Monthly Archives: March 2010

The digital divide with the chronically ill

I was saddened but not surprised to read about the “digital divide” among the chronically ill.  It seems that many people who suffer from chronic illnesses frequently don’t have access to high speed internet service.  With the growing body of  online information available to help these sufferers maintain healthful practices available, it seems that having access high speed internet should be viewed as people who need electricity to maintain health related equipment.


Even in this age of  supposed digital natives, our society forgets that there are many  people excluded from cyber cultures.  Let’s see, there are the millions of people who are functionally illiterate – that includes the 60% of americans aged 16 – 25 who suffer from this malady.  Can’t forget the millions of people who are blind and deaf and can’t get access.  Oh yeah, and the hundreds who live at or below the poverty line.  A higher percentage of people in these populations tend to suffer from chronic illnesses and need support next works.  Perhaps as part of healthcare reform we can realize discounts for this population of the chronically ill.

Search Engines and Training Users

First off, because we mentioned it a couple of times in class, I found the Pew report on teens and text-speak really interesting. Apparently 64% of teenagers have used “informal styles from their text-based communications” in their course writing. Interestingly, the teenagers also overwhelmingly said that they don’t consider their text-based communication real writing, so it’s clear they see a difference, but they still let one bleed into the other.

The other topic I was interested in was sparked by a tiny controversy a few weeks ago when a blog wrote a post entitled “Facebook Wants to Be Your One True Login.” It came up on Google at the top of the search results, and people flooded the blog’s comments, complaining that they couldn’t login. They had mistaken the blog for Facebook because it came up high in the Google search results for the search “facebook login.”

I looked at Pew’s work on search engines, which primarily seems to be about searching for health information, but I did find one media mention, where a researcher noted that, “When you turn on a tap you expect clean water to come out, and when you do a search you expect good information to come out.” There was an article about the problems of Google ads and the issues in keywords leading to the wrong result, which the article implies will be solved by the development of the semantic web. But the semantic web probably won’t solve the problem of the Facebook Login issue, because people were looking for information on Facebook and logging in, and the search result was ranked higher because Google placed it high in its news results. The problem here is maneuvering around the fact that people only learn enough about the technology to use it for their ends, and Googling a search then clicking on the first link gets people where they want to go most of the time. The real leap may be in training the people to use the technology better, rather than trying to improve the technology.

The many faces of the New Media

Reading the study Pew Internet & American Life Project this week reminds me of all the other things in life, there are two sides to everything…There are no easy solutions as reflected in this study. Internet users with chronic diseases are motivated to use the Internet for a number of reasons, some for support and others for information. It is clear to me that the Internet at least according to this study does not take the place of healthcare givers…Information gotten from the Internet appears to be “in addition to” and not a substitute. My conclusion is that the Internet does have its place in our society today; it provides an outlet for users to share, which affirms the proverb “A problem shared is a problem halved”. I guess it’s human nature to share our emotions either good or bad. The Internet has become our “Village”, users access the Internet for health information for themselves, for friends and to support, I find this quite positive.
In Lister’s, the reading addresses the Internet from daily use and portrays a picture of an average family use of the computer-internet, games e.g. What stood out for me is the effect of the internet on the family, who holds the “power” in a household, may not necessarily be the adults, but who knows how to operate the computer. While the computer was a seen as a tool to keep kids indoor and safe, parents are learning that the computer also has its dark side like everything else. Those evils elements that we are protecting our children against on the streets are on the Internet ready to cause cyber havoc…
Because the use of the new media is multifaceted, does this mean the Internet with the rest of the new media is bad? Or as referenced above there are no easy answers to this question. Has the role of computer evolved from information technologies to game machines?

Smart or S-mart

I have always been interested in the anthropomorphization of the word ‘smart’ and its use or connotation when applied to computing. Lister tells us that smart houses, intelligent domestic appliances, black box edutainment systems and personal post-web info-sumerism portals are all the rage in futurist circles (223 -239). What makes these houses ‘smart’ and these appliances ‘intelligent’? Ability to follow simple pre-programmed hierarchical decision trees and the element of interactivity? Isn’t that essentially what a computer does now? Then why don’t we call the computers we use today ‘smart’ : Why don’t we call other devices with complex microprocessors like microwaves ‘smart’. Does this conversely mean that all other houses and appliances are ‘dumb’? The choice and application of vocabulary revolving around this issue is an interesting one to ponder and it leaves me thinking… is it a case of projecting our own egos, hopes and fears or is it just a matter of garbage in/garbage out in the post- industrial consumer dream.

These smart meters don’t seem very smart to me

Everyday life with internet risks

The article, Chronic Disease and the Internet indicates interesting findings that people who don’t have chronic disease more likely go online to search health information than people living with chronic disease. I think it is because that people living with chronic disease are more cautious to access health information in internet than people with no chronic disease. That is, people with chronic disease need reliable health information to cure their disease whereas people with no chronic disease need just health information to keep healthy. Here we see two different value propositions regarding health information in internet. As such, reliability of internet information is one of internet risks we have now. Another risk is described in the chapter, New Media in everyday life. Author points out that people connect with random people without knowing who they are. Even conversations open up in directions that otherwise might be avoided. Indeed, lots of crimes have been occurred in internet by connecting strangers without caution. Internet has proliferated very quickly over the world and this has been recorded as a most innovative diffusion so far (Diffusion of Innovation, Rogers (1995)). Internet provides not only huge benefits for people and our society but also many risks. Therefore in my opinion, we need to establish and spread healthy internet culture by ourselves.

Virtual Credit Card numbers to help protect your identity

This post was inspired by this article here

Quick summary: It takes 18-24 year-olds an average of 132 days to find out their identity has been compromised yet just 49 days for older age groups.

The first guy in the article had his information stolen when he used his debit card to buy DVDs online. An EXCELLENT way to prevent this from happening is using your credit card company’s site to generate a virtual 1 time use credit card number. It is as simple as logging in to the site, loading a pop-up widget, and having it generate a one time use code. Use that card# for your online purchase, and you’re done. No one can use it again.

I do this with all websites with the exception of Amazon [I buy too much stuff there 🙁 ]

Buying an iPad?

If you are planning to buy one:

1) Did you pre-order or will you show up at BestBuy/Apple store on release day?
2) Which model (GB size? 3G?)

I haven’t pre-ordered but I am willing to line up early at the stores 🙂
I’m considering a base 16GB non-3g but I need to find some money somewhere 🙁

Humanity Online

The Pew Internet and American Life Project seeks to investigate the activities done on/with/in/by the Internet and its users.  Their research agenda gives critical attention to the social interaction that the World Wide Web “hosts.”  But as my scare quotes allude, the project’s work reveals how ‘we are the internet.’

For those interested in studying humanity –which necessarily includes those who do not classify themselves as humanities students—the project offers an invaluable first step for looking at the new media data set.  That being said, our research, at least informally, should think about the meaning of those social actions (a la Max Weber).

I read an article investigating whether mass internet use has made us into hermits or social butterflies.  Apparently, the latter is more likely, but what wasn’t discussed was what it means to be a hermit.  In the ancient world (and I would say in the modern world as well), hermitage is fraught with rhetoric about alternative social worlds.  That is to say, being reclusive is often used as a method or medium of critique against a larger society or even society at large.  If this wasn’t the case, we would likely not know about a hermits presence.

I’d be curious to hear the stories of those who reject and embrace the internet as a way of rejecting and embracing one community for another.

All your location belong to us?

Facebook is unveiling a new feature that allows news feeds and status updates based on your location.  Just a heads up for those who cast a wanton eye on these things. I don’t see the benefits outweighing the potential for abuse here. Discuss?

Can we generalize the cyberworld?

In all the readings we discussed, I think it important to note that the authors are coming from specific geographic and cultural locations, North America, in particular.  Assessments made by Nakamura in particular really affect English speaking users, and probably  most specifically American English users.  I don’t know about everyone else, but because English is my native language I spend 90% of my time on English sites and very few on sites in other languages, which means I’m definitely not experiencing the majority of the web.  However, I think it is important to think about American internet users, since there’s a lot.

While I agree that the internet is no utopia, I think we have to be careful about making generalizations for all users, and even all white users, and all users of color, all male users, all female users, etc.  Cultural differences are not just between the U.S. and other nations, but between regions of the United States.  I think it would be interesting, but probably impossible to find out what users are the most to cybertype, by region, gender, age, or other categories.  Because my real world culture and experiences comes with me online, different real world cultures might act different online.  However, I do notice that different places online also promote different kinds of behavior (like lots of racism on YouTube), perhaps different websites themselves make it easier or harder for cybertyping.