Author Archives: Nicole Densmoor, Founding Member

Silence and the Notion of the Commons

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Avoiding-the-Silence1Franklin’s essay describes the importance of silence. She explains that we have become so accustomed to noise that we don’t feel the need for silence anymore. She also makes the argument that the sounds we hear are manipulating and influencing us. Even though Franklin would like us to experience silence more often, she is at least hoping that we would help the silence be heard.

“When one thinks about the concept of silence, one notices that there has to be somebody who listens before you can say there is silence” (Franklin 642). I find this quote interesting because I never thought about it before. Like most people, I always assumed that silence is just the absence of sound. I never thought that it also requires someone to listen to it. The fact that silence needs to be heard reminds me of the well-known question of, “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there, does it make a sound?”

“The strength of collective silence is probably one of the most powerful spiritual forces” (Franklin 643). I found this quote really relatable. Individual silence is good, but there’s something special and powerful about being with a group of silent people. Because then not only do you get to reflect and meditate on yourself, but you also get to reflect and meditate on others. It’s almost as if the silence is giving you this eerie energy and inspiration to think about things you have never thought of before.

“Things considered in the past to be normal or ordinary become rare or extraordinary, while those things once considered rare and unusual become normal and routine. Flying is no longer a big deal, but a handmade dress or a home-cooked meal may well be special” (Franklin 645). Once again, the truth in this quote is somewhat unnerving. It’s crazy to think that things that may have seem impossible in the past has become a normal everyday thing to us, and yet the simple everyday things of the past are impossible to find in the present. However, when we do find those rare glimpses of the past, we hold on to them because we know how valuable they are.

“There is the silence in which you courteously engage so that I might be heard: in order for one to be heard all the others have to be silent” (Franklin 643). The part that confuses me about this quote is that if someone is talking, then would there be true silence? It’s true that the listener is silent, but the listener does not hear silence. If we use the definition of “silence” given in the beginning of the essay, then the silence described in this situation is not true silence.

“Allowing openness to the unplannable, to the unprogrammed, is the core of the strength of silence” (Franklin 644). How would we allow openness to the unplannable? Is it really as simple as being silent and listening to silence? Or are you supposed to make room for the unplannable in your life and schedule?

Citation:

Silence and the Notion of the Commons by Ursula Franklin

 

 

 

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The Bird and the Machine

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imagesEiseley opens his essay by talking about how he read in the newspaper that it wouldn’t take long before machines would be able to make themselves. He then tells a story about when he was younger and went on an expedition with a group of men in the desert. He says that he sat down on a high ridge for hours before noticing that there was a rattle snake sleeping right next to him. But he didn’t appear to have disturbed the snake so he decided to keep it that way. Then he moves from the desert to an abandoned cabin in the woods where he had to catch birds to send them to zoos. He managed to catch a hawk, but then later decides to release him so that the hawk could be with his mate. When Eiseley released the hawk, he describes how the hawk rejoiced greatly when the hawk was reunited with its mate.

“Sometimes of late years I find myself thinking the most beautiful sight in the world might be the birds taking over New York after the last man has run away to the hills.” It’s interesting to think about this image. To imagine a city once dense with people to be taken over by birds. Whenever I read this quote I imagine birds sitting on the cables, street signs, and windows of the now empty buildings. But the strangest thing is that in the next sentence, Eiseley makes it seem like it’s going to happen one day. It may take hundreds of years, but one day birds will take over New York.

“It is a funny thing what the brain will do with memories and how it will treasure them and finally bring them into odd juxtapositions with other things, as though it wanted to make a design, or get some meaning out of them, whether you want it or not, or even see it.” I find this quote interesting because it’s so true. I find it fascinating that the littlest random things are able to trigger or bring back these memories or emotions that we have stored in our brains. When those flashbacks occur, we are able to either appreciate our memories more or wish we never had them.

“A human being thought of himself in terms of his own tools and implements. He had been fashioned like the puppets he produced and was only a more clever model made by a greater designer.” It’s amazing how through technology humans are able to recognize that we have been designed and programmed by a greater being. They know that in order for a technology to work, someone has to carefully design each and every one of its parts. Because they see the human body as one big unexplainable machine, they are able to apply what they know about technology and see that humans didn’t happen on accident. Someone who is greater than humans has carefully designed each and every single little part of the human body in order for it to function the way it was created to function.

“I learned there that time is a series of planes existing superficially in the same universe. The tempo is a human illusion, a subjective clock ticking in our own kind of protoplasm.” I find this quote confusing because it’s hard to grasp the idea of time being a series of planes. Most people (including myself) think of time as a progressive, linear structure in the universe as supposed to a series of planes. The part that confuses me in the second half is what is the “tempo”? Is it clocks? The pulse of time?

“The machine does not bleed, ache, hang for hours in the empty sky in a torment of hope to learn the fate of another machine, nor does it cry out with joy nor dance in the air with the fierce passion of a bird. Far off, over a distance greater than space, that remote cry from the heart of heaven makes a faint buzzing among my breakfast dishes and passes on and away.” In reading this essay, I had a very hard time making the connection between technology and birds/snakes. I didn’t really see how they fit together, nor do I think that he explained this connection very well. Individually they would’ve made lovely stories. But when you put them together without clearly explaining what their connection is to one another, then it looks like you’re just jumping around from one idea to another.

Citation:

The Bird and the Machine by Loren Eiseley

TED Talks – Misha Glenny: Hire the hackers!

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Link to TED video: http://www.ted.com/talks/misha_glenny_hire_the_hackers.html

Misha_GlennyIn this talk, Misha Glenny addresses the issues of cybersecurity and hackers. He points out that we spend a lot of money trying to create these software programs to keep hackers out of our businesses, but we fail to look at the root of the problem. The problem isn’t that businesses aren’t well protected, but that they are being hacked by a hacker. Instead of spending money on improving software, more money should be going into psychological profiles of hackers to see what makes one, and how do we stop them. Glenny also makes the argument that if we cannot stop hackers, we should use them for our benefit by hiring them.

“There are two types of companies in the world: those that know they’ve been hacked, and those that don’t.” This quote is interesting because it assumes that all companies have been hacked. The only difference is that whether or not the company is aware that this has already happened to them. Hacking is something that affects everybody’s life.

“How do you trust somebody on the web who you want to do business with, when you know that they’re a criminal?” The Internet provides a level of anonymity. This anonymity can be used for good or for evil. Some people like to be able to shop on the Internet without having to deal with the pressure of a sales clerk. However, bad people can also utilize the anonymity provided by the web to prey on unsuspecting people.

“Despite the fact that we are beginning to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into cybersecurity for the most extraordinary technical solutions, no one wants to talk to these guys, the hackers, who are doing everything. Instead we prefer the dazzling technological solutions which cost a huge amount of money. So nothing is going into the hackers.” Cybersecurity is analogous to airport security. Since 9/11 we have spent a lot of money on security at the airport in order to prevent one terrorist from getting through. Companies are spending a lot of money trying to keep out one hacker who may or may not be able to cause a lot of damage. At some point, it is no longer economical because it wastes good resources to protect the company. These same resources could be invested into creating new products.

“Certain disabilities can manifest themselves in the hacking and computing world as tremendous skills, and we should not be throwing in jail people who have such disabilities and skills because they have lost their way socially or been duped.” This quote is confusing because it assumes that all hackers are individuals who have social problems. Recent cyberattacks actually originated from government agencies in China. So not all hackers are social misfits.

“We need to engage and find ways of offering guidance to these young people because they are a remarkable breed, and if we rely as we do at the moment solely on the criminal justice system and the threat of punitive sentences, we will be nurturing a monster we cannot tame.” I disagree with this statement. For instance, a terrorist might be highly skilled at creating a bomb. Simply because they are highly skilled doesn’t mean we should engage them and offer them guidance so that we can use their bomb-making technology for other purposes. Some people have evil intent and must be stopped. I don’t think that all hackers can or want to be rehabilitated. So the problem is more complicated therefore it requires a more complicated solution then just offering guidance to these young people.

Citation:

Glenny, Misha. “Hire the Hackers!” Online video clip.
TED Talks, Sept. 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.

The Life of a Fangirl

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sherlock-and-doctor-who-n-007Ever since I have been introduced to British television, my life has changed. Before my life might have been described by others as simply normal. For instance, I had a tumblr but I only used it for pictures I thought were cool. Then last summer all that changed. I was sleeping over at my best friend’s house and she wanted to show me this show called “Sherlock”. Because I liked detective stories and the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr., I decided to watch it.

I was hooked after the very first episode. I had never seen anything like it before. We pretty much stayed up all night watching both seasons of the series. Then she showed me a blog on tumblr purely dedicated to the show. And that was my first experience with the fandom. I began to find other blogs about the show and soon enough I felt like I was a part of this worldwide community of people I have never met.

After becoming part of the Sherlock fandom, I began to wonder if I should watch the show Doctor Who. I’ve heard many good things about it, but I was also lazy to watch it because there were six seasons on Netflix that I had to catch up with. But I decided to give it a go and the next thing you know I was becoming a part of the Doctor Who fandom. Soon enough I found myself wasting countless hours on the Internet soaking in every single picture and joke both of these fandoms presented me.

Quickly I learned that if you were going to join a fandom (especially on tumblr), you would have to learn what certain words and phrases mean. For example, “shipping” means imagining two characters in a romantic relationship whether or not they are actually a couple in the show. The nice thing about shipping is that you can ship characters as many times as you like. There’s no rule saying that you can only ship characters once. That would be more of an OTP which stands for One True Pairing. It’s basically your favorite couple (or ship) of a show. The rule of having an OTP is that you can only have one per show. If you had multiple OTPs for a show it wouldn’t be an OTP because then you’d have to change the name from One True Pairing. Of course there are other words but there are just too many words to explain.

The great thing about being a part of a fandom is that it is a community. Once you meet someone who is in the fandom, you feel like you know everything about them even though you’ve never met them before in your entire life. You instantly have this connection with them and more importantly, you have something to fill the awkward silence with. It seems that in today’s day and age, people are struggling to find real community. Facebook and other technology can become a medium for community. In my case, technology has facilitated me meeting and interacting with people of a common interest. It has expanded my circle of interaction and enriched my experience. Now I can learn what others are thinking and saying in China, France and India as well. Without technology I would only have access to a small circle of people.

Being a part of a fandom is amazing. It’s become very hard for me to remember what my life was like before I was introduced to all this. It has become a regular part of my life that it seems strange to think of living without it. Technology has impacted my life and will continue to do so. In reality, technology will have increasingly greater impact on my life. The question to be wrestled with is will I be the master of technology or will I let technology become the master of me.

Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

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app for that generationNeil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology is a book about how technology has affected society. Postman starts with a story written by Plato about how much Thamus thought that writing would cause humans to become forgetful and deceive them into thinking they are wise. The purpose of starting the book that way was to show how the worry of technology changing society for the bad has not changed. We can look back now and see that the invention of writing and the printing press have changed society for good, and yet we are still worried that computers and the Internet and iPads will negatively impact our society. His argument is that whenever a new technology is invented, it will change society. We can never tell if it changed it for the good or bad until another form of technology has been invented to replace the old. Only then can we look back and see how that technology has affected us.

“The discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it” (Postman 4). I find this quote interesting because it differentiates between those who create technology and the philosophers who understand how things impact universal virtues. I think Plato’s observation is still relevant today.

“Every culture must negotiate with technology, whether it does so intelligently or not. A bargain is struck in which technology giveth and technology taketh away” (Postman 6). This quote is important because technology is not neutral. The introduction of a new technology has an impact on every day life. For instance, the creation of the atomic bomb has impacted the lives of every single person on the planet. Therefore, society must negotiate what kinds of technology are appropriate and how those technologies should be used. I like this quote because it uses the word “negotiate” because I believe the process is important.

“Those who cultivate competence in the use of a new technology become an elite group that are granted undeserved authority and prestige by those who have no such competence” (Postman 9). We often hear the term “digital divide” used today. It refers to those who have access to technology and are able to use it. However many people in the worlds still are not able to effectively use technology. Those who are on the cutting edge of new technologies are from more developed societies. Therefore they can shape the attitudes and influence the trends around the world. For example, Google is using its technology to promote the acceptance of homosexuality in countries that restrict it.

“There is a calculus of technological change that requires a measure of even-handedness” (Postman 7). This quote is confusing because it is unclear what is meant by even-handedness. Nobody is completely neutral so those who use technology will use it not in an even-handed way, but to promote their own agenda.

“There is something perverse about schoolteachers’ being enthusiastic about what is happening” (Postman 10). This quote is confusing because it looks at teachers who embrace technology as doing something perverse. I am confused because a good teacher should be able to utilize all teaching mediums available to them to help prepare their students for the future. So instead of looking at technology as eliminating teachers’ jobs, it should actually create more jobs for teachers in the future.

Citation:

Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.

The Touch-Screen Generation

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Link to article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/the-touch-screen-generation/309250/2/

iPadThis article written by Hanna Rosin explains the effects iPads have on children (specifically toddlers). She states that iPads have become the next addictive thing after the television. They have become such a big part of life that toddlers feel left out and disconnected to the world if they cannot play with an iPad. In order to keep the obsession under control, parents have set time limits and would only allow them to play educational games. Even with these limitations parents are wondering if allowing their child to use an iPad is beneficial at all. They still fear that their child will grow up to become an anti-social freak who still lives with his parents when he’s thirty. The question that this article poses is, “What effect does the iPad have on children? Is it a positive or negative one?”

“iPhones had already been tempting young children, but the screens were a little small for pudgy toddler hands to navigate with ease and accuracy. Plus, parents tended to be more possessive of their phones, hiding them in pockets or purses. The iPad was big and bright, and a case could be made that it belonged to the family. Researchers who study children’s media immediately recognized it as a game changer” (Rosin). When iPhones came out, parents had complete control over them. They were able to hide them and keep them away from children. But because the iPad is so much bigger, it’s more accessible to the toddlers – and they know when it is being hidden from them. Thanks to the bigger screen, they are able to do more on the iPad than on the iPhone. I found this quote interesting because I never thought that the size of the screen could play such a big factor into its popularity with toddlers.

“On the one hand, parents want their children to swim expertly in the digital stream that they will have to navigate all their lives; on the other hand, they fear that too much digital media, too early, will sink them” (Rosin). Comparing iPads to a stream is an interesting metaphor. But when you think about it, it actually makes sense. A parent wants their child to learn how to swim mainly for two reasons: so that they wouldn’t be that one child who doesn’t know how to swim and so that they wouldn’t drown if they unexpectedly found themselves in the water. But when the parent has to let the child swim on his own for the first time, they are constantly worried that they will drown. You could say the same thing about the iPad. Parents teach their kids (or they figure it out for themselves) how to use the iPad because they don’t want their child to be the only one who doesn’t know how to use an iPad or be completely lost when they need to use an iPad. But they are afraid that if they let their child use the iPad too much, they will sink into this world of technology (in a bad way) and never resurface.

“I must admit, it was eerie to see a child still in diapers so competent and intent, as if he were forecasting his own adulthood. Technically I was the owner of the iPad, but in some ontological way it felt much more his than mine” (Rosin). I found this quote interesting because I can relate to it. My sister has an iPad and although it’s technically “hers”, my dad uses it more than she does. It certainly feels like it’s the family’s iPad, but we all know that it belongs to her. Perhaps the reason why it feels like the family’s iPad is because we only have one. If everyone in the family had an iPad, then it would feel like our individual iPads. But because we only have one, we are forced to share it in the family which gives us the feeling that it is ours and not hers.

“By their pinched reactions, these parents illuminated for me the neurosis of our age: as technology becomes ubiquitous in our lives, American parents are becoming more, not less, wary of what it might be doing to their children” (Rosin). If parents are feel that technology is helping them in their lives, why are they afraid of their children using technology? Won’t it help their children’s life as well? Because of technology our lives today are made easier. So in theory, if we learn how to use that technology at an early stage in our lives, then wouldn’t we be better off using technology when we grow up?

“Norman Rockwell never painted Boy Swiping Finger on Screen, and our own vision of a perfect childhood has never adjusted to accommodate that now-common tableau.” Why is the author assuming that old is better? For instance, before we had a vaccination for polio, people wouldn’t say that was good. People would prefer to have the progress that the polio vaccination brings them. Just because we enjoyed a simple childhood without electronics doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better than a childhood with electronics.

Citation:

Rosin, Hanna. “The Touch-Screen Generation.” The Atlantic.  The Atlantic Monthly Group, 20 March 2013. Web. 4 April 2013.

Is Stupid Making Us Google?

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Link to article: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/is-stupid-making-us-google

snin215l.jpgThe other day at dinner, I asked my dad, “Who is Bobby Baker?” He didn’t know. So he pulled out his phone and googled it. It seems like more and more that this is the way people access information. Rather than learning, memorizing, and understanding information they rely on Google to tell them what they should know. In short, Google is making us lazy. Why spend all the time doing the hard work of learning when you could simply look it up? A large part of learning is reading. My dad told me that leaders are readers. For his generation, reading was the way to expose oneself to new ideas and concepts. Instead of reading, my generation tends to turn to brief, misspelled, 160 characters sentences (or fragments). With the decrease in reading academic materials, we are experiencing an increase in stupidity. We seem to always be communicating but never saying anything. We are always online but never learning. We are always reading but never understanding the deeper truths.

In the article Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicholas Carr, the problem of reading is highlighted. Quoting Maryanne Wolf, the article says, “We are not only what we read … We are how we read.” The internet’s multitasking environment that emphasizes efficiency and immediacy has made it difficult for the current generation to read deeply. “Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” (Carr). The challenge is for young people today to unplug from the Internet and return to Walden Pond. Reading, thinking, observing nature, and meditating are an important part of being human. This needs to be recaptured.

Question for thought: How can we encourage people to spend less time in front of their computers and more time in deep thought?