Monday, May 11, 2009

Last Blog Post....

So this will be my last blog post of the semester. Although I don't think I'll be starting another blog anytime in the near future, it's been an interesting experience writing each week and getting in the practice of putting writing out there for others to read and respond to. I've also enjoyed reading the blogs of everyone in the class, it's been a great addition to the class discussions.

This class has really been great as far as the practical application of what we've been learning and discussing. I feel like I've learned a lot about different technologies and web 2.0 uses. Things like twitter and podcasting I had had very little experience with, and now I feel like I could explain them to new users, and possibly even use them in an educational setting.

At the same time even after being introduced to some great new technologies and seeing them in use, I kind of haven't moved past my feelings at the beginning of the semester.... I really like the technology that I use, and the things I don't use I'm not interested in. I like facebook, but I don't like twitter. I love my ipod, but an iphone doesn't interest me. I think that a lot of people feel this way, no liking technology that they're not comfortable with. Through this class I feel like I've become more comfortable with different technologies and maybe I'll be an adopter soon, especially as things become more mainstream. Even just during the time frame of this semester I've heard more and more about twitter.

It will be interesting to see what technologies will become common practice next. And as these technologies change and evolve, it will be important to teach kids and students how best to use these resources. This class has definitely given me a stronger knowledge base to be able to help kids with technologies that I do know, and will hopefully help me to adapt and understand new technologies in the future.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You Tube and the paticipation gap

When a friend first told me about Youtube three years ago, it was as a way to watch episodes of my favorite tv show, before networks were willingly putting all of their content online. We used youtube to watch copyrighted content produced by mainstream media, and put on the site by users in violation of it's community guidelines. Videos like these are not the what the site is intended for, and are often taken down, but they got me onto youtube and looking around, where I could see what kind of videos were being produced and uploaded within the community.

I was interested to read the articles discussing the feelings of the youtube community when the company was purchased by Google. I had only been using the site for a few months at the time, and this was certainly before it had become a part of the average American's daily life, so it's hard to imagine how the site's evolution would have been different had they never been bought up. I think that the participtory culture that had been started with the grassroots efforts in the site's early days was encouraged, only now the popularity was rapidly increasing, and creators had the possibility of going from underground to internet celebrity.

While I have certainly watched, and even subscribed, to homemade videos made by average joe youtube users, it's relationship with mass media is more where my personal interests in it lie. The Jenkins aritcle describes how major media companies were forced to either join in or opt out of the participatory culture. Major networks and shows began making their own youtube accounts and posting some of their more popular clips. Like the article mentions, youtube became a place to find and watch mass media content that had been missed during it's original airings. The articles mention that the most watched videos were predominantly from caucasian Americans, but as of right now, almost all of the most watched videos are clips from mass media tv shows and music videos. So while McMurria seems to consider the youtube participation gap a class issue, the bigger gap seems to be between mass media and individual user generated content of any kind.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I first heard about podcasting when I was taking a marketing class in college. We discussed using podcasting as a marketing tool, specifically as something to get people excited about the ability to listen to your ipod in your car. It sounded interesting, but this was before podcasting became relatively mainstream, and the concept that this was something that everyone could participate in was lost on me, and I pretty quickly lost interest.

A year or so later, I was really into finding cool stuff on itunes, and the ease with which you could download podcasts, and for free, made them slightly more appealing than I had originally thought. For a while, I was subscribed to the New York Times headlines podcast, and that's how I would get me news. And while it was cool that it downloaded automatically to my computer every morning, the portability aspect, downloading podcasts to my ipod to take with me, wasn't really something that I was interested in. I would listen to the news from my computer in the morning while I was getting ready for class. Listening to a program produced by a large corporation, while remaining in one location doesn't seem to go along with the point of podcasts. I could just as easily have been listening to the news on the radio.

I think that the glories of podcasting continue to be somewhat lost on me, because I've never really been in to talk radio. I much more of a visual person, so I was more excited to hear that people are doing video podcasts now. I also still don't feel a need to be able to walk around and listen to a podcast. If there was a podcast that I wanted to listen to, I think I'd be just as happy listening to it off my computer. I can also appreciate that podcasting in a preferred alternative to mainstream radio because it allows for more creativity, more options of what to listen to, and does not get restricted by the FCC, but I have satellite radio to fill those needs.

I don't mean to sound so skeptical about it, I can totally see the merits of this technology and how this would be right up someone's ally, unfortunately it's just not mine. I really like that because podcasts are downloadable, it's made radio much more persistent and achievable for the average person. This has been done with television with DVR and the internet, giving people the ability to refind and rewatch something rather than experience it only at an ascribed time, and podcasts can due that with radio. Also, I like the contributive culture of it, and the fact that anyone can contribute. That being said, I've had a bunch of trouble with Audacity this week, not being able to record. Also, I'm not sure that I understand RSS feeds, but hopefully I'll figure it out in the podcasting workshop, so that can start contributing too.

Monday, April 13, 2009


After reading the Nicholas Carr article, I think that there is an argument to be made that Google is making us stupid, however, I don't think that it is happening in quite the way that Carr describes. Google, and the internet in general, is changing the way that people look for and disseminate certain types of information. However, I find it to be something of a stretch to say that spending time of the internet makes one unable or unwilling to read War and Peace. Sure, the internet gives us a level of instant gratification when it comes to research or reference questions, but it seems strange for a lit major to cite the internet as what caused him to stop reading books. While the internet has made it possible to spend all your time reading (or skimming) blogs and online articles, this isn't really an accurate substitute for reading a book. In the article Nietzsche's friend is quoted as saying that language is affected by the quality of pen and paper. The message is a product of the medium, and I believe, that there will continue to be a place for reading books from cover to cover (or on a Kindle... but you get the idea.)

That being said, the internet is changing how we search and disseminate information. But is this really us becoming stupid? A person doing research on the internet is now given immediate access to thousands of resources at once. To find exactly what we're looking for, we have to skim, to read everything would be far too time-consuming, and a general waste of time. I was interested in the part of the article that likened web searching to efficiency algorithms in manufacturing. Google is trying to make their search engine the most efficient in terms of mental movement. As Carr states, "The more pieces of information we can 'access' and the faster we can extract their gist, the more productive we become as thinkers." So what' stupid about that? The article describes how the invention of the printing press and the invention of the written word, once created a concern that minds would be weakened as a result. And though they have surely changed our thought processes, they have also strengthened certain mental skills.

So where I think that Google is making us stupid, is when a simple search engine like Google is used as the definitive information searching tool. As we discussed in class there are many useful google search tools and tactics that can be extremely helpful, such as Google Scholar or using the advanced search features. But to simply type a search phrase into Google, is not the most reliable of research tools. Students, and all internet users, need to learn about evaluating websites, such as with the ACRL criteria that we discussed in class. There is the often cited example that, while one of the top 3 cites when "Martin Luther King" is googled, is in fact a hate-site. The fact that it was linked to a large number of times, (either intentionally as a search engine optimization tactic, or mistakenly by people who didn't take that time to look at the site in earnest and were fooled by it's harmless appearance) makes it a top Google result, even though it isn't exactly an objective research tool. The Google algorithm for search results makes it susceptible to people manipulating results. This has been done in the past in the forms of competitions to make a certain site the number one result, or as a joke or to make a point. A few years ago there was a "Google-bomb" that made the #1 result for the search "miserable failure" the biography of President George W. Bush on So when using Google, it's important to evaluate sites and not trust that a top ranking on Google is not assurance for a reliable or relevant website.

So is Google making us dumb? At the very least it's making us lazy. You can use it to find almost anything without really having to look that hard. Last year a co-worked of mind posed a challenge to refrain from using Google for one week. Believe me, it's harder than it seems. Or perhaps, harder than is should be.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Speaking of Google....

Gmail is one of my favorite google features, and I want to know what you use it (and other email providers)....
I'm conducting a survey for my Information Behavior class about personal information management, and I thought I could use this blog to shamelessly ask you guys to take a few minutes and fill it out. It'd really help me out....and it involves technology....
Here's the link if you have a minute:
Email Management Survey

Thanks a lot!

Monday, April 6, 2009


I love wikipedia. It's a one-stop shop to find out facts about everything from history to pop culture. It 's perfect as a ready-reference tool, used to answer a simple question. However, rather than using it for legitimate research, I generally use Wikipedia to find a specific piece of minute trivia, more for settling a bet than writing a paper.

And while I read wikipedia articles pretty regularly, I've never contributed, and never thought a whole lot about who was contributing or what that process is like. I had always known that "anyone can update it" and that because of this articles about very current or controversial items tended to be biased or unreliable. But I never realized how much discussion and editing goes into the pages of even the most seemingly mundane topics. During our in class exercise my group was examining an article about welding that was voted one of the best articles, and while it is a subject that one wouldn't think would have much to be updated, there was still a large amount of edits and discussion in the talk and history pages.

I have never felt the need to contribute to a wiki. I've never felt enough of an expert on a subject to create content. However, as wikis become more and more mainstream, expanding past even just wikipedia, perhaps I, and others who don't feel like experts, will feel the ability and desire to participate. Often with wikis I get the feeling that articles are written by one or two contributors. And then with the amount of work and content that these wikipedians put in, what was originally intended to be a community work is ascribed some ownership. When reading through the discussions and edits on different wikipedia pages, I noticed that in any given article there was one or two contributors that deleted other's edits and seemed to take ownership. One of my good friends has developed a wikipedia hobby -- when he is bored, he goes to the wikipedia page for the city that he lives in, and adds a nickname that he and his roommates made up, and sees how long it takes for someone to delete it. It is always deleted within 24 hours, usually much less and never with any discussion. This makes me wonder who is so closely watching the page for Stamford, CT, who considers themselves to be such an expert. How many people are dedicating a large chunk of time to keep up wikis about their passions.

However, the fact that even the most seemingly dull page is so vigilantly monitored, does inspire confidence that what we're reading is actually accurate. But what happens if when you happen to check a page is within the few hours when there is unverified or inaccurate information. In Poe's article from The Atlantic he discusses the community factor and how that affects a wiki's accuracy. There is the possibility that a community could embrace something false as fact and potentially change the truth if enough people belived it. However, that doesn't seem to be happening and the accuracy of wikipedia is only slightly less than established traditional encyclopedias.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sometimes I feel like somebody's watching me...

I have been actively using facebook since my sophomore year of college, and with the massive amount of content (pictures, wall posts, profile information) that my friends and I have posted since then, privacy considerations are a very real concern for me. It is interesting that social networking sites, which were originally meant for connecting with friends and acquaintances, have become a public space. I remember that when I was in college, a group of students who were members of the cross country team were kicked off the team as a result of photos of them drinking that were posted on facebook. Situations like this make me think about how I am represented on social networking sites, and who might be watching. Especially with the idea of the "invisible audience" that Dana Boyd wrote about (or what my friends and I call facebook-stalking) it's easy to forget that an SNS is not necessarily private.
I know that there are photos of me from college on facebook that I would probably not want an employer to see. This makes me wonder about the privacy settings for facebook and other social networking sites. Ideally I could limit my profile to be viewed only by my friends and trust that would be security enough. However, you have to consider who your friends are friends with, and who else might be able to see content that concerns me. Also, you have to consider that a "facebook friend" may not be an actual friend, but more of an acquaintance or coworker who I might not want to have access to my profile. When I was in college, facebook was only for college students, and originally only available to certain colleges. And the default privacy settings allowed your profile to be viewed by your friends and members of you college network, which seemed pretty safe. However, I remember that a girl that I had class with was interning with a major corporation in Denver, and part of her job was to use her facebook account to show the company the profiles of college kids who were applying for jobs. You never know who's going to see something that you put up. It became routine for seniors at my school to take down all the content off their profiles as they were applying for jobs, just in case.
I have recently been thinking that when I finish grad school and am really working in a career, I will delete my facebook account. Of course, all of the content that I have ever created will still exist, and I can't control what my friends put online. So perhaps a better tactic would be to not allow myself to be photographed doing anything stupid. Also, the prospect of quitting facebook means that I would instantly lose contact with a couple hundred people. I have been accruing "friends" since I was 19, I have my high school friends, college friends, study abroad friends, work friends, and now grad school friends. I can immediately get in touch with any one of them, where as without facebook, I would have probably lost their contact information years ago. There was an interesting article on the class wiki about SNS being the new email, an idea that I somewhat agree with. A few years ago I joined myspace at the behest of my coworkers at my summer job. I use it solely for keeping in touch with those people, using the messaging feature like email, and I don't have to keep track of everyone's email address.
During the last class, with my small group I looked at Twitter, something I had never really seen in action, but seem to be hearing about everywhere these days. I had vaguely heard that it consisted of sort of mini blogs of short answers to the question "what are you doing?", and to me this sounded miserable. Like the absolute worst part of facebook, inane status updates, and nothing else. After poking around the website, I could see the draw a little more, and I could see how it could be used by a library, sort of like a listserve as a way of directing people to points of interest on the website. I actually joined because I was interested in following some comedians and bloggers that I like. I even have 3 followers, but they are all people that I don't know, and I've never written a "tweet", so that's kind of weird.