The Myth of Internet Access

Do me a favor, go over the Census website and try and use American Fact Finder on your mobile device. Go ahead, I will wait. If you did try, you discovered that it was next to impossible to use American Fact finder on anything but a stand alone desktop or laptop.

We are bombarded with the idea that mobile Internet will bring information to the people. In reality it brings the following; some news, and a whole lot of media. The ability to do anything approaching meaningful research or meaningful creation is still quite difficult on a majority of mobile devices. This is especially true for the devices that economically disadvantaged people have access to.

So here is the issue: mobile devices are viewed as a solution to the issue of getting Internet access to the masses. Indeed, living as a citizen in 2016 without Internet access is quite difficult (that is if you want to take part in society). Mobile devices provide inadequate access to the Internet and we need to stop perpetuating the idea otherwise. I have no idea what the solution is or could be, but I also know that if society does not address this inequality we will have a growing, and stark, difference between the Internet haves and have-nots.

 

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Two Weeks Without Facebook (pretty much)

Two weeks ago I logged out of Facebook. There were a number of reasons that influenced this decision. First, Facebook wastes time, a resource that is increasingly in scare supply. Second, the impending presidential election.

I spend a considerable amount of time finding information for people: factual information, verified and substantiated. The Rolls Royce of information, if you will. The current presidential election is full of false information. The idea of verifying information is being completely ignored, or treated as entirely unnecessary because someone else is “such a liar.” I find this unbearable and frustrating to no end. Facebook allows people to blindly “post” information about how candidate X wants to take away your guns. This is despite the fact that to take away the rights granted by the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution would be next to impossible. Anyway.

The reason I have a job is because people need factual information. The role of librarians is not to simply collect books, but to curate a collection of information so that others can find what they need. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, librarians teach people how to evaluate and find information on their own. If this election is any indicator then librarians are either not doing their job or people do not care about the job librarians do.

 

 

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Making things “easier”

“This will just make things easier.” I am guessing that was the thought that some truly empathetic businessperson had when this decision was made.

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The problem here is the assumption made by the company; that everyone has a card. Yes, this machine is at a university where every student, faculty, and staff have a card that they can charge things to. And likely yes, most people traveling through this building will have a (bank) card that they could use as well. The problem is, what about the people that do not have a card?

Increasingly, systems in society dictate that we must have access to a card, or an account that allows us some form of Internet banking. In a TED talk Jon Gosier referred to people without Internet access as Digitally Invisible, a term that describes this situation quite aptly.

Being Digitally Invisible is something that people with Internet access think nothing of, or if they do it is often a “that’s too bad” while almost instantly scrolling to the next item in their newsfeed. Requiring people to use a card to purchase food might seem trivial, but try to imagine being the person that only has cash.

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How to discuss things civilly on social media

Everything is discussed on social media. How to raise children, which car to buy, gay rights, gun rights, which fountain pen is better, and everything else. Recently, I have stopped being any part of such discussions. The reason is quite simple: nothing can be discussed civilly on social media. Nothing.

There are two main reasons why you cannot discus things civilly on the Internet. One, you apply no level of thought or reason to what you are writing and are just reacting to something. Secondly, you apply a high level of thought and/or reason to what you are writing. The third reason (and really a sub-reason) is that you are just a jerk and social media automatically amplifies your level of jerk by a magnitude of 10.

Let us take the ethicist Kevin Carnahan, he is actually part of the reason why I am writing this post. Kevin writes incredibly thoughtful replies on social media all the time. Not too surprisingly he gets a lot of flak for just about anything he writes. Why? Because the things he writes contains more than five words and arguments that are detailed and logical.

The problem originates (at least partially) with the medium itself. These words typed on this page (screen) could be sarcastic or they could be sincere. If you were privy to my tone of voice that I can hear as I write, you would know. But you are not so you cannot. I do, by the way, mean all of this sincerely.

Social media’s life blood is fueled by our short attention spans. Anything of sincere meaning needs to be conveyed in 140 characters or less or else it risks being ignored entirely.

 

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Confederate Battle Flag is a Proxy for Gun Restriction

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The push to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the South Carolina State Grounds has much less to do with racism than it does with the country’s desire to have action taken with regard to gun rights. The NRA is likely breathing a huge sigh of relief, seeing that the latest mass shooting of people in the United States focused around a flag and not the real issue, which in my opinion is the ridiculous access to firearms in this country.

To be clear. The Confederates were traitors and deserved to be treated as traitors. There should be no monument to the ‘heroes’ of the Confederacy. That is unless we also want to have statues of Americans that also joined ISIS, fighting for what they undeniably think is a just cause. Instead, it would be a good idea to have giant statues of General Sherman on every state house grounds in the South (and I am not kidding).

Firearms in this country appear to have gone through the same transformation as fast food: 20 years ago there was the a regular pepperoni pizza, today, we have pizza with hot dogs in the crust. The simple (yet still deadly) .22 caliber rifle has given way to something from a terminator movie, the Bushmaster.

The Confederate Battle Flag should never have flown after the confederate traitors surrendered. That being said, the uproar over the flag is about ‘gun rights’ for everyday ‘mericans. The NRA holds elected officials hostage when it comes to protecting ‘gun rights.’ Anyone who even breathes a tiny sentiment of wanting to put limits on guns is compared to Hitler.

 

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After the Sandy Hook shooting, which took the lives of 20 children ages 5 and 6, nothing was done. In response, the NRA wanted more guns because, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” -Wayne LaPierre. No one seems to have the political power to stop the NRA. If 20 children can be massacred, and no one is compelled to action, then there is likely nothing that can be done.

Many ‘mericans are eager to point out the 2nd Amendment. If asked, most of them would have a hard time properly quoting it, much less anything from the other 26 or the 7 articles of the Constitution itself. Yes, this is an elitist way to approach the argument, but when the United States has a statistically disproportional number of people killed by guns then perhaps it is time to be a bit more elitist.

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The Liberal Arts

I am generally no fan of the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial page; anyone that gives Suzanne Somers a column to comment on Economics has some credibility issues. However, I was pleased to read a column that sums up, quite nicely, why degrees in the Liberal Arts are of benefit to society. It would be futile to rehash the arguments of the article itself, so just read it for yourself. The comments that immediately followed the article are, I am afraid, the view of many people in the United States. Here is a highlight,

“The liberal arts are infested with communists” -Rick LaBonte

“I would not consider hiring anyone with a liberal arts degree coming out of US universities today.” -Herb Leisenfelder

And my personal favorite,

“Almost every classic work of literature is free for downloading on the internet. Every important work of art can be seen in HD on your computer. History websites are endless. Every museum is online for free. Liberal Arts Moocs can be audited for free. Do your pocket book a favor. Get a STEM degree if you have the aptitude, and round yourself out with a free, or nearly so, liberal arts education on the internet.” -William King

Where would one begin with Mr. King’s comments.

1. Not everyone has access to a computer, let alone the Internet. Even if they do they might not understand the nature of information on the Internet which is, at best, confusing.

2. How do you know you are accessing the right/correct version of any classic work? There are thousands of results for any title you search.

3. Yes, History websites are endless. Also, there are endless examples of websites that provide revisionist history. Check out this Gem.

4. Every museum is online for free? Well, yes, some are, but all there content is not there.

5. Every important work of art can be seen in HD? Hmm.

Unfortunately, the musings of Mr. King were repeated in the comments section of the article. The biggest problem with these statements center on the premise that everyone has access to a computer as well as the Internet. Furthermore, once one has access to the Internet it is assumed that everyone knows how to navigate it successfully as well as how to know what is, and is not, quality information. Meaningful research done via the Internet is a finely crafted skill, just go ask your librarian.

The belief that “all information is available to everyone” threatens to undermine our educational structure. After all, content with out context is rather meaningless.

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The Apple Watch & Mine Resistant Vehicles

Yesterday, Apple unveiled the new Apple Watch. Why does the world need this? iPhones are wonderful devices (actually they are terrible in so many ways, but in terms of technology they are fantastic) and are capable of so much for mobile computing and communicating. On my walk to Woodburn Hall from the Wells Library, I counted 73 students looking at some sort of hand held device (and it was not even during a class change). Would it be easier to just stare at your left hand? Probably not. This is not to mention the fact that Apple offended lefties everywhere by only having a right hand option.

From the Apple website,

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More Immediate? How much faster can people possibly connect? At what point will things be fast enough?

Heartbeat. This watch will keep track of the users heartbeat and have the ability to let you send your heartbeat to your partner. For 16 year olds that is great, but I am guessing anyone older would find this creepy/sappy.

What the Apple Watch and Google Glass means on a larger scale is that society will become even more stratified. The technology requirements to have and use these devices requires money and knowledge that not everyone has easy access to. If these kinds of technologies become popular beyond the super-nerd crowd then there will only be infinitely more barriers to success for those less fortunate.

Police departments across the United States are getting Mine Resistant vehicles from the Pentagon for free. While there are probably some police units that need these, there are plenty that do not (Johnson County, Iowa comes to mind). The same can be said for wearable technology. Yes, Apple, Google, and Samsung can make it, but why?

For Now, I will keep this on my arm. That is unless Apple gives me a watch…photo

 

 

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