BCM310, Uncategorized

Quality vs. Quantity

In a world that is increasingly becoming self-absorbed, technology is an easy thing to blame as it is constantly adapting to meet our everyday needs.

The true narcissist in all of us, is once again being awakened by new technological advancements which include the countless apps and devices that are tracking our health, fitness, lifestyles, sleeping patterns and who can forget our…ahh… bowel movements.

Society as a whole has set some of the most unbelievable and unrealistic standards of perfection – which are hard not to subscribe to – and for those who do not fit into the teeny tiny parameters, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle in order to achieve said perfection.

With hashtags such as ‘fitspo’, a nation gripped by the rising obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics and the introduction of superfoods, technology has moved swiftly to accommodate for those of us who want to take matters into our own hands and improve our lifestyles by constant monitoring.

But by constantly monitoring our habits, are we only perpetuating these entrenched obsessions with numbers? From weight to whey and from sneaking an extra biscuit to skipping an extra kilometre, we are turning ourselves into number addicts.

Welcome to the quantified self.

The quantified self is any individual engaged in the self-tracking of any kind of biological, physical, behavioural, or environmental information – Swan, 2013

The quantified self, the numbers man, the digital dude. Whatever it may be, it is a craze that is sweeping the health and wellbeing community. Tracey (2013) found that seven out of ten adults regularly track some aspect of their health and over 60% of those adults track restrictively, their diets, weight and exercise regimes.

We have once again become slaves to technology. First it was social media and now it is the examination of ‘the self’.

Being able to measure something gives us the sense that we can control it. We can work to improve it, whether it’s a marketing campaign or our productivity or our health. Having measurements readily available can also make us forget about all the things we cannot measure – Walker Rettberg 2014, p.62

But the distinct line in the sand is yet to be drawn. The nature of these numbers means that it is a slippery slope into an obsessive addiction to track every minute, every detail of our lives.

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Gary Wolf ended his Cannes Ted Talk with this poignant statement:

The self is just our operation centre, our consciousness, our moral compass. So, if we want to act more effectively in the world, we have to get to know ourselves better.

But at what cost? By strapping a technologically advanced device to our bodies, does it really mean that we know ourselves better? Or give us greater insight?

Yes, you may know how much coffee you drink or how well you sleep. But what happened to just soaking up every ounce of the day and just experiencing life through your own technologically advanced devices – your eyes, your skin, your tastebuds and all the other wonderful senses.

I do agree, in part, that there is some benefit to knowing these numbers but only if you have a medical condition or need it as a way to kickstart your motivation. But I do not see the long-term benefits of knowing yourself through these numbers. What happens if you lose it? Will your brain forget to tell your body that you are hungry? Or that you will forget that consuming twelve cups of coffee may not be beneficial for you?

I would much rather enjoy the quality life by not having to worry about what the quantity of numbers say today. Eat that extra doughnut, walk that extra mile or skip it because you cannot be bothered, get to bed earlier and wake up earlier.

My philosophy is that we need to step away from technology and start enjoying what is in front of us. We do not need numbers and devices to tell us that going for a walk improves our moods. Life is about balance and I can rarely get numbers to balance for me.

Because when was the last time a number made you truly happy?

Sources:

Swan, M, (2013), ‘The Quantified Self: Fundamental Disruption in Big Data Science and Biological Discovery’ Big Data, vol. 1 no.2, p.5

Walker Rettberg , J, (2014)‘ Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves’ Quantified Selves, p.62

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DIGC 202

Man vs. Machine

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All I have ever wanted was a piece of technology that would detect when I was awake and make me a cup of coffee – of course to my exact preferences – each and every morning. And it turns out that it may just be on its way as the Internet of Things (IoT) is a raising phenomena in technology.

The Internet of Things are common physical items that connect to the Internet which enables the item to collect information about the changes in its surroundings and initiate action based on this information (Mitew, 2014).

Lost? So was I until Lupton (2013) explained the use of wearable technologies to track and collect data on a variety of things including exercise, diet, calories burnt, body temperature, brain function, moods, social encounters and the list goes on. These ‘Things’ blur the lines between human and object as they both transgress the boarders originally assigned to them (Mitew, 2014).

And this is concerning as it raises poignant issues such as how do we distinguish ourselves as humans when these sociable technologies are mimicking human behaviour?

But there are positives to have such integrated lives especially as we face an obesity epidemic. Apps have been designed that calorie count (MyFitnessPal), map runs (Nike Run) and improve brain function (Luminosity) as Constantini (2014) states that our bodies are radiating data loudly, continuously, honestly and individually. Why not capture that data and simplify it for an average individual to track and monitor their health? These applications and wearable technologies – such as FitBit – are our speakers and we no longer need qualifications to decipher what our bodies and minds are trying to tell us.

Constantini (2014) continues on to mention an app that enables you to take pictures of your freckles or moles and it will algorithmically tell you whether it has the potential to become cancerous or whether you need to consult a doctor. As someone who has skin that is prone to getting large freckles and a family history of skin cancer, this app is a beneficial addition to the other myriad of ‘health and fitness’ applications swimming around my phone.

The possibilities are endless. After Constantini’s video, there was another that popped up examining a new development which was a wearable device that would detect the early stages of seizures.

The increasingly sociable nature of technologies exemplifies how broad and beneficial the market is. But I feel that there are unexamined negative connotations regarding the constant collection of data as Lupton (2013) alluded to, “sharing data has implications not only for how users view and understand their own bodies but for how other members of the quantified self community view and respond to them”. Is this another avenue for aggregated negative body image? Are we going to over self-diagnose and miss an important symptom?

But what I really want to know is where is my morning coffee when I wake at 7am?

 

 

References:

Constantini, L, 2014, ‘The Quantified Self: How Wearable Sensors Expand Human Potential’, Ted Talks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FESv2CgyJag

Lupton, D, 2013, ‘Understanding the Human Machine’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 32 issue. 4, pp.25 – 30, accessed 23 October, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=6679313

Mitew, T, 2014, ‘The Internet of Things: from networked objects to anticipatory spaces’, University of Wollongong, week 12 lecture, 23 October, http://prezi.com/1lgxfron1kj0/digc202-the-internet-of-things/

Photo credit

 

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BCM 240

Being a Yes Man

The ways in which we work are vastly different to five, ten and definitely twenty years ago. As we grow an extra limb to enable extra social media and technology time, the question that begs to be asked is: should we stop taking on multiple jobs and just sit and complete one at a time? Is multitasking really a prominent issue within society?

But how bad can it be if we have been multitasking our entire lives? Walking and talking, eating and watching TV but as scientist John Medina researched the effects of multitasking on the brain within a work environment. He found that multitaskers experience a 40% drop in productivity, they take 50% longer to accomplish a single task and make 50% more errors. This is due to our short-term “memory can only store between five and nine things at once” (Merrill, 2012) and that includes thinking about what you are going to cook for dinner.

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Speaking of dinner, one of the long held beliefs is that women are able to multitask better than men due to “instincts” (Merrill, 2012) but in actual fact, “women suffer as much as men when forced to multitask and are less inclined to multitask when given the choice” (Buser & Peter 2012, p.641).

 

But when we look at multitasking with technology, the prevalence of watching, listening, talking and consuming is remarkably higher than I first thought.

A 2013 Nielsen report found that “three-quarters of viewers multitask with two sets of content while watching television” (Bowles 2014). That is unbelievable! I must admit that I am absolutely shocking when it comes to multitasking – my phone is switched off whilst working and when the news is on, that is my soul focus. But my sister on the other hand, is naturally good at multitasking as you can see here:

My sister showing us all how it is done Photo credit: Natalie Austin

Yes, she is texting, checking Facebook via her iPad and watching the news and then continues on to talk to me – level: expert multitasker.

An interesting research paper by Benitez et al (2012) examines if there are generational differences in multitasking skills between what they class as Baby Boomers born between 1946 – 1964, GenX born between 1965 – 1979 and NetGen which is anyone born 1980 – present. The report found that the “younger generations report lower difficulty ratings when multitasking and multitask more than the older generations.”

But my conclusion is that multitasking is detrimental to many aspects of our lives. Is our inability to sit and complete one task at a time, why we see so many reports on people more stressed, overwhelmed and overworked? I think so as we are finding it increasingly harder to turn off as we have not completed the day’s work hence why we are bringing it home with us. What do you think?

 

 

Sources:

Benitez, S, Carrier, L.M, Chang, J, Cheever, N.A, Rosen, L.D, 2008, ‘Multitasking across generations: Multitasking choices and difficulty ratings in three generations of Americans’, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 25, issue 2, pp. 483–489, viewed 13 September, http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0747563208002033

Bowles, K 2014, ‘Week 7: The problem of multitasking’, lecture notes, BCM240 Media, Audience and Place, Wollongong University, 8 September, viewed 13 September, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/287393/mod_resource/content/1/BCM240%202014%20week%207.pdf

Buser, T, Peter, N, 2012, ‘Multitasking’, Experimental Economics, vol. 15, issue 4, pp. 641 – 655, viewed 13 September, http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/article/10.1007%2Fs10683-012-9318-8

 

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DIGC 202

We need to talk

There is nothing worse than sitting in a stuffy lecture room, listening to someone groan about our futures. But when that sweet, sweet sound of a beep notifies you that a friend has messaged you, the lecture soon becomes more about the endless conversation with a friend than a lecture on life.

In December 1969, an infant network was established at UCLA dubbed ARPANET. Its ability to share information across the world instantly was a huge technological advancement. However, the network’s users quickly warped the “computer-sharing network into a dedicated, high-speed… electronic post- office ” (Sterling 1993, p.2). These users were the pioneers in the breaking down of simple conversation.

The ways in which we communicate now are obviously vastly different to previous generations, there is no denying that. However, previous generations had the ability to walk away and to switch off. Now, we are bombarded with bings, beeps and whistles notifying us that a message has been sent. Because our communication devices are portable and always on, we are less likely to just switch off and it is harder to walk away.

Moreover, the ways in which we communicate with one another are now in short, sharp bursts. Conversations are no longer in-depth, they are snippets of a story providing you with the highlights enabling you to give an answer but never fully understanding the story. I suppose this is why Twitter annoys me so much. The idea that you have to compress your opinions or stories into 140 characters is near impossible when you babble a lot and just want to get the whole story out in one burst. The constant communication over these forms of platforms, has significantly impacted our social skills.I believe that in part Gen Y’s skills are strained whereas Gen Z’s are completely lost. There is an inability to strike and maintain a face-to-face conversation.

Conversely, you have platforms such as Facebook where there is no character limit nor filter on what some people post – no one wants to hear about what your cat just ate and how she/he ate it. Really. Never.

The future of communications is an enthralling thing to watch and experience. However, I do believe that if we are not careful, then face-to-face conversation and letter writing will truly be a thing of the past and this will significantly impact what defines us as humans – our ability to communicate on multiple levels.

Call me a pessimist or a Nana, I don’t mind, but  just keep this in mind the next time you meet your friends for coffee and the majority of them are on their phones “just checking the time”.

 

Sources: Sterling, B. (1993) ‘A Short History of the Internet’, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction http://sodacity.net/system/files/Bruce_Sterling_A_Short_History_of_the_Internet.pdf

 

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bcm 112

Is Traditional Journalism a Thing of the Past?

Jay Rosen believes, “A journalist is just a heightened case of an informed citizen, not a special class“. I could not disagree more. While it is an obvious fact that the way in which we receive our daily news today, is extremely different from 30 years ago, the reliable source in which we get it, remains the same – a journalist.

Yes, I understand that more and more social networking sites are incorporating news, they do not however, replace a journalist. Mark Luckie discusses in the video (below) about how Twitter is simply a source of information as they “have no editorial staff and therefore no filters” whereas a journalist’s role is “to be that filter“. Furthermore, the information that we receive from such sites as Twitter cannot always be considered reliable as it is instantaneous and not researched. I simply see it as a resource not a news piece. However, the global uprising of the citizen journalist has made me slightly unsure about the security of a journalist’s role and begin to question the future role that a highly educated journalist could have if Twitter and other online medias have when it comes to presenting news.

This is where my argument sways. I like to agree with Andrew Marr when he says that citizen journalism is “fantastic at times but it is not going to replace journalism“. But realistically, “acts of journalism can be performed by anyone” and that we must consider journalism to be an “ecosystem” (Jeff Jarvis – video) Most people have a smart phone of some sort and are connected to one or more social medias. From this significant increase in the ubiquitous connectivity, it is somewhat effortless to begin producing your own news content and put a journalist out of a job. The classic example of traditional media being slower than social media was when an earthquake hit America in 2011.

My main concern with the rise of citizen journalism is the lack of authority, experience and prestige. When a major newspaper reports on Global Warming, more people are accepting of the news and believe what the journalists have written because of the assumed prestige of the paper and the level of authority that they give is similar to parental authority – if they say that it is true, then it must be. Conversely, a citizen journalist with their smartphone, on the street, reporting that Global Warming is true, can be pushed aside as they have not yet established authority.

I have come to be a fence-sitter again and believe that citizen journalists and traditional journalists should collaborate so as to “add to what traditional…[journalists] are doing and not take away”.[1]  It also has the potential  to add to the authenticity of a particular news story as “the passion of ordinary men and women to tell the kinds of extraordinary stories”[1] can finally be heard on a global level.

Sources: [1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jun/11/rise-of-citizen-journalism

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