prime examples in facebook and Google. Most people would consider these companies expert in many different areas but their real expertise? Advertising. In many ways these two companies are pioneers in internet advertising. In fact, it is nearly the only way they make money! So is advertising the answer? With a progress to a more open society should we expect a bogging down in advertisements thrown at us? I am tempted to say yes and I am not really against it. I payed less for my Kindle full knowing that they were going to stick advertisements on it. It is a price that I, the consumer, am willing to take which may show in what direction we are headed.
I have heard many people speak negativity about internet advertising but I don't think they realize that advertising is why we get so much stuff for free. Facebook and Google would have to charge us for using their products. One of the main concerns I have heard is that they are collecting too much personal data. While I do understand that privacy is an issue, this is why people will pay them a lot of money. They know that their advertising is going to specific people who have already shown an interest in something like their own product. I am personally all for this. Although I am not an advertiser, I am a consumer and if I am going to have adds around me why not have stuff I am actually interested in? They know I'm a Mormon. They know how old I am. They know my gender, my age, what I like, and what I don't like. Scary? Honestly, I don't mind. As long as I am still getting stuff for free bring on the advertising. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When I was going to Snow College I feel like I finally realized the importance of learning rather than getting a degree. Suddenly grades didn't matter as much as learning the subject and being able to have an intelligent conversation on the topic. It was like night and day. Suddenly I was getting As in classes where everyone said was next to impossible. This change in my desire to learn also lead me to a class called Entrepreneurial Finance. I really had the desire to go to this class but already had too many credits and not enough time. I then went to the teacher and told him my situation. That is when I first learned about auditing, or going to class to learn rather than to get a grade. I learned a lot about finance and it ended up being one of the reasons I decided to major in finance. I feel like this was my first experience with open learning. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries learning was revolutionized. The percentage of educated people went up considerable during this time because of new inventions and new thoughts. I feel that we are going through a similar process. With the development of the internet we have thrown education online. Some of these include: 

These sites and many others are dedicated to bringing a new ability to learn to everyone around the world for free. Just as knowledge progressed from those who knew Latin and were extremely wealthy before the Renaissance era,  knowledge no longer has to be for those who go to college. It is incredible what has been done but it must be done with caution. The sites I have listed are open to users but not at all open to publishers. This is important because while everyone can and should be a consumer of knowledge, producers should have limitations. For example, just because I wrote a paper 4 years ago about how global warming is false doesn't mean I should be able to post it to a scientific journal. The same this goes with All Gore. Just because he has money and power doesn't mean he is right. There is a balance which must be found. This is a topic which has been and will be debated. Overall, however, I do believe that having an open society will make us better off. We just have to be careful what we consume and create.