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Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

Cyber-scepticism: not that we are actually unplugging and switching off, but that more and more people are questioning whether our frantic social networking is really helping us to connect, to deepen our relationships, to share our lives.

MIT professor Sherry Turkle is one of many people wondering where we are really going in the information age. Her new book is appropriately titled Alone Together. Paul Harris reports:

Turkle’s book, published in the UK next month, has caused a sensation in America, which is usually more obsessed with the merits of social networking. She appeared last week on Stephen Colbert’s late-night comedy show, The Colbert Report. When Turkle said she had been at funerals where people checked their iPhones, Colbert quipped: “We all say goodbye in our own way.”

Turkle’s thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.

But Turkle’s book is far from the only work of its kind. An intellectual backlash in America is calling for a rejection of some of the values and methods of modern communications. “It is a huge backlash. The different kinds of communication that people are using have become something that scares people,” said Professor William Kist, an education expert at Kent State University, Ohio.

The list of attacks on social media is a long one and comes from all corners of academia and popular culture. A recent bestseller in the US, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, suggested that use of the internet was altering the way we think to make us less capable of digesting large and complex amounts of information, such as books and magazine articles. The book was based on an essay that Carr wrote in the Atlantic magazine. It was just as emphatic and was headlined: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Another strand of thought in the field of cyber-scepticism is found in The Net Delusion, by Evgeny Morozov. He argues that social media has bred a generation of “slacktivists”. It has made people lazy and enshrined the illusion that clicking a mouse is a form of activism equal to real world donations of money and time.

Other books include The Dumbest Generation by Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein – in which he claims “the intellectual future of the US looks dim”– and We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst, which describes the problems of self-control in the modern world, of which the proliferation of communication tools is a key component.

Turkle’s book, however, has sparked the most debate so far. It is a cri de coeur for putting down the BlackBerry, ignoring Facebook and shunning Twitter. “We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us,” she writes.

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Tesco Mobile carried out a survey of 4,000 consumers recently to find out what people think are the greatest inventions of all time. No, the lightbulb didn’t come top – but I loved this image.

The wheel was voted as the most important invention in history, with the aeroplane in second place, the lightbulb third, the worldwide web fourth and computers fifth.

Other inventions to make the top ten included Graham Bell’s telephone in sixth place, followed by Sir Alexander Flemming’s discovery of Penicillin.

The iPhone came eighth, while Thomas Crapper’s flushing toilet was ninth. The internal combustion engine came tenth.

Central heating (13th), painkillers (15th) and the steam engine (16th) also made the grade, while spectacles finished off the top 20.  

I’ve pasted the complete results below. What would you put at number 1? What would you add to the list of one hundred?

1. Wheel 2. Aeroplane 3. Light bulb 4. Internet 5. PCs 6. Telephone 7. Penicillin 8. iPhone 9. Flushing toilet 10. Combustion engine 11. Contraceptive pill 12. Washing machine 13. Central heating 14. Fridge 15. Pain killers 16. Steam engine 17. Freezer 18. Camera 19. Cars 20. Spectacles 21. Mobile phones 22. Toilet paper 23. Hoover 24. Trains 25. Google 26. Microwave 27. Email 28. The pen 29. Hot water 30. Shoe 31. Compass 32. Ibuprofen 33. Toothbrush 34. Hair straighteners 35. Laptops 36. Knife and fork 37. Scissors 38. Paper 39. Space travel 40. Kettle 41. Calculator 42. Bed 43. Remote control 44. Roof 45. Air conditioning 46. SAT NAV 47. Wi-Fi 48. Cats-eyes 49. Matches 50. Power steering 51. Tumble dryer 52. Bicycle 53. Sky+ 54. Tea bags 55. Umbrella 56. iPod 57. Taps 58. Crash helmet 59. Wristwatch 60. eBay 61. DVD player 62. Nappies 63. Ladder 64. Sun tan lotion 65. Lawnmower 66. Make-up 67. Chairs 68. Sunglasses 69. The game of football 70. Sliced bread 71. Sofa 72. Razor blades 73. Screwdriver 74. Motorways 75. Head/ear phones 76. Towels 77. Push-up bra 78. Binoculars 79. WD40 80. Mascara 81. Hair dryer 82. Facebook 83. Escalator 84. Hair dye 85. Wellington boots 86. Spell check 87. Calendars 88. Cheese grater 89. Buses 90. Post-it notes 91. Gloves 92. Satellite discs 93. Pedestrian crossing 94. Baby’s dummy 95. Curtains 96. Bottle opener 97. Food blender 98. Dustpan and brush 99. Desks 100. Clothes peg

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I’m just back from a week of silent retreat. (No, I wasn’t blogging while I was away! The last two posts were on the timer: written before I went and then scheduled to post automatically, just in case any readers were going to get withdrawal symptoms.)

I’m not going to debrief about my spiritual life online, but I can share just one experience that forms part of the ritual of going on retreat each year that gave me pause for thought: emptying the pockets. I arrived in my room at the retreat house, put the suitcase on the bed, and without much reflection started to empty my trouser pockets onto the shelf in the wardrobe, knowing I wouldn’t be needing all this stuff for the next week.

And what was this ‘stuff’? Car keys, house keys, room keys, cupboard keys; mobile phone; wallet (cash, credit card, debit card, driving licence, celebret, Marks and Spencer vouchers, Oyster card); electronic organiser (diary, contacts, to do list, memos – yes, I am dinosaur enough to still have a Palm PDA; much better designed software, by the way, than an iPhone); loose change.

All of this, I realised perhaps for the first time, I have on me all the time, in three trouser pockets – ‘on my person’ as the phrase goes. All of this, normally, I’m afraid to leave the house without it. It’s part of who I am, and it’s hugely symbolic: I ‘am’ the possibility of connecting, communicating, calling, remembering, driving, travelling, entering, opening, unlocking, spending, borrowing, organising, meeting, doing. And all of this, for just a few days, I could put in a cupboard. It was so strange and liberating to go for a walk each morning without it all; not just into the garden, but out into the surrounding streets and the ‘real world’.

my pocket watch rules by chrisdlugosz.

Of course my pockets weren’t actually empty! I kept on me my room key and a watch. In other words, I was happy to let go of all the stuff for a week, but I wasn’t prepared to renounce it completely and take the risk of it being stolen. I’ll put it down, but I won’t give it up. And above all else, the watch: I didn’t want to lose track of time and miss my lunch…

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Murad Ahmed writes about the rise of Google and the rebirth of Apple. No-one could have guessed, ten years ago, that two of the most successful commercial ideas of the decade would be the free availability of information and the beauty of objects once thought to be purely functional.

Google set off with an extraordinarily ambitious mission: to organise the world’s information and make it universally useful. Its approach was revolutionary then, but seems the norm now. It was free. It was open. Anyone could use it.

And Google eventually worked out how to make bags of money. It sold advertising alongside search results. Google became a multibillion-dollar company, a verb, a phenomenon.

Apple took a different route. The company had been in the doldrums for years, but in 2001 it launched the iPod. The key to the device was simplicity. It was easy to use and allowed millions to carry around entire record collections. Today public spaces are filled with people plugged into headphones.

The iPod was also beautiful, setting the standard for design and technological innovation. The only device that had a similar impact was Apple’s own iPhone, launched in 2007. Both became the must-have products of the decade.

The next step for Google is not just to link all digital information, but to digitise all non-digital information so that everything ever known will be available online.

Should one company really control the web's information?? by fabbio.

Robert Darnton has an article about the legal complications for Google of grabbing other people’s copyright. He sums up the vision and the difficulties here:

The terms of the settlement will have a profound effect on the book industry for the foreseeable future. On the positive side, Google will make it possible for consumers to purchase access to millions of copyrighted books currently in print, and to read them on hand-held devices or computer screens, with payment going to authors and publishers as well as Google. Many millions more—books covered by copyright but out of print, at least seven million in all, including untold millions of “orphans” whose rightsholders have not been identified—will be available through subscriptions paid for by institutions such as universities. The database, along with books in the public domain that Google has already digitized, will constitute a gigantic digital library, and it will grow over time so that someday it could be larger than the Library of Congress (which now contains over 21 million catalogued books). By paying a moderate subscription fee, libraries, colleges, and educational institutions of all kinds could have instant access to a whole world of learning and literature.

But will the price be moderate? The negative arguments stress the danger that monopolies tend to charge monopoly prices. Equally important, they warn that Google’s dominance of access to books will reinforce its power over access to other kinds of information, raising concerns about privacy (Google may be able to aggregate data about your reading, e-mail, consumption, housing, travel, employment, and many other activities). The same dominance also raises questions about both competition (the class-action character of the suit could make it impossible for another entrepreneur to digitize orphan works, because only Google will be protected from litigation by rightsholders) and commitment to the public good. As a commercial enterprise, Google’s first duty is to provide a profit for its shareholders, and the settlement leaves no room for representation of libraries, readers, or the public in general.

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