Monday, December 18, 2006

 

Corporate Responsibility?

I'm pretty appalled by the level of corporate responsibility shown in some sectors of the technology field. Incidents like Enron have forced a new emphasis on ethics in business. Business programs all require ethics courses and accreditation exams all have sections on ethics, for the CFA (certified financial advisor) exam, if you fail the ethics section, you fail the exam. So why do businesses in technology not have the same practices? If you need ethics to deal with peoples' money, why not for their computers? For many, computers are necessary to their financial health. When technology fails, it costs to repair/replace just as insider trading costs regular shareholders.

The main trigger to my concern with corporate responsibility in technology was the spectacle of near-rioting hordes of consumers trying to get hold of the new Playstation 3. It's not the first time new technological gadgets have caused a commotion, it has become a common ploy to generate even more 'buzz' about new products. The company deliberately shorts production so that demand outweighs supply, think of it like this: demand>supply=riot. Now I know the people shoving and stampeding one another have a responsibility in the situation. But many laws exist to protect people from themselves (seatbelts, restricted substances...), it seems logical that laws need to protect people in these situations as well.

 

Does Technology Unite or Divide?

This is a question that has emerged in my head many times over the course of this class. I can't seem to settle on an answer. While the internet brings together people with common interests who wouldn't otherwise be likely to correspond, it also encourages people to stay in rooms, but themselves, intereacting via computer rather than personal contact. It is bad to interact over the net instead of in person? Where to draw the line? I pay my bills online, am I being anti-social? Should I, as a good and active member of society, go to the bank to interact with the teller and pay my bills there? But it's so convenient to pay online, no trip to the bank, I can pay my VISA in the few minutes between classes. How far does convenience go as an excuse? After all, it's more convenient for those with similar but uncommon interests to communicate online rather than through the post or in person in many cases. Is interaction or the form interaction takes more important?
On a global scale, the internet is allowing many people to learn about people and cultures they may not have otherwise experienced. Yet most people are not going online for an enlightening experience, they want to shop, or play video games, or find out if Britney will take back K-Fed. I would like to see more research into how effective the internet is in bringing together people from diverse cultures. There are so many resources online that while those with similar interests can find each other, the vast amount of resources makes it possible, and likely, that you will never cross paths with those without your specific interests; that's not very unifying. Does the internet serve to reinforce divisions?

But then, what do we expect the internet to be? The internet doesn't claim to be the solution to global disharmony. Most people seem to use the internet as an extension of what they do in their usual lives. Do we expect too much of the internet to expect it to change people? After all, it is just a tool, we're the ones using it. The criticisms of the net are actually criticisms of ourselves, donkey photos and all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

 

Timelines

This assignment was interesting in several ways. Looking over the progress of concepts, interpretations, and representations of time, I was struck anew at how tied to religion early ideas were. Other interpretations related time of music. Both religious and scientific models denoting time as trees, chains, and ladders, all inherently insinuate upward progress. This idea still exists today, I think. Because something is newer, it is often assumed to be better, hence consumerism. This applies to technology too. Think of the lineups, people camped out for days, and violence that accompanied the release of the new Playstation 3. Most of these people already had the previous edition, it wasn;t that they couldn't play video games without the new model, but they wanted the new model and games. Even more, they wanted to be one of the first to have the new system.

The timeline also showed how thinkers became more occupied with precise time. As the world modernized time and puctuality became more important. But is this cultural? Many lifestyles don't approach time the same. Even just on farms, time is treated differently. Exact timing is not always as important or measured by the hands of a clock.

Reading through the development of different timelines and ideas, I noticed how closed my definition of time was. To me time is minutes, hours, months...But before these were all as established and unquestioned as they are today, so many more things related to time. Many thinkers investigated planetary rotation or the speed of objects as a function of time.

Looking over the many attempts to illustrate or quantify time made me feel better. During practicum last year I found one of the challenges was to give students an idea of what was happening simultaneously throughout the world. Students, and all of us I think, have a tendency to relate like events or civilizations rather than relate chronologies. Just because the West was modern, other parts of the world were at very different levels. Similarly, just because Europe was not very developed in the Middle Ages, and even before, doesn;t mean that other cultures were similarly stagnating.

My Canadian pride was hurt that Sandford Fleming did not merit a mention, if you remember your 'Heritage Minutes', Fleming was the inventor of Standard Time. Considering some of those mentioned in the timeline of timelines were even less directly linked to creating our modern system, I think he deserved mention.

I find timelines very helpful in general, they can focus and summarize a great deal of information. Also, many of us, including me, appreciate the visual format. The main flaw however, I believe, is that by laying out events in line, we denote simplicity; a certain cause and effect. Especially when teaching youth I think it nmust be made clear that events were not inevitable, other outcomes were possible.

Also timelines can be problamatic because to do justice to events and complexity, simple linear timelines are sometimes not possible. However, creating non-linear timelines can be difficult, and with the internet age, the technological knowledge needed to create a non-linear timeline by computer may inhibit some from trying, or their result could lack the polish which seems intrinsically tied to being seen as valid.

When looking at several options from the list of timelines I was surprised by how the quality of the site or even just the symbols, length of entries...affected my opinion of its validity. The ability, through money or skill, to put together a professional-looking site seems to be critical to having users believe the accuracy of the information itself.

Lastly, for those with a moment, I recommnend looking at the entry from 1760 on the timeline of timelines. It gives visual diagrams of well-told stories. It is really quite interesting a worth a look.

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