Category Archives: COM 530

This blog will include questions from readings done in this class and responses to readings done in class.

Mobile Africa

This sesmester I researched mobile phone diffusion in Africa. I was surprised at all the things I learned and I felt inspired.  Here’s my abstract:

Abstract

Mobile phone penetration in Africa has spurred a plethora of speculation and theories regarding the continents adoption of the technology.  This paper will implore Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations (DoI) theory as a framework to examine the contributing factors of the adoption of mobile technology in Africa. It will also provide examples that correspond to the factors outlined in the theory. After fully examining parameters of the theory and it’s unique correlation to African mobile phone experience, the paper will then analyze the impact of mobile phone adoption and diffusion on the continent. In the same manner, the paper will include research findings that show current initiatives and experiences of the mobile phones in Africa.

 

I created a website to represent all my data. You can check it out at http://www.charityholloway.com/mobileafrica/


 

 

 

 

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Technology and Evolution

This semester’s Theory and Audience Analysis course has been very enlightening, and has challenged my thought process concerning the wonderful world of technology and media.  From McGonigal, to Shirky, to Benkler, to Janier, the theories presenter by these intellectuals invoked a lot of thought about technology’s impact on society.

This week we discussed the effects of new technology on our brain, our critical thinking skills, and deep thought engagement.  I’ve always wondered if technology was dumbing us down or making us physically and mentally lazy.  For example, when I was in grade school, we were taught to do math in our head or with pen and paper. In these times kids use calculators to do the simplest of arithmetic. Why? Because it’s easier and smarter than the human brain.

Something that affects me in a similar way is Google. Any time I need information on something I don’t know about I simply Google it. I don’t think about going to the library and reading books. I rarely think critically on my own; I Google search the topic and read about other people’s thoughts on the subject, and then form an opinion around other’s thoughts. This is a little embarrassing to admit but it’s the truth.  Why think critically on your own when there are resources out there that “tell” you what to think?

So is technology changing our brain?  Nicolas Carr argues yes it is, and I agree with him.  Something very interesting Carr mentioned in his article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid” is his reading process. He says the longer he uses the web, the more difficult he finds reading long pieces of material, and the lower his concentration and contemplation. When I read that, I immediately identified.  I never read the full piece on the web. I skim the articles, only stopping to read key points.  Even when I had to write a research, I immediately went to the web, pulled articles on my topic and skimmed the long pieces (and some of the short ones) for information that related to my topic.  Carr also noted that everyone is conforming from web designers to TV stations. We are simply being programmed to not read.

I’m interested in the impact of these finds and others on the younger generations.  When I was younger, I loved to read, all the time.  But I was born in the 80s before the boom of the internet. It’s not the 2000’s and the boom of the internet is in full effect and it looks like it will be here to stay.  The things I have experienced with the internet as an adult are being experiences by young children and teenagers.  It seems that the effects of technology would have a deeper impact on them because they are experiencing these things in their developing years.

I personally feel that as the internet and other forms of technology become more prevalent and pervasive in today’s culture, society will continue to become dumb and dumber.  We become more and more dependent on machines and technology to do every day simple task.  I think of the process Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and survival of the fittest.  As the human race continues to consume these technologies with no boundaries, our brains and chemical processes change and eventually as the species continues to evolve, we will lose those genes that are inactive.  Eventually one day computer intelligence may rule the world. I know that’s a little out there, but I think we are becoming closer and closer to this possibility as technology advances.

Coming to the end…

We are coming to the end of the semester, and this week in Theory and Audience Analysis we are reading some interesting articles that in some ways help bring the semester to an end. The following questions are those I have pondered while reading a few articles in preparation for this week…

  • What effects does the computer, specifically the entertainment, have on our minds?
  • Does these advance technologies make us less intelligent? Do they take our capacity to think for ourselves? Are they “dumbing” us down?
  • How will the diffusion and pervasiveness of technology affect future generations?

Experiments with Augmented Reality

This week in Theory and Audience Analysis, we discussed Augmented Reality(AR). Initially, I didn’t know much about AR, but now I do. The Wikipedia definition of Augmented reality is:

“a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer.”

Basically it’s adding images through special techniques or programs over top of things actually seen in Reality. This technique can actually be pretty cool and helpful in adding a little pop of interactivity. For example, there is a video that shows how a national geographic museum could be more interactive using AR (check out the video here)

I decided to try to make my own AR game. I found an easy to follow tutorial (check out the tutorial here)that uses Adobe Flash to accomplish the task. The first time around I used a Marker (which actually looks like a QR code) provided through the files I downloaded. While using the web cam, it recognizes the Marker and displays a 3D image coded in ActionScript. Check out the video below:

Then I tried changing the globe image to my name…it worked out pretty well:


Next I made my own AR Marker using an image I made in Photoshop. You can learn how to make your own marker here. I used the Marker to display a 3D cube:

Pretty cool, right? I will continue to experiment with AR applications because I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of these applications in the future!

Augmented Reality Analysis

This week in Theory and Audience Analysis graduate course we are discussing augmented reality. The following questions are those I want to answer this week throughout discussion.

What exactly is augmented reality? How closely associated is the term with reality or virtual reality?

Can augmented reality games be used to help with societal problems? Besides having fun, can augmented reality games serve a bigger purpose?

What elements are combined to produce augmented reality games?
What does the future hold for augmented reality?

Virtual Worlds, the Good and Bad

Virtual worlds are and will always be a very interesting topic.  There are various perspectives, issues, and challenges when it comes to these virtual communities, and I personally can’t decide whether I should care about them or not.  On one side of the spectrum, I see virtual worlds as a tool that people use to escape from reality.  As long as they don’t cross over into real space, that should be ok. On the opposite end of the spectrum there is a belief that there is no separation from virtual worlds and reality.  The two go hand and hand; therefore whatever happens in either world indirectly connects with the other.

There are several interesting theories proposed by scholars concerning the phenomenon.  One such article argued that virtual worlds are changing the way we learn. Not learning in the sense of accumulation of information or facts, but the type of learning that occurs when individuals of different backgrounds come together in virtual space.  One can argue there is great deal of learning occurring in games such as World or Warcraft in which people come together to solve problems, solidifying what  Douglas Thomas calls the networked imagination.  He writes:

“The idea of a network of imagination ties together notions of community, technologically mediated collective action, and imagination, when players begin to act through joint investment in the pursuit of common ground. This kind of collective action is more than networked work or distributed problem solving. It requires that problems be thought of as group problems and that the goals of all actions and practices are to move the group forward.”
-Why Virtual Worlds Could Matter

This argument is definitely valid.  It is apparent that activities involving high group collaboration can be an avenue to feel a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself (which Jane McGonigal argues is a necessity), as well as a way to engage with people from all over the world with different perspectives, ideas, and contributions.  The very act of this type of engagement in virtual reality educates people with knowledge that can be applied to the real world.

Ethical Issues in Second Life (by Hope R. Botterbusch and R. S. Talab) was a very interesting article about issues that occur in virtual worlds. I must admit that sometimes I think it’s silly to put so much emphasis on virtual worlds when it’s not a real world.  Who cares about what happens in a fake world?  However there are people out there who do care.  Issues such as copyright infringement, exploitation, vandalism, and identity deception are just a few associated with Second Life. Botterbusch and Talab research findings imply that people who commit what I’ll call virtual crimes commit them because they have no fear of consequences of the real world.

One example in the article explains how “Miss Avatar” decides to create a shop where she sales digital products she created.  One day she notices some players have access to her products that she hadn’t receive compensation (Lindens) for.  Someone used Copybot which allowed them to copy her digital products.  She filed a copyright infringement suit which eventually got turned over to real life lawyers.

So the question becomes is this right or wrong?  I personally can’t take a firm stand on either side of the issue. However, I think a big source of the problem is crossing real world constructs over into virtual worlds.  In other words, I don’t think this would be that big of a deal if the Second Life Linden was not connected in any way shape or form to real world dollar.

Any negative aspect crossing from virtual worlds to the real world can be considered a problem. It’s ok if a person uses virtual worlds to escape from reality or to explore their identity, but when the lines are not drawn between the two worlds, problems can arise.  It will be interesting to see how governance or the lack thereof matriculates as years go by and virtual worlds become increasingly associated with the real world.

Virtual Worlds: Analysis Questions

This week in Theory and Analysis, we are discussing virtual worlds.  The following analysis questions are ones I would like to examine more through out the course of the week.

As virtual worlds become more and more a popular, what happens when virtual reality crosses over into reality? Is there a distinction between the two?

What is the importance of networked cultures in virtual reality?

Should people be allowed to commit heinous acts or forbidden  acts in virtual worlds that are punishable by law in the real world?  Should there be virtual reality laws?

How do or can virtual worlds benefit society? Are there other benefits besides entertainment purposes?

What is the future of virtual reality?